Chapter Four: The Briefcase
"Teri? Teri, are you okay?" Anny's voice distracted her gaze, forcing Teri to glance back at the house. She could see her sisters' silhouette through the door, fumbling with the keys. When she looked back into the drive however, Elijah was nowhere to be seen.
Anny finally managed to get the door open and rushed to Teri, grabbing her by the shoulders.
"Oh God, you're okay," she breathed, looking her over. "What's wrong? Why did you scream like that?"
Teri opened her mouth but couldn't speak. Her heart was in her throat. She shook her head, her wide-eyed gaze still locked on the spot where Elijah had stood just moments ago. He wasn't anywhere to be seen, nor could her ears pick up any sounds apart from her own ragged breathing.
"Teri?" Her sister stroked her hair back soothingly, her expression worried. "Are you okay? What happened?"
Teri shook her head again and took a moment to pull herself together, before muttering an excuse and escaping from her sister's probing questions.
"Vampires do not exist,"she stated to her reflection in her bathroom adamantly a moment later. Rubbing the goosebumps on her arms, she let out a shaky breath. Why was she feeling so irrationally petrified?
There is no such thing as vampires.
So why had she seen one in the driveway?
"That wasn't a vampire. That was Elijah, for Gods sake. The new guy. Remember?" She laughed weakly again. Forget about it.
But her mind would not quit replaying what she had seen.
His face had been horrific, the expression one of sheer craving. His eyes had been the most disturbing however, fixed on her with such ferocity that she trembled even now, alone and safe in her home. He had looked nothing like the man in the forest, yet everything about him was the same.
She had glanced away and he had disappeared.
Poof. Into thin air.
She must be going mad, Teri decided, rubbing her own eyes tiredly. She must have just imagined it. After all, she had only seen him for a moment.
There was no way any human being could move so fast.
That was it. She felt a sense of calm settle over her. He hadn't been real. Her overly exhausted brain had just been playing tricks on her.
The next few days passed relatively slowly. The half term break ended and everyone returned to school. Everyone except Teri. She hadn't planned on truanting. She had always been an average student. Mum was so out of it because of the sleeping pills the doctor had prescribed for her, that she couldn't care less. Anny had taken some time off work to help out at home, and had told Teri it would be okay to stay home too. No one would blame her.
Teri had awoken early, pulled on her hideous, maroon uniform and was almost out the door when it struck her that it didn't matter anymore. School, grades, everything... she didn't care. What was the point of it all? Her teachers wouldn't notice her absence. In fact, they would probably be glad of having one less student to teach.
The thought of school was soon followed by the thought of Tommy. They usually hung out in their free blocks. Teri texted him to let him know she wouldn't be in, then walked back into the cool interior of the house.
Sighing, she dumped her bag in the hall and headed to the kitchen to get some juice. Her thoughts strayed again to the medical report. She felt absolutely useless. She didn't know what she could do next. She had checked out her Dad's office, she had gone over the medical report a thousand times. She had even ransacked the desk in her parent's bedroom, but apart from work related documents, it revealed nothing.
Taking her glass of juice into the reception room, she considered calling Adam Howards. He was her Dad's estranged brother, and hence, her uncle, but she had never met him. She suspected that Dad talked to him from time to time, but knew Mum blatantly disliked the man. Was there a possibility that he might know something? Did he even know that his one and only brother was dead?
"Teri," Anny greeted her from the doorway, pulling a stylish, white jacket around her slender frame. "I'm going to the supermarket for a bit. Will you look after Mum?"
"Sure. When will you be back?"
"Probably in an hour or so. Do you want anything?"
Teri shook her head and swirled the juice in her glass, her mouth suddenly dry.
"Are you okay, sis?"
"Hmm? Of course I am, why wouldn't I be?" Teri smiled reassuringly and then hesitated, before asking, "But I just wondered Anny... do you know anything of Uncle Adam?"
Her sister paused in the act of tying her hair back. "What about him?"
"What he looks like, where he is... how to contact him."
Her sister looked confused. "Why do you want to know?"
"He hasn't been told that Dad... that Dad is dead."
"We did try to call him, Teri, but he didn't pick up. I even left a message for him on his voicemail." Her eyes were hard as she added, "He didn't turn up for the funeral. Guess that means he doesn't care."
Teri sighed, feeling deflated. She trudged up the stairs reluctantly once Anny left, and knocked on the door of her parents' bedroom. Her Mums' bedroom, she reminded herself as her heart contracted painfully.
There was no reply to the knock.
"Mum?" she called, putting her ear to the door. All was silent.
Teri considered leaving her be, but knew she couldn't. She felt the guilt wedged like a rock in the pit of her stomach. Opening the door, she walked inside.
Her parent's bedroom was the biggest room in the house. The walls were painted magnolia, and the room had bay windows overlooking the garden. At the moment, the curtains were drawn. Teri suppressed the almost irresistible urge to fling the curtains open and let the light stream in - as if the light could chase away all the darkness in their lives.
The sound of her footsteps towards the bed were muffled by the soft, deep blue carpet. Her Mum looked very small in the huge king size bed. Her hair was unwashed, and her face looked tired, even in sleep.
Teri took her own shoes off and climbed on to her Dad's side of the bed, suddenly feeling his absence most acutely. She had walked in to their bedroom countless times in the evenings after dinner, and he was always lying here, with his glasses on, reading a book or watching the TV bracketed on to the wall opposite. Mum would always tell him off for keeping his shoes on, or for getting pen marks on to the bedsheets.
Teri could just imagine him now. "Terrelyn," he would say, peering at her over his glasses. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"It's barely nine, dad," she would reply and sit next to him. They would then talk about her day at school or his day at work, and probably lapse into silence as they watched the telly. But the silence would be a comforting one.
At the movement of the bed, her Mum stirred and opened her eyes. "Teri?" she said, her voice rusty.
"The one and only," her younger daughter joked.
"I feel thirsty," she said drowsily.
Teri poured some water into a glass from the pitcher on the bedside table and helped her Mum to drink it.
"Thank you," Mum said, as she settled back, looking more alert. "Where's Anastasia?"
"She went to do the food shopping."
"Ah, poor Anny," she sighed. "She shouldn't have to take time work off for this. I told her I'm fine."
Teri hesitated, unsure of what to say. Her Mum was clearly not fine, but saying so wouldn't help things.
"Teri." Mum looked at her suddenly, with tear-filled eyes. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not strong, Teri. I'm not like your father was."
"Shh, it's okay," Teri said, taking her hand and stroking her Mum's hair. "It's not your fault. Nothing's your fault, Mum. We love you, Anny and I. Just work on getting better soon, okay?"
Her Mum sobbed, shaking her head. "How do I get over this? How does anyone get over this?"
Teri didn't reply, feeling her heart clench with pain too. She knew her mum didn't expect a reply. It was a rhetorical question.
Some time later in the day, Teri was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. The same old questions were spinning around and around in her head. She had been trying very hard not to think of her Dad, but it was impossible not to. The house felt empty. Every little thing made her think of him.
The doorbell rang, startling her. Teri heard Anny answer the door, so she went to the window in her bedroom and peeked outside. A white, unmarked van was parked in front of their house. As she watched, a tall man wearing a smart shirt and trousers got into the van and drove off.
Frowning, Teri walked downstairs. Her sister was sitting in the reception room, her head in her hands.
She looked up and quickly wiped her eyes. She had been crying, but obviously didn't want to show it.
"What's wrong?" Teri asked, concerned.
Anny laughed shakily. "Nothing, really..."
"Who was at the door?"
"Some guy from the forensics department," she said dismissively, then indicated a massive brown paper bag on the sofa, which Teri hadn't noticed. "He just returned dad's things. His clothes, his shoes..." She breathed deeply for a minute, then wiping her eyes a final time, stood up. "It just brought it all home, you know," she said to Teri, then shrugged. Clearing her throat, she added, "I'm going to have a nap, I think. I feel exhausted."
Teri gave her a hug, and waited until she heard her sister ascend the stairs and close her bedroom door before grabbing the paper bag and emptying it's contents on to the sofa. If these were her Dad's things, his briefcase would be here too.
The briefcase was the one thing she hadn't been able to check.
Everything was wrapped in plastic, but as she had guessed, his briefcase was there. It was black and sleek. Just touching it made her ache with sadness.
Teri fleetingly wondered if it would be difficult to open because she didn't know the code to unlock it, but apparently the forensics team had been a step ahead. The briefcase had been pried open and the lock was useless now. As she balanced it on her lap and opened it, the first thing she noticed was the drawing. It was a sketch of a wolf standing alone in a puddle of water. It was surrounded by dense shrubbery. The wolf seemed to stare out at her, it's eyes reflecting the light of the full moon. It was truly magnificent.
The drawing had no signature, making Teri frown. Did her dad draw this?
Impossible. She almost laughed as soon as the thought occurred. She remembered a time when she had asked him to draw something insignificant... A flower perhaps. The drawing had been terrible and completely unrecognizable.
Putting the drawing aside, she looked through the other papers in the briefcase. There were two other sketches. Again, they were of wolves standing in a puddle, surrounded by shrubbery, but they were different wolves. One seemed much bigger, his fur was darker too. The other was skinny and scraggly.
Teri frowned. Why had her father been carrying sketches of wolves around in his briefcase? Maybe they were drawings by some school kids that had been given to him as souvenirs? But surely no primary school kid could draw so well...
The other papers in the briefcase were work related. Lifting the plastic board that revealed the underlying compartment, Teri placed it aside and looked back at the briefcase. What she saw made her feel vaguely sick.
Under another thin sheet of plastic lay six vials full of a rich, dark red liquid.
Why had her father been carrying bottles of blood in his briefcase?