Mateo looked over at me, “Let’s walk through the neighborhood around here and see if I get any hints of where they went.”
He waved toward the church parking lot. It ran down the side of the church and around the back, taking up the middle of this block. If the vampires had gone anywhere close, we’d be able to see the backyard of every house or business on the block. That might be enough to pick up a sign.
He gave Officer White a smile, “We’re going to take a walk. We’ll be back before you know it, but if you need us, just follow the parking lot and look around the edges.”
“Good luck,” From her tone, I wasn’t sure whether or not she thought we were wasting our time.
I wasn’t sure either.
Either way, we walked down the parking lot, staying on the edge of the church’s property when we had no choice but to leave the parking lot to get a good look at the back of the houses around it.
This meant starting with the house that held Downtown Marketing and Paula Hart’s burned remains. We didn’t look at her so much, but we did take a look at the parking lot behind the house.
Aside from an officer who looked out the back door at us, we had it to ourselves. There wasn’t much to see. Most of the lot was empty except for a yellow VW Beetle—one of the “new” ones—which in this case was ten years old.
Mateo looked it over and shook his head. “No signs of anything. I’d bet you it was Paula’s car though. Since she called the owner at eight—which is after sunrise, my bet is that the vampire caught her after work yesterday and she stayed all night. It seems more likely than catching her at six in the morning and having her be prepared enough to close all the windows and get into the basement before burning to death.
“Anyway, that’s my guess.”
He stepped back from the Beetle and we both took a look at the small garden next to the house. It wasn’t a large plot—maybe five feet deep and running the length of the back. Watermelon appeared to be the only crop. I counted four big ones and more than ten smaller, all of them with green skins.
Then we left the house and looked at other backyards for a while—almost an hour. We didn’t find anything. We checked out all of the buildings including the apartment complex next to the Downtown Marketing house. I learned that the church’s neighbors had large houses and backyards. Also, one of them had a sailboat. It was sitting on a trailer behind the large, white house and just off the side of the driveway.
By the time we found ourselves walking back to the motorcycles, the police had left and the sun had disappeared near the horizon.
“I guess we get on the bikes and go around the block,” Mateo said. “After that, I don’t know, maybe we expand the circle and go around another block. The one good thing about riding around in the dark is that undeath will stand out a little bit better for me.”
“And the bad thing is that we’ll be a target for whatever’s out there,” I said with a light tone—not a complaint.
Mateo nodded and grinned, “That might be a good thing. If we survive, we’ll know exactly where they are.”
Walking past Downtown Marketing in the twilight, I wondered if something inside was watching us. The police were all gone and every door of the building had been shut. Even the Beetle had been towed away. Though the shades had been pulled up, something seemed different. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first.
Then my implant superimposed an image of the house as we left over the one we were passing on the way to our bikes. “Did you notice that they moved the watermelons? A couple of them are now around the side of the house.”
Mateo glanced over at the watermelons and then over at me. “Maybe it’s the vampiric vegetables you were mentioning?”
“Watermelons are fruit.” I got rid of the implant’s image and checked the house. The fruit weren’t moving.
“Most likely the police moved them and forgot to move them back,” Mateo stared at them. “You know, I never really looked at them on the way out. Crap. It does look like there’s some sort of connection to undeath.” Mateo’s hand went to his sword’s hilt.
Zooming in on the watermelons, I noticed a dark smear on the top of one of them. “I’m not sure, but there may be blood on the first one around the corner.”
Mateo didn’t reply because, in that moment, the watermelons started rolling toward us. The four big ones came first, their dark and light green stripes visible in the twilight. The smaller ones followed, making hollow thumping noises with their bodies and a crooning, “Brrl, brrl,” noise from the wide mouths that stretched from one side of the watermelons to the other.
If my life felt like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer earlier in the day, it now felt like the cheapest of independent horror movies.