Evelyn Granger, Vampire Detective

Reads: 77  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 08, 2019

Reads: 79

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 08, 2019

A A A

A A A

Chapter 1: Caught
 



479 BCE

Kaiya lay still as death in the rushes. She’d suffered a deep wound to her left side, and the slightest movement made her cringe in pain. The cause of the injury was a mystery, but she had more immediate concerns.

The hippopotamus fed on the grasses in the shallows. Others waded nearby while the bulk of the herd yawed and yawned a few meters away in deeper water. With her wound, escaping through the mud and the reeds was not an option. The hippo would overtake her. A sole hippopotamus was dangerous enough, but worse, this massive animal was a mother. Her calf grew braver each minute. Little by little, it moved from its mother’s side to investigate the new world ... and drew closer to Kaiya.

The Nile’s usual deep green was brackish brown in the stills where she lay with only her nose and mouth above the waterline. It stunk of dead fish and rotting vegetation. She clung to the slippery plant roots struggling to stay submerged. With no way to anchor them, her legs floated upward, toes breaking the surface. It was her toes that caught the calf’s attention. It pushed on the bobbing appendages once with its nose and then slurped her foot into the great bowl of its mouth. Even the youngest of the powerful beasts could snap the limb off at the ankle.

Kaiya popped upright, wincing, and with unnatural speed, jerked her foot away before the little hippo’s mouth snapped shut. The sudden movement startled the baby and it bawled in fright, calling to its mother. Kaiya pulled her body through the rushes hand-over-hand, favoring her injured side. Momma hippo snorted and grunted and raged behind her. Its breath was hot on her naked back. Caught.

Fear blocked her pain, and she stood to face the animal. A growl welled from her core, sinister and primeval, more beast than the one she confronted. Her lips curled back to expose elongated canines. She took a step forward. The hippo reared its head, its black eyes wide in terror. Kaiya realized then, her own fear was unwarranted.

From behind, someone grabbed her under one arm and jerked her off her feet, pulling her toward the shoreline. As she was dragged away, she saw the terrified monster pivot and plow through the rushes to seek the safety of the herd. The calf followed its mom, struggling to keep up.

On the muddy shore, her rescuer released his hold. Kaiya turned on him, her need outweighing caution. In a tenth of an instant she was at his throat, her fangs sunk deep into his carotid artery. When she’d swallowed the last drop of syrupy blood, she sat on the ground, cradling the man’s head in her lap—her injury healed and already fading from memory. She felt no remorse, aware that only by eating the man had she been restored.

“What the hell ...?” The body slipped to the ground as she stood. She knew her name. She knew she was in Egypt. Beyond that, she was clueless. Not entirely clueless—her thoughts and her words came to her in an ancient language. A language never spoken by an Egyptian.

Kaiya studied the scene around her in bewilderment. Dusk was turning into night. She stripped the crude linen tunic from the corpse to cover herself, and then curled up next to the body to wait for morning.


~ ~ ? ~ ~


2523 CE

Evelyn Granger sat in the opulent anteroom outside Sir James Hawking-Barstow’s office in London, reported to be one of multiple offices the council maintained Alliance-wide. She tried to recall if the Earth Defense Council chairman was married or not. That was the only reason she could imagine for his summoning her. It made no difference—Granger had stopped taking unfaithful spouse cases some time ago. She’d grown picky, never accepting more than two or three jobs a year now. And those, since she’d also lost her fondness for travel, only local assignments from the Arizona LAPD. Her exception today was out of respect for Sir James’s office and to satisfy her own curiosity.

An aide entered the room. Clearly the last line of defense for the chairman, she was older than the average Earth Space Force Lt. Commander and more fit than most. Granger thought she’d make a formidable opponent in a hand-to-hand contest. Not with herself, of course, but against anyone else, perhaps even a Bahdane.

“Miss Granger, the Chairman will see you now,” the aide announced. She moved to one of the ornately carved double doors and held it open. Her smile was practiced but warm.

Granger was surprised at feeling a bit nervous to meet someone of such prestige and influence. A rare emotion for her. As she entered the office, she immediately registered the pleasant odor of peppermint, which, with her enhanced senses, failed to mask the underlying—and more appealing—smell of twelve-year-old Glenfiddich Scotch Whisky. It would be remarkable only if the whisky had been from thirty- or fifty-year-old stock. As it was, it spoke of a man without pretension, and perhaps of one in need of fortification. Or maybe he’s just a drunkard.

Sir James rose from his desk and came around to greet her. He was taller in person than he appeared on the news vids. He loomed above her petite form and extended a hand twice the size of hers.

“So good to meet you, Miss Granger. I appreciate you coming all this way. That forty-five minutes across the pond seems longer than a week’s space voyage, I know. Nothing but a white blur during and a headache after.” He chuckled.

At the touch of his hand, her nervousness fell away. His pulse raced; his grip was firm, but damp. Why is he anxious? Sir James was a powerful man, and by all accounts, not one to be easily intimidated ... certainly not by someone of her stature and vocation.

His aide hovered in the open doorway.

“May I offer you a refreshment?” Sir James asked.

“No, I’m good. Thanks.” Granger’s voice sounded tinny to her ears compared to his deep bass.

“Thank you, Davenport.”

Dismissed, the Lt. Commander retreated, closing the door silently behind her.

“Please sit.” He motioned to one of the two chairs in front of his desk and took the other.  “I’m sure you have questions. But before we can chat, there’s a small formality to dispense with. It’s required that you sign an oath of confidentiality.” He reached across the desk for a handheld and offered it to her.

The oath consisted of one longish paragraph that promised she would not discuss their conversation outside Sir James’s office or with anyone other than Sir James himself, under the threat of death. That seemed over the top—and altogether laughable. Unconcerned with the terms, she still felt a little silly about the requirement. So very secret agent-y. She paused her heart and placed her palm a hair’s breadth above the screen’s surface and then handed the processor back to him. Without a pulse, her print would not register.

She opened the conversation to divert his gaze from the processor screen and because she loathed small talk. “So, I assume you have a job for me?”

“Thank you,” Sir James said, accepting the processor and returning it to the desktop. “Yes, we do ... and I do.”

Evelyn frowned. “For the government? Or for you personally?”

“Both. The council would have you track down an individual who is a threat to the Alliance races. A loose thread that needs pulling.” He smiled, seemingly pleased with his metaphor, and then continued in a professional tone. “You’ll understand the council’s insistence on confidentiality.”

The chairman’s demeanor changed, and his heart rate increased. “In an entirely different vein....” His anxiety meter spiked a level higher.

Evelyn arched an eyebrow.

With a quick breath, he amended his opening. “The other matter is indeed personal. I’m a hobbyist, you see. We have something in common. Well, not in common, of course, but a shared interest ... er ... subject.” Another pause.

Not knowing the man personally, it was nonetheless obvious he was acting out of character. Where was the self-assurance and poise that came easily to everyone who held immense power? She sensed she wouldn’t like what was coming.

Sir James continued. “Let me start again. I know who you are, and more importantly, what you are. At least, I think I know.”

 Evelyn returned the chairman’s questioning gaze with a stare that conveyed a deadly threat.

An intelligent man, Sir James fidgeted in his chair but held the stare long enough to impress her before he broke the connection. “Yes ... ahh ... and if you take the council’s assignment, I have information about you ... about your condition ... of which it’s possible you may not be aware.”

She didn’t blink.

Sir James squirmed again and cleared his throat. “Well then, official business first.”

Despite her intense interest, Evelyn sat dead-still while Sir James outlined the Earth Defense Council’s job proposal, which featured an extraordinary revelation. He was right. She understood the need for confidentiality. Her lack of movement or expression obviously affected the council chairman, but he took it in stride.

When he’d finished, she said, “And the bit you dropped about my condition? Surely, you weren’t thinking of withholding that information until the council job is completed—assuming I’ll accept it.” The last was pointless; she’d take the job and he knew it.

“No. No, of course not.” He glanced down and to his left.

He’d been considering exactly that. She sat fixed, waiting for him to continue.

“You’ve heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls?”

“No.” Of course I have ... get on with it.

His posture relaxed, pulse slowed, and his eyes shown with excitement. “Well, it has been several hundred years. But still ... never mind.” He waved a hand in the air, dismissing the thought. “The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of parchment and papyrus scrolls, two thousand years old when they were found in Earth’s mid-twentieth century, thought to be hidden by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes. They’re written in Hebrew—paleo-Hebrew, and some bits in Greek—and all but one fragment, when translated, proved to be books from the Old Testament of the Bible. The Jewish Bible.”

“That I’ve heard of. Maybe.” She blinked slowly. A credible level of ignorance could elicit more intelligence than professing knowledge.

Perhaps bolstered by her lack of physical reaction to his earlier announcement, Sir James seemed more at ease but appeared appalled by her dearth of knowledge on the subject. He continued in a tone suggesting he was having second thoughts about hiring her. She considered willing him to get to the point already but doubted it would have the desired effect. Some people couldn’t be willed.

He went on. “It was determined that one papyrus fragment, possibly the only one not from the Bible, was nonsensical. Written in an unknown form of Egyptian hieroglyphs, except for a few terse Hebrew side notations, it defied translation. In rare agreement that it might be a hoax, the governments and scholars of the time pulled that fragment from the rest before releasing them to the public. And because there was so much rich material available for study, it was repeatedly set aside for later examination. Eventually, the original found its way into the British Museum where it was catalogued and forgotten. It only recently came into my possession.”

She interrupted him. “Legally?”

“Technically, it’s on loan.” He made the face of a little boy with his hand up the food replicator and went on. “As I said, I’m a hobbyist. Copies were made, of course, but they too seem to be misplaced or forgotten.”

“I’m guessing you’re getting to the part about me now?” Her eyes flashed gold, then bronze, then blood red.

If he’d been expecting a physical reaction from her, that was a good one. His earlier state of agitation returned. “Y-yes.”

“Well ... what does it say?”

“Say? Oh, I couldn’t translate it, either. Other than the Hebrew notations that is, which were translated years ago—it seems the Essenes were as stumped as we are.”

“You shouldn’t toy with me, Sir James.” Losing patience, Evelyn rose slightly in her chair.

“No, no, no. What I discovered is much better than a translation. You’ll see.” Sir James reached for the handheld processor once more. He tapped the screen and an image of an ancient parchment displayed. It was covered in what appeared to be Egyptian hieroglyphs, but which Evelyn saw were something else entirely. She didn’t know what else, but the writing stirred axons deep in her temporal lobe. Sir James tapped the screen again. The next image was the reverse side of the same parchment.

“Do you see the dots? More like freckles.” The back of the parchment was covered in small brown age spots—or perhaps insect damage—that indeed resembled freckles. “It took only four hundred and sixteen computations to solve the puzzle,” he said with pride.

“Puzzle?”

“Watch. Extrapolate and compile attached vid file.”

Lines appeared on the parchment image connecting a few freckles, then different lines connecting different freckles were added. The process repeated multiple times, faster and faster, as a recognizable shape emerged—a head, a portrait. The speed increased. Short lines, long lines, dozens of layers, one covering the other until all the freckles were connected and reconnected several times over. The screen froze on an unmistakable representation … that of Evelyn Granger.

She understood. With every technological advancement, it’d become harder to assume new identities and exposure became more inevitable. That she’d made it this long was remarkable.

“How far back?” Evelyn asked.

“I employed facial recognition over roughly the last six hundred years—dating to the invention of ferrotypes. There are some earlier oils and charcoal drawings, but I considered them unreliable. Oh, and a series of statues attributed to Michelangelo. You were easy to find. But, I have resources no local authorities can tap into. How old exactly?” Then, with an impressive show of courage—and a blood pressure spike approaching stroke territory—he went on before she could answer. “Correlating the links between you and so many … distasteful … events in history, well, you must understand the knowledge is of no small concern to me.”

Evelyn smiled, but her flesh grew colder. There was no reason to deny his discovery. How to handle it was the question. She ignored his statement of concern—if he was seriously concerned, he’d be hunting her instead of hiring her. “That would be me. The Michelangelo statues, I mean. And three thousand years that I can account for.” Her facial muscles strained to maintain their composition.

“Three thousand years? Astounding.”

“Mmm. May I see the other side again?”

Sir James issued the command, and the front of the papyrus displayed once more.”

Evelyn studied it for a few seconds. “These marks may be hieroglyphs, but they’re not Egyptian. I’ve never seen anything like them before that I recall.” A bit of side-stepping: There was something familiar about the marks—but what? “I’m fluent in two thousand Earth languages and can read hundreds more to varying extents. This appears alien.”

Sir James nodded. “That was my thought, as well.”

Her left side ached ... an enraged hippopotamus loomed above ... a body lay at her feet. She could smell the River Nile, pungent and spicy, and hear the water lapping against its bank.

Reeling from the sudden rush of vivid memories she attempted to stand, grabbing at the chair arm to steady herself.

A hippopotamus? What the fuck!


© Copyright 2019 Robin Praytor. All rights reserved.

Chapters

Add Your Comments:

More Science Fiction Books