Exclusive Look Inside: Vampire Killer

Black by Moonlight

Nevada was a funny old state. Just a step away from the shining lights of Vegas and it became just like everywhere else. One step further into the shadows and the whole world became dark and weird in the starlight.
Out here by the Pyramid Lake Reservation, it was always too quiet. Working in the Bureau of Indian Affairs was a dull affair for the most part. Petty crimes, drink and drugs. Deportation back and forth between the authority of the Paiute Nation and the State was the biggest job, and even that barely filled a day a month. The rest of the time, there was just the open road and the roll of hours, day after day. The phone never rang until all the excitement was over. In the city, a cop would dread domestic disturbances and gunfights, but out here in the middle of nowhere, they feared the silence. Evil deeds were done in the dark, and few folk ever spoke of them. There were no missing people on the reservation. No murderers or thieves or any of the average sort of criminal. There were just familiar faces that suddenly weren’t there the next time a visit was required. The mob and their code of silence might have kept a hold on Vegas all this time, but they were rank amateurs compared to the Indians out on their reservations. Fear and hate of the police were bred into them, the latest repressed generation in a long and bloody history.
Tonight the asphalt shone in the light of a full moon, even where the full-beam of their headlights didn’t reach – a long curve of light in the dark of the night. Tonight, of all nights, the phone had rung, calling the Bureau men out of the tentative safety of their coffee at a diner and into the nebulous dark where anything might be waiting for them.
Few enough things troubled the Paiute enough to call in a complaint. After years of political clashes and less than equitable treatment under the law, the police were the enemy, and for most of them, the skeleton crew of Indian Affairs was the face of that oppression – the only lawmen to dare step foot inside the reservation.
Unless the locals were completely certain that whatever was going on could not somehow be turned around and blamed on them, they wouldn’t even pick up the phone. Which meant that whoever was playing the fool down on the beach by Pyramid Lake was going to be a white man. At this time of night, it was almost certain to be somebody poaching fish. The Paiute made most of their income doling out fishing licenses to tourists, and they took anyone sneaking around and trying to catch fish in their lake without one pretty seriously. More than once, the Bureau boys had come out to the lake first thing in the morning to help some sheepish fool find the wheels of their car, which had become mysteriously detached while they were out fishing through the night, and direct them to the office where they could sheepishly pay for their license for the day.
If there had ever been a fisherman that required more than that to scare them off, then the Paiute had done a good enough job of hiding the body and car that no investigation had ever been opened. The call tonight wasn’t just unusual, it was the first that either man in the Bureau could ever remember having received outside of office hours.
The pick-up truck that they discovered around the curve of the lake had all of its wheels attached, but that was about all that could be said in favour of it. It loomed up abruptly out of the lake’s thin night fog, an incongruous lump on the smooth sand at the side of the road.
It took a moment to decipher what they were looking at without daylit colour to rely on. The truck hadn’t felt the gentle touch of soap or sponge for many a month; a thick patina of sand and dirt coated it halfway up its sides. It was only after staring out through their windshield for a solid minute that the Bureau boys managed to identify the truck by its silhouette as a Ford Ranchero.
Despite all this, neither man was compelled to arm themselves or even worry too much as they approached the vehicle. It was only when they rounded the side and realised that the driver’s door was hanging open that their vigilance kicked up a notch. The interior light had been left on, draining the car battery and highlighting the desolation that had been left within. A heap of rubbish was crammed into the footwell on the passenger side, pushed down until it was flat. The mess on the passenger seat was not so well contained, sprawling out in every direction. It was such a confusing mess of fast-food wrappers, discarded cigarette packs, and long dried-up bottles of liquor that it took the police a solid couple of minutes of investigation before they came across anything more concerning than what appeared to be a car some homeless alcoholic was living in.
The first worry was a rifle. Only the barrel jutted up out of the morass, and it was slim enough that it took a couple of passes before the iron-sights on the end could be identified correctly. The barrel opened out into a hole just big enough to slip a fingertip inside, were they inclined to contaminate their evidence with their prints. It was a .22 calibre rifle in amongst all this chaos. They soon found a second rifle of a higher calibre beneath the strata of junk that had accumulated there. This one was smeared with filth that closer examination by the light of their torches revealed to be dried blood.
If they weren’t spooked before, the Bureau boys were now officially worried. Beside the rifle lay a white plastic bucket, surrounded by a pool of blood that was seeping out to stain everything it touched. It contained something brown and bulbous. It took one brave man giving it a prod with the barrel of his revolver for it to unfurl enough to become identifiable. A liver. It was a liver, carved out of somebody and left here like it was trash. It was only when they tried to slam the door shut in revulsion that the bloody handprints that had been hidden in amongst the rest of the dirt became clear to see.
Something bad was going on here. Not just fish poaching or petty crimes, but something seriously disturbing. Both men had their guns drawn now, fingers on the triggers and eyes darting around the dark.
That was when the screaming started.
At first, it could have been mistaken for the call of an animal. After all, no human being would scream like that. But as it dragged on and on, growing more and more guttural, it became clear that somebody was out there being tortured. Suffering through the kind of distress that would make a normal man drop dead on the spot. Without pausing to think of their safety or the horrors that they were going to find out there by the water, both men took off at a sprint. This evil had to be stopped. The victim had to be saved. The risk to them meant nothing in the face of not just their duty, but their morality.
The shriek warbled on and on as they ran, but as they broke out onto the beach proper, silence fell just as abruptly as the shrieking had started. Now in the silence, with only the thunder of their hearts and the ragged sound of their breath, the Bureau men realised how lethal a mistake they had just made rushing in. In the mist and the darkness, anything could be waiting for them.
Whatever had been making that anguished sound had been all that was on their minds, but the cause of the suffering, the torturer, was out there somewhere, too. They found each other in the dark and pressed their backs together so that they couldn’t be ambushed. If this was a trap, then they had fallen right into it. Silence clung to them like a leaden weight, and they did all they could to still their breathing so that they could strain to listen for any sign of trouble about to descend on them.
Still, there was nothing but the lapping of water on the shore. They were just about to relax when it started all over again. So close now that it made both men jump and spin to aim their weapons in the direction of the deafening screams. With a fearful look to one another, they proceeded, creeping inch by inch towards the source of the overwhelming sound. A breeze cut across the lake, bringing a chill to the air but also clearing away the mist that still clung to the silvery sands.
A man became visible, standing with his arms stretched out as wide as he could spread them, head thrown back like a baying wolf. He was the one screaming and roaring and making all manner of inhuman sounds. There was no sign of anyone else around him. Just this man, black in the moonlight.
Coming closer, the black on his skin became more clearly something that he had smeared all over himself rather than the tone of his skin. With a torch turned in his direction, it flicked from black to a dull red. Blood. He was naked, screaming at the top of his lungs, and coated in blood from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Both policemen were still running scared, but one of them darted forward while his partner covered him to check their victim for wounds. None were apparent.
The man screamed and screamed. His eyes bulging out of his head, the blood trickling down into his mouth to draw out those strange, strangled, gargling sounds that had made the policemen mistake his voice for some animal’s call. ‘Sir! Sir! Stop. You’re safe now.’
The man did not stop. But now his eyes locked onto the policemen, and his screeching tapered down into bellowed words. ‘Safe? Not safe. Isn’t over. It isn’t ever over. Ever since the 1940s, they’ve been going on. Thirty years! They’re still out there. They’re doing this to me. They poisoned me. My heart. They poisoned my heart.’
Taking an arm each, the policemen began the slow drag back to the parked vehicles. Blood smeared off onto their hands and their uniforms, tacky and vile, back to black now that their torches had been turned away to the path once more. The man dangling like a rag doll between them was a sack of bones. Either one of them could have carried him like a baby if they’d been willing. Neither of them was.
With his hyperventilating all the way, it seemed only a matter of time before another bout of howling would startup, so they asked him questions on the way, trying to do whatever they could to forestall the deafening racket.
‘Who are you?’ earned them no response. Nor did any request for information beyond that. They ended up getting his name from the driving license in his glovebox, once they’d excavated enough rubbish out of the way.
They almost had him to their car when the most pressing question came, unbidden, to one of the Bureau boys’ lips. ‘Whose blood is this?’
That snapped Richard out of his silence as he started to wail. ‘It is my blood. It is leaking out of me. The UFOs did something to my skin and now blood is leaking out of me.’
Both cops met each other’s gaze and sighed. It was going to be a long night.

Vampire Killer will be released on Amazon on 23rd September 2020

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