Author: S. J. Smith
Everything Else: Mention of drinking blood, well they are vampires
This is the last of the shorts to go on my website. So again any comments would be gratefully received.
cross posted to silverquills, spellweavers and cerulean_snow
Peter Langsley yawned, then rubbed his hands over his tired face. "Valencius" as he called himself, sat watching him as fresh as ever. Fifteen years in homicide and you saw a lot of strange stuff. Trouble was, Langsley knew, this case was getting just a little too weird even for him. He knew instinctively that Valencius was somehow involved in the murder. Why else would a complete stranger phone to make a secret rendezvous, except to gloat?
Langsley paused long enough to take a long slug of beer. The booth they were sitting in helped conceal them in the red and orange gloom. The red wall lights filtering through a heavy haze of smoke also helped mask the noises around them. At the far end some men gathered, vulture-like, around the solitary pool table, making bets on the two players. The atmosphere was tense, and secret. You'd have to look hard to find either of them seated at the back where they were. Hard enough to give them both time to leave unseen. The juke box, an added bonus, was playing loud enough to mask their conversation but not too loud so they couldn't hear each other clearly.
"So let me get this right again," Langsley said. "You're a vampire, correct?"
"Yes," Valencius nodded in agreement. "Virgin vampire."
"It's a bit complicated," Valencius admitted. Absently he took his sunglasses out of his top jacket pocket and unfolded them. "I've been a vampire less than a hundred years. They call us virgins when we're that young." He folded the glasses again and put them away. It was the first time Langsley caught any sign of nervousness.
"They? There are others involved?"
"The Others," Valencius sighed impatiently. "The other vampires. And for goodness sake don't let on that you know about us. If you do we're both dead."
"You're already dead. You're a vampire." Langsley decided to play along with the game for a bit.
"Well, true," Valencius conceded. "But I could be a lot deader. Al, er, the boss would make sure of that."
"Boss? Jeesh, just how many of you are there?" Langsley made a mental note about Al. "You're beginning to sound like a crime syndicate." There was a theory going round the precinct that a large drug running gang was involved. He'd better watch his step.
Valencius looked nervously around. "There's enough of them to worry about."
Langsley felt a frisson of cold. Was he surrounded?
"You're joshing me aren't you? This is a joke right?"
Valencius took a can from his pocket and popped it, sipping the strong smelling liquid within.
"What the hell is that stuff?" Langsley unsuccessfully tried to wave the smell away.
Valencius blushed a little. "Sorry, I forget sometimes," he apologized. "It's just lunch, didn't get a chance to eat earlier."
"Good God, you mean you killed someone just so you could drink his blood for lunch?" Better play the part, Langsley decided.
"Really!" Valencius scolded. "What do you take us for, barbarians?"
"Well, vampires drink blood don't they? So how else you going to get it? Cow's blood?"
Valencius shook his head. "Cow's blood tastes foul, so I've been told," Valencius responded, "and doesn't really work anyway. You always get the craving for human blood."
Langsley's face went very pale.
Valencius obviously noticed because he began to burble apologetically. "Oh, it's really not like that at all," he explained. "No one ever gets killed -- well very rarely anyway. And the people giving blood generally rather enjoy it. It's all above board and, well, semi-consensual."
Langsley felt disgusted.
"So you tell me you're drinking human blood there." You have such a twisted mind, Langsley thought.
Valencius blushed again.
"Er, no, I'm, er, slightly different to the rest."
"You eat human flesh?" Langsley added sarcastically.
"No, it's, um, embalming fluid actually."
The serious look on Valencius' face and the craziness of the situation had Langsley almost breaking down with laughter.
"Embalming fluid? A vampire that drinks embalming fluid?"
Valencius hung his head, his black hair almost blending in to match his suit in the dim bar lights. Somewhere the jukebox screeched another Tammy Wynnette song, a young lady three booths over screamed lustily over her partner's lewd joke.
"It isn't easy being different," Valencius finally continued. "If it wasn't for the boss I'd already be dead by now. Vampires don't like anyone who isn't perfect you know."
Something in Valencius' tone quickly killed Langsley's mirth. So the guy was a nutcase, thought he was a vampire, but in reality probably running for his life from the gang. Did it matter if he thought he drank embalming fluids? Hell it had to be better than having him drink blood. Certainly less likely to get anyone killed except maybe himself.
"So how did it happen?" Langsley prompted. "How did you get to be an embalming fluid drinking vampire?"
"I love sitting by the river," Valencius' eyes glazed over with the memories. "Used to go down there, any time, day or night."
"Ah, a fisherman."
"No," Valencius corrected, "never did like to fish. I just love to sit and listen to the water and the birds. Watching the life and world go by you know. Very relaxing. Certainly better than watching Arsenic and Old Lace."
Langsley chortled. "Yeah, those old Cary Grant movies get to you after the first dozen showings," he agreed.
"Oh no, this was just released. I know everyone was very excited about it. I just didn't go for it in the same way. I preferred sitting by the river."
"Of course." Langsley coughed. "So how did this help you become a vampire?" And why did you kill the girl?
"Well, I was having my usual midday break, eating lunch by the river to be precise. When this vampire came rushing up to me."
"Hang on, hang on, you were eating your midday break and this vampire came rushing up to you?"
"Well, of course I didn't know he was a vampire to begin with. Not till he, er, you know, bit me."
"In the middle of the day?"
"Yes, about one thirty I think they put on my death certificate."
"Sunlight, bright blue skies, and vampires?"
Valencius looked up, for the first time catching a note of sarcasm. Then enlightenment came over his face.
"Oh, of course. You believe all the dis-information don't you."
Langsley sat back, trying to work out if he should call the police or the psychiatric ward for back up. Still, the man had basically solved a murder case for him and caught two of the killers. Langsley needed to determine how involved in the murder this Valencius guy really was.
"So, er, tell me about this dis-information," Langsley encouraged.
"Oh, you've probably heard it all before," Valencius chided. "But the powers that be, you know, the vampire bosses..."
"...well yeah, bosses. They decided long ago that having friends in "useful" places never hurt."
"Well, it would never really work out having a vampire as president, vampire habits are far too strange and you humans always seem to know when something is different. But now a presidential aide, doctors, authors, film producers..."
"Ah, I see, you got all of these under your belt and told them the false stories to tell us."
"Of course." Valencius beamed. Langsley felt he'd proven himself smart enough for Valencius. "We, er, my bosses, decided the best way to hide something was to have it right out in the open."
"So daylight doesn't hurt you then?"
"Good lord no! Holy water? I have a friend who drinks it regularly and I do hope people don't try stuffing garlic on me. Love it on food but as regards being covered in it, no thanks."
Langsley shifted on the chair. The five beers were taking a toll and a trip to the men's room was in short order. He didn't dare leave now though, Valencius might decide to take off and he'd have a devil of a job finding him again. The vampire wannabe was starting to reveal personal stuff. A confession should be along soon.
"So all this dis-information means you're no different to humans after all?"
"Oh, dear me no, we have our, ah, differences."
"Like?" Langsley prompted.
"We tend to be fitter, healthier, faster and we don't die, least not easily anyway. And the amorphous incarnation is pretty cool. You know, we can turn into an invisible gas."
"Oh yes. Killing us is hard, but decapitation, incineration, total destruction of main body organs, that sort of thing works, sometimes blood draining but that's a bit hit and miss I'm told. We have to drink blood too, but not as much as the movies make out-- about three teaspoons a week is easily enough." Valencius looked at his can. "Well, the vampires's that can drink blood that is. I need this stuff weekly you know."
"The, embalming fluid, right."
"Yes," Valencius agreed. "The Arthex brand is best but I can take HY-N-OIL in a pinch. Still, it's a good thing," he added. "I have a tendency to faint at the sight of blood."
"Right." Langsley decided to get this straight, "You're a vampire who drinks embalming fluid, becomes a gas and faints at the sight of blood."
"Yeah, I've dated a few like that," Langsley lamented. "But you still haven't told me about how this all happened. And why you got involved in that girl's murder."
"Simple curiosity I guess." Valencius sighed. "I mean, two guys throwing a large weighted bag into the river gave the idea away really. Not that I saw the men, just heard the splash and looked up in time to see the car driving off."
"So what were you doing by the river?"
"Oh dear." Valencius sighed again. "You haven't listened to a word I said, have you? I like to go to the river to have my lunch."
"Ah, you were eating your lunch, heard the splash, decided to dive in and pull the girl out."
"Yes, don't know why, just got curious."
"So all this talk about vampires being unable to cross running water..."
"Dis-information!" they said together.
"You're getting it," Valencius congratulated Langsley.
"So I imagine having superhuman strength..."
"Only 25% stronger than humans but enough to make a difference."
"... with your 25% stronger strength then, you pull the girl out, rip open the bag and rifle through her purse for good measure."
Valencius blushed again.
"Well that wasn't very smart I know. Like I said, I got very curious. She seemed such a pretty thing to have died so young."
"Pretty nasty piece of work if you ask me."
"Well, I didn't know about all that stuff she'd done till I did the investigation," Valencius sniffed. "She looked, you know, innocent and all that."
"Except for the caved in skull, blood and broken teeth?"
"Well, that was a bit of a shock. Blood was dried luckily. I felt a bit queasy but managed not to faint."
There was a pause while Valencius slowly pulled himself together. Langsley had to admit either the guy was a very good actor or he really didn't know how to cope with blood and bodies. The green tinge to his face was almost good enough for Christmas decorations.
After a long slug of Dutch courage, or if it were to be believed, embalming fluid, Valencius continued.
"Of course then I phoned the police and would have forgotten about it."
Langsley shook his head. The place was getting real stuffy and he definitely needed the men's room soon.
"Why didn't you forget about it?"
"I, er, kind of left my lunch there. With my fingerprints and everything."
A few more things clicked into place for Langsley. Valencius was the one who left the embalming fluid by the body. Narcotics would want to have a word with Valencius later, Langsley knew. If Valencius had the embalming fluid he was probably the one making the loveboat and if they looked hard enough they'd find a place down by the river used to store the marijuana he was doping with the embalming fluid. Feeling somewhat smug now that he knew more than narcotics did, Langsley returned his attention to the deluded criminal sitting across from him.
"Of course, once the boss found out that you were tracing the fingerprints he called me in. Told me to find the killers before you found me or I'd be taking the one way vampire flight home."
"Can you say that in English?"
"They would kill me," Valencius sighed. "All because of a silly mistake."
"Ah, you mean the silly mistake that made you this, er, embalming fluid vampire?"
"No, no, they got the other guy for that. Turned out the vampire that attacked me had gone senile."
"A senile vampire?"
"Well, he was over five thousand years old. Apparently some of the older vampires go senile. Sometimes this makes them attack all and sundry."
"Not a good thing to happen then," Langsley suggested.
"Oh no, not good at all. Unfortunately, the boss' men arrived too late to save me. That's where the complications came in."
"Oh I see, this starts to get complicated now does it?" As if it wasn't before, Langsley sighed.
Valencius shook his head as if regretting the bad memories.
"It's just the change really takes a while to happen, you know. And it's like you're half aware of things but totally unable to do anything about it. It all happened because I was working on that secret project."
"Wow, I bet you were a World War Two rocket scientist!"
"No, not rockets, computers. I helped build that first one at Harvard you know. Then they shipped me over to Washington to work on their project here."
Valencius gave Langsley a cold and discomforting stare.
"It was a secret project. I signed the secrets act before I started on it."
"Of course." Langsley shook his head. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked. You swore to keep it secret."
"So the security boys assigned to the project, after finding me mysteriously dead, had to try to find out what had happened. Had the Nazi's or the Russians sucked my brains dry with some secret device? Or was it a perfectly natural death?"
"And had they?"
"Don't be silly, of course not. I'd just had all the blood drained out of me by a vampire. That would have been almost as bad though. Finding a bloodless body would have started awkward investigations for the vampires. So the Boss's guys had to hide me from the FBI."
"Hide a corpse? From the Feds?" Langlsey chuckled. "That must have been fun."
"Uncomfortable." Valencius wriggled with the memory. "Once the FBI had ID'd me the bosses men swapped me for another corpse just before I was supposed to be autopsied. Unfortunately they swapped me for a guy scheduled for embalming."
"Okay, I get it now. You were killed unexpectedly, some friends came to hide your body before the government could find out how you died, and you got embalmed too early. So that's why you drink embalming fluid rather than blood."
"You've got it, hole in one!"
Langsley sighed. His bladder definitely needed emptying. There was no doubt in his mind now. Valencius was a drug dealing, killer associate of the two reprobates he had in lock-up. A stupid one too, to think up such a ludicrous story.
"So, let's skip the bullshit stories and try telling the truth for a change. Langsley confronted Valencius. "Why did you kill the girl?"
Valencius looked up and past Langsley, his face turning white.
"Damn, the bosses' men. If they see us together we're both dead."
Langsley turned his head to see two tall men, Both nearly six-foot high, with movie star perfection and both wearing expensive Armani suits. The nearest one, with short dark hair and baby smooth shave started moving across the room towards them, studying everyone he passed with his intense stare. Langsley was certain the stranger was missing nothing. The blond, looking almost identical, headed in the other direction.
"Friends of yours?"
Turning back to the table Langsley felt a cold wave run through him. Valencius was evaporating as he watched.
"Jeeesh, you really are a vampire!"
Finding his pants suddenly warm and wet, and his mind numb, Langsley vaguely realized he didn't need the restroom any more...