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McCready tensed, crouching low beside a large hedge and peering ahead through the fog and the rain that was compressing Forrester Park like a wet blanket.The city was hiding, it had been raining steadily since noon and no one was moving.

In the pale glow of the luminaires lighting the walking path, he saw a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure sliding through the fog, gone as quickly as it had appeared.

McCready moved ahead, staying in the shadows and parallelling the path.He knew it was Matisse, he could feel it in every fiber of his being. Bey had been watching him for days and had called him on her cell phone when Matisse began to move.

McCready and his partner, Luce Bey, had been investigating a string of murders of young women that had been dubbed the Vampire Killings, due to fang marks left in the victims necks after they had been stabbed from behind through the kidneys with some sort of long, thin blade.Of course, no blood had been taken from the victims other than that caused by the stabbings and it was assumed that the killer had some sort of vampire fantasy, probably the manifestation of a control/power obsession.Two victims had been found in the park, three others in the Northwest industrial area at different locations.Those had been dumped, the first two had been killed in the park on the path and dragged into the bushes.

Their first break had come with the last killing of a young woman named Rebecca Mohr. After digging into her background, it came to light that a former employer had been given a visit by the Police for stalking Mohr after she had quit her job when her boss started pressuring her for sexual relations.

Jules Matisse was the employer, a strange, effeminate man in his sixties who ran a small bookstore in the Old Town section of the city. It turned out that he had made advances to Mohr, who had quit her job after he couldn’t take a hint. Matisse began calling and texting her repeatedly until she finally called the cops. After he got a visit from the Police, the calls stopped and there was no further trouble reported.

It was a weak lead, but all they had, and after Bey had interviewed Matisse they decided he was weird enough to keep an eye on. The killings had been roughly a month apart and it was time for the killer to strike so Bey had been watching Matisse for the last week, waiting for a break.

McCready saw the shadow again for a split second and picked up his pace a little, trying to close the gap without being seen.He still felt there was something about Matisse that his instinct told him was wrong for this type of killing. He would have pegged Matisse for a pedophile, or even a child killer, but not a killer of grown women.He could not base this feeling on anything concrete, but it was there in the back of his mind, a mild nagging that he had not been able to shake.

Suddenly, there was peircing scream from the fog ahead, definitely female, followed by two gunshots.

Bey, thought Mccready, that was Bey who had screamed.Mccready broke into a run,drawing his .45 from his shoulder holster, his trench-coat billowing and swirling around him as he charged forward, nearly in a panic for his partner. He could barely see in the thick fog and finally slipped on the wet and muddy grass, pitching forward and sliding on his knees and hands. He muttered a ripe curse under his breath and straightened up, wiping his automatic on his right thigh to remove some mud. He looked forward and drew a sharp breath.A body lay ahead of him about ten feet, face-down and not moving.

McCready stood up and walked forward to where the body lay, then stooped and reached down, grasping the back of the hooded raincoat draping the figure lying on the ground. He rolled the body over so he could see the face.

Matisse lay there, staring sightlessly upward, raindrops drumming on his dead eyes and running down his cheeks as if he were crying. Two bullet holes were in his chest.

McCready straightened up, letting out a breath he had not realized he was holding and squinted ahead through the rain, looking for Bey, or anyone who had fired the shots. There was sudden,excruciating pain in his back on the left side, high in his kidney.

McCready felt his legs give out and he fell to his knees, the .45 slipping from fingers gone weak to land with a sodden thump in on the wet ground. He bent over forward, hugging himself under his trench-coat as he gasped in pain. Someone stepped around in front of him and he looked up, his face twisted with agony.

Luce Bey looked down at him, holding a long blade in her left hand. Her soft brown eyes regarded him sadly as the rain rolled down her face, making rivulets across the flawless brown skin of her Egyptian ancestors. Even now, as he sat on his knees dying slowly in the rain, she was beautiful.

“I’m sorry Louis,” she said. “I didn’t want it to be this way, but you were getting to close.You would have put it together eventually.” She bent down, picked up McCready’s automatic and dropped it into the pocket of her London Fog.

McCready was still doubled over in pain, hugging himself as if it would quell his misery.

“Why,Luce?” He spat some blood that had bubbled over his lips. “ You’re no vampire, why the bite marks?”

She laughed, like soft velvet, low and smooth. She smiled, revealing wicked canines.Even now, he still loved her.

“No vampire Louis,” she said. “I left the bite marks to throw the investigation, make it look like the work of some pathetic psycopath. Not a vampire. Something much, much older. You already know what I am, I hacked your computer and read your notes. You were getting too close, I had no choice in this.”

“It was the eyes,” said McCready. “Their eyes didn’t look quite right, too empty. Instinct told me to look beyond the natural.You’re a Reaver, you eat the souls of your kills by sucking them out through the eyes while your victims are dying. Eyes are not the windows of the soul, they are the portals of the soul.  When the body dies, the portals close. That’s why you use the thin blade in the kidney, so they won’t die too quickly.”

“Your instinct made you too dangerous. I knew you would figure me out because of it. I take no pleasure in this.” Bey smiled sadly. The rain drummed down, steady and black.McCready looked up at her.

“What was Matisse doing here?” he asked.Bey tilted her head to shake off the rain and smiled.

“Men are all too easy to manipulate,”she said. “A few well placed smiles during the interview, an apology for having to bother him with some routine questions, gaining his confidence through being sympathetic. All it took was a phone call telling him my fantasy of a chance meeting with an older gentleman in the park, hinting of good things to come. The fool took the bait and came running, as did you.”

“You’ll never get away with this,” he said. “You’ll make a mistake and the Forensics team will find it.”

“Of course I’ll get away with it,” she replied. “I replaced the firing pin in your automatic with a broken one. I’ll leave my spare .38 with your body, the same one I shot Matisse with.I’ll tell them I loaned you my gun. I’ll leave my knife with Matisse’s corpse and I’ll place your gun in your locker. I’ll cry at your funeral.The tears will be real, and everyone will be there to comfort Luce Bey.You won’t be terribly missed, you’re a dinosaur, old school, and they all wish you would retire.Nice and neat, Louis.” She bent down over Matisse and curled his fingers around the handle of her wicked blade.

“I should have seen it,” said McCready. “I should have trusted my instinct and seen it.”

Bey laughed again and this time it sounded like dry leaves stirring on a grave.

“Trust? It was trust that killed you,” she said. “Remember the first day we worked together? You told me we must earn each other’s trust to be partners. I earned your trust, and it killed you in the end. You came to love me and it blinded you.”

McCready was fading fast. He reached up with his left hand, pleading with his eyes. Bey reached out and took his hand softly, comforting the dying detective.

“Funny thing about trust,” said McCready. “Sometimes it comes too easy, sometimes never at all.” He suddenly clenched his hand tightly.Bey gasped in pain and tried to wrench her hand free, but could not.

“The only way to  kill a Reaver is with fire,” said McCready. “Fire, and trust. You trusted my love for you, Luce.” He withdrew his right hand from within his trenchcoat, revealing a round metal cannister.There was a metallic click, and a metal handle flew off from the side of it, landing in the wet grass. McCready smiled up at Bey, who was still trying to free herself from his grasp.

“White Phosphorous,” said McCready,still smiling. “I trust we will burn together.”

Bey screamed and the grenade exploded. Two souls burned in the night with a blinding flash while the city was still hiding.

The end

Bio: Gene Clarke is a retired Engineer who works part-time as a laborer and wild-fire fighter.


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