Part Five – A Dance With the Devil
If not for the excruciating pain in his arm, Martin Sanchez might have almost believed he was dreaming.
The knife pinning him to the wall made the most compelling case that this was no dream, though. The blood trickling down his arm aided in the testimony; and had Martin the notion to peer down at his hand, he would’ve seen the drops of blood hitting the ground right near his fallen pistol. His eyes remained locked with the suspect’s, however, and Martin knew better than to look away.
Not that he could any longer. Not after being thrown violently into the surreal.
When Martin first spied Peter Dawes, he saw the medical student from the photo, but noted the differences as well. A few years older. His demeanor quite unlike the person described by his former co-worker. He had no doubt Dawes’s clothing and grooming habits had probably changed, considering the former doctor now bore more resemblance to a hitman than a humanitarian. One key difference had escaped his notice, though; something he knew he had failed to recognize purely out of blissful ignorance. Peter Dawes looked like he hadn’t seen the sun in years.
‘… doctor sold his soul…’
“There’s no such thing as vampires,” Martin muttered to himself as Dawes paused less than a foot away from him. The detective’s breaths turned shaky and erratic. The words themselves automatic, they slipped from his mouth as the death throes of skepticism. Dawes acknowledged as such, another broad smile parting his lips to issue a rebuttal. The protest fell dead, right next to Martin’s blood and sidearm.
Two of the sharpest teeth Martin had ever seen grew in length until they hovered just above Dawes’s bottom lip. The former doctor laughed, as though Martin had issued a dare and he had accepted the challenge. Unless Martin was hallucinating – which he still considered a strong possibility – those were indeed vampire fangs.
“He nearly covered it up with that knife wound, but there were two fucking puncture wounds and the knife wound barely bled out.”
“What is it, Detective?” Dawes asked, his voice strangely quiet. Cunning. Beginning the dance he threatened no more than a few seconds ago. “Did your delusion just cease to exist? I am familiar with the sentiment. One moment you’re shrouded in ignorance, moving about the world of mortals without a second thought and the next you’re acutely aware that you’ve stepped down on the food chain a notch. Pity, is it not?”
“The kid was right,” Martin said, still spitting out his thoughts as though he’d lost control of the ability to suppress them. “He did see teeth. The red-headed woman did bite that girl.”
The devilish smile wavered. “Red-headed woman? Well, now you have me curious, sir. Do elaborate.”
“The kid in the coffeeshop saw you talking to the woman on the night Lydia Davies died. Bill Frazier interviewed him. Said he saw her hypnotize you.” Martin stared at Dawes and as he continued seeing the situation as more than abstract theories swirling around his mind, the cadence of his heart picked up in rhythm, Lucidity started a steady crawl back to him, whether he wanted it to or not. “She had you kill Davies first and then she made you a vampire, didn’t she?”
Dawes scoffed. “Hardly had to be told to kill that adulterous bitch, but otherwise, congratulations. You solved your murder.” He clapped while his grin turned condescending.
Martin wasn’t deterred, though. “You killed all of those people, too. You killed Jill Franklin.”
“If I had any notion of who she was, I could confirm that for you. As I hardly fucking care about any of you walking corpses, I cannot verify this. Although, a pretty girl… I do not doubt I had a hand in that.” He started to walk forward again. Slow, stalking steps. Martin swallowed hard as a reflex. “Your kind don’t last too long when you creatures pique my interest.”
The devil with the sharp teeth reached underneath his suit jacket and unsheathed another knife. “That being said,” he continued, “I have yet to feed tonight. It would be a shame to let you bleed out of that shoulder wound, would it not?”
He moved so quickly, Martin didn’t have the chance to blink, let alone react. Dawes made up the distance between them and grabbed the detective by the throat, pressing his head back against the wall and arching it to the side to expose his neck to view. Martin grabbed at Dawes with his free hand, but the demon pressed the blade of his knife above his victim’s neck and sneered. “Continue that and I will merely slit your throat and leave you to choke on your blood.”
Immediately, Martin stopped his frantic thrashing, struggling to catch his breath. The pain emanating from his shoulder throbbed with every racing beat of his heart. Sweat ran from his brow down to his neck. One half of his mind had already surrendered to the inevitable; this man was stronger, faster, and sadistic. He’d killed more people than Martin could begin fathom and was about to add him to his list.
The detective’s sense of self-preservation remained alive and well, however. “This isn’t the Peter Dawes the others knew,” he said, frantically trying to find the right button to push. “I heard their testimonies. Their friend was a good man, not a killer.”
“Their friend was a hypocrite. And my name is not Peter any longer.”
He pressed the knife deeper into Martin’s neck, provoking a shout of agony. So much for that approach. “Yeah, well I know how it works with you damn vampires. I have a crucifix on the end of that chain there. And if you don’t back the fuck away from me, I swear I’ll strangle you with it.”
Dawes laughed, something reminiscent of his laugh out on the street when Martin threw a list of charges at him. “A crucifix, you say?”
“Yeah, that’s right, you immortal son of a bitch. A holy object.”
Dawes grabbed the collar of Martin’s shirt abruptly, causing Martin to jump at the motion. Ripping the fabric violently to the side, Dawes forced the first few buttons of the shirt open and revealed the cross Martin kept around his neck, smirking at the religious icon. “Oh , no! Heavens no! The officer is right. Oh God…” With one swift movement of his hand, Dawes ripped the chain from Martin’s neck and dangled it before the detective’s eyes as he continued mocking him. “Whatever shall I do? What if he presses it against my skin?”
He forced the cross against Martin’s cheek. Martin yelped as a surprised reflex. Dawes laughed again and tossed the crucifix aside apathetically. “You mortals and your superstitious bullshit. Have you a vial of holy water in your pocket? A ring of garlic hidden in your coat, perhaps?” He shook his head as their eyes met. The look on Dawes’s face turned cold and calculating once more “Now tell me, Detective, how you would like to be killed. Quickly, or shall I drain you nice and slow?”
Martin wasn’t sure where the wave of courage came from, but something compelled his uninjured arm upward and the fist that connected with the vampire’s face forced him away from his would-be prey. The vampire hissed, baring those massive fangs at Martin again and when Martin attempted another swing, Dawes captured the fist in his hand and started to clamp down on it tightly, crushing it in his grip. Cries filled the air, both the pain in his hand and the pain in his shoulder aiding in the cacophony as they entered a debate for which would make him pass out first. Another sound broke through the chaos, though, reaching Martin’s ears like the chorus of angels.
Sirens. Closing in upon the building. A regiment of Philadelphia’s finest was about to descend upon and not a moment too soon.
Dawes heard it as well. His mouth twisted in a sneer first before a twisted form of admiration surfaced in his expression. “Detective, you weren’t bluffing after all, were you?” Dawes asked rhetorically as his grip upon Martin’s hand relented and allowed the violated limb to fall to Martin’s side again. He slowly sheathed the knife and nodded. “Very well, then. You are hardly what I desired tonight, so I shall let you have this match. Allow me a moment to educate you, though.”
He leaned in close again, pressing himself against Martin’s body as the harsh whisper reached Martin’s ears. “I know what you smell like now. And should I catch one whiff of your scent in the wind, I will track you down and make quick work of you before you have the chance to call for your cavalry again.”
Dawes grabbed Martin’s throat again and ripped his other knife out of Martin’s shoulder while smirking at the yelp the action generated. The sirens gained in volume, but Dawes still stole a moment to lick the blood off in one slow motion. Martin shuddered, seeing the points of the vampire’s teeth before clenching his eyes shut. He could not lose it now, he told himself. No matter how much he wanted to. No matter how vividly he saw himself breaking down into sobs as the thought of those teeth inside his neck still seemed like a real and present danger.
“I know what you smell like now…”
“…Talked about her like she was a piece of meat…”
“I just… ran. I ran and nearly fucking shit myself…”
Dawes let go of Martin’s neck. The detective crumpled to the ground.
It took interminable seconds before Martin found the wherewithal to open his eyes. He didn’t know when he started shaking, but a violent shudder overtook him, his eyes frantically searching the darkness for his suspect. But the ghost had vanished, just like he did every time he faced one of the police detectives that found their way into his territory. Just like after he killed Bill Frazier. Just like after he murdered Jill Franklin. Only Martin Sanchez was still alive; alive and bleeding on the concrete floor beneath him.
Martin took a few deep breaths, but it was no use. The adrenaline passed and gave way to lightheadedness.
The world went dark just as the first footsteps echoed upward from the corridor below.
When Tony Pilliteri, a cop who used to work the beat around the area, was carted into Temple University Hospital, he was unconscious. The blood loss from the two puncture wounds on his neck should have killed him, but he was one of the lucky ones. Or, not-so-lucky as it would turn out. He had looked the devil in the face as well and caught Peter Dawes on a night when he was a bit keener to allow his victim a slow death.
Tony had a partner, though, who spent two hours searching for his comrade in arms. He came upon his barely-living body in a dumpster and pulled him out while radioing for an ambulance. Had Tony lost a few more ounces of blood, he would have joined the others in the great beyond, but Tony lived. And the devil’s face haunted his nightmares for the rest of his life.
Bill Frazier didn’t last nearly so long. He tailed the vampire much the same as Martin had, but was detected much sooner than Martin. The vampire turned him around in circles before sneaking up behind him and driving his fangs into Bill’s neck, draining him to the point of the death. Equipped with only two knives the night he met Martin Sanchez, Dawes had been armed with a sword when he and Bill Frazier danced the fatal dance. The pieces of Bill’s body were never located.
Jill Franklin was in a bar one Saturday night when a man caught her eye from across the room. Her boyfriend – ex-boyfriend – told her she worked too damn much. Considering she caught him fucking her best friend, Jill figured turnabout was fair play. The man she encountered was much better looking and had her attention just as much as she had his. It seemed like the perfect one-night stand and the pale, mysterious man only confirmed this to Jill when he walked to her and struck up a conversation.
Sure, she should have picked up on it automatically. He was way too charming; dashing in a very chilling sort of way. But God, she could have listened to him talk all night in that semi-aristocratic tone of voice and the combination of liquor and vengeance converged within Jill Franklin’s blood stream to form a venomous concoction. He had all the right words and sealed the deal with her when she finally confessed what brought her there that evening. “The prick thought he was completely justified in screwing my best friend,” she said. “Just because I’ve been a little busy with work.”
While the stranger – who introduced himself to Jill as Flynn – had been slipping poison-laced sweet nothings in her ear all evening, there was almost a melancholy sort of truth to his response. “Yes,” he said. “I know the experience myself.” He looked away, as though a little fissure in his smooth facade had formed. “You discover all to easily just who truly cares for you and who does not when you are not there to wait on their every want and need.”
It was just a flash; just long enough to pluck Jill Franklin’s heart strings. But the resonating melody had done its trick. She thought this made him safe. She thought the man beside her was a human being who would make her forget her feelings had been smashed into the ground and stomped on with all the care and emotion of extinguishing a cigarette.
Jill Franklin couldn’t have been more wrong.
By the time she led him up to her apartment, she was too aroused and too drunk to care about anything else. As they stood in the middle of her living room and made out, the hand that drifted up his chest didn’t think to feel underneath his suit jacket; and lest she get any ideas, the pale stranger grabbed her hand and directed it up to his neck where it remained. The domineering tenor he directed stayed subtle and Jill willingly relinquished control to him as he pressed her against the wall and slid his hand across the curves of body.
When they entered her bedroom, he insisted she keep the room dark. She didn’t see the shoulder holster with the twin knives concealed inside black, leather sheathes. He slid it off quickly when he removed his suit jacket and kept the blades within reach. For just the right moment. She didn’t care that it was all too perfect, because it was arguably the best sex she’d had in a very long time. So good, in fact, that she paid little attention to the way he pinned her arms above her head while their bodies writhed together.
She was still catching her breath when he tore at her sheets and by the time she realized he was tying her wrists together, it was too late.
Her eyes opened as her heart skipped a beat. “What… What are you…?”
“Shh, my dear. This will all be over shortly.” His body was still poised atop of hers and the grip upon her hands was tighter than it had been a few seconds ago. Sobriety crashed headlong into Jill Franklin’s brain and cleared through the haze two seconds too late. As she panicked, he remained fixed in position, only smiling at the way she tried to wriggle out from underneath him. Not that she could have moved him. He wasn’t stocky at all, but he was too damn strong.
“Please…” Tears welled up in Jill’s eyes. “Please, don’t do this. Don’t, God, don’t.”
The cold-blooded tone returned to his voice, but it was nowhere near as charming as it had been in the bar. “Now, Jill, we all need to survive and Mr. Darwin appropriately noted survival is for the fittest. A pity for you that you happen to be the prey and not the predator.” His blue eyes shone wickedly as he finished tying the knot and met her gaze again. “Is it not?”
He produced the knife so quickly it made Jill yelp. She thrashed harder, but he only began to laugh and as he laughed ,she saw the fangs for the first time. A blood-curdling scream was suppressed by his hand as he pressed it hard against her mouth and the tears finally found their way down the sides of her face. Just as the knife cut a superficial wound in her neck.
Her heart shot into palpitations while his tongue licked up the blood. The needle-like pain of two sharp teeth raking against her flesh made her shudder and cry harder; and had he uncovered her mouth, he would have heard her plead for her life as her legs kicked around. But he was lost in the moment. Jill didn’t seem to notice. Not until the teeth drove past flesh and the sucking began.
The next morning, James Harvey knocked on Jill Franklin’s door, a dozen roses clutched in hand. He sighed when she failed to answer. “Jilly,” he called into the apartment. He pressed his free hand against his forehead. “Jilly, you can’t keep ignoring my phone calls. I was… stupid. Really fucking stupid. I thought she was what I wanted, but I spent all night thinking about you.” He sighed. “Jilly, please. Be mad. Scream at me. Just don’t ignore me.”
The silence that met his words was eerie. James raised his head and listened for any sign of movement from inside, but something told him it was all wrong. Granted, she could have been passed out and still asleep (at noon, yeah right) or in the shower, but James didn’t hear any water running and the apartment was as still as a crypt. James damned the consequences and thrust his hand into his pocket for his car keys, grabbing the key that belonged to Jill’s apartment and driving it into the lock forcefully enough to push the door.
James stared at the door as it creaked open. She hadn’t even shut it all the way. He swallowed hard and pushed it open farther and saw her favorite black shirt on the floor of her normally-meticulous living room floor almost immediately. The sight almost caused him to walk back out the door before he subjected himself to the sight of her in bed with some bastard she decided to whore herself to; however, he couldn’t shake the omen that drew him in the rest of the way.
He knew it the moment he stepped into her hallway and saw the side of her body from the doorway of her room. He didn’t see the wound on her neck or any blood yet – just the side of her leg from his vantage point – but, oh God, it was pale. He had been working in the medical examiner’s office long enough to recognize what a corpse looked like, but not Jilly. Not Jilly. She was still alive, damn it, because Jill wasn’t supposed to die before he had a chance to apologize to her. She wasn’t supposed to be dead because of his stupidity. She…
The roses hit the hardwood floor and James fell to his knees on top of them as he entered the bedroom.
Jill Franklin had been dead for nine hours by that point.
Martin Sanchez could sympathize with James Harvey’s sentiment as he lay in his hospital bed, staring at the wall across from him. Blood loss kept him confined to the room on the fourth floor of Franklin Hospital and the steady stream of fellow police officers wishing him well and bringing him cards and gifts did nothing to help shake the chills that had taken up permanent residence in his spine.
“You wished yourself a waltz with the devil?”
“Your kind do not last too long when you creatures pique my interest.”
“I know what you smell like now…”
“…Should I catch one whiff of your scent in the wind, I shall track you and make quick work of you…”
Martin had just gotten psychologically fucked and he knew it now. The vampire was toying with him from moment number one; probably wasn’t intending to kill Martin until the last moment and then tossed Martin aside just as capriciously when Martin’s backup arrived on the scene. He let him live this time, but Martin knew next time, he’d be just as dead as the others were. He had just gotten lucky.
The sound of his room’s door closing made him jump and pulled him away from the macabre thoughts. He readied himself to put on his painted-on smile for the next well-wisher, but looked up in time to see Lieutenant Jennifer Graham enter his room. The half-hearted grin faded instantly. He knew what she was here for and the absence of cards or gifts confirmed this to Martin. “Hey,” he said, glancing at his superior before looking away.
Lieutenant Graham didn’t say anything as she sat in the chair next to Martin’s bed. The pause lasted a beat between sitting and speaking. “How’re you feeling?” she asked.
Martin shrugged. “Probably about as good as can be expected.”
“Yeah, I bet.” She coughed. “You, um, gave us all a scare. When we heard you’d been stabbed while pursuing a suspect, we were afraid you were about to become another Bill Frazier or Jill Franklin.”
“Just wasn’t my day to die, I guess.” He felt like adding that tomorrow or the next day was up for grabs, though. Somehow, he managed to bite his tongue.
“Good thing, too. We don’t need this case getting anymore cursed than it already is,” she said, an amused tone to her voice. She looked at Martin as if waiting for him to get the punch line.
Martin didn’t laugh.
Lieutenant Graham coughed again as the smile faded. An uncomfortable, pregnant silence lingered between them. “What happened, Martin?” she asked when she saw Martin wasn’t about to volunteer anything to her. Not a chuckle, not a frown, not a ‘fuck off, bitch’ or any sort of explanation. The direct approach was next on the hit parade. “Did you find your suspect?”
“I found something,” Martin offered.
“Should we be looking for someone?”
“I doubt it.” Martin sighed. “Lieutenant,” he said as he turned his head and looked at the middle-aged woman who was still in the realm of the ignorant. Her ignorance pissed him off. He wanted to be ignorant again, too. “I’m not up for talking about it right now. Can it wait for some other time?”
“We need to find out what happened, Martin. If the person you were tailing assaulted you, then he should be taken off the streets. Especially if he’s a kill…”
“He’s dead,” Martin interrupted. Or, undead, he clarified to himself.
Lieutenant Graham raised an eyebrow. “Dead? Where’s the body?”
“You won’t find it.”
“What did you do to…?”
“Look, there is no suspect. There is no fucking case. There’s nobody you should be tailing and even if there was I wouldn’t fucking send anyone else out to find him.” He shook his head and grimaced as a chill came over him again. “We’re all just ants,” he said cryptically. “We don’t realize it, either. They decide when we live and die and we don’t have a damn say in the matter.” The words that came rushing out like a torrent ceased just as suddenly, leaving Jennifer Graham sitting there with a stupefied expression on her face.
Slowly, she got to her feet and continued staring at the detective lying in front of her. “Get some rest,” she said. “Talk to a shrink and clear your mind a little. But I want a report on my desk as soon as possible, Martin. We need to bring closure to this case.”
Her gaze lingered on him for a few seconds, but she turned and walked away when he failed to acknowledge what she said. Instead, the words he spoke continued cycling through his thoughts, jumping in-between the threat he had been issued as if playing leap-frog with it. How many seconds did he have left? How many seconds would the next person have or the person after them? Nobody was going to bring down the devil. They were all living on borrowed time so long as Peter Dawes still lived in Philadelphia.
“Police report my ass,” he muttered to the ghost that would now be attached to his psyche from this day forward. He laughed in a way that reminded him of the way Peter Dawes had laughed at him, that knowing chuckle that belonged to someone who had stepped through the portal and now knew the dark side far too well. Martin Sanchez might have made it out alive, but he was about as lucky to be alive as Tony Pillitari was.
The vampire claimed another victim as Martin’s soul slipped into the scrapbook of his conquests. Right next to Bill Frazier.
When Lieutenant Jennifer Graham entered her office Monday morning, a stack of files all thrown into a box was there to greet her, placed in the middle of her desk as if there to state a purpose. Each of the files belonged to the ill-fated vampire case, but one file folder was placed neatly atop the rest with a batch of photos underneath it. Next to the box were a pistol and a badge and as Jennifer approached the pile, she perked an eyebrow at a handwritten note that had been taped to Peter Dawes’ file.
In lieu of a police report, Martin Sanchez had left the last four words he had to say about the matter; a warning for anyone else who’d take the case.
‘Not Fucking Worth It’