In the spirit of celebrating a brand new Vampire Flynn site, what do you say we check in on our old friend Andy Lane? You might recognize him from this story.
My, my, curiosity did almost kill the reporter…
The first clue should’ve been the five o’clock shadow, but when I arrived at work to find my desk littered with food that had long-passed stale, I began to wonder if I’d entered a time warp. My roommate Scott had tried to plead with me, telling me I should go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation when I showed up unshowered and wearing rumpled clothes. At the time, I’d thought it was his cheese that’d slid off the cracker.
It would seem it’d really been mine.
“Three days?” I asked, repeating the words spoken to me a few seconds beforehand. I idly flipped over a few pieces of paper, my stomach sinking the longer I avoided eye contact with my co-worker. I told Scott I was going into work despite my appearance, in part because I needed to balance the universe again. The last I remembered it’d been late Monday night, but Scott tried to insist it was Thursday evening when I stumbled home. Somehow, I didn’t think staying home alone would’ve helped me anyway. Especially with my instincts screaming that this needed further investigation.
Chalk it off to being a junior reporter who hadn’t yet learned how to leave well enough alone.
“Yeah, three. I think Fitzy was about to call missing persons on you,” Bryan Garrett said, looking up at me when I failed to sit down. Little more than an aisle in a busy newsroom separated us, affording the portly, middle-aged man enough chance to raise an eyebrow at me. “You should let him know you’re alive.”
“I will first thing tomorrow.” I started a brisk stride toward the elevators.
“Where the hell’re you going?”
“For a walk. So sue me.”
“Don’t wind up in Camden.” He punctuated the comment with a laugh as though it’d been witty in the first place. I mashed the down button when I made it to the elevator, muttering obscenities until the doors opened and let me in. Mercifully, the entire ride to the bottom floor was bereft of any other occupants. By the time I felt that first cold blast of cold, Philadelphia air, I had to wonder if my co-workers thought I was crazy, too.
The city noise provided a soothing backdrop to my thoughts. Combing through my memories for what had to be the hundredth time, I struggled yet again to piece together what happened prior to my three day long fugue state. I remembered the phone call; the strange voice on the phone asking if we could meet and jotting down the address on the notepad I kept by the phone in the living room. Scott considered it old-fashioned, but for once I wondered if the archaic practice might work to my benefit. Without thinking twice, I turned for the garage housing my car and left for home.
It took longer for me to find a pencil than it had for me to drive home. I grabbed the pad of paper and sat at our small dining room table, not even taking off my coat before getting started. The impressions from what I’d written there last still stood out, and when I started lightly running the side of the pencil lead over the top, they stuck out all the more. I worked meticulously for several minutes, then sat back to admire my handiwork. The address of my infamous last meeting stared back at me as if to taunt me. “You lost your mind for three days after going there, Andy,” I reminded myself. “You sure you want to try for round two?”
A smarter man might’ve reconsidered. Fortunately, there weren’t any of those around to stop me.
I bolted up from my seat, tearing out the piece of paper while making for the door. Producing my cell phone as I locked up the apartment, I dialed Scott’s number and reached his voice mailbox. “Hey, man,” I said, hurrying down the stairs and to where I parked my car, “I left work already. Heading out to check out the place where I had that meeting. Wish me luck.” Hanging up, I slipped the phone back into my pocket and adjusted my glasses when jumping from the final step dislodged them. Next stop: West Philadelphia.
The air had gotten colder with the setting of the sun. A light drizzle forced me to flick on the windshield wipers, something which brought a pang of déjà vu with it. Had it been raining the night I disappeared? I was almost certain it had been. I frowned as I wove through the city streets, wishing that memory could inspire another, but it dead-ended there. A parking spot opened up down the block from my destination and I whipped into it before someone else could. After cutting off the ignition, I stepped out of the car.
Only two minutes later, I stood at the door to a classy-looking, three story apartment building. When I pressed the buzzer belonging to the apartment number I’d jotted down, nobody answered, and as I circled the building, I didn’t see any lights on in the floor housing it. Sighing, I ignored the tuft of steam my lips produced, desperate for a cigarette but unwilling to light one up just yet. Maybe I’d find something if I circled the block. It seemed just as good of an idea as any. Digging my hands deep into the folds of my coat, I made for the next intersection and turned down what appeared to be a narrow alleyway, drawn by curiosity and intuition.
A chill crossed the length of my spine. The city had turned strangely quiet, an observation which unnerved me as I reached the edge of the alley and headed east at the next crossroads. What had started as a drizzle turned into a downpour and I swore, tempted to head back for home. The shift in my perspective, however, drew something toward my periphery and I spun around to give it a better look. Two men walked up to a door and opened it, continuing a conversation even as it swung shut behind them. Eyebrow perked, I dashed for where they disappeared and walked inside before I could stop myself.
The sight of where I’d entered stopped me dead in my tracks.
A bartender glanced up at me, and the two men who walked ahead of me positioned themselves by the bar, but turned around to face me. A lady engaged in conversation a few seconds beforehand stopped talking and pretty soon, the eyes of every person in the place were fixed on me. A lump formed in my throat I forced myself to swallow down. “Um, hey there,” I said, for the lack of anything more eloquent to say. A couple playing pool in the corner stopped, but still held their pool cues like they were waiting for a fight to break out.
“Were you looking for me, Mr. Lane?”
The voice came from behind me, forcing me back around and chest-to-chest with a man who stood five inches taller, and looked down at me with a menacing stare. Dressed in a suit, he looked well-groomed and polished, something I suddenly realized was a common trait between him and the other people in the bar. I stepped backward, trapped like a rat in a maze.
“I, uh…” The question he’d asked suddenly registered. He looked familiar, and the fact that he knew my name made my eyes widen in surprise. I shook my head, continuing to backtrack as the pale-skinned man encroached further upon me. “Have we met before?”
I made the fatal mistake of looking him in the eyes. A smirk curled the corner of his lips and I froze, as though I’d lost control of my legs. He closed the distance between us. “Just a figment of your imagination,” he said. “Nothing more.” I shuddered when his hands touched my shoulders, one sliding down my chest and around to my back as he pulled me flush against him. The other tilted my head to the side, fingers tangling in my hair.
The last thing I saw before everything went dark were two pointed incisors headed straight for me.
I returned home, snapping out of what felt like a trance when I shut the front door. Dropping my keys onto the table by the entryway, I rubbed my forehead with the heel of my hand, left with the impression that I should have a headache even thought I didn’t. My gaze became fixed on the hardwood floor. I’d gone somewhere. Where the hell had I been?
Oh no, not again.
The sound of the refrigerator door slamming shut startled me back to reality. I looked up in time to see a tall man with wavy, auburn hair lean on the door frame separating the kitchen from the dining room. He raised an eyebrow at me, folding his arms across his chest. “You find anything at that address?” Scott asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
I managed my most disarming smile and shook my head. The lie slipped past my lips, almost convincing enough to make me believe it. “Nothing there at all,” I said. “Probably wasn’t anything there from the start.” I lifted a hand to scratch at the back of my neck.
That was when I felt the bite marks.