Ivan:A Vampire's Thirst(4)

By: Marissa Farrar

“You think what rather than who?” Her colleague, Constable Stephen Farnham, was standing beside her, rubbing his hand over his mouth.

Charlene pressed her lips together, and her nostrils flared. “This has been the third one in a little over a week. They’ve all got exactly the same injuries, the same massive bite mark to the throat, the same loss of blood. If this was kids, they wouldn’t have been able to kill the animal in exactly the same way each time.”

“I don’t know, Charlie. They could be messing around with black magic,” he suggested. “Cut the throat each time as some kind of sacrifice.”

She knelt and, with her gloved hand, lifted the animal’s chin to expose its ravaged throat. “That’s not a cut mark, Stephen. That’s a bite.”

“Dammit. You know what’s going to happen if word about this gets out. We’ll have every local newspaper speculating about the Beast of Dartmoor, and this place will be crawling with reporters in no time. They’ll scare away whatever is causing this.”

“Maybe that would be a good thing,” she mused.

Myths that there was some kind of giant animal roaming around the desolate moorlands had been going on for hundreds of years. Every now and then, there were a spate of killings of the local wildlife and it stirred up the rumours again, and then things died away. All the tourist shops dotted around the national park stocked numerous books about the myths of the moorlands, including haunted bridges and lost soldiers, and, of course, the Beast of Dartmoor, but nothing was ever proven. There were numerous sightings and some casts of paw prints—most likely created by the same people who photographed them and offered them up as proof of the creature’s existence—but no actual animal had ever been caught. Besides, it would be hundreds of years old now if such a thing were truly real.

The truth was, there wasn’t a huge amount they could do about the slaughtered animal. They were there as a formality, taking photographs, bagging anything that might look like evidence, before bagging up the animal as well and sending it to a local veterinarian to be disposed of. The police budget didn’t stretch to putting any more resources into finding out what was happening to a handful of animals that effectively roamed wild out here. They had a duty to follow it up, but chances were they’d never actually find out what was responsible for the killings.

“I hope this is the last of it,” Stephen muttered. “I hate being all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. This place gives me the chills.”

Charlie laughed. “I’d rather be out here than having to deal with the clubs kicking out in the city. People punching each other, and puking, and vandalising things. Give me nature any day of the week.”

He nodded down at the sheep. “Even this kind of nature?”

“Well … I normally prefer them frolicking around a field, but yeah, I’d still rather deal with this than a bunch of drunk students.”

“I prefer lamb on my plate for Sunday lunch,” Stephen said with a grin.

She sent him a mock scowl. “Hey, have some respect for the dead.”

He joined her laughter. “Anyway, it’s not the dead sheep that bothers me. It’s more whatever did it.”

A shudder worked its way across his shoulders. She’d worked with him for a couple of years now, and Stephen wasn’t the type who scared easily.

“You don’t actually think it’s black magic, or something occult, do you?” she asked in surprise.

“I don’t know, but if it isn’t, what’s the alternative? That there actually is something large enough to cause those wounds roaming around out here? We’ve both seen dog attacks on sheep, and they don’t look anything like this.”

He had a point.

Charlie dug her teeth into her lower lip as she thought. “So, what are we going to say in the report?”

“Nothing else we can say.” He shrugged. “Large animal attack. Same as the others.”

Charlie sighed and bent to finish taking samples. She couldn’t explain why, but this didn’t feel like it was only the result of a wild animal hunting for a meal. Her instincts told her it was something else, but she had no idea what.