CSI Fanfic Awards

N.I.P.



From the Diary of David Phillips

Oct 22

It’s official. Doctor Robbins has put me in charge of the morgue for the next two weeks while he finally takes his vacation. I’m grateful he trusts me enough to turn the job over so he can just enjoy his time in San Carla and not have to worry about anything. Although I’ll still be handing the night shift, even the day shift will report to me, so I’ll be on call for the next fourteen days.

To be honest, I’m a little nervous about it. I know I can handle the workload, but in my experience, it always seems that the minute the boss leaves, either something terrible or extremely weird happens in the workplace. Maybe I’ve just watched too much television, but the set-up seems familiar; cliché almost. In any case, what I’m hoping for is fourteen days of very average, very normal deaths so I can sign off the certificates without a problem.

On an added note, Mr. Ecklie has been stopping by and eying the espresso machine in Doctor Robbins’ office. I think I will lock it up in one of the cabinets so it doesn’t accidentally get “confiscated” in the next few days.

Added, added note: both Sara and Mia wore red sweaters yesterday. They looked very nice.

***   ***   ***

“It was a dark and stormy night—“ Grissom intoned, his words light and full of mischief. Sara glanced at him, torn between grinning and frowning, and on the other side of the autopsy table, David blinked owlishly behind his glasses. Grissom cocked his head and managed a small smile when a flash of lightning flickered through the windows of the double doors and the lights overhead dimmed for a second. The three of them, all in surgical gowns, looked at each other.

“As if we’re not already in full cliché mode here—“ Sara chided gently. The body they were all clustered around lay under a folded back drape, exposing head and shoulders of a pale blonde young woman. David spoke up in his gentle tone.

“This body that you found over at the Carfax Casino doesn’t seem to be related to the death of the first one, the bellhop Henry Renfield. HIS cause of death was clearly an overdose of Oxycontin and tequila, probable suicide.”

“But she was in the same room, under the bed—“ Sara protested. David sighed.

 “Well the name on record is Maria Gomez, of San Germain Mexico. Cause of death has yet to be determined, but there are some anomalies worth noting. The corpse had only about three quarts of blood in her, of mixed types—“

“--Mixed?” Grissom asked abruptly, his brows narrowing; David nodded, acknowledging the impossibility.

“--A person can receive O at any time of course, but this woman had A and B blood in her, and not enough of either for normal circulation.”

“In her veins?” Sara asked, moving a lifeless limb to check the crook of the elbow. “Transfusion gone wrong?”

“No marks, “ David admitted as both Sara and Grissom looked along the pale, slender arms. “Not along the back of the hand or wrists either. However the blood got into her is still undetermined.” As the words left his mouth, a strange expression crossed his face, and if anyone had been looking at David they would have seen comprehension suddenly dawn on the young coroner’s face.

“With fewer than four quarts, she would be close to dead as it was.  She looks a bit undernourished. Abuse?” Grissom asked softly. Sara studied the woman’s fingernails while David shook his head thoughtfully.

“No signs of it as far as I can see—“

As he spoke, the body twitched.

 Startled, Sara jumped back and David flinched. Grissom gripped the edges of the gurney, looking carefully at the corpse.

“David?” his tone implied another misdeclaration, but the young coroner shook his head firmly.

“No pulse, no vitals, no blood flow when cut, no brainwaves, Doctor Grissom. She’s very much dead, sir.”

In complete contradiction to this statement, the corpse opened her eyes slowly, the lashes parting and the dark brown pupils focusing up towards the ceiling. Nothing else happened for a long moment; Sara and Grissom were utterly frozen in surprise.

“¡No otra vez! Aye! Esto occure cada vez que vengo a Las Vegas.” She muttered in a husky voice. David blinked; the woman turned her gaze to him.  “Hola guapo. ¿Sorprendido?”

For a moment, no one spoke. Then--

“Uh, sí. Sí ma'am. Ellos suponen que usted es muerta.” David replied in his flat, high school Spanish. He sounded regretful.

“Si la soy. Pero tengo hambre tambien—“ she added, eyeing him speculatively.

“Okay, Grissom? Why is a dead woman talking to us?” Sara asked in a sotto voice, her eyes never leaving the body on the gurney. Before he could reply, David fished in the collar of his shirt, tugging a silver chain into view; from it dangled a gleaming cross and a dog tag with the engraved letters NIP in Old English script. At the sight of it, the woman sighed crankily.

“Pact Internacional Nocturnal, Por supuesto.”

“Sí señorita,” David murmured politely. He pushed up his glasses and added, “Un momento por favor.”

The corpse gave a tiny moue and relaxed on the gurney a little; David glanced at Grissom and Sara nervously, and gave a resigned sigh. “I didn’t think this would happen while Doctor Robbins was on vacation. I wish he was here—he could explain this a lot better than I can—“

“Well he’s not, David, so maybe you’d better start at the beginning,” Grissom demanded softly. The young coroner took a deep breath and looked down at his own hands.

“All right. I’m a member of NIP, along with Doctor Robbins and most of the mortuary workers in the greater Las Vegas area. NIP stands for Nocturnal International Pact—“

“And THAT stands for—?” Sara urged, eyeing the woman on the table with disbelieving fascination. The woman’s mouth pursed into a soundless laugh. David pressed on, looking both embarrassed and wary.

“Which is a society, um, dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of the living and undead throughout the world.”

The ensuing pause was large enough to suck reality out of the room. Sara met Grissom’s glance over the table and pleaded for sanity. Grissom, however, was looking at David’s tag, his brows drawing together in recognition.

“I’ve seen one of those before—more than one, in fact. I assumed wrongly that they were merely decoration.” He muttered. David gave a nod and spoke again.

“They’re identification. For the members. Anyway, NIP was founded about a hundred years ago when it became clear that some sort of league was needed to keep the peace between the two different . . . entities.”

“So it’s a mutual aid society?” Sara asked, fighting the disbelieving grin that threatened to stretch across her face. David nodded solemnly. Grissom looked at the woman on the table, who winked at him in a saucy fashion.

¿Eh papi, cuál es su tipo de sangre?”

“B positive, but I need all mine right now,” Grissom told her with a faint smile. She gave a mock-sigh of disappointment. David quickly glanced at the double doors, and then back to Grissom.

“I need to call Bunker Brothers mortuary and arrange for a pick-up; they’ll take over and Miss Gomez here will be free to go once the paperwork is out of local government hands, provided that she has no bearing on your case.”

“David! She’s a either a murderer or a potential witness!” Sara protested, feeling the unreality of the moment settle in. “Even if she is—dead.”

David looked at Miss Gomez and spoke slowly to her.

“¿Usted asesinó a hombre en el cuarto del hotel?”

“No.”

“I’m inclined to believe her if your autopsy findings are clear on his cause of death,” Grissom mused. “AND if he has all his blood.”

“He did--all five quarts, O positive.”

“Ah.” For another long moment no one said anything, looking from one to the other. Gracefully Miss Gomez sat up, holding the drape against her frame with the long practice of a woman used to waking up in a morgue. Both Grissom and David averted their eyes; Sara rolled hers.

“This is unreal. Not happening, right? I’m having some sort of freaky dream in reaction to some overspiced nachos and a repeat of a bad Hammer movie on the early movie.”

“It could be MY dream.” Grissom pointed out. David shook his head sorrowfully.

“Sorry, but it’s not a dream. It took a while for me to accept it myself, but the evidence doesn’t lie.”

“What evidence?” Sara demanded impatiently. “For all we know, Miss Gomez here was just wrongfully declared dead and is as human as any of us, David.”

He wilted a little under the scorn in her voice, but carefully tugged his stethoscope from his neck and held it out to Sara. She took it and plugged the earpieces in, then held out the other end to the woman on the gurney. Miss Gomez gave a theatrical little sigh.

“Si tuviera un dolar para cada vez que alguien me habia preguntado eso--“

Sara pressed the medallion to Miss Gomez’s thorax.

She frowned. Shifting it a little further, she listened again. Grissom leaned closer, intently curious while David fingered his cross.

“¿No se puede oir nada, hmmm?” Miss Gomez commented cheerfully. Sara frowned hard.

“It can’t be possible—Grissom?” She unplugged the earpieces and held them out to him. Miss Gomez widened her smile, and for the first time the tiny tips of fangs appeared, peeping out from under her pale upper lip to stand out against her lower one.

“B, eh?” she murmured, “ése es mi sabor preferido.”

Grissom shot her a quelling look and listened carefully. Miss Gomez slid the chest piece lower, letting the drape slide down enough to reveal her sleek cleavage as the stethoscope end nestled between her breasts.

“No heartbeat, and I can safely say that’s NOT due to a reoccurrence of otosclerosis. She’s dead.”

“Pero hermosa,” Miss Gomez added, looking at Grissom through lowered lashes. Sara crossed her arms in irritation. David cleared his throat. Loudly.

Grissom stepped back, as if suddenly aware of how close he’d been leaning over her cleavage and pinkened slightly.

“So it appears we have a . . . vampire here in the morgue. David? How often does this happen?” he asked, making it a point not to acknowledge Sara’s caustic glare at him. David fished for a hospital gown and handed it to Miss Gomez, who pouted a little, but put it on.

“About once every few months. The population of Undead here in the greater Las Vegas area is higher than the national average simply because we’re more accommodating to the nocturnal lifestyle, but on the whole, the percentage of vampire to human is pretty low. They only account for about 15 percent of the general population.”

“Vampires. Right. We’ve got vampires in Vegas.” Sara muttered, rubbing her eyes. “What’s next, zombies in Zephyr Cove? Werewolves in Winnemucca?”

“Oh no. There are no such things as zombies or werewolves,” David responded firmly. Miss Gomez nodded as well, looking amused. She glanced from Grissom to Sara, then gave a little resigned shrug, turning back to David.

“Gracias por su ayuda. ¿Dónde puedo quedarme para esperar?”

He led the way to an empty drawer, pulling it out courteously for her and helping her up. She oohed and ahhed, rubbing the sleek stainless steel surfaces, stretching out. “¡Primera clase!”

“Gracias.”

 “Está muy lindo, para un coroner.” She purred. David went red.

Grissom carefully closed the file on Maria Gomez as David slowly rolled the drawer shut and turned back to them, pushing his glasses up with a finger to the bridge piece.

“We probably ought to . . . talk,” he suggested.

***   ***   ***

Carmilla’s at the Crossroads had an anemic salad bar, but Sara managed, loading up on croutons and black olives while Grissom and David waited patiently for her at their booth. Once she was seated with them, David cupped his hands around his glass of root beer and looked at the tabletop, his voice low and urgent.

“Vampirism is some sort of virus, at least that the line of thinking at the moment. There’s a special office at the CDC that’s been studying it for years, and every now and then they send out a bulletin, but so far the research is going slowly. There’s a lot about the biochemistry of the process that’s still only conjecture, even after all this time.” He leaned back against the oxblood leather booth.

“In layman’s terms then,” Grissom urged, picking at his rare roast beef sandwich. Sara eyed his pickle, and absently he slid it over to her plate although his gaze stayed on David.

“Okay. You contract it through transfusion or ingestion of infected blood, and the virus has to be a certain age to be effective. Vampires younger than about seventy-five to a hundred years old can’t pass it on. Once the virus gets in a healthy system, it spreads and mutates to adapt the digestive system into a plasma nutrient processor. It takes a long time to become permanent, and a high percentage of newly infected people die of various complications.”

“Permanent—so, it’s reversible?” Sara asked before popping an entire olive into her mouth. She didn’t believe any of this nonsense yet, so it was easy to just talk about it in theoretical terms. Sitting around with Grissom and David, talking about vampires and having dinner break.

Yeah.

On the other hand, there did seem to be a semi-sentient being lying in one of the autopsy drawers back at the lab. A woman who’d though the drawer was neat; who thought that David was cute, for a coroner. Sara didn’t know which bothered her more—that Miss Gomez might be representative of a myth becoming factual truth, or that she’d flirted with both men so outrageously.

Once you were dead, weren’t you supposed to be mysterious? Dignified? Less . . . giggly? Sara wondered, nearly missing David’s answer.

“Well, yes and no. The virus can be killed, but always at fatality of the host. The most current line of research is on building up the immune system of the host to trigger a controlled reverse mutation. I don’t really understand all the details involved, but it looks promising, apparently. But all their test cases are on persons infected less than a year.”

Grissom arched an eyebrow.

“And you and Al have known all of this for HOW long?”

David blushed right to the roots of his curly hair. Sara thought he looked about fifteen when he did that.

“Uhm, about four years for me. Doctor Robbins has known about the virus and the Undead for much longer—probably close to eight or ten.”

“That,” Grissom intoned, “Is a long time to keep a very big secret like this.” He took a big bite of this sandwich.

David gave a half-smile and Sara blurted,  “Actually Grissom, you may have noticed that medical examiners aren’t really a talky bunch.”

“That’s true. On TV, Quincy usually said more in a single show than most of us say on an entire week.” David agreed, shooting Sara a grateful look for her support. Grissom shook his head, looking a bit hurt.

“Maybe, but Al and I go back a long way. I can’t say I’m not a little—“

“—Hurt?” Sara asked softly. Grissom started to shake his head but paused and turned it into a shrug.

“A bit, possibly.” He conceded. For a moment none of them spoke, taking the time to eat a little and digest more than just the meal. David worked his way neatly through his grilled cheese sandwich while Sara tortured her cucumber slices. Finally Grissom sighed, wiping the corners of his mouth with his napkin.

“All right. Given the evidence that vampires exist, and that many of them live in Las Vegas, why isn’t more of this known?”

David pondered this a moment, then cocked his head. “It’s possible it IS known, but not . . . believed. Most of society is composed of subcultures of one sort or another, and vampires fit in more than one of them, sir.”

“Goths,” Sara spoke up softly, “Clubbers, cybergeeks.” David nodded, adding to her list.

“Recluses, exotic showfolk, carnies, nightshift workers, transients, bakers—“

“Bakers?” Grissom demanded, perplexed at the mental image of  an apron-wearing Dracula kneading a lump of dough. David nodded.

“Yes, many of them still get up before dawn to go to work—so there are ways for vampires to fit into society without drawing a lot of attention to themselves. The first one I ever met was a long-distance trucker who came in DOA in after a collision with a Winnebago. Doctor Robbins was talking with him when I came in to assist. It was sort of a shock.”

Sara smiled at Grissom, both of them aware of David’s gift for understatement. She picked up the pickle, waggling it a bit.

“And that’s when you got to be in the club?”

“It’s not a club,” he replied, missing the gentle tease of her words. “Nocturnal International Pact doesn’t require fees or dues. It’s sort of like Triple A though— it provides assistance twenty-four hours a day, for vampire or humans on matters that affect both.”

“As in?” Grissom asked, slightly distracted by the vaguely erotic sight of Sara about to bite the pickle. David too, seemed to lose focus for a moment before continuing.

“Well, if you’re a member and you’re bitten against your express consent, NIP will track down your assailant and prosecute them. Exsanguination without prior agreement is against the code.”

“Which is why you weren’t too alarmed by Miss Gomez. Is that just for members of NIP?” Grissom wondered. David nodded.

“Yes. Vampires can and do feed on the general population, that’s been the accepted norm for hundreds of years, but due to the interdependent nature of NIP, the bylaws allow the human members some civil rights. I have a handbook at home I can bring, and a registration sheet so both of you can join.”

“Peachy,” Sara sighed after swallowing a mouthful of pickle. “Is there a secret handshake too?”

***   ***   ***

Grissom’s Journal, Oct 22-23d

Slow night up until the follow-up to the apparent suicide at the Carfax. While the initial body has been ruled a suicide, the second one has proved more troublesome. I’m not sure I can quite bring myself to believe it, but the corpse seems to be that of a vampire.

David confirmed it to Sara and myself, and went into great detail about the underground society of these virus victims. The situation would have been laughably ludicrous and I would have though the whole thing a practical joke dreamed up by Sanders if the first-hand evidence hadn’t been so complete. The young woman in question had no pulse and no respiration despite repeated examination by myself and Sara. Joke or no joke, no one can block out a heartbeat from a stethoscope.

Later—Had dinner at Carmilla’s at the Crossroads with David and Sara. David went into further details regarding the Undead, and spoke with such sincerity it was hard to think that he and Al had kept this all a secret for so long. I’m a bit hurt, having considered Al one of the two good friends I have here in Las Vegas—had it not been for him and Jim Brass I would have left for academia long ago. In any case, Sara and I are now part of the inner circle, and will probably both join the Nocturnal International Pact.

Sara seems to feel the entire thing is preposterous, and is only humoring David, not wanting to hurt his feelings; I confess that I will be curious not only to read the handbook David offered to bring, but also to see the epithelial and DNA work on Miss Gomez before I begin to consider the situation seriously.

NB-- Sara eats pickles in a way that should be outlawed, even in Las Vegas; God forbid we ever stop at a tofu dog stand somewhere and my libido make itself known in uncomfortable ways.

***   ***   ***

Sara looked at the little silver tag in her hand, turning it over and over, admiring the sleek finish even as she wondered what she would string it on. The engraving was very elegant. On the other side of the tag was a tiny number; her membership she assumed, and a notation of her blood type. The tag had been in a little grey velvet bag in her locker, along with a thick pocket-sized handbook titled NIP: History, Purpose and Goals. In tinier letters after that grand pronouncement, human ed.

She pocketed the silver tag, feeling it slip into the watchpocket of her jeans, and strode down the hall, wondering if Grissom had received his yet. Her intent was to go to Trace One and follow up on the suspicious hit and run from south of the Strip, but instead she headed for the morgue; David ought to be thanked, even if she didn’t intend on wearing his little gift. The sound of voices coming from the double doors slowed her down; one was angry, the other placating. Cautiously Sara peeked in one of the windows.

“--And I am telling you that Sepulcra is missing her pearls! YOU were the people who brought her in from the Carfax and so YOU are the ones responsible—or in this case irresponsible!” came a furious accusation. She caught a glimpse of a tall, handsome man in a dark suit, glaring at David. Sara pushed her way into the lab, hoping to break up the impending fight; both men looked her way—David with relief, and the other man with an assessing gaze that made her skin prickle for a moment.

“Um, David?”

“Hi Sara. This is Señor Gomez, brother of the, ah, young lady we had here last night. Se
ñor Gomez, Sara Sidle, one of the criminalists handling the case in which your sister was involved.” David remarked, his tone a little stronger and cooler than before.

“Cementerio Gomez, con mucho gusto—“ the man intoned, keeping his gaze on Sara. He was lean and handsome, with curly dark hair that reached his collar, and an imperious look on his aristocratic face. She shook his cold hand, and idly realized that if Miss Gomez was a . . . then this man—

As it hit Sara the grip on her hand tightened, and she knew then that HE knew— His smile widened.

“Yes. But that should not be a surprise. It’s not important at the moment. What IS important is that my sister is missing her pearl necklace. It’s been in the family for years, and has great sentimental value.”

“Ah.” Sara pulled her gaze from his with difficulty, and caught David’s eye to give a reassuring shrug. “I think it might be with some of the evidence from the case. My supervisor can sign it over to you since it’s probably not pertinent to us. Let me get him and see what we can do for you.”

It only took a few minutes to pull Grissom from his office and brief him. There were too many people around to speak privately, but Sara could see that he was aware of the undertext of the situation. They walked together to the morgue and stepped in.

“Se
ñor Gomez, I’m Gil Grissom, the one in charge of the case,” Grissom told him courteously and extending a hand. The other man raised his nose a little. Sara thought he looked like Antonio Banderas smelling something bad.

“Then YOU are responsible for the Gomez family jewels.”

“Ah—“ Startled by this unexpected comment, Grissom paused while Sara tried very hard not to snicker and David went slightly red.

“You deny mishandling them?” the man sniffed, spoiling for a fight.

“To be honest, I can’t recall ever seeing your . . . family jewels—“ Grissom began carefully. Sara knew she was going to lose it if she didn’t get this conversation derailed, so she crossed her arms and broke in gently.

“Grissom, I’m pretty sure Se
ñor Gomez is referring to the pearl necklace in the Evidence Locker.”

Looking relieved, Grissom brightened a little. David slipped out, letting the matter get sorted while he took care of something else, and within minutes, Sara was waiting with Se
ñor Gomez in Grissom’s office, feeling a little amused at the whole thing. He turned away from examining one of Grissom’s diplomas on the wall and flashed a smile at her, his canines a bit long.

“I’m sorry for being so rude. Normally Sepulcra isn’t so careless.”

Sara shrugged. “I understand.”

He moved a bit closer, and Sara could see herself reflected in the dark pupils of his eyes, which seemed odd. Se
ñor Gomez didn’t blink.

“I’m sure you do—I can see the wanderlust in your own soul, Miss Sidle. You are a restless spirit in your own right. A fellow traveler.” His voice dropped lower, and Sara felt her slight irritation at his condescending tone fade a bit as she kept looking in his eyes. Her reflection was so clear, but red—

“A remarkable woman I am sure, so vital, so full of life—“ he purred, “An unquenched spirit . . .”



David came out of the morgue and caught up with Grissom in the hall, looking slightly distracted. He pulled off latex gloves and noticed the envelope in the other man’s hands.

“Did Se
ñor Gomez collect his sister’s property?”

“Not yet, I have it here. He’s in my office with Sara, waiting for it.”

Behind his glasses, David’s eyes widened; he spoke in a low, urgent tone and sped up his steps. “Um, did you invite him to do that?”

Grissom caught the anxiety in his tone and increased his own pace to match David’s. “Well yes. You know I can’t take a civilian into the Evidence room—“

David said nothing, but moved even more quickly, nearly barreling over a passing tech in his urgency. Grissom followed him, feeling a chill in the pit of his stomach as he watched David break into a run, slowing only as he reached the office. The blinds were down; highly unusual. David shoved the door open, and Grissom reeled in behind him, taken aback by the sight within his office.

The desk lamp was on, the only illumination in the room. Sara leaned on the edge of the desk, her eyes half-closed, head tipped to the right. Behind her, Se
ñor Gomez was nuzzling her neck, one arm wrapped around her chest, the other cupping her chin, keeping her head at a slant. It looked intimate; almost erotic, until you noticed the little trickle of blood dripping from where his lips met her skin.

Grissom moved, pushing past David and reaching, yanking hard on the arm closest to him. With a low growl, Se
ñor Gomez lifted his head and glared at Grissom, his eyes a lurid red, like the center of a dying flame.

“Don’t bother me.”

“Get the HELL off her!” Grissom’s voice was low and flat, thrumming with menace so clear that even David took a step back. In response, Se
ñor Gomez tightened his grip on Sara, shifting his hand to her mouth.

“Like HELL I will, bolso de sangre viejo! I was invi—“ he never finished his remark as two things happened nearly simultaneously. Sara bit down on his hand, hard, and Grissom scooped up a silver letter opener from the mug on his desk, plunging it deeply into Se
ñor Gomez’s shoulder. Immediately steam and a smell of brimstone rose from the wound, and the vampire let out a low howl of distress. He jerked back, but Sara’s teeth held on to the skin of his palm like an enthusiastic puppy, and more blood, darker and thicker, began to spill down her chin. David shifted to lock the door, then yanked the letter opener out, holding it in front of him like the small dagger it was.

“Grissom, sir? You need to revoke your invitation—“ he murmured, calm but alert. Grissom gritted his teeth, leaning into the face of the vampire.

“Get the fuck out of my office for now and all time.”

The red eyes flared up, and then the fire in the winked out; Se
ñor Gomez straightened up and let go of Sara, shoving her hard. She flew down the length of his arm, releasing his hand from the nip of her teeth as she fell against the desk, knocking everything off of it, including the light.

For a few chaotic moments in the dark, Grissom and David struggled to let Se
ñor Gomez pass and reach Sara. The door to the office flew open, the lock cracking, and slammed closed again, hard enough to rattle every shelf as the vampire departed. The stench of brimstone still hung in the air, and shock added another layer of unreality.

Grissom dropped to his knees, scooping Sara up, looking her over anxiously; her head lolled against the crook of his elbow as he brushed the hair back.

“Sara! Sara honey—talk to me—“ Grissom demanded anxiously. David came around the other side of her studying her neck carefully. He pressed a hand on the trickling blood and looked at Grissom.

“It’s a minor wound, but it needs to be cleaned and disinfected. I have supplies in my office to take care of this—second drawer under the microscope. Quickly, sir--” Something in David’s voice, a certain steely timbre took Grissom out of his shock, and he rose, moving out of the office and to the morgue.

David laid Sara down on the floor, keeping his hand on her neck. From his professional estimation the blood loss wasn’t serious; she might be dizzy for a while, but no more so than if she’d donated it at a blood bank. What worried him far more was the thicker, darker stain across her lips and teeth. That blood certainly wasn’t hers—

He waited anxiously, wishing he’d gone himself instead of sending Grissom. After half a minute, Sara stirred a little, making a little whimpering sound. He hushed her.

“It’s okay. You’re going to be fine.”

“Wanna . . . press charges.” She coughed, spitting a little, dark streaks dribbling out of her mouth. “He bit me, so I bit HIM.”

“No—“ Appalled, David blinked back a rush of fear, “That was the worst thing you could have done!”

“Telling ME. Tastes like old pennies dipped in ammonia—“ she complained. “Glad I’m a vegetarian.”

“Oh Sara—“ David muttered sorrowfully, “That’s the least of your worries right now.”

End of Part One


(Author’s notes: it’s nearly impossible to credit every inspiration for this story, but the two major ones are Bram Stoker and Kim Newman, both of whom have thrilled me for years with their creations. I’m drawing a lot of my framework from the foundations they’ve created in Dracula and Anno Dracula, and urge you to go read them if you haven’t. Other lore in and yet to come in this is inspired by Jeff Rice’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Forever Knight, Authors Lindsay Sands, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Anne Rice, David Sosnowski, Sheridan LeFanu, and Charlaine Harris among others. Credit for the fluent Spanish goes to Carmen TorresBarreda, and I owe VR Trakowski my undying affection for her unstinting general support and encouragement—Who else takes me seriously when I mutter “Hey, what if?”  Keep reading—I’ll do my damndest to make it worth your while.)





N.I.P. 2

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