The Translocation of Dr Pepper

Many residents of a small Oregon town have their lives uprooted when the soda fountain in a local diner begins to teleport, threatening the very existence of the planet at large.

This is meant to be a lighthearted, fun, and somewhat humorous story.

First draft.

Work in progress.

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10. A Puzzling Case of Exsanguination

.             Chief of Police Samuel Dominick was enjoying a hot cup of coffee in his office one brisk September morning in a small Oregon town where nothing ever happened. Sure, there was some corruption within his ranks facilitated by the richest woman in town, but that was hardly news to him and did little to effect the citizens of Pinebill, Oregon, with whom he had been charged with the task of protecting and serving. The town was peaceful. That was what mattered. The rumors of a teleporting commercial kitchen appliance that had surfaced recently did little more than affirm his notion that the town was so safe that people had to make up stories to keep from being bored. Bored and safe was always better than excited and dead.

.             In the next room over, his deputy, Alex Kurt, received a phone call from a frantic 911 phone operator and then several other phone calls after that all pertaining to the same subject. He immediately found it necessary to share the contents of the conversations with the chief of police himself. Deputy Kurt swung the door open so suddenly that the room shook ever so slightly and the police chief spilled his coffee.

.            “Sir, there’s been a call. Several calls, really,” the deputy announced.

.            “We get lots of calls. Specify,” responded Chief Dominick.

.            “It’s a possible homicide. Someone found a body,” Deputy Kurt said, nearly smiling. He was almost excited that something of note had finally happened and too ashamed to admit this.

.            “Where?” asked the chief of police.

.            “The cemetery.”

.            Chief Dominick, believing himself to be the subject of a joke, rolled his eyes.

.            “A body. In a graveyard?” he scoffed, not wanting to give the young deputy any reason to believe that he had fallen for the prank.

.            “One that wasn’t already there, sir. The patrols in the area have all gone to secure the scene,” Kurt explained, making a more conscious effort to conceal his intrigue from the police chief so that he would know that he was telling the truth.

.             The deputy handed Chief Dominick his handkerchief. The police chief used it to clean up the coffee he had spilled. Coffee stains, his wife would say, were unbecoming. It was incredibly fortunate he had not gotten any on his clothes.

.             “Why don’t you go check it out yourself? Let me know what you find,” he said.

.             “No, sir, the county M.E. is already on the scene. She says you need to see this.”

.             “Why?”

.             “All she said was that it was a ‘weird one’. Never seen anything like it.”

.             The police chief took his coat and his hat from off the back of his chair and the pair started walking down the police station hall. Deputy Kurt put on his sunglasses even though the sky was overcast.

.             “And What are you so giddy about?” Dominick said, interrupting the vision Kurt had been having of he and the chief of police walking in slow motion.

.             “I’ve never investigated a homicide before,” he explained.

.             “Well, I have. So wipe that stupid smile off your face and act professional. Somebody’s dead.”

.             “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

.             The police chief and his deputy rode in silence to the crime scene. When they arrived at the graveyard, there were already four squad cars parked outside with their lights on and there was a large section of the graveyard blocked off with yellow tape. There, laying face down in the dying grass, was the corpse of poor Felix Johnson. As Chief Dominick walked onto the scene, he could smell the freshly cut daisies and daffodils that had been placed on many of the graves. They were spring lowers and it was fall. With the help of the human ingenuity of the greenhouses around town, they had found a way to become a symbol of life after death year round. They were fragrant. They masked the smell of death. Thank God for that.

.             The smell of the flowers was replaced by the pungent odor of dead flesh as the men got closer to the body. Deputy Kurt was unnerved to discover that a dead man does not smell unlike any other dead thing. A dead man smells the same as road kill. The same as a dead squirrel you pull out of you attic. The victim hadn’t really decayed much yet, but the smell was still off putting. As was the sight of his skin. It was unnaturally pale.

.             The county medical examiner was kneeling down beside the victim with big red headphones on. Her name was Dr. Harley Chavez. She was fairly young and always wore a lab coat even when she wasn’t working. The song playing through her headphones was Toxic by Britany Spears. She lifted the speaker off one of her ears.

.            “I bet you can’t guess how he died,” she said.

.            “Was it murder?” Deputy Kurt asked.

.            “Maybe,” said Dr. Chavez. “But the cause of death was exsanguination. Most extreme case I’ve ever seen.”

.            “He bled to death?” asked Chief Dominick.

.            “Yes, but there’s no blood here in the grass. And he didn’t just bleed to death, Chief. He has no blood at all!” the medical examiner explained handing him a pair of blue rubber gloves. She took off her headphones and hung them around her neck.

.            “What could do something like that?” asked the police chief as he snapped the gloves on.

.            “A hydro-aspirator. It’s a tool used by morticians to removed blood from the body before filling it with embalming fluid,” said Dr. Chavez.

.            “So, the mortician from the cemetery’s funeral home could have killed this man?” asked Deputy Kurt.

.            “Or somebody trying to make it look like he did.”

.            Dominick turned the body over onto its back. The corpse was rigid and cold. There were five holes bored into the dead man’s neck. Kurt gagged.

.            “Is that normal?” the police chief asked.

.            “Define normal,” replied Chavez.

.            “For a hydro-aspirator?” Dominick clarified.

.            “Not for someone who knows how to use one.”

.            Deputy Kurt tuned out the conversation. He felt sick from the smell. When his face began to look as pale as the dead man himself, Chief Dominick excused him to go throw up. He did so in a nearby shrub to keep from soiling a gravestone with the contents of his stomach. When he returned, Dr. Chavez was helping load the body into an ambulance to be taken to her morgue. Most deaths that occurred in town would be examined by the mortician in the funeral home because murders in a small town were rare. However, considering that the funeral director was currently the most compelling suspect, the county would handle this.

.              A police officer on the scene arrested the mortician and drove home naked to the station. He did not resist. The police chief and his deputy drove back as well and waited for the suspect to be processed before beginning their interrogation. The mortician told them what he could. That he had heard someone sneaking around the funeral home early the day before and that he never saw who it was. He argued that, had he committed the murder, he would have fully and more skillfully embalmed the corpse and buried it in an empty grave. Most importantly, he said, he would not have called the police. While Chief Dominick had long held the belief that the worst way to keep from being pressed with murder charges was to tell how much better you could have done the crime, he had to admit, the funeral director made a compelling case. He was released.

.              News of the discovered body spread like wildfire through the small town. Felix Johnson’s parents received word about it before lunchtime and, because the had not seen or heard from their son in three days, drove up to the county coroner’s office and made a devastating scene upon identifying the body as Felix’s. After the identification, the body was turned of to the care of the Pinebill mortician with Dr. Chavez staying in the town for a short while to continue examining it. The Johnsons were given a full day to grieve before being interviewed.

.              After that full day had passed and the interview had been conducted, it was revealed that Felix, who was thirty four years old and did not live with his parents, still kept his parents updated with the happenings of his life. It was also divulged that he had been involved in some sort of secret club that met every Wednesday night in the Pinebill Public Library. Chief Dominick knew very little about ritualistic killings but a graveyard exsanguination sounded like the work of a sadistic secret society to him. So, to the library he went.

.               The Pinebill Public Library was the scientific hub of the town. Due to the copious amount of rare insect and plant life, researchers in the fields of both botany and melittology, as well as several other areas of study, often made their home in Pinebill, Oregon. The library was five stories high, not including the basement, making it the tallest building in town. There was a glass greenhouse on the roof as well as domesticated beehives, both of which were used to conduct experiments regarding cross pollination and the pollinating habits of the rare pink cherry honey bee. The top two floors of the library were dedicated entirely to encyclopedias and binders full of publish research papers. The bottom three floors functioned as a regular public library. The shelves were decorated with intricate floral designs painted years ago by a psychology researcher on the fourth floor who had fallen in love with a librarian with seasonal depression and wanted to cheer her up by making her workplace feel like springtime even when it was dark and cold outside.

.              The police chief and his deputy were greeted with the somber expressions of people who had heard about Felix Johnson’s murder from the local news. He had been a good man, they told Chief Dominick. He used to come in every Wednesday with a smile on his face. And, if he had been involved in some sort of cult, the library patrons had never known.

.              Dominick and Kurt paced separately through the aisles between the bookshelves in search of evidence of some sort of secret society. As Chief Dominick was checking behind books for some secret symbol or anything that could be of use, he pulled a book about mythical sea creatures from its place and was startled to see a pair of eyes watching him from the other side of the shelf.

.             “Mr. Dominick, I think I know what you’re looking for,” whispered a voice belonging to the same person as the pair of eyes.

.             The chief of police recognized the voice. It belonged to a fourteen year old girl named Camilla Donovan. She had been friends with Chief Dominick’s daughter, Nichole, since the second grade. Not best friends, but good enough friends that they would hang out on occasion and get in trouble for copying each other’s homework. Most people in town knew of Camilla. She ran the Dandelion Motel when her father was away. That being said, not many people really knew Camilla at all. She was a bit odd and always wore dark eye shadow. And, now, she was staring at the police chief through a book shelf a whispering that she knew what he was looking for.

.            “Oh, do you, now?” Dominick whispered in reply, doubting that she was telling the truth but not wanting to dismiss her possible lead entirely.

.            “Yeah, you’re trying to find the club. Right?” Camilla replied.

.            “Do you know anything about it?”

.            “I’m a member. Is this about Felix?”

.            “What do you now about that?”

.            “Not much. Just that he’s dead. How did he die? They won’t say on the news.”

.             “I don’t think I should—“

.             “Tell me or I’ll have to find out some other way.”

.             “It was blood loss.”

.             There was a long silence as Camilla’s eyes disappeared from behind the bookshelf. She appeared again walking towards Chief Dominick from the nearest end of the aisle. Dominick replaced the book he was holding and turned to see that Camilla was suddenly standing entirely to close.

.            “You need to come with me,” she demanded and led the chief of police through a maze of shelves to an old wooden door that had been in place since the library had first been built in 1903, long before it held its current splendor but, undoubtedly, held a splendor of a different kind. The door, made of sturdy polished mahogany and had a ghastly, yet somehow beautiful, carving of an eyeless angel adorning its largest panel, was exactly the kind of thing Dominick expected of a cloak and dagger secret society. It made no sound when Camilla opened it and led the police chief inside.

.             The teenager closed the door behind Chief Dominick and told him to watch his step as they walked down short flight of wooden steps into the library’s poorly lit basement. There was. single, naked lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. It was colored green and gave off a strange, green light. The only other light in the room came from candles which had been lit and placed around haphazardly. Directly under the green lightbulb was a square plastic table with a decorative rug draped over it. Around the table sat three people wearing dark clothing, but not to an absurd degree, and each holding a book. They all looked up at Camilla and the chief.

.            “Welcome to book club,” Camilla said, unenthusiastically.

.            “So, what kind of club is this, exactly?” Chief Dominick asked.

.            One of the people at the table stood up. He was heavyset and had a ponytail. He extended his had and Dominick cautiously shook it.

.            “We’re the Horror Story Book Club. Spookiest book club in town. We read scary stories not for the faint of heart. But other than that we’re pretty much just a normal book club. My name is Roger Greene. I’m club president,” the man with the ponytail explained.

.             “Police Chief Dominick. So, this club is really just a club? It’s actually a book club?” Chief Dominick said.

.             “Yeah. I guess that means you’re not here to join. Is this about Felix? Nasty business,” replied Mr. Greene.

.             “Yes, this is about Felix. I was hoping you and the rest of the club members here would be able to shed some light on his daily life. Due to the, uh, odd nature of his death,” said Dominick

.             “What odd nature?” asked Greene.

.             Chief Dominick looked at the fourteen year old Camilla and wondered if the details might be too graphic to say in front of her. He then decided that any fourteen year old girl who contributed to discussions of horror novels that were proclaimed to be not for the faint of heart could handle the particulars beyond ‘loss of blood’.

.             “Felix Johnson was discovered face down in Pinebill Cemetery with five strange holes in his neck. The body was completely drained of all blood but no blood was found in the area. What insight can you offer to that?” Dominick said.

.             Everyone in the room shook their heads in shame and disappointment as if they had expected the answer. One woman with her hair in braided pigtails, the ends of which were dyed forrest green, spoke up.

.             “I can’t believe he actually did it. I mean, I never thought—“ She stopped cold after glares from other members of the club.

.            “You can’t believe what?” asked Dominick, hoping he would finally get some answers.

.             Unexpectedly, the group, including Camilla and excluding the police chief, huddled together like a football team on the far side of the table. Dominick waited while the Horror Story Book Club conferred, whispered and bickered. At one point, Roger Greene said, “Okay, We’l tell him.” The huddle broke and everyone took a seat around the table. Mr. Greene told Chief Dominick to also sit down and motioned towards Felix’s empty folding chair. As he did so, the police chief’s hat knocked into the hanging lightbulb, causing the green light to swing back and forth. Roger Greene began to speak.

.             “So, basically, here’s the scoop. Felix joined the H.S.B.C. three years ago. His was super nice. Kind of awkward, but he was a really good guy, you know? He loved scary stories. I mean, obviously, we all do, but he was different. He was really interested in the history behind different monitor legends. And it was actually really cool. Then, about two years ago, we read Dracula. Felix got way into into it. Like, way, way into it. Anyway, he starts doing some research into old vampire legends and somehow get this’d in his head that vampires are real. Kept saying he found some old document that proved there was one living out on the old Pinball estate. He went out there once a week to look for it. He even dug a hole or something under the fence so Cruella De Ville wouldn’t catch him. He’d been doing that for two years but its big property so it’d be hard to search the whole thing. We all figured it was the harmless kind of crazy that just gave hime something to do. But, now…” he said.

.             “Now our favorite vampire hunter shows up exsanguinated in a grave yard and it really makes you wonder if he ended up being right,” murmured the woman with the green pigtails.

.             Everyone in the room was visibly uncomfortable. Chief Dominick, lacking a graceful way to exit the library basement as quickly as possible, stood up and declared that he was sorry for their losses and left in a hurry without so much as a thank you. The less time spent in a basement full of eccentric horror story fanatics who believe in vampires, the better.

.             Camilla followed him up the steps and out the mahogany door. She chased after him and caught the police chief by the shoulder.

.              “I know it sounds crazy. I know we sound crazy. But promise me you’ll look at this investigation from every angle. Even if it means considering some…extreme possibilities,” she said.

.              “Listen, Camilla. I do think there’s something weird going on here. But I don’t want you spreading any rumors that it’s vampires. Okay? Chances are, somebody knew about Felix’s obsession and removed his blood with some sort of machine. Don’t worry. Vampires aren’t real,” Dominick replied.

.              “Just promise me you’ll consider it.”

.              “Okay, fine. I promise.”

.              Someone called Dominick’s name. The girl disappeared as soon as he turned around to see who it was. Deputy Kurt had called the police chief’s name. He did so again, this time, followed by two questions: Where had he been? and Did he find anything?. So Chief Dominick told his deputy what had happened in the last fifteen minutes, leaving both men with more questions than answers. Kurt then explained that Dr. Chavez had call him and told him, once again, that the Chief should really have a look at something and that both of them needed to come to the morgue to see it. So, that is where they went next.

.              The mortician let the men into the funeral home with little more than a quiet grumble regarding his disdain over having been accused of murder so recently. Otherwise, though, he was polite and ushered Chief Dominick and his deputy downstairs to the morgue. The morgue was starkly lit and every surface was shining. It was an acute contrast to the dusty old funeral home above. The air smelled sickeningly of disinfectant and embalming fluid. Dr. Harley Chavez was looking into a microscope with her headphones on. She was listening to Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne. Deputy Kurt tapped Dr. Chavez on the shoulder, startling her so gravely that she punched him in the ribs, leaving a bruise. She removed her headphones and laughed.

.             “Oh, good, you’re here,” she remarked as the deputy felt his bruised ribs.

.             “We’re here,” he mustered.

.             “Come take a look at this,” she said, gesturing for Kurt to look into the microscope.

.             “What am I looking at here, exactly?” asked the deputy.

.             "That,” said Dr. Chavez, “is a cross-section of Felix’s ear tissue. The blood vessels are way stretched out. It’s the same all over his body.”

.             “What could cause something like that?” Kurt asked.

.             “I don’t know. All I do know is that this guy wasn’t exsanguinated by a hydro-aspirator. It’s almost like something burrowed into his veins from those entry points in his neck and drained all the blood. I’ve never seen anything like it,” the medical examiner explained.

.             “Could it have been some kind of blood-sucking parasite?”

.             “Not a chance. For a creature like that, even five of them, to consume that much blood would be impossible. Plus, I didn’t find any parasites in him. My question is, where did all the blood go?”

.             Chief Dominick drew back the sheet that covered Felix’s face. There was a slight look of fear in the poor man’s eyes but, mostly, his expression was one of wonder. Dominick looked at the five holes in the neck of the corpse and thought of a thousand ‘extreme possibilities’. None of them started with a V and ended with and E. Felix had to have died from something real. The thought cross Dominick’s mind that maybe this was some freak medical incident. Maybe there was no killer. But where was the blood?

.               As Dominick stared at the five entry wounds on the dead man’s neck, he saw that one of the holes was separated from the other four. The pattern over all resembled a single curved line and an offset hole that made the police chief wonder if it had anything to tell him. The shape was familiar in the manner that candle with a scent you had smelled once before but couldn’t quite place was familiar. He nearly touched the corpse to see if that could jog some kind of recognition. As his hand hovered, the answer came to him. The wounds were arranged in the way fingertips might be placed reassuringly on a persons shoulder. And, although Chief of Police, Samuel Dominick believed this to be entirely coincidental, something about it sent unforgiving shivers down his spine.

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