's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Hunger : I - Apatizer

Submitted by Yellowmane (email)

I arrived at the crime scene at 9:48 PM, pulling up to the patter of the light rain hitting the windshield of my car. Closing the door to my vehicle, I pulled up the collar to my trench coat, adjusted my fedora, and turns to the crime scene.

The name's Peter T W - or Pete to my friends and co-workers. I'm a cop, plain clothes detective. And this was the fifth murder in an emerging spree of vampire copycat killings.

"Hey, Inspector! Over here!" Billet waved me around the corner and into the back alley. Even despite the rain, I could have found it. The smell of death was always unmistakable.

"What've we got, Bill?"

"Pretty much the same as the others, Pete. Young girl, about early 20's, dressed out. Looks like she was snatched, drug out into the back alley, and then the dirty work."

"Any witnesses?" I thumbed my hat back and knelt before the victim, taking in the strong scent of cheap perfume before turning her head just enough to get a look at her face. Poor creature; blond hair, brown eyes - she might have grown up beautiful, if she were given the chance.

"Sorry, Pete. The closest we have to a witness found her after the deed. Fry cook from Willis' came out to dump the day's garbage and found her."

Since the killings started, there have never been witnesses, no footprints of the killer, nothing. I shifted the collar of her dress to check her neck; two puncture wounds about the distance from each other as human canines. From the paleness of her skin, I could bet she was sucked dry - same as the others. That was when I picked up a different scent - it was almost obscured by the perfume but I could still smell it.

Sniffing over her gently, I zeroed in on her hand. The other cops present tolerate my eccentricities, and you could always tell who was new to the force by how they react to my little - gift. I could hear one rookie make a move to stop me before Bill discretely clued him in.

"Looks like this time we had a fighter." I turned her wrist over and sniffed at her nails; blood, dead skin not of the victim, and expensive cologne - a rare one imported from Europe.

"We may have something. Get her to the morgue and make sure to protect her hands. We'll want those skin samples analyzed." Standing up, I gave the girl one more look over ... what a waste of human life.

"Where's Huckabee?"

"Checking the place once more for clues, I'd imagine."

I turned to Billet, noting the look of concern, the scent of fear - but for the first time in this case the smell of hope.

"Alright ... she goes to the morgue. See if you can get any more information from the fry-cook and I'll follow up later. I doubt we'll get much more from the scene." Bill nodded like a dashboard bobble head at the instructions. "Is Willis's still open?"

"'fraid not, Pete. The cook had to close up shop early. This rattled his cage pretty hard."

I cursed under my breath and signed. "Alright. I need to grab a bite. Haven't had anything to eat since dinner last night. Good work, Bill." I gave the kid a reassuring smile, patting him on the shoulder, and headed back to my car.

The dashboard read the time as 10:13. Not much will be open at this time of night - but I knew of one place, and she'd always have a stool up front for me. I might could even get more info on this case."


Annie's had the appearance of your typical greasy spoon and jukebox dive; neon sign in bright garish colors with a couple of bulbs just barely clinging to life with a low hum, pull-down shades behind every window, and the flip over sign advertising that they were open ... usually even when they weren't.

I arrived at a little past 11pm with my stomach arguing and the thought of a good raw burger causing me to wipe drool from my lips. It took a couple of raps to the glass door to get Annie's attention.

Annie wasn't her real name. She never would tell me what it was but her mother said it wasn't her real name. With their deep European accents and the gypsy lifestyle they tended to hold onto, the diner's present owner excluded, it was evident they were old country types.

Annie let me in with her usual bright smile and hugged me once I had passed the threshold to the diner. "Uncle Pete! Always good to be seeing you! You bring me anything this time, yes?"

I gave her an apologetic smile and shook my head. "Sorry, kiddo. This time I could only bring you my appetite and undying gratitude for your kindness." I laughed.

"Is ok! You make up next time!" Say what you want about a gypsy running an American diner, she still did a mean burger and brew and held a genuine love for her regulars. For me, it helped that I had been adopted as her Uncle Pete. "You look like man seeking great mystery with your fries! By way - the usual?"

"The usual, Annie; the burger this side of mooing at me." I settled onto a stool with my fedora for company the seat over. "Fifth victim tonight, Annie. Girl about your age - probably younger," I sighed. "Same MO too. But - this time - there was something new."

"New is new, Uncle Pete!" she called from the kitchen. "What is new? I hear and perhaps help, yes?"

"That's partly why I'm here. She fought back this time - scratched the perp good." I made a show of looking over the menu, even though I always ordered the same here. A moment's pause to wipe the drool away - the smell of cooking always got to me. "There was a strange scent to the skin under her nails," I continued. "It was barely there but - I could pick up an expensive cologne - something that reminded me of you and your family."

She poked her head out with a worried look. "You do not think it someone in family." It was more of a hopeful statement than a question and I could see the concern in her eyes.

"Honestly, I don't know yet. Something seems off about this whole thing." I said. "How quickly the blood was drained, how THOROUGHLY it was drained. The lack of physical evidence - until now - that the killer was even there."

Annie stepped out with my burger; rare enough that I could still smell the rawness of the meat. I gave her my best puppy dog eyes and look of undying gratitude, picked up my burger, had it just inches from my mouth - when my cell went off.

Sighing and cursing under my breath, I set the food back down and answered the phone. "Pete here."

"Pete? This is Steinburg. You busy?"

"Not really, other than trying to eat last night's dinner."

"Great! Need ya to come in! This's about the latest victim in that vamp case."

"You know what this could do to me, right Doc?"

"Eh. A little longer won't kill ya."

"It's not me I'm worried about. Alright, Doc. On my way." I took the food in a dog bag and headed out, kissing Annie on the cheek and promising to bring her back something special. Something new started brewing in the back of my mind. That scent was on her - but she didn't wear it. She didn't even wear perfume if she could help it, chance it could spoil the scent of the food she made; Annie was very particular about that sort of thing. I'd have to make another visit to the family - I think I was onto something.