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Chris drove Madeline back to campus, and as he pulled up outside of her building she turned to face her brother.

‘Thanks for seeing me home,’ she said.

‘It’s nothing,’ replied Chris.

‘So where are you staying?’

‘My car, I guess.’ Madeline gave her brother a look that he knew all too well; it was the look that meant she was not impressed. ‘Look, I didn’t have time to sort anything like that out before I left, I just needed to get to you.’

‘Well that’s sweet but you can’t sleep here. Come on, you can sleep on my floor.’ Madeline and Chris got out of the car and headed into her dormitory building. The presence of a man accompanying Madeline to her room was not a sight people ever saw, so when Jennifer poked her head out of her room to say hello her eyes widened visibly in surprise.

‘Oh, hi Maddie,’ she said, looking Chris up and down. ‘I didn’t know you had company.’

‘Jen, this is my brother, Chris,’ said Madeline with a smile. She knew Jennifer was hoping for a sexier explanation and she found her friend’s disappointed expression amusing.

‘Oh, right. Hi there,’ said Jennifer politely.

‘Hi,’ said Chris, feeling somewhat self conscious.

‘Chris is in town on short notice and I’m putting him up for the night,’ said Madeline, making sure Jennifer understood what was going on.

‘Okay, cool. Well I won’t disturb you. Nice to meet you Chris.’

‘Yeah, same here.’ Madeline smiled again and unlocked her door, letting Chris enter before she closed it after herself. ‘Who was that?’ asked Chris once they were alone.

‘Oh that was just Jennifer,’ said Madeline, still smiling. ‘Don’t mind her, she obviously thought I’d picked up some guy tonight.’

‘Why would she think that? Do you usually pick up guys when you go out?’

‘Chris!’ Madeline didn’t have to say anything further, her expression said it all.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, looking at his feet. ‘I just don’t want you getting into trouble, that’s all.’

‘Well for your information I don’t go out looking to pick up guys. Jennifer’s just got a one track mind.’

‘Well what about Mike?’ asked Chris, looking up.

‘What about him?’

‘He was walking you home tonight.’

‘So?’

‘So how long have you known him?’

‘Well not that it’s any of your business but I met him tonight at Jack’s. But,’ said Madeline quickly before Chris had time to interrupt. ‘Nothing happened and I would think you’d prefer me not walking home alone.’

‘I do but…’

‘Look do you want to sleep in your car?’ Madeline had her arms folded and was almost ready to throw Chris out but she reminded herself that for all his blustering and insensitivity he was only looking out for her. ‘I’m sorry Chris.’

‘No I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be questioning your every move. Thanks for letting me stay tonight. The heater’s broken in my car and I wasn’t looking forward to freezing to death.’

‘It’s okay, you just better not snore.’

‘Well you’d better not talk in your sleep,’ laughed Chris.

‘Here, let me get you a pillow and a blanket.’ While Madeline laid out some bedclothes for her brother a black Mercedes sat idling a short way off from her dorm building. Andreas took his phone from his jacket pocket and pressed the Redial number.

‘Report,’ said the voice at the other end of the line.

‘She’s not alone,’ said Andreas. ‘She has her brother with her.’

‘Her brother?’ said the voice of Mason, sounding somewhat surprised. ‘This complicates matters.’ After a moment’s silence he spoke again. ‘It is of little consequence, he shall be dealt with accordingly if and when necessary.’

‘Yes sir,’ said Andreas.

‘Do you have my supper?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘Very good, I’ll be waiting.’

 

***

 

When Madeline awoke the next morning she found that Chris was nowhere to be seen. The pillow and blanket he had used were folded neatly on her chair but that was the only sign that her brother had ever been there. She looked at her alarm clock and swore when she saw it was a quarter to nine. She realised she must have forgotten to set her alarm last night, fortunately she didn’t have any classes today, but she still didn’t know where Chris was. She got out of bed and quickly checked the bathroom to see if he was taking a shower or something, but he wasn’t. As she stood there, frowning slightly, her phone started to ring from somewhere in the room. She searched frantically until she remembered it was in her bag, and pulling it out she saw that it was Abby calling.

‘Hi Abby.’

‘Hi Maddie, are you okay?’

‘Yeah I’m fine.’

‘You said you were going to call me as soon as you got home.’

‘I’m sorry, Chris crashed here last night and I forgot to set my alarm.’

‘Chris is there?’

‘Well he was,’ said Madeline, looking around her room. ‘I let him stay so he wouldn’t have to sleep in his car but I’ve just woken up and he’s gone.’

‘Where to?’

‘I don’t know…hang on.’ Madeline’s gaze fell upon a piece of paper that was taped to the back of her door. It read:

 

Maddie,

 

I woke up early and couldn’t sleep

so I’ve gone to get coffee. I didn’t

want to wake you but I’ll be back

in a while.

Chris

 

‘It’s okay,’ said Madeline. ‘He’s gone out to fetch coffee.’

‘Are you okay though?’ asked Abby.

‘Yeah I’m fine, just annoyed at myself for not setting an alarm.’

‘You need to rest up. Do you have any classes today?’

‘No, luckily.’

‘Good, otherwise I’d have told you not to go.’

‘Abby I’m fine,’ said Madeline. ‘I’ll talk to you later.’

‘Okay, you take care.’

‘You too.’ Madeline flipped her phone shut and laid it on the bedside table. She walked over to the window to open it slightly and saw Chris heading back towards the dormitory. She picked up the intercom phone as it buzzed and let Chris into the building. As she opened her door Chris came trotting up the stairs with two cups of coffee and a doughnut bag in his hands.

‘Thanks Maddie,’ he said as he passed her. ‘Is it okay if I grab a quick shower?’

‘Of course.’ As Madeline was about to close her door Jennifer once again appeared in her own doorway.

‘Morning Maddie,’ she said sleepily.

‘I swear sometimes I think you listen at your door,’ smiled Madeline.

‘I just have good hearing,’ said Jennifer, grinning. ‘Was that Chris?’

‘Yeah, he went out for coffee.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me your brother was so cute?’

‘Jen.’

‘Well he is,’ said Jennifer, a predatory look in her eye.

‘Maybe so, but he’s only in town for a few days so don’t go getting any ideas.’

‘Shame,’ smiled Jennifer.

‘You’re terrible.’

‘Tell him I said hi.’

‘I will,’ said Madeline as she stepped back into her room and shut the door. Chris emerged from the bathroom some minutes later wrapped in a spare towel.

‘Thanks for that Maddie, I really needed it.’

‘Jeez, thanks for the peep show,’ said Madeline, turning around.

‘Oh, sorry,’ said Chris as he picked up his clothes. ‘I’ll just be a minute.’ He retreated back into the bathroom and Madeline sat down and helped herself to a cup of coffee and a doughnut.

‘Thanks for these,’ she said when Chris emerged once again from the bathroom, this time fully dressed.

‘Oh no problem,’ he said as he looked in the mirror and finger-combed his damp hair. ‘I hope it hasn’t filled you up too much though.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I want to take you out to lunch.’

‘You don’t have to do that,’ said Madeline, turning around in her chair.

‘I want to, besides I want to say thank you for letting me stay last night.’

‘Well only if you’re sure.’

‘I am.’

‘Okay,’ said Madeline as she sucked the sugar from the doughnuts off of her fingers. ‘Where do you want to eat?’

‘How about Salvatore’s? I haven’t been there in ages.’

‘I knew you were going to say that,’ smiled Madeline.

‘Great, it’ll be nice to see them again.’ During his time at Armitage University, Chris worked at Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant as a waiter and then a chef, when it became apparent that he had more potential in cooking food than serving it. He became a good friend of the Damico family, especially their daughter Sophia, whom he dated for several months. Upon leaving university and therefore his job at Salvatore’s, he was assured by the family that there would always be a job for him should he need it.

‘It’s a little early for lunch though,’ said Madeline, looking at her clock. ‘Can we go to the hospital first? I want to check on Mike?’

‘Yeah, if you want to.’

‘Thanks.’

 

***

 

Madeline and Chris checked in on Mike on their way to lunch and he seemed to be doing much better. He still had a lot of bruising but the swelling had gone down and he was due to be discharged later on in the afternoon. When they pulled up outside Salvatore’s they were surprised to find it closed, and when Chris tried the front door it was locked.

‘That’s weird,’ he said.

‘What is it?’ asked Madeline.

‘Sal’s is never closed at this time of day.’

‘Maybe they’ve gone away or something.’

‘No, he always gets his brother to fill in when he goes on vacation.’

‘I don’t know then,’ said Madeline, shrugging.

‘Let’s try round back.’ Chris started making his way around the side of the restaurant.

‘It’s not that important,’ said Madeline, following her brother. ‘Let’s just go somewhere else to eat.’ As Chris expected the back door wasn’t locked, it rarely was, and he opened it slightly, knocking to announce his presence.

‘Hello?’ he said. ‘Sal? Lucy?’

‘Is that Christopher?’ came a heavily accented Italian voice from somewhere in the restaurant.

‘Yes it’s me,’ said Chris, opening the door fully. ‘Is everything okay?’

‘Oh Christopher it’s so good to see you,’ said Salvatore as he came barrelling through the kitchen, his squat, portly frame making him look almost comical. Madeline knew that her brother hated being called Christopher but for some reason he seemed to tolerate it from the Damico’s. The restaurant owner took Chris in a strong embrace and patted him several times on the back. ‘You’ve come back to see your old friends,’ he said, finally letting Chris go.

‘Yeah but what’s going on? Why aren’t you open?’

‘Oh it’s terrible Christopher, terrible,’ began Salvatore, but before he could continue another voice interrupted him.

‘Is that our Christopher?’ It was a woman’s voice and it belonged to Lucile Damico. She waddled into view and Madeline saw that she was as short and as rotund as her husband. She caught sight of Chris and pulled him into an embrace of her own, sobbing as she did so.

‘There now Lucy,’ said Salvatore. ‘Let the boy come in and rest.’ Lucile released Chris and dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief.

‘Thanks,’ said Chris. ‘What’s wrong though?’

‘It’s Sophia,’ said Lucile, choking back the tears. ‘She’s…she’s…’

‘Missing,’ said Salvatore gravely.

What?’ exclaimed Chris. Madeline looked on uncomfortably as Lucile erupted in a fit of tears and Salvatore placed a tender hand on her shoulder, wishing he could do something to make it all better.

‘Yes, she didn’t come home last night,’ he said. ‘It’s not like her, not like her at all. She’s always been such a good girl and now this.’

‘Are you sure she wasn’t just out all night with friends?’ asked Madeline earnestly. As soon as she had said this she felt stupid for doing so, she didn’t know the Damico’s and she was now feeling like she had intruded on a very private moment. Salvatore looked at Madeline and then back at Chris.

‘Sal, you remember my sister, Madeline?’

‘Of course,’ said Salvatore, smiling weakly. ‘I’ve seen you in the restaurant a few times. Christopher used to talk about you all the time.’ Madeline smiled, somewhat embarrassed. ‘Anyway, come, sit. Let us go through to the restaurant.’

‘I’ll make you both something to eat,’ said Lucile, standing up.

‘Oh no, it’s okay, don’t worry,’ said Chris.

‘You go sit, I’ll bring it through,’ she said, almost as if she hadn’t heard him.

‘But…’ began Chris.

‘It’s okay,’ said Salvatore. ‘Cooking takes her mind off things. Come into the restaurant.’

The atmosphere was muted and sombre as Madeline and Chris waited guiltily for their food to arrive, Chris repeatedly assuring Salvatore that Lucile need not go to the trouble. The mood lifted somewhat when their meals were brought out, Lucile had made enough for her and Salvatore as well, although they were too worried to eat much, but the cloud of Sophia’s apparent disappearance hung over them all. After they had finished their meals and Madeline and Chris were preparing to leave, Salvatore pulled Chris to one side.

‘You take care, Christopher, you hear?’ he said as he hugged him one last time.

‘Yeah, you too, and let me know when Sophia shows up.’

‘I’m worried Christopher,’ said Salvatore, in a much graver tone than he had ever heard him speak. ‘Sophia’s a good girl, she’d never run away like this, I think something’s happened to her.’ He continued to stare at Chris, as if he expected him to know where Sophia was, but eventually he broke his gaze and he sagged visibly. The next time he spoke his voice was laced with fear and uncertainty. ‘What if we never see her again? I don’t think I could take that, and I know Lucy couldn’t.’

‘She’ll come home,’ said Chris, wanting more than anything for it to be true. ‘You’ll see.’

‘You’re a good boy, Christopher. You look after your sister.’

‘I will,’ said Chris sincerely. ‘You take care of Lucile and I’ll speak to you soon.’ Madeline and Chris didn’t talk as they got back into the car but as they drove off Chris looked troubled.

‘Are you okay?’ asked Madeline.

‘I’m just thinking about Sophia,’ he said.

‘I’m sorry; I know you two were close.’

‘I’m actually thinking that if she really is missing maybe the guy who attacked you had something to do with it.’

‘Chris.’

‘I just want to go to the police station and see what they’ve got.’

‘Well could you drop me off at my building? I don’t really feel like going and besides, I’ve a ton of work to do.’

‘Yeah, no problem, I’ll drop you on the way. What was the name of the cop who came to see you?’

‘Sergeant Thomas.’

‘Right.’

 

***

 

After dropping his sister off, Chris made his way to Armitage City Police Station. He pulled into the car park and headed through the double glass doors of the lobby, approaching the Reception desk as he had done at the hospital the night before.

‘Welcome to Armitage City Police Station,’ said the desk sergeant. ‘How may I help you?’

‘I’m here to see Sergeant Thomas,’ said Chris.

‘Okay, if you’d like to take a seat I’ll just see if he’s available.’

‘Thank you.’ Chris went and sat in the corner by the magazine table. He flipped idly through a copy of some law enforcement magazine until the sergeant approached him with a smile and a handshake.

‘Hi, I’m Sergeant Thomas,’ he said, shaking Chris’ hand.

‘Chris Jameson,’ nodded Chris.

‘Jameson? Do you have a sister?’

‘Yes I do,’ nodded Chris. ‘You saw her in the hospital last night.’

‘Oh yeah, Madeline wasn’t it?’

‘Yes.’

‘How is she?’ asked the sergeant.

‘She’s okay,’ said Chris.

‘That’s good. So what can I do for you Chris?’

‘I came to talk to you about her case.’

‘Okay, if you’d like to step this way, we can go to my desk.’ Chris followed Sergeant Thomas down the corridor and into an area with several desks. Sergeant Thomas sat down at a desk near the window and motioned for Chris to take a seat.

‘So what can I help you with?’ he asked as he took his notebook from one of the desk drawers.

‘Well, I wanted to know if you have any news concerning Madeline’s case for a start,’ said Chris, settling himself into one of the chairs on the other side of the desk. Sergeant Thomas put down his notebook and put his hands together, resting them on the desk.

‘Well I’m afraid we don’t have anything concrete just at the moment,’ he said. ‘But in light of the other cases I’m not taking any chances.’

‘Other cases?’

‘Yeah, your sister was one of the lucky ones, let me tell you.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Chris, who couldn’t see how Madeline’s attack made her lucky.

‘Well she’s alive, that’s one thing.’ Chris frowned as the sergeant continued. ‘I’m sure you’ve heard about the murders that have been going on in Armitage of late.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well I’m on the investigation team, but I gotta tell you, I’ve never seen anything like these before.’

‘How so?’ Sergeant Thomas took a quick look around the office before continuing.

‘It’s got a lot of the guys spooked, me included, but in each case the victim’s had two puncture wounds on their neck, almost like they’d been…bitten.’

‘Bitten?’ said Chris, his eyebrows rising in disbelief.

‘Yeah. Now that on its own wouldn’t be any big deal, we see all kinds of crazy stuff round here, but…’

‘But what?’

‘It’s the blood loss that’s got me.’

‘The blood loss?’

‘Each victim not only had the same two puncture wounds on the neck but they all suffered massive blood loss, and I do mean massive.’

‘Sergeant,’ said Chris slowly. ‘You’re not actually suggesting…’

‘That it was a vampire,’ said the sergeant, finishing Chris’ sentence for him.

‘Well, are you?’ asked Chris after the sergeant didn’t speak again.

‘No of course not, but you know how cops are.’ Chris’ blank expression told Sergeant Thomas that no, he didn’t know how cops were. ‘Well, it’s kind of become a joke in the locker room. The killer’s been nicknamed The Vampire.’

‘But that’s impossible,’ said Chris. ‘Vampires are just stories, peasant folklore and stuff like that.’

‘I know that,’ said the sergeant. ‘And you know that, but someone out there’s working damn hard to make it seem like Count Dracula’s on the loose or something.’

‘But haven’t the crime scenes turned up anything?’ asked Chris. ‘I mean, you mentioned the victim’s all suffered massive blood loss, wouldn’t there be traces of something?’

‘That’s just it though,’ sighed the police officer. ‘We’ve no idea where the blood’s going.’

‘What?’

‘Yeah, the victims' lose damn near all their blood but we can’t find a drop when the bodies are found.’

‘Maybe they’re moved after they’re killed,’ said Chris, shuddering at the macabre tone their conversation had taken.

‘Maybe.’

‘So you think Madeline was a potential victim? I mean if her Professor hadn’t saved her?’

‘It’s hard to say,’ said Sergeant Thomas. ‘Who knows what could have happened if he hadn’t been there at the right time.’

‘Yeah. Have you talked to him? Maybe he knows something.’

‘I managed to talk to him briefly at the hospital and I gave him my card. I would have liked to have talked to him some more but your sister was the priority and I figured I could get hold of him another time.’

‘Good, I’d like to know what he knows. Could I come and see you again when you’ve spoken to him?’

‘I guess so,’ said the sergeant. ‘I don’t know exactly how much I’ll be able to tell you though, I may have told you too much already.’

‘I appreciate it though,’ said Chris. ‘I also came to ask about Sophia Damico?’

‘Who?’

‘Sophia Damico,’ repeated Chris. ‘She’s been missing since last night. She’s the daughter of Salvatore and Lucile Damico, they run an Italian restaurant in town.’

‘Have they reported her missing?’

‘I would imagine so.’

‘Well if she’s only been missing since last night her details may still be getting processed, but I’ll keep an eye out. Hopefully she’s not going to turn up another victim.’

‘Thank you,’ said Chris. ‘I hope not as well.’

‘Was there anything else?’ asked the sergeant.

‘No, I’d better go. Thank you Sergeant, I hope you catch this guy.’

‘So do I, I don’t mind telling you it creeps me out.’

‘Yeah, me too.’

‘I’ll show you out.’

‘Thanks.’ Sergeant Thomas led Chris back to the lobby and shook his hand.

‘I’ll let you know if we turn anything up,’ he said.

‘I appreciate that, thank you.’ Chris left the police station and headed towards the nearest motel to book a room. As his car sped off, a black Mercedes pulled smoothly out of the police station car park and began driving in the other direction. When Andreas arrived back at the large house on the outskirts of town he made his way to his employer’s parlour where Mason was relaxing by the fire.

‘The brother is asking questions,’ said Andreas. ‘Should he be taken care of?’‘No, not yet, replied Mason lazily. ‘He may prove useful yet, but keep an eye on him.’

‘Yes sir.’

‘Oh and Andreas?’

‘Sir?’

‘Dinner was exquisite.’


Submitted: October 06, 2014

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