I heard the footsteps of the squad marching down the corridor outside the lab. Captain Stein led the way, almost knocking the door off its hinges as he barged into the makeshift lab. A line of eight unarmed soldiers followed him and lined up next to each other. More soldiers walked through the doors, their rifles trained on the procession that had just appeared.
My instincts told me this would end badly. I’d only known Captain Stein for a matter of hours and I’d already worked out that subtlety and tact were not his forte. This was a situation that could almost certainly have been handled more appropriately.
‘What is the meaning of this?’ demanded Doctor Owen.
Stein’s face had his determination written all over it. ‘In the attack on Hartley House, the first helicopter was destroyed by an infiltrator. A vampire got past our security checks so we’re taking steps to increase the security of the base.
‘I’ve decided that we can’t take any more risks. Everyone who leaves the base must be checked on re-entry. These men were on the recovery team that brought the bodies of the dead soldiers back from Hartley House this morning so they must be tested.’
‘How are you going to do that?’ the doctor asked.
‘You tell me,’ said Captain Stein, ‘you’re the expert.’
Doctor Owen knew that answer was coming. He thought to himself for a moment and came up with a plan.
‘Okay, I know what we can do. We all know that vampires have an adverse reaction to silver,’ he started, ‘We take a blood sample from everyone and test its reaction with silver. If the blood burns then we know it belongs to a vampire. Simple as that.’
‘Very good, Doctor. What are you waiting for? Start the tests,’ ordered Captain Stein.
The doctor handed a small metal tray to me and asked me to help him. I held the tray for him as he lined up eight syringes and eight petri dishes. I followed him as he approached one of the armed soldiers.
‘Hand me your gun,’ he ordered.
The soldier looked at Captain Stein, who nodded to him. ‘Do it, soldier. You heard the man.’
He handed the rifle over to the doctor, who removed the clip and ejected eight silver bullets, placing one in each of the Petri dishes. He then made his way over to the line of eight unarmed soldiers.
‘Roll up your sleeves. All of you.’ They all complied with his order.
I could see the doctor was relishing this brief period of authority. He picked up a syringe and grabbed the first soldier’s arm, tapping the top of his forearm to bring the veins to the surface of the skin.
‘Just relax,’ he said, ‘If you’re not a bloodsucker, you’ve got nothing to worry about.’
Before he finished his sentence, the needle was in the soldier’s arm, drawing blood from his vein. The doctor removed the syringe and turned towards me. He looked me in the eye with the syringe poised over the petri dish.
Even if this soldier is a vampire, what will happen to him? Will the armed soldiers immediately blow him away or will he be locked away and prodded like me? Will he suddenly turn and start sucking our blood?
Very slowly, he pressed the plunger and the blood poured over the silver bullet into the petri dish.
‘Looks like you’re all clear, son,’ announced the doctor. The soldier breathed a sigh of relief and wiped the sweat from his brow. It was at this point that I realised the soldier was asking himself the same question I had been asking myself all day.
How do you know if you are a vampire?
I felt no different than I usually did but here I was, the bookie’s favourite to be feeding on human flesh by the end of the week. Or maybe even the end of the day.
As the doctor was taking a blood sample from the second nervous, sweaty soldier, I cast my eyes across the other six. They all had similar looks on their faces and moved around nervously on the spot, not knowing where to put their hands.
Apart from one.
The fourth soldier in line stood perfectly still. It probably meant nothing but he was conspicuous by his lack of reaction. Something was nagging in the back of my mind, telling me this soldier wasn’t to be trusted. It was more than a cop’s hunch, something I had absolute certainty of but I couldn’t explain the reason why.
The second soldier left the line-up of suspects and joined his other colleague behind the armed soldiers. As I suspected, the third soldier was clear as well and the doctor moved to the odd-looking one. He flinched just like the others when the doctor stuck the syringe in his arm to take his blood.
The doctor moved over to me and pressed the plunger on the syringe. The soldier’s blood poured onto the silver bullet lying in the petri dish. As soon as the blood touched the bullet, a small plume of smoke began to rise and flecks of ash settled in the dish. Everyone backed away from the soldier very quickly, apart from the armed men who moved a step closer to him.
Captain Stein moved forward. ‘So it was you, son. How did you make it through the trials? How many more vampires are there in the base?’
‘Fuck you, Captain,’ the vampire soldier said, ‘my job here is done.’
Stein looked at the men who had passed the blood test. ‘Hold him.’
They quickly approached the soldier, one grabbing each arm and the other holding his legs together so he couldn’t move. Stein punched him hard in the face, right on the end of his nose. As the soldier’s body slumped into unconsciousness, Stein grabbed him by his shirt collar and threw him onto the bed. He ordered the soldiers that had been given the all clear to tie the body down.
‘You asked me for a live specimen. There it is. Now finish testing these guys and show me some real results.’
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