“You know what I think?”
“No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
Bill was like that: excitable and talkative. We were only coworkers but I already knew way more about him than I wanted to know.
“Dude, I have to! I think I’ve figured it out!”
“Figured what out?”
I gave myself a mental kick. When was I going to learn not to encourage him? I rushed on, trying to discourage him a little before he got started.
“Is this the Area 51 thing again? Or is this like the time you mathematically proved that the odds of Nessie avoiding being caught on film for the past 50 years were in her favor? Or the time you had analyzed that photo of Bigfoot, and —”
“No,” Bill said. He looked left and right, stiffly trying not to attract attention in a way that screamed ‘I’ve got a secret’, then squatted in front of my chair.
“Keep your voice down,” he said, his stage whisper actually louder than my regular speaking voice. “This is about the missing samples.”
I had rolled my eyes as his ‘secretive’ whisper carried across the room, but at that last word they came to rest on the test tube rack sitting on my desk. Okay, I thought, maybe he’s not so silly after all.
“What would you know about that,” I said. “We only got the memo about the missing samples yesterday. Management is looking into it and they apparently haven’t found anything yet. What makes you think you have the solution?”
“Because I think outside the box, that’s why!”
“‘The box’ being another way of saying ‘the realm of possibility’?”
“No, man! Listen!”
He leaned in so close his breath verified the origin of the stain on his shirt (burrito, rather than his usual: coffee), his eyes darting about on the lookout for prying ears, then whispered a single word:
“Okay, that’s it!” I said, standing to point toward Bill’s desk, far across the lab. “Get back to work. Sometimes these fantasies of yours are amusing, Bill, but right now I —”
A fist wadded in the front of my lab coat and yanked me back down to my seat.
“Just sit and listen to me, alright?”
I stared, taking in his disheveled appearance: his wild hair and matching eyes, the button missing from his lab coat. He did seem a little more agitated than usual...
“Look,” he said, “stuff goes missing around here all the time, right?”
“Right. So no big deal, right? Except that now there are more sample discrepancies than ever before. That’s what the memo said. Not a misplaced lighter, or someone eating someone else’s stuff from the fridge in the break room; samples. Blood.”
“Yes,” I said, “but there have always —”
“And they’ve narrowed the problem down to our shift. The night shift.”
“I hadn’t heard about that yet, but —”
“And it’s gotten markedly worse in the past two months or so. You know what’s happened in the past couple of months?”
I closed my eyes and sighed.
He leaned in closer, dragging one word into a long, dramatic hiss.
“Summer,” I said.
I hated myself for it, but I just had to ask.
“Okay. What does Summer have to do with missing blood?”
Bill grinned, looking a little unhinged.
“Hunting,” he said. “Look, say you’re a vampire who’s trying to pass for normal. You’d need a job, right?”
“Right. So where would you get one? Maybe at a lab that works with blood. Makes sense, you know, you could ‘snack’ when no one was looking, kind of supplement your hunting so you wouldn’t have to deal with as much prey, right?”
I sighed again, but had to agree.
“Right. So you’d be here from eleven to seven, do you’d have to do all your hunting, at least during the week, before work, right?”
I nodded, impressed at the amount of thought he’d actually put into this one.
“But then Summer comes, and the sun doesn’t go down until almost nine o’clock — even after nine for a while. I figure that would seriously cut into the feeding time, you know what I mean?”
“Theoretically,” I said, cradling my head.”Yes, it would do that.”
“Right. So the whole ‘snacking’ thing becomes more important, maybe way more important! Maybe you’d be ‘snacking’ so much it would show up as a major discrepancy in the records. Just like the one the memo was about.”
He sat there, a look of childlike satisfaction on his face, his whole mind-numbing rationale laid out between us.
“Wow,” I said. “You’ve really thought about this.”
“So,” I said, glancing about in a conspitatorial manner normally transparent to anyone over the age of five. “Who do you think it is?”
“Well, for God’s sake, why?”
“Have you seen him?” Bill said. “He’s all tall and gaunt, and he has those dark eyes...”
“He’s supposed to have dark eyes,” I said. “He’s Armenian!”
“And he has that accent...”
“He’s Armenian! He has an Armenian accent! You’re —”
A tall, gaunt man with eyes like coal leaned suddenly over my cube wall and stared right at Bill.
“That’s an interesting theory you have, Bill,” he said in his deep, Armenian-accented voice.
Bill froze, deer in headlights stamped on his face.
“Perhaps you would care to expound upon this theory,” Basil continued. “After work, perhaps? At my place?”
Bill stood and marched toward his own desk with a quick, fear-stiffened, toy soldier stride. Basil looked at me. His forbidding countenance cracked in a small smile, one dark eye closing in a wink.
“This should be fun,” he said, resuming his former scowl as he strode off after the terrified Bill.
“Go get him, Bas,” I said, glancing about. No one was looking that I could see.
I picked up one of the test tubes from my desk and took a quick sip.
Note from the Author:
Are you one of the many people who come to The Storyteller again and again? Do you enjoy the tiny little tales I put out each week for your enjoyment?
Come on, you know I'm talking about you.
You'll be happy to hear that I have a book coming out later this year from Hazardous Press. Three much longer stories, a trio of ghostly tales, each one an original.
The Dead of Winter will entertain your mind while chilling your blood. Keep an eye out for more information and I'll post it as it comes, both here at The Storyteller and on my FaceBook page.
The Dead of Winter:
My Friday Frights were just the appetizer.
It's time for the main course.