Saturday, May 31, 2014

IN THE FLESH: PART TWO

Genre: Horror (Zombies)


IN THE FLESH
By
Daniel Skye
 

PART TWO
ABANDON ALL HOPE
 

            There’s a fine line between the living and the dead. Except nowadays it’s more like a makeshift wall or barrier to keep the living and the dead segregated…
 

Day Two.
            Was no better than Day One. The virus, the infection, the plague had spread across the globe in less than twenty-four hours.
            Only Willard Pickman and a handful of other potential survivors knew the truth. The virus was not only blood-borne, but airborne as well. That’s how it spread so fast. This essentially meant that the whole entire world, dead or living was infected.
            Everyone carried the disease. But its primary effects don’t impact the body until the carrier is deceased. That’s when the full effects of the virus are revealed.
            On Saturday, September 14, 2013, reinforcements were called in. The army, the marines, the National Guard. They all tried to intervene. But the more Biters they slaughtered, the more sprang up from their graves or crawled their way out from the piles of bodies that littered the streets.
            The once orderly, manageable situation had dissolved into panic, disorder, chaos. Soldiers retreated. Women and children sought shelter. Every man was left to fend for himself.
            The government scrambled to come up with a cure. But there were no quick fixes. No magic solutions to this awful nightmare. What started as a local Long Island pandemic had escalated into a global epidemic. By Sunday, they predicted half the world’s population would be converted.
            It was the beginning of the end. The sand was trickling down, filling up the hourglass. And there were many unspeakable horrors that still awaited us.
 
            Kenny Sudrow, Trevor Virden, and Devin Morris spent Day One locked in Trevor’s comic store. They had barricaded the door with everything that wasn’t bolted down and plastered the windows with posters and ripped comic book pages to mask their presence.
            They had survived the night on Cool Ranch Doritos, peanut butter cookies, and soft drinks from Trevor’s mini fridge he had stashed behind the counter.
            They had moved the girl’s body to the back of the store, and Kenny had done his best to clean up the mess. But he was still finding stray pieces of skull embedded in the carpet.
            Trevor had a battery operated radio that they depended on for the latest updates. And the latest updates didn’t sound promising. The way the stations all described it, it sounded as if the government was getting ready to throw in the towel. America was on the verge of abandoning all hope.
            And so was Kenny Sudrow.
 
            By Day Three, all contact was severed. The radio wasn’t picking up a single broadcast. The television Trevor had rigged up in the basement was flashing an Emergency Broadcast System logo on every channel. The internet was down too.
            But they still had lights, power. For how long though Kenny was uncertain.
            “Where’s Devin?” Kenny asked when he realized his absence.
            “In the bathroom,” Trevor whispered. “He’s been in there for fifteen minutes.”
            “You don’t think he’d kill–”
            “No,” Trevor didn’t even give him a chance to finish. “He’s not suicidal. He’s a junkie. I think he’s, you know, shooting up. Or whatever it is they do.”
            “Should we, like, talk to him about it or something?”
            “Nah,” Trevor shook his head. “Best to leave it alone. He’ll be shit out of luck when his stash is finally gone.”
            “When his stash is finally gone, he’ll go through withdrawals. Have you ever dealt with someone when they’re going through heroin withdrawals? It ain’t pretty, my friend.”
            “We can’t stay here forever. Help isn’t coming. I was hopeful at first, but now I’m certain we’re on our own.”
            “So what’s your plan? Keep in mind our only weapon is a Louisville slugger.”
            “You know Arnold Vesti? He owns the hardware store in town. He’s got a bomb shelter in his backyard. The original owner had it installed during the Cold War. Vesti keeps it stocked with food, water, supplies in the event of a sudden catastrophe. It’s worth checking out. We could spend the night, gather supplies, and head out in search for others.”
            “Others? You hear any people outside? You hear any cars or trains or buses or planes? ’Cause I sure as shit don’t.”
            “It’s been three days, Trevor. Don’t be so pessimistic. There are other survivors out there. We just need to find them…and pray that they’re friendly.”
 
            They say that God built the Earth in seven days. And it took the Biters all of three days to condemn His grand creation.
            People tried to flee. Some escaped by boat or plane or helicopter, but who knows where they went or if they even made it there.
            The highways, parkways, expressways, interstates were all death traps. Everyone trying to escape at once, jamming up with the roads with bumper-to-bumper traffic. People were sitting ducks out there for the wandering Biters that seemed to multiply by thousands as every hour elapsed.
            The government’s plan of defense? They had no plan of defense for something of this magnitude. Or did they?
            Carson Ryder sure didn’t know. Truth be told, he didn’t really know anything. It was a man named Damien Albright who had pulled him from the fire. He was unconscious and surely wouldn’t have survived of not for Albright’s intervention.
            When he came to he couldn’t remember a damn thing. He remembered nothing of the hospital, of the fire, of the Biters. The first time he heard about it was from Albright’s lips. He didn’t believe him until looked around and observed the evidence.
            Damien had saved him, fed him, and even found him a spare change of clothes so he could ditch the hospital gown. He wasn’t content with the black leather pants and Hello Kitty T-shirt, but in a situation such as this, beggars clearly can’t be choosers.
            Albright was armed to the teeth, but temporarily without a car. And with the roads all jammed up with abandoned cars, they were better off on foot anyway.
            Carson noticed the wedding ring tan line on his finger. The absence of the ring was another mystery to be solved. He couldn’t remember if he had a wife or a family, kids. He knew his name only because of the ID, the only item in his possession. And he knew he lived in Dorchester, a good two hour drive from Cherrywood without traffic or a zombie apocalypse.
            “Why can’t I remember anything?” Carson asked. On Day Three, they had taken shelter in an abandoned record store. Damien had got one of the old Victrola’s working and was having the time of his life playing Led Zeppelin albums. He considered the possibility that this was the last time he’d ever jam out to his favorite tunes. He was going to enjoy this moment for as long as he could.
“Retrograde amnesia,” Damien shouted over the music, naming the technical term. “Head trauma would be the main cause. Relax, your memory will return eventually.”
Carson wanted to believe him. But until his memory did return in full, he was stuck relying on Damien for guidance in this strange new world he had woken up to.
            They spent the night, subsisting on rations Damien had gathered in his travels. To cap off the evening, Damien played his favorite album of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon. Then he played it again.
            “This would be even sweeter if we were watching the Wizard of Oz,” Damien remarked. Carson didn’t get the joke.
 
            By Day Four, they had abandoned the record store, carrying what guns and provisions they could hold in bags draped over their shoulders.
            “You know what they used to call records back in the day?” Damien asked as they walked. He was one of those people that didn’t always wait for a person to answer. “Licorice pizza.”
            “What’s Licorice?”
            “Man, you got a lot of remembering to do.”
They came across a lone Biter staggering about, the lower half of its jaw rotted down to the gum line. Its exposed skin was black and corroded. It didn’t seem to pose any threat at first glance, until it realized their presence and came lumbering towards them, snarling. Damien wondered if that’s how zombies communicate with each other.
            The blast of Damien’s shotgun created a boom that rang out through the seemingly vacant neighborhood. But all it really did was attract the attention of more unwanted guests. He pumped the mechanism and an empty shell popped out from the breech. He still had three more rounds to go.
            Carson counted at least eight or nine stumbling out from somebody’s backyard. Three more emerged from behind an overturned semi. Damien put the last three rounds in the shotgun to good use, then tossed it aside, opting for his trusty pistol that held ten rounds.
            He and Carson aimed their pistols towards the parade of Biters that had spilled out into the streets. The Biters marched almost in unison, growling, snarling, teeth chattering.
Nine deafening shots later, the horde was reduced to a pile of bodies that riddled the street. Carson heard a noise and glanced over his shoulder, saw a pair of bushes rustling and aimed his gun steady, expecting another Biter to stagger out.
“Is it safe to come out?” a voice called.
“That depends,” Damien yelled back. “Are you infected?”
“If we were, would we be talking to you right now?”
“Very true. All right, come out then. It’s all clear.”
Kenny Sudrow, Trevor Virden, and Devin Morris crawled out from the bushes, their clothes ruffled, hair disheveled. They approached with caution, Trevor still gripped the baseball bat from back at the store.
            “Is that the only weapon you’ve got?” Damien chuckled. “No wonder you’re hiding in bushes. Stick with us kids and you’ll be all right.”
            “Thanks, mister,” Kenny said. “I’m Kenny Sudrow. My friends call me Squeak because of that movie Basketball. That skinny bastard over there is Devin Morris. And that dumb tub of lard is Trevor Virden.”
            “You certainly know how to make an introduction,” Damien said.
            “Nice shirt, by the way,” Trevor muttered at Carson.
            “Where were you boys heading?” Damien inquired.
            “Arnold Vesti’s house. It’s five blocks west from here. He’s got a bomb shelter. Rations, supplies, security. It sounded like a safe bet to us.” Kenny had wondered if he shared too much information with their new allies. But the cat was out of the bag, and Damien and Carson seemed more intent on helping than hurting.
            “Lead the way,” Damien insisted.


To be continued with Part Three: The Wrath of the Almighty

Friday, May 30, 2014

IMMORTAL (A Jacob Slade Story)

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

IMMORTAL
By
Daniel Skye


1
            December had ushered in a cold spell the residents of Dorchester had never faced before. On Monday, the temperature was down to twenty degrees. By Wednesday, it had dropped to fifteen degrees.
            With the heat cranked in his office, Jacob Slade was bundled up with an insulated jacket. He was wearing two pairs of wool socks with his black combat boots, and thermal pants and shirt under his grey sweater and worn out blue jeans.
            He didn’t go as far as to sport a scarf like Sheriff Booth.
            Jacob had been sitting in his office all day, expecting a visit from Karl Booth. Booth hadn’t phoned him or made proper arrangements for a meeting, but Jacob had a feeling he’d be around soon. And when Jacob had a feeling about something, he was usually spot-on.
            But the day passed without so much as a phone call. When night fell, Jacob poured himself a glass of bourbon, finished it in two gulps, and got up from his desk. He was ready to give up on Karl when he barged in with his red parka and wool scarf. Jacob knew for a fact that Karl had knitted the scarf himself.
            Jacob sat back down reassured with that “I knew it would happen” look on his face. Booth removed his parka and scarf and hung them on separate wall hooks of the mounted coatrack.
            “Drink?” Jacob offered, pointing to the bottle of Kentucky bourbon that still sat on his desk.
            “This is a visit that definitely requires one.” Jacob refilled his glass, fetched a clean glass for Karl, and poured him one.
            “So what do I owe this pleasure to?” Jacob said through gritted teeth, trying to feign enthusiasm. But there was no enthusiasm to express. A visit from Karl Booth meant work for Jacob Slade. It also meant bad news.
            But with rent to pay and an office phone that barely rings, money is money to Jacob. And if he can help the local authorities and in the process rub it in their face that he can do their job better, than why not?
            The local deputies all looked down on Jacob. Karl Booth is the only one who gives this poor devil his due. Slade has helped solve a number of gruesome murders over the years. The last time they worked side by side was back in October, when the Wendigo had woken from its slumber to feed again.
            Many people lost their lives, and limbs. Amongst those people was an innocent teenage girl, a babysitter named Molly Furlong who was cannibalized by the very kids she was babysitting.
            Molly was Drake Furlong’s sister. And Jacob hadn’t spoken to Drake since the funeral. He tried several times to visit him, but it was almost like Drake was going out of his way to avoid him. Deep down, Jacob knew that Drake blamed him in some way for Molly’s death.
            The Wendigo had returned to its state of hibernation and Jacob knew that wasn’t what brought Karl there that night. But the troubled look in his eyes told Jacob maybe he didn’t want to know what this visit was in regards to.
            “Andrea Norton,” Booth said, shaking his head in a way that indicated both sorrow and confusion. They found her body last night, out in the snow by Lyon’s Field. It took hours to thaw her out for examination. They found two circular wounds on the side of her neck. Puncture wounds made with extreme precision.”
            “It’s a tragedy,” Jacob said, swilling his bourbon. “But what does this have to do with me exactly?”
            “Jacob, the poor girl was drained of all her blood. Those puncture wounds, they weren’t made with a sharp object or any kind of medical tool you can find. They’re bite marks.”
* * *
            Thursday, December 13, 2012.
            Jacob Slade was gathered in the dairy section of King’s Supermarket when he saw the girl. She was young, mid-twenties, sandy blond hair that curled at the bangs. She was busy chatting on her cell phone, exchanging gossip with one of her girlfriends while she used her free hand to examine the expiration dates on strawberry yogurts.
            Jacob tapped her gently on the shoulder and she told her friend to hold on sec and she lowered the phone. “Yes?” she asked.
            “He’s not going to Perry.”
            “What?” the sandy blond asked, bemused.
            “He’s not going to Perry, Oklahoma. He’s not going to visit his mother in the hospital. Check his text messages. You’ll find out what he’s really up to.”
            As the girl excused herself, he heard her tell her friend she’d have to call her back. Jacob grabbed the gallon of milk he had come in for and left the supermarket, leaving the sandy blond wondering what her boyfriend was up to behind her back.
            Before he paid for the milk, he made sure to grab a bottle of chocolate syrup too.
* * *
            Drake Furlong is an artist. Magnificent. Superb. His drawings leap off the canvas he sketches upon. Yet he chooses to devote his time to animated characters. And his drawings are not for children’s eyes.
            His sketches contain lovable, hallmark characters in various unsuitable situations or donning inappropriate attire. Like his sketch of Mickey dressed as Gestapo interrogator. Or his latest sketch of Brian Griffin giving it to Lois doggie style.
            Drake is a technopath. He has the ability to manipulate technology and electricity with the will of his mind. If he concentrates hard enough, he can cause a statewide blackout. In the wrong hands, his powers would be very beneficial. But Drake hardly uses them for anything except changing the station on his radio.
            He was in the living room, working on his latest unorthodox masterpiece when the doorbell rang. Drake brushed the number 81 that was branded into his forearm. Jacob bared a similar mark on his own forearm. The number 99 was branded into his flesh.
            That’s how Drake and Jacob united. They bonded over their perplexing conditions and the mysteries of their past. But after Molly’s death, the link between them was severed. And now Jacob was trying to right the wrongs. If he was going to aid Karl in his investigation, he needed Drake’s assistance.
            Drake knew who it was and this time, he was too exhausted to ignore him. Drake opened the door and said, “Come in if you’re coming in.”
            Jacob trotted in with the plastic jug of milk in one hand and chocolate syrup in the other. “I brought you a gift.”
            “Seriously, chocolate milk?”
            “You love chocolate milk,” Jacob asserted.
            Drake thought about for a minute. Then he shrugged and cracked a smirk. “It’s true, I do love chocolate milk.”
* * *
            Sitting in the kitchen, they drank their chocolate milk and talked for the first time in two months. Jacob supposed it was too early to slip a little bourbon in. He didn’t want to appear as a lush.
            “So you’re thinking vampire,” Drake said, still fingering the brand on his flesh.
            “That’s what it sounds like. Or it could just be some freak that’s under the impression they’re a vampire.”
            “Clinical vampirism,” Drake said, naming the technical term. “Also known as Renfield’s Syndrome.”
            “Will you help?”
            Drake nodded. “I’ll help so more innocent people don’t get harmed or killed. Now onto something that’s been bothering me. We need to talk about our past.”
            “I’ve got it covered. As a favor to us, Sheriff Booth is pulling some strings and digging up old files. He’s going to find out everything he can about us.”
            “Alright, I’m all in then. Where do we start?”
            “We start at the place the body was found. We start at Lyon’s Field. And by the way, we start tonight.”

2
            Lyon’s Field is a baseball park adjacent to Dorchester Commons. But that night, the diamond-shaped field, the mounds, the bleachers were all blanketed with a thick layer of icy snow.
            With their flashlights, they located the outline where the police had discovered Andrea Norton’s body. “And what are we supposed to ascertain from this?” Drake asked.
            “First, don’t use the word ascertain. It’s a cop word and we’re not cops. Second, I’ll tell you everything we need to know in a minute.”
            Jacob Slade removed one glove and pressed his bare hand to the ice where Andrea Norton’s slain body had been splayed. He removed it a second later, shaking off the cold, and pulling his glove back on.
            “Andrea Norton was killed somewhere else and then dumped here. She was alone that night, vulnerable. Had just left the bar. She bumped into someone unfamiliar. I can’t see his face. But it was a man. He was very persuasive, got her to walk with him to his car. They went back to his place on Carrolton. She glanced at the street sign, but she didn’t look at the address numbers on his house. There was…there was someone else there in the house with them. Another woman. That’s all I can see.”
            “You got all that information from a little bit of frostbite?”
            “I didn’t ask for this gift,” Jacob said in an overly modest fashion, as if he was goofing on himself.
            “Excellent work, Sherlock. Now we know what street the killer lives on. Carrolton. We just need to find the house.”
            “Elementary, my dear Watson. It’s a simple process of elimination. We just need to scope out the neighborhood and keep our eyes peeled. If our killer is a vampire, or thinks he’s a vampire, he’ll only be going out at night.”
            “Speaking of scoping things out,” Drake said as he looked over to Dorchester Commons. The shopping center housed sixteen different establishments and its parking lot was triple the size of Lyon’s Field. “How many parking spaces do you figure that lot holds?”
            “I remember when they first built it they boasted it would have over 1,200 parking spaces.”
            “I remember that too. It would be the ideal spot to scope Lyon’s Field out at night.”
            “You’re saying?”
            “I’m saying you should call Sheriff Booth and have his men keep watch from a distance. While we’re off hunting vampires on Carrolton Avenue, the killer might strike again behind our backs and if this is his dumping ground…”
            “I read you loud and clear. Good thinking, Watson.”
            “You’re going to have to start paying me for this.”
            “I barely make enough money as it is.”
* * *
            Jacob made the call to Booth and he liked Drake’s style of thinking. He had two cars posted at Dorchester Commons; one in the back lot, one in the front. If so much as a squirrel scurried across Lyon’s Field, his men would know about it.
            They went equipped with binoculars and were on strict orders to keep their distance and not make their presence known unless absolutely necessary. Jacob decided to employ Booth’s strategy.
            They sat parked in Drake’s car, one block down from Carrolton with binoculars and cups of coffee like they were on an all-night stakeout.
            “I’m so sorry about Molly,” Jacob said, finally getting a chance outside Molly’s funeral to express his sympathies.
            “I know,” Drake said, nodding his hand to signify he understood. “I know how much she meant to you. I saw the way you guys used to interact, the way you made her laugh and smile. I saw the way you used to look at her.”
            “Drake, nothing ever happened between us.”
            “I know. I’m kind of sorry it didn’t. If you guys were an item, maybe she would’ve been with us that night. Maybe she would still be alive.”
            “You can let the ‘maybes’ and the ‘what ifs’ drag you down. Molly wouldn’t want to see that. She’d want to see the old Drake. The Drake that nobody could drag down or make him frown.”
            “Thanks buddy,” Drake said. “But please don’t refer to me as ‘the Drake’. It reminds me too much of Seinfeld. I put up with enough of that shit in high school.”
            Hours passed, and soon dark turned into dawn. By then, Slade and Furlong were waking up from their naps. The coffee had done nothing for them and sleep was too big a temptation to resist. They both dozed off halfway through the night, their investigation yielding no results.
            Jacob checked his phone to see if he had any missed calls from Booth. Not a single call, text, or voicemail. Drake yawned, peering through his binoculars to adjust the focus. It didn’t serve much of a purpose now that it was daylight, but walking down the road, Drake spotted a man that could fit the profile.
            He was tall, lean, jet-black hair, age indistinguishable, wearing an all-black ensemble and Risky Business style sunglasses.
            “Check it out,” Drake said, and Jacob raised his binoculars.
            “He’s rocking the Goth look like it’s going out of style. But he’s a little old for that trend if you ask me. And if he’s our vampire, real or pretend, what’s he doing out in broad daylight?”
            They watched through their binoculars as he walked to the front door of a brick ranch house on Carrolton and reached in his pockets, producing a set of keys he used to unlock the door. Drake lowered his binoculars, started the car, and crept down the road. Jacob produced a notepad from his insulated jacket and jotted down the address.
            “2337 Carrolton Avenue,” Jacob said, repeating the address. “If he’s our guy, at least we know where he lives.”
            “Where to now?” Drake asked.
            “I could go for some breakfast. You down?”
            “A pile of greasy eggs and bacon sounds pretty good to me right now too.”
* * *
            Sunrise Diner wasn’t as packed as usual for a Friday. But there were still a healthy number of patrons transmitting bland conversations, munching on eggs, bacon, and slices of toast.
            Slade and Furlong chose the booth closest to the back of the restaurant so their conversation wouldn’t carry through the diner or be overheard by anyone.
            “I Googled 2337 Carrolton Avenue. The place is owned by a guy Cole Winmore. I can’t find much about him, but he doesn’t appear to be married. So it’s safe to assume he lives alone. If that’s the case, he couldn’t be our guy. You said there was another person in the house with him and Andrea Norton.”
            “That doesn’t mean he’s not our guy. The accomplice could be a friend, neighbor, even a relative.”
            “I still don’t think it’s him.”
            “Ever hear of fang implants?”
            “Yeah, people get them to look like vampires. Bigger freaks than us if you ask me.”
“We should have Booth check with any dentists in the surrounding areas. See if anyone’s ever requested a procedure of this kind. It’s worth a shot.”
            “It definitely couldn’t hurt.”
            Slade’s phone vibrated in his pocket and he removed it to see an incoming call from Sheriff Booth. He picked it up, didn’t say anything, just listened for a few moments. Then he lowered the phone and his eyes widened. “There’s been another murder.”

3
            The victim was Angela Martin, the sandy blond that Jacob had approached in King’s Supermarket.
            “I know this girl,” Jacob said as he, Drake, and Booth stood over her body at a slab in the morgue. “I told her that her boyfriend wasn’t going to Perry.”
            “Is that his gay lover or something?” Drake asked.
            Without laying a finger on the girl, Jacob carefully inspected the two circular wounds around her neck. “She was drained, same as the other girl. Where did they find her? Lyon’s Field?”
            “Nope. Sick son of a bitch dumped her body near the elementary school. A morning jogger found her in the bushes.”
            “Karl, I need you to do something important. I need you to check with every dentist on Long Island to see if anyone’s ever requested fang implants.”
            “Fang implants?”
            “Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s a real thing. And if we could get some names, it would help narrow down a list of suspects.”
            “I’ll do everything I can. In the meantime, why don’t you do everything you can? Go on, touch her. I don’t think she’ll mind. She might be a little cold though.” It was Karl’s dry attempt at humor. With a job like his, you had to crack wise in order to maintain your sanity.
            Jacob laid a hand on Angela’s cold blue skin and felt a powerful surge that went straight to his brain, flooding him with memories of a night he never even lived.
            Angela Martin was walking home that night when the driver of a rented Kia slowed down to offer her a lift. As with Andrea Norton, the driver was very persuasive. It was dark and his face was a blur to a drunken Angela. But she thought he looked handsome enough to go home with for the night. She figured she’d get a better look by morning. But morning never came for Angela Martin.
            “While you’re searching for dentists, check out car rental agencies and get a list of names of all the people who have rented Kia’s in the past week.”
* * *
            Booth’s men worked all day and night and came up with several interesting results. In the past five years, eighteen people have received fang implants. Among the list of patients was man named Thomas Stop. Stop’s name was also linked to a green Kia that was rented three days ago from a car rental agency just outside of Dorchester.
            “This is our guy,” Booth informed Slade and Furlong as if they had this case in the bag.
            “You got an address?” Slade asked.
            “Sure as hell do. My deputies are on their way over there now to bring his sorry ass in for questioning.”
            Thomas Stop’s pearly white teeth did not distract from the visible fangs that protruded from the corners of his mouth. In the interrogation room, Booth’s men cuffed Stop’s wrists to the arms of a metal chair and left him for Booth, Slade, and Furlong to deal with.
            “You’ve got some serious explaining to do, kid.”
            Thomas Stop was young, early twenties. The fangs, piercings, and tattoos he displayed were not the signs of a friendly gentlemen you’d want to meet on the street after midnight. But Jacob had encountered his kind before, and the kid just didn’t have the look of a murderer. The look of a punk, no doubt about it. But he just didn’t have that murderous glint in his eyes.
            “Don’t you get it? I’ve already won. It doesn’t matter what you do to me. The great one has promised us immortality and he shall deliver.”
            “Us? There are more of you?”
            “The great one has been building an army. You have no idea what you’re up against. Lock me up, throw away the fucking key. I still won’t tell you what you want to know.”
            “Some help you are,” Drake muttered.
            “This great one you speak of, you think he’s the real deal?” Jacob inquired.
            “He’s realer than you can imagine. Get close enough to him and he will drain every ounce of life from your body. You will be crushed.”
            “Yeah, yeah, shaking in my boots,” Jacob mocked. “Booth, do me a favor and get this fucking creep out of my sight. Looks like we’ve got more work to do.”
* * *
            Saturday, December 15, 2012.
            Eighteen names on the list. One down, seventeen to go.
            Booth had his deputies snag the address of every person on the list and rounded them up for questioning.
            There were nine men, eight women. Booth shook his head and said, “We’re gonna need a bigger interrogation room.”
            “You’re going to need a bigger holding cell too.”
            They went through the suspects one by one. Each suspect had no alibi for the nights of both murders and they couldn’t recall their whereabouts of those nights in question. Furthermore, several of the suspects’ fingerprints matched prints found at both scenes.
            The men and women were divided up and placed into two holding cells. It was a little cramped, but the deputies said they’d live.
            The same could not be said for Albert Rusk.
            As Booth retired home for the evening, and Slade and Furlong went their separate ways, the station received a surprise visitor.
* * *
            Deputy Rusk was on desk duty that evening when a very tall man in a black trench coat and wearing Risky Business sunglasses wandered in. “I’m here to visit a friend,” the man told Rusk, his accent as indistinguishable as his age. “Thomas Stop.”
            “I’m afraid Mr. Stop isn’t accepting visitors right now. So unless you’re his lawyer, I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.”
The tall man looked deep into Rusk’s eyes. In seconds, Rusk was in his grasp. “Why don’t you be a good lad and open those cells up for me. Let those people free. They mean no harm.”
Caught in a trance, Rusk left the desk and produced the keys needed to unlock both cells. Free, the eighteen suspects went charging from the station and ran off into the night. Only Thomas Stop remained for a brief moment.
“Master, do you want me to dispose of him?”
            Rusk stood in his hypnotic state, unaware of the words being spoken.
            “No,” the tall man waved his hand to dismiss him. “I’ll take care of this one.”

4
            Booth didn’t even bother to call. He just parked his car outside Slade’s house at three AM and honked the horn until Slade came trotting out, half-asleep and still in his PJs. They picked Drake up on their way to the station, where deputies were still cleaning blood off the floor, and ceiling.
            They watched the surveillance tapes back and saw a tall dark figure speaking with Rusk. Then they watched Rusk leave his post and unlock both cells. They saw Stop conversing with the figure before he scampered off. Then they all stood aghast as they watched this anonymous figure not only drain Rusk of his blood, but tear him limb from bloody limb.
            “I know what we’re up against now,” Slade said quietly. “He’s an Upir.”
            “Upir?” Booth repeated. “Please tell me it’s nothing like a Wendigo.”
            “I didn’t think they were real, but an Upir is a vampire related to Slavic folklore. They’re Day Walkers. Daylight doesn’t affect them, but their eyes are usually sensitive to the light. And their eyes are their most powerful weapon. They possess the ability to mesmerize people, putting them into a hypnotic, suggestive state. That would explain why it was so easy for the killer to lure Andrea Norton and Angela Martin in.”
            “So that means Cole Winmore could be our guy,” Drake realized.
            “What about the eighteen suspects that are currently unaccounted for?” Booth asked.
            “One thing at a time,” Slade shook his head. “Let’s pay Cole Winmore a visit.”
            “Who’s Cole Winmore?” Booth asked. “I’m seriously out of the loop here.”
* * *
            It took Cole a while to respond to their knocks, but he finally came to the door in his robe and slippers. “Can I help you?” Cole asked, raising one eyebrow. He was a very tall man with jet-black hair. Tall enough to match the description of the man who ripped Albert Rusk apart.
            “Are you Cole Winmore?” Booth asked. He made it clear to Slade and Furlong that he was to do all the talking.
            “That’s what it says on my driver’s license.”
            “Does the name Thomas Stop mean anything to you?”
            “Can’t say that it does.”
            “Mr. Winmore, can anyone account for whereabouts last evening?”
            “I was home all night looking after my mother. She’s bedridden.”
            “I’m sorry to hear that,” Booth said, trying to sound sincere. “As a resident of Dorchester, I’m sure you’ve heard of the murders of Andrea Norton and Angela Martin. Can you account for your whereabouts on both evenings?”
            “On both nights I was home with my mother. I’d let you talk to her, but she’s sleeping right now and she really needs her rest. Perhaps another time.”
            “Yes, I must insist on speaking to her another time just to be sure. I’ll be back soon. Oh, Mr. Winmore, do you own a trench coat?”
            “No,” Winmore said as he dismissed himself by slamming the door in their face.
* * *
            Stymied, the three men agreed to split up and rest for the evening. They would regroup in the morning. But Jacob did not feel safe sleeping without his gun, which was back at the office. So he went back to his office alone and found a young girl waiting for him. Her hair was a blend of red, yellow, blue, and green. It looked like a parrot had landed on her head.
            She was slouched against the door of his office when she saw him approaching. She got up and he recoiled immediately at the sight of her fang implants.
            “Please, don’t run,” she implored. “I mean you no harm.”
            “You work for the ‘Great One’, don’t you? You’re one of his followers. Did he promise you immortality as well?”
            “He promised us everything. He promised us a second chance, a new life, an opportunity to live forever. But now I see he’s leading us astray. We’re puppets to him. It took me a while to figure it out, but I know his secret weapon. It’s his eyes. He can hypnotize people, get them to do whatever he wants. I’m not under his spell anymore. I can see clearly, I can think clearly. And I want to help you.”
            “What’s your name, kid?”
            “Misty Samson.”
            “Sounds like a porn star.”
            “And Jacob Slade sounds like a cartoon character. Now you want my help or not?”
            “Depends on what you have to offer.”
            “How about a name? Cole Winmore.”


5
          Misty Samson spilled her guts. About Cole Winmore, about his “bedridden” mother, Nona, about his so-called army of brainwashed followers.
            Cole was the one luring the girls in. But he wasn’t the one feeding on them. He was using the girls to keep his mother alive. Nona Winmore had survived more than four centuries on the blood of the living. But her body had weakened to such a degree she was no longer able to hunt for herself. Even immortality has its flaws.
            So Cole was leading the girls’ right to her. And he was using his followers to rent cars for him to cruise around in, keep track of the cops’ whereabouts, and dump the bodies for him.
            Misty also confirmed Jacob’s assumptions about Winmore. He was in fact an Upir, a Day Walker. A vampire with the ability to walk in sunlight. That allowed Winmore to select and stalk his prey during the day, and make his move at night when they were at their most vulnerable.
            Misty Samson was placed into custody for her own protection as Jacob rendezvoused with Booth and Furlong. Jacob had a plan.
            “But I’m going to need two things,” he told Booth.
            “Name it.”
            “Two pairs of night vision googles.”
            “Ok,” Booth nodded. “Done.”
            “And I need you to go to the morgue and locate the freshest body they have. And I need you to get a sample of that person’s blood. A pint will do the trick.”
            “Come again?” Booth said.
            “Just trust me here.”
* * *
            They waited for nightfall. Then, with their night vision googles strapped, it was time for Drake to work his magic.
            Booth’s men hid on the side of 2337 Carrolton, battering ram in attendance. All they were waiting for was the signal.
            Drake stood on the freshly mowed lawn, parted his arms to the sides, and closed his eyes, plunging himself into a state of deep concentration. He could feel every ounce of electricity being syphoned from the property as it surged through his veins.
            The lights all gave and the house was plunged into darkness. Booth gave the signal and his man bashed the door in with the ram.
            Slade and Furlong moved in, night vision googles in play. Slade had his Magnum drawn as they tiptoed into the living room. Furlong drew a hand over his mouth to stifle a gasp when the Upir appeared from the threshold.
            “I’ve been waiting for you,” Cole Winmore said.
            Slade could see Cole, but he was wondering if Cole could see him. Do vampires see in complete darkness? Slade wondered. But it was a little too late for questions.
            He saw the cold gaze in Winmore’s eyes. He saw that gaze was focused on Drake.
            “Drake Furlong,” Winmore spoke again. “Aren’t you tired of living in your friend’s shadow? You realize you’re nothing more than a glorified lackey? Why don’t you stand up for yourself for once in your life? Take charge and show Jacob you’re better than this.”
            Caught under his spell, Drake turned his attention to Jacob and floored him with a right hand to the jaw. The gun slipped from his hand as he crashed to the hardwood floor beneath him. Drake dropped to his knees and tried to throw another right, but Jacob moved his head out of the way and Drake’s knuckles mashed the floor. He kneed Drake in the gut and rolled him off, feeling around the slick hardwood floor for the gun.
            “Come on, Drake,” Winmore’s voiced continued to encourage him. “You’ve still got more fight left in you. Get up. On your feet, soldier.”
            Jacob’s fingers grazed the Magnum and he raised it to the air, aimed as steady as he could through his googles, and fired one shot at Winmore’s heart.
            The thud his large body created echoed through the hallway.
            “What happened?” Drake asked, coming out of his trance, shaking it off.
            “Don’t worry about,” Jacob said, limping from the living room as he crossed the threshold into the hallway. He looked down and inspected the wound on his chest through the googles. “Funny, I don’t think I nailed his heart. I think–”
            Cole’s hand came alive and closed around Slade’s ankle like a bear trap, pulling him down. His chest was driven into the stained hardwood floor, knocking the wind out of him.
            “Plan B,” Drake said, producing a wooden stake tucked into his belt. It was actually the leg of a chair he had snapped off and whittled down to a sharp tip. But it did the job.
            Drake plunged the stake deep into Cole’s broad chest, and his movements subsided.
            In the upstairs bedroom, Nona Winmore sat in bed, a pillow propped up against her back, waiting patiently for dinner.
            And that’s just what Jacob intended to provide.
            “Nona Winmore, I presume,” Jacob said, stepping into the bedroom and placing a mason jar on the antique nightstand. The jar was filled with a red viscous substance. The blood that Booth had acquired at the morgue. “I’m Jacob Slade. A Supernatural Investigator. Your son and I recently crossed paths. My partner and I got the better of the exchange. Sorry to be the one to inform you this is the last dinner you’ll ever receive.”
            “You monster,” Nona muttered.
            “I think you have us confused. Now they say an Upir can’t feed off the blood of the dead. They require fresh blood in order to survive. Blood from a corpse results in their demise. Drink this blood, and join your son in whatever eternal hell awaits you. It’s the honorable way to die.”
            On that note, Jacob left Nona with the pint of rancid blood and let her ponder the choice. In the end, he knew she’d choose death.
* * *
            “I did what you asked,” Booth told Jacob one night once things settled down and returned to normal. It took his deputies a while, but they managed to round up all sixteen remaining suspects before they could flee Long Island. Misty Samson was acquitted of all charges. And Thomas Stop had hurled himself in front of a moving train when he learned of Cole Winmore’s demise.
“Ever heard of the Black Lodge? Or Black Lodge Special Units?”
“Can’t say that I have,” Jacob shook his head no.
“It’s a government-funded research facility. I did some more digging. The numbers branded to yours and Drake’s arms are tags from Project Blackbird. A top-secret project that involved intense genetic experimentation.  They were trying to create a new breed of super soldiers, capable of mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, technopathy.”
“Why would we go there?”
“According to the papers, you volunteered.”
“I must’ve been five years old at the time. How could I volunteer for something like that?”
“There are ways around that. They could get a legal guardian to sign a form of consent.”
“But who was my legal guardian? Both my parents were deceased by then.”
“Good question. That I don’t have the answer to.”
There were a lot of good questions Booth didn’t seem to have the answers to. But he had gotten Jacob started on the right track. All he had to do was put the pieces together.
“The Black Lodge, you say? Looks like I’m taking a little vacation, Karl."