Author’s Note: This is a story written a few years ago in response to a challenge. If the vampire Flynn had been so prolific, what did the Philadelphia Police Department think of him? Thus do we have Martin Sanchez and his particular dilemma. He’s been assigned the case and might know a bit too much for his own good.
As a disclaimer, since this was a piece written for fun, there wasn’t much corresponding research. The police work here is straight out of television cop dramas and may or may not be plausible.
Part One – The Latest Victim
“Your vampire’s back.”
Detective Martin Sanchez rubbed his eyes and sighed, reluctant to look up at the man standing in front of his desk. With that one sentence, Charlie Masters ruined his entire day and Martin didn’t think it was going to get any better. Ignorance is bliss; that’s what the wise people always said.
Well, they never had to work for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Slowly, his eyes drifted upward until Charlie filled his line of vision with his incredible girth. The beat cop was no spring chicken and it showed in the laugh lines that made themselves pronounced when Charlie regarded the look on Martin’s face. “Sorry. I know it ain’t a hooker, but -” Charlie tossed the file folder onto Martin’s desk. “Happy birthday, anyway.”
“Thanks,” Martin said, speaking through a clenched jaw that could have cracked walnuts if one were poised between his teeth. Martin sighed and watched Charlie stroll away from his desk, with Charlie indulging in a hearty chuckle over something less-than-amusing. Another murder and still, the son of a bitch could stop to chortle.
Silently, Martin hoped he never developed that screwed up of a sense of humor.
Shaking his head, Martin’s eyes drifted to the folder, pausing to examine everything humanly possible about the exterior so he could prolong having to open the damned thing. Hell, why did he need to do that anyway, he knew exactly what it was going to tell him. More than likely it would be a woman – though, sometimes, the sadistic son of a bitch would leave a guy or two as if teasing the next person working his case. The pictures would vary because his modus operandi never remained the same, but two things would remain consistent about the victim in each case.
They’d have a clean cut across their neck, sometimes other stab wounds interspersed throughout their body. What made them eerily macabre was the presence of puncture wounds hidden underneath some of the shallower cuts. The cases would exhaust the list of suspects quickly, leaving no further avenues to explore. Just an unknown shadow that seemed to be perpetrating each murder.
Martin hadn’t wanted this assignment in the first place. It was referred to by homicide detectives as ‘The Vampire Murders’ and bore with it a curse that had become legendary. The first person to work the case disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was followed by a wake of bad luck for several who followed. Bill Frazier. Martin remembered that name and found himself revisiting it quite a bit more now that he’d been passed the torch. Bill himself didn’t start off with this wave of murders. It had been a completely different case that led to him becoming involved.
The cases hadn’t even been related, either. The double homicide that occurred near Fairmount Park had gone cold, but that case had a suspect. It was a classic crime of passion; two bodies slashed to ribbons with a kitchen knife and left to unceremoniously bleed out on the woman’s white carpet. The perpetrator vanished into thin air, but within a few months strange cases started surfacing around the same neighborhood that reminded Bill a bit too much of that double homicide.
He and Martin had the chance to talk about the case once before Bill disappeared. They snagged two hot dogs and sat in JFK Plaza, stopping to fight off the pigeons in-between bites. “This whole thing’s fucked up, Marty,” Bill said as he swallowed the last bite of his hot dog and shook his head. His eyes were fixed on the fountain in front of them, but Martin could tell Bill’s mind was visiting someplace else. “It’s been months since that Davies case went cold and son of a bitch if these others make me think of that girl lying face down in a pool of her own fucking blood.”
Martin lit a cigarette, having finished with his lunch a long while back. “Yeah?” Martin asked. “What about it?”
Bill shook his head. “Son of a bitch knew what he was doing,” he said. “Those were fucking clean cuts, one right across the guy’s throat. The other one through the girl’s chest.” Bill raised his hand, thrusting it forward with an imaginary knife in his hand before retracting it. “In and out, like the guy was some fucking butcher.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between the two, Bill lost in his thoughts and Martin content not to know much more about them. Still, the quiet begged for somebody to finally break it. Martin took a deep drag of his cigarette and exhaled the smoke. “Didn’t you guys get some prints from the knife?” he finally asked.
“Yeah,” Bill said. His eyes shifted toward Martin. “A doctor named Peter Dawes. Spotless fucking record, not even a damn traffic ticket. The guy was a boy scout, if you went by what his co-workers said about him. He worked the ER over at Temple.”
“Yeah, but we all know about these fucking boy scouts, Bill.”
Bill huffed. “Tell me about it.” He shook his head. “But he went up in smoke after that. Completely. Vanished.”
“People don’t completely vanish.”
“Did the Feds ever look at it?”
Bill laughed. “You and I know about the Feds, Marty. Yeah, they threw me a bone. They scanned his social, did some searches, the routine shit, but there was nothing. Nada, zilch, zero, nothing. No family to question; he was an orphan whose aunt and uncle had gone on to the Great Beyond, too. The victim’s family never met him. He completely fell off the map.”
“So what does this have to do with the case you’re working now?”
The color drained from Bill’s face, as though he just remembered he’d been damned to hell. “I’ve never had to look at pictures like this,” he said. His eyes became distant again. Haunted, almost. “Throats sliced. Clean cuts. Some of ‘em with knife wounds just like that Davies girl. But that’s not the worse part of all of it, Marty. With this last one, the Coroner added something to the list.” He paused, as if for emphasis. “Puncture wounds in the neck. He nearly covered it up with that knife wound, but there were two fucking puncture wounds and the knife wound barely bled out.”
Martin raised an eyebrow at his friend. “So, what, do you think this Dawes guy did it?” he asked, only meaning the question facetiously.
Bill sighed and dusted off his hands. “Wouldn’t matter if he did,” Bill said as he came to a stand. “Nobody can find the bastard anyway.”
Martin didn’t want to admit it, but he choked back a laugh that day and nearly said, “Bet he became a vampire,” in the same tone of voice that Charlie had used with him. He could almost see Bill walking away, looking a lot like Martin these days with just as much of a cross upon his shoulders. “Maybe he did, Marty,” the Bill in Martin’s mind responded. “Just maybe he fucking did.”
Instead, Martin watched Bill walk away in silence, then shook his head again as he finished off his cigarette. He didn’t know it at the time, but Bill Frazier would vanish three weeks later just as mysteriously as his suspect. No body was found. Not a damn soul had seen him since the night he kissed his wife goodbye and went to follow another lead. He was the first cop to fall victim to the curse.
Bill Frazier certainly wasn’t the last. While the next detective passed it on to his successor unscathed, Jill Franklin was not so fortunate. She was found murdered in her apartment and the condition of her body sent a chill up the spine of every other homicide detective in the precinct. She had been tied to her bed and stripped to nothing but her skin. And a clean knife wound had nearly severed her head from the rest of her body.
Martin pretended not to notice Jill Franklin’s photographs when they were passed around by the other detectives; however, curiosity got the best of him. He fell victim to being another voyeur to this freak show of an investigation, but had some insight he was sure most of the other rubberneckers didn’t have as they looked at the pictures.
“He nearly covered it up with that knife wound, but there were two fucking puncture wounds and the knife wound barely bled out.”
The blood running down Jill’s neck was conspicuously limited to one side, as though another injury happened first before the perpetrator slit her throat. The rest of the gash, gory though it was, looked far too clean to be the death blow. Martin had a funny feeling she was already dead when the jugular had been slashed.
He kept this observation to himself, though.
The murder sent the department into a flurry. The media caught wind of the killing and drove the community up in arms as they all demanded justice for the fallen police officer. While they treated the case like an isolated incident, homicide knew this was no mere coincidence and the undercurrent of loosely-linked investigations became a full-scale serial killer hunt. The department primed themselves for the influx of tips and waited for their murderer to up the ante now that one of his murders hit the public spotlight.
However, Martin knew this perpetrator paid no attention to the headlines and, even if he did, he didn’t care. No, this man was floating in a different world, cut off from the whirlwind of activity swirling all around him. Thoughts of this apathetic murderer filled Martin’s mind during one of the final precinct meetings centered on Jill Franklin’s killer. His eyes distant and his mind elsewhere, Martin held the paper coffee cup in his hand tightly and continued trying to figure it out. The brainstorming happening to the left and right of him was mere background noise as far as he was concerned.
“We get any leads yet?”
“Nothing. The tips are all bunk. Only thing that showed some promise was that a witness saw her leave a bar with a guy dressed in a black suit, but the witness didn’t see anything off about the guy.”
“We get a good description on him?”
“Yeah, but not much we can use. About 6’2” or 6’3”. In his twenties. Brown hair. Half of Philadelphia, basically.”
“Aside from the height. Any surveillance video?”
“Not a goddamn thing. He did have sunglasses on, but what the fuck does that mean, that he’s blind?”
“Yeah, right, a blind serial killer.”
“It could happen.”
“Whatever the case, the guy makes no sense. There’s no pattern to any of these murders. For all we know, he could have killed a hundred other people outside of the few we’ve linked together.”
“Anything we can use from the other cases?”
“Don’t even have a witness ID on the perp from any of ‘em.”
“Well, what about forensic evidence? She was naked, we have anything back from lab?”
“Nothing we can use.”
“Damn it. What the fuck is this perp doing anyway?”
“He was toying with her,” Martin muttered before he could stop himself. All eyes focused on him. “He knew he was going to kill her, but he was toying with her first.” His eyes rose to meet the others, an uneasy surety emerging the more he spoke. “We’re not dealing with a standard serial killer, we’re dealing with a killer. Period. He just likes to murder whatever the hell he can get his hands on. There’s no rhyme or reason. And we’re never going to find this bastard ghost.”
The rest of the room fell silent, the host of detectives, cops, and superiors staring at Martin as he raised his coffee cup and took a drink. Although it took another two years to happen, his words that day were probably what damned him toward his eventual fate.
The uproar surrounding Jill Franklin’s murder eventually subsided. Her case found its way onto the pile of cold case files, just one more folder on a growing pile that all got shoved onto Martin’s desk two years and five detectives later. One more detective disappeared without a trace. The rest were taken off the case when they failed to dig up anything new. Only one other incident happened within the police department that was tied to the case and even then, they didn’t know for sure. A cop named Tony Pilliteri was found in an alley with two puncture wounds on his neck. He spent two weeks in Jefferson Hospital before he was transferred to a mental institution in Bethlehem.
They said that during his more lucid moments, Tony muttered something about the devil. But Martin passed it off as the ravings of a madman.
Instead, Martin now found himself staring at yet another case folder, willing himself to finally open the damn thing and face the music. Slowly, he complied with duty and was greeted with the photos for this crime scene. Yeah, happy fucking birthday to you, too, Charlie.
Stephanie DiPaulo. A twenty-two year old graduate student at Drexel University, she found herself at the wrong place in the wrong time and followed the big, bad wolf into a vacant alley. The first few buttons of her blouse were undone, revealing a substantial amount of cleavage in the photos, but her vacant stare unnerved Martin far more than the condition of her clothes.
“You like the ladies, don’t you?” Martin murmured aloud. He rubbed his face with his hand and sighed. “No pattern though, you sadistic prick. Redheads, blondes, brunettes. Goths, preppy girls, women with nothing, women with money. They’re all lookers, but that’s it.” He wrestled with the notion of what this killer could be doing; why this perpetrator chose certain girls and not others. While the FBI serial killer bullshit he’d learned told him the killer was trying to recreate the first murder, Martin knew this had nothing to do with murder one.
No, he was just screwing around with them and killing them. Too diverse for any of them to be like the Davies girl.
“You don’t know that it’s him,” Martin said, scolding himself. Still, the photographs in front of him only seemed to awaken the memory of Bill Frazier that much more. The chest wound was identified as the cause of death and staring at Stephanie DiPaulo’s crime scene photos made Martin think of that day in JFK Plaza again.
“Son of a bitch knew what he was doing. Those were fucking clean cuts. . . In and out, like the guy was some fucking butcher.”
The secondary wound was the customary slice through the neck. Martin leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Damn it, Bill, talk to me. Are you trying to tell me something? Has anyone else tried to examine the Davies murder with this?” He frowned at the file and knew the answer to that question already; nobody had because nobody thought to link the two pieces together. With the Davies murder, they had a suspect; one that just vanished into thin air. With these cases, there was just a shadow; one as elusive as Peter Dawes himself.
Martin sighed and closed the folder. It was time to take a trip down to the archives.