Coppers

Detective Inspector Sarah Langly had nothing against vampires. Or the supernatural- oops, ‘night’- set at all, to be honest. But she was slowly beginning to suspect that her partner did.

DI Russel Bundy- no relation to the infamous killer- had the poor bloodsucker cornered. He leaned casually on the counter at the tiny dive bar after closing, his gaze holding the vampire in place.

“Did you ever meet Tori outside of work? For drinks or a film or anything?” he asked, framing it so innocently. Langly watched him like a mother supervising toddlers on a jungle gym.

Bianca Snow, twenty-three when turned, two years dead, seemed to have somewhere she’d rather be. “No, like I said, I only worked with her. She was nice, but we weren’t friends.” Langly noted the Dundee accent, and surmised that her blood strain probably wasn’t local, meaning they would have to get her information from the Scots.

“When did you move out here, miss Snow?” DI Bundy played with a toothpick from the counter absently, as though the case mattered nothing at all. Langly wasn’t quite sure what he was up to.

“A year and a bit ago, now. End of last year. I’m sorry, how is that relevant?” The vampire sounded agitated, and she was almost developing a lisp as her fangs extended a little.

A year and a bit. The detectives shared a look.

“Have you noticed anything suspicious in that time? You must hear a lot here.” It was Langly’s turn to ask, and she used a lighter tone. She found that she was being relegated to empathetic good cop a lot recently.

“Well, it’s Echo. Everything’s unusual. But there was this guy, he was always hanging about Tori- not aggressive, like, just interested. Actually, he seemed obsessed. Watched her when she worked here.”

“Why didn’t you say anything earlier?” Bundy questioned, suddenly accusatory again.

“I couldnae get a word in edgewise with you asking about me instead of her!”

Langly supposed that there was good reason nowadays, but most vampires tended not to get on with the police. Cops like Bundy took that as a sign of guilt, which only furthered the cycle.

The detectives got a description from the vampire, of the green, frog-faced man in the coat, exchanged another look, and thanked her before leaving. Bundy left an ominous ‘we’ll be in touch’.

Foster appeared at Bianca’s elbow, his backpack over one shoulder and one earbud in. “You okay? Weird that they gave you more of a grilling than me. Normally the immigrant gets it worse.”

“What was that about how long I’ve been here?” Bianca frowned.

“Hon, the murders started in September last year. That’s when you arrived.”

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‘Meet Cute’

They sat at the bar today, their usual booth was occupied by an older vampire and his personal. The werewolf was tired, his eyes underlined with purple bags and his jaw scruffy and unshaven. His companion was far cleaner, in an autumnal day dress with a scoop neck and a tan overcoat, both pressed and worn tastefully. She caught Bianca’s attention immediately, the vampire’s eyes slid right over the werewolf and to the woman with the straightened red hair.

“Rum and coke, and a Croatoan Lager,” she said, nodding at Bianca briefly and returning to her conversation.

Bianca dutifully turned away, but stayed close. The woman was concerned, her voice low. The werewolf fended off her questions irritably.

“You alright there, Fido?” Bianca asked, sliding their drinks toward them. She prided herself on knowing her regulars by face, if not by name.

“Fido?” the woman queried. Her waterfall hair shimmered as she shook her head, and her fringe bounced. Bianca caught herself staring again.

Fido tried in vain to silently stop Bianca, but before she caught onto his frantic charades, his companion had turned on him again.

“Do you come here without me?” She was smiling, and that seemed to reassure Fido, because he relaxed.

“Sometimes. And, hey, my name’s Graham.” He addressed this last part to Bianca, with a pointed look. The events of Dawn Park were not to be discussed. The woman introduced herself as Cassidy, his sister.

It was a slow night. Bianca spent most of it at their end of the bar, occasionally serving someone who had run low, but always returning. Cassidy told stories of her recent trip to Australia- quite an adventure if the protagonist was to be believed- and Bianca found herself drinking in every word.

“You saw a what in Queensland?”

“A Cassowary. They’re really rare, and incredibly terrifying. Giant black birds, bit like an emu, with a great red crest on their heads. Looks like a dinosaur and ferociously territorial. We came face to face with one on a bushwalk, my guide nearly shat himself,” she explained. She had a contagious smile, and Bianca couldn’t help but grin along. By the end of the shift, Cassidy unwittingly had the vampire wrapped around her little finger.

“Fido?”

Early morning. Bianca would usually just be heading to bed, but instead she sat in a clearing in Dawn Park with an unconscious werewolf. He was human now, and she’d draped her coat over him modestly.

She crossed her legs and frowned at him, unsure of her next move. He had shoulder-length, dark hair that fell into his grey eyes and scars running up his neck, she thought she’d seen him in Echo before, though it tended not to be a wolf hang-out.

The werewolf snuffled in his sleep, and his chin dropped onto his chest with a thud. He started awake, eyes wide. “Whazzat?”

Bianca laughed at the expression on his face, before covering her mouth with her hand and sitting up straight. “Good morning, Fido.”

He scowled, confused. “Fido?”

She waited. And then realisation dawned on his face and he went bright red. He pulled his legs up under the coat and slapped and hand to his forehead with a groan. “I’m so sorry… did I hurt anyone?”

She paused, taking in his distraught expression. “Nothing that won’t heal-” she indicated the arm that was already scarring, “but you could have. Where was your claviger?”

The wind cut through their little clearing quite suddenly, biting Bianca’s cheek and grabbing at the coat that covered the man. He shivered, and ignored her question in favour of getting to his feet- somewhat precariously whilst still covered in the coat- and stamping his feet on the icy earth.

“Is this yours?” He indicated the garment that barely covered his waist, but didn’t wait for an answer. “Look, thanks, but I really have to get to my flat… this was all a huge fiasco…” he trailed off.

Indignation and irritation rose in Bianca’s chest and she planted herself steadily in front of him, arms crossed. “Fiasco?” Here she raised an eyebrow, “Fiasco? You… but… what? You could have killed someone!”

“I was on my way to lock-up, it was only a few blocks away, I would have been there in three minutes!”

“Time management, buddy. Three minutes was enough for you to go rampaging through Dawn Park and- hang on… did you hear it too?” Bianca ceased scolding long enough to register that without this unlikely saviour’s interference, she would have probably succumbed to the sinister, terror-inducing drums. She frowned, her mind now travelling down this tangent, completely oblivious of the large, semi-naked werewolf attempting to get past.

“Hear what?” he grumbled.

“The drums… they were so loud… hey, where are you going? You can’t walk home like that! And it’s my coat! Wait!!”

Ghoul

The bell tinkled over the door, the chime bringing Cassidy out of her reverie and back into the bakery. She stood behind the counter and arranged her face into what was hopefully a pleasant, welcoming expression.

The woman had scraggly blonde hair, wet from the downpour outside, and a gaunt look about her, like she hadn’t eaten recently. She made her slow way toward the ‘yesterday’s bread’ rack, limping slightly. Cassidy watched, curious.

“Terrible about those murders, innit?” the woman rasped, dumping a loaf of wholegrain on the counter along with a pink, spangly purse that she proceeded to rummage through. Up close Cassidy could see her eyes, dark-rimmed with blue bruises, irises strangely colourless. She wrinkled her nose, too late. The stench of death followed the woman, sticking to her grubby coat and wafting from her soaked hair.

A ghoul. Vampires tended to take better care of their undead servants in the films- it was always portrayed as glamourous, to serve a Nightchild. Butlers in smart attire, beautiful women in low-cut red dresses. Those were drones, however. Prospective, future vampires being groomed by their masters for eternal existence. Ghouls were the behind-the-scenes servants, unfortunates picked off the streets and tamed with a few extensive mind-control procedures who were turned into little more than a coherent zombie. They were breeding grounds of death and disease, and stank to high heaven.

Cassidy had only ever met a ghoul once before, at Echo. It had been with it’s master, and the looks it got from the bar and the other patrons made it clear how highly they were thought of in society.

“You okay there, dear?” the ghoul asked, genuine concern in her eyes.

Blinking, Cassidy processed the bread. She registered vaguely the oddness of an undead slave buying food. “Yes, yeah, I’m fine.”

The ghoul raised an eyebrow but said no more. Cassidy passed the bread back to her, took her money- exact change- and nodded as she left. The ghoul smiled widely, showing off rotten, broken teeth, and tottered out into the rain.

Cassidy shivered. She’d been running into a lot more of the supernatural set of late… She didn’t know what to think about that.

Moon

The mist gathered on the ground and rolled eerily. The whole effect was of an old black and white thriller film, London town, the East End, Jack the Ripper… There was even a full moon.

Thursdays, Bianca had the night to herself. She tended to use them at her keyboard, though tonight she stood at the gates to Dawn Park, hands shoved deep in her pockets. She took a deep breath, unneeded but calming. Tori had been found in the very centre of the park, almost completely dismembered. Somehow, she felt she had to see the scene for herself.

The gate creaked as she pushed it in, and suddenly the active night seemed so much quieter. The sounds of the street and the bar and the city blacked out, leaving only the wind in the leaves, the crunch of the gravel. Bianca paused. If her heart still worked, it would be pounding. The place shouldn’t have her so scared, she was already dead… but something felt wrong here.

She ignored the curious feeling in her belly and moved forward, further into the trees. The mist still gathered around her ankles, playing with her feet like a live animal, and she shivered. Somewhere in the night the drumming started. The faint sound travelled up through the dark, seemingly from the bottom of the hill at the far end of the park. She frowned, wary.

The drumming grew louder as she made her way deeper into the dark, soon she could make out the individual players. Their time signature was interesting, cleverly syncopated. She followed the sound farther, curious.


When a werewolf changes, it isn’t a pleasant experience. In a pack, there were those who turned, and those who made sure that those who turned didn’t kill people. Or killed the right people. The latter were clavigers, trusted humans who don’t mind sitting around a bunch of really cranky werewolves for the three nights around the full moon. But not every wolf had a claviger, or belonged to a pack.

The itch always started low in his back, behind his kidneys. It grew, travelling up his back and forcing him to fall forward, overbalanced. His mouth grew uncomfortably crowded, his teeth too big for his jaw, and he twisted and scrunched into a foetal ball as his knees reversed with a loud, disgusting crunch. The previously coloured world dimmed, greens and reds were sharper, blues faded altogether, and what an explosion of smells! The pines, the grass, the dew… blood.

The wolf’s head rose, nose to the air, ears pricked. The scent was tainted, not off, but wrong. The wolf didn’t care. It padded silently through the park, following the bloody smell.


The drums were closer now, filling the air and smothering all other sound. Bianca crouched and covered her ears, eyes tight shut. She wasn’t sure why that helped, but forcing herself into as small a space as possible seemed the instinctual thing to do. The sound overwhelmed her, pounding on her skull.

Then, abruptly, there was silence.

The wind shifted, and a strong, earthy scent was carried toward her, filling her head with what would have been panic, if she had still been able to feel it. She slowly raised her head, wincing at the throbbing in her ears. All she could hear was a dull whine, the after-thought of the thunderous drums.

She was face-to-face with a pair of pale, yellow eyes, low to the ground, not six feet from her nose. The face was long and canine, its lips pulled back over yellowing, gruesome teeth, each one ridiculously sharp. Her hearing returned just in time to catch the low, menacing growl that built in the creature’s throat. She wished she had remained deaf.

It moved toward her, one, jerking push and its nose was almost touching hers. She fell backward, never taking her eyes from those hungry yellow ones. The stench of its breath on her face was overwhelming, and the heat radiating from its body was uncomfortably warm.

The body was long, with thick, muscled hind legs and long, arm-like front limbs. It crouched on its heels, balancing with the front knuckles, and she could see clusters of serrated, sharp claws behind, longer than her fingers. The head was longer than a wolf, though that was what she would have likened it to if asked… maybe a hound.

The werewolf growled again, and shuffled. This time, she could tell it was ready to lunge for the kill. She had only moments to think.

She leaped forward a split second before it, startling the creature and forcing it to rethink itself. Too late, it plunged down toward her, for she had already shoved it full-force into the dirt. It seemed to be confused by her strength for a moment.

That didn’t last long.

Pain lanced through her arm as its jaws latched on, crunching down with enough force to sever the limb completely if she were human. Bianca levered a boot under its jaw and pushed into its throat, screaming as it tore at her flesh, whilst the other foot snapped up and smacked it in the side of the face. It let go with a whine, allowing her to scramble to her feet.

A thought occurred to her, filling her with dread, as she turned to escape the park. If she ran now, there was still enough night left for it to find a weaker prey somewhere in the city. She was fast enough to out run it, but not everyone was as swift as she. She’d have to keep it occupied.

“Oof!” She fell back again, crumpled over her midsection where the shoulder had rammed her. Her wounded arm was trapped underneath her, turned at an awkward angle. The werewolf’s ears flattened against its head when she screeched, probably high enough for only it to hear.

That was it, scratch the heroism. She pulled herself up and sprinted. She made it all of five yards before the thing crashed into her knees and sent her flailing, face down on the bed of rotting leaves. Bianca’s heart no longer worked, but she still understood fear, still found it hard to focus when she was terrified. She screamed and panicked and thrashed, pulling her legs from under the creature in a mad frenzy. Her boot connected with its face, and she was on her feet again.

The night was full of sound now, the bubble around Dawn Park seemed to have popped and she could hear the traffic on the street and the people leaving the theatre. She wondered how late it was, fleetingly, as though she had suddenly decided to stop being afraid, and then its scent was there again, all mud and blood and disease.

She made for the road, running drunkenly and slamming into obstacles. She could hear it lumbering behind, feel its hot breath.

Over her shoulder, she saw its jaws ready to close on her spine, and remembered something. She had forgotten in her blind terror, a lesson from her mother, one she’d never mastered. A mother who would read the gothic tale Carmilla aloud, because it was her daughter’s favourite.

The werewolf’s jaws closed over thin air with a snap, and then it was its turn to panic, for where before had stood a frightened young vampire, there now raged a large, angry panther, eyes glowing violet and teeth flashing. It’s right foreleg was bleeding and broken, but it bristled dangerously. The fight that ensued was terrible, and quick.

Drink

The docks were full of movement. It was dark, just after midnight, and the blood girls were standing on corners, baring their necks. A lot of vampires despised being reduced to this. Most just dispensed with it altogether, went about their business as though the world were still unaware of their sinister presence.

Bianca made her way down past the workers’ area, into the open streets. Somebody had dubbed it jokingly the ‘blood light district’, and it had stuck. A woman in black- well, they were all in black- with close-cropped hair and a heavily made-up face smiled at her from the corner. She could tell from a glance who was client, who was competition.

Bianca smiled back, but kept walking.

You get to be a regular, here. You weren’t supposed to wipe your ‘victims’ memory, so they remembered you.

Nose to the air, Bianca stalked down the centre of the road. She knew where she was going.

He was young. Maybe early twenties, older than Bianca was when she was preserved, anyway. Craig had a classic model’s face, all cheekbones and smouldering eyes and lashes that women kill for and men don’t care about. She could see why he’d been preserved.

He waited with two others, apart from the rest, his eyes sharp. Tonight he wasn’t acting, wasn’t out to catch you on your way past.

“Evening.” Bianca stopped next to him, matching her gaze to his. “What are we looking for?”

He was unperturbed by her quiet arrival. “I’m keeping an eye on the girls. You’ve heard about the killer hanging around?”

He motioned to the two blood girls behind him, the ones he protected.

“A killer?” Bianca raised an eyebrow. Craig nodded, lips pulled back over his fangs in disgust.

“Mortal. Well, not a Nightchild, anyway. Been picking off the girls for a few nights now, we’ve lost five on this street. A real Jack the Ripper figure,” he told her. He tore his violet eyes from the street for a moment. She saw the worry there, just for a moment.

“And it isn’t in the papers…”

He shook his head. “Not until that waitress up on Dawn. Then they care. She was making an ‘honest’ living. Bah.”

The silver ice was back, filling Bianca’s useless lungs. “You think it was the same guy?”

“Same MO. Well, that’s what I say. Rev says I watch too many cop shows… but at least if it is the same guy, they’ll focus on him now, y’know? S’not like anyone cares what happens down here.”

Bianca nodded, slowly. She wanted to ask more questions, but she didn’t really have much time. And Craig looked harried enough as is. And she didn’t really want to get involved.

“So. Just a pint?” he asked, motioning to the girls behind. She nodded, already feeling the fangs push against her lip.

Wolf

It wasn’t easy. Lying to Herc like that. As though it were nothing. As though the man were just another old fool, as though he didn’t matter.

Graham sat at the bench, watching yet another inked-up outsider sit through his new tattoo. The needle moved swiftly, and the man clenched his teeth.

“You can go where you like, son. This isn’t a prison,” Herc was saying. He was a big man. All muscle and gristle, with thinning, white hair and a large, tidy beard. He sat patiently in the other black leather chair, arm out and flat. Sam lowered the needle again.

“Yeah. Right. Should be back in a few days.” Graham stood to leave, flipping his coat collar up and tying his scarf. It was a gift from his sister, black, embroidered with pale blue snowflakes. It was too feminine for his tastes, but he wore it to make her happy. And it was cold out there.

Herc didn’t give him a second look as he left the tattoo parlour. Graham stepped out into the chilly evening, already heading for Dawn Street. His sister lived in a small apartment block there, third story, quiet. He liked it there, she seemed safe. He made his way past Dawn Street Cinema, past Dawn Park, past Echo, the tiny dive bar he’d been in once or twice.

There had been a kerfuffle in Dawn Park only the other day, he recalled. A girl, murdered. He’d seen her sometimes, when he went into Echo. She worked there. Most other patrons called her the pretty one. He had shrugged. Blondes weren’t his type.

He watched the park now, in the dark, it seemed sinister, ugly. As though the scene of the crime somehow had soaked up the evil of that act, and now warned any curious passer-by to stay away, not to even look at the place. He was reminded, somewhat dryly, of a quote from some radio station his sister listened to. Do not look at the dog park.

He ignored the place. Stayed to Echo’s side of the street. He would meet Cassidy there, away from the werewolves she knew nothing about, away from the danger of Herc’s tattoo place. Echo was safer. Well, before the girl disappeared, he would have said so.

The other girl worked the dead girl’s section that night. The darker-haired one, with the freckles and the darkly lined, violet eyes. He’d always thought she was the better looking of the two. He never said anything. The woman looked up as he opened the door, flashed him a quick smile, then brought and order back to the window. She said something to the black man at the bar. Graham knew he was West Indies… maybe Jamaican…

“Grey, over here.” Cassidy sat at a booth, already nursing a pint. He slid in across from her, his smile-mask in place, ready to lie to her, too.

Body

The phone bleated incessantly, buzzing loudly on the bedside. A series of tiny gunshots exploded every time it vibrated, though it was on silent.

It was Foster.

“Do you know what time it is?” Bianca groaned, rolling away from the split of sunlight that shone through the gap in her darkened curtains. She hissed where it touched her skin, smoking slightly.

“Early, I know,” he answered, and she could almost hear him roll his eyes. Foster knew not to wake her before nightfall… “But it’s Tori.”

Relief washed through her, and she angled herself properly to sit up on the red pillows. “Great, well, is she okay? Wha-”

“They found her body.”

She froze. Silver ice seemed to fill her chest. “Her body?”

It was nearing midday, the sun was bright and, though not hot, it burned her skin. She had rubbed sunscreen in, a special oil that protected her from the faintest of sunlight, but it still itched. Pulling her hood up against the light, Bianca stepped onto the pavement and winced. She headed toward Dawn Park, three blocks down and across the road.

“Well?” She stopped next to Foster, envious of how he could show off his dark skin, not have to worry about painful sunlight.

“Through here. There are peelers everywhere, crawling over the place.” He hurried forward, pulling her behind and through the trees on the edge. They came to a line of yellow police tape, deep in the park, surrounding a white pavilion. Men in uniform and crime scene workers bustled about, calling out to each other and snapping photographs.

Bianca watched them, partly fascinated, partly horrified. A small crowd had gathered around the tape, gossiping and speculating about the activity.

“Are you sure it’s her?” she whispered, hoping against hope that Foster was wrong. She hadn’t been friends with the girl. But she had known her.

Foster nodded. “They were speaking to Giles earlier. She had no next of kin, he must have IDed the body.”

Green-skin stood across the clearing, his wide hat pulled low and his frog-like hands clutching his coat, pulling it closed. He caught Bianca’s eye, and she flinched. Those eyes were awful, throwing horror into her heart. They were milky white and hungry, focusing and seeing straight through her.

And then he was gone. She blinked, and his image wavered. Nothing. It worried her… why was he here now?

Tori

Blood tastes odd. It’s like salt and iron and raw pain… if it’s your own.

If it’s someone else’s… It’s even weirder. Mostly because you aren’t generally expecting it, I suppose. It’s unpleasant, or at least, it is to Tori. Maybe this man’s blood is different, too, because it tastes like the ocean. She is surprised, surprised enough to let go of the meat between her teeth.

It’s old. Decomposing. They tossed it to her a few hours ago, but he’d been dead much longer. She stares at the chunk of flesh, confused. Something nags at the back of her mind. Something isn’t right.

He tastes like the ocean. Too salty. That must be it.

The air is cold here, and thin. It takes twice as much to fill her lungs, twice as much to keep going. She’s curled up on the stone floor, and the chill creeps through her bare legs, she’s still dressed in her Echo uniform, booty shorts and a black vest top with the logo, strappy black heels.

Echo. Why is that familiar?

The ocean man smells. She looks at him again, hungry. Where am I, again? She thinks, nonplussed. Things feel so numb, here. It’s like she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care.

Why does he taste like the ocean?

Where is the frog-man?