Armitage - Chapter 7 - Unreal Possibilities (Part 2 of 3)
‘I know, I know,’ said Sergeant Thomas, sounding exasperated. ‘As soon as I say that to anyone they immediately think of those old vampire movies and to be honest I’m having trouble making people take these cases seriously.’
‘But people are dying,’ said Madeline, shocked at the irreverence that could be shown in the face of death.
‘I know, but when you’ve got some nut out there trying his best to make you think he’s a vampire you can’t help but run into problems.’
‘Have any of these attacks happened during the day?’ asked Madeline, deciding for a moment to humour the insane possibility of these crimes being committed by a supernatural being.
‘No, that’s just it,’ said the sergeant. ‘Whoever’s doing this has read up on vampires and knows their stuff. All the signs in this case would point to a vampire, if they existed, so we’re dealing with one seriously messed up individual, assuming he’s acting alone.’
‘And assuming it’s a he,’ said Madeline.
‘That too,’ nodded the sergeant.
‘Well, assuming for the time being that you’re looking for a man, do you think he might have accomplices?’ asked Madeline, feeling a knot in her stomach grow at the thought of the hooded figure being one of these vampire-like killers.
‘I don’t know,’ said Sergeant Thomas, sighing. ‘There’s so little evidence left behind that it could be one man or a dozen, but from your statement and the fact that you were only attacked by one assailant I’m hoping there’s just one of him. I have enough to deal with at the moment without the possibility of a gang of murderers on the loose.’ Madeline took all this in for a second, contemplating the gruesome possibilities that the sergeant was laying out for her. She didn’t like what her mind was throwing at her right now, not one bit.
‘You also mentioned that the Damico case was strange,’ she said, images of the poor girl’s funeral still fresh in her mind. ‘I mean, I know having the remains sent to her parents was really odd, not to mention sick, but you mentioned something about the MO being the same.’
‘Yes, that poor girl had pretty much all the blood drained from her like the others, but this was different.’
‘It was almost like she had been butchered, cut up like you would a piece of meat.’
‘You think someone ate her?’ asked Madeline, the disgust clearly registering in her voice.
‘Either that or someone wants us to think so.’ Madeline and the sergeant remained silent for a second or two as the horrific images swam in both their minds. The silence was broken by Abby approaching with Ben in tow.
‘Maddie, we’re going to wait outside for you so Ben can have a smoke.’
‘Okay,’ said Madeline, momentarily shaken from the world of killers and motives. ‘I won’t be long.’
‘Cool. Well, see you in a minute.’ Madeline smiled weakly as her friends made their way to the auditorium door but her expression resumed its seriousness when she turned back to Sergeant Thomas.
‘Sorry about that, you were saying?’
‘Basically Madeline, I’m worried that we have two, not one, killers out there. The question is whether they’re working together, if there are two, of course.’ Twisting her bag strap in her hands Madeline felt she had to tell Sergeant Thomas about the hooded figure. Although he had never done her harm she could not take the risk, just in case he turned out to be dangerous.
‘Sergeant, I don’t know if it’s important but over the past week or so I’ve seen a strange man around campus.’
‘What did he look like?’ asked the sergeant, picking up his notebook and clicking his pen.
‘I don’t really know,’ said Madeline sheepishly. ‘He’s always covered from head to foot in some kind of tatty robe; I’ve never seen his face.’
‘Do you think it might be the man who attacked you?’ asked the sergeant as he wrote in his notebook.
‘I don’t think so,’ said Madeline. ‘You see I’ve run into him a few times now, once even in my dorm room and he’s not once tried to hurt me.’
‘In your dorm room?’
‘How’d he get in there?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Madeline, shrugging. ‘I always lock the door and windows before I leave and no one else could have let him in.’
‘He tried to speak to me but Chris came knocking at the door.’
‘Did Chris see him?’
‘No, and that’s what’s got me so confused. I can’t have taken my eyes off him for a minute but when I looked back he’d gone.’
‘I don’t know, there isn’t really anywhere in my room he could have hidden himself.’
‘You say he tried to speak to you?’
‘Briefly yes,’ said Madeline. ‘He said my life’s in danger.’
‘From who?’ asked the sergeant, who had stopped writing momentarily.
‘He was very vague, but he said I’ve been chosen or something, and he said the name of my History Professor.’
‘Professor Mason?’ said Sergeant Thomas, his eyebrows rising questioningly. ‘What could he have to do with this?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Madeline, feeling slightly embarrassed at retelling her strange tale, realising once again how crazy it sounded. ‘But I went to see him about it the other day.’
‘What did he say?’ Madeline paused for a moment as she tried to remember her conversation with Professor Mason.
‘Madeline?’ said the sergeant when she didn’t reply.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘The stress must be getting to me. I’m having trouble remembering what we talked about, but I seem to recall Professor Mason showing interest in the man I’ve seen.’
‘And you can’t remember anything else?’ asked the sergeant, his pen poised over his notebook.
‘I don’t know,’ said Madeline, shaking her head. ‘My memory’s usually fine but at least twice recently it’s just given up on me, you know?’
‘You’ve been through some tough times,’ said Sergeant Thomas reassuringly. ‘It’s not surprising that your memory gave out on you. I’ll go and see Professor Mason as soon as I can.’
‘Thank you. I just hope you catch whoever’s doing this,’ said Madeline.
‘Me too, me too. Anyway, thanks for coming.’
‘You think of anything else you call me, okay?’
‘Anyway, you don’t want to keep your friends waiting.’ Madeline looked slightly embarrassed for a moment, as she’d forgotten all about Ben and Abby, so she said goodbye to the sergeant and rejoined Ben and Abby.
* * *
Now joining the warning posters that were adorning every notice board on campus there were articles about the proposed curfew the University was thinking of implementing, as well as advertisements for various female self defence classes that seemed to have sprang up overnight.
‘You feel like checking one out, Maddie?’ asked Abby one morning as she, Ben and Madeline were on their way to the cafeteria for breakfast.
‘No way babe,’ said Ben, smiling boyishly. ‘You already kick my ass enough without you learning how to do it properly.’
‘Well maybe if you weren’t such a dumbass all the time I wouldn’t need to kick your ass,’ said Abby, punching her boyfriend in the arm.
‘Ow, well if the two of you go maybe Maddie could protect me.’
‘You’re on your own, Ben,’ smiled Madeline.
‘In that case I’m buying a gun,’ joked Ben.
‘You’d probably shoot yourself in the balls,’ said Abby drily. Madeline laughed as Ben winced and once they had paid for their breakfast they made their way to their usual table.
‘I was serious though,’ said Abby as she sat down. ‘I’m really thinking about one of those classes. You up for it Maddie?’
‘I might check it out, lord knows it would make Chris happy.’
‘How is he anyway?’ asked Abby seriously. ‘I imagine the funeral was pretty tough on him.’
‘Yeah, it was tough on everybody but I think Chris went for Sophia’s parents more than anything else.’
‘That was good of him,’ said Ben. ‘They need someone right now.’
‘Yeah but get this,’ said Madeline conspiratorially. ‘You’ll never guess who showed up at the funeral?’
‘Who?’ asked Ben and Abby almost in unison.
‘Mason?’ said Abby, frowning. ‘What was he doing there?’
‘He apparently remembered Sophia and Chris.’
‘Well it was nice of him to pay his respects,’ said Ben while he stirred his coffee.
‘But that’s not the weirdest thing,’ said Madeline, casting a quick glance to her either side to make sure no one was eavesdropping. ‘Sophia’s grandmother went crazy on Mason.’
‘Yeah, we were all filing past the coffin and Mason was behind me, but when he walked past Sophia’s family the grandmother grabbed him by the wrist and wouldn’t let him go.’
‘I don’t know but she seemed pretty shook up. She kept doing the sign of the cross and calling Mason evil.’
‘I win then,’ said Ben, taking a bite of his Danish.
‘You win what?’ asked Abby, looking irritably at Ben.
‘The bet I had with Cody that Mason was a vampire.’ The mention of vampires cast Madeline’s mind straight back to the chilling conversation she had had with Sergeant Thomas the other night and she barely noticed when Abby delivered another punch to Ben’s increasingly bruised arm.
‘Ben you really are a dick,’ said Abby, shaking her head.
‘Good thing you love me then, eh?’ said Ben, rubbing his arm.
‘Damn straight, you’d be dead otherwise, eh Maddie?’
‘Hmm, what?’ said Madeline, realising someone had said her name.
‘I said I’d have killed Ben long ago if I didn’t love him so much.’
‘He’s very lucky,’ smiled Madeline.
‘Don’t feel so lucky right about now,’ laughed Ben, still rubbing his arm.
‘Oh don’t be such a baby,’ said Abby, leaning over to Ben to give him a kiss. ‘I barely touched you.’
‘Well I’d hate to see what you could do if you were serious.’
‘What made you think Mason might be a vampire?’ asked Madeline out of nowhere.
‘What? Oh, you know,’ shrugged Ben, feeling cautious not to warrant another punch from Abby. ‘No one knows anything about him, you never see him outside, that kind of thing.’
‘I know him well enough,’ protested Madeline.
‘I said no one knows anything about him, that’s different,’ said Ben, giving Madeline a meaningful glance. ‘Think about it, what do you actually know about him?’
‘Well… he travels a lot,’ suggested Madeline, realising that Ben might actually have a point.
‘Well he’s from England isn’t he? That pretty much tells you he likes to travel. Anything else?'
‘He’s spent time in England but I don’t know if he’s from there.’
‘There you see,’ said Ben. ‘You don’t know.’
‘Is there a point to this?’ asked Abby.
‘Look, I could tell you the name of my Professor’s childhood pet,’ said Ben. ‘You spend enough time in someone’s class you get to know the person and not just the Professor. I get the feeling that around here Professor Mason is just that, a Professor.’
‘Ben, just because he likes to keep to himself doesn’t mean…’
‘Charlie,’ said Ben before taking another sip of coffee.
‘What?’ said Madeline and Abby together.
‘That’s what Professor Dayton’s childhood pet was called, Charlie. He was a ginger tomcat.’
‘Fascinating,’ said Madeline, getting a little frustrated. ‘But just because I don’t know what my Professor called his cat when he was a kid doesn’t mean he’s a vampire.’
‘But how about never seeing him outside?’ asked Ben triumphantly. ‘We’ve been here how long? And I can’t remember ever seeing him outside.’
‘What about Sophia’s funeral?’ asked Madeline, confused as to why she was even having an argument about whether her history professor was a vampire. ‘How could he have gotten to the church if he was a vampire?’
‘When was the funeral?’ asked Ben.
‘The Sunday before last,’ said Madeline without thinking, it was a day she would not soon forget.
‘It rained that day, didn’t it?’
‘Yes, what’s your point?’
‘I remember it, overcast as hell, no sunlight at all.’
‘Have you never seen a vampire movie?’ asked Ben, tapping his index finger on the table. ‘Vampires can move about during the day, just not in direct sunlight.’
‘Do you realise how crazy that sounds?’ asked Abby, fixing Ben with an incredulous stare.
‘I’m just saying, is all,’ said Ben, holding his hands up defensively.
‘You’re full of crap, is what’s all,’ said Abby, shaking her head again. ‘Can you believe this, Maddie?’ But Madeline didn’t answer, as crazy as what Ben was saying there was a strange logic to it.
Could it be…?
No, it was impossible.