Pictures on a Wall

This is the sixth in a series of short stories and you can find the full story here

Alex spread out the photos. “I got all the pictures from the camera printed out,” He said. “These ones show the…” He hesitated for a moment. “The ones that look like vampires.”

“It’s okay,” Rhys said quietly. “You saw one feeding. You know that they are real, and so do I. I’ve known it in my bones for a while.” He looked at the pictures spread across the wall of Alex’s bedsit. “This is well thought out.”

“Thanks,” Alex said. “I’ve watched a lot of crime shows.” He pointed to the central picture. “That’s the most obvious one. You can see a lot of details.” He swallowed. It wasn’t a pleasant picture. “But I don’t think that it’s the most important. If you look at this picture,” Alex pointed to another feeding picture slightly above the centre, “you can see a little of the window. And here there is a reflection in the glass door of a cabinet.”

Rhys leant forward. “I never thought of looking like that.”

“That’s the Minster, there. I’m pretty sure of it. But if you look at the reflection there, it’s a hotel. I think this picture was taken in a flat on Tanner Row.”

Rhys opened his phone and pulled up a street map of York. “Yes, I think you’re right.” He frowned. “But not the ground floor. It’s at least two floors up.”

“There’s some student housing around there,” Alex said. “It could be one of their flats.”

“Or someone who has a flat among them,” Rhys said. “I mean, it’s good cover. No-one is going to be around long enough to keep track on who lives where. And there is likely to be people coming and going all the time.”

“We need to visit,” Alex said. The implications of that hung in the air.

“We need to be prepared,” Rhys said. “There could be anything there.”

“Or nothing,” Alex said. “I’m not sure when these pictures were taken, but it must be a while ago. There’s no sign of any masks or anything, even in the background.”

“I wonder who that is?” Rhys pointed at a picture of a dark haired woman. “She seems to be important.”

Alex nodded. “I made a whole section of her pictures,” he said, gesturing at a spray of pictures. “I don’t think that she’s a vampire, though.”

Rhys looked closely. “She looks ill in most of them,” he said. “You can almost trace the way she is fading. She looks quite well here, but she’s paler here, and she looks really ill in this one.”

“I wonder if the vampire had an obsession with her,” Alex said. “Perhaps she was a victim, like the woman I saw a few weeks ago.”

Rhys leaned back. “I think it’s a little more sinister. The woman you saw was obviously consenting. This doesn’t look like she is enjoying herself.”

“I wonder if she is okay,” Alex said. “I mean, the last picture is pretty bad.” He tapped on the picture on the extreme left. The woman was looking almost colourless, and the hollows and shadows on her face were an unpleasant contrast to the bright expression on the first picture.

Rhys swallowed. “I hope so. Perhaps she escaped. Perhaps they killed the owner of these pictures. Perhaps we are chasing a ghost.”

“But I saw that one feeding,” Alex reminded him. He shrugged and hesitated. “You weren’t around, and I saw an opportunity.”

Rhys’ heart sank. He couldn’t bear the thought of his friend risking himself. “What sort of opportunity?”

“I was browsing jobs, and I saw that they needed a new staff member at the White Hart,” Alex said. “I called in, went into the interview an hour later, and they gave me the job.”

Rhys shook his head. He could feel his fangs lengthening with the shock and fought it back. Alex did not need to find out that his vampire fighting comrade was actually a vampire. “It’s too risky!”

Alex shook his head. “I need to know. I can’t get that picture out of my mind. Besides, it’s good money and it sounds interesting. I could be helping in the café, the warehouse, making local deliveries, stocking the shop, and they even included ‘other duties as required’ which makes me think that I could end up doing anything. It would be a nice change from the old place. I gave in notice this morning.”

“There are a lot of pictures of the place,” Rhys said, waving his hand at the wall.

“So it’s even more important for me to work out what’s going on,” Alex said. “There may be some talk I overhear, some sort of group or network. I’ll have a chance to spot any subtle signs.”

Rhys swallowed. “Okay, I suppose it’s a good idea. But you need to be careful. I got this for you.” He carefully handed over a silver crucifix on a chain. “Perhaps you could see if that priest would bless it for you.”

Darren frowned at Alex. “It’s not like a slot machine,” he said. “You don’t just insert prayer and have a blessing shoot out of the bottom of a dispenser. You can’t order the divine around.”

“Please,” Alex said. “I could really use the job, but there’s a lot of scary stuff in there.”

Darren drummed his fingers on his immaculately polished table. “There are plenty of jobs around,” he said. He sighed and stood, pacing up and down the sparse study. “I never feel comfortable refusing a blessing, but you have to understand, it isn’t a magic spell. It isn’t a film or a computer game. It’s about faith.” He frowned and held out a reluctant hand. “If you’re still worried about vampires, then perhaps a blessing will help. I’ll pray over this, but in return I will ask that you come to me if you think that a crime is being committed. Predators come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and keeping within the rules can be a form of protection in itself.” The priest sighed heavily as he took the necklace. “I call in to the White Hart quite often, and they’re a good bunch.” He sighed again as he arranged the chain in his hands. “If you are worried about vampires, it’s perhaps not the best place to be, though.”

“I thought it would be a good place to be,” Alex said quietly. “There must be a lot of stuff that fights against darkness there.”

Darren thought about his friends at the White Hart. “Well, a couple of the staff come to Bible study here.” He hesitated. “You’re welcome to come as well, if you like, if you feel that you need the protection of faith. I’ll still bless this crucifix no matter what you decide, but you need to think. Ask yourself why it is so important to you to have this blessed by me.” Darren shook his head. “Let us pray about this.”

Jack took his time studying the wall of pictures in Alex’s room. “I think that this is a remarkable work of art,” he said. “And you are starting work at the White Hart next week?”

Alex nodded. “They want me to start training in the warehouse,” he said. “The current staff are moving to a new location.” He hesitated. “The priest blessed my crucifix, just in case.”

Jack glanced at the crucifix. “That was a good idea, if it works,” he said, as if he couldn’t see the vivid holy aura surrounding it. “I know a few people at the White Hart,” he said. “They’re okay.” He pointed to the pictures of the woman. “That is Fiona Adderson, and I am very fond of her – in a non-romantic way!” he added quickly. “Her husband, Steve Adderson, is someone I think neglects her, but they are happy enough. Mrs Tuesday is a scary old lady. Never take alcohol from her. And the Tarot reader, Dave Kinson, doesn’t believe in Tarot.”

“That sounds a little unusual,” Alex said.

Jack shrugged. “Better safe counsel than true divination,” he said. “Oh, and the priest’s girlfriend works there as well. She is a beautiful blonde lady, called Jasmine. Don’t try and romance her.”

“She doesn’t sound like my type,” Alex said stiffly.

“You don’t like blondes?” Jack asked.

“I’m not into ladies,” Alex said quietly.

Jack shrugged. “It won’t make much of a difference at the White Hart,” he said. “Anyway, I must leave. I have an appointment. But I will be back soon. We can perhaps find the flat of that vampire together.”

Jack almost danced out of the flat and down the street. He wouldn’t even need to tempt Martin to meet the vampire hunter. Martin called into the White Hart at least once a week. All Jack needed to do was to be there when Alex met Martin and enjoy the fireworks.

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