This blog is a compilation of short works of fiction by Allan and Helen Krummenacker, authors of the Para-Earth Book Series. The stories contained here take place before our novel "The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home", with the idea of introducing you to some of the characters who appear in that book and the upcoming anthology "The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time" coming this November. So please, sit back and enjoy more glimpses into Nathan's (our vampyre) and his friends' lives.
Cheryl and I took our kids, Joe and Darlene, to visit my grandparents at their home this evening. They only live on the other side of town, but with the snow on the ground walking with two teenage grumbling the whole time would’ve tested the patience of saint. It never ceases to amaze me how after spending all day out in the cold with their friends, our children can be all set to head outside once more in spite of the dropping temperature as soon as they finish eating dinner. Their energy and enthusiasm seems limitless. At least, until we remind them they’re supposed to go somewhere with us.
In that moment, all life seems to suddenly evaporate from their bodies and they’re too tired to go anywhere. Or they’ve just remembered an important paper they need to do for school which requires them to stay home, and maybe have a friend or two over to assist them in their research. It is a condition that we in the medical profession have yet to fully analyze and come up with a name for it. I have on more than one occasion considered preparing a paper on this phenomenon for publication. However, the thought of spending hours trying get teenagers, who are NOT mine therefore I have no authority over them, to answer even the simplest of questions quickly cures me of such urges.
Well, after reminding them of how often they’d assured us that they were fully caught up on all their schoolwork, and that we’d discussed the visit several times earlier in the week, they finally went to fetch their coats. I swear it was like watching a the old television series, “The Six Million Dollar Man” or “The Bionic Woman”, where the heroes are filmed in slow motion when they’re supposed to be moving inhumanly fast. Only in my kids case they really were moving that slow, it took them almost a full fifteen minutes just to find their coats and another five to put them on.
Anyway, we finally got them out the door and on the road. We were just pulling up to my grandparents place, when we saw a familiar figure knocking on their front door. It was Nathan.
From the backseat I heard Joe say, “Since when does he know Great-Nana and Great Pop-Pop?”
“Um… I don’t know, maybe because he’s been watching over our family for generations like he told us back in September,” Darlene shot back, in a sweet-sarcastic tone only a sibling can deliver. A second later, she was out of the car dodging snowballs from her brother who’d raced after her.
All of this happened before I’d even killed the engine of the car, leaving me once more to ponder that paper about energy levels in teens. Perhaps I could just try an observational study? I turned to Cheryl who I noticed already her seatbelt unbuckled but hadn’t even opened the door on her side. “Is something wrong?” I asked her.
Turning she gave me a look of disbelief. “I’m not going out into the middle of those two having a snowball fight.”
A second later, a rogue snowball struck the window, followed by a muffled, “Sorry Mom,” from our son Joe. His aim has never been great when it comes to throwing, which is why he’s never made it onto the school baseball team. Darlene on the other hand has a wicked throwing arm from two seasons on the softball team. Which she proceeded to demonstrate by nailing her brother while he was a distracted.
Joe quickly retaliated with a rare well-aimed shot at his sister, who barely managed to dodge the attack unlike my grandmother who had just come out onto the steps to greet all of us.
Thank God Nathan was right there. He could’ve easily just caught the snowball, but it would’ve exploded in his hand, showering Nana in the process and he knew it. So he good-naturedly stepped in front of her and took the hit, which almost knocked the long stocking cap off his head. I saw him say something to my grandmother and then he turned on my offspring yelling in his Groucho Marx voice, “Of course you realize, this means war!”
However, before he could reach down to grab some snow, Nana tapped him on the shoulder and said something to him. Of course I couldn’t hear from inside the car, but I saw him straighten up and give a dramatic sigh indicating hostilities would remain on hold.
At that point, Cheryl finally opened her car door and stepped out. I quickly followed and joined her and our children who were already greeting their great-grandmother.
Nathan was standing respectfully to the side and I joined him.
“Nice kids you got there, Jack,” he remarked, still in his Groucho voice. Taking off his hat and shaking the snow from it, he continued, “Attacking bystanders like that. What’s this world coming to? Don’t answer, I’ll tell you what it’s coming to…”
I was thankfully spared the rest of his performance by Nana’s voice calling out, “Nathan! Joseph’s expecting you downstairs in his ‘shop’. You know he doesn’t like to be kept waiting. And it looks like he may have some other customers who need haircuts as well.” That last remark was aimed at my son, my grandfather’s namesake. Then I noticed she was eyeing me as well.
“I think we’re expected,” Nathan observed in his own voice, and I nodded.
As we followed my grandmother inside, I heard my son saying to his sister, “Wait a minute. With all the things he can do with his body, why does Uncle Nathan need a haircut?”
*I’m borrowing this entry from one of our other blogs (The Musings of Two Creative Minds) because what happened here involves our own dear Nathan was heavily involved in this situation. And it gives you a little hint of a story that will be appearing in the next anthology book “Two for the Road”, which will contain a number of tales some familiar from this blog, along with some brand new stories including the one being discussed here. I have hopes that this anthology will be appearing later this year, but we’ll see what happens. Both Helen and I have got a number of irons in the fire, including turning “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” into an audiobook. Wish us luck and enjoy this peek into our creative processes….
The Pondering Pug’s Thought of the
What happens when two authors, who are married to each other, get the same type of idea for a short story for their respective book series?
Funny, that this pup should be asking that question, because it happened to Helen and me just recently.
As you all know I created a vampire (or as I call him a ‘vampyre’ since he’s not a true undead being, but more of a science fiction-based blood drinking, shape-shifting, sun avoiding being) named Nathan Steward. For those who aren’t familiar with him here’s a brief synopsis. Nathan was a Union soldier in the Civil War who got blown into a Para-Earth where one of the life forms there fused itself to him, creating a symbiotic bond that allows them to coexist as one. This symbiotic arrangement has also extended Nathan’s life far beyond that of a normal human being, which means he has existed for over 160 years. This has allowed him to see and be a part of a lot of history.
Then about 2 2 1/2 years ago, Helen created Rafael Jones, star of her “The Forever Detective Series”. Set in New York City in 1947 and told from Rafael’s point of view, we quickly we learn he was a police officer, who wanted to serve his country during World War II. Unfortunately, because of his police training he was assigned to MP duty, but later became an investigator gathering evidence for the Nuremberg trials. In the first book “Forever’s Too Long” he has come back to NYC and is opening his own private detective business. In his first 2 cases which become one, he learns that supernatural beings do actually exist, in this case in the form of vampires. As the case progresses, he winds up getting killed and turned into a vampire himself. Yet upon rising he has managed to hold onto his humanity and goes after the vampires responsible for his death, who are also going after a close friend of his.
From there, the series continues with Rafael learning to adjust to his new existence, while keeping his private investigation business going. In his next cases, he encounters more supernatural beings such as ghosts, kelpies, and those gifted with magic such as mediums, witches, wizards, as well as other beings such as ghosts, kelpies, dryads, and many others.
Recently, she added a spinoff group of books centering around some of these other folk, focusing on some adventures of their own that do not involve Rafael. Some of these tales take place before and during World War II.
Well so do a number of my stories with Nathan…
So, I recently had been asking myself what kind of story can I come up with for Nathan during World War I? I had recently been listening to podcasts that told stories of the United States getting hit with sabotage for supplying war materials like weapons and ammunition to England, before we actually entered the war. And two of the cases took place in New York and New Jersey, which was where Nathan was working backstage at vaudeville palaces. So he’d be aware of these incidents, and I could get him involved helping the government by catching a ship headed to England. Now this was during the time of submarine warfare which meant I could easily put him in conflict with a German U-boat to save the ship he was traveling on.
Now I knew Helen had been working on a U-boat story set in WWII for a second anthology in her spinoff series “W. I. T. C. H. Hunters Forever”. However, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever get around to finishing the anthology. And since my story took place in WWI, I didn’t think there would be a problem. So, I got the story well under way before telling Helen about it. She thought it sounded interesting, but then pointed out it might be too similar to the story she had been working on. After much discussion she told me to go ahead with mine and she would drop hers. Now I could tell she was disappointed, but since she insisted, I kept working on mine.
But being the diligent little writer that I am, I wanted to see what the interior of a WWI U-boat was like, and boy was I in for a surprise…
As you can see, this barely had enough room for maybe 10 people. And not a lot of places to hide, which was what I needed for some of the plans I had for Nathan’s activities. I had been envisioning the much bigger and more complex U-boats of WWII. I needed a vessel much bigger than this, with a lot more places to hide and lurk between his acts of sabotage. So, what could I use instead?
Then a memory from my childhood came to me…
Zeppelins! I got fascinated with them after seeing a film showing the destruction of the Hindenburg in 1937. But when I read up on them, I discovered they had been used in WWI to bomb England and other countries at a time where they could achieve heights most biplanes couldn’t. Of course, this changed over time as the war dragged on, but for several years, the Zeppelins were the scourge of the night sky, quietly floating over unsuspecting towns and cities.
They of course could travel over water as well, which meant they could and did occasionally target ships in the waters below.
And after seeing a cut-away diagram like this one…
I knew I had the answer to both our problems. So, I quickly set about reworking the U-boat story I had going and turned it into Nathan ‘haunting’ a Zeppelin instead. Naturally, I informed Helen that the U-boat story was hers, once more, and explained why I changed my mind. I’m pleased to tell you that she was delighted by this turn of events. Especially, as she told me afterwards, she hadn’t really wanted to give up the story she’d had planned because it was such a good one. Which it is! Trust me. But you’ll have to wait for the next anthology book in her series to read it.
And by the same token, you’ll have wait for the next Vampyre Blogs anthology, to read my zeppelin story as well. But it may show up later this year or definitely next year at the latest.
However, I just wanted to share with you what can happen when you have to very creative minds living under the same roof. Sometimes, you both might come up with similar ideas, but there are ways around such situations, to avoid having readers possibly wind up comparing who did a better job on their story.
Researching source material for your setting can make or break a writing project. So make sure you’re diligent, especially if you’re writing about historical events.
Until next time, stay safe and keep writing everyone!
PS: If you enjoyed the Pondering Pug concept, do let us know. We’ll be happy to continue having the pug occasionally show up on the blog with new thoughts and questions to explore. Besides, he is so darn cute!
Hello everyone, Happy New Year! Hope the holiday season treated you well. You probably noticed that the ever since I finished the “Red Fang” storyline, I’ve been re-sharing older short stores (or not so short like the “Cannibal Killer” tale). You are no doubt understandably wondering why there hasn’t been anything new for so long. Well, up until September, my biggest concern was trying to get the left side of my sacro-iliac joint sorted out through physical therapy, and pain control injections. I was lined up to have ablation surgery done on the joint area in question, when I began having an unexplained increase in my heart rate. We’re talking into the low-mid 100’s even at rest.
This of course alarmed my wife and my physician who has been subjecting me to a battery of tests, CAT scans, and X-rays. I’m pleased to report that the heart is in fine shape, and there are no irregularities in my heartbeats, aside from the elevated rates. Since then, I’ve been off work due to nearly passing out at one point and suffering fatigue and dizziness quite frequently. As of this post, we are zeroing in on a possible cause, but there are more tests to be done so I’ll keep you updated.
Now a quick rewind. After I finished the “Red Fang” story, I started focusing on the next novel “The Vampyre Blogs – Family Ties” and was making some good progress. I was also finishing the cover art for Helen’s newest book (a short story collection which is part of her own series “The Forever Detective” books, which involve a private investigator who becomes a vampire but continues to be a detective and hold onto his humanity set in the 1940s).
So, I was still keeping busy, in spite of my illness. I just didn’t have a lot of creativity flowing for the most part until I was given a new medication for my high blood pressure which also has quieted down my heart rate to more normal levels. However, there are still other concerns regarding levels of sodium and cortisol which are continuing to plague me. But as I said before, we’re getting closer to answers so I’m not too worried.
Anyway, since I’ve been feeling more creative once more, I’ve come up with a number of new tales for Nathan and company to be dealing with. A couple of them are slated for the second Vampyre Blogs Anthology, which I’m hoping might be released before this year is over. I’ve got a number of old stories that have not seen the light of day since their original release on this blog, but I really wanted a few never before seen ones as well. One involves a German U-boat during World War I, another involves a sex traffic ring which I will be putting a trigger warning for readers in case they want to skip that one. That tale will also show a little of Nathan’s ‘darker’ side when it comes to harming innocents.
I am also planning a special Halloween tale for you all on this blog, which may put a few of you in mind of old classic film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. I won’t say anymore, because I want you all to have fun reading that one when it comes out.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing a few more re-runs of older stories here, but I wanted you all to know what’s happening here on the homefront.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I am currently taking some professional voice acting classes, while I have the down time from my work. I’m hoping this will lead to auditions and some paying work before the year is out. Who know? Maybe, I’ll be able to one day retire from the county and do voice work full-time, as well as my writing.
We’ll see. But now you’re in the loop. I thank you for your support of this blog and ask you all to keep on visiting and leaving your likes and comments.
As soon as I finished re-loading, Nadine headed for the classroom door only to find it locked. “Seriously?” she hissed, “They lock classrooms doors an abandoned school? What did they think kids were going to break in and start rummaging through textbooks so they can catch up on homework or something?”
Suppressing a smile I joined her and explained, “Teachers always lock the doors to the classrooms when they leave, and when they left this school they had no idea it wasn’t going to reopen. Besides, even if they knew they’d still have locked things up because the school district would still be responsible for anyone, even trespassers, hurting themselves in here.”
“I know one I won’t mind hurting,” she murmured under her breath and reached for the handle.
I stopped her, “Too much noise. If the Cannibal’s nearby he’ll hear it. The hinges are on this side of the door. Do you think you can pull the pins out?”
Smiling she elongated her fingers and with a little super-human strength, the pins were out. Together we managed to silently pull the door out of the frame, then stepped into the hallway.
Seeing no sign of our quarry, I quickly determined our location and led the way towards the stairwell leading downstairs. I have to admit, even if we weren’t hunting a psychopath, the old hallways I’d wandered down so many times seemed kind of eerie. The district had been right to close the place down. Some of the ceiling tiles had collapsed, littering the floor with debris and dust. Not to mention the occasional opened locker which revealed cobwebs and abandoned notebooks. I found myself starting to wonder what might be hidden among the closed ones and shuddered.
Upon reaching the old stairwell, I could see more fallen ceiling tiles and exposed wiring.
“This place is starting to feel more and more like a horror movie set,” Nadine whispered as we carefully made our way down the steps.
“And we’re headed for the boiler room where creeps like Freddy Krueger hang out,” I replied in a hushed voice, then a thought hit me. “Hey, Nadine, how about you changing back to your normal form?”
My companion paused on the steps and gave me a curious look. “Why?”
“Because I watched enough of those old slasher movies to know the only girl left always makes it out alive. But any guys with her, especially if they’re black like me, they’re toast,” I told her.
Rolling her eyes, she glared at me. Then a wicked smirk crossed her face and she whispered, “See you downstairs,” and took off down the steps in a blur.
Cursing myself for having said anything I quickly followed. And for the record I wasn’t the least bit annoyed with her for abandoning me like that. I knew damn well if she had sensed the Cannibal anywhere nearby she would never have left my side, not even for a joke.
Just before I reached the last step a light came on and I saw my partner standing near the switch staring into the most unnerving area we’d encountered yet. Old white brick walls surrounded us on all sides, with the occasional dark hallway staring at us almost begging us to come and take a look. There was an old chair and abandoned pallet in one corner, along with some big old rusted bins that had seen better days.
Then I noticed Nadine’s breathing sounded louder and faster. “He’s getting near… and so is someone else.” Closing her eyes she trembled slightly as she concentrated.
‘Going back inside his head,’ I told myself and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She seemed to appreciate it as the shaking stopped and her eyes flew open. “That way,” she snapped, pointing at one of the dark corridors.
Gun drawn I led the way. As we moved, I could hear noises up ahead including moaning. Quickening our pace, we soon found ourselves in a huge room filled with machinery, boilers and God help me… a fucking cage with a young woman inside it. She was curled up in a ball in one corner of her prison, rocking back and forth in a rhythmic fashion that told the entire story. From what little remained of her torn clothing it was obvious she had suffered much at the Cannibal’s hands.
This time Nadine didn’t hold back. She rushed right up to the door to the prison and ripped the thing right off its hinges and flung it aside. The sound of tearing metal seemed to cut through the girl’s almost catatonic state as she looked up and stared at the two of us, not certain if she could believe what she was seeing.
I placed a hand on Nadine’s shoulder and whispered, “Gently, she’s been through a lot.”
She gave me an annoyed look and then nodded. “Got it,” she replied and was about to say something else when the young woman stood up and rushed into her arms crying uncontrollably. In the distance I could hear the sirens of my fellow deputies’ cars drawing closer. No doubt the killer was nearer too.
That’s when I heard the first hint of footsteps coming down the stairs. He was closer than I’d thought.
“Nadine!” I murmured, cocking my revolver.
“I know,” came her muffled reply.
Puzzled I turned and saw my companion’s face buried in the girl’s neck. “What are you…?” I began, when she turned and faced me.
To my relief, there was no blood on her lips. “What did you do?” I asked.
“Gave her peace,” Nadine replied and gently placed the now strangely calm victim into my arms.
“You wiped her memories?” I hissed, in disbelief.
“No, just gave her some strength to cope and recover with time,” my partner answered as she stepped past me.
So, she’d given the girl a bit of herself, that was a relief. I was about to say more when our rescuee blurted, “Don’t! He’ll get you too.”
Nadine paused and gave us both a reassuring smile. Then without saying a word, she headed out of the room.
“What’s she going to do?” the girl asked me.
Before I could answer a voice bellowed from the other room saying, “JOANIE! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME? I’M GOING TO…” the rest the words were lost on a cry of despair.
The girl in my arms stiffened for a second and then became calm. “That cry, it was his voice, not hers. What’s happening?”
“Let’s find out,” I told her and led the way out of the boiler room and down the hallway. As we moved, I could hear Nadine speaking softly as we drew closer.
“It’s all right, I’m here,” she was saying.
As we stepped into the white bricked room, I could see my friend approaching the Cannibal who was slowly backing away until his back was pressed against the far wall.
“DON’T TOUCH ME! I’M FINALLY THE STRONG ONE, NOT YOU!” the killer wailed, his face contorted in a mask of fury as his hands clenched into fists. Yet in spite of all that rage, his hands remained seemingly pinned to wall. But why? Then it hit me, the Sangui-Sapio was holding him back. It wasn’t about to let him harm the one who had shared her life with it.
Nadine took another step closer then stopped and said softly, “It’s okay, you can let you go. I’ll catch you.”
It was hard to make out in the dim light of the room but then I noticed the bullet holes in the Cannibal’s shirt began to move as if of their own accord. Peering closer I finally made out particles of deep red were slowly exiting the tears in the fabric and floating across towards Nadine’s extended hand. Once there, they seemed to disappear into the flesh of her palm, and I could see a sense of relief take over my friend.
As the last of the stream of particles disappeared back into her, the Cannibal slumped against the wall and sat there staring at nothing.
Then Nadine turned to us and I could see her shoulder had finally began to heal properly. Within seconds there was no trace of the injury she’d suffered earlier. Smiling she said to the girl in my arms, “It’s over, he’s done for. Let’s get you out of here.”
I caught the faintest glimpse of green mist waft from her hand into the girl’s nostrils as she spoke. No doubt the sight of red particles coming out of the Cannibal and going into Nadine’s hand would be forgotten.
‘Good job,’ I mouthed to my partner as we led the girl upstairs.
We’d just reached the top of the steps when Sheriff Parkes and several deputies appeared down the hallway. Upon seeing us they called out and quickly joined us.
“What are you doing here…” my boss began, when he and the others unknowingly inhaled some faint green mist. After a moment, he continued, “You found her! Good job you two. What about our suspect?”
“He’s just down those stairs in the basement…” I began when.
“JOANIE! JOANIE YOU BITCH!” came the Cannibal’s voice from the stairwell. “I won’t let you get away this time. I’ll prove I’m stronger than you… you bitch.”
“Get this girl out of here!” Parkes barked at our back-up.
Two of my fellow deputies took care of our charge and moved her down the hallway to safety, while the rest of us turned to face the nightmare figure coming up the stairs.
As the Cannibal came into view I noticed fresh blood stains had appeared exactly where he’d been hit by our bullets earlier.
“Joanie…” he said spying Nadine, his voice was husky and his breathing more labored. “You keep coming back to prove I was never enough of a man for you… I joined the army to become stronger… and proved it overseas. I practiced on the whores I found there and found it wasn’t me it that was the problem… it was you. You never knew how to satisfy me… but they did. I taught them how, with they’re screams, their blood, their flesh.. And then I came back to show you but you’d left… and I had to find you. I had to find you over and over… and prove and prove it all over again, and again and…”
Suddenly the man’s eyes rolled up into his head and he toppled back down the steps, ending with a sickening thud at the bottom. Even before we reached him I knew our quarry was dead.
“It’s finally over,” one of my fellow deputies breathed.
Parkes nodded, then turned to me saying, “You and Collins two did great tonight. Finding the girl while we had him on the run was a brilliant move. Speaking of having him on the run, we heard from the hospital while we were chasing the bastard. Terri’s awake and identified her assailant as our friend here.”
A wave of relief swept over me. Knowing she was out of danger really brought the entire chapter to a close for me. I made a mental note to head to the hospital as soon as we were done here. Unfortunately, there was one last piece of business to attend to here, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
I glanced over at Nadine who gave me a sad little smile. We had agreed back at the bar that it would probably be best for no one to remember her or her part in all of this, but I was having second thoughts about it.
As Nadine approached I said to my boss, “You know to honest I couldn’t have done any of this without Detective Collins help. I think it would be good for us to keep her in mind if we need her expertise again down the road. She’s something of an expert in handling unusual cases.”
“Is she?” Parkes remarked turning to her. “I know asking you to become part of our team would be a step or two down for you, but I would appreciate it if we could call upon you again in the future.”
For a pregnant moment I half expected to see more greenish vapors, but instead Nadine smiled and extended her hand saying, “Of course. Michael… I mean Deputy Rhodes knows how to get a hold of me.”
“Glad to hear you say that,” my boss replied taking her hand. And he wasn’t the only one. I had grown rather fond of this ‘other’ side of my Uncle Nathan, and I was happy to know I may get to see/work with ‘her’ again one day.
****Another note from the author: Sorry gang, I know I said this would be the final installment, but the story is just too big. Next time will bring about the end of this saga from Nathan’s long life, with a possible epilogue installment from Nathan’s point of view. In the meantime, enjoy.****
“You four okay?” my boss asked as he helped us to our feet.
I was glad to see he’d finally climbed out of the pond and had not been seriously injured, but the same couldn’t be said for his equipment.
“My radio didn’t like taking a dip,” he told me gesturing at his shoulder, “But I saw which direction he was headed in. So I need to you get a hold of the patrol cars on the south side of the park. Tell them to intercept if possible and to use force if necessary. I don’t know what he’s on but that guy is more dangerous than we ever suspected.”
As I did so, Nadine suddenly grabbed my arm and snapped, “Cancel the last part of that order. Tell them to pursue but not engage!” Then she quickly turned to my boss and added, “He’s got another girl stashed away somewhere. No doubt that’s where he’s headed. If he we follow he’ll lead us right to her, and right now with him all pumped up we’re her only hope.”
I could see my boss’ expression was about to turn ugly when a greenish mist snaked its way from behind his neck and into his nostrils. In the blink of an eye, he face softened and he nodded. “You heard the lady, Rhodes. Give the order.”
Obediently I relayed the message, then checked on the two deputies who’d been thrown at me and Nadine. Aside from being bruised and a little shaken, both were ready to rejoin the pursuit. Just then my radio came to life as two of the patrol cars had caught a glimpse of a figure in fatigues racing down Maple Street and had started to follow.
“We’ve got him in our sights,” one of the driver’s reported, “But damn the guy is fast. Every time we start to close in he pours it on and starts pulling away and… HOLY SHIT, he just vaulted over the ten foot fence around the high school basketball courts.”
“That’s seven blocks from here…,” Sheriff Parkes began then stopped. “Wait…Jenkins repeat what you just said about the fence!”
“They guy just jumped over it like runner in the middle of a hurdle race,” came the incredulous reply. “What the hell is he on, Crystal Meth/steroid combo or something?”
I stole a quick glance at Nadine who was now standing unusually silent with her arms clutching each other across her chest. She seemed to be breathing rather heavily, as if she herself was there in the middle of the chase. Then it hit me. She was still in touch with the Sangui-Sapio! That was how she knew about the other girl the guy was already holding. And now she was trying to see inside the Cannibal’s head and figure out where he was holding her.
Just then the other patrol car called in saying, “This is Unit 3 we’ve just finished circling around to the front of the school. But there’s no sight of our perp.”
“He’s either hiding somewhere inside the building, or he he’s laying low somewhere on the grounds,” my boss surmised, then snapped, “Rhodes, Collins, you’re with me.
“Boiler Room,” muttered Nadine suddenly as her eyes snapped open.
All eyes turned towards her.
“What was that, Collins?”
“He’s got her hidden away in the boiler room,” she replied darkly.
One of my brothers in brown began to protest. “There’s no way he could keep a girl hidden down there, that’s where the janitors hang out. I should know, a bunch of us used to visit with them in between classes.”
“You’re thinking the senior high school,” Parkes pointed out, “What about the old junior high building on the far side of the campus? It was closed down about seven years ago due to structural issues and was fenced off from the rest of the grounds to keep the kids out, while they decided whether or not to salvage the place.”
“I remember seeing something about that. They decided last year to tear it down and a construction company put up a portable office so they could have someone there at all times to keep an eye on the equipment they were moving in and…” suddenly I stopped myself. If our boy was part of the advanced crew who was getting things ready for the demolition project he’d have had time to explore every part of the building including the old boiler room down in the basement.
Sheriff Parkes seemed to be thinking the same thing, as he turned to one of the deputies, “Have the patrol cars surround the construction zone and begin casing the area. He may not have gotten inside yet. Tell them to enter the building only if they spot him going in. Otherwise they’re to wait for my arrival. You two with me.” This was directed at our assistance. Then turning to me he baredk, “Rhodes, you get Collins seen to at the hospital. Her back and shoulder aren’t looking too good.”
I began to protest, but Nadine stopped me with a glance.
“I’ll get her checked out,” I told him.
Nodding he took off with the other two deputies.
“Now what?” I hissed in case they were in earshot.
“You’re getting on my back and directing me to that school,” she replied and hunched down.
Obediently, I did as she instructed and in a flash the scenery around us turned into a blur, only occasionally snapping back into focus as Nadine waited for where to turn next. In the distance I could hear my boss’ siren blaring telling me we were still way ahead. After one last blur, the abandoned junior high building stood before us.
We’d approached from the back, so the patrol cars already on site had no hint of our presence. “I really should alert them…” I began.
“And possibly give our position away to the Cannibal?” Nadine cut in abruptly. “He’s not here yet, but he is close.”
I frowned. “He had a huge head start, especially with the speed he was moving at.”
“Yeah, but now he and the part he stole from me he are having a disagreement,” she replied looking around.
“How do you mean?” I asked, eyeing her shoulder again. In spite of having finally closed up, it looked like it might re-open at any time, and I began to worry about the one in her back as well.
Nadine didn’t answer right away. Instead she closed her eyes for a moment before answering. “The Sangui-Sapio is all about preserving life and our friend the Cannibal…”
“Is all about torturing and killing,” I finished, as my mind flashed back to a moment in the park. “So when you were saying all that stuff about being frightened you were talking to the Sangui-Sapio, trying to coax it out of him.”
She nodded. “It’s found itself trapped inside a mind that’s full of rage and a desire to end life. And it’s realized that it cannot get him to change. It wants to reject him, but because of all the repair work it’s done on his body, he was too quick and got away. It needs me to be nearby so it has somewhere to go. Otherwise, it won’t survive for very long on its own. That’s what happened when it found me all those years ago. It had just been driven out of another host and was desperately trying to find a life form to merge with.”
This time she cut me off by asking, “How well do you know the layout of this building?”
“Like the back of my hand, I spent three years in this place,” I replied, studying the structure. “And as you already surmised the boiler room is in the basement, just below the gym.”
Nodding we headed towards the nearest broken window and carefully climbed inside.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloom I could make out the rows of empty desks all facing a big desk at the front of the room. There were old posters and even a few old homework assignments still attached to the bulletin boards that were parked next to the blackboards. I could barely make out an old faded chalk message on one of the blackboards that simply read “Goodbye”. Apparently, during the time the school board was deciding whether or not to save the old place, they’d never bothered having anyone clean out the rooms. There were even stacks of old textbooks piled up in a corner.
If it was like this on the main floor, God only knew what the basement level must be like. I’d gone down there once looking for the janitor and had gotten lost. There had been so many doors and hallways leading to all kinds of storage rooms along with the heat, electrical, and water systems down there. There was no telling where the Cannibal might have stashed his latest victim.
“Hey, wait a minute,” I whispered as we reached the door that led out of the classroom. “You said earlier that the Cannibal already has a girl captive down in the boiler room. Why did he try to grab another girl tonight if he already has one still alive?”
Nadine didn’t look at me as she answered, “The last couple he killed weren’t quite as ‘satisfying’ as the earlier ones. So he decided to increase the level of excitement. The more terrified they are the more fun it is for him. And what’s more terrifying than seeing what someone has in store for you, by watching it happen to another?”
Quietly I reloaded my gun. The nightmare had to end, tonight.
*Authors’ Note: Sorry for the delay between posts. We work for the county and are currently winding down the fiscal year which runs from July 2017-June 2018, so we’ve been run off our feet. But things will be calming down in another few weeks so please bear with us. In the meantime, here is a lengthy entry to help make up for the lack of posts. We hope to get back on our more regular posting schedule before July is out. Thank you for you patience – Allan and Helen Krummenacker
“Nadine!” I screamed and rushed to her side, while my boss and our back up started moving slowly towards our suspect. The Cannibal Killer was still on the ground having spasms, and seemed to be completely unaware of our presence.
I carefully rolled Nadine on her side and studied the knife handle which was all I could see. The bastard and really rammed it in deep. Luckily, I knew from past experiences that it would take more than a knife in the back to stop Nadine. Even if the guy had struck where her heart should be it would’ve failed, because her body would’ve moved the vital organ or created another to keep her going. For all the similarities between her and the vampires of legend, she was something more.
Still something wasn’t right. Even though her eyes were open and staring right at me, she didn’t speak. And the look on her face… what was happening?
That’s when I noticed her bare shoulder and nearly threw up. It took me a moment to get myself under control. I’ve seen a lot of injuries in my line of work, including what our perp had done to his other victims… but none of them had still been alive at the time. The bastard had literally taken a bite out of her.
But the thing that was getting me was the fact that the wound was… doing things. The ragged edges of the wound kept moving, as if they knew they should be reaching across to their counterparts to seal the injury but couldn’t. Instead, they simply kept waving about likes streamers attached to a fan… only bloodier.
I was almost grateful when I heard the sounds of a struggle breaking out behind me… almost. Before I could turn, one of my fellow deputies landed hard beside me and Nadine and rolled.
Whirling I saw I saw our perp was back on his feet tossing both my boss and another deputy aside as if they were a couple of five year olds. Then instead of fleeing the scene, the guy just stood there… laughing.
“Oh… Joanie,” he called and turned in my direction, only his eyes were fixed on the prone form of Nadine in my arms. “I’m not finished with you, not by a long shot!”
Before he could take a single step I raised my gun and fired.
I saw the pocket covering his heart explode as the bullet hit. The impact knocked him back yet he managed to keep standing. For a moment he stared at the hole in his jacket dumbly, as the cloth slowly turned dark then stopped. Then to his shock, and mine, the stain slowly began to shrink.
Immediately the true horror of our situation hit. The guy had eaten and swallowed of not only a piece of Nadine but the Sangui-Sapio life form from that Para-Earth she’d landed up in back in 1862. And just as it had changed Nadine from a simple human into a pseudo-vampire in order to save her life, it was now doing the same to the maniac standing a few yards away from me. But the change was only beginning.
Our psycho staggered and fell to his knees. His eyes were glassy-looking and he seemed confused.
This was our chance! I started to get to my feet when Sheriff Parkes waived me off as he and three more officers, who had materialized out of the darkness, descended on the Cannibal. They were able to grab his arms and cuff them behind his back without the slightest bit of effort. In fact, they well into the process of removing other weapons he had secreted about his person before he seemed to realize what was happening.
Then he laughed.
Something about that sound made all of us back up and draw our weapons. “On the ground! Or you will be shot!” my boss warned.
For a second no one spoke or moved.
Then the killer began to murmur and giggle, “Now I get it… you were right, Joanie. I wasn’t man enough for you before. How could I be… you had a secret but wouldn’t share it with me. But now I know it…”
“I said don’t move!” my boss repeated cocking his weapon.
But the Cannibal didn’t listen, instead he turned towards where Nadine lay and whispered almost sweetly, “…Because I taken from you. But it’s not enough, I want it ALL!”
In flash he was on his feet, snapping the handcuffs behind his back in the process.
But we were faster and opened fire.
At point blank range, every one of our shots struck home and I watched as the Cannibal jerked with each impact. But he never went down. Instead, he lashed out with superhuman strength and speed. His first blow sent Sheriff Parkes sailing over Nadine and into the pond beyond her, while another sent our backup rolling a good twenty yards in opposite directions.
Instinctively, I started to turn towards the pond, but my superior was already getting back to his feet, bellowing, “Stay where you are, protect Collins!”
He was right. At this point I was the only one left to keep the super-powered Cannibal from reaching his target.
Weapon raised, I wracked my brain for ideas as our perp started towards me. Bullets weren’t going to stop this guy, but maybe one in each of his eyes would at least buy us time to regroup…
Suddenly, Nadine appeared between us. Arms outstretched she stood protectively in front of me.
I could see her shoulder was finally healing, but it was doing so slowly, as was the spot in her back where the knife had been. Her entire frame trembled for a moment and I feared she might collapse, but she held her ground and spoke.
“You’re scared… confused. This isn’t what you expected,” she said gently.
The Cannibal Killer chuckled, “No I’m not, Joanie. I’m seeing things clearer than ever before. This is how come you never stayed dead. You kept coming back over and over again, taunting me, laughing at me. But now I know how you did it. And now you can’t stop me. No one can! I’m like you… only better.”
Now he started moving towards us, yet Nadine didn’t move. Instead she gently reached out a hand and said gently, “We both know what you really want.”
That made him stop as he stared at her stupidly at her for a moment.
Behind him, the two deputies he’d thrown were getting to their feet and regrouping so silently, if I hadn’t seen them I’d have never known. Still I kept a poker face, so as not to give anything away.
Yet, without looking away from us the Cannibal Killer pointed at them saying, “And don’t expect them to stop me Joanie… because they’re going to be the warm up act. Once I’m done with them and the one behind you, I’m going to start on you and not stop…”
“You’re in pain,” Nadine cut in, “Don’t let it hold you back, let go.”
“YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE ONE IN PAIN JOA… UNGH!” Suddenly, the killer froze and began to jerk uncontrollably like a marionette whose strings had gotten tangled.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Nadine smiled and took a step toward him.
The look in the Cannibal’s eyes changed from hungry rage to horror as she drew closer.
Just then the other two deputies rushed forward and tried to tackle him from behind. At the last second the killer spun, grabbed each of them and threw the pair directly at us.
Unfortunately, Nadine was not fully recovered. In spite of her attempt to catch my fellow deputies, their combined mass and speed knocked her back into me and the four of us went down in a sprawl. By the time any of us were able to get up, the Cannibal was already gone.
****NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A quick reminder that this story is darker and more graphic than most previous entries as it deals with violence against women, as well as a very deranged mind. There will be fewer images in this entry than usual as I do not wish to cause ‘triggers’ in readers. If you feel just reading about violence will trouble you, I recommend possibly taking a pass on this one. The story will hopefully be concluded in two more installments – Thank you.****
I’ve seen inside peoples minds before, especially when I take a blood “donation” straight from them. And if I’m putting some of myself into them, I see it ALL. Which is why I usually prefer my intake to be from bags, or in a rare case a transfusion. Still, it’s not always a bad thing to get a donation directly from someone close. I get to know them more intimately in ways others don’t. And considering my long existence I can keep their memories alive and share those treasures with the donor’s descendants for many years to come, so they are never forgotten.
However, there have been occasions where I’ve been inside the minds of certain people and am forced to carry their memories with me, because I cannot forget… anything! Oh, I may have a hard time recalling the information at will, but it’s all there, hidden behind doors and piles of other recollections. And try as I might, I can only bury those darker items so deep.
I only pray I can bury the things I saw tonight so deep that they will never plague my slumbering moments…
As I said, I normally I only see inside another person’s mind when I take from them, but tonight I learned it could happen when someone took from ME!
Thanks to the mist I’d released earlier I knew the assault was taking place near the pond in the center of the park which meant I had to move fast. Normally I don’t show off my inhuman speed, but I figured I’d be able to alter the Sheriff’s memory afterwards. As the scenery blurred past me, I sent the mist I’d released into the park earlier into the killer’s nostrils hoping to gain some control over him after he breathed me in, which he did. But it didn’t work. The guy was so on an adrenaline rush from the excitement of having captured another victim, that nothing I did was even slowing him down.
But I could see through his eyes and saw he was straddling the girl, one hand clamped firmly over her mouth while the other held a wicked looking military blade. A second later, I burst onto the scene.
Sure enough he was on top of her and was in the process of slicing open her blouse to expose her chest.
Without slowing I allowed my arm to stretch a couple of feet longer than normal in order to grab his hand with the knife and pull it away from the girl. Unfortunately, this gave him time to look up and see me coming just before the rest of me slammed into his solid six foot frame. The creep actually started to smile until our bodies collided. He certainly had not expected someone so much smaller than himself to have enough force to knock him off the girl, much less send him sprawling several feet. By the same token, I never expected him to grab my “overly-extended” arm with the hand he had clamped over the girl’s mouth to pull me with him.
The two of us rolled across the ground each struggling for the advantage. Normally, my inhuman strength should have given me the advantage, but the guy knew what he was doing. I quickly realized Michael was right about the killer having had military training. I got a close-up look at the blade as we struggled and recognized it as an LMF II ASEK, with a foliage colored handle to match his camouflage make-up and attire. But it was his fighting style that really told the story and was giving me a tough time of it. At first I couldn’t get any decent leverage to pin him, but then I realized I was fighting like a normal person and not using my full talents.
At last I let him pin me, as I did so the smell of tree sap and fresh leaves reached my nostrils. So that’s how he’d gotten past the patrols. He’d hidden himself up in one of the trees during the daytime, probably when the park was busy, and had stayed there. No doubt he’d put on his camouflage make-up and changed his shirt, while waiting for night to come. Then he’d just waited for the right moment and…
“Am I man enough for you now… Joanie,” he panted excitedly.
‘Joanie?’ I thought briefly before he head-butted me, which hurt! Yes, I can feel pain just like anyone else, but I can take more abuse than most. But it still hurt and I saw stars briefly. In that moment I realized MY suspicion, that our friend was someone who had either killed or wanted to kill a certain type of woman over and over again, had been right. Not that I felt like patting myself on the back at that point. Especially when he started wriggling on top of me and I could FEEL how excited he was (shudder). Now I could really appreciate the things Penny had told me in private on more than one occasion. How many women had known terror as they suffered at his hands?
His head rocked back, to deliver another blow to my skull but I was quicker. My left leg shrank while a fist shot up from between my cleavage connecting with his chin on its way down. I felt the impact throughout my chest as Mr. Psycho’s eyes rolled up into his head. For a moment I thought for sure he’d knocked himself out, but his grip on my regular hands barely loosened. Once more I unleashed a third fist, this time into his rather abdomen and I felt the air rush out of his mouth and into my face. Someone seriously needed a breath mint. This time, I was the one to deliver the head-but which seemingly ended our fight. Mr. Norman-Bates-wannabe, fell off of me and lay still.
Immediately, I got up and turned to his original target who was crouched nearby, holding up a large rock. Apparently, she had been hoping for an opening to clock the bastard while he was dealing with me. I gave her a reassuring smile as I studied her. Sure enough, she was blonde, about my current size and shape, and dressed like someone who full of self-confidence. Though at the moment she was looking more vulnerable and shaken, as she stared at me with eyes full of amazement.
“Easy, you and I are okay…” I started to tell her, then I saw her eyes widen in pure horror.
“BEHIND YOU!” she screamed, just as I felt the blade of the knife rip through my back and out my middle.
I remember cursing myself for making such a rookie mistake. The guy was ex-military, of course he’d play ‘possum’ to get me to turn my back on him. Still, I’m not normal, and it would take more than a knife in the back to finish me off. Unfortunately, before I could swallow the pain to retaliate, that’s when he sank his teeth and took a bite OUT of my shoulder and I got a look inside a world of madness!
For a moment I didn’t know what to do. I was certain Nadine could take care of herself, but then I realized her ‘attacker’ was wearing the same uniform I went to work in.
Rushing forward I explained in a hushed voice, “Hold up, she’s with me!”
“Rhodes?” the officer turned and I saw it was my boss, Sheriff Jim Parkes, looking none-to-pleased. “What the hell…”
“Not so loud, we don’t want to give away our position,” I hissed and gestured that the three of us move out of the park.
Nodding, he let Nadine go, but gestured that she was to lead the way.
Once we were a safe distance Parkes growled, “Okay, this should be far enough. Now what the hell are you playin’ at? And you’d better not tell me you were going to try another decoy routine.”
“Would you believe…” Nadine began, but I cut her off.
“Actually we were, Chief. This Detective Nadine Collins from Maine. She and her people dealt with a similar set of murders but never caught the killer. She thinks our boy may be the same guy…”
“And you came to try and help us catch him,” my boss finished with a nod. “You know there are procedures to be followed like introducing yourself at the station.”
“You were already gone and Deputy Rhodes thought we might find you here,” Nadine supplied smoothly, while I gave him a rather believable account of what had supposedly happened up in Maine. As I spoke I noticed a faint greenish haze slowly building around us at ground level. I had an idea what that Nadine planned on letting my boss breathe her in so she could influence him, but I gave her the faintest head shake. You don’t work with a man for years without getting to know his mannerisms and way of thinking. And I could already tell he was buying my story because he trusted me. Hell the man had recruited me himself as soon as I had come back from the army He didn’t even bother to ask to see her credentials, instead he gave us the full rundown on the situation.
He’d managed to pull in some extra help from the state. Several troopers were hidden throughout the park, while others were quietly patrolling the streets in unmarked vehicles. If our perp struck, we were going to run him to ground tonight.
As we spoke I noticed the mist Nadine had created earlier was drifting off towards the park entrance and spread out until no trace of it could be seen. ‘Trying to do some recon, good plan,’ I thought to myself as Parkes continued to fill us in on the situation.
Once he’d finished, Nadine and I shared what we had figured out about our Killer’s targets. Like me at first he seemed unimpressed until we got to the part about the women having an air of confidence which impressed him as much as it had me.
“That would explain why he’s so violent with them,” he breathed after a moment. “Probably trying to kill the same woman over and over in his mind, but what about the cannibalism?”
“We’re dealing with a sick mind, Chief,” I shook my head, “There could a be dozen demented reasons why he’s eating them… sort a souvenir? A way of keeping them close to him? I don’t know…”?
At this point we both turned to my companion saying, “You got any…” and then stopped. She had started moving back towards the park, following the same path her mist had taken moments before. “Detective Collins? What is it?” Parkes shouted as the two of us started towards her.
But just as we were about to reach her, she shouted over her shoulder, “He’s here! And so is someone else… a girl!” A second later, she was gone. Normally, Nate… I mean Nadine wouldn’t have let anyone see her inhuman speed in action, but a life was in danger and this was no time for being subtle.
Not that I had any reason to worry, Parkes was busy barking orders into his radio alerting the rest of the team of the situation. He’d barely gotten the order out when a scream erupted from the darkness. The killer had struck.
Without pausing we both raced into the park trying to figure out what direction the scream had come from when it erupted again, this time calling for help repeatedly. Following the sound we veered off the path and into the trees and bushes off to our left. The cries were getting louder when suddenly a young woman burst out of the darkness and into our arms, tears streaming down her dirt covered cheeks.
“He’s near the lake and he’s got her…” she blubbed, still shaking. “He jumped me and had me on the ground when she came out of nowhere and threw him off me… She’d just helped me up when he jumped her from behind and stabbed her in the back… she just stared at me and told me to run…”
As she spoke two of my fellow deputies appeared on the scene.
Grabbing his shoulder radio Parkes barked, “Suspect sited near lake attacking a female detective, all boots on the ground converge on that area and engage. Patrol cars are to surround the park and form a perimeter, pursue anyone seen fleeing from the area.” Then turning to the new arrivals he ordered, “Take her to safety and call for a medical assistance and more back up. Rhodes you’re with me!”
Weapons drawn we raced towards the lake. I could hear the sounds of a struggle up ahead, which suddenly stopped, sending a chill down my spine. Had Nadine already finished the guy?
Still rushing forward we burst out of the trees and the sight that greeted us was more than a little unnerving. Both Nadine and the Cannibal Killer were on the ground, several feet from each other. The latter was rolling around clutching his head and like he was having convulsions. Whereas Nadine, was simply lying on the ground unmoving, eyes wide as if she were staring into the pits of Hell itself…
For the record, I’ve always admired Uncle Nate but after tonight my respect for him has gone through the roof. When I got his e-mail last night telling me he was on the way to help deal with the monster who’s been terrorizing our town, I was relieved. But when he showed up… no, wait. I need to take a few steps back. I’ve got to tell this story right.
Besides telling me he was on the way, the e-mail listed a time and place for us to meet tonight. It’s an out of the way pub here in town called “Draughts“, which is where we normally get together. It’s a nice little place run by a father and son who, like me, are part of Nate’s extended family. Big Frank and Frank Jr. are good people and they know just about everyone here in town. They also know what you like to drink, so when I walked in a glass of my favorite brew appeared on the bar before I finished settling my ass down on the stool.
I started to pull out my wallet and Big Frank shook his head, “Nate’s already got you covered tonight,” he told me with a knowing smile and wandered off to take care of some other patrons.
Glancing around the room I saw a number of familiar faces and a couple of others I didn’t, like the pretty blonde down at the end of the bar. I knew she wasn’t from around here, a face like that everyone would know and remember, but by the same token I could also tell she wasn’t a ‘working’ girl either. For one thing she seemed absorbed in reading her Kindle, for another no one was hitting on her. A few of the guys I went to high school were looking her way and shaking their heads. Clearly they’d been shot down and were still trying to figure her out, but I had other things on my mind. Like where was Nate?
After about thirty minutes there was still no sign of Nate anywhere. So I pulled out my phone and dialed the number I had for him, but after four rings it went to voicemail. Looking over at Big Frank who was talking to the blonde at the end of the bar, I caught his eye and gestured to him. After sharing a laugh with the girl, he came over and asked, “Need a refill?”
Shaking my head I replied, “Nah, I’m good right now. You told me earlier Nate’s covering my drinks, so that means you’ve seen him. Do you know where he is? He was supposed to meet me here I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”
“That’s what you think,” he replied mysteriously.
For a moment I started to get annoyed and then I remembered, Nate can take many forms and might be keeping a low profile for reasons of his own. Immediately, I scanned the room again for anything unusual.
One or two people had left, and a young couple had appeared and were enjoying a quiet drink in one corner, but otherwise everything seemed the same. Then I started to take in the smaller details like was there any kind of hazy film in the air, or a “Red Mouse” (he loves to use those to spy on people or place), but there was nothing. Not even a black dog hanging around underneath the pool table, which he used one time which helped me and the team bust some drug dealers. But there was no joy in Mudville, once more it seemed I’d struck out.
Shaking my head, I turned back to talk to Frank only to find the pretty blonde from the end of the bar was now on the other side of the bar slipping the flash drive I’d brought for Nate into not a Kindle but a tablet.
I stared at her for a second and was about to protest when my eyes caught my reflection in the mirror of the bar behind her. I could see myself perfectly, but even though she was right in front of me there was no sign of blondie. Blinking I shook my head and muttered aloud, “Na…”
“-Dine,” he cut in without taking his/her eyes off the screen. In the mirror’s reflection I could see he was flipping through the pages I’d scanned of the case at an incredible pace. It was like watching the character Quicksilver, from Marvel comics, going through a volume of “War and Peace”.
After my initial surprise passed I leaned in closer and hissed, “I know you’re busy reading those files I scanned for you, but we might want to relocate to another area where there’s not a mirror where everyone CANNOT see your reflection in!”
That got Nate. He/she… aw hell I’m going to call Nate her for the rest of this entry. It just makes things easier.
Nadine’s eyes finally locked with mine and she muttered, “I thought we had that mirror replaced…” and quickly got out from behind the bar. We paused to retrieve her jacket and bag from the end of the bar. As we passed my old buddies shooting pool, I saw the looks of disbelief they were shooting me. I hung back briefly and leaned in to tell them, “Turns out she digs guys who wear uniforms.”
As they shook their heads I followed Nadine to a secluded booth in the corner. But as I did, I found myself checking ‘her’ out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Now I’d known for years that my ‘uncle’ could change form, but what I was seeing before me was beyond words. The way her hair fell, how she walked, every little gesture… I could swear I was in the company of a real woman.
After we got settled in, she finished looking over the files and her face took on a troubled expression much like the ones I’d seen at work. “Now you know why I called you in,” I told her breaking the silence.
She nodded. “Yeah, this one’s a real bastard.” Looking up at me she continued, “I think you’re right about the military training. I don’t know if he actually served or if the guy has been part of a para-military group, but he definitely knows what he’s doing.”
“We’ve been thinking the same thing, much as everyone hates to admit it,” I told her. “The idea that someone we might know has been doing all this is just…”
“Sickening,” she finished, “I know. I’ve been down this road before. When I was a kid, before I ‘changed’ we had a psycho running loose back in Pointer. Turned out to be someone we all knew and thought the world of… but that’s another story. From what I’ve seen in your files, this guy likes to abduct his victims and keep them alive for a few days before he’s done with them. Tell me, is there anyone missing right now that you know of?”
“Not at the moment, which is why Terri tried acting as a decoy,” I explained. “We were hoping to lure him out. Our boss had people positioned all over the park, yet he still got to her and KNEW who she was!”
“Which is why he tried killing her right there on the spot instead of kidnapping her,” Nadine nodded. “And yet he still got past everyone… which makes me think he’s a local. He must’ve known ways in and out of there to get away.”
“We’re not that big a force,” I pointed out, “And things got chaotic when we saw how bad Terri had been hurt…” then stopped as she shook her head.
“Plus, someone was burning rubber leaving the area, which threw you all off.”
I nodded, “Turned out to be someone who’d heard her screams and instead of coming to help her, they took off while phoning it in. They had no idea we were already on the scene.”
My face must’ve betrayed something because Nadine reached over and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll get this guy and put a stop to him once and for all, I promise.”
I smiled back at her. “I know you will.”
“WE will!” she corrected me and stood up. “Shall we get started? He’s out there and I came all this way looking my best just for him.”
Standing up I followed her out of the bar and didn’t say anything until we were outside and out of earshot. “Do you really think your ‘disguise’ is going to lure him out?”
“He has one type of girl he’s been going after. Blonde, young, good-looking, and with a lot of self-confidence.”
I paused in mid-step. “Okay… we knew about the first three but what about that last part?”
Turning she replied, “A cheerleader, a local actress, two ‘working’ girls, all of them exude confidence and self-assurance. And so did your partner Terri.”
It suddenly dawned on me, “So you’re thinking our boy has a thing against women who remind him of someone in particular. Who may be alive or already dead for all we know. And if she’s dead, he might have even done it himself, but once wasn’t enough.”
“Exactly,” Nadine agreed and gestured, “Now let’s start with the park. He’s struck there a few times including the other night. If nothing happens I’ll spread myself out by mist or bat to see where else someone might be lurking. You keep your distance while I take the lead.”
“And how am I going to know if you find the bastard?”
She smiled and held up a closed hand. After a few seconds she opened it and there was a red mouse looking up at me expectantly. “Take him, he’s our link.”
As I held out my hand, she transferred the critter into it and that’s when I noticed she was missing a finger. Then I remembered, she couldn’t make more of herself than there actually was. Her mass never changed when shape-shifting, so all she had a limited amount to work with.
She must’ve noticed the look on my face for a moment later a new finger grew.
As I put her little companion in my chest pocket, I gave her a questioning look.
“I took a little off the waist and thighs,” she told me.
Smiling I nodded and I let her lead the way. Of course I remembered to keep a good distance between us like she’d said. After all, we wanted our prey to come after her. And if he did, boy would he be in for a rude awakening. Nadine could handle herself and twenty of him even on a bad day. Still, we had to be careful. Even the best laid plans could go wrong.
She reached the park without incident which made me suspect if anything was going to happen, it would be in there. As it turned out I was right.
For she got no more than forty feet in before a figure leapt out of the shadows…
*Note to self: I’m not the only one living in this big old house!*
I really need to pay attention to what’s going on around me when I’m on my computer, because I never know who’s going to come by and start reading over my shoulder. Today, it was practically EVERYBODY! Sigh…
Now let me set the scene for you all. Ever since I started writing I got into the habit of using two monitors at once, so I can have something I’m researching on one screen, while I’m writing on the other. Tonight, I was reading an e-mail from my “nephew” Michael Rhodes about a case he’s involved with on one screen, while looking over the newspaper accounts on the other.
I was so absorbed in what I was reading that I never heard Penny, Lisa, or Marisa come into the room. In fact I only realized they were there after I suddenly leaned back and felt my head bump into Marisa’s chest (not that she minded).
After realizing I had an audience, I quickly looked around the room to make sure one person in particular had not seen what I had been reading.
As if reading my thoughts Penny said, “Isabella’s downstairs with Richard.”
Immediately I breathed a sigh of relief and then scowled at the intruders. “And what brings all three of you into my study? For all you know, I could’ve been working on a new bestseller… or surfing the internet for porn.”
“Which was why we came in,” Marisa answered simply. pointed out.
“If you were searching for porn we felt it was important to know what turns you on and what doesn’t,” Lisa added helpfully.
“I just came in to see if you wanted something to drink,” was Penny’s contribution to the proceedings. But she looked troubled.
Standing up I started to ask Marisa and Lisa to leave us, but Penny cut in sharply saying, “NO! They need to hear this!”
I don’t know who was more surprised by her tone, our companions or me. In either case, both girls sat down while I drew closer to Penny who I noticed was shaking slightly. As she looked at me I gave her a reassuring smile and said quietly, “Start whenever you’re ready.”
She gave me a little smile but instead of talking she wandered over to one of the windows in my study and stared out into the night.
After several moments she said, “All the victims of that psycho you were reading up on were women.”
It was more a statement than a question, still I replied, “Yes, they were.”
She nodded, then asked, “Did you girls know prostitutes are the most likely to be victims of violence or even murdered?”
Lisa looked uncomfortable, but Marisa actually answered. “Yes, I did a report on violence against women for a class. Got a good grade on it, plus a lecture from the teacher for touching on a ‘sensitive’ subject.”
“Was the instructor male?” Penny asked.
“Yeah, he was.”
Penny turned. “And what did you say?”
“I reminded him that he’d asked us to pick a social issue that needed addressing and that I’d felt that violence against women was one I felt strongly about. Then he asked why I’d focused on prostitutes and I told him that many of them had wound up in that situation because they’d been victimized already and needed more protection not less. After that, things got a little heated, and he wound up lowering my grade to a C.”
I made a mental note to myself to ask Marisa the name of her instructor, but only later. But right now I wanted to keep my focus on what Penny had to say.
She gave Marisa a fleeting smile of gratitude, but then her expression turned serious again. “You’re right, we… they do. And sometimes we found it with guys who wanted to ‘protect’ us and help us out. Only they could be just as bad, or worse than some of our clients.”
“Like Tony?” Lisa murmured, breaking her silence.
Penny shot her a look, but it quickly softened. “Yeah, like my old employer. But he only got mean when one of us tried to leave. As long as we were under his roof, we WERE protected. Which was why I felt safer being in a brothel than I did out on the street. Anyone got too rough with us they’d be sorry… But the only way any of us left his employ was when he felt they weren’t worth keeping around anymore. Or he’d grown tired of them.”
“Richard must’ve been very special for you to risk all that you did to get away,” I remarked, thinking aloud.
That earned me a smile. “He was… and not just because he got me a knocked up. I could’ve easily gotten an abortion, but I wanted my baby and him. And I would’ve lost both if it hadn’t been for you and Lisa.”
“It was mostly Nathan,” my favorite goddaughter pointed out.
“You were there for us too,” Penny replied softly, and then turned back to me. “But the point I’m trying to make is that girls in my trade, we lived our lives knowing something bad could and would happen to us. But the girls in those articles… they were just like these two,” here she gestured at Lisa and Marisa who were looking a little pale right about then. “They weren’t hooking, they were just women who had families and friends who loved them. One or two of them had children… they weren’t looking for trouble but it found them and it cost them. But not before they suffered.”
Glancing back at the article that was still on my screen, my eyes went straight to the part where it described some of what had been done to the girl before she died and murmured, “I know…”
Penny caught the tone in my voice and said, “I know this Michael guy has already asked you to help stop this guy, but now I’m asking you as well. Use your abilities to stop this guy, don’t let another girl suffer at his hands.”
“Oh I intend to,” I assured her and began to use my shape-shifting skills.
Normally, I don’t let anyone see one of my transformations, unless I’m turning into mist. But most of the time I’m usually changing into something more “bestial”. However this wasn’t one of those occasions. First my waist pulled in while my hips expanded slightly. At the same time the hair on my arms vanished while the skin took on a smoother look. As my hair lengthened, my chest expanded, while my jawline softened and my nose took on a more aquiline shape.
Once I was done, I gazed expectantly at my audience and said, “Well? Do I make a tempting target?”
Lisa, who I noticed was looking a little flushed, was the first to answer, “A little too tempting.”
“Too male fantasy?” I asked.
“Too Hollywood,” answered Marisa. who was also eyeing me curiously.
“But it’s a good start,” Penny smiled and turned to the girls. “Why don’t you two get some clothes and make-up for our girl here. Then we’ll give her some tips to get the proper effect.”
As soon as the girls left, Penny looked at me and said, “You know, if you hadn’t changed form, one of them would’ve offered to act as bait.”
I nodded, “I was also afraid you might as well.”
“I was,” she admitted and then threw her arms around me saying, “Thank you.”
As I returned the gesture, I silently prayed for all our sakes (including Michael and Terri’s) that I would be enough to be the maniac’s next target.