Saturday, October 15, 2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Today I want to share with all of you a very interesting story of
Margaret Shilling was deaf, she was unable to speak, to call for help. They said she was playing hide-and-go-seek, and that she just wanted to die. She has been called Ohio’s most notorious ghost, the lost lady. Teenagers have prayed to her, broken into a building for her, lit candles to her, and lay down on the spot where her body did that famous thing—where it vanished, reportedly, and then reappeared, leaving a stain.
In 1978, Margaret Shilling (sometimes spelled Schilling) was a patient at the mental hospital in my Ohio town. Opened in 1874 as The Athens Lunatic Asylum, the hospital boasted expansive landscaped grounds, lakes and woods, even a Lovers’ Lane. It would later have a flourishing farm and orchard. It’s a beautiful campus, then and today, with a famous Kirkbride design. The main building, five stories high, had “bat wings,” as a staff member called them, flanking the sides, and scalloped porches. The campus perches on top of a hill that overlooks town, and is bordered on all sides by dark trees.
The hospital in its heyday treated thousands of patients. But by the 1970s, the patient population of the asylum in Athens had dwindled, as it had in most state mental hospitals. General hospitals were starting to admit more and more mental health patients, and those who went to state institutions like the one in Athens were often poor, unable to afford private care. As a staff member told me: “Anything could get you sent here back then.” Many patients would just stay. And stay.
One of those patients was Margaret Shilling. Patient records are sealed, inaccessible to non-family members, but this much is known of her: She was likely a long-term patient. And in December 1978, the harshest winter in years, Margaret Shilling disappeared.
Before her disappearance, Shilling had gone to the attic. The unused attic, off at the end of one of the “bat wings,” had a peaked roof and exposed rafters. Maintenance was going on at the time—more than a century old by then, the asylum needed constant upkeep—and the doors to the attic, usually closed, may have been propped open by workers who were laying down insulation. Rumors have Shilling playing a game, hiding from an orderly. Much more likely, she simply saw an open door and went through it.
And then the door closed and locked behind her.
In the 70s, many patients at the asylum had grounds privileges, coming and going freely during daylight hours. Occasionally patients would not come back on time, and they would have to be retrieved from the woods. Often, according to staff, you could see patients sleeping on and under benches on the asylum grounds. They felt comfortable there.
Shilling was reportedly one of the ones in an “open ward,” with permission to come and go, though newspaper reports claimed she had dementia. But that night in December, Shilling didn’t come back. Staff searched the hospital. They searched the woods. They searched the attic. They searched it twice. They called her name. She never answered.
This is the point where a staffer tells me some at the asylum believed Shilling might have been suicidal; she just didn’t come out. She just didn’t want to be found.
And she wasn’t, for more than six weeks. Newspaper accounts list her discoverer as a maintenance worker. Other reports claim several employees found her together; they were sent to find her, and the staff knew where she was by this time, because of the smell.
Shilling was dead in the middle of the floor in the attic room, which had reportedly been searched twice. She was naked, her clothes stacked neatly on the windowsill. It was early January of 1979, in one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, with an unprecedented 34 inches of snow that month alone.
It took awhile to move the body—the state highway patrol had to be called, the coroner—and after the body was removed, something remained.
Workers scrubbed at the concrete floor. At a certain point, they gave up. You can see in the stain where they gave up. The whiskered marks of a brush juststop, mid-sweep. You can see this because it’s still there, almost 40 years later. The stain—a white, chalky image of a torso: head, back, the beginnings of arms and thighs—is still on the concrete floor of the attic, as obvious today as it was in 1979, when they could not, did not, clean it off.
“What’s the worst rumor you’ve heard about the stain?” I was asked by staff, when I visited in September, 2015.
Easy. That it’s haunted. That a college student broke into the then-abandoned asylum (it closed in 1993), touched the stain, then, plagued by a ghost, went home and killed himself. Or herself. That was a rumor I heard repeated all over town, mostly by the college students.
There are rumors about the stain—and then there are rumors about Shilling, much worse because of their personal, exploitive nature. There were strangulation marks found on the body. She was a chain smoker. She was getting cigarettes from the orderlies in exchange for sex. Staff disputes this particular rumor, saying “she wasn’t like that”—though I am never told what she was like—besides, cigarettes were for sale at the asylum commissary.
When I search archives for newspaper coverage of Shilling’s case, there is nothing on the month of her disappearance. Really, nothing. December 1978 is gone, exercised from the microfilm in multiple copies. The librarian assisting me calls this a “more exciting workday than is typical.”
Articles in the archives do cover the discovery of Shilling’s body. It is front page news on the Ohio University student paper The Post: “Missing Patient Discovered Dead.” The article from January 12, 1979, describes “three days of intensive search of the building and grounds and weekly follow-up searches” since the December 1 disappearance. It also discusses the curfew of patients like Shilling, who could come and go from the hospital, and quotes from Sue Foster, then the hospital superintendent. “It isn’t very often we can’t track down a missing patient,” Foster says. And then she says: “Normally a discharged or AWOL patient’s records are held for only 14 days after they are gone.”
This statement raises the question: Were other patients going AWOL? How many? What was happening at the hospital in 1979? Just a few months after Shilling was found dead, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees picketed at Ohio mental health hospitals, including the one in Athens. Foster was quoted in another article about the understaffed hospital: “We’re barely making it at the moment.”
But the story about Shilling is dropped. The last article on her is dated January 16, 1979. “Still Looking” is the title. The report says there’s been “little progress,” though an autopsy is being conducted and the attic has been sealed off while the town sheriff considers his own investigation. Foster says in this article, “She was alive when she was up there. That means to me that she wanted to be up there.”
Foster doesn’t mention how the doors in the attic supposedly locked automatically from the outside.
Did the sheriff conduct an investigation? Were the autopsy findings ever released? There’s no follow-up. Because Shilling’s death occurred on state hospital grounds, the Ohio state highway patrol was required by law to investigate—but their office was unable to find the file.
Here’s what I know of Shilling, without being family, without seeing the lost or missing records: She was 53 years-old. She was married. According to one local historian, she was a mother. She was not a young, beautiful dead girl, the type that attracts journalistic attention. She died in a locked room. She died and was left alone.
Her death certificate lists natural causes, yet she was only 53. Exposure to the cold, not listed, also seems likely. Ice storms had crippled the town in the weeks before Shilling was found. The power went out. Students went sledding on cafeteria trays.
Shilling is buried, not on the asylum grounds, where many patients are interred under numbered, nameless stones, but in a small cemetery in a Southern Ohio county. When I tell a staffer, he looks sad and says he’s not surprised. “That’s where we got a lot of people from then.”
Here’s what it's known of the stain, without being a scientist: In 2008, chemistry graduate students analyzed it, publishing their findings in the Journal of Forensic Science. The stain is a mixture of chemicals, human tissue. And soap.The ghost impression of Shilling’s body etched itself into the attic floor because the stain was cleaned with toxic products, much harsher than the cleaning products used today. Tissue and soap were found in the stain because a combination of factors—temperature, humidity, and the physical chemistry of her body—caused saponification, a mundane process which means that, rather than decaying, some of the fat in her body simply turned to soap. The ghostly stain in the attic ward is simply cleaning products…and soap.
It’s not exciting. It’s not scary. It’s not even that uncommon. But it’s still there, the stain in the attic ward. It’s a reminder—and the stain has its own life now. It attracts ghost hunting TV shows. It’s featured on website after website, many of the stories inflammatory and inaccurate. People still break into the asylum, wanting to see or touch it (the main hospital building houses classrooms, studio space, and a small art gallery now, but many wards, including the attic, are closed off). A staff member suggested just cutting the damn thing out, and displaying the chunk of concrete in the lobby, in a glass case.
In October 2015, Ohio University, who came into possession of the hospital campus in the late 1980s, announced future plans to demolish several asylum buildings, which they claim are “non-contributing buildings.”
But Ward 20, like it or not, is an accidental memorial. To raze that building, to destroy the stain, would be to deny whatever happened to Margaret Shilling—and the negligence and stigma that allowed her to be lost in the first place.
I have always been drawn to Shilling because of one of the rumors about her, although not the salacious ones. What drew me in was her rumored deafness. I am deaf, born with a profound hearing loss. The deaf filled many asylums, including the one in Athens (as did “shellshock” veterans and women with what we now call postpartum depression). In a different time, with a different family, would I have been sent to an asylum?
And is it possible Shilling didn’t come out of hiding not because she wanted to die, but because she didn’t hear the searchers? Nurses told there was something different about Shilling’s speech. She had a speech impediment of sorts; she whispered everything. Did she not hear the searchers? Did they not hear her? Did she not come out because she was suicidal, or simply ill or afraid?
Or was she too medicated? This was the age of Thorazine, the first generation of anti-psychotic drugs, which were extremely strong and sometimes had devastating side effects. Many patients were heavily drugged, shuffling around in a fog. Was Shilling?
“She was a relatively quiet patient,” Foster, the superintendent at the time, said.
Here’s what I know, what I know for sure: You don’t need to see the stain in the attic ward. You don’t need to touch it. If you want to feel something, don’t even bother going up the old hospital steps.
Turn to the back of the campus. Stay on the grounds. Go to the graveyards. There are five cemeteries holding the graves of hundreds of people who died in the asylum, most identified only by numbers. If you want to feel afraid, feel sadness for those lives, those lost lives: people whose deaths weren’t investigated, who don’t get newspaper articles written about them, or tours led to them, or stories (even lies) told about them.
These are the people who were left. People who spent their whole lives in an asylum. People who were misunderstood and sometimes, misdiagnosed. If you want to touch something, touch one of their numbers. Leave flowers, light candles for them, the ones nobody came back for, the ones no one will claim.
Alison Stine’s first YA novel SUPERVISION was published by HarperVoyager. Also the author of three books of poetry, she lives in the Appalachian foothills.
Illustration by Bobby Finger, source image via Sarah Hina/Flickr
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Today I'm posting my paranormal, horror short story titled "The Predators". Enjoy.
The adrenaline rush had worn off and Brandon craved a long sleep. He straightened his stiff back and crossed his arms over his chest, shifting in the plastic chair. For the past two hours he’d sat in the stuffy room, listening to the sergeant and other deputies mulling on about the serial killer plaguing the streets of Toronto over the past two years. The police hadn’t much to go on.
The slide on the overhead projector changed and a gruesome picture filled the wide screen. Men in the debriefing room groaned at the larger than life image on the screen. Even the veterans on the force puffed their cheeks and clasped their hands over their mouths, stifling bile rising to their throats.
The victim— a young woman— wrapped in a blood soaked bed sheet. Her lifeless eyes forever frozen in terror of her last moment. Death had not come swiftly to her. She had begged and blubbered for her life, despite the futility of her predicament. Suspended by her ankles from the ceiling, she’d soaked her pants as blood bubbled out through her slit throat.
“Newest victim, Moriah Twain, age twenty-six. Found yesterday early morning by a man walking his dogs along the Grand Park trails.” Sergeant scratched his thick neck. “Her family filed a missing person report a week ago. It was typical of her to take off and not let anyone know, so they didn’t panic at first. She was last seen leaving her apartment to go to work at the coffee shop, but never made it there.” Sergeant shook his head, flipping through the file. “According to her manager, not the first time she failed to show up and he had to scramble to fill in for her. He was about to fire her.” Sarge closed the dossier and glanced over the blue uniforms in the room. “Guys, I don’t want any info leaking out. We have not released the details. You all know the drill. Now hit the streets.” He pointed at Brandon. “Except you, Detective.”
The long neon tubes on the ceiling flickered and he blinked as the bright lights illuminated the room. Brandon waited until men rose from their seats, and piled out pulling their caps onto their heads. Moriah Twain, not the name she’d given him in that seedy bar he’d picked her up from. Her name, as the names of all that came before her mattered little to him. She was another dumb girl on the prowl for good times. Well, he’d shown her what she wanted, and then some. Taking out the trash this society created was a gruesome job, but someone had to do it. Preferably someone with a hard stomach and that is why he was the best for the task. Those women would never amount to much, only burden the already overloaded system. Nowadays every crybaby demanded something for nothing.
He studied the Serge, busy flipping through piles of papers on the desk. Had his superior suspected anything? No, he’d pull him off the case so fast Brandon would suffer a proverbial whiplash. With slow, deliberate steps, he approached the Sergeant. He shoved his hands down the trouser pockets and waited.
“This girl,” Sergeant said, pointing at now blank projector screen. “She doesn’t fit the killer’s profile. This one’s brunette and of mixed race. Plus, it had been less than ten days since her disappearance. The other victims’ bodies appeared months after their last sighting. I can’t be sure this case is connected with the other six killings.”
Oh, it’s connected. Brandon clicked his tongue and cocked his head. “Maybe the perp is expanding on his preferences. Or trying to sway the police into thinking there’s a copycat. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.”
Sargent harrumphed, stacking the file folders on the desk. “You’re probably right. Guesses and false hints are all we have to go on. But the man’s getting sloppy and he’ll kill again, soon.”
And that’s all you’ll ever have. Easy now, the cockiness could cost him everything he’d worked so hard to hide. His inner demons had demanded quick and merciless kill with what was her name, Moriah? That was why now they urged him to kill again. Brandon raked his fingers through his hair. “We’ll get the bastard before that happens. He’ll slip up sooner or later.” He rubbed his sore eyes. “I’m dying for a shower. I can’t think or see straight. I’m beat.”
“Take an extra day off, clear your head. The Mayor called in a few favors from the Interpol.” Serge picked up the paper coffee cup and tossed it into the overflowing garbage bin. “Be back by Wednesday for a special meeting. They sent a profiler.” He shook his head and his tone changed to sarcastic one. “Whole lot good is that gonna to get us.”
“A profiler?” The surprise in his tone was genuine. A profound pride swirled through Brandon. Never before had the PD needed help from such professionals.
“Yeah, one of those people with a unique ability to see through the eyes of others.” Serge huffed. “A special insight into the workings of the criminal mind. She solved two cases of missing children, but never worked on a serial killer case. The woman wants to stay anonymous. I’ve been warned she’s strange. Both perps from the cases she solved were found dead, drained off all blood. I think the woman arrived this morning, I haven’t had time to meet with her yet.”
“Drained of all blood? How strange.” Brandon left the boardroom, his mind on an extra day off— freed time to stalk his next victim. A new surge of energy rushed through him washing away the tiredness in his joints. Perhaps he should hit the gym before picking up an unfortunate soul. He headed for the locker room.
Brandon opened the heavy glass doors and entered the room filled with high-tech sports gadgetry. Gym, his home away from home, only here and his hideout, could he be in his element. He stepped on the treadmill and input the workout specs into the console. Begin your workout flashed across the screen and the incline started to propel the base. An hour into his regiment of muscular fine tuning, the gym door opened and a woman entered.
Strange, few bothered to use the gym so graciously provided to all employees by the upper management. That was one thing he liked about working at headquarters. His eyes roved over her. He had seen her earlier in the hallways of the building. A new probie no doubt or maybe that profiler bitch. If so, had she sensed his killer’s instinct and stalked him here in some foolish attempt to connect with him to study his criminal mind?
Stylish outfit matched her iPod case. Pulling her long raven hair into a ponytail, she stepped onto a cross trainer. Brand new running shoes drew his attention. Not working out much. She was here just for show. Gaining her trust should be quick and easy.
His time on the machine had ended. He wrapped a towel around his neck and noted the workout results. Eight miles in sixty minutes ran at the speed of six miles per hour, his new record. Stepping down, he glanced at the woman. She removed her long sleeved jacket, exposing her well-developed arms and shoulders under a spandex tank top. He never imagined her small frame could possibly have those muscles under that shirt, could’ve fooled him. His guts churned, not with fear or dread, but with excitement.
She flashed him a shy smile and returned her stare to the console. The bitch wanted him. No whore deserved his body, a temple, a secure fortress, housing his mind.
He took his time in the shower. Turning the dial to the max, the pounding force of hot steaming water drummed upon his naked form. Droplets dripped from his body when he emerged from the mist.
After drying with a stiff towel he shaved then dressed with careful deliberation. He always kept a clean change of clothes in his locker. The crisp cotton of his powder blue shirt caressed his arms and shoulders while he worked a row of tiny buttons. Designer jeans clad his muscular legs and narrow hips. Women’s gazes never failed to drop to his butt soon after they inspected his face. By their widening irises, he knew they liked what they saw and hoped to wrap their legs around his hips. None so far got to live out their dirty fantasies with him.
One more glance in the mirror before he left confirmed his readiness. Hunger worked its way to his mind. Sushi, always pure and raw, was the food of his choice.
Stepping onto the street the fresh air caressed his clean shaven face. His strides took him toward the bright lights of the city. Before long he arrived at his favourite restaurant, just as a group of loud partygoers left the establishment. Brandon sat by a large bay window and ordered the sampler platter, his usual. His order arrived and he poured the sake into the round cup. Lifting the drink to his mouth he surveyed the interior. She sat at the bar, her back turned to him, but he recognized that raven hair. Her well-tailored outfit, tight skirt and heels. He loved those heels. Her attire made her all the more vulnerable.
How did she finish her workout so fast, dressed, and arrive here before him? She must’ve driven. Good, she didn’t leave her car at the employee parking.
Brandon woofed down his booze and crimpled his face as the desired burn warmed up his throat and chest before settling in his stomach.
Crossing the chopsticks between his fingers, he picked a piece of sashimi from the platter. He popped the morsel in his mouth and revelled in its taste. Traditional Japanese method of hand-line harvesting. The brain was pierced with sharp knife the very moment fish landed preserving freshness, stopping from being tainted.
Crossing the chopsticks between his fingers, he picked a piece of sashimi from the platter. He popped the morsel in his mouth and revelled in its taste. Traditional Japanese method of hand-line harvesting. The brain was pierced with sharp knife the very moment fish landed preserving freshness, stopping from being tainted.
A sadistic smile stretched his lips at the recollection. He gulped down the remnants of the sake, taking in the liquor’s aroma with deep inhalation. Exhilaration surged through him. He pierced the heads of his victims with his own sharp instrument. Although their deaths were prolonged before harvesting, considerably, but that only crossed his mind as a passing thought.
The woman hopped down from her bar stool. He stood and sauntered up to her. He was just as friendly and accommodating as the next person. But what no one knew, behind those eyes, the well-developed facade, lay demons that plagued and probed. Demons that when surfaced, transform Brandon into a merciless killer.
“In all my fifteen years on the force, I rarely saw anyone use that gym, and never a woman. Until today.” He leaned on the bar. She jerked her head towards him. For a brief moment their eyes met. A jolt of ice pierced Brandon. Her eyes, those coals showed no sign of life. Narrowing his gaze to sharpen his sight, he peered deeper. The woman’s eyes remained unchanged. Perhaps a trick of dimmed lightning.
Flashing another shy smile, she left the restaurant. He quickly settled his bill. She crossed the street and entered the underground parking. Keeping his distance, he followed. Her heels clicked on the cement stairs as she hiked down one level. Stopping by a black Porche Boxster, she rummaged through her purse and pulled out her cell. Brandon stepped behind an SUV. Would she send a text message or would she dial? She pressed the mobile to her ear. Gods didn’t smile upon her tonight.
“Hi hon.” She rattled the keys in her hand. “Everything’s in place. Will meet you there.” The off button let a low beep. She placed the device back in her purse.
Hon shouldn’t wait up. She wasn’t meeting him, ever.
Quick as a shadow, he slipped behind her. Covering her mouth with his gloved hand, he pressed his knife to her back. “When I rip your clothes off and make you stand before me, will you cower? Will you plea? Will give me an erection? Play with my dick till I come in your hand?” Brandon smiled. “Sure you will.” He pushed her in front of him. “Now drive.”
She let out a quiet chuckle, or was it a cry? He couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter, she obeyed. Driving away, he pressed the knife to her abdomen. She looked at him with those lifeless eyes, and then turned her gaze at the road ahead. Strange, by now all bitches cried as the reality of their desperate situation started to sink in. They would tell of this to no one if he let them go. No, he couldn’t let them go. It was too late now. This one would be a challenge. Excellent, he craved resistance. She’d be all the sweeter when he broke her.
“You’re a strong silent type, aren’t you?” The exhilaration of the moment had him on edge. Though he must admit, he expected to stalk her for a bit longer, but he could let her go only to make her think she was safe then trap her again. Yes, the game of cat and mouse, he hadn’t played that one in while. The way the victims’ faces had sagged when they realized he tricked them, always sent him in fit of hysterical laughter.
The corner of her lips curled up, creating a tiny crease at her cheek. He picked up a true beauty tonight. Almost shame to carve that flawless skin of hers, but the demons clouding his mind demanded that she must be unrecognizable by the time he was done. His new canvas would receive the work of art by torture.
“If you’re the profiler, you know my criminal mind and know what I’ll do to you.” He leaned closer and whispered in her ear. “Tell me how scared are you.”
Her smile only widened while she couldn’t spare him half a glance. Rage rushed blood to his head. “Are you finding this amusing? This is not a game. I kill, love.”
“So do I.” Her flat tone and composed body almost fooled him. No one could stay that cool, no, she must be panicking inside. Oh, she was good in not letting it show, but she would. Soon, she’d break down and beg with incoherent, quivering voice, tears would streak her pretty face and she’d tremble when he slide the edge of his knife along her cheek, pressing the sharp tip at her neck.
The car took a sudden flight, the speed increasing by the second. The bitch let out a bone chilling laugh.
Blood pounded in his ears. Damnation, she was in control of the vehicle and if she wanted to slam the car into a concrete wall, there was nothing he could do to prevent her. Calm down man. Don’t buy into her bluff. She wouldn’t commit a suicide, she believed there was a hope she’d survive. That she’d be rescued. Every bitch before her had same notion at the first hours of abduction. Some had tried to chat with him, thinking he’d warm up to them. Not a chance.
He willed his racing heart to relax and spoke over the roar of the engine. “If you’re trying to get police’s attention, I must warn you. I’m very well-known detective on the case. The uniform cop will let me go before you utter a word. All I have to do is flash my badge.”
The car slowed down and clicking of the signal indicated she changed lines and was heading for the highway exit. The correct exit ramp. How would she know, he never mentioned where to drive? Though his internal alarm was going full blast by now, the curiosity prevailed. “Who are you?”
She turned the car onto a gravel road and switched to high beams. Tall grass surrounded them, bordered by pine trees in the distance. Silent sentinels of shallow graves of his victims. Another turn and the vehicle hit a crumbling pavement of a deserted road. To his dismay, she didn’t even cringe when she brought her car to a stop in front of abandoned self-storage rows.
“What? How did you know to drive up here?” No, this couldn’t have been a coincidence. No one knew of his hideout. The bitch must’ve followed him.
She ignored his questions. “You slipped, Detective.”
“Get out.” He demanded, irritated by her smirk. Pushing her in front, he raised the garage door. The lingering stench of his previous kill still hung heavy in the air.
“Let us play a little game.” Before he released her wrists from his grip, he gave her a yank forward. “You’re free if you can reach the end of this row. How fast can you run?”
She stumbled on her heels, but regained her footing. Instead of kicking those shoes, she straightened her skirt and stood rooted. What the hell was she waiting for? Perhaps the reality of her situation finally sunk in and rendered her helpless. “I’ll give you ten seconds head start. One…”
She vanished through the rows of grated storage units. Couldn’t have gone far in those heels, he only counted to one. He followed her scent. Stupid bitches always wore heavy perfumes. This one was no exception. Only he couldn’t place her smell, it wasn’t flowery or musky, rather of something that reminded him of death and cemeteries. Darkness settled fully over the storage units and no sign of her. He broke into run. God-dam-it, why had he let her go? This game was no longer fun, and he had a distinct feeling he was no longer the hunter, but the hunted. The thought sent gooseflesh rising on his arms. His gaze darted at the slightest sound, to every movement of shadows. He punched a nearest wall.
Out of breath, he turned the corner, feeling the weight of the defeat pressing on his shoulders, and there she stood, at the end of the line. Careful not to make noise, he approached her from behind and flattened his back against the wall of the dilapidated storage unit. His heart pounded in his chest. Something felt wrong. This could be a trap, she was making this too easy. Who was she? The intrigue took the best of him and in two leaps he closed the distance grabbing her by her shoulders. “Should’ve run while you had a chance.”
She pivoted away from him and headed back in the direction of his unit. Her hips swayed in front of him. Yeah, he wanted her, but not in the same way as she obviously wanted him.
Leading her straight to the handcuffs suspended from the chain on the low ceiling of his storage unit, he proceeded to bind her hands. She stared at him. The scent of his recent kill, copper on the back of his throat made him yearn to add fresh blood. With her hands bound to the cement ceiling, the tension in his shoulders eased some. Now it was his turn to play. Her face stood expressionless, then her lips curled in a smile and she threw her head back, laughing hysterically.
Brandon took a step back. Was she suicidal? Insane? “You won’t be laughing when I’m done with you.”
“When you’re as ancient as we are, there’s not much fun in a swift kill.”
At a deep man’s voice he pivoted and reached for the gun in his holster. His hand gripped sweaty cotton of his shirt in his armpit. The mental picture of his gun inside his locker at the police station appeared. As an off-duty cop, he couldn’t carry his fire weapon, thank to dumb Canadian firearms laws. Mattered not, he hadn’t planned to use the pistol tonight.
“Who are you?” Brandon stared at the tall hunk of a man, leaning against the wall in the corner. He swallowed against his suddenly dry throat that turned his voice high-pitched. “How did you get in here?”
“All in good time, my friend.” The man pushed away from the cement wall covered in faded blood stains and stepped to him. “I’m not the one you should fear.” Jerking his head towards the woman, he continued. “She is.”
“Her?” Brandon pointed with his thumb. “You must be kidding. She’s,” turning his head towards her, he realized she slipped her hands out of the cuffs. “How did you do that?”
Her eyes color changed from that coal black to crimson. Brandon took a big step back, gasping. His knees buckled and he grabbed onto the corner of the torture table. His own contraption, from which many chains and cuffs hung, some still had bits of rotten flesh and dried out blood. “My God,” he swallowed even harder. “What are you?”
“The dictionary lists us under the capital V.” As his incisors descended the man blocked the entrance.
“V— vampires.” Brandon gasped the word out of his mouth, not believing. In his years as a homicide detective, he’d seen his fair share of weird shit, but everything had its own explanation. This would too. The perps were drained of blood. “Whatever you claim to be, I let the woman go if we make a deal. No mention of any of this.”
“It’s too late, Brandon.” The woman spoke with some emotion in her tone for the first time. “When we are about to pierce your jugular vein, will you cower? Will you beg for mercy?” She gave a short chuckle that curded his blood, then turned to the shelf displaying souvenirs he’d taken from each victim and fiddled with now faded blue ribbon of his youngest victim. A high school dropout had fallen for him and clung to his every word, while she sipped on those fancy cocktails. It took no effort on his part to bring her drunken ass here. “The girl was so young, so naive.”
Brandon detected a Slavic accent in her English, but her voice was smooth, soothing almost. “What,” he licked his suddenly parched lips, “what do you want from me?”
The man shrugged. “Not much. Just your blood, all of it.”
“If what you’re saying is true, why can’t you make me immortal?” The thought of endless life, the power he would have over his victims, enjoying their blood, sent a surge down his spine. “After all, we’re not that much different, you and I.”
“Do not compare yourself with us.” The woman’s face soured. “You kill for pleasure. Think of your first kill, that puppy loved you, you know. He would’ve protected you with his life, but you never felt his love.”
The bitch! Obviously she knew all about him. But why? His parents had tried to guilt trip him for killing that pup, but his father was worse when he killed the big game. Only that had been somehow different, hid behind a label of a hunter. “Oh, I know what you’re trying here. It’s not gonna work. I don’t feel a thing for my own useless kind.”
The bald brute of a man jerked his chin at Brandon. “What does that make you?”
“And what’s that worth?” The man leaned forward. Close to see his pupils turning blood red and render Brandon helpless with fear.
Holy shit, was this really happening? If he could convince these guys to give him what he wanted, the possibilities seemed endless, just like his existence could be. “Up to this moment, it was worth everything, but now I want more. I want an immortal life.”
“Immortality comes with a too high a price you could never pay.” The woman’s voice carried a hint of sadness in it and for a fraction of a second, sorrow seemed to flash in her eyes. What could’ve have happened to her? At what cost had she traded her mortal life for her ceaseless existence?
“I’ve got nothing to lose. There’s no family left who’d miss me. I saw to that. And my work…pfft. Bunch of morons, fuck ‘em.” Dumb words, Brandon realized, he had not a friend in this world. Existing as an undead for centuries may not be long enough to find a compatible soul, one who would not disappoint and turn him into a merciless killer.
The woman must’ve smelt his sudden blood rush and widened her nostrils. Opening her mouth wide, her large fangs protruded. Brandon’s eyes widened in fear as his heart skipped a beat. They weren’t playing a sick joke on him. Why wasn’t his training kicking in?
“Now, what is it that you wanted to do to her?” The man grabbed his shoulders as his instinct of mere survival kicked in and he bolted for the entrance.
“Don’t kill me.” Brandon pleaded. How did the tables turn? It was him who supposed to be enjoying the torture before the gruesome killing. “I can be of value.”
“You’re of no use to us or to humans. We’re done chatting. Now the pay off.” The man pushed him towards the woman. “Prolonging your agony, is our pleasure.”
“Why do you care for the mortals?” Brandon dug in his heels, but the man pushed him as if he was mere straw.
“One of your victims could’ve fed many vamps for years. We must stop people like you from depleting our food source.” The woman ran her ice cold fingers through his hair. Under different circumstances, he’d mistake her expression for motherly. “Moriah was your daughter.”
No high school dropout could be his flesh and blood. Then again, his mind swirled, but he forced his thoughts to time long forgotten. The girl, Moriah, would’ve been of right age to be his child. That high school floozy, the only woman he had sex with, no wonder the kid had gone astray. Her mother had wanted to tell him something, but once he fucked her, he no longer had any interest in her. Beside, he’d heard from other guys she tried to pin her pregnancy on them. Then her family moved away. “The bimbo slept with every jock in the school. What made you think I knocked her up?”
“We have our ways. I’m getting tired of you talking.” The woman clamped her hand over his mouth, cutting off his next words he was about to utter.
Had he killed his own child? Possible, but that Moriah girl had had loose morals. She’d deserved everything she’d gotten.
Piercing pain in his neck came without warning and paralyzed him yet didn’t numb his senses. Waves of excruciating burning raced down his spine and shot though his arms and legs, curling his fingers into rigid grip. He tried to loosen his knuckles, to no avail. No blade of steel could deliver such blow, or penetrate so deep. Maybe he would turn into a vampire after the first bite. After all, everything he’d heard of these elusive creatures indicated such course of action. But until now he did not believe vampires existed.
The woman’s companion took Brandon’s hand and sunk his fangs into his wrist, doubling the agony. They meant to suck him dry. With the sudden realization his barely controlled fear surfaced. Unable to stand the torture, he screamed, but the sound would not be heard anywhere else but in this soundproof unit. The thought he’d die here never crossed his mind when he’d soundproofed the storage. Before darkness engulfed him, the faces of all his victims floated before his eyes. He relived every agonizing moment in his body.
The door to the storage unit stood wide open when he came to his consciousness. Darkness surrounded the abandoned street. Crickets chirped and tree brunches swayed in the breeze. Freedom just within his grasp, tempted him. With a loud groan, he turned to his side. His head pounded and every muscle protested with a burning pain. There were no vamps in sight. He didn’t fall for their trick. It was something he would’ve done to tempt his victims. Let them think he was gone, then as soon as they bolted for the open field, he’d grab them, relishing in their screams. How did the two of them know his schemes?
Still, the temptation was too great. Perhaps they had enough of his blood and left him alone. No, he couldn’t be that dumb. Despite his mind screaming at him not to fall for this, his legs took him toward the open doors and gulped the fresh air.
No sooner than the cool breath hit his nostrils, a large hand wrapped around his neck, chocking him.
“How does it feel, having to relive your victims last moments?” The male vampire’s whisper entered Brandon’s ear and stopped his heart.
“How do you know… details of my kills?” Brandon fought for every breath as the vampire’s hand tightened on his neck. “None… of this was released in the media.”
The man tapped his fingers on Brandon’s temple. “It’s all in your mind. We can read you.”
He swung his body and thrust him back inside the unit. Then slammed the door. “There’s still blood left in you and we’re not letting you go until we suck the last of it.”
The woman appeared, out of thin air as it seemed. She cocked her head at Brandon’s questioning stare. Could she truly pass through the walls?
“Let the feast begin.” Her eyes changed their color and her fangs dropped.
Brandon’s breath hitched. He backed up until his rump hit the cold wall. “No. Please. I beg you.”
“Have you ever heeded your victims’ begging?” the man asked, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck, exposing his veins to the woman.
“Can I at least know your names?”
The man turned Brandon’s head and locked his dead eyes with his. “Your victims never knew yours.”
The pain ripped through him and his body jerked in violent spasms while the two vampires feasted on him. He welcomed the darkness that claimed him.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Welcome to the day one of our October Frights Blog Hop.
My new book, a suspense romance titled "Gypsy Stone" will be released on October 30th (coincidentally also my 50th birthday), from Crushing Hearts and Black Butterflies Publishing, or as often referred to as CHBB, where dreams take flight.
As usual, there's a light paranormal thread in the story, of the Gypsy Stone that has its own powers.
When running away is no longer a choice, fighting for life begins.
She exposed the heinous crime, no one believed her...now she must run...
Dario returned to his seat, the band’s music drifted past him, but he couldn’t place the song with Ana’s words replaying in his mind. He breathed deeply and took a slug of his beer, scowling again at its bitterness. A person clad in a red cloak approached, the deep hood hid the face, but the swaying of hips under the cloth reminded him of Irena. She still wore her mask even though it was after midnight when true identities were revealed. She squeezed between his stool and the one next to him. The citrus perfume was Irena’s branding.
Holding her glass, she faced him. Her hood covered most of her features, but something about her deepened his suspicion that Irena stood before him. She downed the orange drink, then licked her full lips. With the glass pressed to her chest, she uttered a deep moan for the appreciation of for the cocktail.
“Easy there, there’s plenty of night left.” He tilted his head, trying to catch a different light to see her, but it was too dark to make out her features around her mask.
“No worries, I only drink half a shot of vodka.” She placed the tumbler on the bar and flashed him a smile. Her accent seemed foreign and so did her treble, unlike Irena’s alto. Who was this woman?
But her drink, or the way she liked it, had him sitting on nails. Half a shot of vodka in her screwdriver…only one female drank it that way.
The girl took two steps away from him, halted and turned her head to look over her shoulder. Was she waiting on him to follow her? What are you waiting for? He set his drink on the bar and got on his feet. She continued on her way, keeping a slow pace, squeezing between the crowds. He stayed a few steps behind.
Ante intercepted him at the main door, shoving a brown bottle at him. “Leaving already? You forgot your beer.”
“Hold it for me.” He waved him off, never taking his eyes off the red hood, slowly disappearing into the crowd outside.
“Hold it for you? Oh, you’re expecting to find beer left when you get back?” Ante’s shout grew louder with every word.
Dario glanced at him. “Fine, drink it up.”
When he raised his glance at the crowd on the street, the red hood had vanished. Damn it. Had he seen a ghost? It couldn’t have been too much beer. He’d barely taken a couple of sips. No, she was real and she couldn’t have gone too far. He stepped out on the cobblestone paved road of the old city. At the corner, he spotted her cloak and followed her. In an instant she ran into the narrow alley.
“Wait,” he called, catching up with her. Grabbing onto her shoulder, she turned her around. The girl uttered half a scream, and pierced him with do-I-know-you stare. He spotted the differences between this girl and the one at the bar. The blue mask encircling her eyes and half a nose had shiny studs, not red feathers. She stood good two inches shorter than the other girl and wore no lipstick.
“So sorry, I mistook your for someone.” He released his grip on the girl’s shoulder and took a step back. What were the odds they’d be two girls in red cloak tonight?
Wondering where to look next, he rubbed his neck, walking slowly back toward the Papillion Bleu.
He pivoted at the piercing sound and there she leaned against the whitewashed wall of a Gothic church, several steps from him. Some unexplained power rooted him to the spot. Would she run away if he approached her? She gathered her cloak around her and continued down the alley.
“Wait, don’t go.” He called after her, but she spun in his direction and placed her gloved finger to her lips. The deep hood still hiding most of her face, the large plumes of her mask covering her eyes, fluttered in the air.
Then she took a sharp left turn, skipped the two steps and entered a dark vault of the ‘City Gates’, a tunnel leading beneath the ancient, stone-built medieval walls once erected for protection, and one of many perfect hideouts for the couples of old and modern times. The secret make-out hole he’d taken Irena to spend time alone, away from prying eyes.
He approached with hesitation. His heart pounded, ready to jump out of his chest. Could it be her? “Who are you?”
She panted in the corner, her breathing audible in the quiet of the night. Her shoulders rose and fell with each breath she took. Slowly she turned and faced him, and pulled the hood and the mask from her head, revealing the rest of her. “Have I changed that much?”
His heart stopped for a moment. Even in the dark, her blonde hair would stand out, not now. Her head blended with the darkness. The length of her hair seemed odd, cropped too short. Still, the tresses framed her petite face. A face that haunted him for the past fourteen years finally stood in front of him.