“Thank you,” Det. Wanat said.
The police chief walked back behind his desk and sat down by an open window where an indigo bunting sang from atop the tallest tree. Its bright and lively song was muffled by the Tuesday morning traffic.
“Don’t get me wrong, but I was told that Detective Becker was coming out,” the chief said.
“He was planning on it but some of the same strange activity that you’ve been experiencing here on the island has been showing its ugly face in Black Water, so he’s a little preoccupied.”
“I understand; your help is appreciated,” the chief said. “I’m sure Becker has filled you in on the details of the events that are escalating on the island.”
“He has, and the extra officers you requested are on hold because they’re being used in Black Water. Unfortunately, you’ll need to make do with the staff you have, at least for now.”
The chief tapped a pen nervously on the desk blotter. “The people on the island think the perps and the vandals are coming from the old monastery, but there’s no reliable evidence that that’s the case.”
“That’s not surprising; the place is pretty creepy looking. Do you have a gut feeling about it?”
“I see no other place that they could be coming from,” the chief said. “Whoever is committing the murders and abducting residents is pretty good at covering up their tracks.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen the reports. Maybe a fresh set of eyes will help. Is there anything new that I should be aware of?”
“Do you know about the homicide of the woman who was found lying dead in the street next to her car last night, here in downtown Maryville?”
“Yeah, I heard. I’m going to look further into it. I’ll keep you informed on what I find.” Movement outside the window caught her attention.
“Something wrong?” the chief asked.
“I’m not sure.” Det. Wanat stood up and walked to the window. “I could have sworn that a giant bird just flew through the trees but I don’t see it now. Must’ve been something else.”
“You’re not the first one to see a strange flying creature.”
She turned to look at the chief. “Creature?”
“That’s the only thing people have seen fly to and from the monastery.” The chief leaned back in his chair. “I don’t think we can get a search warrant based on the flight pattern of a big bird.”
“The car is over there,” the impound guy said, pointing to a small white car with a broken window.
Det. Wanat walked up to the vehicle with dented door and quarter panels. Red blood on the inside of the shattered driver’s door window made it clear that the victim was pulled through it. But that was not the strange part, whoever shattered the window must have known what they were doing because tempered glass is hard to break, even with a sledgehammer.
She knew the crime scene crew had already obtained samples and came to the same conclusion that the perps had forcefully yanked the body out of the vehicle and then left it on the road beside the car. The other unusual aspect about the homicide was that the victim had the same type of puncture wounds in both the neck and wrists. The preliminary autopsy report stated she died from strangulation and that the wounds occurred immediately afterward, leaving a bloodless body. The blood had not oozed onto the road but instead was removed from the corpse. Det. Wanat was a fairly young detective, but even during her studies she had never heard of blood being taken from a victim in this manner.
There were also no identifiable fingerprints or incriminating evidence thus far found, causing the vampire myth to flourish. Whoever was committing the murders was skilled at giving the illusion that vampires were the culprit. Sadly, many on the force believed the vampire rumor, even Chief Jordan, which is why he wanted the old monastery investigated. Superstitions die hard.
Other than what was already in the report, she found no new clues. The morgue would be her next stop. Maybe the coroner could shed some light on the circumstances of the poor woman’s death.
When she left, she drove to the intersection where the car was found. It looked as though the victim had been stopped at the traffic light and then floored the accelerator pedal, possibly trying to get away from something. The burnt rubber tire marks on the pavement made it clear that something was preventing the car from moving and the victim from escaping.
There was also no motive for Ms. Brinkman’s murder. Aside from owning a rather unusual paranormal store, she was well respected in town. So far, no reason had surfaced to reveal otherwise.
After donning a plastic apron, booties, gloves, and a facemask, Det. Wanat walked into the morgue and stood next to the medical examiner, Dr. Vincent Stackhouse, inside the Maryville morgue as he worked on the autopsy of Fran Brinkman.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said, pointing to the torso’s open cavity. “In all my years doing this job I’ve never seen blood drained from the body like this. It appears the woman was strangled ‘till nearly dead and then a pack of fanged creatures ravaged the body and finished the kill.”
Det. Wanat watched him examine the heart and major arteries. She had seen several autopsies, but never any with the majority of the body’s blood having been removed. “Are there any reports of packs of dogs or any wild animals being seen around town?”
“None. First of all, this wouldn’t have been done by a coyote, wolf or bear because there aren’t any of those on our small island; white-tailed deer and wild turkey are as bad as it gets. And while we do have dogs, and they do cause wounds around the neck, they also tear at the ears and usually mutilate the victim. Coyotes will kill with a bite in the throat but they also dismember their prey. Wolves will attack the back of the legs and then disembowel the victim. Even though black bears will kill by biting the neck and are known to break into cars to get food, I can tell you without hesitation, that this was not done by any of those animals.
“There are no blood-sucking animals on this island, Detective. The victim, Fran Brinkman, was killed in a manner I have never seen before.”
Det. Wanat looked at the neck and wrist wounds. Based on the alignment of the puncture holes it appeared as though several attempts at removing the blood had been performed. “I see what you mean, but did you happen to find any saliva? Is it possible an animal was interrupted in its attack and hence the fairly clean wounds?”
“I’ve collected fluids for DNA analysis. But, like I said, there are no signs that the wounds were caused by an animal attack.”
“So what are you saying, people did this to her? I realize the strangulation was done by a human, but the rest of this . . .” She shook her head in disbelief.
“I know you’re not from the island and may not be familiar with our superstitions, but at the risk of sounding crazy, my . . . undocumented . . . assessment is that vampires did this.”
“Please, Doctor, you can’t believe that. Vampires are no more real than the Easter Bunny.”
“Have you seen the goths roaming the streets?”
“I saw a few people dressed in rather odd clothing but I saw no . . . vampires.”
“You can laugh if you want, but it’s daylight now so they’re not as prevalent, but last night I saw more of them than ever before. They’re increasing in number.”
“Goths are just a counterculture. So I suppose you’re going to tell me that since tonight is a full moon, they’re going to be partying it up. Oh wait, full moons go with werewolves.” She laughed.
“I appreciate your healthy skepticism, but it’s just my honest opinion.”
“I know the citizens of Fish Island want to incriminate the wealthy and eccentric Vroloks and get inside the defunct Monastery of the Holy Ghost, but so far there is no evidence a judge will agree justifies a search warrant, but I’ll do my best to get you what you want.”
“It’s not what we want,” the medical examiner said, looking at her with a pained gaze. “It’s what we desperately need.”