I’d been at gruesome death scenes before. One of the worst had been the product of a man who’d burned the victims halfway to ash. That one had left me with mixed associations with the smell of smoked pork.
The bright side of this one was that it wouldn’t leave me with mixed associations with pleasant smells. It smelled like rotting meat combined with any biological substance that might leak out of a human body before the body stiffened.
I didn’t throw up, but it was a near thing. My stomach rolled and I did my best to keep everything inside where it belonged.
Next to me, Mateo’s eyes widened. He closed his eyes and swallowed. After a moment he opened them. I didn’t ask him for details.
The TV was on, showing Maury Povich and his guests. They were screaming at each other over the results of a paternity test. In front of the TV, a man’s body lay in a lounge chair. He was black and appeared to be in his late 50s. Except for the smell and the dried blood on his shirt and the chair, he might have been sleeping. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be smiling.
Officer Harshaw looked from Mateo over to me and, satisfied that we hadn’t vomited yet, said, “Look at his neck. He’s the fourth person this week to die in this way. We’ve been told that we should call in a super from the magical end of things to take a look at the crime scene. They’re hoping that you’ll confirm what’s perfectly obvious to everybody else. So, is it a vampire?”
Mateo raised an eyebrow, “I’ll take a look.”
He took a breath, closed his eyes and then opened them, this time looking over the room again and out the front door. Then he turned back to Officer Harshaw.
“You haven’t mentioned it, but is one of the things that’s off about this murder that there’s no sign of forced entry?”
Officer Harshaw nodded.
Mateo’s frown was visible under the mask. “I want to say, ‘of course it’s vampires,’ but I don’t know. It’s the most likely option, but I’m not going to lie to you. Vampires aren’t the only supernatural creatures that I’ve heard of that could get in without forcing it and drink the victim’s blood. I’m going to have to ask around. I have friends that might know.”
Officer Harshaw’s mouth twisted, “But vampires are your best guess right now?”
Mateo nodded. “But only for right now. There are different kinds of vampires, so even if it is vampires, it might not be the kind that everyone knows about.”
Officer Harshaw raised an eyebrow, “There’s more than one kind of vampire?”
I replied before Mateo could, “There’s one kind where the vampire’s head detaches at night and flies around looking for blood.”
“Are you kidding me? You think we’ve got one of those around here?” She looked over at Mateo.
He glanced over at me, “I think that was just supposed to be an example, right?”
I nodded. “Right. I’ve never seen the floating head kind. I’ve fought regular vampires right here in Michigan, though.”
Frowning, Officer Harshaw said, “Alright, I get it. I’ll tell my supervisors that you’re guessing it’s vampires, but you need to find out more. Meanwhile, they’ll have to pass out garlic and crosses to the force.”
Mateo flashed her a smile. “That sounds right. We’ll keep you updated in case it turns out to be something else. In the meantime, I’m wondering about the other similar deaths. Do you know who died and where they were?”
She frowned, thinking. “I don’t have everything off the top of my head, but as I remember, two of the other victims were men, both white and in their fifties. The third was a white woman in her forties. All of them were downtown near the Renaissance Center.”
That stopped Mateo. “That’s interesting.”
“Yeah,” I said. “So if it’s the same vampire, assuming it’s a vampire, they moved over here—maybe because they guessed people would notice. Alternately, it’s a different vampire and that might mean that they turned someone we maybe don’t know about yet.”
Officer Harshaw nodded along as I talked, adding, “If that’s true, we might be seeing more new vampires by the end of the week. Then we’ll have to call in for help. We don’t want a repeat of what happened to Grand Lake a couple years ago. Magical heroes cut the city off from the outside so that whatever was in there couldn’t spread. That’s the first step when stopping magical predators the normal way becomes impossible. It gets worse from there.”
Remembering back to The Thing That Eats and everything we had to do to contain it, I could only say, “Yeah.”
It wasn’t as if I were the Rocket.