's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Hunger : II - Second Course

Submitted by Yellowmane (email)

I arrived at the morgue at about 12:05. The rain had finally stopped but the clouds still covered the city like a thick blanket. Doctors Frank Steinburg and Isaac Goreman were still there with the girl laid out like so much meat. My burger was not in attendance.

"What's so important that I was called away from my food, Doc?"

Isaac was not with Frank when I came into the room, having gone out to run some tests on another case - some mix up with the a brain chemical analysis with a petty thief and a poison murder victim.

"Well, Pete, we found some interesting information about the latest victim." All business, that Steinburg. "First, she was concious as opposed to the others when she was drained." I winced at that. No wonder she fought back. "See here ..." Doc turns her hand over to show the now familiar nails. "She got a good swipe at him before she finally succumbed. Several, I should say." I could smell admiration from Steinburg, betraying the bland voice he used. "We analyzed some of the skin samples under her nails and ... whoever attacked her was suffering from Sanguis Mortis."

I suppose my look of confusion was not too subtle as the doctor sighed and, in his characteristic of showing irritation, removed his glasses to rub at the bridge of his nose. "It means Blood Death ... or Vampirism type III.

The general public has been kept ignorant for a while now that vampirism is real, usually with the help of Hollywood and folklore. Three types exist. Type I are the psychic vampires; harmless as they do no lasting damage to their victims, and their code of honor dictate that their victims are voluntary. Type II are your blood disease types, needing to drink blood on a regular basis but are among the living and some of the most civil. Once again, Type II work by a strict code, going after animals as prey or donors by volunteers. They are also known to make some of the best blood doctors in the field.

It's the Type III vampires that give the general public are most aware of, and ironically think of as fiction. In almost all cases, there is little left of the person. I mean, they act the same, speak the same - only morals are gone. They become psychopaths with the only thought being to feed this ... hunger ... they have.

"Ok. So our perp is a Type III blood sucker. That doesn't make finding him any easier - but it IS a step forwards."

"Well, Pete. There's more. When we analyzed the skin, there were residue of some aromatic substance not found anywhere else on her body or clothing."

"Cologne, right?" The doctor, for just a moment, looked shocked that I knew, but then remembered who he was dealing with.

"Yes! Cologne! And a rare sort - actually not sold anywhere. I would guess it was home made, as it didn't have the refinement over the counter colognes and perfumes have. My guess is to help mask the scent of,"

"Undeath," I finished for him. Steinburg smiled. He always found it easy to talk to me about the 'supernatural' world. "So - the vampire killings are not copy-cat - they are the real deal. And by someone wearing a custom scent and now sporting scratches. My guess is about the neck and face, most likely."

"There's a little bit more." I raised an eyebrow at Steinburg. "Hair samples. Apparently, she managed to get a few strands down her dress."

"And they're not hers ..."

Steinburg chuckled. "Not unless she was secretly Romanian and had black hair."

Whatever thoughts I was about to voice was immediately forgotten as Isaac burst into the room. "Frank - We've got a problem! Record keeping botched those analysis reports I submitted! The crook's sample was entered in as the poison victim and vice versa! They're trying to straighten the mess up but they may need us to help figure which was which!"

"Those fools! Isaac Goreman! See what you can do! I'll be there shortly!" Frank turned me with an apologetic shrug. "Sorry, Pete. Duty never ends when one is dealing with incompetence."

1:24am and I was on the outskirts of town with the smell of the burger filling up the car. The Gypsy camp was a permanent fixture to this part of town. Friendlier than their typical reputation and even more-so when one brings business.

Maria was the matriarch of the clan, the defacto leader of the camp, who ruled with an iron rod and a soft heart. She was the sort that was your friend until you crossed her. After that, it would take a lot of moving Heaven and Hell to get back in her good graces. Happily I did not fall into that category.

"PETRUL! ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE! COME! SIT! EAT!" She made 'come hither' motions in between slapping away the pups of the camp and shooing off the livestock they kept.

"Maria, as happy as I would be to join in to eat, I'm on official business. We're gonna need to talk ... in private."

She made the sort of face one makes when eating lemons and motioned me into one of their mobile homes. They may have been Gypsies, but they were modern. The inside of the home was tastefully sparse with home woven blankets strewn everywhere. It made the place warm, colorful, and friendly.

"So, Petrul. What brings you here with such face, huh? That you cannot eat with us, huh?"

"Mamma Maria, a girl's dead," I said flately. "Vampire we believe." I paused and took a deep breath ... and then sniffed around. "And that scent."

"What?! You come here and insult us?! After all good times and past? Accuse one of us of such crime?!"

I held my hands up in defense before finally remembering to take of my hat. "No, Mamma Maria. I'm not accusing anyone. I just came to talk - to get information." I handed my fedora over, setting it gently into her lap.

"When I first came to you and your came, Mamma Maria, I was a broken and sick man. You know this. You and your clan helped me through probably the hardest time of my life." I looked her square in the eyes. "I need your help. But I'm going to be honest with you. I owe you that - and more."

From there, I explained everything; the five victims, the MO of the perp, what we found with the lastest victim, even my thoughts from visiting her daughter. She listened quietly, only stopping me when she truly needed clarification. Something was rattling behind those eyes of hers.

"Vasile ..." she finally whispered after a long silence. She went on after seeing my questioning look. "He is ... was ... nephew. More modern than Alina in thinking." She sighed and for the first time since I met her, she showed age and a weariness few have lived through. "He went off with bad people. Very bad people. They ... smelled ... wrong." I nodded, understanding what she meant.

"One night he come back couple week ago ... say he finish with us and the Way. That we were cowards." At the word Maria spat onto the floor before making a sign with her hands, my hat clutched between her fingers. "He say he prove he better. Outlive us - outlive them - outlive everyone." Maria leaned forwards and rested a hand onto my leg. "Petru - he smell wrong ... bad ... like them." she whispered.

"Any idea where I could find Vasile? I have a feeling these killings will only escalate. If it's not him, he may be able to help me find who's responsible. And if it IS him ..."

"You do what you must, Petru. For that girl. For the others." she placed my hat back into my lap. "And you owe us proper visit, yes?"

I laid a hand onto hers and squeezed gently. "With food, dear Mamma." I laughed.

"Last I know, he in old motel - Bezor ... something..."

I nodded. The Bezoria Estate. An old motel that no longer was used, and was run down even when it was new. "Thanks, Mamma. I gotta go." I kissed her on the cheek, patted her hand once more and left.

Coming to my car, my stomach growled, louder this time. By now the burger was done for, so I fed it to one of the clan's dogs. I'm STILL civilized, after all.