I remember the case distinctly, because it was unlike one I’d ever worked on before. My partner Roger and I had mostly looked for cats in trees, or recovered someone’s missing money. But one day, I got an interesting call.
"Hector and Roger, Private Investigators, no case too small. How can I help you?"
"This is Dr. Paley in the morgue. I need your help."
"No problem, with what can we help you?"
"A body has disappeared."
"I think you better come down here and I can explain."
So I drove the few blocks to the morgue, and met with Dr. Paley. "A murder victim came in, and he was on my table. Cause of death looked obvious, a knife in his chest, but there was no blood. So they wanted me to see if he was stabbed after he died, and how he could’ve been killed."
I nodded. Seemed pretty straight forward. I still wasn’t sure why he needed me to investigate. Usually the cops found the murderers. Although, I suppose I could do it for the first time.
"I had just pulled the knife out, when the phone rang. Normally, there’s someone else here to answer, but since I was alone, I figured I better answer. I turned my back and answered the phone. When I turned around, the body was gone."
"Someone walked in here and stole the body?"
"The guy wasn’t dead?"
"Seems illogical. But I can’t think of another solution."
"But if he wasn’t dead, then you don’t need the body back."
"No, but the police would want to know who stabbed him, and how it is possible he is still alive. I know this probably isn’t the kind of thing you usually look into, but I thought maybe you could investigate?"
"Sure. Do you by any chance still have the knife?"
"Well it’s a starting point." Dr. Paley had me put on gloves, and I examined the knife. There was no blood on it. "So maybe the knife didn’t stab him very deep. Maybe he hit his head or fainted or something, and when you took the knife out, he came to, and walked out."
"I didn’t see a shadow or anything. I heard no footsteps."
I promised to get back to Dr. Paley as soon as I could.. As I headed back to the office, I started to lose control of the steering wheel. Suddenly someone was in front of me. I braked, so I wouldn’t hit him. Then I blanked out.
When I opened my eyes, the guy was in the car.
"How did you get in here? What do you want?"
"Your door was unlocked. I had to check to make sure you were alright. I didn’t mean to scare you. I think you’re looking for me."
"You’re the guy that was dead in the morgue?"
"Yeah. But I wasn’t dead. I’m already dead."
This case was getting weird. Of course I’d already found the body, so I guess technically, I’d solved the case.
"Let’s go back to your office."
I nodded. I still didn’t know what was happening, but soon the car was driving again. I guess I was driving it. I was still a little foggy from the accident. Soon we made it to the office. Roger wasn’t there, I guess he had another case.
We sat down. "Okay, so explain. You were in the morgue with a knife in your chest, and now you’re here. But it didn’t kill you because you’re already dead? You’re a ghost?"
"Guess again. I’m not transparent, remember? I guess I should’ve said I’m not dead but I’m not exactly alive either. The knife, what kind was it?"
"Just a regular one, I guess."
"I mean was it made of silver?"
"Clearly the guy hunting me thought he was dealing with a werewolf."
"Right silver kills werewolves. Except they don’t exist."
"You believe in ghosts right?"
"Yeah. Well my family has had some experience with ghosts."
"So if ghosts exist, isn’t it possible so do werewolves and other creatures."
"I guess. But you’re not a werewolf." This guy was creepy. He kind of reminded me of Dracula. Wait a sec. I looked at the mirror. No reflection. And Dr. Paley had said he hadn’t seen a shadow, or heard anyone. Did he have fangs?
"You’re a vampire." I backed up a bit. "So the knife didn’t kill you because only stakes, holy water and crosses kill you."
"Right." I looked at the desk. Could I make a stake? I didn’t have either of the other two things, not being in a church.
"But I’m not going to hurt you. You know those nice vampires on tv?"
"Sure Angel and Spike from Buffy, those guys from The Vampire Diaries. They had souls or turned on their humanity or something."
"Well I’m like that. I mean I don’t have a soul or anything. But I stopped sucking blood directly from humans over 300 years ago."
"So why was someone trying to kill you?"
"Cause he’s known me for a long time, and saw I don’t age, so he suspected I was some kind of supernatural creature. But like I said, he didn’t have the right weapon. Lucky me, or I wouldn’t have even made it to the morgue, I would’ve been dust in the alley."
"Well I guess I should tell Dr. Paley that you’re alive, well sort of, so no need for him to worry."
"Wait I need your help."
"With what?" I still thought this whole situation was weird.
"Well every once in awhile I have to start over in a new place, so things like this don’t happen, where someone suspects I am not human. So I need to disappear from here so I can start over again somewhere else."
"Okay then we take you back to the morgue."
"I don’t follow."
"Think about it. Dr. Paley declares you dead. Then when no one claims you, they will transfer you to the funeral home in a coffin."
"Ugh, I hate coffins, I stopped using them a long time ago."
"It won’t be forever. Just bear with me. I go to the funeral home, and I claim you, and then tell them I want to have a private burial. We take you to the cemetery, and then before they bury the coffin, you slip out and disappear."
"How do I slip out?"
"You’re a vampire aren’t you? Can’t you change into a bat or something?"
"I haven’t done that in a long time. But sure. But wouldn’t the coffin be closed?"
"I’ll open it up enough so you can get out."
"Okay I’m game. So what do we do now?"
"First, I call Dr. Paley and tell him I found the body. Now can you play dead for awhile?"
"Sure." He was about to lay down and close his eyes.
"Wait a sec," I said.
"What is it?"
"We’ve been talking for a long time, and I don’t even know your name or how old you are."
"It’s Ludvig. I was born in Germany in 1515. I’ve seen a lot in my life or rather undead life. I died, er that is, I ceased being a human, and became a vampire in 1545, hence I always look like I am in my 30s. I came over to America during the 1600s when they were hunting witches in Europe. I thought they might start hunting vampires next. In the 1700s, I met the love of my life, but she didn’t want me to turn her. I’ve been alone since she died. I promised her I would never suck blood from humans again. So I get my blood from blood banks when I can. But I mostly stick to animals now."
"And what is your name?"
"I won’t forget this Hector," I said.
"We better get started. My partner could come back any minute. I don’t know if I could explain it to him."
I phoned Dr. Paley and told him I found his body.
"Dead or alive?"
"He was alive when I found him, but he’s not alive any more. Maybe he had internal injuries."
"Thank you Hector. I’ll be there shortly." Dr. Paley came, and took Ludvig back to the morgue. "If you would just confirm he’s dead, we can get him to the funeral home. Maybe someone is looking for him."
"What do I tell the police?"
"You determined the knife wound didn’t kill him. Give them the knife, they can figure out whose it is and find the suspect. Less paperwork for you."
"Okay," Dr. Paley seemed like he wanted to say more, but as I suspected, the thought of less paperwork was appealling.
So Dr. Paley took Ludvig to the morgue. I waited a little while, then went to the funeral home. "A body was brought in from the morgue?"
"I think he’s my brother, could I see him?"
"Of course." I was led to the coffin and I saw Ludvig lying there. I reminded myself that he was not really dead, since he had died a long time ago. I still couldn’t believe I’d been spending time with a vampire. "It’s him. Ludvig," I said. So they had me sign the paperwork. "I’d like a private burial, right now if possible," I said. I figured they might say no, but I flashed some money at them, and that seemed to do it. We went to the cemetery which luckily was close by. Before they lowered the coffin in the ground, I told them I wanted to say good bye one more time. The grave diggers nodded. I opened the coffin. "It was nice to meet you Ludvig," I whispered. "Best of luck." I tapped on his hand, the symbol we’d established to tell him it was safe. He opened his eyes, winked at me, then turned into a bat and flew away. I made sure the coffin was securely closed, then watched as the grave diggers lowered it into the ground. If they noticed it was lighter, they didn’t say anything. I waited until the dirt was over the coffin, then slipped away.
The next day at work, Roger asked me, "Any new cases?"
"Nah, yesterday was quiet," I responded. 3 weeks later, an envelope reading "HECTOR" arrived in the mail. No return address.
I opened it, and inside was some money. And a note. Thank you Hector for helping me. Maybe our paths may cross again someday. Ludvig. I wasn’t sure exactly how to explain the money to Roger, or how I could explain the case in our records. So I took the envelope of cash home. But I decided to write down this case. You never know, maybe someday someone will believe me that I really did meet a vampire named Ludvig.