At her office, Adele flipped through one of the vampire books Vincent had provided. She jumped when Roman knocked on the door. "Hi, Adele. Could I have a word with you?”
She pulled folders over the books. "As long as it isn't „no comment," you could have two.”
Roman sat opposite her. "What do you know about Isabel Rocha?”
The question took her by complete surprise. "Why do you ask?”
He nodded his head toward the folder she had opened to conceal the vampire books. It was the serial killer folder, and Lily's photo was right on top. "She's a family friend of the Maldonados. She's taken Mrs. Maldonado a special herb treatment to help her sleep ever since Lily died.”
“And she's now missed three days.”
“I'm not sure why you came to me,” Adele started, but stopped short when Roman tossed something on her desk. It was a plastic bag that contained the bloody handkerchief Nicholas had wrapped around her hand. Her eyes met his. "I mean, I only met her a couple of times. She's supposedly psychic and I thought… well I thought she could tell me something I didn't already know.”
“Was she all right when you last left her?” Roman probed.
Adele didn't like his tone. "What are you asking me, Roman?”
He grabbed the plastic bag as he stood. "I'm asking you to call me if you remember anything unusual about the last time you saw her.” He moved the folder off of the vampire book. “Something real, that is.”
The moment after Roman departed Adele referred back to the book, specifically the back cover with the information for Vincent's store. She punched in the number on her office phone.
“This is Vincent,” said the voice on the other line.
“What do you know about Isabel Rocha?” she asked.
He didn't even have to ask who she was. "Meet me at the store.” With that, the line went dead.
Without a second's hesitation she grabbed her coat and rushed from the office, never noticing Roman in Duncan's office, hanging up the extension.
Vincent was in the back when she arrived. She didn't stand on ceremony this time, she rounded the counter and went to find him. Much like Isabel's room, the walls were cloaked in red velvet, and candles cast a golden hue against their design. Vincent sat cross legged at a small table, a pot of tea in front of him, his hands raised in meditation.
Adele fell to her knees in front of him. "Tell me.”
He didn't even open his eyes. "Drink the tea first.”
“I don't have time for your stupid tea party! What do you know?”
His eyes opened. "What you will know. If you drink the tea.”
She let out a frustrated sigh before throwing her things aside and grabbing a cup. She went to pour the tea but his fingers curled around her arm like a claw. "Not too much,” he warned. "You're not ready.”
She poured a tiny bit which seemed to satisfy him. He leaned back in his former position. Gingerly Adele sipped the pungent tea.
All the fragmented images she'd experienced over the last few weeks sped before her mind's eye in fast forward, mixing fantasy with reality. The last image was Isabel Rocha, on her knees in the dark soil of the forest, her eyes white with terror and a sword slicing easily through her neck, sending her head swiveling toward the ground.
Violently Adele wrenched herself out of the hallucination. Vincent was watching her as she came back. "Who are you?” she demanded. "What are you?”
“The same as you,” he whispered.
“And what is that? What is it with you bloody con artists and your endless riddles? Tell me!”
“Did you read the books?”
“I read one book,” she spat out. "The book with my photos and the photos of my family. Want to tell me what you are doing with them?”
“I told you,” he said, much too calmly for Adele's liking. "I'll tell you everything when you read the books.”
“To hell with the books!” she exploded, jumping to her feet. It was painfully clear she was wasting her time with this infuriating man. Whatever information he shared with Denise he clearly wasn't going to share with her. She'd have to find another way. There had to be another way. "And to hell with you.”
She grabbed her coat and stalked from the store, followed unbeknownst by Roman, who closed a notebook as she left.
Adele went immediately to the Holy Sacrament church. "Michael!” she hollered. "Michael, please answer me. I'm sorry!”
Her apology echoed off of the walls. Nothing answered, not even the stinking voices in her head.
All she heard was all she felt. Empty, hollow nothingness. It was the first time since she was ten that it felt so acute.
Michael had always been there to buffer it before. No matter what she did to push him away, no matter what she'd done to hurt him, and she knew darn well that she had, repeatedly, he had always been there. He completed her life and filled a hole in her world as her best friend. And now she was alone. Bitterly and utterly alone.
Sadder still, she had done it to herself. Michael hadn't betrayed their friendship. She had. Nothing could hurt worse.
Just as she turned to leave she heard, "That's the first time I've ever seen you repent in a church.”
She turned back to see Michael. There were tears in his eyes as they stood just a few feet apart. So close and yet so far. Words hung in the air that neither of them could muster. Ultimately, words were not needed. When he opened up his arms she flew into his embrace, crying a few tears of her own. She never knew how much she missed him until she held him again. He was her rock. Always had been.
Always would be. "I'm so sorry,” she whispered into his neck. "I was so stupid.”
“I know. I graded your high school history exam, remember?”
With a snort her sobs turned into laughter. She gave him a smile through her tears. "You always could make me laugh.”
He shrugged. "A guy's got to have a hobby.”
She touched his face with the palm of her hand. “Michael, I'm sorry...”
He cut her off. "You have absolutely nothing to apologize for, Addie. I'm the one who should apologize, for not being there when you found out so many years ago. I could have helped you.”
She shook her head. "No one could have helped, Michael. But having you for a friend made things a whole lot easier.”
He nodded. It always came back to that. Only this time, he knew that it was the best gift of all. He knew now beyond all doubt he couldn't lose her again. He'd rather die first.
She apprised him of the situation as they made their way to Isabel's parlor. It was locked up tight when they got there, and no amount of knocking would bring any life to the deathly still place. They finally gave up and headed to their favorite haunt, the local diner. The food was greasy and held no nutritional value, and the coffee was so strong it could serve itself. It was exactly Adele's kind of place.
She was on her second cup by the time she finally told Michael about the second and final time she met with Isabel.
“And what was the word?” Michael asked.
“I don't remember,” Adele mumbled. "It was a strange word. A foreign word. I wouldn't even know how to spell it.”
“Are you sure it didn't start with a V?” She gave him a look. He sighed. "I saw Lily, Addie. But it wasn't Lily anymore.”
“I saw her too,” Adele admitted. "Or an incredible facsimile.” She hesitated a moment. "I also saw Dani's neck. The wounds are gone. And I know that's because of you.”
He shrugged. "I threw some holy water on it. It seemed like the thing to do.”
“So what do we do now? How do we fight this if it really is...you know?”
“You're the one reading the books. According to your friend Vincent, the answers are in there.”
She shook her head. "I don't know if he's my friend, Michael. There's something...odd about him.”
“Scary odd?” Michael asked and again she shook her head.
“It's stupid but I don't think he's the dangerous one. Just infuriatingly unhelpful.” She sighed. "I don't know if we'll ever find the answers, Michael.”
“We'll find them,” he assured her, taking her hand into his. "Together.”
She went home that evening to continue the research only to find Nicholas on her doorstep again.
Everything else seemed to melt away when she looked into his eyes. It was like coming home.
They snuggled in the couch in comfortable silence. Their heart beat as one, thundering in her ears as he kissed her passionately. She didn't protest as he laid her back gently against the cushions.
All she knew was that his fingers were running along her skin, his lips gentle and moist against the nape of her neck, his breath hot in her ear. She started to unbutton his shirt but he captured her hand and moved it. He kissed away any questions or protests so she simply wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him closer into her chest.
His mouth danced along the bared skin of her shoulder where her shirt had slipped away. He lifted up to lean on one elbow, silently questioning her if this was what she wanted. She understood the question and began to unbutton her shirt in answer.
When the phone rang they both jumped apart as if caught. She grabbed the phone. "Yes?” The color drained away from her face. "What?” She threw the phone down and reached for the remote control, hidden underneath one of the vampire books. Adele flipped the TV on right to breaking news with Denise Carter.
“Tonight a local family's tragedy is compounded as the body of Isabel Rocha has been recovered from the woods just outside of Darlington.” Behind Denise a covered gurney was wheeled from the darkened forest.
Adele's knees buckled and she crumbled to the sofa. When Nicholas touched her shoulder she jumped, having totally forgotten he was there. Her eyes focused in on him as though she'd never seen him before. "More blood on your land,” she said.
Denise continued her report. "Police have not yet released any details but our sources here at Channel Five news say that a suspect has been taken into custody.”
Adele fixed her shirt and grabbed her purse. “I gotta go,” she told Nicholas, without even sparing him a glance. He was immediately on his feet. “Let me drive you.”
She met his gaze. He didn't like what he saw there – it was an urgency, and a desperation. She just shook her head and left before he could stop her.
She headed straight for the police department. Roman wasn't taking any questions from the press, but Adele didn't let that stop her as she pressed forward right into his private office.
Other officers attempted to hold her back but Roman indicated they could leave them alone. Once they departed Adele lit into Roman. "Isabel Rocha...was she beheaded?”
“Why do you ask?” Roman queried, turning the tables.
“Don't toy with me, Roman! Please...tell me what you know.”
He simply opened his desk drawer and pulled out the vampire book from her office. "This was interesting reading,” he said, pushing the book across the desk to her. "More interesting was finding Vincent Capriotti at the end of it.”
“Vincent?” she echoed.
“You did it again, Adele. You solved another crime for me. I do appreciate it, but I really have business to get back to. We have five murders to prosecute and a suspect with no alibis.”
As he ushered her from his office, for once in her life she was totally speechless.
Adele waited just outside the doors of Channel Five News as twilight approached. She hid from the other people who departed the building, waiting for one person and one person only.
When Denise emerged she juggled her attache and her cell phone, not even noticing the dark-haired woman who fell into step behind her. They were to her car before Adele made her presence known.
“Congratulations,” Adele said, and Denise jumped as she twirled around. "You busted the case. Of course that was easy enough to do after I had already brought Roman right to Vincent's door.”
“Oh come on, Adele,” Denise purred. "There's enough notoriety to go around in this town. Share the wealth.” Denise started to turn away but Adele grabbed her arm to swing her back around. As she did so, Denise's shirt slipped open and revealed several scars on her chest, which Denise was quick to cover up.
“Did he do that to you?” Somehow she doubted it, but she had to ask.
“Do you care?” Denise bit back.
“He didn't,” Adele surmised by the way Denise wouldn't look her in the eye. "Doesn't it bother you that you sent an innocent man to jail?”
Denise just shrugged. "Innocent or guilty, that's for a jury to decide. I'm just here for the story.
Vincent Capriotti had no alibi and he knew a little too much about the murders for my taste.”
“Then why didn't you turn him in before?” Adele demanded. "Why only when it suited your purpose?”
Denise chuckled as she got in her car. "The only thing that pisses you off is now he no longer serves your purpose. You don't care if this guy is innocent or not, don't even pretend that you do.”
Denise slammed the car door on Adele's shocked expression. She put the car into gear and started out of the parking space, stopping only to roll down the window and leave Adele with this parting remark:
"There's a new kid in town now, Adele. I've got the guts to go where you can't.” She tossed one of her business cards out the window and the breeze carried it to Adele's feet. "But I do have a lot to thank you for. Anything I did here I learned from the Master.”
The wheels screeched as she peeled away.
Adele had a hard time digesting that last little dig Denise delivered. Was it true? Was she so committed to the story that she would have hung an innocent man?
But what made Vincent innocent, Adele suddenly wondered. She didn't know anything about him at all, but somehow deep in her gut she knew he wasn't the one who killed those children. Despite it all, even his having her photos in his photo book.
She'd seen their killer face to face, and she could just sense that Vincent wasn't him. It was completely unreasonable. There was no basis in logic. It was totally against Adele's nature, but she just knew just knew Vincent was innocent. Inexplicably, she had faith.
So she raced home to scour through more of the books. Page after page of folklore that read like horror fantasy, none of it rang true.
And none of it was particularly surprising. Most of it was stuff she'd already seen in the movies.
She was just about to give up when she got to a page that showed an illustration of a woman, her dress around her waist, nursing a child with yellow eyes, its fangs biting into her pale breast. A vampire loomed in the shadows.
“Modern folklore explores the reproduction of vampires, typically with a male vampire siring a child from a human mother. Traditionally when a vampire mates with a human partner, the child produced is called - ” Adele gulped and sat up straight, unable to believe her eyes. "Dhampir,” she breathed.