“Would you like a dance?” asked Vampira.
She was tall, about six feet, and of a pale complexion. A natural blonde, she dyed her hair jet black. Tonight, a Monday, she was wearing a long black dress which was slit up to her waist. The man she addressed stared vacantly at the runway and did not reply.
“Do you like her?” asked Vampira, nodding to the short, curvy blonde hanging upside-down from the pole in the center of the stage.
“She’s so cute,” she added.
The man, who had been drinking heavily all night, did not look up. Vampira walked around the bar asking each of the half dozen patrons for a dance, received none, and returned to sit with her friend, a short, ruddy-faced man in a rumpled suit who sat eating a pizza in a corner booth.
“Another?” asked the waitress.
He nodded and she brought him two more wine glasses of soda-pop and some napkins.
Detective Shapiro sat across the room watching Vampira out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if he should pay for a dance, but decided to wait until he had backup. Five men had disappeared over the summer and their wives were demanding an investigation. None had been helpful, having no clear idea where their husbands had been on the night of their disappearance.
However, on questioning their male friends, it seemed that at least three of the missing men were patrons of Club Nosferatu. Since no bodies had been recovered, the case was not yet considered a homicide. But Shapiro, a homicide detective, had been assigned to it nonetheless.
All of the missing men were alcoholics and Shapiro suspected that they had probably just been rolled on their way home from a drinking bout. Shapiro had suggested that they increase patrols in the area, paying particular attention to the Crypt Killers, a teenage gang that was known mostly for lifting car stereos but who might have graduated to armed robbery.
His chief had insisted that they investigate Club Nosferatu.
Shapiro was bored and, tired of looking at the girls, he wanted to get home to his wife. The suspect, Vampira, had only danced for three customers in the last hour and all seemed to be alive and healthy.
The police chief was a bible-thumping Baptist and Shapiro believed that the investigation had more to do with his boss’s dislike of topless bars than any connection they had with the disappearances. In particular, he felt that Vampira had been targeted because of the story in last month’s Police Gazette about the vampire cult in Tavares, Florida that had bludgeoned one of their parents. The chief had prattled on about it at the station, though Shapiro failed to see the connection between a bunch of nerdy teenagers in Florida wearing fake vampire teeth and the disappearances in his precinct.
It was now one in the morning and the bar was closing down. Shapiro started to head for the door when he noticed the bouncer moving toward the drunkard who was still slumped in his chair.
“This one has fallen asleep,” said the bouncer to no one in particular, “I’ll just move him outside.”
The bouncer cradled the sleeping man in his arms and was just setting him beside the dumpster when Shapiro called out to him.
“What’s wrong with that man?”
“He’s asleep,” reiterated the bouncer.
The bouncer was a big man who was made bigger by his body armor, which was poorly concealed by his tuxedo shirt. Shapiro wondered why he wore armor to work at such a quiet bar, which had never even reported a fist fight.
Shapiro had been shocked to find the drunkard dead and even more shocked to find him completely drained of blood. Where did it go? Shapiro had been at enough crime scenes to know that the five quarts of blood in a human body can make an awfully big mess. It doesn’t just disappear.
They had interrogated Vampira until noon the next day and she stuck with her story, insisting that she had not even danced for the drunk, a fact that Shapiro confirmed. She showed no sign of illness and Shapiro could not believe that the girl, who only weighed 135 pounds in spite of her height, could have drunk five quarts of blood. Anyway, Shapiro had been watching her closely and hadn’t seen her make any move toward the drunk’s throat.
Two holes, about 1¼” apart, pierced the drunk’s jugular and were apparently the cause of his blood loss. Since he had not a drop of blood left in him, the pathologist could not test him for alcohol consumption, but Shapiro confirmed that his breath had smelled of liquor. Now, lying on the coroner’s table, it smelled only of decay.
The bouncer had also held up well under interrogation, insisting that he had thought the drunk asleep and was as surprised as Shapiro to find him dead. Shapiro had to admit that the bouncer, who was suspected of the murder because of an old possession-of-a-deadly-weapon conviction, had spent most of the evening sitting at the bar and had not approached the drunk.
They had also unsuccessfully questioned all of the customers, except for Vampira’s friend, who had apparently slipped out of the bar during the confusion of finding the body. However, as he had spent the entire evening sitting in a corner booth eating pizza and talking to Vampira, he was not a suspect.
Club Nosferatu reopened a week later and did a booming business, as the story had received considerable press in the local papers. Both Vampira and the bouncer, who had been released for lack of evidence, were back at work. Shapiro watched as she moved around the room getting one dance after another.
Vampira’s friend sat in a corner booth eating pizza and watching her work. Some of the girls would come and sit with him, but all were busy. Several had dressed in black, though the bar had ruled that none could dye their hair black, as it didn’t want the dancers to look too much alike. Anyway, they reasoned, the vampire craze would be forgotten in a few days and they didn’t want a bunch of girls with black hair.
The vampire craze was not forgotten and Vampira was eventually forced to dye her hair blond again, though she refused to change her stage name. Detective Shapiro quit going there regularly because nothing ever happened and, with no leads, the case of the dead alcoholic was dormant.
The police chief, however, made it a personal crusade to investigate Club Nosferatu, as he was convinced that the sinful dancers must be murderesses as well. However, in spite of his nightly surveillance, he was never able to find any clues.
On one occasion the chief reached into the front of Vampira’s costume and had to be pulled away by the bouncer.
“Just checking for weapons,” he explained, though it wasn’t clear how he thought she might conceal a weapon in her bikini bottoms.
The bouncer wished to ban the chief after that incident but, for fear of losing their liquor license, he was allowed to stay. None of the girls would dance for him, however, and the waitress would not serve him, making him fetch his own whiskey from the bar.
This did not deter him, though, and he continued to sit stiffly at a table with his bible on his lap and glare at the girls.
As her friend was ill and could not see her very often, Vampira became despondent. When he did come in, it particularly saddened her to see how much weight he had lost. Pale and sallow, his skin hung loosely over his bony frame.
“That man hates me,” said Vampira, nodding toward the police chief, who sat leering at her from across the room, “Can’t you – you know – do something about him?”
Her friend sipped on his soda-pop and looked across the room at the chief, who sat bolt-upright in his chair, a grimace frozen on his face.
“No,” he said, putting down his soda-pop, “He’s too attentive. People might notice if...”
After a pause he added, “...but I think I know someone who can help.”
“Oh, thank you sweetie,” said Vampira, giving him a kiss, “You’re such a baby doll.”
As the police chief was driving home from Club Nosferatu, he kept a sharp eye on the sidewalk – looking for suspects. Soon he saw what he wanted. A tall woman in a black dress slit up to her waist stood on a corner hitchhiking.
“Wow!” thought the chief, “This one looks just like that dancer Vampira, though with her hair black the way I first saw it.”
When she got in, he saw that she even had the same pale skin and long, black eyelashes. Without asking, he removed his sidearm and pulled his trousers down.
“Fifty dollars...” he began to offer, but the words stuck in his throat when he saw the unusually sturdy, curved, black nails the woman wore on her fingertips.
He looked up to find her smiling brightly at him, her long, sharp incisors gleaming behind her full, red lips.
“I’ve been sent for you,” she said sweetly, “by a friend of a friend.”
“Umm...” said the police chief, clutching his bible tightly to his chest with one hand, the other one still in his pants holding his penis.
Detective Shapiro walked up to Vampira where she sat in a corner booth eating pizza with her friend.
“They just found the police chief cut to ribbons in the back seat of his car. He’s only been dead about an hour. Know anything about it?” he demanded.
“Why would I know anything about that?” replied Vampira indignantly.
“I’ve been sitting right here,” she motioned to the bench, “for the last two hours.”
“She has indeed,” assented the slightly disheveled man who sat beside her, “Care for a slice of pizza, Detective?”
Shapiro looked at him for the first time, remembering that he had never bothered to question him about last summer’s death.
“Probably an alcoholic,” he surmised, judging by the fat man’s reddish face and even redder nose.
“Not fat,” Shapiro mentally corrected himself, with an eye toward political correctness, “well fed.”
If the detective had been thinking about it, he might have noticed that the man was even redder now than he had been a hour ago. Shapiro was not thinking about it, however, and mentally dismissed the nondescript man. He turned to Vampira who had indeed been sitting there for two hours and was thus not a suspect.
“Well, have a nice life,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said sweetly, “I will now.”
On his way out, Shapiro did not even glance at the drunk who had rested his head on the bar top to catch a few Z’s.
Shapiro sat at his desk and tossed Vampira’s file on the pile of documents to be put on microfiche. With a dead and mutilated police chief to be investigated, he had no time to think about some dancer.
He would begin by rounding up every known member of the Crypt Killers to see if any of them wanted to confess. Due to the brutality of the crime, he really doubted that a bunch of stereo thieves could be responsible, but that seemed to be as good a place as any to start the investigation.
Secretly, he was relieved that the chief was gone. He had never liked the old bible-thumper. Of course, he wished it had been done a little tidier. He wouldn’t have wished that bloody death on even his worst enemy.
“How do you do it?” asked the bouncer as he carried the dried-out body of the drunk to the dumpster.
The bouncer eyed the short, disheveled man who appeared more bloated than fat.
“I mean, you’re not in very good shape,” he observed, “I can’t believe you move so fast that you can drain their blood and return to your seat without being noticed. All you do is sit in the corner and drink soda-pop.”
“I’ve not a corporeal body,” the man replied, suddenly reaching through the bouncer’s chest, plucking a glass of soda-pop from the bar top and drawing it back through the bouncer.
“Umm...” said the bouncer, looking first at the front of his shirt and then at the rumpled man who was quietly sipping his soda-pop.
“I wonder if I should tell American Body Armor about this?” he stammered.
“That their Kevlar vests are proof against bullets but quite transparent to wine glasses?” asked the man, cocking his head to one side.
Vampira giggled and put her arm around the ruddy-faced man, who was considerably shorter than her. He seemed solid enough when she did that.
“I don’t think they’d believe it,” she said.
“Probably not,” agreed the bouncer as he fetched the keys to lock up.
Vampira walked out to her little red Miata, wondering if she would have time to dye her hair black again before taking her son to school. This afternoon was parent-teacher conferences and her son had not been doing well recently.
The bouncer shuffled off down the sidewalk to the small apartment where he lived alone. He hated walking in the rain and wished that he owned a car.
“Oh well, a mile and a half isn’t far to walk to work,” he consoled himself as he listened to his big flat feet slap against the wet concrete.
The short, ruddy-faced man in the disheveled suit simply faded into the fog.