Vampire
by Barry William Metcalf

     "I don't believe in vampires!"
     "I didn't say you did!"
     "Yes you did!"
     "No, I never said you believed in vampires."
     "You said that the house was haunted, possibly by a vampire and that I should be careful lest it decided to attack me."
     "That's right."
     "But I don't believe in vampires!"
     "I didn't say you did."
     "Ooh!" She shook herself with rage, the tremor passing from head to toe. She always trembled when she was frustrated by his arguing. "We're just going around in circles again "
     "That's right."
     "Stop it!" She stamped her foot to emphasize her statement.
     "Whatever you say."
     "Ooh!" He was infuriating at times. "I don't want to argue any more."
     "Neither do I."
     She held her breath, not wanting to continue this line of argument, yet, because she was stubborn, wanting the last word. She tried changing the subject.
     "Are you coming, then?"
     "Where to?"
     "The new house, of course!" She found her temper rising again, the previous disagreement still too fresh in her mind.
     "Do we have to go tonight?"
     "No, WE don't; but I am!" She desperately wanted to get out of the house, to be away from the hostile environment of the past few hours. They did not usually fight, but when they did, it was often violent. Both of them had quick-silver tempers; both were like trout rising to a fly.
     "Go if you like," he said, dismissing her. "I've got too much work to do tonight."
     "Bastard!" she muttered in a barely-audible whisper. She did not swear often.
     "I love you, too," he responded, smiling now.
     The ill-feeling between them had vanished as quickly as snow before a hot north wind. It usually did.
     She stepped across the room, the fragrance of Charlie assailing his senses while she was still several paces away. It was his favorite perfume and, as usual, it almost made him postpone his work and dabble in more pleasant occupations; but she was in no mind for monkey-business. She kissed him lightly on the cheek--leaving the usual lipstick impression-and skipped out of his reach before he could put his thoughts into action. Laughing pleasantly, she left the room.
     "Bye," she waved from the door.
     "See you," he called in response.
     He watched her retreating figure through the plate-glass windows at the front of the house--he was going to miss those in the new place. She looked really pretty today, full of health and vitality. The new maroon skirt and top suited her coloring and figure both, and he idly wondered when he had seen her looking so lovely.
     He listened to the sound of her high-heel shoes on the concrete path leading to the two-vehicle car park. That was another thing he was going to miss: the new mansion had been built in the days before automobiles and the courtyard, although it would hold two cars, would not allow them the turning space they enjoyed here. The noise of the Jaguar door shutting reached his ears, and he looked up again from his work, waiting for the key to turn in the ignition and the engine to come to life. He smiled. As usual she was initially heavy on the accelerator, attempting to warm up the motor too quickly. He returned to his papers as he heard the scrape of the Michellen tires on the gravel driveway. In seconds, the purr of the car's exhaust had vanished into the distance.
     The work was important and engrossing, and he wanted to get it all cleared away tonight. Tomorrow they were moving to the new house and he simply would not have the time to tackle his Taxation Return. He was determined to complete it in this one, concerted effort.
     Time passed; he did not notice.
     It was not until the light had faded and he could no longer see that he realized it was getting late.
     Where was Fiona?
     Dane glanced at his Omega digital watch, pressing the light button; it winked at him, its tiny globe illuminating the figures in the half-light, telling him that the time was 6:30. How quickly the sun set at this time of the year.
     Where was Fiona?
     He walked quickly to the large windows, searching the gloom outside for a sign of his wife. He could barely discern the BMW sitting there alone and forlorn. So she had not returned while he had been working.
     Where was she, then?
     He had certainly expected her back by this late hour. Usually when she drove out to the new house on her own, she was back well before dark. Perhaps she had been working on some pet project, overlooked the time and was even now on her way home. He hoped that she drove carefully on the twisting roads; there were numerous patches of heavy mist about in this season.
     Dane could not get over the feeling that something was amiss.
     He shook the impression aside and walked towards the staircase, intending to search upstairs for several missing receipts. However, he had barely placed his foot on the bottom step when a noise outside the house attracted his attention. He turned, his eyes seeking to penetrate the darkness beyond the window.
     "Fiona?" he called. "Is that you?" Funny but he had not heard the Jaguar.
     There was no answer. Perhaps it had been the cat. Perhaps it was his imagination. Shaking his head, Dane continued to mount the stairs.
     This time the sound reached his ears when he was halfway up the steps. This time it was more distinct, a sort of scratching noise at the front door. This time he knew it was not simply his imagination.
     He bounded down the stairs two at a time, positive now that the cat wished to be ushered inside where it was cozy and warm, not that he blamed her. Jade was a very sensible feline; she preferred the comforts of the house to outside living any time, and she would rather spend her time with humans--her master and mistress particularly--than with others of her ilk. Dane was mildly surprised that she had not demanded entry earlier during the afternoon; but then, perhaps she had and he had not heard her, so engrossed had he been in his work.
     The man turned the handle and swung the door open. He looked down at the steps expecting to see Jade; thus he was totally unprepared for what happened next.
     Something incredibly strong thrust against him, hurling him backwards into the house. So powerful was this force that Dane, catching his heel on the carpeting, fell upon his back and struck his head on the side of the mahogany occasional table. Momentarily stunned, he did not see his attacker.
     As he lay upon the carpet, his senses reeling, the man felt something heavy fall upon his prostrate form. Strong fingers clutched at his shoulders, biting into his flesh, and he felt hot breath fanning against his face.
     Full consciousness returned suddenly, as it often does in times of stress, and with the return of his senses came strength. Dane thrust his hands against his attacker, endeavoring to push it away; but whoever it was, that person was incredibly strong.
     And then the man's eyes focused on the face of his assailant, and his mind reeled.
     What he saw before him, only inches from his own person, was the face of a woman; but such a visage as he had never witnessed before. It was more of a caricature of a face than something that was real. In fact it appeared barely human at all.
     Although the features were basically feminine, they were so distorted by lust as to appear horrific. The mouth, red against the paleness of the skin, was gaping, lips drawn back in a snarl that exposed two rows of perfect white teeth--perfect except for two that seemed longer than the rest, seemed to extend out of the gums and over the bottom lip. The eyes were wide, distended, with pupils that were mere pin-points of black; and the whites were streaked with red. To add to this bestial impression, horrid snarls issued from deep within the woman's throat; and her breath carried the odor of decaying flesh.
     Utterly repulsed by what he saw, Dane thrust at the mouth, desperately striving to keep it away from him. It appeared to be seeking his throat. The strength of the woman was demonic; it was all the man could do to keep her questing teeth at bay.
     The two combatants began to roll about the floor, first one, then the other on top; neither gave an inch.
     Suddenly, the woman screamed as if in mortal agony and flung herself from the body of the man, as if she had been scalded. Her face, although horrible to behold previously, now became a mask of utter agony. She cringed in a far corner of the room, her hands before her face, fingers extended like claws.
     Dane sat up gasping, his mind shocked by all that had happened. Who was this insane creature? Why had she attacked him? Why had she flung herself from him in such a panic?
     As he crouched on the carpet pondering these thoughts, something about his attacker seemed to change. He blinked in wonderment and, when ho looked upon her again, an amazing transformation had taken place. No longer was her face distorted and bestial, no longer was she ugly and repulsive.
     He stood up.
     Before him, hand extended, stood the most beautiful woman Dane had ever seen.
     "Give it to me," she instructed.
     He was confused. "Give you what?"
     "The cross." She pointed at his chest.
     The man glanced down and he saw that which she was indicating. During their struggle his silver cross pendant had fallen from inside his shirt. It lay upon that garment, exposed to the light. Strangely, it seemed to glow with a light of its own.
     "Please!" implored the woman.
     Dane looked up, his eyes meeting hers.
     "Please take off the cross."
     The man could not take his eyes off her. She held him captive, spellbound in a hypnotic state. He did not wish to look anywhere or at anyone else again. His only desire was to obey this beautiful creature.
     "Take off the cross!"
     His hands moved slowly to the chain, lifted it and drew it over his head.
     "Now place it on the table over there," and she indicated the occasional table.
     Dane did as instructed, his eyes never leaving those of the girl.
     "Good," she said. "Now come over here." She held out her arms towards him.
     "My love," he said, dreamily.
     "Come!"
     "I'm yours to command."

**********

     "Are you sure you're all right?"
     "Yes, thank you, John."
     "All right, then. But call me if you need anything."
     "That's very kind of you. I will."
     He hesitated, not wanting to leave her in this moment of crisis. "I'm sorry about Dane," he said.
     "Yes, he was a good husband."
     "He was a good friend, too."
     "I know you liked him, John. He liked you, you know."
     "I know."
     Silence settled about them like the mist that was inevitably settling over the house and the surrounding landscape. He did not want to leave her alone in this strange, old house, yet he did not know what to say to this woman whose husband had so recently been so brutally murdered.
     John shuffled his feet.
     "Ah... do... do you have everything you need?" he asked at length.
     "Yes. The removalists completed shifting our... my belongings today. Everything I need is here."
     "Well, goodnight, then."
     "Goodnight, John. And thanks for everything."
     "You're welcome."
     Fiona Francis stood at the door of her new house, watching John Kiddman walk towards his Porsche. He was a kind man, a good friend, but not really her idea of what a man should be. He was not at all like Dane. Dane! The very thought of him conjured up in her mind the scene she had walked in upon when she had returned to the house that night. Had it only been a week ago today? Vividly she could recall the body of her husband, draped backwards over the sofa, his life-force spent, his mouth gaping, his eyes sightless and wide. He had been so pale, too, almost as if his blood had been drained from his body. And then there were the two ugly puncture marks on his neck... but no, she must not let her mind dwell on such macabre details. She knew that in that direction lay madness.
     Oh Dane! she thought. What am I going to do without you?
     For many long minutes she stood there, a motionless statue in blue, not feeling the chill, not noticing the passing time. Long after the Porsche had disappeared into the gloom, she remained stationary, her eyes unseeing, her mind reliving the events of the day--the church service, the burial, the many conciliatory relatives, John bringing her home. That he was in love with her--had always been in love with her--she knew and accepted for the fact that it was. She was the reason he had never married, the reason maybe why he would never marry; but she had done nothing to encourage him or to give him false hopes. No, John Kiddman was not her kind of man.
     Eventually, however, even the depth of her grief could not repel the biting cold of the night and Fiona withdrew, shivering into the house. During renovations she and Dane had had gas heating installed--it was both an inexpensive and effective method of heating--and the fan-boosted warmth filled the huge lounge-room. Soon, even Fiona's bone-chilling cold had begun to dissipate.
     She retired to the sofa--the same one on which she had discovered Dane's blanched body one week ago--but she was not tired. Despite the fact that she had slept but fitfully this past week, she felt no need of the benefits of Morpheus. Her mind was in a whirl of conflicting thoughts and emotions, byproducts of the traumatic experience she had been through.
     Who had killed her husband? She knew of no one who wished him dead. Why had he been killed? Perhaps he had disturbed a burglar in the act of theft, but nothing in the house appeared to have been touched. How had he been killed? As yet the police pathologist could give no satisfactory answer to that question: his best guess was a massive loss of blood. But there had been no bloodstains anywhere in the house, nor anything to account for her husband's lost fluid. And then there were the odd puncture marks that had been found on Dane's throat! Even the police had failed to identify these.
     As she sat thus, pondering the strange circumstances of her husband's murder, an unusual noise reached the woman's ears. She cocked her head on one side, listening. The sound was repeated; this time she was able to determine that it had originated inside the house. It sounded very much as if it had come from beneath the floorboards on which she was standing. But that was ridiculous. Or was it? Then she remembered the basement! Of course, why hadn't she thought of that right away?
     Fiona walked quickly to the bureau on the far side of the room. Opening the drawer, she extracted her dead husband's revolver, checked that it was loaded, and headed for the door.
     When she reached the heavy door to the basement steps, she hesitated, listening, one hand resting on the doorknob. The house was silent about her--the noise was not repeated. Holding the Colt .38 before her, Fiona opened the door and felt for the light switch. To her relief the room was instantly illuminated by bright, electric light. There was no one there! She could see every part of the concrete floor--the basement was empty!
     Pleased that her search had indeed discovered nothing, Fiona killed the lights and returned to the lounge-room.
     As she walked through the doorway, she realized that she was not alone. Instinctively, she raised the pistol and, without a second thought, aimed and pulled the trigger, firing at the figure approaching her. It was point-blank range and she knew she could not miss.
     The sound of the explosion filled the room, deafening the young woman momentarily. Smoke billowed from the barrel, partially obscuring the figure and stinging Fiona's eyes; but the intruder did not fall.
     "Missed!" he said as he continued to approach. The voice was somewhat familiar.
     "Stop!" demanded Fiona, raising the gun again.
     The man laughed, a pleasant, full-bodied sound.
     "You never could shoot straight, darling!" he said.
     Fiona lowered the Colt. "Who ....?" she began.
     "Don't tell me you've forgotten me already?"
     Fiona rubbed her eyes. "Dane ...?" she muttered weakly, the blood rushing to her head. A lesser woman would have, fainted.
     "Yes, darling."
     "Dane? Is that really you?"
     "Look at me if you don't believe. Go on, take a good look."
     She did as he instructed, the pistol dropping to her side. "Dane?" she asked advancing a step. "Dane!" She ran to him, dropping the Colt to the carpeted floor, and throwing her arms about him. "Dane; but how?"
     "Hush now," he said, placing a tender finger to her lips. "Just let me hold you in my arms. I've missed you, you know."
     "Oh! I've missed you, too. I thought you were..." Tears formed in her eyes, running down her cheeks in rivers. 
     "Hush now. I know what you thought... what you've been led to believe; but, believe me, it was absolutely necessary."
     "Necessary!" she hissed, suddenly forgetting both her joy and her tears. She wiped the back of her hand under her right eye. "What sort of circumstances make it necessary for you to let me believe you're dead?"
     "It's all right, darling. Don't get mad at me now. Let's sit here and I'll explain."
     "This had better be good, or..."
     "Yes, yes. I know what you'll do."
     "Good!"
     "Now," he said, clasping her hand in his as they sat upon sofa. "Where should I begin?"
     "Begin by telling me why we've been through this last week's charade. Why did you pretend to be dead?"
     "That's easy!"
     "Really! Then tell me before I wring your neck!"
     "Okay! I give up. The reason I had to pretend that I was dead was because I am on an important mission for the Police."
     "Oh Dane," she laughed. "That's ridiculous! Now tell me the real reason for your supposed demise!"
     "But really; I've told you the truth."
     "What?"
     "I really am working for the Police."
     "But that's ridiculous!"
     "So you said. Just listen to me for a moment."
     "I am listening."
     "Good." He kissed her gently on the lips. "Remember that series of weird murders that occurred in our old suburb several months ago?"
     "You mean the ones in which the victims were all inexplicably drained of their blood and where the police not only found no clues, but also failed to find one bloodstain at any of the five murder scenes?"
     "Six."
     "Six?"
     "Yes, there were six murders, not five."
     "Oh."
     "The number's not important, but those are the ones I meant."
     "So?"
     "So I'm going to help the police to solve them."
     "You! Don't be ridiculous!"
     "Fiona; I'm not being ridiculous.'"
     "But what help could you be to the police? Why would they ask you for aid?"
     "Because of my theory."
     "What theory, for God's sake?"
     "My theory about vampires!"
     "Dane, you know I don't believe in...!"
     "Don't start that again, Fiona. This is serious."
     "So am I."
     "Yes, well, I wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Police about a month ago. I presented him with my theory about some vampire-like creature being responsible for those six deaths. Just last week he and several of his colleagues called to see me at my office in the city. There we discussed the murders, which, by the way, have the police completely mystified. I explained the basis for my theory, and we finally devised a plan where we might entrap the criminal or criminals responsible. I was to pretend to be the next victim; I was to be interred so that, once presumed dead, I could move about the suburbs, waiting for the killer to strike again."
     "But... but how do you know he will strike again?"
     "Vanity, my darling. No, don't interrupt. Let me explain. The real killer will be puzzled, you see, by my supposed murder. He (or she) knows he did not commit it, yet it contained all the earmarks of his work. He will be mystified, annoyed; annoyed because someone is copying his handiwork. He will need to kill again just to prove he is still in control of the situation."
     "How can you stop this killer?"
     "For the moment darling, that must remain a secret--a secret shared only by the Police Department and yours truly."
     "So you really are helping the police?"
     "I am."
     "When do you start?"
     "First thing tomorrow morning. We have a lot of ground to cover, work that can only be done in the day-time."
     "When will you be home?"
     "As soon as I can each evening."
     "I see," she said at last, smiling. "I suppose you find all this police business a lot more thrilling than plain old doctoring."
     "I always wanted to be like Columbo!"
     "Fool!" she said, chiding him. "But tell me one last thing"
     "What's that?"
     "How did you survive my bullet earlier? I mean I couldn't have missed."
     "But you did, darling."
     "But...?"
     "Look here," he said, pulling forward the left-hand side of his jacket and pushing a finger through a ragged hole in the material. "Here's where your bullet went; and that's how I survived. You never were any good with guns, were you!"
     "Well," she commented, standing. "In that case we'd better get off to bed at once. We've got quite a lot of ... sleep to catch up with."
     Smiling, he followed her from the room.

**********

     The large bat circled twice over the roof of the old house, then headed off in the direction of the cluster of lights in the valley below. It did not flap haphazardly, at random, but rather took a direct path as if it knew exactly where it was heading. Its strong wings beat quickly through the winter mist that enshrouded this part of the city, and soon the night creature had reached its objective, a two-story house that was enveloped in total darkness. Around the top floor of this structure it circled several times, its keen senses seeking to determine what lay within. Apparently satisfied, the bat glided straight for a large window located on the southern side of the top story of the house. With effortless ease, the creature came to rest on the narrow sill, its finger-like claws holding it securely against the glass.
     And as it perched there, the creature appeared to grow in size.
     Inside the room, Gloria Dawn was suddenly aroused from a deep sleep. She sat up in bed. Beside her, motionless in slumber, her husband dreamed on. Usually a heavy sleeper, Gloria wondered what could have awakened her on this chill winter's night. The room was dark and cold, the only warmth coming from the electric blanket on the bed. Gloria longed to thrust her arms and shoulders back inside the warm cocoon of her bedding, but something picked at the edges of her curiosity, causing her to cast her eyes about the room in search of that which had awakened her.
     Abruptly the sound was repeated. A slight rattling of the bedroom window caught her attention, drawing her eyes to that side of the room.
     What she saw, framed in the lesser darkness of the window, made the fear well in her stomach so that she wanted to scream; but she did not. For several seconds she sat there, perfectly still, then, one fist in her mouth, she threw her legs over the side of the bed and walked slowly towards the window.
     In the bed, her husband reposed still in the arms of Morpheus.
     As if in a trance, Gloria reached the window and, after disengaging the catch, she slid the glass pane to one side and stepped back to allow the dark figure do enter.
     He was tall and dark and his eyes burned with a fierceness that Gloria had never seen in a man before. He was dressed entirely in black as if to aid him in merging with the night: and he was very handsome. In Gloria's opinion he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. He looked intently at the young woman, who melted before his gaze so that she was no longer master of her will, but rather a slave to his. She struggled to free her eyes of his burning orbs, but his power was too great.
     He beckoned and she walked towards him, the thin material of her nightgown barely serving to cover the charms of her body. Wordlessly they embraced like long-lost lovers, the passion of their kiss only equaled by that of their clinging bodies.
     Suddenly the woman stiffened and threw her head back as if in the ecstasy of orgasm, for the stranger had slid his mouth from Gloria's lips to her soft, white throat, and drawing back his lips in a horrid caricature of a smile, he had sunk his teeth into the willing woman's flesh.
     She screamed!
     It was a sound filled with pain and suffering; and it marked the end of Gloria's life. Yet her husband remained immobile, his sleep induced by the same will that had compelled the woman to leave her bed and open the window.
     Within seconds Gloria's body relaxed, going limp in the intruder's arms. Still his teeth lay buried in her neck; still he continued do suck at the juice of life contained therein. Only when his appetite was sated, only when she had nothing left to give did the night-creature raise his head and release her. Like a rag doll, Gloria flopped do the bedroom floor. Like a wraith, the stranger turned and, without a backward glance, leapt from the open window into the darkness of the night.
     In no time at all he had disappeared from sight.

**********

     When she awoke in the morning, Fiona discovered that her husband had gone.
     At first she conjured with the idea that she had dreamed the events of the previous night, that Dane had not really returned from the grave; but the very real impression of his body in the bed and his dirty clothes on the bedroom floor soon convinced her that he was, indeed alive and well. Besides, she had slept late into the morning--she had not slept much at all in the week she had thought Dane dead--and she knew she always slept well when cradled in his arms. She wondered where he could have gone. Why had he not remained in bed, beside her? Wonder turned to perplexity, worry to fear. Then she recalled what he had said the previous evening about working for the police. Of course, he had left early in order that he could help catch the murderer.
     This line of reasoning made her feel much better and she rose from her bed to fix breakfast, the first such meal she had eaten in over a week.
     The daylight hours seemed to dawdle by for the young woman as she awaited the return of her husband. She knew that he would not be back until late, but she hoped that maybe he would call, perhaps even ask her out to lunch. He did neither. Somehow, however, she survived the day.
     The sun had set when she saw him striding towards her from the other side of the car park. She had been seated by the window that overlooked the car park, a novel unread in her lap. Although she wondered vaguely why he had not driven the BMW today, Fiona was far too concerned with the safe return of her husband to give more than a passing concern to this minor consideration.
     She did not wait for him to enter the house but rushed out to meet him.
     "Hi," she called. "Have a good day?"
     "Not so good," he answered. "How about you?"
     "Oh! so-so." She embraced him tightly, fearful lest she should lose him again. "Hungry?"
     "Not very. I'm more tired than hungry. It's been a long day."
     "Don't I know it."
     "How do you mean?"
     "Never mind, hon. My, but your hands are cold!"
     "Actually I'm freezing. I'll be glad to get in by the fire where it's warm."
     Together they entered the house. She looked at him in the manner of a doctor studying a patient. Finally, she spoke the thoughts that were on her mind.
     "You're working too hard again!"
     "What? What did you say?"
     "You're working too hard!"
     "Why do you say that?"
     "You're very pale. Usually your face has quite a deal of color--tonight it has absolutely none."
     "You could be right," he agreed, rubbing a hand over his cheeks. "It's probably all this business about playing dead, and the like. I guess I'm just not quite used to all that."
     "Not to mention your silly theories about vampires. Now there's something to really make someone feel ill."
     He raised a hand. It too was pale. "Not tonight, hon. I just don't feel like arguing."
     She looked at him carefully again, a little furrow of worry creasing her brow. "Dane, is everything all right?"
     "What? Oh! .. Of course it is. I am just a little tired, that's all. Why don't you sit down here beside me and cuddle away my cares!"
     She looked him squarely in the eyes, then said: "You're not telling me everything, are you?"
     He lowered his gaze. "No."
     "What is it then? What's happened?" She lifted his chin with her fingers until she could again look directly into his blue eyes. "Tell me."
     "There's been another killing." He said it simply, all emotion gone from his voice.
     "Oh! Dane! That's awful. When?"
     "Some time during the night; I don't know exactly."
     "Was it just like the others?"
     "Exactly. The body drained completely of blood, no bloodstains, no clues, no motive; and the same two puncture marks on the victim's neck."
     "And the police have no idea who did it, of course?"
     "They suspected the husband at first because he was in the same room as the victim. He states that be was asleep and did not wake up, although his wife was being murdered only several feet away."
     "How do the police know he didn't do it? Surely they won't take his word that he slept through the brutal slaying of his wife."
     "I must admit they didn't believe him to begin with--we really thought we had caught our killer--but now they're equally sure he didn't do it."
     "Why?"
     "A hypnotherapist was consulted and the husband was hypnotised; we were hoping that the man would freely admit his guilt while in a susceptible state, and the man readily agreed, claiming it would prove his innocence."
     "And?"
     He shrugged his shoulders. "The husband was quite correct. Under hypnosis he was able to describe the entire murder--he did not see anything as he had his eyes closed, but he heard everything that happened in the room, before, during and immediately after the killing. After that his mind is a blank."
     "But how could he have this knowledge of his wife's murder if he, himself, did not commit it?"
     "The doctor claims that the man was under some spell at the time; that he could hear but was powerless to intervene in the slaying of his wife."
     "How dreadful!"
     "Yes. And I'm afraid I don't know where we go from here!"

**********

     he bat glided on silent wings, its ears guiding it unerringly through the dark night. It could hear the quick footsteps as they echoed along the empty street, the high-heeled shoes tap-tapping on the slick pavement upon which the night-owl briskly walked. It was very late, had in fact already gone midnight, and the ill-lit suburban streets were virtually deserted. Although the residents of this locality had been repeatedly warned of the foolishness of being outside at night, there were still those that apparently would rather take that risk.
     Magda was one such young lady who risked her life to be out and about on this cold damp night.
     The bat thirsted. It had been a long, tiring night for the creature as it had sailed the cold air currents of this part of the city without success. Its search for sustenance had been so far unrewarded and the dark of night would all too soon give way to the burning light of day; and by then the creature must be ensconced within its sanctuary, hidden completely from the destructive rays.
     Strangely, the black bat had not been able to easily enter homes and temporarily slake its unquenchable thirst on the blood of the innocent inmates on this dreary night. Each means of ingress seemed to have been blocked by devices such as crosses, garlic and holy water, barriers that could not be breached by the ebony creature. Instead, on this fruitless night, it had been compelled to search the dirty streets in order to satisfy its lust. At length, the hurrying form of Magda had appeared to fill that bill.
     Magda hurried through the night, her nerves steeled so as not to run. She knew the chance she was taking, knew the horrid death that might await her; knew that at any moment her fear might get the better of her; but she had a mission to fulfil, a very important task on which many lives might depend.
     The vampire bat was ready. Its intelligence assured it that this woman was alone; its senses had detected none of the hated symbols with which humans often protected themselves.
     It was time to satisfy its hunger.
     The huge bat dropped like a diving hawk, its leathery wings folded, its jaws agape.
     There was no sound to warn Magda of impending danger, no subtle change of the air waves by which she could steel her body against the onslaught.
     So it was that when the bat struck, the young woman was hurled to the pavement.
     Despite her greatest efforts of self-control, Magda screamed.
     A split-second before making contact with the unsuspecting female's back, the bat had begun its amazing transformation. So it was that it landed upon her, not as a creature of the air, but rather with all the weight and strength of a large, powerful man.
     Thirst drove the vampire berserk.
     With this attack there was no time for subtleties, no time for sapping the victim's will, nor no time for the sexual satisfaction that was so often a part of the creature's gratification. The onslaught was direct and brutal. No sooner had the man-creature pinned Magda to the cold, hard footpath than its lusting, gaping mouth sought her throat, the long, sharp teeth probing for her jugular.
     The girl, for her part, knew all the tricks of the street. A product of that environment, she had learned the hard way how to protect herself from attacks by men and women both. That she had survived to the ripe old age of thirty-five said much for her prowess. Tonight, however, that wisdom seemed to count for nought.
     After the initial impact of the vampire's body and with the regaining of her wind, Magda attempted to roll beneath her attacker, knowing that once she was off her back, she had a much better chance of survival. She accomplished that part of her plan with consummate ease; but now her opponent was pinning her to the pavement, his fetid breath on her face, his teeth inching closer and closer to her neck.
     What sort of rapist was this? This question flashed through her mind for she had been led to believe that she was to act as bait for just such an individual.
     Magda raised her right knee--the vampire had made no attempt to pin her legs--and snapped it up sharply into the man's groin; but although she made solid contact, her assailant appeared not to notice.
     What sort of man was this?
     Her nails raked his face, almost tearing out one of his eyes in the process. Still his teeth edged closer and closer to her throat.
     Magda began to believe she was lost. Never before had her experiences as a prostitute failed her in times of danger. It seemed that when she needed her skills most, they had no effect.
     Just at the moment when the blood-sucker's fangs penetrated the first layer of skin, another figure appeared on the scene. Also dressed entirely in black, he appeared as if by magic from the shadows and strode towards the two combatants.
     With absolute deliberation, the newcomer raised his hands above his head and, lunging downwards with all his might, plunged a long, round, wooden dagger into the attacker's back.
     The vampire reeled upwards, a weird sound escaping from its throat. That it was in mortal agony was obvious from the appearance of its face.
     The newcomer was unmoved by this performance. He reached into his coat pocket, extracted a second wooden knife and, taking careful aim, stabbed the creature in the left-hand side of its back, directly over the heart.
     If the first blow had produced a violent reaction from the vampire, the second caused a minor sensation.
     The creature, obviously in its death throes, reared up and off its intended victim. It clutched at its back, but to no avail: although its hands could touch the wooden implement protruding there, the vampire could not remove it, no matter how it tried.
     Its face, however, was almost too horrific to behold.
     The demon's eyes fairly bulged from its head; they stared unblinking, unseeing. Its mouth gaped open, saliva dripping from naked fangs, and its tongue writhed like a snake in a jar.
     Staggering several unsteady paces, the vampire crumpled to the pavement, the light beginning to die in its eyes. It was virtually dead already, but refused to give in. Sheer will-power was all that held it tenuously to life. Even that was slowly fading. Eventually, even the massive will of the night-creature could not prolong its existence, and it flopped heavily to the pavement, a sigh being its final comment on the futility of life.
     The vampire was dead!
     The woman's saviour stepped forward over the prone figure and approached her. She was already sitting up, holding her throat--there would be ugly bruises on that part of her anatomy tomorrow. He reached down and helped her to her feet.
     "Are you all right, Magda?" he asked, genuinely concerned.
     "I... I'm not sure," she ventured, still checking her ample figure for damages. "I seem to be in one piece."
     "You may have some bruising later."
     Again she fingered her neck. "Yes. Thanks to you I'm gonna be awfully bruised--that won't be good for business, let me tell you."
     "I saved your life."
     "Only just."
     "I had to be sure that he had fully transformed before I struck."
     "Transformed? Never mind--you didn't have to wait so bloody long if you ask me!" Now that she had fully regained her composure, Magda could give free reign to her anxiety. She let it out as anger towards her saviour.
     He smiled. "But you volunteered for the job, remember!"
     "I know I did; but you didn't tell me I might get killed!"
     "I told you it would be dangerous."
     "Anyway," she returned, remembering her conversation with him earlier in the day; "I didn't really volunteer. You forced me into it. I seem to recall that you threatened to disclose certain facts to the police about my business life if I didn't volunteer to act as bait for this fiend."
     "I thought the $5,000 I offered had something to do with it!"
     She shrugged. "Maybe it did; but if I had know ."
     He smiled, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You did very well, Magda. I'm very proud of you."
     She blushed. "Yeah, well..."
     He handed her a small packet he had extracted from his coat pocket. "Here's your money. Go home like a good girl, and take a week off work."
     She took the package, lifted her skirt and slipped it into the top of her panty hose. "What about him?" she said, indicating the prone shape behind them on the footpath.
     "I'll take care of that. Run along home. You've earned your money and your rest."
     "The police! Will they...?"
     "No. I won't tell them of your involvement."
     "If you're sure, then?"
     "I'm sure."
     "Okay. Goodnight, Mr. Francis."
     "Goodnight, Magda."
     Dane watched her walk out of sight, limping a little; and then he listened to her footsteps until they, too, had vanished into the night.
     Bending at last, he examined the dead vampire. As he had known it would be, there was virtually nothing left of the night-creature. Dane picked up the long, black cloak and the other items of clothing. All that remained to mark the location of the creature's demise were the two stakes and a pile of grey dust. Dane kicked into the latter with his feet, spreading it on the chill air of the night. The wooden daggers he placed in one of his pockets.
     When there was nothing left to indicate the drama that had so recently taken place on this dark city street, Dane turned and strode into the night.

**********

     They were resting in bed after a particularly energetic bout of lovemaking.
     Dane was laying back, his hands beneath his head upon the pillow. He was naked, the bedclothes thrown back, for the room was quite warm--a combination of both the heating system and their strenuous ardour.
     Fiona was smoking. She, too, was naked, the perspiration glistening on her fair, rounded contours as she allowed the smoke to drift from her lungs. Her mind was wandering aimlessly over the events of the past few weeks.
     The murderer who had been terrorizing the city had mysteriously disappeared, allowing the blanket of fear to gradually lift from its nightlife. Dane was non-committal about his involvement in the matter; he virtually refused to discuss it. Fiona had to admit, however, that she had not pressed the matter for, now that Dane had stated he was finished with the case, their lives together had been better than ever. Certainly their love-life, which had always been very good, had become more fervent. Perhaps part of the reason for this improvement was that Dane had taken a new job. He had resigned his medical position immediately after 'officially returning from the dead'. Fiona had been unsure at first, but his new employment with the Blood Bank did not take up as much of Dane's spare time as had the others; Dane was never tired now, and always interested in sex.
     She smiled, still feeling the warmth in the pit of her stomach and the sticky wetness between her legs.
     "Fiona," Dane mused quietly, interrupting her reverie.
     "Yes, hon."
     "I have something to tell you, something I believe you should know."
     "What is it?" She idly wondered why he sounded so serious. "Is it something to do with your new job?"
     "Not exactly; but that's part of it."
     "Well, tell me then. I don't want there to be any secrets between us."     
"I agree," sighed the man; "But I don't know how you're going to take this."
     "Try me." She snuggled against his naked shoulder. "After tonight's frolic, I'm ready for anything."
     "I wonder," mused Dane, abruptly going quiet, his mind, drifting to the events of the last few weeks.
     Fiona gave him several long seconds, and when he did not continue, prompted him.
     "Dane?"
     "Huh!"
     "Weren't you going to tell me something?"
     He jerked back to the present.
     "Of course."
     "Good!" She snuggled closer. He placed his left arm around her shoulders, his hand gently clasping her left breast.
     "You remember my fake murder?" he asked quietly.
     "Uh huh!"
     "It wasn't fake!"
     "Oh, Dane! Don't be silly!"
     "I'm not being silly. My murder was not faked!" He struggled to maintain his calm, even voice.
     "Tell me about it, darling." She was still imbued with the warm after-effects of their lovemaking.
     "When I was attacked several weeks ago in our previous home, I was attacked by a despicable creature the like of which you could not even imagine. We fought but the creature's will power and strength finally overcame me. I was actually murdered on that cool, winter's evening."
     "Yes, dear." Fiona reached down and tugged the doona up and over their cooling bodies. "Please don't stop," she added once she realized he had paused.
     "Well, when I was resurrected three days later, I was approached by a group of people--a police force of sorts, but not the regular police department from downtown--who wanted me to investigate the killings.
     "You see, most of their kind are law-abiding citizens who detest the bad publicity created by the minority of their creed. These people knew that only a similar being could catch and destroy this fiend."
     "Yes, dear." Fiona felt warm and secure, totally relaxed.
     "I agreed."
     "Naturally."
     He ignored the slight sarcasm of her voice. "With the aid of a female I hired for just such a purpose, I finally lured the killer into a trap where I disposed of him before he could transform himself into a being that could elude my wooden stakes."
     "Oh, wooden stakes, of course."
     "Yes, they had to be made of wood. Nothing else would have worked.
     "Once the killer was dead, his flesh dissolved into dust which I scattered to the four winds."
     "That's nice!"
     Dane turned his face to look into hers. "Have you fully understood all that I've said so far?"
     "Yes, dear."
     "Good. Then it only remains for me to tell you one more thing."
     "What's that?"
     "Darling, you know I'm a good person at heart. I could never really hurt anyone. I haven't changed no matter what you might think. I'm the same as I was before the murder. Don't hate me, please; but I must tell you--you see I'm now a vampire too!"
     "Oh, Dane! Don't start that rubbish again. You know very well that I don't believe in vampires!"