“There’s people in there,” Brad said.

“Are you sure? – they don’t look human.”

“Why do you say that?”

“The shadows on their skin.”

“They’re talking,” Maddie observed.

“Just because they talk, doesn’t make them human,” Brad said wisely. “Haven’t you ever been on the subway?”

“What do you mean?”

“Vampires.”

“They aren’t real.”

“You want to bet?”

“How can you be sure?” I asked.

“Do you remember when I dug two graves for Mr. Lions three weeks ago?”

“Yeah.”

“Well—he paid me two hundred dollars. It was a lot of work, for next to no money, so I got to thinking… What about those graves that have been in this village since the puritans?”

“You didn’t,” Maddie said in a hushed voice.

“I did. I was looking for treasure. I promised myself, I would rebury the body. I didn’t think I would find anything.”

“Well, did you?” Maddie asked.

“I found a skeleton lying on piles of gold—so much gold, it took five goes with the wheelbarrow to get the treasure home. I took all night, and finished, just before dawn. The skeleton had a stick in its sternum. I removed it. The stake was what killed him, I think. Anyway, when I went to return my last load, I came back—and the skeleton was missing. I thought Mr. Lions was playing a crazy joke on me, but my gut, told me otherwise. I threw up. I thought about that skeleton—its incisors were two inches long. Shortly, thereafter, people’s pets began to disappear. I didn’t want to say anything, because nobody would believe me, and if they did, I would have to return the gold.”

“Where is it now?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Brad—the gold might be cursed.”

“I never thought of that—okay, okay—it’s in my mother’s Junker.”

“Your mother’s, what?”

“In her GMC. It seemed like a safe place because there’s no engine in it. It hasn’t been on the road in 15 years.”

“And you’re saying that you awakened a Vampire who was—good and dead?” Maddie asked.

“Yeah. Dead, but not good.”

“Then why are there four of them in there?”

“When a vampire bites a human, it makes another.”

“Then, why haven’t they bitten more people?”

“Because they wizened up. A vampire doesn’t like to eat another vampire. They’re cannibalistic by nature, but they need living blood, to look like the living. They’re rationing themselves—because when they eat each other—they really look like hell—and if too many people become vampires, there’ll be nobody left to drink—and that’s why they’re eating cats.”

“What about the fermi…”

“Formaldehyde,” Maddie corrected.

“The stuff in Science class?” I asked.

“I’ve been working on that…” Brad said. “Maybe, they want the town to believe cats and dogs are disappearing in the name of science.”

To be continued…

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