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Once Bitten

Fan Fiction by Adam Smith (USA)

Chapter 13

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Oskar watched the balconies of Maria’s apartment from behind a large willow bush with Maria, looking for any sign of Eli.  He grew nervous when some lights came on briefly and then went off, but he continued to wait as Eli had directed.

Maria cast worried glances at him as they crouched together.  She was terrified that she would suddenly hear gunshots, or hear Eli scream.  She knew, or at least had heard, how bad Miguel could be, and Eli seemed terribly small and fragile.  And what on earth had happened to Stella?  One minute she had been chasing them, and the next she had disappeared.  Maria couldn’t understand any of it.  She wanted to ask Oskar what he thought was going on, but he seemed just as ignorant as she.

Somewhere off to the east, the sound of sirens arose, grew louder, and then faded.  Then Eli appeared at the balcony of Maria’s bedroom, looked out briefly, and disappeared back inside.  Oskar glanced at Maria.  “Come on.”

They entered the apartment building from the front like normal.  Nothing seemed amiss, and as the hour was now growing late, they saw no other tenants. 

When they entered they found Eli sitting on the couch in the dark.  Her hands were clasped in her lap, and she stared at the darkened TV set.  As Maria locked the door behind them, Oskar came over to her and asked her if she was okay and about what had happened to Miguel.  She said nothing at first; just continued to stare despondently into space as if she hadn’t heard him.  An when she finally looked up, he could see the deep unhappiness in her eyes.  She nodded toward the bedroom.  “He’s in there.”

Oskar frowned, then went to the bedroom door as Maria switched on the lights.   He opened the door to see Miguel lying sprawled on his back on the bed with his arms out to his sides.  Except for the twisted and torn flesh circumscribing his neck, he looked for all in the world like a drunk who had fallen asleep after having one too many. 

Maria came up behind Oskar, gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth.  Gingerly, she stepped into the room and stared at the body with fascinated horror.  Oskar took some keys and a wallet from Miguel’s pockets, and Maria retrieved the pistol from the floor.  They took the items into the living room and put them on the coffee table.

When they had all sat down Eli spoke, her face distant and troubled.  “We need to leave here tonight.  Maria, you’re coming with us.  Pack what you need for a few days and leave the rest—we’ll come back for it.  Can you drive?”

Maria allowed as it had been awhile since she’d driven a stick shift, but she’d do her best.  Then she realized what Eli had said, and felt her world shift unexpectedly under her feet.  What did Eli mean, they’d come back for the rest of her stuff later?  Did she expect her to go with them and not come back?  But Eli continued before she could interject.

“Good—then we can take Miguel’s car over to our apartment and gather our things.  Oskar, can you take the pistol and Miguel out to the Mälaren River and dump him, then go to our apartment and start packing?  We’ll meet you there in a little bit.”

5 August 1983

There was deep silence in the Porsche as Maria headed north on 279.  She and Eli were both lost in their private thoughts.  At last, Maria could no longer stand the tension.  She glanced over at Eli and said, “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?  Now that we’re out of my apartment and Oskar’s not around.”

Eli looked over at her.  “I should.  It would be the smart thing to do.  Because I don’t know if I can trust you, Maria.”

“I . . . I don’t know how to make you trust me, Eli.  I promised you I would help you and Oskar, like you asked.  What else do you want me to do?  Keep repeating that I won’t tell anyone about you?”

“You could do that, but you don’t really know what you might do.  Because right now the only reason you wouldn’t tell on us is because you’re afraid of us.  But you might be afraid of other things even more.  So even if you believe what you’re saying right now, under the right circumstances you might tell on us.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”  She glanced at Eli and their eyes met.

Eli’s voice grew hard.  “How about being questioned by the police, for starters?  Being told that you will go to jail unless you cooperate?  Or even be thrown in prison for a long time, unless you agreed to help them find us?”

Maria looked away, swallowed and suddenly felt queasy.  What would she do if they picked her up and started asking questions?  She might face criminal charges right now, just for what had happened in the last 24 hours.  Aiding and abetting two . . . shit, maybe three murders.  Harboring fugitives.  And if cooperating with the police meant that she could go back to her normal life, continue her education, would she tell?

“I—I’d try not to tell as long as I could.”

Eli said nothing and the silence stretched out.  Then Maria spoke again.  “So—are you going to kill me?”

Eli stared dejectedly out the passenger door window as the highway lights drifted past.  “I don’t know.  Oskar likes you.”

The knot in Maria’s stomach loosened a little.  “So why did you say that we would come back for my stuff later?  That wasn’t what you said before, when we talked about signing a lease.”

“What are you studying at the university?”

Maria was surprised by the abrupt change in topic.  “Social work.  I want to be a social worker.  But, to answer my question--”

“Why?”

Maria sighed.  “Because a very kind person who was a social worker helped me get back on my feet after David died.  And so I decided that I’d like to help people, too.”

“Oskar and I are people.”

There was a pause.  “Yes, but—”

Eli looked sharply at her.  “There is no ‘but,’ Maria.  We are people.”

“I already said I’d help you by signing a lease, if that’s what you need.”

Eli touched the top of Maria’s hand.  “We need more than that, Maria.  You can’t begin to understand how much help we need.”

“What do you mean?  It seems to me like you can take care of yourself.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, I saw what happened to Miguel.  And I don’t know what happened to Stella, but I’m sure you had something to do with it.  I know Oskar is strong, and you must be too, if he’s like you.”

“You didn’t see what happened to Miguel.”

“Well, I . . . I mean, I know you killed him.”

“Do you think I enjoyed it?”

“I—I guess I don’t know, really.”

“That’s right, you don’t.  You don’t know anything about what it’s like to be me.  So I’ll tell you:  I let him touch me.  Run his hands all over my body.  Put his tongue inside my mouth. 

“I let him do all those things so that he would die without a fight.  Without that gun going off inside your apartment; so your neighbors wouldn’t call the police.”  Her face grew stony as she stared at Maria, and her voice trembled and took on an even harder edge.  “And it was disgusting—to have the tongue of a person I don’t even know insidemy mouth.  But I did it because it was necessary; because I love Oskar more than anything.  And because I will do anything to protect him, to make sure he’ll never get hurt.  Would you have done that for Oskar—let Miguel put his hands on you?  Or the other?”

Maria was speechless. For over two years she had been letting total strangers touch her, and much more,  . . . for money.  But never kissing--she drew the line there.  The thought of this 12-year-old girl doing what she had just described with Miguel was shocking beyond belief.  And that she did it because she loved Oskar . . . her heart suddenly felt as if it would break.  She felt like a piece of trash sitting beside a brilliant gem.  How much pain was wrapped up inside this little child?

She took her foot off the gas, pulled the car over onto the shoulder, and stopped.  The tears welled up in her eyes and she turned to look at Eli.  “Oh my God, Eli.  I’m so sorry, so sorry.  That should never have happened to you.” 

Hesitantly she extended her arms toward Eli, wanting to hug her, but Eli did not accept her embrace.  Instead she said, “Why do you feel sorry for me?  After all, Miguel’s the one who died--not me.  I’m the monster, right?  I’m not human, so my feelings don’t matter, do they?”

“You—oh, Eli.  I don’t know how to answer you.  No—you’re wrong.  Now listen.  Miguel—Miguel was a bad man.  For as long as I’d known him, he’d been involved in all sorts of illegal things.  He and his brother, both.  Prostitution, selling drugs, smuggling guns, I think . . . it went on and on.”

“But you worked for them, didn’t you?  So how can you say they were so bad?”

Maria was surprised to feel herself blushing.  “I . . . look, Eli, I do what I have to do to get by.  My father left my mom when I was two years old.  She had to raise my sister and me by herself, but she really wasn’t all that interested, truth be told.  She was more interested in herself, and her so-called ‘acting’ career, than in us . . . we were baggage.  We had to fend for ourselves.  And then, when I was 16, I ran away from home.  I couldn’t take it any more—couldn’t take all her crap.  I hadn’t finished primary school and I didn’t really have any skills to work, so I started hooking three months later.  One thing led to another, and then I got pregnant.

“So yes--I admit it.  Working the streets is wrong.  But I make a lot more money doing tricks than I’d ever make selling retail, or serving food somewhere.  And I’ve been using my money to try to get an education.  So maybe I can make something of myself.”

“So you’ll do whatever it takes to survive, is that it?  Nothing matters, as long as you can take care of yourself?”

“I—”  Maria stopped.  She understood the implications of what she’d just said.

“It’s all right, Maria.  At least I know who you are.  And actually, you’re not much different from me . . . at least, before I met Oskar.”

“Just how old are you, Eli?”

“The more I tell you about myself, Maria, the more dangerous you are to me.  Are you sure you want to know?”

Maria took a mental deep breath.  “Eli—yes, I do.  How can I really help you unless I know you?  I mean, I can sign a lease and all, but beyond that . . . if you really want me to help you in other ways, I have to feel like we’re friends.”

 “Okay.  I’m twelve.  But I’ve been twelve for over two hundred years.”

Maria shook her head.  She stared at Eli, repeating her words very slowly, as if doing so would make them comprehensible, but they weren’t.  “Twelve . . . for two hundred years.  I . . .”  

“You should probably start driving again.  There’s a lot we need to do before sunrise.”

Woodenly, Maria checked her rear-view, depressed the clutch, put the car in gear, and accelerated back onto the highway.  She could not wrap her mind around what Eli had just said.  The E18 exit loomed ahead and at Eli’s direction, she took it and headed west.

“So how did you become a vampire?  I mean, who turned you into one?”

“We’re not vampires, Maria.  And how I became this way is a long story that we don’t have time to talk about right now.  I’ll tell you later, maybe.”

“But Oskar . . . you said he’s new at this.  And he told me that what happened to him was a mistake.  So did you turn him into one?”

Eli sighed.  “Yes I did.  And it was an accident.”

“Do you want to tell me how it happened?”

“You saw Oskar bite Rafael, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then you know what happens.  Or maybe you don’t.”  She turned her head and stared at Maria.  “What you don’t understand is . . . how good your blood tastes.  And once it starts to flow, it’s hard for us to stop.”

“Oskar—you’re amazing!”

He put the last suitcase down by their front door, happy to see Eli and Maria come in.  “Eli!” He gave her a kiss and a hug, pleased to see that she seemed out of her funk.  “And hello, Maria.”

Eli couldn’t believe he had everything packed already.  He grinned sheepishly.  “Well, I can’t say how carefully I packed it all, but everything’s in there.”  He motioned to the luggage that sat next to the door.  “Oh—everything except . . .”  he turned and went into the kitchen, then came back out with two small bouquets of wild daisies in some paper cups.  “Here.  These are for you two.”  He handed one to Eli and one to Maria.  “I found them on my way back from the river, and I thought they were pretty.  And it’s been kind of a rough night, so . . . well, anyways.”

Both of them thanked Oskar and then took a moment to smell their flowers.  Maria tried to remember the last time a child had given her flowers; or even a man who hadn’t paid her to have sex.  She couldn’t. 

She looked around the little apartment, then at the small pile of luggage.  A steamer trunk, two suitcases, and a portable record player; nothing more.  She was surprised by how few belongings they had.

Oskar spoke up.  “Eli, it’s almost four in the morning.  Do you really think it’s a good idea to try to go all the way to Norrköping tonight?  I left my old mattress in the bedroom for Maria.”

Eli appeared to be debating what to do.  Finally she said,  “I guess you’re right.  It’d probably be better to stay here until tomorrow night, and then get a fresh start.”  She turned to Maria.  “Maria, you can stay here and use Oskar’s mattress?  I’m sure you’re very tired, seeing as you’ve been up all night.”

Maria went to the bedroom door and looked in.  “Okay.  But then where will you two sleep?”  Don’t they have coffins?

Oskar smiled.  “Oh, we usually sleep in the tub.  It makes us feel safe.”

In their tub, Oskar whispered to Eli.  “Why are you so wiggly?”

“I’m worried, Oskar.  Worried and scared.”

“About those guys?  Rafael and Miguel?  Or . . .”

“About Maria.”

“Did you two talk in the car?”

“Yes.”

“What’d she say?  Does she want to come live with us?  Or just help us with a lease, or—”

“I’m not sure, Oskar.  I think she wants to help out, but I’m not sure how much she’s committed.  She’s afraid of me, I think.  I just don’t know how much I can trust her.  I’ve never had a situation like this before, and going to sleep with her in our apartment makes me nervous.”

“Well, you told her to come with us.  Why’d you do that if you didn’t want her here?”

“Because I . . . I don’t know, I just felt that it would be better to have her near to us, rather than far away.  Now I’m not sure it was the right thing to do.”

“I think she’s okay, Eli.  I don’t think she’ll do anything.”

“Well, she likes you, Oskar.  I know that.  Probably better than me.”

“I think you need to stop worrying and try to trust her more.  She was nice to me, even after I told her what I’d planned to do while she was asleep.  Maybe if you trust her more, she’ll like you more.”

“Maybe.  I guess we’ll see.”

“Well, I’m getting sleepy, Eli.”  There was a pause as Oskar began to drift off.  Then he spoke again, his voice soft and slurred.

“What happened . . . with that Miguel guy?  Why were you so sad?”

“Nothing, Oskar.  It’s all right; I’m fine now.  Go to sleep.”

“Mmm . . . okay.”

In Oskar’s arms Eli waited; waited for his purring to begin, the sound he made that she had come to love so much.  It wasn’t long in coming, and it comforted her.  But still, she tried to stay awake as long as she could.  She forced herself to continue breathing and keep her eyes open, trying to listen for the smallest sound from Maria.  But she heard nothing; and soon, despite all of her efforts, she, too, drifted away.

8:00 a.m.  Maria awoke from a deep, dreamless sleep, wondering where she was.  Then she remembered: Oskar and Eli’s apartment in Tensta.

She sat up and looked around the vacant bedroom.  The only things in it were the mattress, the backpack stuffed with her clothes, and the flowers from Oskar.

She laid back down on her back and stared at the ceiling.  She focused on a cobweb hanging from a broken overhead light.  What am I doing here?, she wondered.  Her life had suddenly been derailed.  Where was she headed?

Oskar and  Eli.  Meeting them was the strangest thing that had ever happened to her.  She wasn’t sure she could handle just how strange it all was.

What if she just left now?  Broke the trust they’d placed in her, take the Porsche, and return to her place in Sundbyberg?  She would have to move right away; maybe stay with Marta.  If she did that, she’d probably have to explain everything to Marta or make up some convoluted lie, and she didn’t like that idea.  Or maybe she could just find a new apartment, and move all of her stuff today.  Marta would find out she’d moved soon enough, and would wonder why she’d decided to move half-way through her lease, but still . . . it might work.

She had no doubt that if she left them, Eli would come after her; in fact, she couldn’t imagine that Eli would have any greater priority than tracking her down.  Would she find her?  Even if she changed schools and moved away from Stockholm?  Eli had been surviving for two hundred years; God only knew what connections she’d made over that time.  And if she did find her . . . Maria shuddered.

What if she left and went straight to the police right now?  Reported the deaths of Rafael and Miguel, explained the whole thing from top to bottom.  Every detail.  Then brought them back here before it got dark so they could take the two of them into custody.  What would the police think of such a tale?  If she were a police officer, would she believe it?  She tried to imagine herself, telling them that a couple of kids had killed two thugs like Rafael and Miguel.  They’d think she had flipped her lid.  And there was really no physical proof, either.  Except maybe the cars.  And Miguel’s wallet, although she wasn’t even sure Eli had kept that.

She turned restlessly on her side and stared at the daisies Oskar had picked for her.  Why would she want to report them, anyway?  Did she really want to leave? 

She remembered Oskar standing there in his underwear, a little boy frightened beyond measure, fumbling with the locks on her door as he tried to flee her apartment.  A few seconds earlier, he had abandoned his plan to kill her as she lay sleeping in her bed.  Why?—for no other reason than that she had been kind to him.  

And then he had protected her from Rafael, not knowing that she had had sex with Rafael before, and had been prepared to have it with him again, if it had been necessary; if it would have gotten him out of her apartment.  But she wouldn’t have done it with Oskar there, watching.  In fact, just before Oskar had attacked, she had been planning to tell Rafael that they should at least go back to the bedroom.

The poor, sweet kid.  He had been doing what he thought was right: protecting her honor, her dignity--not realizing that she had none.

And then, how he had started to cry after he’d killed Rafael.  That had been the most unbelievable part of the whole thing; the part that had touched her most deeply.  He had been ashamed of what he’d done to Rafael.  He didn’t want to be what he was.  It was . . . incredible.

And then there was Eli.  She was afraid of Eli, but she respected her, too.  Her commitment to Oskar was humbling; Maria had never met a person so deeply devoted to someone.  And obviously Oskar loved Eli deeply, too. In a way, she was almost jealous of them, for she herself had neither loved, nor been loved, like that.  Maria was beginning to sense, too, that there was an innocent, child-like quality to their love.  She wasn’t sure how that could be, with them needing to find blood to live, like they did; but nevertheless, it seemed to be there. 

In her mind she heard Eli stridently declaring that she and Oskar were people.  Clearly, Oskar was; he’d been made a vampire, or whatever it was that they thought themselves to be, by accident.  But what about Eli?  To be perpetually 12 for two centuries . . . what did that mean? 

Maria tried to think back to how life had been when she had been that age; how she had been at 12.  How scary and insecure the world had seemed.  No father, and an alcoholic mother who viewed her daughters as an impediment to her quest to marry the wealthiest and most successful man she could find before she got too old and lost her good looks, so that they could pull themselves out of their pitiful circumstances and she could at last make it big in acting. 

She remembered hiding in a closet, hugging her sister Lena and trying to stop her from crying, as their mother came home drunk once again; yelling and screaming down in the living room about how horrible her life was with no husband and her worthless, good-for-nothing daughters.  To be trapped at that terrifying age, forever.  She couldn’t imagine it.

And who could have done that to Eli?  Someone must have bitten her, infected her, just as she had bitten Oskar.  Way back in . . . what—the 1780’s, for God’s sake.  But who would do that to a little girl like Eli?  And why?

She recalled the soft touch of Eli’s hand when she’d told her how much help they needed, and how she’d related her experience with Miguel.  Clearly, she also did not enjoy doing what she did.

But how could she help them?  This was what she didn’t understand.  She certainly wasn’t going to help them find people to kill--no way was she doing that.  She’d rather have Eli kill her than do that.

They had said they wanted to go to Norrköping to try and find a way to undo themselves.  What the hell was in Norrköping?  She didn’t have a clue.  But if that’s where they wanted to go, then . . . she’d help get there, find them a place.  Maybe then they could talk about whether she’d remain with them or not.

She realized that she had to pee.  They’d told her that they didn’t mind if she used the bathroom, even though they were in there, so . . . .

She got up, stretched, and went into the hall.  The apartment was quiet, and rather dim since they had put blankets over all of the windows.  Apparently they didn’t like light—or at least, didn’t like sunlight.  She looked into the kitchen at the blanket hanging over the window there, and at the little bit of light that came in around the edges.  So strange, to think that it was all true—that they really were vampires.  It was almost easier to think that they were just mentally ill and believed that they were, and that she’d just imagined seeing Oskar fly; that every extraordinary thing she’d seen them do had just been her fantasies.  But of course, that wasn’t true.  She herself had taken a little flight on Oskar’s back when they’d dropped down into the square behind her building.  She shook her head.

The urge to go compelled her to the bathroom; she opened the door and peeked inside.  It was too dark to see anything, and she didn’t want to turn on the bathroom light lest it somehow awaken them; so she turned on the hall light instead.  Then she went into the bathroom, leaving the door open.  The tub was covered with a blanket.

As she sat down to urinate she realized that a strange noise was coming from under the blanket draped over the tub.   Where they were.  A soft, low rumbling sound that was unlike any sound she had ever heard before.  As she peed, she stared intently at the blanket over the tub, fascinated by the sound.  She finished her business, pulled up her pants, and quietly lowered the toilet lid. 

She started to leave the room, but then stopped.  She turned back, drawn as if by a magnet.  Slowly, haltingly, she reached down and lifted up one corner of the blanket and pulled it back; then stared at what she saw in the half-light from the hallway.

They lay half in darkness, half in light; clinging to one another in the tight confines of their little tub.  Oskar lay behind Eli with his arms wrapped around her, holding her close to his heart.  Eli had her arms crossed in front of her, over Oskar’s hands.  When Maria bent down for a better look, she realized that the rumbling was coming from their chests.

They looked completely at peace, contented in each other’s arms.  Oskar’s face was partially hidden in the black hair on the back of Eli’s head, his blond locks contrasting sharply with hers. Eli’s face looked even more doll-like in sleep than it did when she was awake.  Her delicate lashes lay against the pale, ivory-smooth skin, a tinge of pink shading her eyelids.  As Maria stared at them in wonder, she appreciated how still they were, and realized that they weren’t breathing.

They didn’t look like monsters.  They looked like two lost and lonely children who had nothing in the world except each other.  Which was, she realized, precisely what they were. 

Slowly she sank back down onto the toilet, put her head into her hands, and silently began to weep.

I can’t leave them.

9:30 a.m.

Kurt and Martin shut the doors of an unmarked Volvo sedan.  Martin started the car, pulled out of the police lot, and headed toward Blackeberg.

Kurt held up the day’s copy of the Svenska Dagbladet.  “Did you see this morning’s paper about this business over in Sundbyberg last night?”

“Nope.  But I saw a little bit of it on TV while I had breakfast.  What’s the paper say?”

“A woman named Estella Fransson fell eight stories from an apartment building on Grånsgatan.  Only, she didn’t really fall from the apartment building.  According to this, she hit the side of the apartment first.”

“Yeah.  The SVT guy said there was some speculation about whether she might’ve fallen from an airplane or something.”

“Well that’s possible, only the paper says no one reported seeing or hearing an airplane flying overhead at the time.  Did you see the picture of where she hit the side of the building?”  Kurt folded the paper and held it up for Martin.

Martin glanced over at the gruesome black and white for a second.  “Yup. Goddamnest thing I’ve ever seen.  And that photograph really doesn’t do it justice--you should’ve seen it in color.  Do they have much information about the woman?”

Kurt skimmed down the article.  “No, not much.  Apparently she was a prostitute.  She’d been arrested a few times for little shit, and pled to a possession charge a few years ago.”

“I’m surprised they were able to identify her.  I feel sorry those forensic guys.  Getting an I.D. card out of that mess.”

“It’s all part of the job, Martin.”  There was a pause before he continued.  “You know, she probably looked like that guy we saw a few years ago--you remember?  The one who was taking a piss behind the loading dock when that roll-off truck put down that big trash dumpster?  Squashed him like a bug.”

“Yup—I’ll never forget that case.”  Martin chuckled.  “What a way to go out—taking a piss behind a loading dock.”
 
Kurt raised an eyebrow, then gave Martin a bemused grin.  “I wonder if this gal had a pilot’s license?”

He shot Kurt a look of mock seriousness.  “You know, sometimes I find your sense of humor disturbing.”

“Well, it just occurred to me, that’s all.  We have flying vampires, and now flying prostitutes.  If this keeps up, they really should be licensed.  Then maybe she wouldn’t have flown into the wall like that.”

Martin shook his head and laughed as he turned onto Drottningholmsvägen and headed west.  They drove in silence for a bit before he spoke again.  “You know, Kurt, I could really use another cup of coffee.  My ass sure is dragging this morning.”

“Mine too.  Let’s stop somewhere before we get to Blackeberg and grab a cup.  I hope this Holmberg has some useful information.  Because we need to come up with something soon.”

At mid-morning, Maria returned to her apartment from the Student Registrar’s Office.  She had completed a form to confirm her withdrawal from her classes due to a family emergency: her sister had just been diagnosed with cancer, and had no one else to help her.

She felt better now that she had made up her mind to help Oskar and Eli.  She had never liked feeling wishy-washy about anything, and had always found it preferable to make a decision, even if it ultimately turned out wrong.  And although she had many concerns and fears, and did not know where all of this would end up, she felt in her heart that she had made the right choice.  For the first time in many years, she felt genuinely happy. 

She had seen no reason to go directly back to Oskar and Eli’s apartment; there was nothing useful she could do there all day while they slept.  So she returned to her own place, took a shower, and prepared a quick breakfast.   Then she stood in her living room with her cream cheese bagel on a plate, took a bite, and turned on her TV, intending to eat it quickly before doing some packing.

After a commercial, the news came on.   When the top story began, she learned what had happened to Stella.  She saw a video feed of where Stella had struck the side of the apartment building; saw more video of a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance in a parking lot fronting the building.  The shape under the sheet looked . . . disassembled. 

Maria recognized the apartment, and realized she could walk two blocks and see the aftermath herself--live and in person.  Assuming they hadn’t washed it all away yet.

She swallowed the bite of bagel that she had stopped chewing, fighting the gagging sensation that made her want to spit it out.  Then with a trembling hand she put her plate down and collapsed, weak-kneed, into her chair while she continued to stare at the TV.

What had Eli done?  In that brief period between when Maria had turned and ran, and when Eli had entered her apartment through the door that was now right behind her?  What had she . . .

There was only one explanation. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Maria struggled against the nausea that rose from the pit of her stomach to strangle her esophagus, but it was hopeless.  She bolted to her bathroom, threw up the toilet lid, and puked.  She easily recognized the bits of bagel as they floated in the pinkish cloud of fluid that spread out across the bowl.  Then she retched again, this time bringing up the deeper, more acidic material from the bottom of her stomach.  She hung trembling and weak over the bowl, her happiness having departed with her breakfast, wondering what in God’s name she had gotten herself into.

“That’s what the report says, because that’s what the boy reported.  I can’t make sense of it, either, but his statement was consistent with the bloodstains.  You can look at the photos yourself . . . no one’s been able to make heads or tails of it.  And of course, the media had a field day with it.”

Gunnar Holmberg pushed the photo file across the table toward Magnusson and Lieutenant Lundgren.  Kurt thought he sounded defensive, but who could blame him with this kind of stuff?

Martin spoke up.  “When was this Andreas Siskov last questioned about the murders?”

“Oh, it’s been awhile.  Not since back at the time, I guess.  Why?”

“Well, we were thinking we might want to speak with him ourselves.”

“You won’t be able to.”

Kurt looked up from the photographs, puzzled.  “Why’s that?”

“He committed suicide four months ago.  Jumped in front of a train at the Blackeberg Metro Station.”

Even Kurt looked shocked.  “Holy shit.”

“Yeah—pretty tragic.  Parents were devastated, as you might imagine.”

An ominous silence descended among them as Kurt and Martin, clearly troubled, slowly turned their attention back to Gunnar’s files.  Finally Kurt stopped reading, closed the file, and looked at Gunnar with a level gaze.

“I tell you what, Constable, I’ve been investigating murders for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen a file like this one.  I suppose you’ve heard about the death in Tyresta that we’re investigating.”

“Yeah . . . the Canadian guy who was attacked.  I feel for you.  Got any suspects yet?”

“If we did, we wouldn’t be talking to you about this,” Martin replied.  “But we know that someone bit him in the neck and twisted his head around like a corkscrew.  And that the same thing happened last October to a fella named Joakim Bengtsson, and a couple of weeks later to one Lacke Sorensson.  We recovered a child’s footprint at the Tyresta crime scene, and a kid’s shirt was found on Bengtsson’s body.  So we have every reason to believe a child was involved—maybe the same child ‘angel’ that did in these three boys.”

Gunnar suddenly sat up.  “You know what?  Another person was bitten like that last fall, too—‘The Ritual Killer.’”

Kurt was flabbergasted.  “What?  I thought he fell out of his hospital window.”

“He did.  But he was bitten on the neck first.”

Kurt turned to Martin.  “Did you know that?”

“Nope.”

Jesus.  Tell me more, Gunnar.  What do they know about the bite?  Did they see who did it?  Anything?”

“I was involved in his apprehension at the Vällingby Pool the night he tried to exsanguinate his second victim; I didn’t investigate his death.  But you really ought to review his file.  I heard they found a bite wound, but I don’t know whether there were any witnesses.”

Kurt gave Martin a disgusted look.  “Do you ever get the feeling that your own police department is actively trying to keep you from doing your job?  I mean . . . this is just fucking ridiculous.”  He picked up the phone and dialed. 

“Karla—it’s me, Kurt.”

“I’m fine.  Look, is Hallberg around?”

“Well, when he gets back, tell him to pull the file on ‘The Ritual Killer.’”

“Yeah . . . it might be.  We’ll see.  So tell him to pull it and take a look for any information about a bite wound the guy suffered before he fell.  Yeah.  And I want to know about any witness statements.  Got it?”

“Good.  I’ll talk to you later.” 

He hung up, then looked at Gunnar again.  “So tell me about Oskar Eriksson.”

Maria shuffled weakly out of the bathroom and looked anxiously around her apartment.  Two people had died within fifteen feet of her.  Now that the police knew about Stella, would they make the connection to Rafael?  And then to Miguel?  How long would it be before they came here?

She was thoroughly unnerved by what had happened to Stella.  Yeah, she’d been kind of a bitch, but . . . had she deserved that?   To be flung against the side of a building like a ball, or a piece of trash . . . .

Her hands trembled and she suddenly realized how badly she wanted a drink.  If there had been any liquor in the apartment, she would’ve poured herself double shot; it would have made everything feel better. She closed her eyes.  It wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and the craving was there.  The memories of her life four years ago came back to her; day after day of coffee, booze and cigarette breakfasts.  Getting up and getting drunk to make last night’s hangover go away.

She entered her bedroom, crawled onto the bed, and studied the coverlet very carefully, looking for any trace of Miguel’s demise.  Sure enough, she saw a single tiny, brown droplet near the center of the bedspread.  She stripped the cover off the bed, and was relieved to see that it had not soaked through to the blanket beneath.  She wadded up the coverlet beneath her arm and then went into her living room.  She put it on the coffee table, then got down on all fours to check the place where Oskar had bitten Rafael. 

She combed her fingers carefully through the carpet, scrutinizing the nylon fibers.  As she did, her inner voice asked her how in the world she had gone in less than two days from being a reasonably normal person—well, a reasonably normal prostitute, anyhow—to someone who was now worried about erasing any evidence of murder so that she would not be arrested and imprisoned for the rest of her life. 

Some other person is doing this, she thought.  Some other Maria, in some parallel universe, whose life path had diverged sharply from her own.  The real Maria—the freshly reinvented woman who was putting as much distance between herself and her past as possible, was sitting in a Psychology class right now, taking notes.  What she was doing didn’t feel realMurder . . . vampires . . . .

She saw no stains on the carpet.  She pulled a kitchen trash bag out of her pantry and was beginning to stuff the coverlet inside it when the phone rang.  She paused and stared at it.

It rang three times and then there was a click.  A robotic male voice requested the caller to leave a message.  Marta’s happy, perky voice followed.

“Maria?  Hey girl!  Pick up if you’re there.”

Maria moved to the counter; placed her hand on the phone and debated whether to lift the handset.  What would she tell Marta she’d been up to?  Getting the bloodstains out of her apartment?  She suppressed a hysterical laugh.  In a brief few seconds she recalled Eli’s face in the car last night, looking intently at her.  Could she be trusted not to tell?  She pulled her hand back as if the phone had become a poisonous snake.

“Okay, guess you must be at class.  Hey listen, I was wondering if you’d like to get together tonight.  I want to do some shopping downtown—I need to pick up a new skirt for work.  Give me a call when you get home, okay?  See you soon.”

There was a beep, a mechanical sound signaling the end of an opportunity to reconnect with the real world, with her old life.  Maria stood stupidly at the phone for several seconds, her mind a blank.  She suddenly felt . . . very alone.

Goodbye, Marta.

She left her apartment, intending to throw the bag into a trash can on the street somewhere before returning to Oskar and Eli’s place.  She would worry about packing her stuff later.  And what to do about her lease.

She stepped outside and looked to the left, wondering if she could see the high-rise just shown on the news.  She couldn’t, but it didn’t matter because her attention was immediately drawn to the flashing lights of a tow truck idling at the corner.  She took a few steps toward the street to get a better view of what was going on, and saw—

. . . they were towing away Rafael’s ZX—and behind and to the side of Rafael’s car was a police car.  Two uniformed officers were standing by the front of it, watching the tow truck driver winch Rafael’s wheels up onto the tilted bed of the truck.  They were talking, but she couldn’t hear them over the rumbling diesel and the electric whine of the winch motor.  One of them had a metal clipboard and was making notes.

Adrenaline shot through her and she barely controlled the urge to spin on her heels and flee.  Instead she slowly stepped backwards until she was out of their line of sight, turned, and walked as rapidly as possible, without flat-out running, down Tallgatan toward Miguel’s Porsche, parked around the corner on Vintergatan.  When she reached it she realized she still had the bloodstained coverlet in the bag under her arm.  Fuck it.  She unlocked the car and got in.

Her mind raced as she started the little car and backed out onto the street.  Gotta get outta here, outta here, outta here . . . .  She gave it too much gas and popped the clutch too fast, and the car lunged forward, its rear tires chirping.  Shit!  She let up on the gas as she shifted up into the higher gears.  Slow down and take it easy, Maria, she told herself.  If you get pulled over driving this car . . . .

She made a deliberate effort to relax as she turned right onto Sturegatan; took a big, deep breath and let it out slowly.  Then she turned on the air conditioning and felt better.

As she headed back to 279 North, her thoughts returned to what might happen if she were stopped.  As she continued to think about it, her apprehension slowly grew.  Miguel’s car, Miguel’s car . . . her eyes began to rove around the interior.  God only knew what he had stashed away in here.

It dawned on her as she passed the Solvalla horse racing track that it would not be a good idea to drive the Porsche all the way to Tensta.  If the police began looking for Miguel as well as Rafael, it stood to reason that they’d be out looking for his car.  Even if they were going to Norrköping soon, would it really be a good idea to lead the police anywhere near Oskar and Eli’s apartment?  Besides, the car would be of no use in getting to Norrköping.  There was hardly any space inside for the three of them and the luggage, especially the steamer trunk.  So she made up her mind to park the car somewhere near the Rinkeby Metro Station, and take the train out to Tensta.

Within a few minutes, she got off 279 and drove into Rinkeby.  The Porsche’s engine was loud, and she felt incredibly conspicuous driving it.  She found a big apartment complex with a generous parking lot a few blocks away from the Metro station and pulled in.  She picked a space under a tree at the corner farthest from the building, stopped, and turned off the car.

Before leaving it, Maria thought she would look through the car for anything useful.  She dug through the glovebox and the pockets on the doors, but found nothing.  In fact, these storage spaces were conspicuously clean and empty.  She was about ready to get out and look in the trunk up front when she noticed that there were little map pockets on either side of the footwells.  When she reached in the one on the driver’s side, she felt something metal and withdrew a small, nickel-plated revolver.

Instantly, she held the pistol down close to her lap and glanced out the windows to see if anyone was watching her, but there wasn’t.  Outside the tight confines of the car, it was just an ordinary, sunny day in Rinkeby.

She looked at the deadly-looking little gun; turned it over in her lap.  It had wooden grips, and “Made in U.S.A.” was stamped above the trigger.  “S&W 38” was stamped on the incredibly short barrel.  She pushed a button on the side and the cylinder flipped out.  It was fully loaded.  She pushed it back and it clicked shut.

She pointed the gun toward the passenger-side footwell and slowly squeezed the trigger.  The hammer on the back began to rise, but she stopped once she understood that if she continued, it would probably go off.  Other than the one she’d seen the day before, she had never held a real-life gun, and she stared at it, fascinated by the concentration of power in her hand.

For a long time, she debated whether to leave the gun in the car or take it with her.  Finally she slipped it into her purse.

The Porsche’s trunk was completely empty.  She made sure the car was locked, then headed toward the Metro, chucking the bag with the coverlet into a trash can as she went.


Polismyndigheten i Stockholms Län

CRIME REPORT – Case No. 1983-00572

Confidential – For Authorized Use Only

CRIME(S)/INCIDENT:         MURDER
VICTIM NAME (LAST, FIRST, MIDDLE):           CHRISTENSEN, JOHN R.
RACE/ETHNICITY:  W      SEX:  M          D.O.B.:  21.03.34       AGE: 49
VICTIM ADDRESS: 2398 Keith Road, Vancouver, B.C.
OFFENSE DATE - FOUND: 
HOUR:  1743 D-WK: THU  MO. 07           DATE: 28       YR: 83
OFFENSE DATE - LAST KNOWN SECURE:
HOUR: 1530  D-WK: SUN   MO. 07           DATE: 24       YR: 83
PERSON(S) REPORTING CRIME:  Alfredson, John A.; Lindqvist, Thomas
LOCATION OF CRIME:  482 m. SSE from Trail Marker 082, Stråisjön Lake, Tyresta National Park
PREMISE TYPE:       n/a
WEAPON/TOOLS:  None
HOW ATTACKED OR COMMITTED (M.O.):  SUBJECT RESTRAINED AND BITTEN IN RIGHT SIDE OF NECK, SEVERING CAROTID ARTERY                    
WEATHER:  clear, 14.5 C.
#OF SUSPECTS:  1               CAN SUSPECTS BE IDENTIFIED:  Y/N  See Below
WAS EVIDENCE FOUND:             Yes
NAME/ADDRESS OF WITNESS(ES):  n/a
VEHICLE INFO: n/a
LAB TECHNICIAN CALLED:  Sgt. Judit Lunde
REPORTING OFFICER NARRATIVE:  Officers were contacted at 1815 on 7/28  by Tyresta National Park officials who had been notified by two hikers re/discovery of body.  Body recovered from shallow grave in clearing approx. 85 m. from campsite.  Positive identification obtained from photo I.D. found in wallet recovered next to victim.  Victim’s family notified 7/28 at 2130 hrs. Victim last seen alive approx. 1530 hrs on 7/24 at campsite.  Personal effects recovered from campsite: see attached inventory (Supp. 00572-01).  Absence of cash in wallet suggests perpetrator absconded with same following victim’s death.

Summary of autopsy findings: Ht. 190 cm, Wt. 90 kg. Date/time of death est. 7/23 @ 2300.  Cause of death: massive exsanguination due to neck wound severing carotid artery.  Wound believed to be bite wound, although finding unclear due to severe trauma to spinal column and supporting structures as a result of torsion applied to head, which had been rotated 360 deg.  Secondary injuries: incomplete fractures of sternum and third, fourth, and fifth ribs bilaterally and bruising of surrounding muscle wall suggestive of constriction injury.  Injuries suggest victim may have been restrained and/or immobilized prior to infliction of death wound.

Footprint recovered at crime scene 1.7 m. from body (see diagram; photos) matches child age 10 to 12 yrs; however, depth of print indicates child’s weight as only 20 – 30 kg (10th percentile for age).  No other physical evidence related to perpetrator recovered from scene.  No eyewitnesses to crime have been identified.

Victim legally separated at time of death; survived by mother, age 72, and daughter, age 15 yrs.  Victim has no known criminal history.  Phone interview of former spouse (McCullough, Barbara) 7/29: victim on solo backpack tour through Europe that began in Warsaw, Poland on 7/17.  Victim was expected to return to Vancouver via Berlin, Germany on 7/27.

Victim’s death is believed to be related to deaths of Joakim Bengtsson; Lacke Sorensson; Virginia Lind; Conny Forsberg; James Forsberg; Martin Ahlstedt; and an unidentified white male known as “The Ritual Killer” (TRK).  Victim’s death may also be related to death of Verdner Jensen, suspected to have been murdered by TRK in Vällingby on 10/21/82.

Joakim Bengtsson (Case No. 1982-01302)

The body of Joakim Bengtsson (age 51) was recovered from Mälaren Lake near Blackeberg on 11/5/82.  Bengtsson was last seen alive on 10/24/82  at approx. 2150 hrs by Gösta Bohman, and at 2145 hrs by Morgan Sundquist, and Larry Wiese.  Autopsy findings demonstrated human bite wound on left side of neck immediately below jaw line and massive trauma to neck in pattern identical to torsion injury sustained by victim.  Bite pattern analysis indicates Bengtsson’s assailant was child, age 9 to 11. Bengtsson’s body bound in rope and weighted with stones at time of discovery.  White, child-sized shirt with blood stains on front was retrieved from inside of Bengtsson’s own shirt (see photographs in #01302).  Cause of death believed to be blood loss from bite wound which tore jugular vein, although disposition of body following death precludes confirmation.  Bengtsson also sustained constriction injuries to chest in pattern identical to victim’s.

Eyewitness Bohman (Björnsongatan 56, #302, Blackeberg) identified following interview of M. Sundquist on 8/8/83 and interviewed by Lt. M. Lundgren same date.  Bohman stated he was standing on balcony of apt. at approx. 2150 hrs and observed Bengtsson entering footpath under Björnsongatan when he was assaulted by single assailant described as a “kid.”  Lack of sufficient lighting precluded further identification and Bohman unable to confirm whether assailant was wearing shirt recovered with Bengtsson’s body.  Bengtsson observed to be grappling with assailant before being overpowered; duration of struggle estimated to be less than 1 minute.  Assailant fled scene shortly thereafter.  Reliability of Bohman as informant: fair to poor (Bohman is reclusive and suspected alcoholic); reluctant to report attack due to fear of police.  See attached interview notes for further details (Supp. #01302-02).

Interview of Sundquist on 8/8: friend of Bengtsson, Sorensson, and Lind for approx. 8 years (Supp. #01302-03).  Last saw Bengtsson alive on 10/24/82 at 2145 hrs at the Mandarin House restaurant on Holbergsgatan; Bengstsson and Sorensson departed restaurant together.  Sundquist confirmed that Bohman reported attack to Sundquist, Sorensson, Wiese and Lind on evening of 10/25.  Bohman then led same individuals to scene, where blood was found under fresh snow.  This information was not reported to police on 10/25 and remained unknown to authorities until 8/8.  Photographs of underpass have been obtained (Supp. #01302-03), but no physical evidence could be identified at this time.

Virginia Lind

Sundquist reported that on evening of 11/6/82, he witnessed assault on Virginia Lind (age 50) in Blackebergsplan by female child.  Sundquist came on scene immediately following attack and did not observe assailant. Sorensson arrived at scene shortly before Sundquist and observed assailant, described to Sundquist as female child age 11 or 12, slender build with black hair and wearing pink sweater. Sorensson kicked assailant in side and off of Lind.  Sorensson told Sundquist that he believed child was the same individual who had attacked Bengtsson.  Sorensson did not relate this information to investigating officer A. Sandvik.

Lind sustained bite wound to right neck and was examined, treated, and discharged to home from Danderyd Hospital at 1230 hours 11/7.  No precise measurement of wound was made by hospital staff.  Lind interviewed at hospital 0930 hrs on 11/7 by A. Sandvik but unable to describe assailant to investigating officer.

At 1745 hrs on 11/8, Lind, accompanied by Sorensson, was readmitted to Danderyd in hysterical condition after suffering multiple “cat bites” in Bohman’s apt.  Lind’s condition required physical restraint, and she was admitted for observation and intravenous antibiotic administration.  Lind received supportive care and was thought to be improving; however, at 0730 hrs on 11/9, she spontaneously burst into flames after a nurse’s aide (Hedman, Liam) raised blinds of her hospital room, admitting sunlight.  Spontaneous combustion with resulting death was observed by Hedman and Sorensson.  Medical records related to Lind’s admissions of 11/7 and 11/8 are attached hereto (Supp. 00572-01).

Lind was employed by ICA Store on Arvid Mornes Road in Blackeberg at the time of her death.  Store manager (Hegstrom, Lennart) and surviving family member (daughter, Kronberg, Lena) were interviewed, but had no information relating to above-described events.  Lind had no known criminal history.  A search of her apt. (with consent from L. Kronberg) was negative for drugs or any physical evidence that could be related to assault on Lind or subsequent death.

Lacke Sorensson (Case No. 1982-01375)

Sorensson (age 59) was last seen alive on11/9/82 by Wiese and Sundquist, who took Sorensson from Danderyd to Wiese’s apt. in Blackeberg before Sorensson could be interviewed by police re/Lind’s death.  Wiese was interviewed on 8/7/83 and stated that Sorensson was in a state of shock over Lind’s death (Supp. #01375-01).   Both Wiese and Sundquist confirm that Sorensson and Lind had an on-again, off-again “relationship” but had never married.  Sorensson drank heavily and became intoxicated at Wiese’s apt., told Wiese and Sundquist that he was convinced that Lind had been attacked by a “vampire,” and said that he was “going to kill it.”  He left Wiese’s apt. at approx. 1500.

Sorensson was found dead in a Blackeberg apt., 75 Ibsengatan.  The cause of death was exsanguination from a severe bite wound on neck with avulsion of external jugular vein.  Precise measurement of bite wound to determine match with Bengtsson was not possible.  Sorensson also sustained a twisting injury to neck and fractured ribs.  Liver biopsy of Sorensson showed chronic alcohol use. 

Sorensson’s body was found supine in bathroom of apt.  Blood stain patterns on bathroom walls and door/doorjamb from blood matching only Sorensson establish that death struggle occurred in bathroom; no other bloodstains found in apt.  A paring knife bearing Sorensson’s fingerprints was recovered on bathroom floor and on drawer of a cabinet with cooking utensils in kitchen. Bathroom door open but noted to be locked at time body was discovered.

Partial or complete fingerprints of nine persons (excluding Sorensson) were recovered from 75 Ibsengatan  (4 adults and 5 children).  Prints matching TRK were confirmed by L.F.S. on 8/8/83 (see attached analysis); no other positive matches were made. 

Rental agent of apt. (Jonsson, Erik) stated to reporting officer on 8/8/83 that lessee may have been TRK, although complete certainty was not possible due to passage of time and facial self-disfigurement of TRK.  Fictitious name was provided on lease and no other family members noted on same.  Sundquist and Weise unable to positively identify TRK.

Sorensson had no known criminal history and left no next-of-kin.  A search of Sorensson’s apt. was negative for drugs or any physical evidence that could be related to his death.

The Ritual Killer” (Case No. 1982-01353)

Case file on TRK was reviewed for pertinent details. 

TRK (age est. 45 yrs) was apprehended on 10/29/82 at 2125 hrs in a private changing cabin at the Vällingby Pool following attempted murder of Mattias Eriksen (age 13).  TRK rendered Eriksen unconscious with a portable canister of halothane (Fluothane), an inhaled general anaesthetic. Eriksen was then bound and hung upside down before he awoke from anesthetic and was rescued by other patrons of pool.  A large knife, 5-liter plastic container, funnel, flashlight, and a black bag were recovered at scene with TRK’s fingerprints.  TRK was wearing a plastic rain poncho and disfigured his face with concentrated acid immediately before his apprehension.

TRK is strongly suspected in the 10/21/82 murder of Verdner Jensen in Vällingby due to similarities in modus operandi with attempted murder of Eriksen 8 days later.  Jensen’s body was also found hung upside down.  A funnel stained with blood and a large plastic jug with 1.2 liters of Jensen’s blood was found under body.  It is believed that TRK was interrupted in process of draining Jensen’s body of blood.

TRK was last observed alive and under security at Danderyd Hospital in hospital bed at approx. 2230 hrs on 11/7/82 and was found dead 2.5 m. from front steps of hospital at 2252 hrs, having fallen from window of hospital room.  Open window and detached tracheostomy tube found in room.  Autopsy determined that decedent sustained bite wound to left side of neck and had only 40% of normal circulating blood volume.  Spinal column of TRK broken (severance of spinal cord and multiple fractures of C3 – C4 vertebrae), most probably caused by impact of head with metal lobby awning during fall.

Witness Maud Carlberg, hospital lobby receptionist, interviewed 11/7; reported encounter with white female child, age 11 or 12, approx. 5 to 7 min. prior to decedent falling from hospital window.  Child described as being of slender build, approx. 1.6 m. tall with shoulder-length black hair, round face and brown eyes, wearing turquoise-colored sweater and gray pants.  Witness specifically recalled that child was wearing no winter coat or shoes.  Child requested information re/whereabouts of her “father” who was “sick” and had been brought in by police.  However, child refused witness’ offer to call secure floor for escort and departed lobby.  Witness followed child out lobby doors due to concern for being barefoot in snow, but was unable to locate child.

Lobby floor dusted for footprints of child within 45 min. of TRK fall from hospital window.  Partial print of left foot obtained and is similar to print of right foot recovered from Christensen death scene, but not conclusive (see comparison photos).

Conny Forsberg/James Forsberg/Martin Ahlstedt (Case Nos. 1982-01378, 1982-01379, 1982-01380)

Case files on these deaths were reviewed for pertinent details.  Conny Forsberg (age 12), James Forsberg (age 17) and Martin Ahlstedt (age 12) were killed at Blackeberg Pool on 11/12/82 at approx. 2013 hrs.  Eyewitness Andreas Siskov (age 12; deceased) described seeing a “black-haired angel with teeth” that broke through a plate-glass window, and attacked and killed all three victims in less than one minute.  The assailant decapitated the Forsberg brothers (“ripped their heads off”), and severed right arm of James Forsberg immediately distal to elbow.  The assailant was also observed to drag Ahlstedt across surface of pool before depositing him at edge of pool and was described as “flying” at this time; this account was at least partially collaborated by bloodstain analysis, although latter was subsequently challenged by a 3-member panel of L.F.S.  In any event, the physical description of the assailant closely resembles female child described by Carlberg and Sorensson/Sundquist.

The assailant left Blackeberg Pool after pulling Oskar Eriksson (age 12) from pool.  Interviews of Siskov and others indicate that J. Forsberg was attempting to drown Eriksson in retaliation for an injury inflicted by Eriksson to left ear of C. Forsberg some days earlier.  Eriksson was noted to be blue and nearly unconscious at time that he was removed from water. 

Eriksson has no arrest record or criminal history.  He reportedly has not contacted his parents since his abduction and his current whereabouts are unknown.

No person interviewed, including Eriksson’s mother (Nilsson, Yvonne) admitted to knowledge of a relationship between Eriksson and assailant.  Nilsson admitted, however, that she permitted Eriksson to play unsupervised in apt. complex after school and in evenings.  It should also be noted that 75 Ibsengatan, the apt. wherein Sorensson’s body was recovered and which was rented by TRK, was immediately adjacent to apt. then occupied by Y. Nilsson and Eriksson (73 Ibsengatan).  In fact, the bedroom occupied by Eriksson shared a common wall with a bedroom in 75 Ibsengatan. 

Conclusion

The undersigned investigator strongly suspects that the female child described by Carlberg and Sorensson/Sundquist is the prime suspect in the death of John Christensen, and is also responsible for the death of Bengtsson, Sorensson, Ahlstedt and the Forsberg brothers. Analysis of the Bengtsson, Sorensson, and Christensen cases indicates a pattern of immobilization by constriction of sufficient force to fracture the bones of the chest, and biting attacks to the throats of victims of sufficient severity to cause the victim to suffer massive blood loss and rapid death. 

The undersigned investigator is also of the belief that the suspect resided with TRK at 75 Ibsengatan for a period of time in October-November 1982; that TRK’s motive for the death of V. Jensen and attempted murder of M. Eriksen was the procurement of blood for the suspect; and that, although the means are unclear, the suspect murdered TRK so as to prevent disclosure of information re/suspect to authorities.

Finally, it is believed that the suspect possesses extraordinary strength, may possess the ability to “fly,” and may believe herself to be, or may in fact be, a “vampire.”  Support for this conclusion rests upon: (i) the above-mentioned pattern of death at night by bite wounds causing exsanguination; (ii) decapitation and torsion injuries inflicted to multiple victims solely by physical exertion; and (iii) death of V. Lind, who is believed to have been bitten by the assailant and subsequently consumed by fire when exposed to sunlight.  Irrespective of whether this conclusion is correct, however, the suspect should be considered extremely dangerous.  It is recommended that an artist’s sketch of the suspect based on the Carlberg description,  together with a photograph of O. Eriksson, be immediately circulated and posted to aid in detection and apprehension of suspect.

OFFICER’S NAME/I.D.:                   /s/ Magnusson, Kurt
DATE/TIME SUBMITTED:            8/9/83 17:30 hrs
CASE STATUS:                                 Further Inv.
             

9 August 1983 – 6 p.m.

Flora was preparing salads for dinner when the phone rang.  She wiped her hands on her apron and started to reach for the phone before Kurt called from the living room. 

“I’ll get it.”  He had been unusually quiet since he came home from work, and Flora could hear the tension in his voice.  She glanced at him as he came into the kitchen and picked up the receiver.  He looked haggard and unhappy.  She kept tearing up the lettuce and pretended that she wasn’t listening.

“Magnusson.”

“Hello, Chief.”

 “Yeah.  I figured you’d be calling.”

He shifted on his feet as he stood next to the counter and appeared to be looking out the window.  “I tried to call you around one, but you weren’t available.  I left a message, but I didn’t hear back, and I knew how urgent this investigation is.  So I went ahead and filed it.”

Kurt shook his head.  “I can’t do that.”

There was a pause.

“I have no basis to amend it unless there’s new evidence.”

He frowned.  “My conclusion is based on twenty years of experience in homicide investigation.  I understand that there are weaknesses in the evidence, but that’s the only theory I could come up with that made sense of all the evidence, Chief.”

“Oh--Persson told you that?  Well, he told me that he believes the wound is a bite.”

Kurt turned away from the window and crossed one arm across his chest.  “No, I can’t prove that it was consumed.  But I can prove that The Ritual Killer’s was.”

Flora looked at him out of the corner of her eye.  She had heard a lot during her marriage to Kurt, but never anything like this.

“True, but only if you exclude the Jensen slaying.”

Kurt bent over the counter and leaned on it with his free hand.  “I think we can connect them.  Sorrensen identified the girl and died in The Ritual Killer’s apartment three days later.  The Ritual Killer has gotta be Jensen’s murderer.  Blood procurement is the only theory that anyone has come up with for why he did that to him and later tried to do the same thing to Eriksen.”

Now Flora could see the flushed anger in his face.  “I’ve been your top homicide inspector for the last fifteen years, Chief.  With all due respect, don’t call my work crap.”

“I agree the age and weight on that footprint don’t match up.  But that doesn’t mean that--”

“I don’t think the rain was a factor.”

“Well, I disagree.  I have an eyewitness who saw a child overpower Bengtsson, and he was sure as hell no wimp.”

“I know he didn’t report it at the time . . . he said he was afraid of the police.  But he told the others—”

“Yeah, I know they didn’t either.  But still, you’ve got the receptionist’s statement.  She got a good look at this girl and five minutes later, The Ritual Killer was dead.  And what she saw matches what Siskov said he saw.”

She could tell he was beginnng to lose his temper.  “The prosecutors will find a hearsay exception for it.”

“I won’t take it out.  I’m very afraid that there’s an extremely dangerous person at large here, Chief.  And I—”

“Okay, I’m off.  What should I tell Lundgren?”

“That’s not right.  He was following my lead.”

“Fine.  You tell him.”

“I don’t care if you’re disappointed or not.  Are you at least going to put up flyers?”

“That’s no good reason not to make some effort to protect the public.”

“I’m not trying to tell you your business.”

“So the whole report is shit, then, is that what you’re saying?  You’re not going to do anything?”

“Keep investigating, then.  Just don’t come back to me when the next guy has his fucking head twisted off.”

Kurt slammed the phone down in its cradle, then looked at her.  “Sorry.  I’m officially off the Christensen case.”

She didn’t know what to say to him, and for a few seconds there was silence in the kitchen.  Then he said, “I need a breath of fresh air.  Go ahead and eat.  I’ll be back in a little bit.”

10 August 1983 – 4:30 a.m.

Eli helped Maria take the last of her textbooks out of a cardboard box and stack them in a pile next to the wall of their new living room, looking with interest at some of the titles: Sociology; Introduction to Psychology; European Civilization; Statistical Methodology.  It was a rainy, early morning, and dawn would soon arrive.

Maria smiled as she watched Eli; then she sat down on the couch, exhausted.  She was not used to staying up all night, let alone packing and driving for hours on end through the dark and the rain.  

The previous Saturday she had, using an assumed name, subleased a one-bedroom apartment in Hageby, Norrköping from a young attorney who lived in the same building.  Then, over the night just passed, they had brought the kids’ stuff and her household belongings to Norrköping with a van that Maria had rented.

When they had gotten back to Sundbyberg to clear out her things, the light on her phone had once again been flashing.  Maria pushed the play button with much trepidation, afraid of who would begin to speak while Oskar and Eli watched.  One of Miguel’s drug-dealing cronies?  Or worse, the crisp, hard voice of a Stockholm police officer, stating that she was wanted for questioning? How would Eli react if it was the police?

But to her relief, it was only Marta, sounding quite concerned that Maria hadn’t returned her call from last week or gotten in touch over the weekend.  They had talked about whether it would be best to ignore Marta’s message, or call her back; eventually, they had decided to call back and tell Marta the same story she had told the University.  Maria had been relieved when she had only gotten the answering machine, and was able to leave a message without speaking directly with Marta.  She didn’t want to answer any questions.

Because her apartment had come furnished, they had not needed to move the couch, bed, or other large pieces of furniture.  After the last of her things were in the van, Eli had, to Maria’s surprise, produced a large amount of cash to pay the balance due on her old lease.  They had put the money, Maria’s key, and a note explaining her unfortunate circumstances into an envelope and put it into the rental agent’s dropbox.

Much to her relief, dealing with Mr. Samuelson, her new landlord—Liam, as he insisted she call him—had turned out to be the easiest part of her solitary Saturday task of finding a new place to live.  Having come to his apartment to meet him, he had invited her in for a cup of coffee, and had been altogether pleasant, easygoing and courteous.  His apartment, a little place on the third floor of the same building on Formaregatan that Maria wanted to see, was very neat and orderly; along one wall, where most people would have put a TV, he had a large bookcase that was crammed with lawbooks, and a small desk with an electric typewriter.

In their brief conversation at his kitchen table, she learned that he was unmarried and had graduated from law school in Uppsala only a few years ago.  He was obviously very bright, and his appearance and mannerisms were oddly endearing.  He had a thick crop of brown hair that kept flopping down over his forehead, a disarming smile, and expressive hands that moved constantly when he talked.  Perched in apparent perpetuity on the end of his nose were a pair of horn-rimmed glasses that seemed destined to slip down despite his continuous efforts to push them up.  Because of this, he tended to look over the top of his glasses, making him appear older than he really was.

To her surprise, he had only asked her a few questions as he showed her the rental.  She told him that she was new in town from the Stockholm area, and was going to try to get a job with the county social services agency.  She said that she would be living alone, although once in awhile her sister’s son and step-daughter might be staying with her for a few weeks at a time.  He seemed very accepting of her story, and did not even ask to see any identification before she signed the lease and gave him the security deposit and first month’s rent.

Then he had asked about her need for furnishings.  Learning that she had no furniture, he had offered to let her use an old couch, chairs, and a bedframe he had in the basement that some former tenants had left behind.  Together they had moved the items up from the storage area and into her new space.  Once everything was arranged to her satisfaction, he had given her the key and told her to please call him if she needed anything else.  And that had been that.

Before returning to Tensta, she had gone out and purchased some heavy drapes with some of the money Eli had given her.  The apartment had come with miniblinds that did a fair job of blocking out the light, but the drapes were even better, and certainly more pleasing to her eye than the old blankets and cardboard that the kids had been using.

Oskar and Eli seemed very happy with the new place.  The building was of more recent vintage than their old flat in Tensta; the appliances had recently been replaced, and the walls and cabinetry were fresh and clean.  They particularly liked the new tub, which had sliding plexiglas doors that seemed to turn the space into their private sleeping cabin.

Once the children had settled into their tub, Maria bedded down with some blankets and a pillow, surrounded by cardboard boxes.  Her fascinated attention was drawn to the amazing puzzle egg that Oskar had pulled out and sat incongruously on top of his record player.  Maria had never seen it until he had unpacked it.

She reached out and stroked its complex surface, which she was fairly sure was made of pure platinum, and thought about the trip in the van with the children. In her mind the conversation had overshadowed all of the recent events. It was so old and mysterious, this egg; just like Eli—only Eli was probably older still.  And Maria had begun to understand something of the darkness and the horror locked up inside this beautiful, calm, self-contained yet often vulnerable little girl. Incredible . . .

“So what, exactly, are you two looking for in Norrköping?”

The clumsy black wipers thumped noisily back and forth to the monotonous hum of the engine for what seemed like a very long time, swishing the raindrops to the edges of the big windshield.  Maria glanced over at them; saw their uneasy faces illuminated in the faint green glow from the dashboard instruments.

Oskar ventured an answer first.  “Well, something happened to Eli there a long time ago--something bad.  And I—I told Eli that I wanted to go back there, to see if maybe we could find something that would help us to just be normal again.”

“I’m not sure I understand that.”

Eli spoke.  “I was born in Östergötland.  A long time ago.  And a man there turned me into what I am now.  He lived in a castle.  And Oskar and I want to go back and see if we can find his castle; maybe find something that he left behind that will tell us more about who he was, and how he became a vampire.  We’re hoping that maybe if we do that, it could help us change ourselves back to normal.”

Somehow, Maria did not get the feeling that Eli was convinced that they would have any luck with their plan.  “Do you remember where this castle is?”

“I . . . I think so.  We’ll have to see—it’s been such a long time.”  Oskar glanced uneasily at Eli, who shifted in her seat, then turned to look out the passenger window.

“How did this man get ahold of you?  Did something happen to your parents?”

“He tricked my mother into bringing me to his castle with a lot of other moms and their kids.  He said it was a game.  Then he rolled some dice and chose me.  And that’s—that’s just about all I want to say about it right now.  Because I can’t . . . it’s hard for me to—I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay.”  Privately, Maria thought that their whole plan sounded shaky.  She had uprooted herself, turned her life upside down for this?  What useful thing could they possibly find after two hundred years?  But she didn’t want to say anything.  They seemed fragile enough as it was, clinging to their little thread of hope; expressions of cynicism and doubt would not help anything.

“Is the castle still standing?  If it is, I’m sure it will be easy to find.  It would have to be some kind of local landmark, or maybe even a  tourist attraction.”

Eli answered without looking away from the window.  “I don’t know if it is or not.  I’ve never been back to it since I was set free.”

A cold finger ran down Maria’s spine.  ‘Set free’?  My God—what had happened to her?  Frightening, medieval images came to her mind; a man resembling Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee, chaining Eli to the wall of a dungeon somewhere.  It was so hard to believe; almost ludicrous. How could it have happened?  She glanced over at Eli, not for the first time wondering if the child just had a mental illness, and that all of this was some weird fantasy.  She wanted to probe further, but didn’t want to upset her or Oskar.

“Well, I’ll do whatever I can to help you two find this place, wherever it is.”  She adjusted the speed of the wipers as the rain subsided.  “Maybe the library there will have some information.  We’ll have to see.”

Maria had slept for what seemed to her like only a few hours when she was awoken by a sound coming from the bathroom.  She had been lying on her side facing the egg, and when she heard the soft thump she rolled over to face the doorway leading to the back hall.

There was a soft scraping sound, followed by a tiny creaking noise.  The bathroom door had been opened.  She glanced at her watch; it was 7:18 a.m.  She frowned.  Didn’t they both have to sleep during the day?

She sat up a little; spoke quietly in the shadowy apartment.  “Oskar?  Eli?”

Eli’s head suddenly came into view in the bedroom doorway at floor level.  She was crawling.  She paused and looked into the bedroom, seemingly straight at Maria.  Her eyes were open, but Maria wasn’t sure whether Eli really saw her; there was no recognition, and her face was slack.

“Mama?”

She repeated her call; softly, not shouting.  Then she turned and began to crawl into the bedroom.  Maria realized as she came in that she was wearing no clothes.

“Eli?  What’s wrong, honey?”

Eli did not respond; she just kept moving.  She turned a little further and bumped into a box; paused, then navigated around it.  “Mama?”

Maria stood up.  She’s sleepwalking.  Or sleepcrawling—or . . .

She wasn’t sure what to do.  Weren’t they supposed to be stone-cold dead during the day?  She quickly glanced at the window and was relieved that there was virtually no daylight coming through; it must still be cloudy and dark outside, because she could hear the rain’s faint patter on the glass.

“Mama?”

She wondered whether she should wake Eli up.  At some point a long time ago, she had been told that you should not wake up people who were sleepwalking, but she didn’t know why.  Just that something bad might happen.  So . . .

Eli slowly crawled around the edges of the room.  She moved past a few more boxes and headed toward Maria’s makeshift bed.  Maria squatted down in front of her.

“Eli, it’s all right.  Come here.”

She looked up at the sound of Maria’s voice.  “Mama?” 

Slowly she continued to crawl toward her.  As she came near, Maria hesitantly attempted to embrace her.  “Eli, Eli . . . it’s okay.  Come here.”  Eli accepted Maria’s embrace.  And when they lay down together on the blanket, Maria saw. 

Saw that Eli had nothing between her legs.

Fear lept like lightning through her chest.  She had never seen anything like it.  She wanted to disengage herself from Eli; get as far away from her—him?—it?—as possible.  But she couldn’t, because now Eli was clinging to her like an infant.  So hesitantly, stiffly, she embraced the child. 

Eli laid her head against Maria’s chest.  When Maria looked down, she saw that Eli had put her thumb into her mouth and was sucking it gently.  She uttered one more muffled, somehow satisfied “mama,” and then closed her eyes and was silent.  The fingers of one hand found a patch of Maria’s cotton nightgown and pulled it close to her face, rubbing it between them.

Maria thought about how cool Eli seemed.  Carefully, without disturbing her, she pulled the blanket up over them, adjusted her pillow, and tried to relax.

Guess I’m just going to have to sleep a little longer.  She closed her eyes, stroked Eli’s hair, and thought about how strange all of this was.  This child . . . was she really a child?

Maria saw it as she was leaving a grocery store in Hageby Centrum, a big banner headline on the day’s copy of the ExpressenTOP COP SAYS VAMPIRE ON LOOSE.  And subtitled below that, right above a picture of Oskar and the detective: Stockholm Detective Believes Vampire Responsible for Multiple Murders.  She had almost dropped her bag of groceries.  Instead, she had bought a copy and rushed home to read it.

Maria sat in stunned silence in the darkened living room, unable to move.  The story, based on parts of a confidential report leaked yesterday evening to the Expressen, was unbelievable.  Or at least, would have seemed unbelievable to just about everyone in the whole world, except her.  Those murders at the pool last year in Blackeberg . . . now she understood why Oskar and Eli were together.  Eli had killed those three kids to save Oskar, and the two of them had then fled together.  Then Eli must’ve accidentally bitten him.

She trembled as she thought about the trail of bodies that, according to the article, and been left behind by the “bloodthirsty creature”: at least six people slaughtered, the most recent one barely more than two weeks ago.  Had Oskar helped kill that camper, too?  The description of how most of them had been killed made perfect sense to her, given what Oskar had done to Rafael.  Grabbed from behind and squeezed like a rat in the coils of a snake, then bitten.  It all fit.

Most disturbing to her was the tie-in to “The Ritual Killer.”  A man living with Eli who, at some point, had begun getting blood for her.  Going out and killing young boys to drain them of blood for food; it sounded like something straight out of a pulp fiction novel.  But here she was, sitting not eight meters away from them.  Eight meters from what was probably the greatest mass murderer in history, if this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Would she become the next ritual killer?  Persuaded, cajoled, pressured, threatened to go out and murder for them?

She got up off the couch, went to her purse on the kitchen counter, and retrieved the handgun; walked down the hall to the bathroom, entered, and quietly slid the shower door open.

Eli had fallen asleep in her arms after her sleepwalking.  Maria had carried her back into the bathroom, and gently laid her down in front of Oskar not two hours ago.  Now the two of them were once again together.

Two hundred years.  How many people had died, looking at those angelic features?  Must be thousands, she thought.  And now Oskar, too.  Eli’s apprentice.

Would it kill them?  If she used it?  Or did she need . . . a stake?

She thought about all the suffering Eli must have experienced; about all the suffering she had brought into the world.  Wouldn’t she be better off dead?  Wouldn’t the whole world be better off, if both of them were dead?

Yet the love between them was the most beautiful thing Maria had ever seen in her life.  And they wanted to get rid of their vampirism; were trying to find a way out, however childish and ill-conceived their plan seemed.  They didn’t want to be what they were.

She suddenly felt the weight of the world bearing down on her: an enormous, ponderous mass of humanity balanced upon her, as if one of those Egyptian pyramids had been flipped upside down and set on the top of her head.  She was in a unique position, at a pivotal moment.  No one else knew what she knew, and no one else was in a position to do anything about it.  She could stop all the bloodshed right now--just by pulling a trigger.

If you had any sense of decency, you’d do it.  Regardless of how beautiful they are.  They’re death, plain and simple.  She had seen the look in Oskar’s eyes, just before he had buried his teeth into Rafael’s neck:  they had not been human.  The eyes of a rabid dog.

She raised the pistol and aimed it at the center of Eli’s chest.  One bullet would probably pass completely through her and kill both of them.  A complete amateur, she jerkily thumbed the hammer back.  Now all she had to do was squeeze.

Mama . . . Mama.  A naked child, curled in her arms, sucking her thumb. 

Oskar looking up at her in earnest as he gave her some freshly plucked daisies.  These are for you.

. . .

Tears sprung from her eyes and spilled down her cheeks, making it hard for her to see.  The gun wobbled as her arm trembled.  Angrily she wiped her eyes with her free hand; and with this simple action, her will dissolved.

Fuck it.  Someone else is going to have to kill them.  I can’t--I won’t.  I’d rather kill myself first, than do that.  They’re innocent.  Somehow, they’re innocent.

She carefully lowered the hammer and backed out of the room; turned and walked like a marionette into the bedroom and collapsed, weeping, onto her blanket.

But she knew that however innocent they were, their need for blood was like a rising tide, slowly coming in to destroy their will to avoid doing evil, as surely as the ocean washed away a child’s sandcastle on a beach.  It was unavoidable, inevitable.  How often did they need to eat, anyway?  It had been almost a week since Rafael and Miguel had died . . .

She looked down at her own forearm, at the spot, the inside of the elbow, where the nurses always drew their blood samples.  Would they take hers, if she offered?  Would she get infected if they did?  She didn’t know how it worked, but if it could be done safely, she would do it. 

If it would help stave off the murder and bloodshed awhile, she’d do it.

A knock at Kurt’s door.  Standing on the stoop in the fading afternoon sunlight by the trellis full of honeysuckle was Lt. Lundgren.  His bronze-colored BMW gleamed in the driveway.

Kurt pulled open the door a crack and looked out.  “Martin?”

He was dressed in civilian clothes.  His face was full of worry; he looked like he’d aged quite a bit since Kurt had last seen him.

“Hi, boss.”

Kurt opened the door wide.  “Come in, come in.”

“Are you sure it’s okay?  I’m not interrupting dinner, am I?”

“No, no.  Flora’s not even here right now.  She’s gone to see Britta and Gabe.  He’s in the hospital.”

Martin raised his eyebrows in surprise as he stepped through the door.  “Oh?  He’s sick again?”

Kurt shut the door behind Martin, then went to the refrigerator.  “Yeah, I’m afraid so.  He hasn’t been eating.  Been crying a lot, too, and sorta sleepy.  So Brit and Jon took him to the hospital, and they admitted him for the night.  They just called, so Flora’s gone over to be with them.”

“You didn’t go?”

“No, I . . . I just don’t feel like going out right now.”

“Well, I can understand that.”

“Sit down.  You want a beer?”

“Sure; that’d be great.”

They sat on opposite sides of Kurt’s kitchen table and sipped their beers.

“This is the first time you’ve been put on adminstrative leave, isn’t it, Martin?”

“Yep.  I couldn’t believe it.”

“You talk to the Internal Affairs guy?  Koch?”

“Yeah.  He called me about an hour after I got the call from Norby.  You?”

“Uh huh.”

“What did you tell him?”

“What’d I tell him?  I told him what I knew: nothing.”

Martin grunted.  “That’s what I told him, too.  But I don’t think he believed me.”

“Guys like Koch aren’t paid to believe what they’re told, Martin.  You know that.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.  I’m just not used to being questioned like that, I guess.  I mean, challenged on every little thing.  As if I’m some kind of criminal.”

“Don’t worry about it.  They know you and I would have to be total idiots to leak that report.”

“I overheard some guys in the rank and file talking after roll call.  They think you had something to do with it.”

“Mmm—doesn’t surprise me.  I knew when I signed that report that I’d become a pariah.”

“Is anyone in your corner?”

“Oh . . . yeah, a few.  Hallberg actually called, if you can believe it.  Said they had no right to put me on leave like this.  I told him not to worry, that I’ll be back after the seven days.  And, let’s see . . . Petersson called.  Of course, I’ve known him for years, so . . . .”

“But none of the new guys.”

“Nope.”

“Someone wants your job, Kurt.  You know that’s what this is about.”

Kurt nodded slowly.  “Yup, I think so.”  He shrugged.  “And maybe they’ll get it.”

Martin shook his head.  “No.  No, they won’t.  You’ve solved too many murders over the years, Kurt.  Everyone knows you’re the best.”

“Uh huh.  Until now, that is.”

Martin took a long pull on his bottle, then folded his napkin in two and sopped up the water ring before it ruined the table’s finish.  “Did we really need to put that in the report, Kurt?  The Canadians announced that the Stockholm P.D. is incompetent.”

“Let me tell you, Martin.  That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole career.  That one sentence.  And I knew when I wrote it what the ramifications would be.  But you know what?  The facts are what they are--they dictate the result.  You and I both know that you can’t solve a murder by ignoring or distorting the facts.  When they point to the improbable explanation, you gotta follow them there—wherever they might lead you.  You know that old saw: ‘When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’  It may be Sherlock Holmes, but there’s truth in that statement.”

Martin nodded.  “Yes, of course you’re right.  But still . . . we could have just listed the facts and let them draw their own conclusions.”

“Martin.  You and I both know that no human being can pull a head off or twist it like that.  It’s unheard of in the annals of medical science, and in criminology as well.  And that thing with Lind burning up.  Now these are facts, and there is no natural explanation for them.  And if that’s true, then that leaves only the supernatural.  Now, I’m not the kind of fellow to believe in ghosts, or anything like that.  But when these things are laid before my eyes like this, then . . . .”  He lifted his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose; wished mightily that his lower back pain would go away.  Christ, he felt tired.

“It’s too bad those folks in Blackeberg hadn’t been more forthcoming.”

“Yeah.  I don’t know what they were thinking, not to report that.  Especially after they found that blood.  Stupid.”

Kurt looked directly at Martin.  “Do you believe it, Martin?”

Martin sat back in his chair and sighed.  “I don’t know.  I agree with you that as crazy as it sounds, it seems like the only rational explanation.  And I’m not the kind of guy who believes in this sort of thing, either.  You know—nothing weird has ever happened to me.  But you know what?  More people than you might think do believe in ghosts and the supernatural.  In fact, my own mother is convinced that she saw her sister’s ghost on the day she died in a plane crash.  This was . . . more than twenty years ago; I was eleven at the time, I guess.  Aunt Ella was flying from London to Stockholm to spend Easter with us, and her plane crashed en route.  And my mom swears that she saw Ella come into the kitchen at the exact moment of the crash, as we learned later.  She said that Ella told her not to worry—that she didn’t suffer.  So while I’ve never seen a ghost, I tend to keep an open mind, I guess you could say.”

Kurt nodded.  “That’s quite a story.  Anyone else see her?”

“Nope—just mom.  She said it was the scariest thing that’d ever happened to her.  But yet, it proved to be a source of comfort, too.  Just knowing that her sister was at peace.”

There was a lull in their conversation as both of them polished off their beers.  Then Martin belched and said, “So, what are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean, Kurt.  About catching this girl, or thing.  Or whatever it is.”

“What more can I do, Martin?  We need something new.  A break in the evidence, maybe an eyewitness who will come forward and say that they’ve seen her recently.  Or maybe we could set a trap for her.”

“A trap?  What do you mean?”

“Well, if we’re right, then she feeds at night, on solitary people.  So we get a volunteer to be the bait, and we do a stakeout.”

“Hmm.  Do you think we’d have trouble finding a volunteer?”

Kurt pondered the question for a moment.  “No, I don’t think so.  In fact, I think we’d have quite a show of hands right here in our own department.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, if we’re right, then whoever volunteered and helped capture or kill her would be a hero.  And if we’re wrong, then it would be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my incompetence.  You know---help bring down the old man who’s past his prime.”

“Could get killed, too.”

“Yup.  I’d say that’s a real risk in this case.  Killed real quick.”

“Do you think she really can fly, boss?”

Kurt chuckled.  “Well, if we believe she’s a vampire, why not go whole hog?  It would explain how she got up to ‘The Ritual Killer’ and took care of him.”

“Do you think she killed that woman over in Sudbyberg last week?”

Kurt was quiet for awhile.   “It’s possible.”

“I don’t know if a stakeout would work, Kurt.  She seems pretty far-ranging.”

“Well, optimally we’d have several running simultaneously at different parts of the city.”

“We’d need to persuade the Chief to do that.  Which is damn unlikely at this point.”

“I agree.  And of course, you or I can’t do anything.”

Martin offered a small grin.  “Officially.”

Kurt smiled back.  “Yeah—officially.”

10 August 1983 – 8:55 p.m.

I’m awakeI’m . . . where am I?  Oh, yes—Norrköping.  Our new apartmentAnd Oskar . . . isn’t here.  He must already be awake.

Why do I feel so tired?

Eli climbed out of the tub and turned on the bathroom light.  A fluorescent bulb behind a plastic lens above the vanity mirror flickered to life.  She looked at herself.

Pale; so pale.  She leaned over the sink, tilted her head slightly and combed her fingers through her hair; found the streaks of grayish-white that were emerging from the roots at the top of her head.  She sniffed herself.  Don’t smell so good.  Shower tonight . . . for Oskar.  She smiled, but only a little.

It was starting again.  How many times over her life had she stood the same spot, looked at her hair in the same way, and saw the same thing?  Saw the same thing, and felt the same thing in the pit of her stomach.  The feeling that would grow and grow, that would make her shrivel up and turn white.  It got big, and made her little; kept making her little until she went out and . . . took care of it.  And then it would let her live a little longer.  And Oskar?  He probably felt the same way.  So tonight, they would hunt—had to.

She came into the living room and found Maria and Oskar studying a map laid out on the floor.  Both of them looked up, pleased to see her.  Oskar seemed his usual, happy self, and Maria?  Maria gave her a warm smile that caught Eli a little off guard.  She had become used to seeing fear and anxiety in her eyes; now the fear had gone, but the worry remained.  What had changed?

Oskar motioned to her excitedly.  “Eli, come look at this!  Maria bought us a map of Östergötland, and some books from the library, too.  Maybe we can start looking tonight!”

Eli came over and sat down between them.  The map was spread out on the floor, and she could see that the two of them had been circling some places on it with a red pen.

“What are those?”

“Castles.  We’re marking them on the map so we can figure out where to go.”

Maria spoke up.  “Hold on, Oskar.  I know you’re eager to start all of this, but something important happened today that both of you need to know.”  She reached behind herself and put a plastic shopping bag into her lap; pulled out some plastic bottles, and placed them down on the map.

Eli frowned.  “What’re those?”

“Hair dye.  Eli, you’re going to be a blond like me before we do anything tonight.  And Oskar, you’re going to have brown hair when we’re done.”

Oskar looked at her, confused.  “What?  Why?”

Maria pulled a folded newspaper down off the chair.  “I wasn’t sure whether to let you two see this, but I figured it’s better for you to know what’s going on.  Now that you’re both out of the bathroom, I’m going to go get cleaned up.  Read it, and then let’s talk.”

She was in the bathroom brushing her teeth when she heard their voices come muffled through the door.  Oskar’s was high-pitched and clearly upset; Eli’s was lower, but rapid and full of emotion.

“. . . my God, Eli, they know everything . . . .”

. . .

“That guy under the ice, and your dad—well, I mean, he wasn’t really, but—”

“Oskar, don’t worry, we can still . . .”

. . .

. . . “How did they, how could they find out so much?  Now we’ll never be able to . . .”

“. . . can go away.  Far away, and they’ll never . . .”

“But I don’t want to go to . . .”

“. . . I don’t know.  But maybe . . .”

Maria stood with her ear to the door and heard Oskar begin to cry.  Then she heard Eli, too.

Enough.  I have to talk to them.  She opened the door and returned to the living room in her bathrobe.

They were huddled together in the middle of the floor, hugging each other and crying.  The newspaper article lay open next to them, showing Oskar’s picture and the police officer’s face.  Maria glanced at it and felt a hot surge of loathing at the article and the people who had written it.  The bastards.  They’re just children!

She crouched down next to them and pulled both of them to her.  “Shhh, shhh, you two!  Settle down . . . settle down.  Everything’s going to be all right.”

She hugged them and kissed the tops of their heads, and as she continued to murmur her reassurances both of them loosened their embrace on each other and extended their arms around her as well.  Slowly but surely, their crying tapered off; first Eli’s, then Oskar’s.  Finally they broke their embrace, sniffling and wiping their noses.  Maria’s eyes were wet with tears, too.  She offered Oskar a fuzzy sleeve and he wiped his nose on it gratefully.  “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Oskar.  My bathrobe is your bathrobe.”

“Now listen, you two.  We need to talk--right now.  About all of this.”  She gestured at the Expressen.

“I’ve been listening to the radio all day today since I saw the paper this morning.  The policeman who headed up the investigation has been taken off the case and placed on administrative leave.  That means he’s been temporarily fired.”

Oskar’s eyes widened.  “What?  Why would they do that?”  He looked knowingly at the newspaper.  I mean, he’s right.”  He shot a glance at Eli, who nodded a little and gave Maria a puzzled look.

“Well, I think they suspect he might have leaked a copy of his report to the newspaper.  But there’s more to it than that.  The head of the Swedish Police Service held a press conference earlier this afternoon.  He said that this report was not yet final, and the conclusions expressed in it did not represent the official views of the police on these murders--especially the part about a vampire being at large.  They’re going to get someone else to finish the investigation.  So it looks as though they’re backing away from their own report, and they might very well fire this detective for good.”

Oskar gave Eli a confused look.  “I don’t understand.”

Eli spoke.  “It’s simple, Oskar.  They don’t want to believe we exist.  It’s too hard for them to believe something like that.”

“You’re right, Eli,” Maria replied.  “But here’s the thing: regardless of what the government tries to do to wiggle out of their report, it’s had an effect on the people.  There’s been nothing else in the news today except this story.  People are scared, and they’re going to stay scared for awhile, until things die down.  But if you two keep going back out like you have been, things aren’t going to die down.”

“We can’t help it, Maria,” Eli said.  “We can’t go much longer without blood.  Fresh blood.  It’s . . . unavoidable.”

“I know you can’t.  Which leads me to another thing I have to tell you.”  She got up, brought her purse over, and sat down again.  Then she looked both of them in the eye, and prepared to do the hardest thing she’d ever done in her life.

“I’m going to be completely honest with you about what’s been going on with me over the last few days, especially since I read this story today.  Because just as I expect you to be truthful with me, you deserve to know the truth, too.”

She pulled the nickel-plated .38 out of her purse, flipped open the cylinder, and ejected the cartridges out onto the map of Norrköping.  They spilled into a little pile beside the hair dye, clinking metallically together before rolling a little ways in different directions.  Then she handed the gun to Eli, who stared at her with huge, still eyes.

“I almost used this on you last night.  After I read this.”

Oskar abruptly scooted backwards from her in horror until he bumped against the couch, where he froze, stiff-limbed.  Eli didn’t move, but her lips became a thin, hard line, and her eyes seemed to grow even darker.  Her body trembled almost imperceptibly and became very tense.  Maria could tell that she was very close to pouncing on her, and the fear rose in her throat, palpable and alive.

“But I didn’t; I can’t.  I won’t--it isn’t right.  So that’s why I’m giving you the gun for now.  Maybe sometime you can decide whether it’s a good idea for me to have it.  But for now, I want you two to know that I’m never going to hurt either of you.”

Oskar visibly relaxed.  Eli extended a hand and scooped up the rounds, then put them and the gun in a pile between herself and Oskar.  Then she looked at Maria and said stonily,  “Go on.  We’re listening.”

“Eli . . . Oskar . . . you can’t go on killing people like this.  They’re going to catch up to you, sooner or later.  In fact, I think they’re much farther along in doing that than either of you realized.”

Eli spoke.  “They’ll never catch us.  We’ll move, go far away.  It’ll work; it always has.”

“Maybe you’re right, Eli.  But I think this news article changes things.  Because the Expressen is a national paper--just about everyone in Sweden can buy it.  Now, I haven’t been alive a long time—I’m only 21--but I’ve never read something like this, or read about it in the history books before I dropped out of school.  So you tell me: has this ever happened about you before, Eli?  This kind of exposure?”

Eli hesitated; she did not want to answer.  “No, but--”

“Do you have any idea how smart this guy is, this detective?  You read the article, didn’t you?  About how many crimes he’s solved?  He’s the best they have—and if he really wrote that report, he must have guts, too.  You two don’t have any idea what you’re up against.  It’s time to try something else.”

Eli could no longer contain herself.  She laughed harshly, then began to speak in a raised voice that was nearly a shout.  “I’ve listened to enough of this!  There IS nothing different, don’t you understand?  I’ve been alive ten times longer than you, and I’ll still be living after you've turned to dust!  I knew it was a mistake to come here with you, that you’d, you’d try to talk us into doing something stupid like this!  Like turning ourselves in! 

“And this!”  She seized the gun with both hands and twisted it violently.  The cylinder, which had remained out of the frame, broke off, and she flung both parts into the kitchen.  “How dare you point a gun at us while we’re sleeping and defenseless!”  She stood up and looked to Oskar for support, but he only gawked at her.  Then she looked back at Maria.  “I should kill you right now, is what I should do!  I knew all along that you couldn’t be trusted!”

Oskar piped up, his voice thin and reedy.  “But Eli, she just gave you the gun!  She said—”

Maria cut him off; she felt strangely calm, not afraid.  “It’s all right, Oskar.”  She looked directly at Eli.  “Go ahead, then.  Kill me, if you think that’s the right thing to do.  I know you don’t want to be back here in Norrköping.  You showed me that while you were sleeping last night.”

Eli stopped ranting and looked at her suspiciously.  Oskar looked at Eli, confused.  Then both of them spoke simultaneously.  “What do you mean?”

Maria turned to Oskar.  “Oskar, can I talk privately with Eli for a few minutes?  Do you mind?”

There was a pause.  “I . . . no.  Of course not.”  Eli began to speak, to tell Oskar not to go, but then closed her mouth.  Oskar stood up, gave Eli one more puzzled look, and then said, “I’ll . . . I’ll be in the bedroom, when you’re ready.”

Maria looked up at him from her position on the floor.  “And Oskar . . . try not to listen too hard.  I know you have super hearing.”

Oskar blushed and managed a small smile.  “Okay, I guess.”

After the door to the bedroom closed, Maria got up from the floor and went to the couch.  “Eli, please sit down with me.”

Still visibly angry, Eli sat beside Maria, staring at the wall.

“Eli, I’m sorry about the gun.  But it’s hard to read about so many people dying like that and not get upset when you’re living in the same apartment with the ones who are responsible.”

“Then go away.  We won’t miss you.”

“Eli, if I wanted to abandon you, I would’ve done it before you woke up.  Don’t you understand that I want to help you?”

“What you have in mind is no help, as far as I’m concerned.  We’ll end up getting killed.”

“I never said I thought you should turn yourselves in.”

Eli turned to look at her; she suddenly wanted to see Maria’s face.  “You said we need to stop killing.  So what are you talking about?”

“Wouldn’t you like to stop killing, if you could?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I knew you felt that way—that’s why I can’t hurt either of you.  Because I know you don’t want to be how you are.  I know you’re trapped in a horrible situation.”

“You’ll never understand what it’s like.  Never.”

“Maybe not, Eli.  But you aren’t the only person in the world who’s suffered.  And you told me yourself that you need help—I think you said that I couldn’t begin to understand how much help you need.”

“Yes, I did.  But—”

“Then why are you rejecting me when I’m trying to help you and Oskar?”

“Because I don’t understand how you want to help.”

Maria thrust her arm out in front of Eli’s face and pulled the bathrobe sleeve up until it was bunched around her bicep, exposing the crook of her elbow.  “Take it.  Both of you.”

Eli drew back a little and scrutinized Maria more carefully.  As she did so Maria saw her nostrils flare and the tip of her tongue peek out to touch the inside of her upper lip.

“You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Yes I do.  I want to feed you two tonight.  Because I know you’re hungry, and it’s much too dangerous for you to go out.  Not after what I heard on the radio today.”

“It’s dangerous.  You’ll be weak.  You could easily get infected, unless it’s done right.  And we don’t have what’s necessary for—”

“I bought some stuff from the Pharmacy today when I got the hair dye.  I wasn’t sure what to get, but I hope it’ll work.  And I got lots of fresh food for myself at the grocery.”

Eli looked at her a long time.  “You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

Maria nodded.

“You don’t have enough.  You won’t be able to keep up.”

“At least let me try.”  She looked longingly at Eli. “Please.  I don’t want you two to get killed, Eli.  Really, I don’t.  I care about you too much.”

“What did you mean about me saying something in my sleep?”

“Eli, if I tell you what happened, do you promise not to get upset?”

Eli looked at her suspiciously.  “Why would I promise that when I don’t even know what you’re going to say?  No, I won’t.”

“Okay.  Well, I’ll tell you anyway.  You were crawling around the apartment last night, calling for your mother.”

Eli’s eyes flashed.  “That’s a lie!  When we’re asleep, we’re asleep!  That’s impossible!”

“Eli, why would I tell you that I pointed a gun at you, but lie about that?”

Eli’s eyes welled up with tears.  “You’re lying!  I know it!  You—”

Maria reached out and gently put her hand on Eli’s forearm.  “It’s true, Eli.  Tell me what happened here.  Why are you so afraid?”

Eli violently shook off Maria’s hand.  “Don’t touch me!  I don’t want to talk about it!  I can’t go through that again!  I can’t—”  But she did not finish her sentence because her tears took command, cutting off her ability to speak.  She began to cry in earnest; and sobbing, she lowered her face into her hands.

Oskar’s gentle voice came softly from the bedroom.  “Eli?  Are you okay?  Maria?”  He peeked around the corner and looked at the two of them.  Maria motioned him to come in, and he quickly came and sat down next to Eli.  He put his arms around her and he comforted her as she cried on his shoulder.  He glanced at Maria several times, trying to understand what was wrong.  “Eli . . . Eli, what is it?  Why are you crying?”

After a long time, Eli finally spoke through her tears, her voice high and full of tension.  “Because I’m afraid!  I’m really, really afraid, Oskar.  I’m sorry!  So sorry.  I’ve tried to be strong, to be brave for you, but I’ve been having dreams--bad dreams.  About Him.  About what happened.  And I know what you want, and it’s what I want, too, but . . . it’s hard.  Just to be back here.  So hard.”

Oskar looked into her eyes.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  I would’ve understood.”

Eli sniffed and looked forlornly down at her lap.  “Because then you would’ve said we shouldn’t come here.  And I didn’t want you to feel that way, because I know how important it . . . because I’m responsible.  For what happened to you.  And I didn’t want you to think that I’m not behind you on this.”

“Oh, Eli.  I know how much you love me.  Don’t you know that?  And I love you, too.  Nothing you can say or do is ever going to change that.”

Slowly she looked up at him.  “I know you love me, Oskar.  I just didn’t want to disappoint you.”

He took her hands into his and squeezed them gently.  “We can go somewhere else, if you want.  Gothenburg, Malmö—wherever you want.  I don’t care . . . as long as we’re together.”

“No, Oskar.  We’re here.  And we’re going to go through with this.  No matter what.”

Oskar looked at Maria.  “So are you guys going to tell me what’s going on?”

Maria glanced at Eli, who looked back at her and nodded slightly.

“Oskar, I think Eli’s been having bad dreams.  And last night, while you were asleep, she crawled out of the tub and came into the bedroom.  I think she was sleepwalking—she wasn’t really awake.  And she—” Maria again looked into Eli’s eyes—“she wanted her mom.”

Oskar was quiet for a second or two; he swallowed and looked at Eli.  “Oh.  Well . . . I know how much Eli misses her mom.  I miss mine, too.”  He looked at Maria.  “So what happened?  What’d you do?”

Maria smiled, reached over and touched Eli’s knee.  “I did what any good mother would do: I took her into my arms and rocked her back to sleep.”

She sat on the couch, trying hard to conceal a grimace as her blood flowed freely in a heavy, dark rivulet from a big vein in her cold, captive arm. 

She heard them breathing rapidly from their hungry mouths; felt their tongues lapping greedily at the flow a few centimeters below the cut. 

She looked at their upturned faces, and was glad that their eyes were closed.  Closed, so that she would not have to see the evil in them.

Later, as the sun began to rise, she lay on the bed with both of them curled up next to her; one on each side.  She caressed their small, narrow shoulders.  She relished the feel of their heads gently rising and falling with each breath that she took, and their small hands, clasped together across her chest, just below her breasts.  She knew that they drew comfort from the sound of her breathing and her heart beating in her chest.  For the first time in her life, Maria felt fulfilled.

My children.  How I love you.

More next week

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