There had been a recent surge in the vampire population in Manhattan. The only way we knew about it was due to the uptick in deaths. You know how fun that is—the stumbling onto a grisly scene of cold corpses that had been drained and dried up.
Always so fun.
Dred, I have wanted to tell you about this the longer we worked together, and the more I have come to trust you. Keeping this away from you wasn’t “keeping this away from you.” I’ve been torn—it’s clear how this one thing has kept a certain amount of space between us.
There’s been no way around it. It’s like you always say, that one children’s rhyme you reference—going on a witch hunt. Sometimes there’s no way around, over, or under an obstacle. It’s the same for a wound, a psychological injury. Trauma.
The only way is through it.
I haven’t been prepared to face this one with you.
Not because of you. I think you’d understand.
Normally I want to create a bit of distance with humor when I tell a story. But I can’t this time. Not with this one, if that tells you anything about what to expect.
Carmen was my partner at the time. Beautiful woman. Tough like you. Funny. Easy to be with. She had a kid, not with her of course, but she was a single mom. I admire the hell out of her. Her grit. Her strength and her dedication to her kid and the job.
Carmen’s kid, Jane, was eleven and often we had to leave her with Carmen’s parents to go out on these night-time cases. But on this occasion, my partner had to leave Jane with one of the girl’s friends.
Rosie, her name was Rosie.
That night, as Carmen and I were in the park strolling along a pathway, bantering about something and keeping our eyes open for anything odd, a few vampires showed up and began to taunt us. Looking back, I see how a preternatural atmosphere hung over everything. The lamplight had a strange tinge to it. The air was misty and heavy as though terrible things were afoot. But I was oblivious, sort of. My spirits were good and I just wanted to enjoy myself. That was my first mistake.
Vamps in general had been particularly aggressive toward the Flamehearts around that time. It was as though they’d declared war on us. I see that now. Maybe I didn’t at the time. Maybe if I’d been a bit more alert, I’d have noticed it. I could have had my golden Glock out already.
There’s so much I could have done differently.
The moment the bloodsuckers showed up, I launched into writing the runes for my golden Glock. The path we were on was dark, and there were a few normals around, so I understandably focused on working quickly to protect them, though I hadn’t paid attention to how many normals there were or any details. I should have. I should have been more present.
My runes were only half written when I heard Carmen shrieking. I glanced up and saw Jane and Rosie running toward us. Jane and Rosie? What the hell are the kids doing here? I remember thinking.
The vampires saw their opportunity to toy with us—they knew the Flamehearts, of course, it wasn’t like a personal vendetta as far as I knew. On principle, they saw the chance to fuck with any of us, they took it.
I hurried to finish summoning my gun, but I wasn’t fast enough.
There were more shrieks and gut-curdling cries of terror as the vampires lunged at Rosie and Jane. Beyond the small circle in front of me where my conjuring runes glowed in a golden light, floating midair, amber and sunflower drops flickering into the aether, I saw everything.
A vicious female vampire grabbed Jane by the arm. A piercing scream tore loose from Jane and with a snarl, the vampire let go of the child and covered her ears in pain. Carmen’s kid took off at a sprint, running for her mom. My partner secured her, thankfully.
But Rosie. Two vampires went for her. Two males. She had no chance.
My gun appeared and I went for the vampires, chasing the monsters down. They paid for what they did that very night. I killed all three of them.
But Jane’s friend was already lost to us.
When I returned to the scene, Carmen was holding Jane in her arms. I’ll never forget the expression on Carmen’s face—I still see it in my dreams. Do any of us know how to handle a death like that? I never do.
I cradled Rosie in my arms as the child died. My hands were covered in her blood, but I hardly noticed—the vampires hadn’t even taken it, so there was… a lot.
The city police came, and, well I looked guilty, despite the teeth marks from the vampires. Despite everything. I knew then that it would be a case no one could win, Dred. But I’d hoped the truth would come out.
Can you see why I haven’t been able to tell you? This thing still haunts me.
Rosie’s parents wanted the trial, they wanted to blame me. To blame Carmen. To blame Jane.
As the press began to cover the case, the Flamehearts wanted me out of the city to protect Carmen and her daughter, and because I was getting death-threats for being a child-killer. I thank Thor daily that the national media hadn’t picked it up. And I believe the only reason they still haven’t is because I left the city before it blew up.
It’s been fun. Sorry, Dred. That’s sarcasm. Distance.
Truthfully, it’s been a special kind of hell.
It’s not enough that an innocent kid died in my arms, I’ve also had to bear the weight of other things—carry this so Jane doesn’t have to. So Carmen doesn’t have to. It hasn’t been enough for the child’s parents that we’ve all suffered in our own ways.
They couldn’t take it that Jane and her friend left on their watch to go find Jane’s mom. And I can hardly blame them. What a terrible truth to have to face.
And so, all of it has been placed on my shoulders.
Sometimes I’m OK with that. Other times…