The Shadows Gather

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Shadows hid many secrets, like those of the creature that stalked the Widow Gamble's Hill on that moonless night. With no footsteps or shadows behind her, his young, female prey was oblivious to his presence but her attacker was there. Despite local legends that the hill was haunted, the temptation of a shortcut proved too much for her. As the name suggested, Monkstown was an ancient part of South Dublin, and the killing ground of the fiend of similar vintage who now terrorised it. The girl would never see the creature's heart-stopping features. Even if she had, no sound would come from her shocked mouth.

The predator passed a sodden newspaper in the grass. If he had taken the time to peruse the headline, he would have seen it was about him: 'Vampire Killer Strikes South Dublin.' Something else drew his attention. The girl fumbled in the pockets of her sleeveless white jacket and took out some roll-your-own cigarettes. An unattended bonfire crackled to itself on the hillside. The girl heated her hands over the flames for a moment and then picked up a burning stick and set her carcinogen alight. The vampire paused. Although he disliked the sticky, thickening effect cigarettes had on the properties of blood, his need to feed superseded his revulsion. The scent of her youthful life essence made him more determined to have it. The creature saw his chance to pounce.

The girl dropped the kindling back into the fire and inhaled deeply on her newly-lit cancer stick. The orange tip glowed brightly as the vampire's red eyes appeared at her shoulder through the smokescreen of cigarette vapour. It was her last moment of pleasure as the vampire's teeth tore into her jugular and began drawing her elixir of life into his undead torso. Her assailant's stench filled her nostrils and her eyes went wide with terror. The coppery taste of her fresh blood only made his assault more intense and feral. Unconsciousness and death came quickly to her. The vampire had not exercised any restraint. He felt nothing for the girl. Her lifeless body hit the ground and rolled downhill. Her attacker became one with nightfall again and was gone.

Inspector Orson Healy of Dublin's Garda police force was a drab, grey little man. The kind you would see standing morosely at a wet bus stop and offer a lift to or help to cross the road despite his protestations. His colleagues liked to joke that his bald pate was a solar panel. When he summoned you to his office and fixed you with his gaze across the desk, however, that meek persona faded away. The spark of the ruthless young cop who had got him to that lofty position was still there in his eyes.

It was late afternoon on October 26th when Healy arrived at the murder scene on the Widow Gamble's Hill. He glanced at his phone and saw a speculative headline on a tabloid website: 'Vampire Killer Claims Second Victim!' There were no witnesses, no CCTV footage, just a corpse but not a typical one. Healy observed the odd puncture wounds on the corpse's neck. Blood spattered the female victim's clothing and surrounding area and the killer must have got some on them too. The forensics team found no footprints at the scene besides those of the dead girl and the jogger who found her. Her killer seemed to have floated into view and then vanished. The inspector was swamped with offers of media interviews as the chattering classes itched for more gruesome information but he withheld comment as he departed.

It was the morning of October 31st and Orson Healy sat behind his desk perusing some papers. There was a knock at his office door.

'Come!' he said.

Officer Phil Meyers appeared at his shoulder.

'The DNA results from that bonfire killing are back from the lab, Inspector Healy,' he said.

Healy's eyebrows arched with expectation.

'Well?' he asked.

'Nothing.'

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