I’ve been making vampire friends left and right over the past few years, and even a mortal enemy. Now I think I have a new adversary. I’m not exactly sure of his intentions, though. It’s been several months since Terry moved out to “pursue a night life of his own,” as he says, so I’ve been on my own. And I guess that’s a good thing, because now it looks like I have to leave Georgia, and the Nick Dasher persona, for good.
Something happened on the twenty-first, a result of my taking a job as a mall Santa. And now a man just left from here. Or rather, I allowed a man to leave from here. He dropped a journal while getting into his car, and I’ve placed its only entry below. I’m still digesting the whole situation.
This is the journal of Robert Rush, and I’m writing this because I’m about to do something borderline stupid. I’m a cop, and I was on the scene of a massacre at a department store in the mall this past Sunday, 12/21; yesterday as of this writing. I was the first homicide detective on the scene, so it was my job to question the witnesses. I’ll go in order and start with the exhibitionist. I won’t use names, to protect the people involved.
She was about twenty-two, clad only in an overcoat when I got there, and still had blood on her, even though most of it had been wiped off. She was shaking as I asked her to describe what had happened.
She said, “I was here with my boyfriend, and… he had always wanted to have sex in a tent set up in a sporting goods department. So… we did. And while we were in there, a gunshot fired as the robbers came in. One of them yelled, ‘Everybody down; we’re just here for the money in the registers.’ And… one of the shoppers decided to be a hero, I guess. He grabbed a gun and struggled with the robber…” She began to cry as she said, “The gun went off and the bullet came through the tent. It killed my boyfriend.”
I tried to calm her down, and asked,“What did you do after that?”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and said, “The shot killed him immediately, so no one noticed. All eyes were on the hero and the gunman. I clapped my hand over my mouth so no one would know I was there.”
I asked, “So you don’t know what happened after that?”
She shook her head and said, “I heard some screams, but my heart was pumping so hard and I was trying so hard to not cry, I couldn’t tell what happened.” She began to cry again and said, “My dad’s going to kill me when he finds out what we were doing when my boyfriend died.”
I shook my head and said, “I think he’ll be too relieved that you’re still alive to be mad.”
After I was done with the exhibitionist, I moved on to the little boy. According to the officer who had gotten there before me, I knew the seven-year-old boy would be upset, having lost his father. I told him my name and asked him if he’d mind asking some questions. He agreed and I asked him to describe what had happened.
He said, “My daddy took me to see Santa, and then we went to the big store so he could buy my mommy a Christmas present.” He wiped his nose and said, “Three bad men came in and said they wanted the store’s money. And my daddy told me to hide so he could stop them.”
I asked, “Is your daddy a police officer, son?”
He shook his head and said, “No, he’s a security guard at the bank, and is on the volunteer fire department.”
I nodded and asked, “What did he do?”
He said, “He grabbed the gun, and it shot the tent. There was a lady in there, because I saw her come out when the police got there. After that, one of the other bad men shot my daddy.” He started crying. “He’s not going to wake up, is he?”
I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to be the one to explain death to this kid. I said, “I’m sorry, son, but he isn’t.”
The boy sobbed for a minute, then wiped his eyes with his hands and said, “I ran out and kicked the bad man that shot my daddy, and he pointed the gun at me.”
I asked, “How did you get out of that?”
He said, “Santa got the bad men.”
That got me curious. I asked, “Santa Claus? What did he do?”
The boy said, “He flew in and grabbed the bad man. He twisted his head and knocked him out.” I knew from the reports that the robbers were dead, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. He continued,“Then one of the bad men said a dirty word and shot Santa.”
I was surprised into asking, “Did Santa… fall down?”
He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Santa’s magic. Bullets can’t hurt him.”
Even more curious, I asked, “So if he didn’t fall down, what did Santa do next?”
The boy said, “He ate the bad man’s blood.”
Now I was wondering if the boy was making the Santa bit up. I asked, “Then what happened?”
The boy sniffled and said, “The third bad man ran for the door, but Santa flew through the air and busted through the glass with the guy.”
I asked, “When you say flew through the air, do you mean he jumped far?”
He shook his head and said, “No, he flew like his reindeer.”
I was now certain the kid was making this up. I saw a woman staring at him with tears in her eyes. I asked him, "Is that your mom?" He nodded. I said, "I've got no more questions, so go on. Again, I'm sorry for your loss."
He nodded and ran to his mother, whom he hugged. I was sure he was just suffering from PTSD, but I turned out to be wrong.
There were a lot of people in the department store when it happened, but only a handful by the door when it happened. I guess Christmas shopping has been light this year because of how much the economy sucks. But there was a sales clerk in his late twenties who had seen everything. I thought he’d be more reliable than the girl or the little boy.
I asked him to tell me what had happened and the first thing he said was, “Do you believe in vampires?”
I tried not to laugh, but wound up smiling anyway. I said, “No, sir. I don’t.”
He shook his head and said, “That’s a shame, because the mall Santa is a vampire.”
I wondered if the kid had told me some sort of truth, even though I didn’t believe in vampires. I asked, “What makes you think he’s a vampire?”
The sales clerk said, “Um, well, for one thing he drank one robber’s blood. And for another, he could fly. And for another, one robber shot him and the bullets didn’t do any good.”
I said, “Mall Santas don’t fly. They’re regular people. I’ll buy that maybe he’s a high jumper, or is mentally ill and drinks blood because he thinkshe’s a vampire, and that he was wearing a Kevlar vest, but there’s no such thing as vampires.”
He scoffed and said, “Whatever. You weren’t there. Have you watched the security videos yet?”
I shook my head and said, “Some of the officers are still going through the recordings and will notify me when they find something useful.”
He said, “When you watch the security videos, you’ll see.”
I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll watch the videos. But there’s no such thing as vampires, just like there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
He repeated, “You’ll see.”
I told him he could go and went on to the next witness.
There was a fat man in the parking lot on his way inside when it happened. I asked him what happened and he said,“I heard three shots come from inside the store and ducked behind a truck. Then I looked and saw a guy in a Santa Claus suit tackle a guy with a gun in his hand and push him through the glass. I don’t know why a man with a gun would run from a guy in a Santa Claus suit, though.”
I said, “Maybe he was a terrible shot and the gun was empty.”
He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “Yeah, but I only heard three shots. And if the gun was empty, I doubt he’d have taken it with him. He probably would’ve tossed it and ran.”
I wondered if the fat man was suggesting that the robber thought the bullets wouldn’t do any harm, as the little boy suggested. But I didn’t give that too much thought yet. I let the fat man go and went to see if the surveillance videos had recorded anything interesting.
As amazing as it seemed, it was exactly like the witnesses had said. There was a man in a Santa Claus suit who could fly. And he ripped out the throat of one of the robbers. And the bullets did not harm him. When he took the shooter through the glass, he pulled his beard off before fleeing the scene, allowing me to get a good look at the guy. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was unbelievable. Vampires don’t exist, right?
The officer who had shown me the videos asked, “What do you think, Rob?”
I had to clear my throat and said,“Don’t tell anyone else about this, understand?”
He scratched his head and nodded, asking, “You don’t believe that vampire stuff, do you?”
I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Where’s the mall manager? I need to ask him who that Santa is.”
It turned out that the mall superintendant was already at the station, demanding to know what had happened. I tracked him down and said, “Sir, it is imperative that you tell me who your Santa is. I have to find him.:
The mall super stretched and said,“His name is Dasher. Nick Dasher. I’ll have to go through my files to find out where you can find him.”
I asked, “Do you have an assistant at your office?”
He nodded and said, “Yeah, but it’s after midnight. She wouldn’t be there.”
I hadn’t thought about the time until then. I looked at my watch to see that it was almost 1 a.m. I said, “Very well, let’s go to your office. I hope you have your keys with you.”
The super nodded and said, “They’re in my car.”
We went outside, and to the super’s horror, the keys were missing. Someone had taken them, and I had a pretty good idea who.
He frowned and said, “Why would someone steal the keys, but not the car? It doesn’t make sense.”
I smirked and said, “Stealing the car would have been too obvious. We’d have a reason to throw the book at him. The guy is smart.”
The super raised an eyebrow and asked, “Do you think it was my Santa?”
I asked, “Who else?”
I told him to call a cab and went back inside to look for any information on a Nick Dasher.
It was 3 a.m. when I got lucky. A few years ago, we were investigating a missing person case. This well-known professor named Richard Warner disappeared and he had last been seen with a guy matching Mr. Dasher’s description. Mr. Warner was leaving an apartment building and the Dasher guy went back inside, leading me to believe that was his home. It may have seemed like a stretch, but it was a lead.
I went out to my car, then thought about what I was doing. If the guy really was a vampire, he would be too powerful in the dark for me to talk to him. So, I set the alarm on my watch and took a brief nap in my car. I don’t sleep very deep, what with the things I’ve seen. Once I was awake, I went to the address, where I am now.
It was six-thirty when I got here and the sky was still dark. I didn’t know if he would be home. So, I reached into the glove box and pulled out this note pad. It’s taken me long enough to write it that the sun is now up.
If anything happens to me, I hope someone finds this. Not that I’m certain this guy is a vampire, but he’s definitely a killer, and the record needs to be kept.
Okay… I’m going in now.
And that was his entry. Now it’s time for me to finish mine.
I keep the shades drawn, and fortunately he didn’t think to let them up. He had a flashlight with him, and I could hear him picking the lock. I waited behind the door so that no sunlight would touch me upon his entry.
His gun was the first thing I saw. I rolled my eyes. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t know what had happened at the mall, and that the thief’s gun hadn’t done any damage. I grabbed his hand and pulled him inside, then kicked the door shut. Taking his gun away, I asked, “Do you have any idea what I could do to you?”
He gulped and stammered, “I-I-I heard you’re a vampire Santa. I had to find out for myself.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Why? You don’t expect me to turn you, do you?”
“No,” he shouted at once. “I just…had to know.”
“You had to know, even if the satisfaction meant your death?” I asked.
His eyes wide, he licked his lips.“I’m a cop,” he whispered. “I face death every day. Catching a killer is always worth it.”
I laughed. “Catching a killer, you say? You do realize I won’t go to jail, right?”
He gulped. “I need you to understand how close I came to stopping you.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You’re not the first person to realize what I am,” I said. “What makes you think you could stop me?”
The corners of his mouth twitched.“I’m a cop,” he said again. “I have what it takes to see that justice prevails.”
I laughed and said, “Justice? I could argue that those thieves were on the receiving end of justice. They killed two men, one of them the father of a small boy who saw it happen.”
“They would have gone to prison,” he said.
“How do you know that? They could have been acquitted.”
“It’s always a chance we, as police officers, have to take. But it’s better that they go to trial than be murdered.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What’s your name?”
He said, “Rob Rush,” then corrected himself by saying, “Detective Robert Rush.”
I smiled and said, “Detective Rush; a fitting name, seeing how you rushed in here without backup.”
“What good would that have done?” he asked.
“So you do have some sense,” I said.“But it doesn’t quite explain your reason for bursting in here. If you knew backup couldn’t help, why would you break in on your own?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t take time to think it through.”
“So your name is fitting,” I said.“It’s a wonder you’ve lasted this long.”
He frowned and said, “If you’re going to kill me, just do it already. Stop teasing me.”
I smiled at him and said, “I’m not going to kill you, Detective Rush. As far as I’m concerned, we’re on the same side. Neither one of us wanted those punks to get away with killing someone, especially not in my mall. I’m just trying to understand you.”
He eased up a bit. “You’re a bit difficult to understand yourself. Why are you a mall Santa? Is that your way of feeding?”
I took a deep breath. “No. I don’t feed on children. I like fulfilling their wishes, that’s all. I’d rather not have this discussion now.”
He squinted and asked, “If you let me go, and I come back here, you’ll be gone, won’t you?”
I smiled and said, “You guessed it. My boss at the mall is going to spread the word about me, which means I’m going to have to change my identity. I know a guy who knows a guy who can help me in that respect.”
He licked his lips and asked, “But you’d have to wait until it gets dark, right? I could come back with somebody later today.”
That’s when I broke his left leg. He screamed and fell to the floor, then I quickly made a tourniquet out of my Santa Claus jacket. “This will make sure you don’t get far,” I told him. “In the meantime, I have a lot of hiding places in this building. If you come back on crutches, I’ll be hiding… and waiting. I don’t want to kill you; in fact, I expect you to track me. But I don’t want you to do so today. Let the leg heal.”
He growled and said, “I’ll get you, Dasher.”
I opened the door and carefully pushed him out without getting any sunlight on me. Apparently, the hospital has kept him busy, because he hasn’t come back. When I went out tonight, I found his journal on the sidewalk. Apparently he had dropped it crawling into his car.
I contacted Terry from a pay phone and asked him to contact his friend in the black market forgery business. He made a new ID for me: Chris Vixen. I’m pretty sure that was Terry’s idea. It had to be.
I have no doubt I’ll see Detective Rush again. But unlike Jerry Tolbin, I have no intentions of killing him. He’s very interesting to me. I’ll have to ask him the next time I see him what contributed to his suicidal tendencies.
Still, I’m sad to be done with Nick Dasher so soon. But when a mall Santa goes berserk, it’s time to hang up the stocking hat.