Psalm of Vampires Chapter Five

Psalm of Vampires Chapter Five
Image of man in suit licensed from Adobe Stock; image smashup by author

Lake Michigan

When I stepped out of the rideshare, I noticed something peculiar about the estate. Nobody was milling about. To give you an idea of how weird that was, think about an empty backstage area immediately after a rock concert performance. Or a Taylor Swift concert where no Swifties show up. That’s an exaggeration, but it was still weird. The estate was usually teeming with influencers twenty-four hours a day.

I walked up the long, curving driveway to the square portico. The doors were closed and locked. Technically, there are two sets of locks for the home. One is a keyless entry system that requires my fingerprints. I had disabled that more than a year ago because of all the people coming and going. The other is a lock opened by a large skeleton key. No real reason for this, other than skeleton keys are cool. Somebody had locked the skeleton key lock, so I reached into my pocket for my key and slipped it into its receptacle. It was always a lot of work to get the thing to catch, but eventually, it did. Anybody could have locked it because there was a small plastic box containing a key that was attached to the wall inside.

When I opened the door, the house was dark. The only way for the house to be dark would have been if someone had gone out of their way to shut all the drapes and shades. For one thing, I couldn’t imagine all the influencers leaving. Many of them lived there. For another, they wouldn’t go through the trouble of running around the house shutting drapes on their way out.

I was wearing a pair of black Hermes Blaise loafers with my usual hemp trousers because I liked to wear shoes when I hung out with Daphne. She loved shoes. The soles of the shoes were loud on the foyer’s Calacatta marble floor. Click clack. Click clack.

Daphne used to chastise me about my ridiculously expensive tastes. She’d say things like, “You’ll be happier if you try to downgrade instead of always trying to upgrade.” I told her that the foyer’s Calacatta marble was available from only one quarry in Italy. One! In the whole world. This, I told her, wasn’t something you can put a price on.

The home’s architect took a more understated approach to the rest of the home and laid most of the interior with washed dark gray stone. I thought the stone looked like it came from the foundation of an old warehouse. It looked gritty and unclean when he showed me pictures of it before the construction crews began their work. He assured me that the style of stone was fundamental to the design of the home, but he compromised by giving me my Calacatta floor in the entranceway. I was happy. And he was, of course, ultimately right about the way the stone worked with the overall design of the house. I was happy about that, too. If I were to give a name to the architectural style of the home, I’d call it Japanese-industrial.

Click clack went my shoes as I turned on the entranceway’s light, looked toward the stairway, then turned toward the expansive room where I had recently sat with the police. The darkness of the house made it feel chillier than it was. I could hear a large round wall clock ticking in the living room, but it couldn’t compete with the soles of my shoes unless I stopped walking. “Anybody here?” I asked. The question echoed across the first floor of the house.

I walked through the living room, the dining area, the kitchen, and then through the gray stone-lined hallway on the other side of the kitchen. It was dark everywhere. I knocked on a few bedroom doors and texted a few people. Nothing. From one of the closed doors, I could hear muffled voices. They sounded like they were coming from an old transistor radio. I banged on the door. No answer. Somebody had left their media equipment running. Streamers were yakking about something.

The hallway was actually four separate hallways that formed a large square. The outside of the square consisted of rooms accessed via the hallway within their segment of the square. Bedrooms and studios where influencers worked and rested. The inside of each hallway of the square had only one door, which led to the kitchen. I went through one of them.

I entered the kitchen to store Daphne’s butternut squash soup in the refrigerator, then exited the kitchen from a corner door that led to the living room. I made my way from there to the stairway near the front of the home. There was nobody around anywhere. The emptiness felt spooky even to me.

I climbed the long, circling concrete stairs and walked through my bedroom and studio. Again, nobody. I next walked to the end of the hallway that led to my studio to a tall stone stairway that had as its main ornamental feature a thin, long, rectangular piece of dark iron railing that I always thought would have made good raw material for Richard Cory’s rolled steel. Like I said, Japanese-industrial. This was one of the industrial parts.

The short flight of stairs, which stopped at the first level of the library, ended in a platform attached to another long metal platform that ran perpendicular to the stairs and ended at another identical stairway, which led to a similar structure at a second level. You could also bypass the stairs at the end of the platform and continue walking on the platform by following it along a right angle. Then you could do it again. In other words, it, too, was a big square.

After that was a third level accessed the same way. All three levels of the library could be seen from a large square room in the middle on a level that was recessed somewhat below the first level. It was a reading area accessible by one of four sets of stairs, one on each side of the first level. Each level had four full sides of books that were categorized and labeled using the Dewey Decimal System.

There was a strong human scent emanating from the library, which normally had few human visitors. I was proud of the library and its thousands of first editions that I had collected during the last century and a half, including the source material for Longtooth’s favorite movie, The Lord of the Rings. But I had never been eager to share my library with humans, partly because they’d ask too many questions.

I could hear my feet clang on the metal platform when I reached the first level. The human scent grew stronger, so I lingered. I turned up the lighting, which was always on but usually at a very low level, and I sniffed around.  The library’s radiance was created by long pendant lights that hung from the ceiling at various lengths to illuminate each level. Each one was covered with simple round metal shades.

The scent seemed to get stronger, or maybe it was my awareness of it. I recognized who the scent belonged to. He had bumped into me just the other day. I looked around the stacks, then looked up to the levels above me, but saw no one. I walked along all four sides of the platform, sniffing like a wolf.

“I have a new book for your collection,” echoed a voice from the recessed square below. I looked down and saw Detective Owens sitting in one of the reading area’s beanbag chairs. I cursed a few things under my breath and said, “Aren’t there laws about police breaking and entering?”

“Laws change with time. Which laws are you most interested in following?”

I wanted to lunge like a jaguar into his neck from the first level.

“Not human laws, right, Mr. Argeadai?” he said.

That stopped me. No humans knew my real surname. The one that followed me through the centuries. How could Owens?

“I know who you are,” he said. He was looking at a large leatherbound book. A rectangular white square cut into the front cover with handwritten scrawl under a plastic window was the only clue that the book might have a title. I jumped down at him. It was a modest jump because there were only three stairs leading from the first level to the recessed area where Owens sat, but I was far enough away that when I landed almost directly in front of him, he had to know no human could manage the trick. “And even better?” He wasn’t flustered. “I know what you are.”

I believed him. But it didn’t mean much. I could munch on his neck and turn him into a two-legged piece of jerky and nobody would know.

“My grandfather gave me this book,” he said, looking down at it before flipping a couple of pages. “My dad, he wasn’t interested. But when I was a boy, I was. It’s full of photographs, Atticus. You may even recognize some of the faces inside. I’ll be happy to donate this to your fine library if you promise to take good care of it.”

“What’s in the book?” I seethed.

“In my line of work, we call them perps. I don’t know, to be honest, what you people call yourselves.”

“If you know what I am, then you must know that I could end this conversation now and make sure it’s your last, and nobody will be able to do a thing about it. Least of all you.” I could feel the blood inside me ramp up its temperature. Soon, I’d have no control and the conversation would, indeed, be over. I felt like the best solution to this problem was to get out of the library as fast as I could, to flee my estate so that Owens’ life could be spared, but my curiosity was winning the battle for my body.

view of floating open book from stacked books in library
Photo by Jaredd Craig / Unsplash

Owens dismissed me with one hand waving through the air. “You might be surprised at my skill set. It’s not worth chancing. Besides, I need your help. I’m not considered the best detective in Atlanta for no reason. I believe in delegating some things to experts.” I was under the direct impression that Garrison was his superior and I told him so. “I’d say we are equal partners,” he answered. “He’s been a mentor to me. I love that man like a brother. But my reputation now exceeds his if you don’t mind my lack of modesty. And he’s not privy to this conversation. Or my information. Or this book.”

I took out my phone and ran an AI query: Who is the best detective in Atlanta?

“I don’t see your name here,” I said.

“I’m sorry?”

“When I search for best detective in Atlanta. No Owens. There’s a Garrity, a Smythe, a Franklin, no Owens.”

Owens laughed. “I’m an up-and-coming star. Just trust me on this.”

I sat down on a bean bag across from him. I was calming down. This was turning from a violent confrontation into a puzzle. “What do you want, Owens?”

“You mean what do we want? By we, I mean you and me. We want to find out who killed your friend Zafran Ganiyu. You know who that is, right? Or do you all just call each other by your dumb-ass screen names?”

“He was one of my best friends,” I lied. “Of course, I know who he is.”

“Oh, ain’t that rich?” laughed Owens. “He’s one of your best friends like my wife is a Kardashian. Look, I’m not here to bust your balls. You don’t need an alibi. I know you’re not doing any of this shit.”

“Good for you. Still haven’t told me what you want.”

Owens began to flip through the book again. “Nobody has ever seen photos like this in my world, Atticus. If these photos were somehow made public, they’d be called fake news, fo sho, fo sho. I mean, check this out.” Owens opened the book wide and positioned it so I could see a large, grainy black-and-white photograph of a body on a wooden floor.

The book had a leather cover but the pages were attached through simple metal spirals that could be opened and closed by pulling them apart. The body in the photograph was most noticeable for its gaping mouth, revealing canines larger than even what Longtooth proudly wore. The body’s eyes looked surprised. Not dead yet. Through their surprised look, they appeared to be partly caked in dried, black blood. “His last moments, I’m sure of it,” Owens said, revealing a rather insidious smile. “But,” Owens added, “It looks like something out of that old supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News. Remember that shit?”

I’m usually not one for having little to say. I was at a loss for words.

“Just before he died, his clan, or coven, or whatever you call these things, went on a killing spree in Chicago that lasted twenty years. Or so says Grandpops. I dunno. Grandpops had a way of embellishing stories. One of his embellishments was that it isn’t silver bullets that kill vampires. It’s bullets filled with bubonic plague. It just so happened that the first of these were silver, hence the legend.” Owens snapped the book shut. “Crazy, huh? But you know, mythology and all. My theory is that the bubonic plague story comes from the simple fact of how nasty that disease is. Legend embellishing itself over time. What do you think?”

“For one thing, silver bullets are for killing werewolves, which don’t exist, not vampires. So if you’re spending an extra dime encasing your bullets in silver, you can stop wasting the money now. And for another, I think you should do livestreams of this shit. You’ll be huge. I can help you get started. TikTok is perfect for this. I have a spare studio, but it’ll cost you.”

Owens shook his head. I took a good look at him for the first time. He had a faded buzz cut with a long distinct line finely shaped by a razor along the length of each temple. He looked good, I thought. Smart. Sophisticated. I still wanted to kill him. “Nope,” was all he said. He stayed silent as if expecting me to make my next move. I didn’t really have any. How he knew what he knew was beyond my immediate understanding, but I knew I’d find out.

“Okay,” I finally said. “Let’s play. I’ll pretend I’m like your friend in the photograph, and you pretend you’re from a long line of vampire hunters. That what you’re looking for?”

“Not really. I’m not from a long line. Just my grandpops. Like I said. Skipped a generation. My dad thought it was all bullshit, or, well, I dunno what he thought about it because he never paid it no mind. Dad was an attorney. Very, very logical.” Owens pointed to his head. “Momma, she’s a devout Baptist, but daddy, he didn’t even buy into that. Momma, though, she said to him, ‘You better let me raise that son of ours Baptist or we go in different directions right now.’ So, there you have it. I’m a Baptist, too. Don’t know exactly how God fits into all this, but I assume you are part of the legion of demons that jumped into that herd of pigs that then jumped off the mountain, and I’m one of the good guys.” He shrugged. “The good guys always win. I believe that firmly.”

I was curious how he’d know I knew that Bible story, but somehow, I sensed he knew that I did.

I texted Charly: Who is the last vampire hunter you know of? I was getting slightly worried. “I’m wondering,” I said to Owens. “Where we get to the part where you tell me about the help you said you need.”

“When you took off that ridiculous shawl is when I knew. Had a hunch before then. But that’s when I knew for sure. The blue skin gave you away. So I started looking through this book here.”

“Maybe if I ask you a completely different question, you’ll tell me what the hell you want?” I said, annoyed.

“I’m getting to it. Shit, man, you’re acting like you haven’t got all the time in the world. You know what’s wild? Your last name. Argeadai. It means “immortal” in Greek, doesn’t it?”

“Something like that,” I said.

“Okay, Mister Immortal. I’ll tell you what I want. I want help solving this crime spree that has hit Midtown. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that without your help, I haven’t got a hope in hell of solving it.”

I leaned back in the bean bag and crossed my legs. I kicked off a shoe. “Sure. Why not?” Charly texted me back with a question mark and nothing more.

“Even if it points to one of your own?”

“Especially if,” I said. “They’re bad. Bad!” I said the second “bad” with an exaggerated affect.

“Please take me seriously, Atticus.”

“I will if you tell me why you think my name is Atticus. Or Athens ash-you, or whatever you said my last name is.”

“If you don’t got respect, then we get nowhere. Don’t play dumb. It’s stupid. You don’t seem stupid.”

“Then tell me.”

“Grandpops kept meticulous records. You’re in them. But you’re… different, according to the records. And according to Grandpops.”

“Got a picture of Grandpops?”

“I do. As a matter of fact.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He tapped a few times and handed it to me. My mind nearly caved in on itself. It was an old friend of mine from my Chicago days. “Shit,” I said.

“Go on,” said Owens when I didn’t say more.

I looked at Detective Owens. “Rondell Owens. I dragged his ass out of Lake Michigan after he was attacked by… well, someone.”

“You saved his life, you dumb motherfucker,” said Owens.

I nodded.

“Even though you knew he hunted your kind?”

“He didn’t hunt my kind. He hunted another kind.”

“Another kind.”

“Hard to describe.”

“Try.”

“Where the hell is everybody?” I asked, changing the subject.

“It was easy to clear them out when I arrived here and told them that the killer was seen on the grounds. Your peeps ain’t the sharpest teeth in the coven,” he laughed. “Come on, now. Tell me what other kind.”

“It’s privileged information,” I said.

“How old are you? Thousands of years, right? So, riddle me this. Why do you act like you haven’t been on this planet for more than twelve years or so? How does someone live as long as you, seeing all the things you’ve surely seen, and act like you’re just barely reaching adolescence?”

“I can’t just agree to help you. I don’t know enough about you, I don’t know how you managed to empty a house full of partiers, I don’t know how you know so much about me. You can start with that. Tell me how you know my name.”

“Again. Grandpops. You saved his life, remember?”

I did. Rondell Owens had single-handedly emptied Chicago’s Englewood district of vampires after an offshoot of Longtooth’s clan called The Battue arrived in Chicago from London. They yanked men and women out of their homes, fed on them until they dried up, and scattered them around the Union Stockyards for sport, essentially daring the police to make something of it. There were no more than about twelve Battue, but it was as if they were thousands.

Rondell Owens, a Baptist minister at an Englewood church, was furious that the Chicago police did not attempt to solve a string of disappearances. The Battue had done their research and knew that would be the police response. When bodies started turning up in the stockyards, which were in their own kind of end days, Rondell started to look for answers.

It was the late 1960s. The stockyards had long ago seen their best years. The bodies were turning up along an area bordered by Pershing Road and Ashland Avenue because developers were trying to convert the stockyards into an industrial park. Construction crews would dig into the ground, and out came a body. Eventually, there were so many corpses that some crews poured cement over them without reporting anything to the police.

Bodies began turning up outside of the stockyards on the other side of Pershing in McKinley Park. The more Rondell tried to badger the Chicago police for help, the more gruffly he was dismissed. As far as the racist cops were concerned, someone was doing them a favor.

man playing saxophone
Photo by Konstantin Aal / Unsplash

I met Rondell where I met a lot of humans during the twentieth century — in a jazz club, this one on South Ashland. I was sitting with some of his friends, although I didn’t know that they were his friends at the time, when Rondell came into the place and sat down with them. “Whatch you, Irish?” was the first thing he said to me. It wasn’t a friendly voice. The Irish from the nearby Canaryville neighborhood had a long, violent history with the Blacks in the surrounding area. Rondell’s emotions were raw from all the recent killings. My hair was dyed dark red in those days.

“He’s cool, brother, he’s a Greek boy.” One of his friends patted my shoulder. “Ain’t you?”

I nodded. That was as accurate a description of my background as any.

“A Greek with red hair? And you got a funny shade ‘boutch you,” said Rondell.

“Blood disease,” I said. This was kind of true if you think about it.

We were all devouring a plate of ribs, so I pointed Rondell to the plate and told him to help himself, that there was another round on its way. “It’ll help you relax,” I said.

“Ribs helpin’ me relax,” he laughed. “Ain’t never heard that one.” Rondell had nearly the opposite physique from his grandson. Instead, he looked more like Owens’ partner Garrison, except for a darker shade and three large folds of skin on his forehead. He took off his dark blue, battered sportscoat to reveal biceps the size of basketballs under a tight gray T-shirt.

“Don’t mind Pastor Owens here,” said one of his friends. “He just upset ‘bout all the killins.” His friends all nodded or mumbled in agreement. I had been alarmed by them, too, mostly because I knew who was probably behind them. I don’t know what became of me when I said matter-of-factly, “It’s not the Irish. It’s vampires.”

Rondell’s fist flew out from the side of his chair faster than a cobra strike when it struck my jaw. I guessed at that moment he thought I was joking, and he wasn’t amused. All the men at the table were silenced by the fact that my body didn’t react to the pummeling it had just received. Either that or they were astonished when I merely reacted by saying, “You’re a minister?”

Rondell didn’t know what to say or do either. He may have thought about it for a moment, then said, “That’s right.”

He looked even more perplexed when I extended my hand and said, “Atticus. Atticus Argeadai.”

He laughed at that, a big, boisterous bellow that sounded like it came out of a tuba. “Yup, you Greek. How you not on the floor? I gave you everything I got.”

“Boxing,” I said. “Not anymore, though. I’m done with all that. Used to work out at Jimmy’s Clinic on Western Ave. So if you don’t mind, I’ll give you this round and we can call it a match?”

When Rondell looked at his friends, he shrugged, and they all laughed. “Man,” one of them said, “You the first cat get hit by Owens not call for his momma.” That sent them all into a fit of more laughter.

But Rondell wasn’t quite finished. “That was a shit joke though, man. People gettin’ killed like they are and all. Nothin’ funny about it.”

“Please don’t hit me again, but it’s not really a joke.” I looked at his friends, who were still laughing. “I can explain,” I said as I looked around, “But not here.”

Rondell and I met the next day at his chapel. He offered me a bourbon, but I told him I didn’t drink, so he gave me a cup of coffee and pounded his glass of bourbon in a hurry as I bared my teeth to him and explained who I was.

As I said, I was upset about the killings. These weren’t my people, but they were. Englewood was where I was hanging out at the time, and I didn’t appreciate these London fools coming in and fouling the place up with their sloppy and mean-spirited killings.

You can probably imagine how skeptical Rondell was. He was not yet convinced that I wasn’t belittling his people and the scourge of pain that was sweeping through his parish. I realized that I didn’t have a choice. I needed to give him a demonstration. “Who’s the biggest bastard in the Englewood police precinct?” I asked. He quickly gave me a name. I told Rondell to set up a meeting with him. Rondell had made enough noise in the community by this point that even though his voice was largely ignored, he could get a listen from local cops when he wanted to rant.

When Rondell met with Lieutenant O’Malley at the precinct, he brought me along, saying I was an advisor to the church. O’Malley didn’t look happy to see me, which may have been because I was looking bluer than usual. As soon as we sat down at the metal table across from O’Malley, I hissed and exposed my fangs.

O’Malley pushed himself away from the table and tried to jump up to draw his gun, but I leaped from my chair and launched into his gut with my left shoulder, crashing him against a cinderblock wall. I sunk my teeth into O’Malley’s neck as he fell. O’Malley’s body collapsed to the ground. Another cop must have heard the commotion because the door was opened by a young guy, gun drawn, who looked like he was barely out of high school. I launched into him from across the room, taking him down the same way I took down O’Malley.

I jumped up and turned around, both arms out ready to brawl. In my first-ever impersonation of my friend Charly, I displayed my bloody canines and mouth to Rondell with the biggest smile I’d worn in a hundred years. I wanted it to be sloppy for effect.

The effect took hold as Charly said, “Holy mother of God.” He stared for a few moments at O’Malley, whose bite marks were oozing a small amount of blood, then at me. Then he scrambled to the door and looked down at the kid on the floor. “Did you just kill those men?” he asked when he looked my way again.

“They’ll be fine. And they won’t remember anything. They’ll have a short-term memory loss of about five or ten minutes before the bite and another fifteen or twenty minutes after they come to. Look.” I pointed down at the kid crumpled at the door. The skin around his wounds was regenerating so quickly that we could see it spread over the wound. Rondell knelt to look. “Holy shit,” he said.

I walked up to him. I bent my head down, and we stared at each other. “You want to find out who is killing your people? I can help you. But this here?” I looked around the room. “And this?” and I bared my incisors. “That’s between you and me. And I mean, nobody else. Not. One. Person.”

Eventually, I told Rondell the history of The Battue. How they were different. Almost another species. I never got the sense that he completely believed me or trusted me. Even after I showed him how to kill a vampire, a method that wasn’t in any of the movies or stories. I couldn’t blame him for not trusting me after he saw me tear my way through our meeting with O’Malley.

But we got to be friends, to a point. Rondell went on a killing spree of his own. I didn’t help him make the kills, but I cheered him on as we kept score, and I helped identify the Battue that needed to be removed from circulation. I make it all sound so easy, but Rondell lived a life of constant danger after that.

Then, one night, one of those crazy, wind-blown Chicago nights when a frozen rain seems to blow unhindered across Iowa and spray cold horizontal needles against your face, I noticed someone who looked about eight feet tall in a dark jumpsuit and Chicago Bears beanie cap following Rondell out of the club where he and his friends and I were chilling out with chili dogs and beers. And water for me.

I, in turn, followed the stalker. I lost him in an alley and was about to give up when I saw him carrying Rondell’s limp body across the park. I chased him through the railyard, both of us leaping over endless sets of train tracks and weaving around train cars. The stalker reached a waiting taxi on the other side of the tracks and stuffed Rondell into the back seat. I quickly realized that the cab driver had to be another Battue. The taxi immediately squealed away.

I didn’t carry a phone in those days, nobody did, so I had no way to call a cab. There weren’t any taxis cruising the streets. A teenage girl was standing nearby on the outside of a loud, rumbling Camaro, rain pelting her black rain jacket as her hands gesticulated in an argument with the driver. I ran for her, pushed her out of the way, opened the door of the Camaro, and threw the driver out of the car. He cursed as I got into the car and punched it, but I wasn’t sure where the Battue taxi was going. I had lost them again.

The driver was taking Rondell out of the neighborhood for some reason. I had no logical plan, so I decided to head east on 35th Street toward Lake Michigan. It was about as arbitrary of a decision that is possible. I was driving at least sixty miles an hour, dodging a car here and there, but there wasn’t much traffic in the freezing rain.

When I flew past a darkened Comiskey Park, I imagined ghosts playing baseball. In the distance, I saw a taxi with its lights off. I couldn’t tell if it was the Battue. Too far away, too dark. I charged ahead. It was a gamble, but it was the only play I had. The taxi was parked near a pedestrian bridge overlooking Lake Shore Drive where 35th Street ended.

Image by Don...The UpNorth Memories Guy... Harrison via Flickr; Creative Commons license; image darkened by author

I pulled the Camaro up behind the taxi, keeping the keys so that nobody else could easily steal the kid’s car. The taxi was empty. I looked ahead, but it was so dark and rainy that it was hard to tell if anyone was on the bridge. I ran for it, cars whizzing underneath the bridge as I crossed Lake Shore Drive, their headlights creating a flashing metronome against the metal beams below. If anybody in the cars below could have seen me, they would have chalked it up to their imaginations, because I was running about twice as fast as most humans can run.

As I ran past the end of the bridge, I found myself on the southern edge of the 31st Street harbor, which stretched from 31st to 35th. There was a lone boat on the lake with its light flashing in the horizontal spray of rain as it made its way into the harbor. I ran in the direction of the boat to the lake, and there was the Battue, throwing Rondell into the freezing water.

The Battue gave Rondell’s body such a heave that Rondell must have soared twenty feet into the air before arching down and splashing into the lake. Where is the other Battue? I wondered as I ran full speed. I would only have one shot at this one. I always carry a long silver karambit knife for self-defense. Karambits are knives that are curved such that if you were to rest their blade against someone’s neck, it would fit perfectly as if it was designed to be worn as body decoration. When I reached the Battue, I didn’t rest the knife against his neck as I lunged into his back with my shoulder. Instead, I slashed his neck hard, severing most of it before he could react.

I dove into the water and dragged Rondell’s body onto the shore. He was still breathing, barely, as I pumped his chest. He coughed out some water and his eyes rolled around his head as I leaned into him. The Battue was gurgling nearby, so, convinced that Rondell was okay, I walked to the Battue and finished the job of separating his head from his neck. But I was having trouble cutting through the spine. Sometimes I think Battue spines are made from iron. I cut and sawed and cut some more, and finally, annoyed, gave the head a hard kick, which sent his head soaring like a punted football into the lake.

I told this story to Detective Owens. “Well,” he said. “That’s the other side of the story at least.” I didn’t know what he meant by that.

“You were told something else?” I asked.

“Nope, that’s not it. My grandpops’ story was fuzzy.”

“Because he got bit. Memory loss. Happens every time.”

“Now,” said Owens, “You might think that because you saved his life, my grandpops was eternally grateful and shit. Right?”

I shrugged. I had never asked.

“Nope. See, the way he figured, if your kind just was not around at all, he’d a never ended up in that lake in the first place. He didn’t like you, Atticus. Not one bit. He tolerated you.”

“You’re really good at this asking-for-help thing,” I said sarcastically.

“We just need a solid baseline of truth if we are going to work together.”

“I don’t remember saying I’d work with you.”

“Do you want to find out who killed your good friend?” He emphasized the word “good” mockingly. But I did want to. Desperately. For Daphne’s sake. When I felt that desperation in my heart, I realized that from an emotional standpoint, I was in trouble. Like I said before, when it came to Daphne, I was the one getting turned.

Then, I realized something else. If I worked with Owens, I wouldn’t have to reveal the truth of who I was to Daphne. Not yet anyway. “Let me see that book of yours,” I said.

Owens handed it to me. I started flipping through it beginning at the first page. It was a scrapbook with photographs and notes. Most of the photographs, which were crudely glued to their pages, were of vampires. None that I recognized. Under each photo was a note that identified the figure as a vampire, or not, and sometimes a name, often illegible.

When I reached the middle of the book, I saw a page with my photograph in the middle. I looked different. It was taken from far enough away that it was good detective work on the part of Owens to recognize me. There were notes about me written in ink above and below the picture. My name appeared in large writing under the photo. Under my name, which was underlined, was some cursive text saying, “Atticus Argeadai: untargeted but untrustworthy.” Another note said, “Loves jazz. Friendly to brothers. Find him a good LP.”

I looked at Owens. “I think he liked me just fine.” I could still remember the deep orange-red album cover of the Miles Smiles LP from the Miles Davis Quartet Rondell had handed me to celebrate one of his kills.

Owens shrugged. “I think not. I’m sure we’ll have more disagreements once we start working together.”

“I haven’t said we’re working together.”

“We are. More time we waste here, in fact… shit, this motherfucker could be wasting somebody while we are sitting on these fine-ass bean bag chairs.”

He was right. This cat-and-mouse game was going to have to end. “All right,” I said. “But you’re going to need a history lesson about who we’re dealing with and what you’re up against. And police procedures? They’re out the window. As far as your official world of recordkeeping and such goes, these people don’t exist. No records. We remove them, and we don’t care how. No trials, nothing like that.”

“That’s going to be difficult. We need a face to put to the crimes.”

“We can do that, Owens. But it’ll have to be a dead face. A…what do you call them? A John Doe?”

Owens nodded. “My partner can’t know about this.”

“And either can any of my people,” I agreed.

Owens stood up. I did the same. He stuck his hand out. “Okay, let’s try this,” he said. I grinned widely, happily displaying my canines, and shook his hand hard enough to hear his knuckles crack.


Chapter One can be found here
Chapter Two can be found 
here.
Chapter Three can be found 
here.
Chapter Four can be found
here.


This is the last Psalm of Vampires installment on Ruminato.

To find out what happens next, you can purchase the book on Amazon for as little as $2.99 or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited: