Hello, I’m Vincent Ortega, but am more commonly known as Vinnie, the vampire third of the Monster Detectives. The other two ‘parts’ of the team are Frank N. Stein, but we call him Frankie. He’s a huge, green mammoth of a creature with bolts sticking out of his neck–quite clumsy, but he gets the job done. Then there’s Zack . . . He’s a zombie–nothing more than a walking, decaying, eating piece of undead flesh. But, hey, we all have our purpose.
I suppose you’re wondering what we do. Together we investigate occurrences involving anything of a supernatural or mythical origin. Monsters investigating wrong doing by other monsters, you might say. The last case we were on involved werewolves. It was a mess! Frankie thought it was just one werewolf, but there had turned out to be five! Maybe next time we’ll look before we leap. Hell, we didn’t even get paid for that little fiasco, because we went charging in before we had a client. But Frankie says in doing so we protected ourselves. Maybe him and Zack, but as for me, I’ve been around thousands of years and have remained invisible.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Vinnie, are you awake?”
With a heavy sigh I unlatched the lid of my coffin and peeked out, just to make sure the sun wasn’t still shining in. Sometimes Zack would forget about my aversion to sunlight and wake me up too soon. I don’t know how many times I’ve lost fingers and suffered burns because of his carelessness.
It was Frankie, standing there looking anxious.
“What?” I asked.
“Turn on the news and you’ll see,” he said urgently.
Pushing the coffin lid all the way open, I turned on my built-in TV.
“What station?” I asked.
“Doesn’t matter. It’s on all of them.”
I was about to ask ‘what is’ when I heard it from the TV anchor.
“. . . Human remains have been found in the woods close to Overlook Point. Among the remains are said to be Senator Gregory Hastel and his secretary Joyce Willis. Speculation is that they were involved in some kind of ritualistic slaughter and burned. There were three other DNA samples found at the scene, but they have yet to be identified . . .”
“Damn,” I said, glancing at Frankie.
“No shit!” he barked, gripping the side of my coffin so tightly I could hear the wood cracking.
“Easy, you’re breaking my bed,” I said, turning my attention back to the TV.
“Sorry,” he muttered, loosening his grip.
“. . . In national news, thirty-nine bodies, with more expected, have been found in Appalachia, more specifically West Virginia. No one knows the cause of the deaths at this time. Our sources tell us the bodies are dried out shells. No blood, no wounds, just dry husks. We’ll keep you updated as information comes in . . .”
They cut to a quick video someone had managed to get of federal agents carrying bodies out and laying them in a line to be taken to the morgue. It showed what the anchor had said. Human raisins, all dried up and wrinkly–merely shells of what they had once been.
“Shit,” I sighed, sat up, and dragged my claw tipped fingers through my hair.
“Yeah, who would have thought those werewolves were prominent citizens,” Frankie said. “What are the chances?”
I closed my eyes for a moment and willed some patience. Frankie’s mind was still on the last case and I was already on the next. Typical. It was hard to work with the guy sometimes when I’ve had years and years of experience he didn’t. Not only was my body faster, but my brain was faster as well.
“Don’t know,” I said, jumping sleekly out of my coffin to stand next to Frankie. “But that’s the least of our worries right now.”
Frankie turned his head with a barely audible creak. No one except for me could hear all the creaks and moans when he moved. No one else had my acute hearing, at least not anyone close by. My eyes flicked briefly to the TV screen. The news was over and they were moving on to something else.
“What’s wrong now?” Frankie asked. “What could be more important than us killing a Senator and who knows who else?! This is serious. It could attract more attention than we need. This could end us!”
In his frustration and fury, Frankie slammed his fist down, shattering the side of my coffin in an explosion of splintering wood.
He looked down at what he’d done, his eyes growing wide. “I’m sorry, Vinnie. I’ll have someone in here to fix that right away. It’ll be good as new by morning.”
I just glared at him–this, after breaking three of my ribs last week. Taking a deep breath, even though I didn’t need air, I counted to ten as I let it out slowly. I still found some human rituals could serve a purpose in my life. This was one of them.
“Where’s Zack?” I asked and started walking toward the door.
“I really am sorry, Vinnie,” Frankie said, thumping after me. Each step he took shook the floor.
“I know you’re sorry,” I hissed, spinning back toward him. “We have other stuff to worry about right now. Where is Zack?”
Frankie pulled up short, in mid step, and just stared at me. It’s no wonder. He’d never seen me like this before. Hell, I hadn’t been this way in more than four centuries, but he didn’t know that, because he hadn’t known me then.
“I think he’s in his office,” Frankie said, frowning.
I turned back to the doorway and marched out into the hall. Zack’s office was three doors down, to the left. I followed the passage, knocked briefly, and then steeled myself to enter. I hated going into Zack’s office. Not only was I fast and had acute hearing, my sense of smell was stronger. Being around Zack in an enclosed space filled me with revulsion. I know he did his best to keep his rotting stench under control with Lysol, but all it did was burn my nasal passages even more. I tried not to fall back into my past ‘human’ actions when I was around him. I didn’t need to breathe, but it was hard not doing it sometimes.
Don’t breathe! Don’t breathe! I chanted in my head before twisting the knobbing and stepping inside.
Zack was sitting behind his desk chewing on a human calf like most people would chew on a fried chicken leg. Blood was shooting from the flesh with each chop of his jaw. It sprayed the ceiling and the walls, with a few drops landing on my face. I hissed and wiped it away.
“Sorry,” Zack said around a mouthful of raw meat.
I nodded and walked in. Frankie followed almost two full minutes later.
“What’s the rush?” he asked, still frowning.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know I was moving so fast.”
“You were in here so fast,” Zack said, taking another bite, “that I’d just opened my mouth to take a bite and you walked in before I could close my jaw! Which explains why you got sprayed.”
Instead of sitting down, I paced back and forth so quickly that Frankie and Zack didn’t even know I was moving. I suppose to them I just looked like I was going blurry.
“What’s going on, Vinnie?” Frankie barked, getting tense now. “Just spit it out! You’re making us all nervous.”
“It was the news,” I said, coming to a halt. “The bodies, the ones in West Virginia, I know what, or I should say who, is responsible for them.”
“Really?” Zack asked, swallowing what was in his mouth. “Who? Is this going to be our next case?”
“I have a feeling it is,” Frankie said, still looking at me. “Are you going to tell us what’s going on? Or do we have to beg for information?”
I took a deep breath to calm myself and regretted it instantly. The smell of Zack and his meal burned my throat and lungs.
“It’s hard,” I said. “I’m not supposed to tell anyone. I’ll get in serious trouble if I do.”
“What do you mean?” Frankie asked. “Why can’t you tell us? We’re your partners for crying out loud, not to mention your friends!”
I thought about it for a moment. Trying to figure out how to break this to them without sounding like I didn’t trust them. I did trust them. I just wasn’t allowed to tell. They would hunt me down . . . They would kill me.
Sitting heavily on the couch Zack had against the wall, I tried to ignore the squishing noise it made.
“Great!” Zack yelled, wiggling and wobbling to get up, out of his chair. “You found it.”
I was scared to ask what I’d found, but didn’t have to as he pulled up the edge of the cushion I was sitting on and extracted a quarter of a brain from beneath it.
“I’ve been looking for this for weeks,” Zack said, taking a delicate bite and chewing slowly like he was savoring the flavor.
This time, I remembered not to breathe.
“I’ll tell you what I can,” I said, staring Frankie in the eye. “But the less you know the safer you’ll be. You’re going to have to trust me about the rest.”
Frankie folded his arms and nodded, never dropping eye contact.
“The deaths, they’re vampire related,” I said slowly, “and I know which vampire is responsible. But I can’t tell you.”
Frankie raised his eyebrow and I inwardly cringed at the high-pitched squeal that little movement made. I wanted to cover my ears and scream for him to be quiet.
“It’s a long story,” I said, holding my hands up. “Again, one that I can’t share. All I can tell you is we’re dealing with a vampire older than me, and that she’s very strong and dangerous. And if she’s made others like herself . . . Then they could be . . . I can’t even imagine how bad this might end up.”
“She?” Frankie asked. “A female vampire?”
I almost laughed. “Yes, there are female vampires.”
Zack sucked the last bit of brain into his mouth noisily. “You know, for some strange reason, I always thought you were the only one. You know, like Frankie is the only one of him, and I’m the only one of me that we know of.”
I did laugh at that. “There are many vampires. We’re an ancient race, going almost all the way back to the origins of humanity.”
“Why do I have a feeling there’s way more to this than you’re letting on?” Frankie asked.
“Because there is,” I said.
“What are we supposed to do? Just jump in blind and trust what you aren’t telling us won’t get us killed?” Frankie asked.
I sat silently for a moment, thinking. “Either that or let me go and handle this on my own.”
“Not a chance,” Frankie and Zack said at the same time.
While I feared for their lives, knowing they didn’t understand what they were up against, it also made me feel good to know I wasn’t alone.
“Thanks,” I said. “I guess we should head out to WV and see if it is her who’s doing this, or if I’m letting my nightmares run away with me. I’ll have to see one of the bodies or catch her scent at the crime scene to be sure.”
“I don’t like how that sounds,” Frankie said softly, as he and Zack followed me out.
* * *
After getting the supplies I knew we would need, Frankie, Zack, and I climbed aboard our helicopter. It was a good thing I’d taken lessons years ago or we might have been hard pressed to find a pilot who only flew at night and didn’t ask a lot of questions. We’d used it as our mobile camp for three years. It has a spare coffin for me, a cooler for Zack, and some kind of portable office looking thing for Frankie. He seemed happiest when he was working, and I have to admit, the nights he’s spent surfing the internet doing research has saved our asses a few times.
“We should be there in an hour,” I said into the microphone attached to my headphones.
Frankie nodded and tried not to look nervous as we flew high above solid ground–his favorite place to be. Zack didn’t seem to care. If I turned my head, I could see him sucking marrow out of bone fragments that he’d brought along for a snack. I didn’t even want to think about what was in the cooler in the back.
My mind kept going back to the glimpse of the bodies I’d seen on the news. With the image came memories of a past that haunted me. I’d thought I’d buried it deep and would never have to face it again. But I’d been wrong. Here it was, staring me in the face.
I kept hoping we’d get there and her scent wouldn’t be on the bodies, and I wouldn’t find the little mark I knew to be hers that the humans hadn’t found yet–may not ever find. But when I arrived at the scene shortly after landing, her scent was everywhere–taunting me, teasing me, making me remember.
I stood beside the old wooden church tucked into the side of the mountain. Towering trees stood around it, as if they were sentinels of protection, with a cross visible over their green tops. Frankie and Zack had stayed behind to set up internet and communication links. There hadn’t been anywhere close by where I could land the chopper, so it was faster and easier for me to scout out alone. They couldn’t help with the trail anyhow. Their sense of smell wasn’t good enough to detect what I was after.
There was no scent of blood. I hadn’t expected there to be. She’d always been meticulous about that. Her sweet voice echoed to me through the glade, but I knew it was only be in my mind: A drop fallen is a drop wasted.
Slowly, I walked around the church, looking for any signs of entry. I sniffed at all the windows and doors before going inside and sniffing the floorboards. She hadn’t been alone. I could smell at least two more, and they were both like her. She’d made herself a few children–a family.
When I knew that I’d uncovered all there was to be found, I leapt to the tree tops and made my way back to base. The cool air helped clear my head. I had to be able to think clearly if I was going to make it out alive, if we were going to make it out alive.
I landed in the small clearing and noted the satellite dishes were in place and Frankie’s face was illuminated by the artificial glow of his laptop screen. Zack was off to the side, sorting and tying up some wires, popping eyeballs into his mouth like they were cherries. He didn’t seem to notice that the juices were dripping from his chin, coating all of the wires he was handling.
I went straight to my coffin and opened a small compartment at the foot, extracting a chilled pouch of blood. Without warming it like I normally do, I bit into the bag and sucked it dry. My nerves were stirring the need to feed. Usually I could go a week or more without a meal, but right now I was going through two gallons of blood a day.
Frankie glanced at me. “How did it go? Did you find what you were looking for?”
“It was her,” I said, tossing the empty plastic bag into the trash bin, “and a couple of others.”
“So, it’s worst case scenario?”
I nodded. “I would say so.”
“I found where the bodies are being kept,” Frankie said, pointing to the screen. “The county morgue. This little burg doesn’t have much to offer, which makes it easy for us.”
“I don’t need to see them,” I said quietly, hopping up and laying on top of my coffin. “I know it’s her.”
“Are you ever going to tell us her name?” Frankie asked, sounding agitated.
“I can’t,” I said, looking in his direction. “If I do, she’ll hear me.”
Frankie turned his head slowly toward me. The groan of it filled the interior of the chopper. Glancing at Zack, I thought it must be blissful not to hear it.
“Aren’t you being a little paranoid?”
I shook my head no. “She’s in a cave close by. I found it on my way back. She won’t pay attention to us unless we get in her way or she accidentally comes across us; we aren’t food. But, if I say her name, she’ll know we know she’s here and come and find us. We don’t want that to happen. We want to surprise her, not the other way around.”
“I wish you weren’t so cryptic,” Frankie muttered and turned back to his laptop, slamming on the keys. The little plastic pieces broke apart, ruining the computer as they shot down in and blew pieces off the motherboard. He screamed, picked it up, and threw it out the door. The wires detached mid air, like Zack had designed them to.
Opening a drawer, Frankie pulled out another laptop and yanked the wires back over to where he could reach them, pulling Zack with them. He fell hard against the ramp they’d set up to get in and out of base. I heard a sickening crunch and some grinding of bone as his shoulder dislocated and his torso gave way, almost twisting the middle of his body all the way around.
“Damnit!” Zack yelled as his bowl of eyes dumped onto the ground. “Be careful, you big bastard!”
“Sorry,” Frankie muttered, stood, and stomped outside. He stormed all the way to the tree line before he stopped and just stood watching the forest.
With a deep sigh, I got up, helped Zack semi-right himself so he could pick up his eyeballs and went after Frankie.
“What’s wrong?” I asked as if I didn’t know.
“I feel helpless on this one,” Frankie said. “I’m supposed to be the leader, and right now I’m feeling like a newbie going out for the first time. I don’t know how to proceed. You won’t tell me! Don’t you understand . . . You two are my responsibility. If something goes wrong, if something bad happens, it’s my fault.”
“It would be my fault,” I said. “I shouldn’t have let you come with me.”
He turned toward me and I noticed his movements were quieter out in the open.
“We wouldn’t let you come alone,” Frankie said with a half-grin. “Even if you hadn’t let us come, we would have found a way and would be here anyway.”
I nodded. “I was thinking maybe we should make this quick–get it over with tonight. It would be faster and easier. I don’t like taking the chance that they’ll find us. Would that take a load off your mind? Just getting it done and over with, and going home?”
Frankie frowned. “Yes, but we only have a couple hours of darkness left. You’ll have to get in your coffin.”
I grinned. “I’ve been working on something for just this type of occasion. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s one of those now or never times.”
Frankie grinned. “I take it you have a plan. What did you have in mind?”
I laughed, and together we walked over to Zack, who’d finished picking up his food and was eating again, so we could all discuss it together.
* * *
Moving through the forest at such a high rate of speed I knew no one and nothing could see me, I headed for the cave that I’d tracked the vampires to on my way back to base earlier. It hadn’t been hard. I was guessing that one of the ‘children’ was still relatively young, because their scent was easy to follow. But, then again, they probably didn’t figure on anyone coming after them. Knowing her like I do, I could bet she didn’t feel threatened by anyone, thinking she would always be safe.
When I was in position, I gave the signal, which was nothing more than me pushing a button on a one way remote. It would signal Frankie and Zack, but I couldn’t receive anything back from them. I didn’t want them giving away my position. That could get us all killed.
Darting swiftly to the mouth of the cave, I paused to listen. At first I couldn’t hear anything, but after waiting a full minute I heard what sounded like voices within the deep, dark depths. Checking swiftly over the concealing, black body suit I was wearing, I made sure everything was ready.
Slinking through the darkness, which I could see fine in, I traversed toward the innermost depths of the damp cavern. Sounds would carry easily, so I had to be incredibly careful not to make any noise whatsoever. It took me longer than I thought it would to reach the den of the coven.
Her scent overwhelmed me as I circled around them. There were five of them altogether–more than I’d counted on, but still manageable. They were all lying down in a square, head to head, foot to foot, with her in the center by herself. I knew they were still awake, the sun wasn’t up and the feeling of lethargy hadn’t set in. It was as if all vampires had an internal clock, telling them when it was time to sleep by making them extremely tired.
There was one tense moment when my foot scrapped against some loose stones along the edge of the chamber. A young female sat up and looked in my direction. I froze. When she didn’t see anything, she laid back down, and I knew my suit was working.
Once I was in position behind the vampires, knowing they could easily get out of the cave, I waited until I started feeling tired–it wasn’t very long. I hit the signal again, letting Frankie and Zack know that I was ready.
Just then she shot up from her position on the floor, flew across the small space, and slammed into me full force, knocking me off my feet. She hissed in my ear as I tried to push her off of me, but she was too strong. Her clawed hands clamped down on either side of my head and she was about to rip it off of my shoulders when she stopped.
By this time all of her children were alerted to my presence and they’d circled around us.
She bent forward, pressing her face into my neck, breathing deeply.
“Vincent?” she whispered in shock, her body going limp.
Quickly, I pushed her off and stood. The others hissed and growled at me, still having a hard time seeing me.
“Vincent? Is that really you?”
“You know it is,” I said roughly. “It has been a long time, Penchant.”
She laughed. “Yes, it has.”
Her children hushed, listening to their maker talk to me with interest.
Thinking fast, I jumped to the ceiling and then to the wall, positioning myself behind the group once more. Swiftly, I lit the UV lights I’d attached to my suit. The vampires around me hissed in pain and tried to hide. I knew the strength of the lights wouldn’t kill them, but it would burn like hell.
“Why are you doing this, Vincent?” Penchant cried, backing away. “Why?”
“Need you ask?” I asked bitterly. “I would think you would have a better memory.”
I walked forward, forcing them to move back toward the mouth of the cave. They withered and whined, crawling along the ground in agony. One of the young ones was brave. He jumped up, bounced off the wall, and hurtled himself at me. I didn’t expect such a show of heroics. He caught me in the chest, knocking me down and breaking three of the six lights. His face sizzled inches from mine as he hissed, clawing at my throat. But I was older and stronger, easily holding him back. The others were turning back, ready to help their brother. I heard Penchant laughing softly.
“I remember quite well, Vincent,” she purred as she watched me fight off her children. “You always were foolhardy. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with you.”
I clawed and bit and fought against the group of young vampires. Decapitating one with a twist and a yank–blood went spraying through the air. I could tell they’d recently fed by how much they bled. Quickly spinning and kicking, I knocked another off of me and dragged the other two with me as I got to my feet. The young female who’d almost spotted me earlier tried to rip off my arm. Luckily it was the one with the broken lights. Thinking fast, I lifted my other arm and held the light that still shown across her eyes, burning her eyeballs to a crisp in her skull. Her howls and wails as she fell away were almost deafening.
The one I’d knocked off started to get up and I knew I had to get out of here fast. If they managed to rip my suit, I wouldn’t be able to leave the cave.
Penchant heard my panicked heart beat faster. “What’s wrong, Vincent? Are you rusty? You used to spar with me and it didn’t bother you near this much.”
Angrily I ripped the young male off my back and threw him into the one who’d just regained his footing. They fell in a mass of limbs onto a stalagmite. It penetrated one through the torso and the other through the head. They withered in pain, crying out as they tried to free themselves, but couldn’t.
I roared, shaking the cave with the loudness of my fury. I could hear Penchant laughing over the screams of the fallen, but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I knew my time was up and it angered me. Everything had almost gone according to plan. Turning, I ran quickly to the mouth of the cave and swallowed hard as I stepped out into the sunlight. Thankfully, Zack and Frankie were there with my coffin because there were multiple slashes in my suit and the sun was burning me alive.
* * *
When I woke up, it was night once more. I opened my coffin and peeked out. No one could be seen. It was just as we’d arranged. I climbed out and shed the skin tight black suit I’d worn in the cave and threw it into the trash bin with the rest of the garbage. Retrieving a bag of blood I sucked it down quickly.
“You know, years ago, the sight of you standing naked sucking on blood got me excited,” Penchant purred from the darkness beyond the helicopter. “And I have to admit, I still feel some of that excitement when I look at you now.”
I turned to see Penchant standing at the top of the ramp. Her long brunette hair hung free around her shoulders, being tousled by the night’s breeze. Her soft red lips were slightly parted and she was panting eagerly, like she was thinking of pinning my down and mounting me like she’d done many times in the past. Her bright red pupils betrayed her though. They weren’t filled with lust like they used to be, they were filled with anger and hate.
“And once, I liked that,” I said, “but not anymore. You tried to kill me. Hell, you betrayed the entire coven. That’s why you were exiled, and why I left. After standing up for you–when you lied to me–I couldn’t stay there any longer either. Now you’re breaking the laws again, and this time I’m not going to protect you.”
She laughed, her head falling back in amusement. “You’re such a cute child. Do you think you can honestly defeat me?”
I grinned and winked at her, lifting my foot off of a trigger that Zack had set in the floor. Ropes soaked in holy water whipped around Penchant. She tried to leap back, but they still managed to tangle around her lower half.
I pounced on her and shoved a clove of raw garlic into her mouth while she was screaming in fury. It wasn’t enough to seriously hurt her, but it would knock her out for a while and make her sick when she woke up. After her eyes drifted shut, I put on heavy work gloves and untied her before the ropes burned completely through her body. After that was done, I dressed and made a couple of calls. One to let Frankie and Zack know our plan had worked, and one to the ‘authorities’ to come and take care of Penchant. This time she wouldn’t be exiled. This time, she would be terminated.
Thanks to Frankie and Zack’s slowness, the equivalent of the vampire police showed up and took Penchant before they returned, saying they would also take care of her children as well. While I had peace knowing that I’d done everything I could, I still felt a deep sadness. She’d been my first love after all, and who wanted to be part of their first love’s death.
“Where is she?” Frankie asked, lumbering up the ramp. “Did she get away?”
“No,” I said with a secret smile. “They came and took her. Our work is done.”
Zack followed Frankie, eating a human heart like it was an apple. “What? We don’t even get to see her? What a crock!”
“Sorry, guys,” I said. “But that’s how it has to be.”
Frankie frowned, and then grinned. “You know, I think this case has been ‘Vin-Dic-ated’! Thanks to Vinnie, the best vampire Dic around!”
We all laughed. Everything was back to normal. Things were taken care of, and we’d done it as a team, even if I was the only one put in the path of danger.
If you would like to read the other two episodes of The Monster Detectives (this was episode two – one and three are also in the book), they can be found in: Monster Party (cover art by Justin T. Coons)!
©Rebecca Besser, 2010. All rights reserved.