Warning! This is a horror/dark fiction story so may be disturbing to some. There is strong language and sexual situations.
The Jeep was a mess.
“Jesus!” Frolich prowled around the battered hulk of the nearly new vehicle, ignoring the police tape stretched over the doors to peer into the blood soaked interior. “Well,” he said when his inspection was over, “maybe with new upholstery and a whole shitload of paint….”
Vince, feeling uncomfortable in a sports coat he hadn’t worn since college, stood glumly back from the car, arms folded over his chest. Whether or not the insurance company declared it a total loss, he had already made up his mind to get rid of it. There was no way he was going to ask Annie to enter the horrible interior again, regardless of how much new paint and leather had been added.
Cranston, the slim middle aged LAPD detective who had been assigned to “consult” with them, leaned against the fender of a stripped Mercedes and chewed on a toothpick. It was clear that he would rather be doing anything but escorting the out-of-towners through the seedy impound lot in the worst part of town. “You fellas seen enough yet?” he drawled when his patience was at an end.
Frolich nodded slowly, turning to face the dour big city cop. “They told us down at Rampart Division that two of the occupants were killed,” he said. “That must have been some wreck on the freeway.”
Cranston sighed wearily. “Only one of ’em was killed in the wreck,” he said. “That boy you got the want out for took a sharp object to the other one’s throat, far as we can figure. The hitchers must’ve figured out who he was.”
Frolich, who had already received faxed copies of the full LAPD and CHP reports on the incident and spoken by phone with a harried assistant coroner who had confirmed that the wounds on the dead kid’s throat closely resembled those on the victims from the lake, scratched his head. “Well, if he was driving, how did he manage to knife the kid in the back seat?”
The lanky L.A. detective shrugged. “Who knows with these assholes anymore? We had a killing up in Hollywood Division three nights ago. This guy stands up on a city bus, pulls a chainsaw out of a shopping bag and slices three Koreans into sushi, pretty as you please. Said their jabberin’ pissed him off.”
“Koreans don’t eat sushi, that’s Japanese.” Vince was feeling pissed off himself.
Frolich shot him an evil glance but Cranston either chose to ignore the jibe or else it sailed clear over his head. “Whatever,” he said, turning toward his chocolate colored Ford sedan and starting to walk.
“So then you guys don’t see any similarities between this incident and anything else on your books?” Frolich inquired hopefully, racing to keep up with the taller man’s long strides.
“Not a lot of throat slashing going on down here these days,” said Cranston, pointedly opening his car door and climbing inside. “Except of course for Straight Razor Dan.” He cast a baleful eye back at the bloody Jeep, “and from what I hear, he’s one whole hell of a lot neater than your boy was.” Cranston paused to light a filtered Camel and inhaled deeply. “If I had to guess, I’d say them kids in that Jeep panicked over something and the driver took a swipe at one of ’em with that big mother of a screwdriver we found in the back. “Son of a bitch was covered with blood.”
“Yeah, but the whole inside of the car was filled with blood,” said Vince. He was beginning to understand why Sanford had wanted them to run their own independent investigation.
Cranston started his engine and a blast of cold air from the dash vents swept the smoke from his cigarette out through the open door and into their faces. “Well, you guys take care now,” he said, dismissing them. “Give us a call any time. We’ll send you the rest of the paperwork when it comes through.”
“Yeah, thanks a lot…” Frolich waited until he slammed the door and backed away before adding the obligatory, “…asshole!”
“What now?” asked Vince as they walked over to their own “plain wrapper”, a celery green Chevy four door.
“Well,” said Frolich, “there used to be a pretty good Mexican place over on Pico…”
“I have an idea,” said Vince.
Frolich regarded him curiously. “Yeah?”
Vince nodded. “You did tell me to read all those reports that came in this morning.”
“Well, both LAPD and the CHP seem to have overlooked the same thing.”
The little detective started the engine and pulled out into a heavy stream of traffic on Washington Boulevard. “You mean besides the fact that this guy is probably the Vampire, their long lost Sorority Row Killer?”
“Well, you gonna tell me or not?”
Vince then told him what he’d found up at the lake and went on to describe what he thought they should do about it.
“Damn, boy,” Frolich laughed when he had finished, “how’d you ever come up with that?”
“I read their reports. All of them. Evidently, they didn’t read ours.” He smiled, thinking of Cranston’s bored demeanor. “Of course, they did have thirty-five-hundred homicides down here last year. I didn’t have any, so maybe that makes me more sensitive.”
“Tell you what,” said Frolich, “this pans out I’m gonna get you a gold shield.”
“Oh no you’re not,” said Vince. “It took me six years to get my cozy little spot up at Condor Lake and that’s as far as I want to go.”
Frolich shrugged his padded shoulders. He made a left turn on La Cienega, heading back the way they’d come to get to the impound lot. “You got any idea if what you’re suggesting is legal?”
Vince shook his head. “Would it make any difference?”
Frolich laughed again.
She guarded the entrance to her den, watching and learning.
Below, the prey moved through the wooded grounds of the place they called Elysian Park. Some came in groups, stopping by the fountain to sit and eat the cold food they brought in small containers, or spreading cloths on the grass and cooking their meals over tiny fires set in metal boxes. Others simply ran or walked along the winding paths, or rode on gleaming lightweight vehicles which they powered with their legs.
All of the humans she saw in the park were draped in garments, although she noted carefully, they wore far less than their ancestors had. The females especially, whom she remembered had once cloaked their bodies in sweeping folds of cloth, now wore less than the males. She did not see one whose legs were not exposed to the light and air. She paid close attention to the females, for it was obvious that she would have to find and locate proper garments if she were to move unnoticed among the prey.
Many of the humans in the park wore protective coverings over their eyes, like the ones she had observed on the fat woman the day before. But darker.
She particularly desired a pair of sunglasses.
The weak winter sun was slipping toward the hills and she fidgeted anxiously in her hideaway.
The hunger was beginning to gnaw at her belly and the heat was returning to her loins.
She wondered if she had really dreamed the sweet, musky taste of the male’s scent on the air.
The thick, nauseating odor of human food hung nauseatingly on the air.
The vampire sat in a back booth of a cafe on Sunset, trying to ignore the reek, concentrating on the conversation of the four unemployed actors in the adjoining booth.
The conversation had begun with a brief commentary on the girl he’d murdered at Mann’s Chinese two nights before. There’d been gallons of blood, management was considering hiring roving security guards to patrol the theater with flashlights and tasers, Straight Razor Dan, etc. The old news faded away as the group’s apparent leader, a pimply youth with a sparse red beard who framed every remark in terms of the six weeks he’d spent as a costumed extra in the latest Batman epic, recounted his experiences at a casting session he’d attended that morning. The others clucked sympathetically over his rejection for the unnamed role of “bare chested boy”.
No news of a dead model.
The eavesdropper sipped his mineral water and reflected that Erika may not have had enough time to come ashore yet. Of course there was always the possibility that she had been eaten by sharks… That, of course, would be ideal.
A bray of astonishment sounded from a nearby table and he focused his attention on a trio of middle-aged matrons whose expensive clothing and jewelry bespoke prosperous husbands and homes in Bel Air or Beverly Hills.
“Their throats were ripped out, as if some animal had done it,” said the speaker, a painfully thin woman with a fuzzy halo of impossibly blue hair. “I only know this because the Levins have a weekend place up there on the lake and Barbara called me. Of course, the poor thing was frantic. She said the police are positively baffled. They’d never seen anything like it before…”
Straight Razor Dan, his heart suddenly pounding in his pale chest, slipped across the plastic seat of the booth, straining to hear more of the conversation.
“I think I saw something about it in The Times this morning,” said a fat woman wearing too much makeup and a ridiculous red silk hat, “but I had no idea Barbara was up there. Do you think it was really an animal? I mean, I thought they only had squirrels and things at the lake.”
The first woman placed her hand on the others arm. “No animal slipped into those poor children’s bedroom in the middle of the night and slashed their throats,” she confided. “Barbara said they’re sure it was some sort of maniac. Everyone at Condor Lake is absolutely petrified.”
She looked up as a slender young man in dark glasses stepped past her table and walked quickly to a rack of newspapers just inside the front door.
“Son of a bitch, you were right!” Frolich straightened and looked up at Vince who knelt a few feet away beneath the trunk of a giant eucalyptus. They had followed the clearly defined line of footprints down through the soft, loamy soil of the freeway embankment to the tall tree. Another set disappeared into the brush, heading for the backyards of the nearby subdivision.
“These are almost identical to the prints I found around my house the other night, said Vince, laying one spread palm against the length of the tiny impression in the dirt….except…”
“Except?” Frolich had trudged back up to the tree and was now peering over his shoulder.
Vince frowned and shook his head. He distinctly remembered that the prints around the house were shallower than these, as if whoever made them had been substantially lighter. “Nothing,” he said, looking up into Frolich’s flushed and perspiring face. The little detective had ripped the seat of his expensive suit pants climbing over the concrete freeway barrier at the top of the embankment, and his jacket was flecked with bits of brush and dirt. “I don’t suppose we have an evidence kit with us so we can get a cast of these.”
Frolich grinned. “In my car? Are you kidding me, junior? I got a whole crime scene setup, including a digital camera.”
“Good,” said Vince, “because after we cast the footprints, we should probably get some samples off the tree.”
Frolich stared at him. “Samples of what?”
Vince pointed to several small rust colored stains on the light bark. “I think it’s blood. It looks like our perpetrator tried to climb the tree.”
“Junior, I am definitely going to turn you into a homicide detective,” said Frolich. “Why don’t you see what else you can find while I go get my case?”
Vince nodded and returned his attention to the petite footprints in the soil. Size five. A child, or perhaps a small woman. He tried to imagine someone of that size overcoming the big college kid up at the Kramer place, concluded that he… or more likely she, had managed to catch the boy before he was fully awake. He hadn’t yet broken the news to Frolich, but he was beginning to doubt that whoever made these prints was the same person the LAPD had pegged as their Vampire killer twenty years before. The campus cop at USC had definitely described a naked male…
He got to his feet and walked down the steep embankment to the chain link fence around the backyard of the nearest house. There were several footprints in the dirt behind a cluster of shrubbery, as if the killer had stood watching the house for some time. Another line of prints angled away into the trees, following the I-10 freeway west toward its intersection with the Hollywood freeway. In the distance, he could make out the green hills of Elysian Park, which he knew adjoined the grounds of the Los Angeles Police Academy and Dodger Stadium.