2014 Academy of Bards Halloween Invitational Story


D. J. Belt

Copyright: D. J. Belt, October 2012. All rights reserved by the author.
Disclaimers: This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to anyone, living or dead (or somewhere in between) is like, totally far out and radical. Rated “R”. Also “ALT”. Also “CREEPY”.
Comments: dbelt@mindspring.com. I hope you liked it. I wrote this a couple of years ago and never published it, but it seems perfect for the Halloween invitational. So, I gave it a rewrite, and here it is for you. Enjoy!




“Hey, Thom. Whatcha doing on this fine Halloween night?”

Thomas Brennan looked up from his desk. His partner, homicide detective Holly Cullen, was leaning on the edge of his desk, looking down at him with an amused twinkle in her eyes. In answer to her question, he managed a shrug. “Shuffling papers. That’s my job,” he intoned.

“You’re such a burnout. Am I gonna be like you when I’ve been a detective for eight years?”


“C’mon. Shake your tailfeathers and get your coat. We’ve got a call.”

“A murder?”

“No, a freakin’ traffic stop. Yeah, a murder. Up and at ‘em, stud. Let’s go.”

He rose from his desk, yanked his jacket from a coat-rack, and followed her out of the police station and into the cool night air. They found their car, and Holly sat behind the wheel. She cranked the starter, cursed, and stomped on the accelerator. The car finally started with a roar and a cloud of greasy smoke. “Piece of crap,” she grumbled. She slapped it into gear and headed for the road.

“It’s only got a hundred and thirty thousand miles on it,” Thom said. “Give it a break.”

“It’s already broke.”

Thom glanced over at Holly. “You’re not gonna use the siren?”

“Why?” she asked. “The vic’s already dead. What’s the hurry?”

“Holly, you think just like me.”

“That twisted, huh?” She nodded toward the coffee shop at an upcoming street corner. “Coffee?”

“Hell, yeah.” He dug into his pocket. “My treat. Get whatever you want.”

“That’s why I work with you, Thom. You know how to treat a woman.”

Thom laughed at that one. Being around Holly always did perk him up. Damned good woman. Damned good cop. Damned good partner. Some of the guys ragged him about working with a female partner, but he enjoyed her company. Women always did bring out the best in him, he felt. They calmed him down, made him smile, made him human. She sure did, at any rate.

He remembered when she first came to homicide, fresh off several years of uniformed patrol on the streets. She’d come a long way in a just a couple of years. He glanced at her profile. She’s actually kind of attractive, he thought, although she doesn’t emphasize her feminine side. No makeup, hair in a ponytail, practical clothing. He didn’t know whether that came from her being a cop, or just being Holly. He was curious about her private life, too, but he never pried. She kept her personal business quiet around the station, and he respected that.

His affairs, though, were the fodder of a lot of jokes on the midnight watch. Two divorces left him broke and in counseling for depression, and his numerous trysts always ended the same way: ‘We’re just not right for each other’. Yeah. Bom, bom, bom... and another one bites the dust. That was the anthem for his love life.

He handed Holly a five-dollar bill, and she paid at the coffee shop’s drive-through window for two coffees, tall, with two sweeteners each and low-fat milk. They even drank coffee the same way. In another life, that could be the basis for something beautiful.

Holly handed him a coffee. “Here ya go, stud,” she said. “Hang on for the ride.” She placed her coffee in the holder, stomped on the gas, and squealed out onto the road.

Thom studied his coffee cup. “This is what they call ‘tall’?”


“Jeez. I’d hate to see the short one. So,” Thom said, “be a pal and clue me in. Where are we going?”

“Historical district. Old Town Cemetery. The uniforms found some dead chick tied to a monument.”

“On Halloween night, of all things.” He looked at her. “How did she die?”

“We’ll see when we get there, stud.”

“How come you call me that?” he asked.

“Huh?” She cursed a slow driver as she jerked the car into the turn lane and shot through a yellow light.

“Stud. And slow down, will ya? You’re gonna get us a ticket. Or a wreck.”

“Hello. We’re cops. We don’t get tickets. And it’s a city car. I don’t give a crap if it gets wrecked. And I like to drive like this. Live on the wild side a little, will ya?”

“Well, at least turn on the blue lights so’s we don’t T-bone Grandma as she’s coming home from the store or something.”

Holly cracked up as she flipped on the blue lights. “If Grandma’s coming home from the store at this time of night, she ain’t buying groceries.”

It was Thom’s turn to smile. “Hey, it happens. I got a grandma who can smoke the hell out of some weed. She says it helps her lumbago, but I think it helps her attitude more.”

“Yeah,” Holly agreed. “At her age, her two best friends are probably her bong and her vibrator.”

“Ah, Jeez,” Thom said. “Thanks a load for that mental image, partner.” He sipped his coffee and allowed his thoughts to wander. A quiet moment later, Holly spoke to him.

“It’s because you’re so freakin’ hot,” she said.


“I call you stud because you’re a hottie. Chippendale material, that’s you.” She shot him a laughing glance. “Jesus, Thom. Don’t you ever look in the mirror? You’re gorgeous. Half the women in the station ovulate when you walk past ‘em.”

He managed a laugh at that. “Then how come I have such crummy luck with women?”

“You don’t have crummy luck nailing ‘em. You just have crummy luck keeping ‘em.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.”

“It’s because you’re so gorgeous.”

“You’re going to have to explain that one to me.”

“Later, partner. We’re there.”

She stopped the car behind a couple of black-and-white patrol cars, and they got out and walked through the wrought-iron gates marking the entrance to the city’s historical cemetery. In the moonlight, it appeared ominous, spooky, a forest of ancient tombstones, memorials, and mausoleums dotting the acres of ground and casting dark-and-light contrasts around them. Swirls of fog collected around their ankles and settled among the tombstones and monuments, adding to the surreal scene. They headed toward the cluster of lights and activity in the center of the cemetery. A patrol officer stopped them, shone his light on the badges on their hips, and waved them through. He shouted, “Homicide is here.”

Thom approached an officer. “Who found her?”

“I did,” he replied.

“What happened?”

“We got a call to check out a report of a body in the cemetery. I thought it was a crank call at first, but when we got here, there was some scared teen-agers waiting for us. They love to party in here every Halloween night, y’know. Anyhow, they showed her to us, and we called it in.”

“Why’d you think it was a crank call?” Thom asked.

“A body in the cemetery?” the uniform said. “Really?” He motioned around him. “There’s hundreds of bodies here.”

“Got it now. Yeah, that’s funny. So, where’s the stiff?”

“This way.”

A short walk later, Holly and Thom stood inside the yellow crime-scene tape surrounding an eight-foot tall obelisk marking a century-old grave. A young woman was tied to the obelisk, hands above her head. She was naked, and numerous trails of dark, dried blood shone black against her pale skin. She was covered with small wounds, almost as if she’d been pecked to death. Her eyes were open and her head lolled to one side, resting against her arm. Her expression wasn’t one of horror, though; it was serene, relaxed, almost as if she’d been resigned to her fate. Or grateful to finally die, Thom thought. A crime scene technician was snapping photographs of the body, and the camera’s flash illuminated the macabre scene. For a few moments, neither detective said anything. They just studied the scene and the body. Then, Holly summed up both their impressions in her usual, succinct manner.

“That had to suck.”

“You said it.” Thom turned to a uniform. “Are the kids who found her still around?”

“Yeah, over there.”

“Come on, partner,” he said. “Let’s start earning our paychecks.”

A half-hour later, they completed their interviews of the group of teens who’d found the body and sent them on their way. The crime scene technician approached them. “We’re finished. We’re gonna cut the body down now and take it to the morgue.”

“Yeah. Give us one last look, will ya?” Thom said.

He shrugged. “Sure.” He handed a paper bag to the detectives. “And here’s some clothes we found. I guess they’re hers.”

“Thanks. Any ID in the clothes? Wallet, whatever?”

“Didn’t look. There’s jeans, shirt, shoes, everything. Help yourself.”

Thom and Holly approached the body. They got close to her and examined her under the beams of their flashlights. She was young, somewhere in her twenties, he estimated, and an afficionado of tattoos and body piercing. He counted at least sixteen piercings over her body and fourteen tattoos. Beautiful ones, too. Art. The tattoo artists in town might know who she is, he thought. He also noted multiple puncture wounds dotting her skin. They seemed to be arranged in pairs and were clustered around her neck and collar-bones, at her armpits, and at her groin, over the inside of each thigh. Myriad trails of dried blood tracked down her skin and fed the pool around her feet. It seemed, to him, as if somebody had killed her by stabbing her repeatedly with an ice pick or something similar. It must have taken a while to die that way. That poor kid.

Thom sighed and stepped back. That was when he realized that Holly had her beam fixed on the victim’s face and was immobile, staring into the lifeless, open eyes.


“Huh?” She looked over at him.

“Snap out of it.”


She scanned the rest of the body with her flashlight’s beam, then turned it off and ducked under the crime scene tape. They stood aside as the coroner’s people took her down, lowered her into a body bag, and zipped it shut. As she was loaded into a van, Thom transferred his attention to Holly. She was pale, and she was uncharacteristically silent. He saw her wipe her eyes.

“This one got to you, huh?” he asked.

She nodded. She said nothing else until they were back at their car. There, she stopped Thom with a hand on his arm. She shot him a haunted look. Then, she floored him with a statement.

“I knew her,” she said.


They sat at a table at the station, looking over the contents of the clothing found at the site. The clothing was hers. A card case had her driver’s license, a debit card, a couple of photographs, her car registration, and some money. The picture on the license was hers. Her cell phone was a cheap, pay-as-you-go model. The record of calls it contained would help...maybe. Thom sat back.

“Okay, what do we know? She’s Alexis Johnson, age twenty-two, and we have an address and a car registration. A green Saturn, twelve years old. I didn’t notice it around the cemetery, did you?” Holly shook her head, and he continued thinking aloud. “Wherever that car is parked, it might tell us where she was before she ended up at the cemetery. She’s got a rap sheet, but it’s for arrests for minor stuff as a teen. Nothing recent. The address on it is probably her parents’ place. It’s enough to start.” He studied Holly’s expression. “Look, if you want to bow out of this one, I’ll sure understand.”

“No,” she said. “I want to catch whoever the hell did this to her.”

“Me, too.” He added, “If I catch him, he’s gonna fall down a lot of stairs before he gets to jail.”

She forced a smile. “I knew you still gave a damn, stud.”

“Sure. If I didn’t, I’d be sellin’ shoes.” He looked into her empty coffee cup, stood, and brought her a fresh cup. He dropped sweetener and creamer packets and a plastic spoon on the table next to the cup, then sat down. “Now, partner, you and I need to have a heart-to-heart talk about you and our victim. And whatever you tell me is confidential, right?”

She nodded. “I’ll keep it short. She and I hang out at the same club downtown. I just knew her as ‘Alex’. Nice kid. Kind of sweet and gentle. A little crazy, but in a fun way.”

“What club?”

Holly looked up from her coffee. “You probably haven’t heard of it.”

Thom raised an eyebrow. “Oh.” He thought for a second, then said, “So, how well did you know her?”

“I knew her in a – in a friendly way. We partied together several times in the last six months.”

“Hm. Off the record, define ‘partied’ for me.”

“I’d rather not.” Holly cast him a chagrined look. “It’s kind of – personal.” She sighed. “Okay. We’d have a few drinks, smoke a little weed, and hook up for a night.” She shrugged. “It was casual.”

“I see.” Thom sat silently for a few seconds, then said, “I’m sorry you had to see her like that.”

“Me, too.” She managed a smile. “Thanks for understanding.”

“This club. Where is it?”

“Main Street downtown.”

“Right.” He placed a hand on her arm. “We’ve got to ask around down there. If you don’t want them to know you’re a cop, I’ll go. You can check out the home address instead.”

“Thanks, Thom. You’re a pal. But I’ll go. It’s a little on the wild side. You might not be comfortable there.”

“Hell, I’m not comfortable bein’ part of the human race.”

She managed a laugh. “Then let’s do this together, partner.”


They found her home address, and found that Alexis Johnson had shared a large loft with a young man, an artist. They were friends, but not lovers in the classic sense; she posed for his work from time to time, and both Holly and Thom suspected that they’d shared intimacies upon occasion, but the arrangement was anything but traditional. The artist talked at great length about her lifestyle and friends, and he was cautious about both. It appeared that she was attracted to a very kinky and unpredictable crowd. This investigation was going to get ugly before it was over.

They found her parents, a typical-looking middle-aged couple, and broke the news of Alexis’ death to them. They were stunned and heartbroken, but not surprised. They stated that they always knew that she’d come to no good end. She ‘had the Devil in her’, as her mother said. In her teens, she’d rejected the churchgoing ways of her parents and rebelled, getting arrested for minor offenses and staying out at night. Finally, after squeaking through high school, she’d had a huge argument with her parents and left home. She’d never returned, and they hadn’t even spoken with her in a year. They’d left her ‘in God’s hands’, as they said.

And God brought her home, one stab wound at a time.

Thom left them his business card, and they returned to their car. “Now, the club,” Holly said. “Look, are you sure you want to – ?”

“I’m fine, Holly.” He studied her, then said, “You’re acting weird. What’s up with you?”

“I just – ”

“You just don’t want me to see what kind of kink you’re into, right?”

She sat silently for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah.”

He sighed. “I don’t care. I know you and I think the world of you. If you’re into some kinky stuff on your off time, that’s your thing and good for you. I don’t have a problem with that, really.” He watched her eye him with a disbelieving look, and he repeated, “Really.”

She considered his words, then nodded. “Thanks, Thom.”

“Sure.” He grinned. “And if you buy me a beer when this is over, I’ll ‘fess up as to how I earned the tuition for my last two years of college.”

“Will I like this story?” she asked.

“Oh, you’ll love it.”

“Deal.” She perked up, slapped the car into drive, and headed for Main Street downtown.


They parked on Main Street near the club and walked the block to it. In the parking lot, they slowed and scanned the cars. Holly pointed out a beat-up green Saturn, and Thom nodded. The licence plate matched. They were on the right track.

Thom could feel the vibration of the music as well as hear it when he entered the club. They both flashed their badges at the bouncer at the door, and he waved them in and pointed them toward the owner’s office. The club’s owner was in. Boy, was he in.

Holly’s jaw dropped when she opened the office door and caught him with his pants down and a girl sitting on his lap. She flashed her badge, told him they’d give him five minutes and that she’d damn well better be of legal age, and closed the door. Two minutes later, the door opened and the girl slunk out of the office. Holly snared her, checked her ID, and then waved her off. She cast an embarrassed glance at the two police detectives and quickly lost herself in the downstairs crowd. They entered the office.

The owner emerged from his bathroom, apologetic. When he saw Alexis’ picture and heard of her death, he clammed up and got defensive. He ran a legitimate business, he said. Everything that happened here was legal. Unless they had a warrant, he said, they could leave. He’d call his lawyer.

“Relax,” Thom said. “We just want to know about Alexis. That’s all. Just her.”

“I don’t know her well. She performs here sometimes.”

“Performs?” Thom asked.

In reply, the owner pointed at Holly. “Ask your buddy. I’ve seen her here before.”

“I’m askin’ you.”

“Talk to Max, downstairs. He handles that sort of thing. He knew her.”

They left and sought out Max. As they descended the stairs into the crowd, Thom looked around. Halloween was in full swing here. Costumes were everywhere, and they ran the gamut from imaginative to risque to totally bizarre. He followed Holly across the dance floor and through clusters of tables, and finally, through a closed door. The atmosphere in this room was definitely different. The first clue was the dim lighting and the preponderance of leather and chains and naked flesh on the stage. The second clue was what he heard – and saw – going on in the darker corners of the place. Okay, Thom thought. Not a problem. I’ve seen kinkier...maybe.

Max brightened when he saw Holly, then frowned when she flashed her badge. He checked out Thom with a considered gaze, then motioned to a relatively quiet corner. He was the stage manager here, and he knew all the performers. Alexis was one, whenever she needed some quick cash. Nice kid, he said.

“Was she messing with drugs?” Holly asked.

Max shrugged. “Everybody around here has their drug of choice. But her? Nah. I didn’t see it.”

“Who was she hanging with lately?”

“She was always trying something new,” Max said.

“But what, lately?” Holly pressed.

Max said, “Vamps.” That’s all he said.

Holly seemed to understand. She turned to Thom. “Get ready to back me up,” she said. Then, she headed for the dance floor. Thom stuck close. His partner seemed suddenly possessed of a purpose, and she had fire in her eyes. They left the back room and headed across a crowded dance floor populated with gyrating young people in bizarre costumes.

Holly stopped among the dancers, stood on tiptoes, and scanned the sides of the dance floor. Then, she nodded toward a wall. “There,” she said.

A second later, a dark-haired woman in Greek armor snagged Holly and planted a lip-lock on her mouth that raised Thom’s eyebrows. Then, she released her and disappeared into the crowd. Before Holly could regain her composure, a young woman with long blonde hair and a tall staff halted before her, shook a threatening finger in her face, and said, “Back off. She’s my girlfriend.”

“Hey,” Holly said. “She kissed me.”

The blonde snickered. “Good kisser, huh?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Ooh, tell me about it. She has many skills.” Just then, an arm grabbed the blonde by the front of her green sport-bra-looking top and yanked her into the crowd. Thom closed the distance to Holly and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Who the hell were they?”

“Don’t you ever watch TV?” Holly pointed across the floor. “Come on, partner. Get ready to play ‘Bad cop, badder cop.’”

She led him toward a table around which several people dressed in black were gathered. They saw Holly and Thom coming, and they adopted a silent, sullen demeanor. One rose to leave. Thom blocked him, and Holly yanked him back down into his chair. She pulled the side of her jean jacket aside to show her badge and sidearm, then flashed the picture of Alexis. “You guys know her?”


“Come on. She died tonight. Somebody killed her. If you know something, ‘fess up. It’ll save you a lot of grief later.”

Thom studied the five people at the table. They were dark and freaky-looking, and when one spoke, he saw fangs. Vamps, Max had said. Jesus! Vampires? What the hell is that? This role-playing Halloween stuff has gotten a little too weird, if you ask me, he thought.

“Yeah,” one guy said. “We know Alex. She hung with us for a little while, but never got heavy into the vamp thing. Then, she met this girl.”


“We know her as Victoria. That’s all. She comes here sometimes.”

Holly shot a look at a girl at the table. “You got something to add?”

“Yeah. That Victoria’s weird,” she said. “There’s something about her that scares me.” Other heads at the table nodded.

Thom asked, “Anybody know where this Victoria hangs out?”

The chorus of heads shook. The girl offered, “She works here.” She pointed. “The – um, back room. I’ve seen her perform.” At surprised looks from the others at the table, she said, “What? I go in there sometimes. So sue me.”

One of the male vamps looked at her. “Do you perform?”

The girl rolled her eyes. “Yuh! In your dreams, dork.”

Thom suppressed a snicker at the male vamp’s disappointed expression. She was probably more right about that guy’s dreams than she knew.

Holly ignored the exchange and looked at Thom. “Max,” she said. “I’ll bet he knows her.”

“Yeah,” the girl replied. “He knows her. I’ve seen ‘em talking together.”

In a moment, they were heading back across the dance floor. They re-entered the back room and found Max talking to a woman. At their approach, both Max and the woman looked up. “Victoria?” Holly asked.

The woman ran toward an exit, slammed through the door, and disappeared into the night. Holly and Thom followed her outside, and Holly looked around. She paused for a moment, as if listening, then pointed. “That way. You go around the side, head her off.”

“Right.” Thom jogged around the corner, then slowed. He was on the wrong track, he suspected. He backtracked and headed toward the back door, just in time to hear Holly’s call. He followed the voice and found Holly kneeling on top of Victoria, who was face-down in the alley and handcuffed.

“Damn. Good work, Holly,” Thom said. He bent down and studied their captive’s face. “You’re Victoria, I presume?” he asked.

“Yeah. Now get ‘Dickless Tracy’ here, off of me. I haven’t done anything.”

“Ah, but you have. You ran from the cops. There’s a law against that. You’re going downtown, Victoria.”


In the interrogation room, Victoria sat, one arm handcuffed to a ring on the table. Her other hand flicked the ash from a cigarette. Thom sat across from her. He passed a picture of Alexis Johnson, freshly deceased at age twenty-two, across the table to her. “Do you know her?”


“Yes or no.”

“Yeah. Sure. So?”

“She died tonight. Murdered. Talk to me. When was the last time you saw her?”

Victoria studied Thom with an appraising eye, a cold eye, one that made Thom’s blood chill. Then, she smirked at him. “Tonight.”


“About dinnertime.”

“Dinnertime?” Thom leaned forward. “What time is that, exactly?”

“Oh, about ten p.m.”

“You eat a late dinner,” Thom said. “Where was this?”

Victoria’s eyes changed color from hazel to black as he watched. It chilled his blood. “Old Town Cemetery,” she said.

He realized that he was looking into the eyes of Alexis’ murderer. Evil. This bitch was pure evil. “What happened?”

“You wanna hear all about it, huh?”


“You get off on this, don’t you, cop?”

“Just tell me what happened.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She crushed out her cigarette. “Got another smoke?”

“Talk first.”

She grinned. Her canine teeth were unusually pointed, sharp. Like fangs. They seemed longer than they were a moment ago, too. What a freak, Thom thought.

She looked him in the eyes and said, “I killed her.”

“I know. Why?”

“Motive?” She smiled again. “I was hungry. She was available. End of story.”

“You’re sadistic. Her death was slow and nasty. Why was that?”

“Maybe I like slow and nasty.”

“I’ve heard enough. You’ve had your rights read to you. You just confessed to murder. We’ve got it on video. You’re under arrest for the murder of Alexis Johnson. Have fun in prison.”

As Thom rose, she looked up at him. “I don’t think so.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Got a really good lawyer, do ya?”

She leapt onto the table and crouched, facing him. Then, she snapped the handcuff loose from the ring on the table. The next thing Thom knew, she was on him, and he was on the floor. Her strength was incredible, her eyes were as black as night, her mouth was open, and her fangs were long and bared. He swung a fist and caught her squarely on the side of the face, but it seemed not to bother her. She laughed, then fixed him with those black eyes. “You’re gonna die tonight,” she hissed.

A second later, she was yanked off his chest, and she flew backward across the room and hit the far wall. He slowly sat up, and he was frozen in place by what he saw next. He watched Holly pick Victoria up by an ankle and sling her the length of the interrogation room. She hit the wall upside-down and fell to the floor, then recovered herself and hissed, an ungodly sound that made Thom’s heart nearly stop. He rose and reached for his sidearm, then remembered that he’d left it in his desk. They never carried one into an interrogation room with a suspect.

Holly faced Victoria, and with incredible speed, the two women collided in the room. The contest was short. In a second, Victoria lay on the ground at Holly’s feet, her head twisted around to face behind her. She was motionless, and her black eyes slowly faded back to their original hazel color.

Holly turned and faced Thom. “Are you okay?” she asked.

In his fog, he registered that she was holding her hand over her mouth. He also registered that her eyes were as black as two lumps of coal. “Yeah,” he said. “Are you?”

“Give me a minute,” she said, then fled the room.

Thom stood, breathed deeply to soothe the pounding of his heart, and studied Victoria’s lifeless body. Broken neck. It took incredible strength to twist a human head around like that. But Victoria wasn’t human, was she? She couldn’t be. Thom stepped a little closer and studied the face. In her death, Victoria seemed serene. Her half-open lids revealed pale hazel eyes. But in his mind, he saw black eyes. Hell eyes. Cold, dark, evil eyes. He’d never forget those eyes.

The shift captain stormed into the room. “What the hell happened in here?” he roared.

“Suspect. She’d just confessed to the cemetery murder when she attacked me. Holly pulled her off me, and in the fight, I guess she broke her neck.”

“You didn’t have her handcuffed to the table?”

“I did. She snapped it like it was string.”

“Damn. Crappy handcuffs. Almost got you killed.” He looked around. “Where’s your partner?”

“She, ah...” He shrugged. “Girl’s room, I guess. She’ll be back in a minute. I’ll go check on her.”

Thom left the interrogation room and found the women’s bathroom. He knocked on the door and called Holly’s name, then creaked the door open. She was sitting on the bench near the sinks, her head in her hands. He entered and let the door creak shut behind him. She did not look up.

“Thanks,” Thom said.

“For what?”

“For saving my ass,” he said.

“It’s okay, stud.”

“I don’t think I want to know how you did that.”

She looked up at him. Her eyes were that pretty brown that they’d always been. But Thom knew what he’d seen. For one brief, terrifying moment, they’d been black. Like Victoria’s. He decided that now wasn’t the time for a talk. He attempted a smile. Then, he held out a hand.

“You hungry? Dinner’s on me.” He shrugged. “It’s the least I can do.”

She returned the smile and accepted the hand up. When they stepped out of the bathroom together, a female officer in uniform passed by, shot them an amused glance, and said, “You two are gonna get so busted doin’ that in the bathroom.”

Holly turned and opened her mouth to correct the officer, then shook her head. “Never mind. Half the station thinks we’re sleeping together, anyway.”

Thom blinked. “They do?”

“Yeah. Don’t you hear the talk?”


“That’s what I love about you. You’re clueless about what goes on around here.”

“One of my better qualities.”

Another uniform approached them. “Captain wants you two in the interrogation room. Now.”

“Oh, boy,” Thom said. He and Holly shot each other knowing looks, and walked back into the room. Victoria’s body was still sprawled on the floor, and a crime scene technician was snapping photos of it. The captain watched, his hands on his hips, and turned toward Thom and Holly.

“You two okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I just watched the interrogation video. Congratulations. You solved the cemetery murder. Damned good work. Now write this up, then take the rest of the night off, you two.” He studied them. “You both look like hell. Get some sleep. We’ll call you back if we have something else.”

Half an hour later, Thom and Holly signed their reports and logged off their computers. As Holly slipped on her jean jacket, Thom said, “So, where do you want to eat?”

She looked at the clock on the wall. “At one a.m.? What choices do we have?”

“The all-night breakfast place?”

“That grease-pit? It always gives me the trots. How’s about you just buy me a drink or two?”

“You’re on, partner. Meet me at O’Malley’s. It’s still open.”

“Last one there is a rotten egg.”


O’Malley’s Bar was open; it wasn’t busy this time of night, which was what they wanted. A television silently flashed a news channel above the bar while music played, a mournful, bluesy tune. It fit the night, and it fit their mood. Thom got two drinks and a distinctly ‘come-hither’ look from the bartender, a pleasant Jamaican gal with a winning smile. He flirted with her a little, then sat at a table. He placed Holly’s Bloody Mary in front of her and noticed her nod of thanks.

“So, it’s been one hell of a night, huh?” he said. At her nod, he pressed a little further. “Ah, about Victoria...?”


He leaned across the table and lowered his voice. “She wasn’t quite human, was she?”

Holly studied his expression, as if weighing something in her mind. Then, she shook her head. “She wasn’t.” She finished her drink, then rose. “I’ll get the next round. Then, we’ll talk.”

Holly leaned across the bar and got two more drinks from the bartender. She waited as the girl rang up her drinks, then she received her change and dropped two bills on the counter.

“Thanks,” the bartender said in her rolling Jamaican accent. “Say, your fella there, he’s a hot one. You’re one lucky girl.”

Holly laughed. “He’s my partner.”

“Whatever you call it,” the bartender said, with a shrug.

“No.” Holly pulled the badge from her belt and held it up. “We’re cops. He’s my work partner.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh,” she said. “That’s different. He’s single?”

“Yup. And he’s a great guy. But,” she said, “he’s walking wounded when it comes to love. Be warned.”

“Ain’t we all, honey?” the bartender said as she passed a towel over the bar. “Ain’t we all?”

“That’s a fact.” Holly pulled the drinks across the bar. “And if you strike out with him,” she said, “I’m always available.” She gave the bartender a wink, and the girl whooped with glee, then held up a hand. Holly high-fived her, then picked up the drinks and returned to the table.

“What did you do?” Thom teased. “Get a date just now?”

“Nope. I got you a date just now. She’s all about you, stud.”

“Really?” He shot a glance at the bar, and caught the bartender’s eye. They traded a mutual, flirtatious grin, then Thom returned his attention to Holly. “She seems nice. You really are a pal. You save my life, get me drunk, and get me a date, all in twenty-four hours.”

“Hey. What’s a partner for, if not that?” Holly said.

“So, what about you?”

Holly sipped her drink. “What about me?”

Thom cast her that look of his, the one that said, ‘no BS’. “I saw you checkin’ her out.”

“Okay, okay. I told her that if she strikes out with you, I’m available.” She watched Thom’s reaction. “Are you surprised?”

“That you like women? Nope. Hell, I love women. I’m with you on that one. You got somebody steady?”

Holly shrugged. “Sort of.”

“That figures. You’re the only woman I can get along with for any length of time, and you’re unavailable.”

Holly laughed. “Do you want to know why you can’t get along with women?”

“Yeah.” Thom saw her skeptical expression, and he added, “Honestly. Please tell me what the hell’s wrong with me.”

“Okay. You’re just too damned good-looking.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“Sure. Women fall at your feet. It’s all too easy for you. You have a fight, you break up and score some other chick tomorrow. You don’t have to work at it, to get to know somebody warts and all, to grow to love them. For you, a relationship is primarily sexual, romantic. You’ve never made it past the honeymoon. You never have taken it far enough to find out that it’s really all about being friends first. The sex is just the icing on the cake; the friendship is the cake itself.”

Thom studied his drink. After a long, quiet moment, he said, “Wow. So that’s it.”

“That’s it, stud.” She sipped her drink, then asked, “Is there any woman you’ve ever known long enough to really be friends with first? Any woman you haven’t slept with?”

“Yeah,” Thom said. “You and my mother.”

Holly laughed. “Well, I’m honored to be in such esteemed company.” She drained her drink. “Now, go get a date with that bartender so’s I can go home and get some sleep. After all, we’ve got to save the world all over again tomorrow.”

“Right.” He rose and walked to the bar. Holly watched, and she saw the bartender’s expression light up as Thom talked to her. She watched them trade numbers, and he returned to the table. Holly stood up and smiled at the bartender, who waved back and mouthed a thank-you to her.

In the parking lot, they stood by Holly’s car. The air was cool, a little chilly. It was Halloween, after all. “You okay to drive?” Thom asked.

“Yeah. See you later, stud.” She climbed into her car and rolled down the window.

“Go home and kiss your honey good-night for me,” Thom teased.

Holly laughed. “Yeah. I’ll bet you’d love to see that, huh?” Her Charger fired up, then settled into a dull rumble as Holly backed up, then headed toward the road. He watched the car go, then walked to his own car. As he fumbled for his keys, a voice behind him startled him. A second later, it chilled him to the bone.

“Hey. I’ve been looking for you, handsome. Where’s your partner?”

He spun around, his hand on his sidearm. His head exploded in a flash of white light and pain, and then he descended into darkness.


Slowly, he began to think again. It was dark. He couldn’t move his arms or legs. He forced his eyes open, and he was totally disoriented. For a time, he had no idea where he was. All he knew was that he was cold and that his head throbbed in pain. Then, he heard that voice again.

“Wakey, wakey. I want you to experience every second of this.”

A shape loomed in front of him. He forced his eyes to focus, and his heart nearly stopped. “Victoria?”

“The same, luscious.”

“You’re dead.”

She laughed. “Not quite. Vampires heal quickly.” Those black eyes appraised him, looked him up and down. “I’m so hungry. Where,” she said, “do I start?”

He looked down at himself. He was naked and tied to a monument statue in Old Town Cemetery. He struggled, but he couldn’t move. “You’re not going to get away with this,” he said.

“Watch me.” With that, her black eyes focused on his. They were mesmerizing, fascinating. He stopped struggling. Her mouth, as if in slow motion, opened, and fangs glinted in the moonlight. Then, she descended to his neck.

He felt her mouth on his neck, felt her fangs penetrate his skin. He felt her feed, suck his blood, and was surprised that it didn’t hurt. How did she do that? He was going to die. He knew it. He heard a voice weakly say, “I’ll kill you for this.” It was his voice, and it just made her laugh. She lifted her head and studied him, watched the trails of blood bubble from the two wounds and run down his chest and across his abdomen. Then, she opened her mouth again. As she did, an ear-splitting bang broke the silence of the cemetery. Her head exploded in front of him and peppered him with blood and bits of flesh, bone, and brain. Victoria’s half-headless body hovered on him for a moment, then fell to the ground with a crunch. The body twitched a little, then stilled as wisps of ground fog settled around it.

Footsteps sounded very nearby; then, a voice. “Hey, stud. You okay?”

He turned his head. Through his disorientation and pain, he saw Holly. She was holding a shotgun. She held it up and said, “Solid slug. Blew her head open like a melon. Damn, you’re a mess. Sorry about the splatter.” Her eyes trailed down his body and stopped at his groin. “Oh. I thought you’d be, y’know...” She held out her hands, a foot apart.

He managed a snicker. “Shut up. It’s cold. Get me down from here.”

“Sure.” Holly placed the shotgun aside and whipped out a folding knife. She faced Thom, then climbed up on the monument to cut his bonds. She had one leg on either side of his chest, and began sawing on the rope that bound his hands. She looked down at him. “Don’t go getting any ideas down there,” she said.

“Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

“Still got your sense of humor, I see.” She released his hands, but his chest and legs were still bound. She climbed down until she was face-to-face with him, then studied the wound at his neck and the blood trails across his chest. “Damn,” she said.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“You’re bleeding. Oh yeah. Gosh, stud. You look good enough to eat.”

He noted her eyes. They were turning black. “Holly?” he said, but she didn’t reply. He put his hands, still numb from the bonds, on her shoulders and shook her. “Holly!”

She opened her mouth, and fangs appeared. Her black eyes consumed him, calmed him, mesmerized him. Then, her mouth descended to his shoulder. She bit him, again and again, until he finally spiraled downward into a restful oblivion.


He awoke in the hospital. For a time, he just lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to recollect what had happened. He felt fuzzy-headed, and he touched his head. A bandage was around it, a lump of dressings above his left ear. There were more dressings over his neck and chest, on his right side. The tape itched.

A nurse passed by his bedside, then stopped when she saw him awake. They spoke for a moment, and she left, turning off the lights as she did. The dimmer light was restful to his eyes. He wasn’t sure whether he’d dozed off again, or for how long, when a different, very familiar voice spoke to him and roused him.

“Hey, stud. How’s it going?” He opened his eyes. It was Holly. He looked at her, and she smiled down at him. “You okay?”

“Yeah. What the hell happened to me? How long have I been out?”

Her look changed to one of concern. “Three days now. What’s the last thing you remember?”

“We left the bar, and...” He closed his eyes. “I heard Victoria’s voice. I passed out. I guess she clocked me one, real good. I woke in the cemetery, and she was – ” He took a deep breath. “Biting me, for Christ’s sake. Sucking my blood, I guess. Then, her head exploded, and I saw you, and I guess I passed out again. That’s all I remember.”

Holly seemed relieved. “Yeah, she bit the crap out of you. Seven, maybe eight times, before I shot her.”

“You showed up just in time. Saved my butt again.” He held up his hand, and she grasped it. “Partner.”

Holly smiled. “I guess I did.” She squeezed Thom’s hand. “Do you need anything?”

“Go by O’Malley’s Bar, will ya? Tell her – ”

“Already done, stud. Don’t sweat a thing. She told me to tell you that she’d be there when you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks, Holly. You’re a pal.”

“Hey,” she said. “What’s a partner for, huh? Later, gator.” With that, she left the room.



That night, Holly lay in her bed, her breathing returning to normal, her body spent from love-making. She turned to her side. From just behind her, an arm snaked around her abdomen and hugged her. She could feel the warm body of this night’s companion press against her back, spoon tightly against her. The human touch. She craved it, longed for it. It comforted her, reassured her that she was desirable and worthwhile. She closed her eyes and reveled in the tingle of sensations it brought to her.

A sultry feminine voice with a deep Jamaican lilt teased her ear. “Is Thom gonna be okay?”

“Yeah,” Holly whispered. “He’ll be fine.”

“That’s good. Did you give him my message?”

“I sure did. He seemed real happy. He was thinking about you.”

“I’m so glad. I like that fella. That’s one beautiful man, that is. You’ll not tell him about this, will you?”

“Nah. This is our secret.”

“Ah. You can keep a secret?”

“Oh, yeah. Trust me, I got tons of secrets.”

She laughed. “You one bad girl, for sure. I think the Devil, he be a little in you.”

Holly opened her eyes and stared into the darkness. She felt the hand trail across the skin of her abdomen, felt the warm breath on her shoulder and the gentle, rhythmic heartbeat of the body pressed so tightly against her back. And she felt the blood-lust begin to burn, felt her eyes turn black, felt her fangs begin to extend. She closed her eyes and willed the dark, primal blood-lust into submission. Then, with a deep sigh, she relaxed and wiggled ever more tightly against the warm, soft body behind her. The sultry Jamaican accent whispered at her ear once more.

“So, am I right? You be one very bad girl at heart?”

Holly thought about that. Finally, she softly replied, “You have no idea.”


The End

-djb, 2012. Revised, 2014.


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