Tom McNair. At first he was nothing but a means to an end. An opportunity. A werewolf had killed Hal, and I'd always hate Tom's species for that. Rumours had it that he'd been born a werewolf. I didn't think that was possible. But he'd been raised by one McNair, a man who was now dead but had been feared throughout our community. Civil servant turned commando. And that was our doing, for putting him in a cage with a dog. McNair survived, which made him special, cause not many do.
When the call came through I told Matthew I'd take this one myself. If he was surprised he didn't show it. Tom McNair was in custody for beating up an innocent man. Except his victim wasn't a man, but one of us. So much became clear once I'd seen the CCTV footage. Perfect. I put on a tie and walked the short distance to the police station.
'I'm a friend when you need one.' The lie came easily. And he took the bait. That night I dreamed about him. His large puppy dog eyes seemed to follow me around. He didn't know it yet, but I had plans for him.
I parked the car on a side street from where I could watch the house unnoticed. The house was a rental, in the name of George Sands and Nina Pickering. But those two and their baby were dead. So who was living there now, apart from Tom McNair?
My patience was rewarded. After what felt like ages Tom McNair came out, picking something from a flower basket. I held my breath for a second, while I watched how he stuck the wooden stake in his coat pocket. I'd seen him in action at Stoker's. Together with George Sands, father of the War Child, and a ghost. They'd decimated our lot.
I started following him, careful not to come too close. He was heading for a café, but instead of taking the front door he walked round the back of the building and opened a kitchen door. He took off his coat and put on a striped orange and white apron. He's got a job, I thought. At that moment my phone rang. I answered the call and walked back to my car because I was needed elsewhere.
His dad, or foster dad, must have taught him. I asked Regus about McNair, and he told me all he knew about him. Dead now, to the relief of the British vampire community.
'Do your records say anything about a son?' I asked him.
'Let's see. Do you have a name for him?'
'Tom McNair.' I said, surprised at how familiar the name sounded already.
'No. He had a wife, before he was turned. He survived a cage fight, would you believe that? Got himself scratched, though. Let's see – wife's dead, no mention of any kids. Are you absolutely sure?'
'Have you got a picture?'
He did. Two, to be precise. One of a rather timid civil servant, the other of a man with close cropped hair, nasty scars and outdoor clothes. Tom didn't resemble him. Only the hair and his choice of clothes were the same.
'And?' Regus asked.
'Nothing.' I said, and thanked him. He looked quite surprised. 'See you, Regus.' I said, and left.
There were no records of a Tom McNair, except for a couple of namesakes who had clearly nothing to do with him. No birth certificate, no council registration, nothing. Regus had told me McNair had led the life of a recluse in the woods. Maybe he'd found the boy. Or had kidnapped him. But that didn't explain the fact that the boy was a dog.
I was intrigued. I searched for the day he'd given as his birthday, but there was no one born that day with his name. So I decided to get some more help from Regus, and called him. 'Do you have any records on possible victims of this McNair?' I asked.
'I do, actually.' Regus said proudly. He sounded delighted. 'It's not scientific of course, but I think it's pretty accurate. Griffin didn't like it, though. Anyway, McNair was killed. Why do you want to know?'
'I'm trying to find out where he got his so called son from.' I said, truthfully.
'I see. I could help you with that. What's his age?'
I was surprised at how cooperative he was. 'Twenty one.' I answered. The day of the arrest had been his birthday. Or the day Tom thought was his birthday.
It didn't take Regus long. I was just having a bath when he called back. I wished he'd just sent me a text. But he probably didn't know how to. So I answered, careful not to drop my new i-phone in the water.
'I've found him. His birthday's correct. He lived in Cornwall. His parents were murdered, and so was he. At least, that's what everyone thought. They found some blood and tissue, but his body has never been found. It's a rural area. The police presumed wild animals had – well, you know – disposed of the body. It must have been him. I think he took the boy, and raised him as his own son.'
I sighed, holding back a sarcastic comment. 'He must have. But how come the kid's a dog too?' I asked.
'I told you, they found blood – what if he was scratched?'
Of course. 'You're a genius, Regus.' I said, satisfied I had solved that puzzle. 'I'd appreciate it if this stays between the two of us.' I didn't want him to tell Fergus what I was up to.
'No problem.' He said cheerfully.
Did Tom know? He'd been raised by the man, but did he know McNair wasn't his real dad, but the killer of his birth parents instead? I wanted to find out, but decided that could wait until later. I turned on the hot water tap and refilled the bath with steaming hot water.
I could be very patient. I'd planted the seed of doubt in Tom McNair's head, and now all I had to do was wait.
Tom sent me a thank you note. On a piece of ugly stationery illustrated with tropical flowers and an 'HH' emblem in the upper right corner, in the handwriting of a child who's just learned the basics of writing. The note said: 'Thank you for helping me out the other day. Tom McNair.' Whoever had raised him had taught him manners. A wild boy with a streak of decency. I wondered what McNair Senior had been like.
I'd just received the news that Fergus was dead and I was glad. We'd never liked each other, and his recent behaviour had been unforgivable. As if the fact that he was older than me and keen on settling all his issues with his fists and fangs made him Griffin's rightful heir.
But he and his makeshift army had simply disappeared, and now their deaths had been confirmed. He'd last been seen at the house where Tom McNair lived. Who else was living there? I couldn't imagine Tom killing Fergus and his merry group all by himself.
I remembered Griffin's words. 'A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share a house.' But John Mitchell and George Sands were both dead now. What about the ghost? I didn't dare go near the house. Too many things had happened there. I called Regus, but he didn't answer my phone call.
I stared at Tom's note and thought: he's going to be my secret weapon. A plan was forming in my head. Griffin hadn't been interested. That man had so been living in the past. But he was dead and so was Fergus, and now I was in charge. Not that there was much of an empire left to rule, cause most of the vampires were dead, or had fled from our hideout.
Even Regus seemed to have disappeared. The little den he called his office was empty. All his personal belongings had gone. What had happened? I picked up an abandoned dog-eared notebook from the dusty floor and flicked through pages full of his spidery handwriting.
The notes didn't make much sense, even though I could decipher them. The blank page that followed turned out to be far more interesting. It had the imprint of the words from a page he must have torn out. From my briefcase I took a pencil and carefully scratched the paper, until I could read what it said. The words confused me.
It said: 'CUTLER – TAKE CARE.' And underneath he had written something that looked like a code: 'ISA5011-JOB1530'. A familiar code, which I didn't recognise right away, because I hadn't seen it for a long time. Bible verses.
Were they just notes? Or were they a message for me? For someone else maybe? Had he been suspicious of me? I didn't think he had any reason to. But what if my interest in werewolves had triggered it?
I tore out the page and put it in my pocket. I got out my phone and Googled the verses. The first one read: 'Behold, all you that kindle a fire, that encircle yourselves with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled. This shall you have of my hand; you shall lie down in sorrow.' And the second said: 'He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.'
Though I didn't understand what they meant, the words unsettled me. I went back to my office and stuck the note between the pages of a book. I called Regus again, but there still was no answer. Never mind. I sat down behind my desk, thinking. I had to go through with my plan. And Tom McNair would play the starring role.
I was on duty that night. The first call came early. 'Special order' Roy said.
'Who is it?' I asked.
'You'll see.' Roy loved playing little games.
He was a just a kid. And then I recognised him. He was the one who'd told me about Tom McNair. A miserable little sod. So he'd escaped unscathed during the massacre? There must be more to him then.
His eyes grew big when he saw me. 'You're one of them.' He said in his thick Welsh accent. He pressed himself against the wall, his eyes big with fear.
'You were there.' I said, matter of fact. I remembered his name. Dewi Jenkins. 'What's he here for, Roy?' Roy handed me a thin file. 'Joyriding?' I raised my eyebrows.
'Car's not registered in his name, and they think he's a minor.' Roy said.
'I'm not.' The boy protested. 'I'm an adult and all, and someone gave that car to me. It's a camper van, actually.'
'Right. You stay here. I'm going to have a chat with the officer who arrested you. Don't worry, I'll get you out of here in no time.' I said. But he did look worried, and I wondered why that was.
'So it's not joyriding, you say?'
'Firstly, Mr Jenkins has got a driver's licence. Which makes him old and capable enough of driving a car. I have to sayhe does look the part. And as for the car, it was given to him by a man named McNair. There happens to be a witness for that, which is good, cause the reason it's not registered in his name is that poor Mr McNair died recently. Tragic accident.'
I had to admit I was a little creative, moulding both McNairs into one person. 'Obviously the car's not registered in his name. I suppose you'll fine him for that. But it's hardly a reason to keep him in custody, don't you think?'
The man, one of the new policemen here, and definitely not one of us, sighed.
'He's right, you know.' Roy said.
The man didn't appreciate that. Grudgingly he said: 'Get him out here then. Go on.'
I went to tell the kid the good news. He didn't thank me. Instead he just looked frightened. He stank of stale sweat. 'You look like you could do with a shower.' I said. 'And I happen to have one.'
'Take care.' Roy said. 'Mr Cutler will charge you for his time as soon as you're out of here. And he's not cheap.'
'Shut up.' I said.
'What do you want from me? I'm sorry, honest, but there was nothing else I could do. They thought I was one of them. You know, the d-dog and the g-ghost. They threatened me. And then the other dog started bowling with severed heads. You've seen it, you were there. What was I supposed to do? And then this Tom guy gave me his car keys. I've never had a speeding ticket in my life. I don't do drunk driving.' He kept rambling on. I stopped listening after a while. 'You know how it is.' He said.
'Right.' I said.
I took him home. He was still too scared to protest. 'Up the stairs, second door on the right.' I told him, and went into my office. I had to make a decision. Griffin would have punished the boy for his disloyalty. But I wasn't Griffin, and things were different now. Besides, he might have some useful information for me. I had to be sure of that first. I could always decide to take other measures later.
I poured myself a whiskey and drank it in one gulp. Then I walked up the stairs and collected some old clothes. Socks, a shirt and a pair of trousers I never wore. I also found him a couple of towels. 'I brought you some clean clothes and towels.' I said through the door. He didn't answer.
I went downstairs, and left the door to my office ajar. To pass the time I read the boy's file. He'd had an earlier encounter with the police. That's when his picture had been taken. He'd been caught stealing a two bottles of vodka. In the statement he'd made he said they were for his mum. He'd been thirteen at the time, and hadn't been charged. But social services had been contacted, and the family had been under their scrutiny for two years. There'd been no other incidents.
I wondered who had made him. Regus would know, but that wasn't much help, cause I didn't know where he was. I had to admit I started to appreciate the man's qualities. So he was stuck in the past, but he did know an awful lot about contemporary history.
The comforts of my place had given Dewi more confidence. I'd been right about keeping the door ajar. He was curious enough to come in. He looked weird in my old clothes. And he'd been using Rachel's shampoo. Not her actual shampoo from back when she was still alive, mind, but the bottle I bought once a year on our wedding anniversary. Their was an online shop that still sold the old fashioned brand.
That part of my life was over. The shampoo was the only thing that reminded me of it. I never used it, but sometimes I spilled a little so I could breathe in the scent and pretend Rachel was there. And now this scruffy kid had used it to wash his bloody hair. I took a deep breath, and resisted the sudden urge to hurt and kill him. Cheeky sod. 'That's better.' I said.
I asked him what he was doing here. I'd heard Tom tell him to leave.
'It's my mum, see. I was scared Mr Fergus would hurt her, because of what I did. You see, he got out too. He's the one who made me. I was just reporting my stolen bike – it was a birthday present, see, from my gran. She was so upset when she heard I'd lost it. He must have seen what I did. And I'm sure he knows where my m-mum lives.' He hesitated, not sure whether he was doing a clever thing telling me all this.
'Go on.' I said. 'Fergus is dead, so he won't bother Mrs Jenkins. And you're the one who told me about Tom McNair, so I suppose I should be grateful to you.' I smiled at him reassuringly.
'You do?' he said, scratching the bite marks in his neck. 'That's such a relief. I seriously thought you'd be angry at me for killing that vampire. It was horrible. I still can't sleep at night, you see. Are you sure about Mr Fergus? Him being dead, I mean? Do you think I can go home now?'
His never ending nattering hurt my head. I wanted him to tell me something useful, or stop talking altogether. Listening to him was very tiring. I felt sorry for his mother. 'Tell me about the ghost first.' I said.
'The ghost? The one that played good cop?'
'What?' I said.
'It's what they did to make me tell them about Stoker's and the baby and that other werewolf. He was bad cop, she was supposed to be good cop. But she wasn't very good at role-playing. Started yelling at me right away. I'd never seen a ghost before –'
'Where did she go? Where does she live?' I interrupted.
'I don't know, do I? They came to our flat and after all the mayhem I left in the van. She was threatening to kill that old geezer, the hippie man. I can't remember his name. He's the one who's always talking.'
I couldn't help smiling at his description of Regus. This was a waste of time though. 'Go home.' I said, exhausted.
'Thank you, sir. I will. Just one thing – the money?' He looked genuinely worried once again.
'I'm a duty solicitor, so my services tonight are free of charge. That cop fooled you, Dewi. People do that to you. It's who you are. Get used to it.' I said, and opened the front door. 'Keep the clothes.' I said as an afterthought.
Tom must have kept my business card. How else would he know which address to send his note to? I imagined him thumbing the piece of carton 'til it was smudgy, wondering whether I was indeed one of the good guys.
He must be lonely. No one had come for him when he was arrested. It had been his birthday and he'd been out in the streets drinking on his own instead of celebrating at home. The one parent he had, and must have thought invincible, was dead, killed violently by William Herrick.
He was living in that big house with plenty of empty rooms. Maybe the ghost still lived there, if she hadn't faded by now. But the baby's crying had long died down, and the child, its parents and John Mitchell were dead.
I knew what it must be like for him. I'd felt the same way after Hal had died. First he'd made me burn all my bridges, and then he'd left. Sometimes I still heard his voice. The last time that happened was when I'd followed Tom to the café.
I thought of Griffin, and how glad I was that he'd died. He'd despised me, as much as I'd loathed him. He hadn't wanted me around, and he'd taken every opportunity to make me aware of that, but in the end he just had to put up with me. Because of Hal. I was so glad I didn't have to make his frigging tea anymore.
It was time for my lunch break and I was thirsty. Maybe I'd drop by Stoker's later. It was time to think of a way of resuming the disrupted blood supply. The supplies were growing thin. I was just about to go out for a quick sandwich and a latte when a reporter knocked on my door. I told him I had to be in court, but then he mentioned Tom McNair.
I thought I'd be able to make good use of him. I had a story to tell to the world, and he was a reporter. He was dangerously preoccupied with vampires, but that couldn't be helped. Besides, I was convinced he didn't have any proof. I'd checked that by visiting him in his hotel room and examining his so called evidence. It's a huge advantage that we don't show on camera's.
I almost felt sorry for him. He seemed so eager, and he was uncomfortably close. It was clear that no one took him seriously. His research was impressive, I had to give him that. He'd followed our trails throughout Britain to no avail. He sat down, defeated, and shook his head. And then he told me vampires had killed his mother.
There were four of them, he said. But he was wrong. I recognised his story and I knew there had been five of us. It must have been about twenty years ago. Jimmy Connor had found her, wooed her, and prepared the trap. He'd led the others to her apartment. But he hadn't thought of the child. None of us had.
I was late. I'd offered to park the car and it had taken me ages to find a free parking space. In fact it had taken me a bit longer than strictly necessary. I was hoping to miss the actual killing.
She was barely alive. They enjoyed hurting and scaring her, and they didn't want to end the fun just yet. They'd stopped her screaming out loud by gagging her with her own tights. The kid was hiding behind a door, crouched in the corner with his hand in his mouth to stop himself from screaming. His eyes were bright with fear as he watched Jimmy and his mates. He looked about eight years old.
I cursed. I didn't do kids. They were too busy to notice me. I picked up the kid and crept out again. His body was shaking against my chest. I left the building and walked to a small park I'd passed on my search for a place to park. It was a warm night. I found some shrubbery and put the kid down between the branches.
'Don't cry.' I said, careful to stand in the shadow so he couldn't see my face. 'What's your name?'
'Pete.' He said softly.
'Listen, Pete. You're safe now, but you have to be very quiet and sit very still, or else they'll find you. Do you think you can do that?' He nodded. 'Good boy.' I said, impatient to go back to the flat. 'Close your eyes.' I said, and when he had I walked away.
I hadn't given him another thought since. But here he was, all grown up and determined to find and expose us. Did he just say he'd been twelve at the time? He must have been small for his age. For a moment I sympathised with him. 'Hey.' I said. 'Keep looking. Keep digging. You'll find it one day.'
And then he dropped his bomb.
It was a close call. I heard voices and footsteps, just as I left, but I managed to get out of the hotel unseen. Outside it was raining. I was shaking. I put up the collar of my coat, closed my eyes and let the raindrops wash the blood from my face and hands.
What a mess. First that Wilson woman, and now Pete Travis. They'd left me no choice. I hadn't even enjoyed the blood. Somehow the taste was wrong. Foul. What on earth was the world coming to?
That night I had a nightmare. Little Pete was clinging to me, asking me why I'd bothered to let him live when I was going to kill him anyway. When I didn't answer he started crying. Hot wet tears that burned holes in my shirt and stung my skin.
Regus was in my dream too, holding his notebook in the air and waving excitedly. He was telling me something, but I couldn't understand him. I woke up covered in sweat. My face was wet. I must have been crying in my sleep.