Vampire van helsing diar.., p.1

Vampire (van Helsing Diaries Book 1), page 1

 

Vampire (van Helsing Diaries Book 1)
 


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Vampire (van Helsing Diaries Book 1)


  V A M P I R E

  Peter Cawdron

  thinkingscifi.wordpress.com

  Copyright Peter Cawdron 2015

  All rights reserved. The right of Peter Cawdron to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  First published as an eBook by Peter Cawdron. US Kindle Edition. Except where expressly described, all the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

  Cover art horror-background-18428874 copyright 2011 Royce DeGrie via iStockphoto by Getty Images. Used under license.

  Content warning

  Although this novella is a work of fiction, it contains violent themes such as murder and suicide. Should you be sensitive to suicide, please don’t continue with this story. Amazon will provide you with a full refund for the book if you apply within seven days of purchase. There’s no shame in asking for professional help. If you have a cough, you take medicine. If you cut your foot, you go see a doctor. The same principle holds true if you feel mental anguish, depression or distress. Get help.

  Suicide is not a concept to be taken lightly. You are important. Your life is worth more than you know. Take care of yourself. You’re the only you we have.

  Chapter 01: Murder

  “Thanks for coming in, Dr. Langford,” the sheriff says, extending a warm hand as I pull off my gloves.

  With the wind chill, it’s negative forty outside. Somewhat surprisingly, the temperature is rising as a blizzard descends on Idaho, threatening to bury us in snow. The forecast for tomorrow is for a balmy negative twenty. I struggle in any temperature that makes my freezer seem like a heater. And I’ve always found it strange that the weather in the Midwest can be so counterintuitive. Is there anywhere else on the planet where a bitter cold winter gets worse as it warms?

  “No problem,” I say, shaking the sheriff’s hand. It’s a lie, of course. A tacit, social construct we both intuitively accept. Ten o‘clock on a Friday evening and it’s no problem driving five miles through heavy snow to the sheriff’s office.

  “Tell me about him,” I say, happy to move past social pleasantries.

  “James Fallon. He shot a mother of three in cold blood,” the sheriff says as though he’s describing the plot of a TV show rather than an actual murder. “We’ve got him dead-to-rights. Video footage. Half a dozen witnesses. Bastard even smiles at the camera after pulling the trigger.”

  “Only?” I say, wondering what part of this heinous crime had him drag me out of my cozy apartment on such a frigid evening.

  “Only he says he’s innocent,” the sheriff replies, leading me through the police station and toward the offices at the rear of the old building. Steam clangs in the metal radiator pipes as the heating adjusts to fight off the cold inching through the brickwork. The wind howls outside.

  “He killed a woman by the name of Mavis Harrison at a gas station not more than a block from here. Shot her in the chest at point blank range. And then when it looks like he’s going on a killing spree, he surrenders to another woman cowering by a coffee machine. Darnedest thing I’ve ever seen. Sobbing his eyes out when we got there, mumbling something about it’s not me.”

  “And you’re thinking insanity plea?” I ask.

  The sheriff says, “I wanted to get you in as soon as possible so you could assess him in his current state of mind. All this is sure to play out before the court so I figured an initial psych eval was warranted.”

  It’s going to be a long night.

  “Coffee?” the sheriff asks as we walk into his office.

  “Sure.”

  I’m not sure the pitch black sludge he pours into two dubiously stained mugs could be described as coffee. I doubt the mugs have been washed in years. Rinsed maybe, but not scrubbed. There’s no offer of creamer or sweetener. This is a suburban police station, not a restaurant in downtown Boise, but I don’t mind. The bitter taste will sharpen my senses.

  Steam rises from the mugs as he hands one to me, saying, “You’re going to need to see the video before you go in there so you know what you’re dealing with.”

  “Context,” I say.

  “Oh, yeah,” he replies with a knowing smile.

  I sit in an aging wooden chair. The stuffing in the pillow has been compressed flat over the years, and my ass is boney, so I cross my legs, leaning slightly to one side as I face his computer screen.

  It’s surreal, watching footage of someone about to be murdered while sipping coffee.

  Police work has to be detached from emotion, otherwise we’d all go mad. I’ve been working for several county police departments and the state prosecutor’s office for five years now. I may not have been trained in law enforcement, but I’ve picked up their blunt mindset out of necessity.

  All too often, we’re the garbage collectors of society. From the outside, most folks would call us calloused, but we need to protect ourselves from the horror of violent crime. Looking at a blood-splattered murder scene one night, and then going out for lasagna the next is as surreal as life gets. This line of work demands detachment or depression sets in. And as a psychiatrist, I understand better than most how a slight kink in the mental armor can lead to a downward spiral.

  My coffee tastes like shit.

  The video is in color, but the fisheye image is grainy. The camera must be old. It’s located above the cashier, pointing out across the store. The automatic doors are to the right. Occasionally, they open and someone nips inside along with a flurry of snow. A sign on the floor warns customers about the wet floor.

  “That’s her,” the sheriff says, pointing as he sits on the edge of the desk sipping his coffee. “Mavis Harrison.”

  “What’s she doing?” I ask as a middle-aged woman browses the aisle within the tiny store.

  “Dunno. She was in there for about half an hour before the shooting.”

  “Half an hour,” I say. “Who hangs out in a gas station for half an hour?”

  “Dunno. Maybe she was waiting for someone.”

  “For the killer?” I ask.

  “I don’t think so. From what we’ve been able to tell, they didn’t know each other. She’s local. Works at the state penitentiary. Driver’s license shows he’s from Chicago. Driving a U-Haul for a friend. Heading to Portland. Pulled off the interstate for gas and a bite to eat.”

  Looking at the video, there are several other customers in the store, but they’re focused on what they’re doing, walking with a purpose, either to get some toilet paper or a carton of milk. They come in, grab what they need, pay and leave. No one lingers. This isn’t a department store. There’s only three aisles, which leaves Mavis looking conspicuous. She wanders along the same aisle yet again.

  “She’s definitely waiting for someone,” I say. “Look at the body language. She’s glancing at the shelves but she’s not interested in anything on them. She’s killing time.”

  “So you think she was waiting for him?” the sheriff asks.

  “Maybe.”

  On the edge of the screen, the automatic door slides opens and a man enters wearing jeans, a thick jacket, gloves, a scarf and a hat.

  “Here he comes,” the sheriff says. “That’s Jimmy Fallon. And will you look at that: he takes off his hat and gloves, and unwinds his scarf, giving us a good look at him.”

  “You’re thinking this is premeditated? Like he’s making a statement?” I ask. “Do you think he wanted to be caught?”

  “You’re the shrink,” the sheriff says.

  “Look at how calm he is,” I say, watching as Jimmy strikes up a conversation with the store clerk. Th
ere’s no sound so we can’t hear what’s being said, but it’s clear that although they’re strangers, they’re both friendly, joking around. They could be talking about anything. Ice hockey?

  I make a note to ask the clerk about his conversation with the killer when I interview him. Whatever’s being said, it’s a socially positive conversation bonding around a common interest. This isn’t the profile of someone about to kill a complete stranger in front of witnesses.

  “What’s the trigger event?” I ask.

  “She drops her bag,” the sheriff says.

  “That’s it?” I ask, expecting something more.

  Mavis walks up to the counter, standing slightly behind Jimmy as though she’s waiting to pay for something, but there’s nothing in her hands. Her bulky handbag slides off her shoulder, crashing to the floor. She makes no attempt to grab at the bag, even though she could have. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear she did that on purpose.

  “Mavis has a concealed carry permit,” the sheriff says. “She’s carrying the gun that’s about to kill her.”

  “Huh,” is all I can say as Jimmy turns around and reaches down innocently enough to help her gather her stuff. I look for any hint of recognition in either face as they’re caught in side profile by the camera. Nothing.

  A few words are exchanged as they collect the contents scattered across the ground.

  “There!” the sheriff says, and I watch as they both reach for the gun.

  Their hands touch briefly as Jimmy snatches her 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun. I’m not sure of the model, but it’s a smaller, compact version of the handguns the police use.

  Jimmy wastes no time, firing rapidly and cycling through round after round. He unloads the best part of a clip into the woman’s chest as she staggers backwards, falling into a rack of magazines and knocking them to the floor. Empty shell casings skid across the floor. Several bullets pass clear through Mavis, shattering the glass on a coke machine behind her as she collapses. She never stood a chance.

  The sheriff pauses the video.

  “What do you think?” he asks.

  “That is crazy,” I reply.

  “Insane?”

  “Could be. I mean, he’s got no motive, right?”

  “None that we know of.”

  “And this is personal. What was that, six or seven shots into the chest?”

  “Eight.”

  “Can you rewind and play just that last bit again?”

  The sheriff replays the tussle over the gun at quarter speed. I’m fascinated. I feel mesmerized, commenting as the video moves in slow motion, “He never even touches the thumb safety. How did he know it was off? And how did he know there was a round chambered ready to fire? And he says he’s innocent?”

  “Swears it wasn’t him,” the sheriff says.

  “This is classic psychopathic behavior,” I say. “Look at what happens afterwards. Look at how he stands there glaring at her with the gun hanging loose by his side. There’s no remorse.”

  “No shit,” the sheriff says. He switches the video back to normal speed. Fallon glances at the store camera and smiles. Several customers scramble for the door, darting out into the snow. The store clerk ducks beneath the counter, grabbing his phone and presumably dialing 911.

  There’s a young woman trapped by a coffee-dispensing machine. She’s terrified. She can’t get to the door without passing between Fallon and the bloodied body of Mavis Harrison. She’s scared, cowering beside the coffee machine. Even without sound, it’s obvious she’s sobbing.

  Fallon walks over to her. He bends down in front of her, placing the gun on the tiles.

  “What is he doing?” I ask.

  “I was hoping you could tell me,” the sheriff says.

  Fallon crouches, resting on his heels, with his elbows leaning on his knees. From what I can tell with his back to the camera, no words are exchanged. The poor woman tries to shrink into the corner beside the coffee machine. She has her knees pulled up to her chest, with her arms wrapped tightly around her legs. Her head is bowed, avoiding eye contact with Fallon.

  “What’s her name?” I ask.

  “Eva Guntage,” the sheriff replies. “She’s a local. No relationship with either Mavis Harrison or James Fallon.”

  Slowly, Fallon reaches out and touches lightly at her lower cheek, perhaps wiping away tears. Immediately, Eva lunges for the gun. She grabs at the pistol grip and the gun goes off, recoiling in her hand and sending a bullet whizzing across the floor.

  Eva points the gun at Fallon, threatening to shoot him, but the block is back, the breech is open. The gun is out of ammo. With her back against the wall, she pushes herself up, not breaking eye contact with Fallon. She’s yelling at him, still pointing the gun at him as though it’s loaded and presenting a threat.

  Fallon looks confused. He falls backwards, catching himself with his hands and bumping into the body of Mavis Harrison. He looks startled, surprised.

  Eva snatches at the trigger of the gun, trying to shoot Fallon, but the magazine ran dry with that last errant shot. The ammo is spent. She rushes at him, pistol whipping him and striking him across the forehead. Fallon slips on the blood, never getting to his feet. He backs into one of the shelves.

  “What the hell?” I say. “What just happened?”

  The storekeeper appears beside Eva holding a baseball bat and threatening to beat Fallon if he moves. The sheriff fast-forwards the video, saying, “That’s it until we arrive on the scene.”

  Even though the video is flickering as it races forward, I can see Fallon is subdued. He stares at his hands, tries to wipe the blood away, and pleads with Eva and the store clerk, but he remains where he is until the cops come in and cuff him.

  “Any thoughts?” the sheriff says.

  “Well,” I say, glancing down at the notes I made during the video. “Seems pretty cut and dry.”

  “That’s what we thought, but it gets better. Fallon says he’s innocent. He says Eva shot Mavis.”

  “What?” I say as the sheriff gets up and leads me to the interrogation room. “That’s impossible. He knows you have video, right?”

  “And witnesses,” the sheriff says, peering through a glass window reinforced with wire-mesh, affording a view inside the interrogation room. Fallon is handcuffed to an anchor point in the middle of a steel table bolted to the floor.

  The sheriff leads me inside, saying, “This is Dr. Jane Langford. She’s a psychologist working with the police.”

  Fallon looks disinterested.

  We sit opposite him as the sheriff continues. “You don’t have to talk to her if you don’t want to. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to have an attorney present during this interview. Do you understand these rights?”

  “Yes.”

  “And you agree to waive these rights?”

  “Yes.”

  Fallon looks as though he’s praying, clenching his fingers together and extending his arms on the table. This isn’t the posture I’d expect from a psychopath that just shot a stranger in cold blood.

  “You really should have a lawyer present,” I say, knowing there are cameras recording our interaction.

  Fallon looks at me through bloodshot eyes, saying, “Do you really think it matters?”

  “Yes,” I reply, even though there’s a mountain of conclusive evidence against him. The foundation of justice is that the presumption of innocence can never be discarded. It will take a judge and jury to decide his fate, not me.

  “Well, I don’t,” he says with tears in his eyes. “Nothing matters. Not anymore. No one is going to believe me. They’re all going to think I’m crazy.”

  His voice quivers, revealing the immense pressure he’s feeling.

  “Did you know Mavis Harrison?”

  His reply is short and terse.

  “No.”

  “Tell me what happened.”

  “I—I was picking up some Tylenol for my daughter. And there was gun fire behind me. It
was deafening. Like thunder, only louder, sharper. I turned and he was shooting her.”

  “Who was?” I ask.

  Fallon tries to raise his hands, but the chain anchoring his handcuffs in place restricts his motion, seemingly snapping him back to the present.

  “Me. No, not me. Him. Eva. He stole me. He stole her from me. I’m—I’m.”

  “I’m what?” I ask, coaxing him on, wanting him to express himself in his own words, but Fallon hangs his head in what appears to be shame.

  There’s silence for a few seconds as I scrawl some notes on a pad of paper.

  “Do you believe in the devil, doc?”

  I straighten in my chair, saying, “No.”

  The ensuing silence is painful. Fallon wants more from me, but I don’t know how to respond to his question. I turn the concept around, asking, “Why? Do you?”

  “I didn’t,” he says, and I feel my skin crawl with those seemingly candid words.

  There’s something unnatural about James Fallon, but I can’t put my finger on what. His mannerisms are erratic. I catch him distracted by a spider crawling over the window beside the table. The hungry look in his eyes suggests he’d grab it and eat it if given the chance.

  “Tell me about the devil?” I ask, and he turns back to me with eyes that pierce the soul. I bait him, adding, “What does he look like?”

  “He? Don’t you know, doc? The devil is a chameleon. He, she. Makes no difference to my lord.”

  Lord? That’s a word with strong religious connotations, both positive and negative, as in Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, and Belial, the lord of pride. Fallon clearly relates lord to his perception of the devil, which is a little unnerving.

  Am I being played for a fool?

  Is Fallon deliberately trying to set up an insanity plea? I’d like to think so, but I suspect he’s genuinely unhinged. This isn’t an act. He’s not playing to a crowd. Rather than being crazy, I feel as though Fallon is trying to tell me something bizarre without sounding mad. It’s as though he’s trying to lead me to reach my own conclusion.

 
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