6.

The elevator doors opened and Ted Dawson stepped out into the basement of the Shelbyville Memorial Hospital. He was headed to the morgue to get a report on the body found the previous morning. His shoes echoed loudly off the cramped concrete walls of the hallway. How could anyone work down here? he thought to himself. Just thinking about this place gives me the creeps. The walls weren't even painted. The rest of the hospital had painted walls and a nice tile floor and looked perpetually pristine. Not the morgue, though. Buried deep in the bowels of the hospital the morgue was nothing but a concrete box with a cooler and slabs for the bodies. He was surprised they'd even installed fluorescent lights down there and didn't just opt for naked light bulbs hanging every few feet.

He pushed open the double swinging doors at the end of the hallway and stepped into the morgue. A small, mousy, bald man with large glasses and a pencil mustache looked up from the body he was examining on a steel table. Mike Walk, chief coroner of Shelbyville.

"Morning, Ted," the man said in a tiny whimper of a voice.

"Morning, Mike." Ted had worked with Mike enough over the past few years that they were on a first name basis. "What have you got for me on our boater?"

"Um, well...honestly...I don't know."

Ted took his eyes off a tray of nasty looking cadaver tools and raised an eyebrow at the man. "What do you mean?"

Mike Walk sighed. "Come here." He waved Ted over to a metal table holding a lumpy form covered in a sheet. Mike removed the sheet revealing the body of Jennifer Kyle; the girl they'd found on the lake yesterday. Ted's stomach turned at the sight of the young woman. He'd seen plenty of dead bodies in his time, but in a small town like Shelbyville the bodies were usually older and had died of natural causes. This was a young woman, barely over twenty, who had been brutally murdered.

Ted swallowed hard. "Do you know what killed her?" he asked.

"No." Mike shook his head. "I have no idea. I've never seen markings quite like these." He pointed to the girl's neck. It looked like something had grabbed it and ripped out the left side of her throat.

"What kind of animal around here could do this?" Ted asked.

"That's what I'm having trouble with." Mike pulled a pen from his coat pocket and pointed to wound. "At first I thought these were claw marks - possibly a coyote or a wolf - but upon further inspection they seem to be bite marks."

"A bite, huh?" Ted mused. He imagined a scene in his head of some wild animal attacking this poor young girl when something odd struck him. He scanned over the whole body and noticed that, other than the neck, there wasn't another mark on the body. Surely if some ferocious beast had attacked her it would've caused a lot more damage. "What kind of bite?"

"That's where it gets weird. After I determined it was a bite I took some measurements and looked closer." He used his pen to draw an imaginary circle around the wound. "Judging from the bite radius and the depth of the bite I would saw that this is from a human."

Ted looked up skeptically. "A human? You're saying it's not something that did this, but someone?"

"According to what I'm seeing, yes."

"That's impossible."

"Actually, it's not. Our jaws are quite strong, Ted."

"Who would do that? And why?" Ted scratched his cheek in thought.

"Simple. A vampire," Mike said matter-of-factly. Ted shot him a scrupulous look.

"Excuse me?" he said.

"Or rather, someone acting like a vampire," the coroner clarified. He shrugged. "I've heard of groups of people believing they were vampires and acting on these beliefs, but usually in bigger cities. Almost like a gang or a coven."

"And you're thinking someone here could be doing this now." He folded his arms in thought. "You think someone could be starting a gang here?" He chuckled. "I think you're watching too much TV, Mike. Too many History Channel documentaries. These types of things don't happen around here, if they happen anywhere at all. I've not even heard of a vampire cult in Chicago or St. Louis."

Mike shrugged his thin shoulders. "That's your job to find out, Ted. I'm just here to tell you the facts of what I do know."

Ted sighed and hung his head. "Thanks for the information, Mike. If you find out anything else let me know."

"Will do."

Ted couldn't be any happier to step out of the hospital and into the warm summer sun. So much better than that dank basement. He let the sun wash away the creepy chills brought on from the morgue's atmosphere, but still, the sun couldn't lift his spirits. Maybe a cigarette would. He leaned against his cruiser and pulled a crumpled pack from his pocket and lit up. He took a long drag and shook his head. Nope, not even the old vice could make him feel any better today. He just had too much on his mind and so much work that needed to be done. No sense in putting it off, he thought to himself.

He made mental notes of his next course of action. First, find acquaintances of Jennifer Kyle - any friends or jealous ex-boyfriends who might have reason to kill her – and find out what she was doing on the boat last night and if anyone else was with her.

Second, find out how someone could tear a hole in another person's neck with their teeth. Not only possess the pure strength and power to do such a thing, but also have the mindset to do it.

Finally, how could someone completely drain the blood from that poor girl? Unless, of course, that person was a vampire. That would answer everything, he thought to himself.

Ted scoffed at the thought then stopped himself. Wheels churned in the back of his mind and some cobwebs floated away. Something about this case reminded him of something from the past. Words floated through the back of his mind.

Drained of blood.

Gaping wounds.

Unexplained mutilation.

Ted closed his eyes in thought. Where had he heard that before? Was it a case he'd worked on? Maybe something he'd heard in his police training. Whatever it was, it was just out of his reach. He groaned and stomped out his cigarette. It was time to get back to his office and start working on his report of the murder and start looking for the clues that would crack this case open.