Paralyzed, Jack continued to stare at the cooler door. “One of the victims witnessed a murder I’m investigating. I think the suspect killed them.” He fondled the handle of his gun again, clearly debating whether to remove it from its holster. He pulled it out briefly and placed it back.
“The gun won’t help.” Annie advised. She summoned a glass vial. “This will, though.” She tossed the small glass bottle to him.
“What . . .” Jack caught it and examined the clear liquid inside.
“Throw that close to the ground beside whoever might be in here.”
Annie strolled to the cooler. Her hand grazed the cool handle, and her gut screamed out a warning. “It’s not your suspect who killed them.” She pulled on the handle. A rush of cold air blew out as the door swung open.
With shaky hands, Jack drew his gun, she heard a click.
“I told you a gun won’t help.”
“Who the hell are you?”
In her own adrenaline rush, that high just before a vampire fight, Annie summoned an ash stake; her hand wrapped around it tightly and held it out in front of her.
“Uh, what the hell is that? A stake. Is this holy water? Vampires?” his voice raised a few octaves, in realization and fear. Annie recognized his fear.
The vampire is going to kill him. “Stay behind me and run like hell if something comes at you.”
Annie entered the cooler, her flashlight rolling over the walls and shelves. There were five industrial-sized storage units stacked inside the cooler two bodies deep; each contained four shelves. The overflow bodies lay on gurneys pushed up against the wall. There was very little room to maneuver in the small space.
The bodies lay in plastic body bags, some of which were neatly zippered while others were open, appendages hanging over the sides.
Annie chose to start with the gurneys, assuming the newest bodies resided there. She checked the first toe tag. Jack cocked his gun.
“Put it away,” she said. “It’s not going to help. The holy water will.”
The first toe tag belonged to Jeffrey Marcus, dead as of two weeks prior and not a victim. Replacing the tag, Annie zippered up the bag and moved to the next body. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not from the CPD. I’m part of the Wizard Guard, an organization of magical police officers.” Checking the next toe tag, Annie highlighted the name, dropped the tag and moved on to the next body.
“Is this a joke? I should arrest you for tampering with evidence.”
“Why would I make this up? I’m a witch. I do magic.”
Scratch . . . scratch . . . Annie swung around and scanned the room with her flashlight, examining the body bags for movement. There’s so many here, she thought. It was quiet except for the freezer’s compressor. Annie returned to her search, seeing nothing move.
Worried there was a third vampire with them, Annie glanced back again after a moment, surveying the room. She could sense time ticking away as clearly as if there were a clock in her head. “Take this,” she said, floating a second vial to Jack. His eyes widened, his jaw clenched again, and he cocked the gun and aimed it at Annie.
“Help me find our victims,” Annie cried. The vial spun in the air before them. The FBI agent’s eyes darted from the Wizard Guard to the vial; sensing her tension, he grabbed the small glass container with shaking hands and held it tightly, nearly cracking the thin glass.
Scratch . . . scratch . . .
Annie took a breath and whispered, “There’s something in here with us.”
“What does that mean?” Jack glanced around the room, pointing his gun haphazardly.
“Put the gun away. Just uncork the vials and throw them on the vampire. It’s strong enough to slow them down until I stake it.”
“What the hell is going on?”
Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.
Annie twirled and inched her way toward the scratching while Jack, white as a ghost, hung back at the door.
“What’s in here with us?”
Jack blanched. He held the vial in one hand, the gun in the other. Both hands shook violently. “This doesn’t make sense.”
“For now, it doesn’t have to.” Annie reached for another name tag.
“Laurie Lispin and Marcus Johansson,” Jack called to her.
“Thanks.” Annie continued down the line, verifying each tag and moving more quickly now through the bodies. After checking the first two rows, Annie called out, “I got Laurie.”
Standing over the body, Annie examined the bag for movement and listened for growling, even though she knew it was too early for Laurie to turn. Carefully unzipping the body bag, she released the victim’s hair; it cascaded out and landed against the side of the shelf. Annie lifted the hair, focused her flashlight on the neck, and examined the two puncture wounds. They were not as dark as they had been twenty hours earlier. Annie put her flashlight in her mouth, popped the cork of the holy water, and dribbled a small amount on the victim’s leg. The liquid bubbled and blistered the skin of the vampire.
Grabbing the stake, Annie thrust it into the vampire’s chest. The demon’s eyes burst open, filled with both surprise and confusion. As the stake punctured the heart, the body burst into flame. A primal scream, raw and angry, escaped the vampire’s lips as the fire consumed her. Her shriek of terror reverberated in the room, bounding off the walls. It lingered even after the body was nothing more than a pile of ash.
“How . . . what . . . how did that happen?” Jack asked, finally entering the cooler.
“We need . . . to find Marcus,” Annie managed to grunt through rapid breaths.
“Are they always . . . made into vampires?” Apprehensively, he joined Annie’s search for Marcus, checking toe tags on the opposite aisle.
“No. Vampires are kinda picky. They don’t let everyone in. There must’ve been something about Laurie and probably Marcus that appealed to the vampire.”
“It’s kind of like a club.” Jack choked on a nervous laugh. He coughed.
“Not so organized, actually. It’s more like a gang. If you turn a victim, they’re indebted to you forever.”
Annie placed a foot on the lowest shelf and reached above, pulling herself up to check the tag. “Were they both brought here?”
“Yes. They’d want to keep the victims together to look for evidence and compare.”
“Where is he then?” Annie jumped down.
Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.
Jack jumped. “Did you hear that?”
“Yeah. We need to find Marcus before that one escapes his bag.”
“How is that possible? We only had two victims.” Jack checked another tag before moving on to the next body.
“You know how many vampires we collect from your morgues?”
Annie felt like time was speeding up and getting away from her right when she least wanted it. She trained her light in the direction of the scratching, looking for movement.
“Do I really want to know?” The body four down from Laurie lay in an open bag, two small puncture wounds across the neck. “I found Marcus.” He hastily stepped away from the body.
After verifying the toe tag, Annie examined Marcus’s neck for the telltale wound.
“You don’t believe me?”
“Habit.” The holy water splashed on a very hairy arm and bubbled like a pot of boiling water, leaving blisters and waking the vampire.
The body that once belonged to Marcus stared at Annie with eyes like black pools, devoid of anything human. The new demon let out an angry growl. Annie lunged at the vampire, pushing the stake into its heart. Much like Laurie, Marcus Johansson exploded into flames and let out a piercing scream. Annie felt the vibration through her body.
Ash floated in the air, filling the body bag and covering several surrounding bodies, the cement floor, and Annie’s hair. A stray ember whizzed by, and she patted it out. Stepping away from the vampire, Annie stood guard until the last of the embers burnt out.
“So now what?” Jack asked, wiping ash from his suit pants.
To find out more about Jack and foray into the magical world check out The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com!