Night claimed the sky. The only illumination came from the full moon and sporadically spaced streetlights.
Parked at the curb in front of the morgue was an armored carrier. Four police officers in black combat gear stood sentry. Police barricades were unnecessary. There were no onlookers. The police presence was deterrence enough. Any pedestrians passing by quickly moved on.
Chunks of granite littered the floor beneath the man-sized hole ruining the building’s façade, yellow tape drawn across the entrance. Past it, within the morgue’s reception area, two more officers, also wearing combat gear, clutched their assault rifles, muzzles down. Both men gazed up at the second massive hole above the double doors leading to the Autopsy Room. Their combat boots shuffled uneasily on the rubble, debris crunching underfoot.
“What do you think did that?” one of them asked through the microphone of his bulletproof helmet, his voice sounding mechanical and cold.
“You know why I got picked?” said the other in an equally artificial voice, “Cause I don’t ask any fucking questions. Not my place to ask. Not my place to know.”
Beyond the police tape, within the autopsy room, three dead thralls lay amongst the rubble, two of them bloodless, the other headless. Detective Boris Loffkar was kneeling by the drained thralls. He checked his watch. Laszlo should be getting up soon. He wasn’t going to like this.
Boris had examined the bodies more than once and didn’t know what to make of the needle-sized holes riddling two of them. But neither the drained thralls nor the headless one concerned him as much as the morgue’s missing chief medical examiner, Darius.
Boris had found the broomsticks back in the Autopsy Room. He’d seen their blackened ends and knew what that meant, having previously witnessed his master Laszlo punish an underling a few months back. He hoped he was wrong, but he didn’t think so, especially after scraping the blackened ends of the wood with his fingernail and peeling away a layer of soot. The wood beneath hadn’t been burned. The wood had done the burning. Stakes.
He’d sifted through the dust and debris looking for ashes, any other sign that would verify his suspicions, but it had proved to be a fruitless endeavor, and he’d found nothing.
He’d checked all the cadaver draws, looking for Darius, and he wasn’t among the dead, so Boris assumed the worst. He thought of checking the draws again, but he figured it wouldn’t make any difference. Darius wasn’t there.
A frightening thought now entered Boris’s mind. If Darius was dead and his killer was a vampire, he could still be here among the dead bodies. Like all thralls, Boris couldn’t tell the difference between a vampire and a dead body. A vampire’s slumber resembled actual death. And there was no aura for Boris to read. Like the dead, vampires had none.
He thought of staking down all the dead bodies, but without his master’s approval, Boris didn’t dare. It was forbidden for a thrall to harm a vampire unless bade to by its master.
With his options limited, he decided it was best to wait outside. He’d call Laszlo from there and make sure Serf’s men were staying clear of the morgue. As he left the Autopsy room, locking the door behind him, he wondered if Coven Lust had anything to do with this.
Within the Freezer Room, inside one of the cadaver draws, torpor’s fog lifted. A part of Roman wanted to hold onto its fading wisps, for fear of unleashing something he was finding difficult to control, something that he wanted to unleash, something that overpowered his need for answers and his self-opposed penance: his hunger for vampire blood. He pushed it aside and opened his eyes.
It took him a moment to remember where he was. The stainless steel greeting his face reminded him. Morgue. Darius.
Reaching out with his essence, he pushed past the Freezer and Autopsy rooms, and saw two armored police officers conferring with another man. He saw the man’s aura and knew he was a thrall. Roman felt a pang of hunger. Though diluted, the thrall’s blood still contained vampire blood. But he ignored it and went past the mortals. Outside, he saw four more. All of them completely human. He wasn’t concerned about them or their weapons.
He recalled his essence, willed it to engulf him, to camouflage him.
The cadaver draw opened. Secreted within his essence, Roman jumped from the draw and made for the door. He entered the Autopsy Room and leapt up to the hole he’d made above its doors. Once there, he jumped through, and hovered over Boris and his men. Reaching the final fissure fracturing the building’s façade, he leapt, let loose his wings and soared off into the night.
Although a part of him wanted to go on to the bridge-the one he’d seen when draining Servanah-and take out every vampire he would meet there, he’d a promise to keep. He was a night late and wished to keep at least half of his vow to Father Purgeon and Avalyn.
Still, his reasons weren’t entirely selfless. Avalyn knew something. After all, hadn’t it been her soul’s words that had started him on this journey? “Remember,” her soul had said. “Remember”.
The dead might not know why he couldn’t remember, but he had a feeling that she did.