BLOOD LUST     BLOOD LUST image created by Pamela.

by Winnie

Rating----T for violence and language
Comments-----This fic is in response to
Beats Challenge and I’ll be using
#1 - Barbed Wire and # 4 - Someone
has the mark of a knife on him or the hot
branded iron. The idea for this fic came
from Marti and I hope I can do the story
justice…oh, it is a Halloween fic.
Thanks as always to Marti and Antoinette
for the great beta job. Thanks to Pamela
for the wonderful pic to go with this fic.







Chapter 1

The Arrival

How long had it been? How many hours…minutes…days…months? Or was it years now since the blood lust had last taken control? It didn’t matter because they said he was cured and they’d given him his freedom. Now he simply had to keep busy and not think about the life giving substance that ran through his veins…through his victim’s veins. Maybe living out here…away from the city where so many people bunched close together and gave off the scent that drove him mad was a step in the right direction. Maybe, but even now if he lifted his head he could inhale the coppery odor that drove him mad with cravings.

The delivery truck should arrive soon and when it did he could seek solace in the only place that offered him a real chance of peaceful sleep. The satin interior and soft pillows would surround and engulf him and comfort him while he slept. People would find his sleeping habits strange, but he’d always found the sunshine dried out his skin and he tended to burn easily. The scars covering most of his body were caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, but he knew that was not true. Oh, the sun burned him, but it only took a few minutes for his skin to shrivel up and blister. That’s why he stayed to the shadows and waited for the delivery truck to appear.

Before they’d cured him he’d been called a monster and he often wondered if he really was one, but they’d assured him the pills he was taking would curb his appetite and allow him to live a normal life. A small smile formed as he watched the truck enter his yard and he sighed heavily at the thought of sleeping in his own bed. It had been so long since he’d been able to draw comfort from his surroundings.

His heart beat faster in his chest and he could feel the blood flowing through his veins as two young men stepped out of the truck and walked toward him. His hands grew sweaty, and he fought the urge to reach out and take what he craved, but to do so would simply send him back to the hellhole he’d been tossed in to over 20 years ago. He could not allow that to happen, not now, not ever…as long as he controlled his blood lust he could live with ‘normal’ people. Perhaps he could even find a way to steal the blood if he could no longer fight his cravings.

Chapter 2
Time With Friends

Chris Larabee knew someone had finally bought the McKinley place that bordered his ranch on the southwest side. He had yet to meet the person who’d moved in there, but from what he heard the man was a recluse who didn’t want to be neighborly. Chris respected the man’s right to solitude and kept to his own property, preferring to ride along the north quadrant or across the border between his and Tanner’s home. They’d never found it necessary to erect a fence between them and the little sapling Vin had planted two years ago had flourished and mirrored the strong bond he had with the Texan.

“Hey, Chris, did you meet your new neighbor yet?” Buck Wilmington asked as he joined the blond at the corral.

“Not yet, but Maggie said he was a bit of a recluse and wasn’t one for being neighborly. She said he gave her the creeps,” Larabee said of the friendly real estate agent who’d sold the ranch next door. Margaret Donaldson knew her business and had worked in the industry for 15 years. She’d been glad to finalize the deal on the property next door, not because of the commission, but because she’d disliked the man who’d kept mostly to himself.

“Well, hell, we could just…”

“There are no women over there, Stud,” Larabee said, turning and leaning back against the fence. He smiled at the look of disgust on his long time friend’s face and knew Wilmington would never change.

“Damn…with you, Vin, and this newcomer this place is turning into bachelor central,” the resident rogue spat. 

“What’s the matter, Buck? Did the Doublemint Twins lose interest already?”

“No, but they’re out of town for a couple of weeks and the cold weather…”

“Cold weather, Buck, it’s 70 degrees,” Larabee said.

“That’s downright frigid when you sleep alone,” Wilmington said.

“I’d hate to see you when it really gets cold.”

“That’s why I’m looking for a couple of new bookends…can’t be left out in the cold too long,” the ladies’ man said.

“So you’ve finally given up on Inez?”

“Never, she’s finally weakening. Why last week she…”

“Poured a glass of ice down your pants, Buck,” Larabee teased.

“Yes, but to do that she had to touch me and that’s a first…I just love the way she says…”

“Nunca,” Larabee said with a grin.

“Very funny, Chris,” Wilmington said as the rest of the team joined them.

“Chris, there’s a delivery truck at your neighbor’s house and you should see some of the stuff they’re bringing in. I could have sworn I saw a coffin and a shit load of candles…boxes and boxes of them,” JD Dunne exclaimed.

“Halloween’s jest a couple of weeks away, Kid, maybe he’s just getting’ ready early,” Vin Tanner explained.

“But a real coffin?”

“Ours is not to question why, Son,” Sanchez said and patted the Bostonian on the back.

“Do you get many trick or treaters out this way, Chris?” Nathan Jackson asked.

“Not really, but we do get some strange ones,” Larabee said and looked directly at the Texan. “Remember that strange couple last year, Vin?”

“The ones that dressed as babies…how the hell could I forget?”

“Well it’s all in fun and maybe they just had a sweet tooth. Nothing wrong with dressing like babies,” Wilmington said.

“It wasn’t being dressed as babies, Buck…it was the pacifiers they used. I think they got them at that stag shop you like to visit,” Larabee told him.

“What time does the game start?” Sanchez asked.

“Seven,” Larabee answered.

“Well, that gives us two hours to make dinner. Nate brought potato salad and I brought the steaks,” the ex-preacher told them. “I hope you had the propane tanks filled, Chris.”

“I did, Josiah…even had the extra tank topped off,” Larabee said.

“Well, Gentlemen, while Josiah prepares the steaks I am more than willing to take care of the wagers for tonight’s game,” Standish told them and pulled out a small notebook. “So, Chris, what team and how much?”

“Twenty on the Phillies,” Larabee answered. It had become a routine for the team to bet on the game when they got together and the winnings were placed in an envelope and put away and used to buy presents for under privileged children. They would speak with Father Thomas at St. Joseph’s church and find out who needed a little extra help during the holiday season. Each year they bought gifts for the children and Josiah played Santa Claus wile the rest of them handed out candy and hot chocolate.

Chris turned his attention to Pony as the others made their bets and patted the animal on the neck before leaning against the fence once more. There was plenty of cold beer to go around and since the guys would be spending the night there was no need for a designated driver. Tonight was game five of the NLCS and the Phillies were up three games to one. It had been a long time since the Phillies had been to a World Series, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays in 93.

“Vin, did you get the final report on the Logan file done?” Larabee asked, noting the others had made their way to the house and were seated on the deck.

“It’s on yer desk,” Tanner answered.

“Good…I’ll go over it Monday morning,” the blond told him. He knew the Texan would understand why he wanted to go over the file a final time, because Logan’s lawyer would pick it apart if every ‘t’ wasn’t crossed and every ‘i’ wasn’t dotted. They’d worked too hard to bring Donald Logan down to let some weasely lawyer find a loophole and get him out of the charges against him.

“He ain’t getting’ away this time, Cowboy,” the sharpshooter vowed.

“Good, the bastard deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison,” Larabee said.

“Are you two talking shop? Because if you are I’m going to sic Nathan after you,” Wilmington asked, knowing how hard Tanner had worked to prove the case against Logan. The Texan hadn’t been injured, at least not physically, but emotionally the case had taken a toll on him.

“Traitor,” Tanner said.

“No, just looking out for my own interests. If Nathan thinks you’re overdoing things he’ll blame one of us and with my luck I’d be the one standing in the line of fire,” Wilmington told them. He saw the twinkle in Larabee’s eyes and read the gratitude there. Chris knew him well enough to understand what he was doing. “Vin, I think Josiah wants you in the kitchen.”

“Is he ready to make the BBQ sauce?” Tanner asked.

“Sure is and he’s still taking bets that he’ll figure out what your secret ingredients are,” the rogue teased. “You know you could always tell me and we’d both make a profit.”

“I could, but then I’d have to shoot ya,” the Texan vowed before hurrying toward the house.

“Buck, you’d better watch yourself,” Larabee offered.

“You don’t think he’s serious do you?”

“Vin’s pretty secretive when it comes to his sauce,” the blond said and accepted the cold beer offered by the ladies’ man. “Thanks.”

“Anytime…is Vin okay?” Wilmington asked. Donald Logan had grown up on the streets like the Texan, but where Vin had let the experience help him become the man he was, Logan had allowed it to become his life. He’d quickly learned how to take the things he wanted and used the law as he saw fit. His lawyers had managed to get him off on every occasion, but this time they had an airtight case and with Tanner’s testimony, Logan would do some serious time.

“He will be once the trial is over and Logan’s where he belongs,” Larabee said, and headed toward the house.

“I think we will all breathe a sigh of relief when the trial’s over,” Wilmington agreed. “It’s great to get together like this and unwind.”

“I know…we’d be basket cases if we didn’t,” the blond observed as they reached the steps leading up to the deck.

“Hey, Chris, I got a new joke…”

“Hell, Kid, don’t ruin things…”

“Come on, Buck, it’s a baseball joke!” Dunne explained.

“Might as well let him get it out of his system, Buck,” Sanchez called from the kitchen.

“All right, Kid, but just this once,” Wilmington snapped.

“Why did the chicken get sent to the dugout?” the Bostonian asked. “Well?” he asked when he didn’t get any takers.

“You might as well give it to us, Kid, because the rest of us have more important things to do than search the net for useless facts and idiotic one liners,” the rogue told him.

Smiling in spite of his friends teasing, Dunne delivered the punch line and waited expectantly for the laughter that never came. “For persistent fowl play.”

“I knew it…another time joke,” Wilmington said, shaking his head as he reached for another beer.

“Oh come on…that was good,” Dunne said.

“Stick to the ‘three legged dawg’, Kid,” Larabee advised with a grin.

“Oh, hell, Chris, I’ve heard that one a thousand times,” the rogue said of Dunne’s favorite joke.

“I do believe it is time I tuned Mr. Dunne in to a far better repertoire than what he is using,” Standish blustered.

“You guys wouldn’t know a good joke if it bit you on the ass!” Dunne told them.

“I think I’d rather be bitten on the ass than have to listen to any more…”

“All right, Buck, leave the kid alone,” Larabee said and handed the young man a cold beer. “Maybe after we’ve had a couple more beers we’ll be more…”

“A couple of dozen you mean,” Wilmington interrupted. “How long before the game?”

“About ninety minutes,” Standish answered. “How about a game…”

“Not on your life, Ezra, I need to keep what little money I still have,” Jackson said of the man’s skill at poker. “Besides it’s nice to just sit down and relax with nothing to do.”

“You could always help out in the kitchen!” Sanchez called.

“My work’s done…I brought the salad,” Jackson offered.

“I hope Rain made it,” Tanner said.

“Are you saying my salad…”

“Stinks, Nathan,” Larabee said. “Let’s face it your hands are skilled, but not when it comes to salads.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Chris,” Jackson said.

“Maybe not, but we’d all choose Rain’s potato salad,” Wilmington said.

“So, Buck, when are the Doublemint Twins coming back?” Tanner asked and smiled when the rest of the team began teasing the resident rogue. He finished mixing the BBQ sauce and brought the bowl to Josiah who had already fired up the BBQ. The rest of the evening was spent in the company of friends, unaware of the danger lurking nearby.

Chapter 3
Cravings

He’d tried so hard to stay clean, but every day brought with it the need to feed his body’s cravings. It had been easy the first time, he’d managed to find a cow caught in thick brush to the north of the city and could not resist the smell of blood oozing from the wounds covering its body. The terrified animal had reacted to his presence as if sensing a monster nearby and he’d smiled, revealing canine teeth as he grabbed the exhausted animal and fed his craving. The blood did not bring him the satisfaction of human blood, but it awakened his hunger and the uncontrollable urge to drink the forbidden substance.

He didn’t drive, had never had the need for a car because he’d been graced with an insane ability to run faster than any man had a right to. Then again, he wasn’t a man, not in the true sense of the word. He’d known from an early age that he was different, from his very first killing at the age of four when his parents had found him soaked in the kitten’s blood. They’d done everything to keep their discovery a secret, but at the age of 14 he’d killed them both and drained them of their blood. His father had been a mortician and he’d learned early how to use the tools of the trade to suck his victims dry.

Now, with his age nearing 60 he was still a strong man and had quickly decided to hide from society and live his life in the only way he knew how. He no longer ignored the cravings, feeding off the animals and taking what he could from the Red Cross. He hadn’t killed a human and continued to resist the urge, because he did not want to end up back in the cell that had been his home for more than 20 years.

Darkness was coming, and that was the time of night when he hunted, a time when he felt strong and in tune with everything around him. The sounds were amplified, even the blood pumping through his veins echoed through the house as he pushed back the lid of the coffin and crawled out. It was cold, but so was his blood and even in the dead of winter he could hunt for the food his body craved. A smile formed on his face as he moved to the small refrigerator and pulled out a pint of the blood he’d stolen the day before. He quickly tore open the pouch and suckled the thick substance before taking a deep, satisfied breath.

Yes, he could do this…at least for now while no one knew who or what he really was. He would have to keep others off his land and had already hired a firm to put up the special fence that would keep human and animal alike off his property and away from his business.

Chapter 4
Distasteful Discoveries

A cold breeze blew down from the north, bringing with it the promise of a long cold winter. Chris didn’t mind the cold and loved the snow when it blanketed the ground in a pristine white cloak. Sarah loved the first snowfall and they’d made it a tradition to light a fire and drink hot chocolate mixed with Bailey’s Irish Cream while watching the snow through the large bay window. That house was gone now, as was the tradition, but for him the memories would always bring a smile to his face.

Chris reached for his jacket and made his way out onto the deck and sat down, smiling at the man seated across from him. The Texan disliked the cold and was already bundled up in the wool sweater Nettie Wells had made for him during the summer. The colors perfectly suited the sharpshooter and brought out the deeper shade of blue in his eyes.

“Damn, it’s cold,” Tanner observed.

“A little, but it’s still early.”

“We’re gonna have an early winter.”

“That’s not what the weather network says.”

“They depend on machines ta tell ‘em what a man already knows if’n he looks in the right places. We’ll have snow before the end of the month,” Tanner said.

“You know they used to shoot the bearer of bad news,” Larabee said with a grin.

“Yeah, well you’d best load yer gun ‘cause there’s more.”

“What now?”

“Stopped by the office before I came out and Orrin’s called a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. He asked me to give you this,” Tanner said and handed the blond a sealed manila envelope.

“What is it?”

“He said it’s a new case he wants us to look into,” the Texan answered and watched as Larabee opened the envelope and began to read the papers.

“Is this for real?” Larabee asked.

“Guess that depends on what yer lookin’ at.”

“Take a look,” Larabee said and showed the file to his friend. He waited for Tanner to read the notes beneath each picture and saw the same look of distaste on the younger man’s face.

“Jesus, how come we ain’t heard anythin’ ‘bout this before now?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d say they’re trying to keep it out of the papers,” Larabee explained. The files showed cattle mutilations in the area north of Billings, but what really made it grizzly was the fact that the cows had been bled dry with very little spilling on the ground.

“If I didn’t know better I’d say we were dealing with a vampire,” Tanner said.

“Well it is that time of year,” Larabee said and frowned when he read the next section. “This just keeps getting better.”

“What is it, Chris?”

“A robbery at one of the Red Cross blood donor locations and the only thing taken were several pints of blood…o-neg to be exact.”

“So maybe we got us a real live vampire…”

“Vampires are not alive, and they are not real,” Larabee told him.

“I know that, Chris, but there have been some weird cases where men and women actually practice vampirism. There’s a couple of online cults that actually come right out and state they are vampires, but they do not believe in killing people to satisfy their craving for blood.”

“Jesus, Vin, that’s sick.”

“No shit!” Tanner said. “So what does Orrin want us to do?”

“I guess we’ll find out at tomorrow’s meeting,” Larabee said and continued to read the information provided in the file. It painted a grizzly picture, one he hoped was not as bad as it seemed.

Chapter 5
Monsters Do Exist

Orrin Travis looked around the conference table at Larabee’s hand picked team. Each man held a special place in The Firm, each one filling a void and making the agency the best in the country in Travis’ opinion. It didn’t surprise him when they were asked to help in a tough case. The mayor had personally requested their help in the discovery of animal mutilations that seemed to be getting more frequent.

“Gentlemen, I’m sure you’ve all read the files,” Travis asked.

“Is this for real, Orrin?” Wilmington asked.

“I wish it wasn’t, Buck, but every story in there has been verified. The pictures were taken by police photographers and so far they’ve been able to keep the story out of the papers, but with Halloween only a week away people start looking for gruesome stuff like this,” Travis offered.

“It makes one think Monsters do exist,” Standish observed as he looked at a shot of a dismembered wolf. “Whoever is behind this travesty does not care what animal he kills.”

“It makes me wonder how long before he turns his attention to human victims,” Sanchez told them.

“Josiah, I’d like you to work up a profile and see if it fits anyone in the database,” Larabee said.

“I’ll see what I can do, but there’s not a whole lot of information in here,” the ex-preacher said.

“Just look under M for Monster,” Dunne said, grimacing in disgust as he continued searching through the pictures.

“JD, I want you searching the net to see if there are any other cases that could tie into this one,” the blond said and turned to the gambler. “Ezra, I want you and JD working together on this one.”

“Four eyes are better than two,” Standish agreed.

“Vin, you and Nathan check out the reports to the north…Buck, you and I take the driver of the Red Cross vehicle,” Larabee explained.

“Chris, I’d like you to report what you find directly to me,” Travis told him.

“I will, Orrin, but there’s not much to go on. Did the police find out anything at the crime sites?” the blond asked.

“Nothing that’s not in the reports,” Travis answered. “Be careful, Boys, this one promises to be something from…”

“Supernatural,” Dunne said of his favorite TV show.

“Maybe we should call in the Winchester boys,” Wilmington said and hummed the tune for The Twilight Zone.

“Wrong music, Buck,” Dunne said.

“More like the wrong decade…you do realize this is the year 2008?” Tanner teased.

“He’s getting old, Vin…could be Alzheimers setting in,” the Bostonian said seriously.

“You boys are just a barrel of laughs,” the rogue said as the meeting broke up.

“Unless you find something that can’t wait, we meet back here in five hours,” Larabee ordered.

Chapter  6
Seeking Answers-Finding Questions

Vin drove north away from the city and glanced at his partner. Nathan had taken the time to write down the addresses in order while they made their way toward the report of the first mutilation. The home belonged to a newlywed couple who’d discovered the carcass of a cow near their home. The animal had gotten itself caught in the brush, but that hadn’t been what killed it. According to the forensic reports they had the cow had bled out, yet there was very little blood near the bloated body.

“I hate cases like this,” Jackson said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose.

“I think we all do, Nate…if the killer keeps goin’ as he is it won’t be long b’fore he decides animal blood jest don’t cut it,” Tanner offered.

“That’s what scares me…with Halloween so close this guy will be able to blend in and choose any victim he wants to without causing too much suspicion until it’s too damn late. Turn left here and follow the road for two miles,” Jackson explained. The two men remained silent as the bungalow came into view and they spotted a woman seated on a swing at the front of the house.

Vin pulled his jeep to a stop behind a black Ford pickup that was heavily loaded with debris. He exited the car and followed Nathan around the truck just as the woman stood up and wiped her hands on a cloth.

“Can I help you?”

“I hope so, Mrs. Stockman, my name is Nathan Jackson and this is Vin Tanner. We were asked to check into the discovery you made…”

“You mean the dead cow?” Karen Stockman said, shuddering as a chill ran through her.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Tanner answered. “If’n ya could point the spot out to us we’d be much obliged,” Tanner said and saw the relief in her eyes.

“If you go past the old swing behind the house you’ll find a small trail that leads deeper into the trees. There’s a small clearing with a lot of wildflowers and brush at the edge. We found the poor cow stuck in the brush, but it was…it was horribly mutilated. How can anyone be that sick?”

“I wish I knew, Ma’am, but whoever did it we’ll find them,” Jackson assured her.

“I hope so, Mr. Jackson,” the woman said as tears slipped from her eyes. “Please tell me you’re not reporters.”

“No, Ma’am, we work for an agency called The Firm and sometimes we’re asked to help with certain types of cases,” Jackson explained.

“Good, because I don’t think I can handle the publicity,” Karen told them.

“I know what’cha mean,” Tanner said and headed toward the side of the house. “We’ll be back as soon as we check the site.”

Nathan and Vin made their way around the house and walked quickly toward the old swing. The wind had picked up and whipped around them, making it hard to walk, but it did nothing to deter the two men. They easily found the path into the trees as several dark clouds blotted out the sun and a few flakes began to fall.

“Damn, it’s cold!” Jackson observed.

“Get used to it, Nate…it’s gonna be a long cold one,” Tanner told him as they hurried along the trail. It didn’t take long to find the place where the cow had been butchered, but the carcass itself had been removed by the Forensics Team.

“Not much left,” Jackson said as the Texan made his way toward an area where the brush had been trampled.

“See this area…it looks like someone was standin’ here for a long time,” Tanner said.

“Could have been the Forensics Team?”

“Maybe, but I don’t think so. Accordin’ to the reports they didn’t spend much time here because there was nothin’ for them ta find,” the Texan explained. “I ain’t sayin’ they didn’t do a thorough job, Nate, but the city’s not gonna okay spendin’ that much time and money on a cattle mutilation.”

“Especially given the time of year it is. Could be just someone’s idea of a sick prank,” Jackson observed.

“Sick prank is right,” Tanner agreed. “There’s not much here, Nate. How long ago did this one happen?”

“Eight days, but there’s been no rain…”

“Don’t matter…looks like there were animals through here and they’ve taken care of anythin’ forensics may have missed.”

“Damn, maybe we should check out the most recent report,” Jackson said.

“Probably end up with more questions than answers,” the Texan said and walked back toward the house.

Chapter 7
Blood Trail

Chris had spent most of the drive reading the file Travis had supplied them with. The driver of the Red Cross vehicle knew they were coming and would be waiting for them in the van he’d driven. According to Tom Riddick’s file he’d been volunteering for the Red Cross for ten years. He never missed a delivery and had never had any trouble until the theft less than a week ago. Chris didn’t think the man had anything to do with the robbery, but he’d wait to voice those thoughts until he met Riddick.

“Do you think he had anything to do with the theft?” Wilmington asked.

“Are you reading my mind, Buck, I was just thinking about that.”

“Well?”

“Riddick’s conduct is exemplary,” Larabee observed. “He’s never been late for a shift; volunteers to drive the van and make the deliveries, and he’s never had any trouble in the ten years he’s been doing this.”

“Maybe he was bitten by a vampire,” Wilmington said with a hint of a smile.

“It’s the right time of year for it,” Larabee told him as they turned into the driveway leading up to the building that housed several agencies including the Red Cross offices. He spotted a man standing beside a van smoking a cigarette and pointed him out to Wilmington. “That must be him.”

“Doesn’t look like a vampire,” the rogue said.

“Maybe he’s just out of costume,” the blond said, exiting the car as soon as Wilmington parked next to the van.  “Mr. Riddick, my name’s Chris Larabee and this is Buck Wilmington. Thank you for agreeing to speak with us.”

“I want this sonofabitch caught, Mr. Larabee,” Riddick told him.

“So do we,” Wilmington assured him. “Is this the van you were driving?”

“Yes, Sir, I’ve been driving it for about five years now…never had anything like this happen before. I told the police everything I know,” Riddick explained.

“Would you mind telling it again?” Larabee asked.

“Sure,” the driver said and stubbed out his cigarette in the van’s ashtray. “I picked up the delivery at four when the blood donor clinic ended and sealed it in the cooler in the back. It had been a long day and this was my third trip so I figured it’d be okay to stop and grab a sandwich and a coffee.”

“Did you lock the van?” Wilmington asked.

“Always do…even checked it twice to make sure. I know how important blood donations are and that it’s in short supply,” Riddick answered. “I parked behind Delvecchio’s and went inside. I was only gone five minutes, but the bastards must have been watching for me.”

“How did they know you’d be stopping there?” Larabee asked.

“That’s just it…they couldn’t have known. I usually bring my coffee and sandwich from home, but this time I left my lunch at home on the counter. It wasn’t planned to stop at Delvecchio’s and even if it was I never told anyone I’d be there,” Riddick explained. “I just don’t see how they could have known I’d be there.”

“Maybe whoever it was saw an opportunity and went for it,” Wilmington said.

“But why steal blood? I mean it’s not like you can find a fence for it,” Riddick observed.

“Could be sold on the black market,” Buck offered.

“They wouldn’t make much money and it’d be hard to store it properly,” Larabee said.

“Exactly,” Riddick agreed. “The police found a blood trail leading away from the van, but it disappeared about a hundred yards south of Delvecchio’s.”

“He must have had a car waiting,” Wilmington said.

“According to a couple of witnesses there were no vehicles parked in that area during the time I was there.”

“Maybe he caught a bus?” Larabee suggested.

“Not likely since there isn’t a bus stop on this street. The witnesses also told the police they saw no one on the street,” Riddick explained.

“Well, maybe he jumped the fence and took off down the alley,” Wilmington said.

“Maybe, but the blood trail said otherwise,” Riddick said.

“Could have been an animal that made the blood trail,” Larabee offered. “Maybe the thief left a pint of blood behind and a dog grabbed it. That would explain why no one saw anything.”

“It would, but why did the blood trail suddenly stop?” Riddick asked.

“Maybe it ran out,” Wilmington supplied.

“Not according to the police. It just stopped dead…not even a drop once they reached the spot,” Riddick explained.

“Can we take a look inside?” Larabee’ asked.

“Sure, but I cleaned it up once the police released it,” Riddick told them. He moved to the back and opened both doors before moving out of the way. He watched as the two men searched the back of the van and opened the empty coolers. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and no one’s ever stolen a supply of blood before…guess it must be the full moon.”

“And almost Halloween,” Wilmington added.

“The night the monsters have free reign…only problem is this monster is two legged and out for blood,” Riddick said. “I hope you guys catch him because blood is already in short supply at the hospitals. I’d hate to think someone was refused surgery because there wasn’t enough of their blood type.”

“We’ll do everything we can, Mr. Riddick,” Larabee said, wishing they’d gotten here before the van had been cleaned. He knew Robert Miller would be glad to have their help and would show them the reports, but Buck and JD had a knack for forensics. The two men had found things at other cases that had been overlooked by the overworked team that had been sent to examine a crime scene. The report they had said there’d been no fingerprints other than those belonging to Riddick and several people who worked for the Red Cross.

“There’s nothing here, Chris,” Wilmington said ten minutes later.

“Damn,” Larabee said and again thanked the man before leaving.

“Where to now, Chris?”

“Back to the office…maybe the others found something,” the blond answered.

Chapter 8
Profiles and Case Files 

Josiah looked at the notes he’d made and knew there was very little information that could help lead them to whoever was behind the animal mutilations and the theft of blood. He’d tuned JD and Ezra out as they worked through the database in search of similar crimes. He’d profiled many criminals over the years, with a pretty good success rate, but there was usually a bit more information to go on. Right now all they had were animal mutilations and the theft of blood. He glanced up as the door opened and Chris and Buck entered the outer offices carrying a tray of coffee and sandwiches from Delvecchio’s.

“Did you find out anything new from Riddick?” Dunne asked, accepting the coffee and sandwich Wilmington handed him as Larabee did the same with the others.

“Nothing that’ll help us find out who this guy is,” Wilmington answered.

“Are you so sure it’s a man?” Sanchez asked.

“It’s just a figure of speech, Josiah,” the rogue answered.

“Any luck with a profile, Josiah?” Larabee asked.

“Nothing much, Chris,” the ex-preacher answered.

“Tell me what you have,” the blond ordered and lifted the lid from the coffee.

“Well, because of the mutilations and theft of blood it’s likely he’s spent some time amongst satanic worshippers. If we look at the time of year we know it’s close to All Hallow’s Eve and that’s supposed to be the night when the dead return to their homes. It’s also a time when people dress in costume and go door to door seeking treats. It’s also one of the most mischievous nights of the year as people, young and old, play pranks from toilet papering and egging houses to killing small animals as a forbidden sacrifice. Whoever this person is he’s stepped up his tactics and should be considered extremely dangerous.”

“Will he take this even further?” Larabee asked.

“If you mean will he start killing people then I’d have to say yes, and that he probably already has,” Sanchez offered.

“There’s no evidence to point to that, Josiah,” Wilmington observed.

“No, there’s not, but I’m willing to bet that this person has killed in the past and if we search far enough we’ll find out he’s got a taste for killing and a craving for blood,” the older man told them.

“JD, did you and Ezra find out anything?” Larabee asked, not liking the thought of a maniacal killer on the loose.

“Not much, Chris, we’ve found a couple of similar crimes in other cities, but each time the perp is already behind bars,” Dunne answered.

“This could be a copy cat,” Standish offered.

“That’s possible, but until we have more information there’s not much we can do. Keep checking the files and start working your way backwards,” Larabee ordered.

“How far back?” Standish asked.

“Twenty years…see if you can find anything that matches what Josiah’s come up with,” Larabee said and made his way into his office. He sat at his desk and unwrapped his turkey sandwich before opening the file and reading through the information supplied by the police. It was vague, and he hoped Vin and Nathan found something they could use while searching the crime scenes north of Billings.

Chapter 9
Fighting the Cravings

He’d known his weakness was gaining strength and the bagged blood no longer satisfied his craving. It was closing in on Halloween and he knew there would be visitors looking for treats, but could he fight off the cravings? Could he stand in his door, smile and give out candy knowing there was fresh, clean blood running through their veins? He could almost smell the blood, hear the beat of their hearts as it beat in their chest.

The fence was finally up, giving him a sense of privacy, yet he could not help feeling as if it was a mistake that would lead to his downfall. The house was bathed in darkness while the single furnished room in his home, although home was really the luxurious satin lined coffin he slept in during the daylight hours. He knew people would see him as a monster and if they only knew the true depth of his cravings they’d realize they were not off the mark.

The single, most important substance in his life was blood, the taste, the texture, the burning desire to suck it while still warm from his victim’s body. It was a mistake to do that, a mistake that cost him 20 years of his life and countless hours listening to his therapists and doctors telling him he was not an animal. Speeches that went on for hours, but if asked what was said he would stare blankly as if the words had fallen on deaf ears.

The house was far enough away from the city, but there were times when he could sense, almost smell his neighbor. He’d even gone so far as to find out the man’s name, and licked his lips at the thought of the warm blood flowing through his veins. He walked to the window and stared out over the land that belonged to him and knew it would not be long before he was no longer able to fight the cravings.

He stared at the red book nestled beneath a crimson colored silk scarf and reached out to pick it up. Inside were his secrets, his deepest, darkest secrets that would send the strongest man screaming in disgust. He knew he should destroy it, but it was as much a part of him as his cravings and it was getting harder and harder to fight those. Even now he could catch the scent of blood on the wind, but it was faint and easily denied as long as he had the supply in his small cooler. It would be night soon, and tomorrow would bring them All Hallow’s Eve and perhaps he could indulge his craving for one night.

A hint of a smile revealed rotted teeth, except for two razor sharp glistening canines that horror movie buffs would recognize as a vampire’s fangs. He lay down in the coffin and closed the lid, knowing he’d long ago broken the locking mechanism and leaving it open enough for a fresh supply of air.

“Tomorrow night I will feast,” he whispered and closed his eyes, a contented smile on his too pale face.

Chapter 10
Fenced In

Chris knew his team was frustrated, but so far nothing had turned up in the cattle mutilations and no more attacks had been made on the Red Cross vehicles. Tonight was Halloween and he briefly wondered if maybe the craziness was over for good. Vin and the others were spending the night in town, helping Rain bring Halloween to the children who could not go trick or treating because of their illnesses. The Texan was spending the night with Buck and JD and would not return until the day after Halloween. Larabee had planned on joining them, but had to bow out because of the monthly budget report that would take him the whole weekend to finish.

Chris was up early because he wanted to check out the fencing that had gone up between his property and that of his new neighbor. He knew the man was well within his rights to erect a fence, but it also depended on the type of fencing used. Some fences were dangerous and caused more harm than good, and if he was right the new fence was the most dangerous kind. He’d caught a glimpse of it during the drive home the night before, but the storm that blew through the countryside made it impossible to check it out.

Larabee saddled Pony, mounted up and rode west across his property as a light rain began to fall. He spotted the fence and shook his head in disgust at the sight that met his eyes. He knew it was time to speak with his reclusive neighbor, and hope the man understood how dangerous this new fence could be, not only to the wildlife, but the other rancher’s horses and cattle as well.

Chris slowed Pony down as they drew closer to the fence and he realized how easily an animal could get caught up in it and wind up bleeding out if it struggled to get free. He knew how far it was to the main road and decided to see just how far down the fence went. Pony tossed his head several times as if sensing his owner’s unease.

“Easy, Boy, we’re just going to talk some sense into him,” Larabee said as a steak of lightening danced across the sky. The following clap of thunder sounded directly overhead and startled the horse.

Pony reared up on his hind legs, pawed at the air and bolted toward the fence. Chris tried to steer the animal clear, but a second, resounding clap of thunder followed by several streaks of lightning that struck a massive oak, sent the terrified animal into a frenzy. Larabee tried to hold onto the reins, but the rain had made it slick and he could no longer hold on as Pony reared up again. Chris knew there was no way to stop what was happening and tried to ready himself for the impact.

Larabee felt something shredding through his skin and realized he’d been thrown into the newly erected barb wire fencing. He cried out as he hit the ground hard and heard Pony galloping away. He silently thanked God that the horse had taken off back the way they’d come and hoped the horse would find shelter from the storm.

Chris tried to ease his body up, but each move he made caused the barbs to dig in deeper and shred his skin even further. He cursed as he looked down at his arms, slightly relieved that his clothing protected him from deeper wounds. He tried to stand, but the ground underneath his feet was slippery from the rain that began to fall heavier than before.

“Sonofabitch!” Larabee cursed and managed to get his arm free, only to become entangled in the wire above the first one. He knew he was bleeding, but nothing serious yet. What he needed was a way out of this mess before he had no skin left.

Chapter 11
Devil’s Wire 

He’d known something was happening as the sky overhead darkened with the advancing storm. It began to rain as he stepped outside and lifted his head as he caught the scent that drove him wild with lust. He turned away; fighting the familiar cravings, but the wind carried the scent with it and made his blood boil in his veins.

He trembled with the thought of feasting on blood this fresh, this rich, this close and animal instincts kicked in. He knew something was tangled in the new fence and allowed his senses to guide him in the right direction. He traveled several hundred yards, listening for the sounds that told him the victim was still there, waiting, hoping for salvation, but he wasn’t salvation. No, salvation was the last thing on his mind. He wanted to taste the blood, to feed off the creature and gain the strength that only fresh blood could supply.

His fangs distended and slipped over his bottom lip as he picked up speed once more. He raced over the ground, kicking up patches of grass and sliding through the mud as his mind grasped the meaning of the creature’s struggles. Soon he would be satisfied; soon he would feed and taste the blood in his mouth, on his tongue, awakening the desires that had been dormant for so long.

A flash of lightning brightened the landscape and showed him his victim. It was far better than he’d believed because it was not some creature caught in the devil’s wire. It was a man…a strong virile man whose blood raced through his veins and whose anger raged within. The blood pounded in his temples and the lust ate at his gut until there was no stopping the craving any longer. He quickly made his way toward the trapped man, eyes wide as he stared at the blood on the victim’s hands.

“You’re bleeding,” he whispered and saw the man jump as if startled.

“No shit! Some bastard put up barbed wire without considering his neighbors!” Larabee snarled.

“The fence was for my privacy,” he said, tilting his head slightly and sniffing the air.

“Barb wire is dangerous,” the blond told him.

“Yes it is…but only to those who trespass where they don’t belong.”

“Look, Mister, I’ll debate that point after I’m out of this shit. Do you have any wire cutters?”

“Not on me,” the man said, eyes darting left and right and praying he had the time he needed. His eyes lit on a thick branch of a tree that had landed against the fence and a smile formed as he lifted it with both arms.

“What the hell are you doing?” Larabee snapped, searching the newcomer’s face for a hint of sanity as the man smiled and revealed two sharp fangs that extended down over his bottom lip.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” he said and swung the thick branch at the blond head. It connected and he heard a cry of pain, but his victim was still conscious so he struck him again and smiled when the man went limp. He’d seen this man before, usually riding a horse along the main road or their shared property line. His name was Larabee, of that he was sure, but it didn’t matter anyway, because he would soon cease to exist.

He looked at the ‘Devil’s Wire’ and thought it was the perfect way to keep the man from escaping and make sure a fresh supply of blood was readily at hand. Turning away, he raced back to the house and searched through his belongings until he found a set of rusted wire cutters. It didn’t take him long to return to his victim and he felt a surge of power scream through his veins as he methodically cut through the fencing.

It took longer than he thought, but once it was done he wrapped the strands around the heavily muscled arms. Once he had him secured in the house he would cut the clothing from his body and allow his wounds to bleed openly. The smell of blood was driving him crazy, but he resisted his lust for fear of someone discovering him like this. Ignoring the barbs that cut into his arm, he slung the unconscious man over his shoulder and raced toward his house. It amazed him how easily he could move with his burden, but he’d always been stronger than most men half his age.

He reached the house and entered, dropping his victim on the floor before locking the door and sat on the floor beside his victim. He reached out and touched the small drop of blood that oozed from beneath a sharp barb and brought the glistening pearl to his mouth. He suckled his finger, moaning with pleasure as he tasted the forbidden fruit from another man’s veins.

This was wrong, this went against everything the doctors had told him, but he didn’t care. He’d fought the cravings for too long and this man would provide him with long hours of fresh blood that would warm his insides and drive back the madness. He stood up and walked into the kitchen and found the scissors tucked into the top drawer. He quickly returned to his victim and slowly, methodically cut away the clothing, revealing more and more of the lean torso. There were little dots of blood everywhere the ‘Devil’s Wire’ touched and his tongue flicked out past dry lips before he pressed his mouth against a wound in Larabee’s neck and sucked the crimson substance until the wound was dry.

“I need…must have it. You have to understand it’s not my fault,” he explained, his face devoid of emotion as he continued ridding his captive of his clothing. He knew he would have to make sure the wire could not be undone and easily turned the unconscious blond on his stomach. He ignored the way the barbs cut into his fingers and quickly twisted the wire around Larabee’s wrists; up across his forearms and stopping when he reached the elbow. Next he turned his attention to the well muscled legs and repeated what he’d done with the arms, tightening the wire around the ankles, and knees. Finally done he turned his attention to the upper body, frowning when he found a scar that could only have been caused by a knife. He traced the wound with his fingers and knew it had healed some time ago, and he wondered how much blood would have flowed from the injury.

“It doesn’t matter…your blood will be the fuel I need to fully understand who I am,” he whispered. He smiled, showing the fangs as his victim moaned and the sandy eyelashes fluttered and finally opened.

There were a few things that scared Chris Larabee, including a couple of ladies, but nothing compared to the sensation raging through his body as consciousness slowly returned. He tried to move, but quickly realized that was a mistake. “Sonofabitch!”

“Welcome back,” the man said and turned his victim onto his back.

Chris couldn’t stop the cry of pain that escaped as it felt like a thousand pinpricks were driven into his back. “What the fuck did you do?”

“I did what I should have done long ago, Mr. Larabee, I’m taking what I need,” the man answered.

“What you need…”

“Yes, you see many years ago I discovered my body yearns for blood…fresh blood. I tried to fight it because the doctors said it wasn’t right, but it didn’t help. I can smell blood and it burns like fire through my veins until I go mad with the blood lust…”

“You’re behind those cattle mutilations and the theft from the Red Cross,” Larabee said.

“That’s correct, but it does not satisfy me the way your blood will…”

“You’re a sick bastard!” the blond spat, crying out when his captive tightened the wire around his arms.

“I will not allow you to speak to me like that!” the man said and lowered his face until he was less than an inch from Larabee’s throat. “You should feel honored that you were sent to me.”

Chris felt the man’s breath on his neck before he was pulled into a sitting position. His vision blurred and he struggled to get free, but cried out as his captor twisted the wire. He was shocked and filled with horror as he felt the man suckling from one of the wounds on his arm. He gasped at the sensation it caused and his gut clenched when he realized, as crazy as it might be, that the man really was drinking his blood. His eyes opened wide as his attacker sat back, blood glistening on his lips as his tongue flicked out and a smile formed on his pale face.

“You will provide me with strength,” the man said and attached a length of wire to Larabee’s bound wrists before securing it to the lid of the open coffin. “I must rest…”

Chris watched in horror as his captor crawled into the coffin and closed the lid. He could hear harsh breathing, but turned his attention to the wires that bound his arms and legs. He knew if he struggled he would wind up tearing the skin with the barbs, but the second choice was far more gruesome. If he stayed where he was, the sick bastard would simply make him bleed. Chris shuddered at the thought of the man’s lips against his skin, and tried to sit up, gritting his teeth as he felt the devil’s wire cutting into him. He had no idea how long he struggled, but the headache struck him with such force that he sagged to the floor and felt the darkness before it reached out and surrounded him.

Chapter 12
Suspicions and Connections

JD frowned as he continued to check into several cases that were similar to the one they were working on. So far they’d come up blank, but Dunne had a feeling they were closer to the truth than they thought. He was supposed to meet Vin and Buck over an hour ago, but had called them to say he was running late.

“JD, why don’t we call it a day and come at it fresh on Monday,” Standish suggested. He stayed behind to finish his own expense report and had just sent it to Larabee’s home computer.

“I just have a couple of more files to cross check, Ez,” Dunne answered.

“Can I be of assistance?”

“Not right now,” Dunne said and clicked on a file. It was an older one, dating back more than 20 years. The picture that went with it was that of an elderly man, yet according to the paperwork he was only in his mid 30’s.

“That can’t be right,” Standish said.

“That’s what I thought, but it says here he’s only 36,” the Bostonian pointed out.

“Well, I can only hope I’ll never look that bad,” Standish said, and began reading the file, but was stopped as his phone began to ring. “Standish.”

“Ezra, where the hell are you?”

“I’m at the office with JD, Buck…”

“Well, get a move on…Nathan and Rain are giving orders like there’s no tomorrow and we need all the extra hands we can get.”

“I shall endeavor to have JD removed from the computer and meet you in the party room in half an hour,” Standish vowed.

“See that you do.”

“I’m nearly done, Ezra…”

“Sorry, JD, but I’d rather not have an earful from Buck if we’re not there in 30  minutes. Shut it down and we’ll come back tomorrow morning and go through the files again.”

“You’ll come in on a Saturday morning?”

“I shall…so long as it’s not before 11 AM,” Standish said and waited for Dunne to sign off and grab his jacket. It wasn’t long before both men were headed toward Saint Vincent’s Hospital.

 

Chapter 13
Biting Truths

Chris knew he was in trouble with a capitol ‘T’ as he returned to consciousness and felt the nightmare become real once more. The smell of candles burning overpowered the strong odor of decay.  He struggled with the wires, but soon felt fresh blood seeping from his wounds. A sound from the coffin reminded him he wasn’t alone and that the twisted sonofabitch sleeping there had no qualms about biting him and sucking his blood.

Chris concentrated on getting his arms free, but it was impossible because all he succeeded in doing was driving the barbs deeper into his flesh. He had no idea what time of day or night it was and hoped Pony had made it home or better yet went on to Tanner’s ranch. If Vin found Pony still saddled he’d immediately become suspicious and begin searching for him.

The sound from the coffin was repeated and Chris watched through hooded eyes as the lid slowly opened. It reminded him of the old Count Dracula movies and he fought the urge to laugh as the creaking grew louder and his tormentor sat bolt upright before turning and looking down at him. The man’s face looked even paler than Chris remembered, but what scared the hell out of him was the hunger in the dark, dead eyes.

Chris shifted back imperceptibly, and cried out when the wire around his arms cut into his back. He closed his eyes and waited for the dizziness to pass, opening them when he felt hot, fetid breath on his right cheek.

“I am so hungry,” the man said, tongue flicking out to touch the dried blood on his victim’s cheek.

“Get the fuck away from me!” Larabee snarled. The man didn’t say anything else and Chris knew he was dealing with a lunatic as his tormentor pressed against a barb that was embedded in his arm and then pulled it away from his skin. The pain lasted only a second and was quickly replaced by his captor’s mouth being placed over the wound. Chris felt teeth biting his skin and heard the man’s hungry growl as he sated himself on his blood. The wound must have gone dry because his captor quickly repeated the first gesture and again suckled from his flesh.

“God,” Chris groaned, and fought with everything he had, but the man easily held him in place. The truth was, Chris was helpless and this man seemed to enjoy biting his skin as he drank the blood seeping from the wounds. Larabee had no idea how long the feeding frenzy went on, but his eyes lost focus and the darkness descended once more.

PARTS 14-20

HOME/ ARCHIVE

Authors Appreciate Feedback. Email Winnie