TW: Swearing and Violence.
“Facial recognition software matched the image from this Instagram post to that of Cedric Sliabh. Last seen during the apartheid in South Africa, Sliabh was one of the immortal sponsors of the regime there. Big racist piece of shit basically.
He’s wanted for multiple counts of murder there, extrajudicial killings, torture. His reputation goes back further than that. Rumours say he ended up in South Africa when the Nazi’s lost World War Two. That’s hearsay but there are photos of him with Himmler and some of the occult obsessed freaks in the Reich.” Detective Inspector Imogen Carlyle cracked her knuckles as she looked around the hotel room.
“Crème de la crème of crapbags then,” said Forensic Investigator Michael Thorne, looking at the sunset photo. Enhanced images had been created after facial recognition had flagged Cedric Sliabh. Distracted by the flow of Imogen’s curly hair as she bound it up into a bun, he tried to focus on work.
Blood splattered the wall of the hotel room by the balcony. Curtains had stripes of pink spatter.
“Bladed weapon I’m guessing, hit an artery on an upstroke. Odd move for a vampire. You expect bites or clawing to be the cause of death. Perhaps Sliabh was trying to pass this off as something else. If it wasn’t for the poser’s photo there would be nothing to pin him to the death. Did anyone find the weapon?” Michael asked.
“Look at page three,” said Miss Carlyle, who was crouched over the body.
“Ah, he took it with him.” The forensic investigator flipped through the preliminary case notes on his police app. Michael read the name of the victim. “Joshua Taylor, journalist. Specialised in supernatural stories. So, he must have had some dirt on Sliabh.”
“Just a photo would be enough to get him killed. Sliabh wanted to be off the grid. Now we know he’s out there and still killing. There are lots of old things to charge him with.” Imogen rubbed her hands together. Taking a killer like Sliabh off the streets was what she lived for.
Michael felt his heart rate quicken as she strode about in a long coat that was either inspired by Blade or The Matrix. He wished she was still allowed to wear her Batman belt buckle to work.
“I thought vampires didn’t show up in photos, and mirrors,” said Michael.
“In the old days mirrors and photography relied on silver. Now you don’t need it for either. Shame. Old mirrors are a great way to tell mortal from immortal. Anything we could use for DNA?” Detective Carlyle pointed to the body.
“Not on Mister Taylor. There would be DNA on the sword Sliabh used but he’s got that with him. Think he came in through the door or the window?”
“Window. Creepy prick like that isn’t going to waste the chance for a dramatic entrance.”
“Let’s hope the balcony door wasn’t open then.” Michael stood and looked at the curtain with the blood mist across it. He shook his head. Most things in the room that had not been bagged as evidence by the rest of the forensics team had little yellow labels next to them and numbers. “They missed this. Fingerprints on the outside of the door here.” Michael dusted the door and used a print kit to lift the black dust from the door frame. Using the brand spanking new fingerprint matching app on his work phone Michael ran the print against the database.
“That might just be Taylor’s, the prints on the balcony railing though,” the forensic investigator pushed his glasses up and pointed to faint marks only visible in the bright sunlight. “Unless journalist Joshua was into some reckless parkour, I doubt he was hanging from the railing over an eight storey drop.”
Michael’s phone buzzed. “So, the prints on the door were Joshua’s. Let’s hope for better luck with this.”
They waited. “No results. That probably means these are Cedric Sliabh’s partial fingerprints.”
Slow and boring work like checking security footage in nearby buildings to find out where Sliabh had gone ate up the rest of the day. If he’d gone far, it might have taken days.
“Cocky piece of shit. Three blocks. He killed Joshua Taylor and only ran three blocks.”
“Sunrise. He had to,” said Imogen. “The rest of the team are on their way. He’ll be waking up now. We need to grab him before he flies off.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for backup?” Asked Michael. “Sliabh sounds hardcore. Flying, super-fast, invisible.”
“He’s not invisible. The Sliabh family fly. It’s the vampires descended from Khan that are invisible. Cedric is the last of his line, his bloodline can fly as well but compared to him they’re nothing. This is our chance, Michael. We can put an end to him.”
The line of her jaw. Perfect. Thorne recalled her in his bed that morning. No one at the station knew yet. A constellation of freckles across her face. Their fingers intertwined in sleep. Her smile, eyes closed, as he kissed her neck. The cruel buzz of their phones as work beckoned them. Her body as she ran to the bathroom to answer. They couldn’t be heard together when they answered the calls.
Detective Inspector Carlyle showed the receptionist at the hotel her badge. The teenage receptionist recognised the man from the photo on Imogen’s phone. She gave the officer a master key card for the room where he was staying.
Imogen unclipped her holster. She had a Big Betty handgun with the safety catch on in her hand before the lift doors had closed. A Big Betty was the sort of thing that could bring down a helicopter with a few shots. Forensic Investigator Thorne hated them. He hated all guns.
Imogen checked her ammunition. Silver bullets. A full clip. One in the chamber. Michael stared at the gun in the reflection of the silvery walls as the light above the buttons counted.
Their eyes met in a dirty reflection. Lips pursed in a smile; she made a kissing sound. The number changed again.
I love you, he mimed.
I love you too, she returned with a lusty twinkle in her eyes.
Faint light fell upon the worn red carpet.
“Room 502,” whispered the detective.
“Me?” Michael shook his head.
“Open the door with that card and then stand back.” She was still whispering but it had become the voice she used when she was calling him to come over to her flat late at night.
“Be careful Carly,” he used his nickname for her. She usually hated it.
They crept towards the door. The sounds of television from 501 helped to hide their footsteps. Michael had never considered himself graceful.
Imogen counted down on her fingers then gripped the Big Betty with both hands. He swiped the door for her. The machine betrayed them both with a beep as the light turned green.
Wincing, Imogen opened the door.
Light from streetlamps blew in through the open window. Checking the ceiling, she aimed her gun up. The bathroom was a big problem. It obscured her view of a corner of the room. To check the bathroom, she had to have her back to the room. To check the room would leave her exposed to an attack from the bathroom.
She shot into the bathroom like a teen playing a first-person shooter game after a dozen caffeine drinks.
The corner of the room was empty.
“Is he gone?” Michael asked, timidly.
“Yes. That fucking door let him know we were coming.”
“We did everything we could,” He patted her back. “Maybe you should put the gun away.”
She should have. She didn’t.
The window beckoned. She strode across the room and looked at the broken tag which usually kept the window from opening more than an inch.
“There’s no way he’s under the bed, is he?” Asked Michael? “Did you check.”
“No. It’s a box bed, there is no ‘under’ for those ones.” She dialled the Department of Serious Immortal Crime. “Officer number 2319. I am at the Caledonian Highlander Hotel on Merchant Street, Glasgow. Vampire Cedric Sliabh has just escaped from room 502 through the window. We need to use all available assets to find him.”
She peered out through the open window at Merchant Street. An old man was singing a sea shanty as he meandered down the road with a bottle in his hand. She looked up into the dark blue sky. Soft glowing light pollution hung over the city rooftops.
“Fuck. I’ll get you later. Prick.” She closed the window and holstered her gun.
“He forgot his sword,” said Michael, smiling and looking at the long blade in awe. For mortals it would be a two-handed weapon. Sliabh could have cut a car in half as easily as Joshua Taylor.
There was a knock at the door.
“That must be our backup. They were quick.” Thorne opened the door.
Before she even had time to scream, a clawed hand had slashed across her partner’s throat. She fumbled with the catch of her holster, drawing the gun as the vampire raced to retrieve his sword.
“Too slow, little girl.” Cedric’s red pupils were glowing with victory as he swung the blade towards her neck.
Instead of lifting the gun, she swivelled it straight out of the holster and jumped backwards at the same time.
In the moment before her head crashed into the far wall Imogen saw a red burst of blood leaving Sliabh’s back. She collided with the wall and was gone into darkness instantly.
“She’s waking up. Quiet.” Her mother’s voice. Imogen opened her eyes. Bright lights blurred her vision.
“Where am I?” Asked the detective.
“Hospital love. You bumped your head. Lucky you did though or that vampire prick might have tried to finish you off.” Identical curly hair hung down over her Jessica Carlyle’s freckles. Bags under her red veined eyes betrayed her lack of sleep.
“Sliabh! Michael!” She tried to sit up. The effort dizzied her. Her mother and father pushed her back towards the welcoming embrace of the bed.
“Calm down Imogen. Michael is alive. He’s not in great shape but he’s alive. He’ll have a muckle scar for the rest of his life I’d say but it beats being dead. You saved him. That daft vampire scarpered when you shot him.”
“He got away?” Imogen winced.
“Not for long. There’s a load of folk looking for him now. Europeans are over to help hunt him down. Rest love. You’ve done enough. You gave enough blood for this.”
A day later Imogen was discharged. Cold laminate tiles met her feet as she stood for the first time since being hospitalised. Instant headrush. Closing her eyes, she steadied herself. Frowning at the plastic identity tag around her wrist, she tried to rip it off.
“Never mind.” She shuffled into clothes sitting on her bedside table. Flowers wilted in a jug of water beside her remote for the television hanging from the ceiling. “Now I look normal. Ish.” She pulled at the Christmas jumper her mother had brought her. Presumably because her mother still thought hoodies were ‘for neds and dafties.’ “Thanks mum.”
She followed the lines of coloured tape on the corridor floor to the reception desk. “My name is Imogen Carlyle. I’m looking for Michael Thorne. He should have been admitted the same day I was.”
The nurse with short, cropped hair behind the desk smiled and typed things into a computer Imogen couldn’t see behind the counter.
“Follow the green line to room 64, Mister Thorne is recovering in there. Do you need any help? Patients usually use wheelchairs when they’re being discharged.” There was a resigned kindness in the woman’s blue eyes. She knew Imogen would refuse but she had to ask anyway.
“No, thank you. This isn’t a normal situation.”
“Good luck,” said the brunette with a grave face.
Imogen looked at her. She didn’t like the sound of that. “Thank you.”
The green line to room 64 wandered left and right far longer than it had any right to. Police officers armed with standard automatic rifles stood at the door.
“Safety detail?” Imogen asked.
“You could say that. Detective Inspector Imogen Carlyle I take it?” The man had an extra thick bullet proof vest. It wasn’t the lightweight stuff for standard patrol. It looked warzone ready. They wore were black versions of army helmets, strapped beneath their chins. Goggles sat on the brim of each helmet.
The woman in combat gear pressed the talk button on her radio. “Imogen Carlyle is here to see Michael Thorne. Permission to let her in?”
A gravelly voice returned over the radio. “Granted.”
“That’s lucky. I was going in either way.”
The woman unlocked the door.
It was dark inside.
“No. What did he do?”
“Imogen?” Michael was chained to his bed in multiple places. His skin seemed grey in the darkness. Blackout blinds on the windows kept out every spec of ultraviolet light.
“You’re a vampire?” She asked. She wanted to run to him but a guard by the bed put a hand on her shoulder and pointed to a line of red tape around the bed.
“No closer please,” said the guard.
“I’m not a vampire Imogen. I’m a revenant. Becoming one anyway.”
“No.” Her word was a sobbing denial. Fingernails chewed her cheeks as she strangled the urge to push past the guard and hug Michael.
“He’s in my head. I can hear him. It’s getting louder. I’m getting weaker. Soon I’ll be his. I’m sorry.”
“No.” She wiped a tear away with her woollen sleave. “No. Don’t be sorry. I’ll fix this.”
“They’ve given the order to shoot him on sight. When they do-” He looked down at his restraints.
“You’ll die.” She searched her mind for everything she knew about vampires. There had to be a way. “The cure.”
“Only works on vampires. They tried it on me. It slowed the change down but then it stopped working. I’m going to change. Then they’ll have to put me down or they’ll shoot him, and I’ll die anyway.” He gave her a weak smile. “One little upside. I can see you in the dark without my glasses. You look beautiful as ever. Despite that hideous jumper.”
Despite it all she smiled. She looked at the reindeer covered top and wanted it to burn. “I’m going to save you,” she said.
“Save yourself Imogen. I love you. I want you to be happy. Save yourself.” He looked at the guard. “I’d like to be alone now.”
As she was shuffled from the room she looked back. “I’ll find a way.” Yellow eyes turned to look at the blinds on the windows. Then the door closed.
She took out her phone. She still had the photo of Cedric Sliabh.
“First you save him. Then I kill you.”
Imogen thought back to the morning in Michael’s bed. His hands on her were the feeling of home. Happiness. Devoted eyes. Kisses that promised a life together. Guilt rose as she thought of the two pink lines on the plastic test in his bathroom. She kept meaning to tell him. Their child would grow up without a father.
Cold resolve settled on her shoulders. Michael’s smile when he knew about his child would light up darkness. His smile was a hug that could wrap itself around her from a mile away. She had to see it again.
A ned in Scots is short for Non-Educated Delinquint.
A daftie in Scots means an idiot.