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February 19, 2024

Patterns in Blood 03

By Lydia Manx

Before leaving the keyboard I keyed in codes to switch on the household's interior surveillance cameras to record in response to any motions and monitor without alarm. The elaborate system was constructed with layers of measures and countermeasures. Unfortunately like any man-made system there were flaws. Randolph and Rachel possessing my entrance code headed my list at this particular moment. Only my code would allow me unrestricted access. Peter had to have me counter-code him inside the gates. A chill ran down my spine. I hadn't thought of myself as vulnerable to humans anymore. The vampires I could and would deal with if they ever tracked me down. I never expected to find myself so compromised. Angrily I paced to the front door.

While I went to let Peter inside I was confident that all of Michael Stockwell's actions would be quietly downloaded on my security system and offsite. At any time I could monitor his movements. It was one well-tested aspect of my security system. Or so I had thought.

Peter Grange politely knocked on the front door. I checked my monitor by the front door and confirmed nobody in the camera's field except him. He still had to give his hand imprint and another series of codes. Waiting for him to key through the prompts -- my system also checked for body heat and number of humans in the group. Vampires would be detected by body weight not heat signature at this point. Peter never asked why I had a pressure point scale built into my front porch, but I always figured better safe than sorry. Knowing he'd take a minute or two to answer the questions I switched to the live camera feed from my living room's cameras.

From my hallway vantage I watched him flip through his small spiral notebook. His demeanor was unhurried. He jotted a few notes on the pages. The camera wasn't immediately able to pick what he was writing but later if I was interested I could replay the feed and digitally enhance and decipher the notes if I desired. Focusing back on what I could control, I opened the door and let Peter inside as he'd finished jumping through hoops.

Ever the nervous geek, Peter ducked inside, talking quickly, "Hello, Ms. Gilliam. I arrived as quickly as possible. As you see I've brought your file with me. What exactly seems to have happened?" He radiated concern and terror. I was one of his 'problem' clients, I knew from the years we'd been acquainted. I never asked for any favors and always had odd requests. That he flew to my house was just an indication of how much money I had thrown at him over the years. Thank goodness my paintings still sold for an obscene amount of money. Randolph never succeeded in taking my talent from me.

Ignoring the anxious look on his face, I simply said, "If you'd follow me to the living room I'll be happy to tell you what I know."

As we entered the living room the detective rose from the chair and put his notebook into his inside jacket pocket. I didn't know if he'd moved around since I had last spied on him, but from his demeanor it didn't seem he'd traveled very far. Interesting, since I hadn't known a cop without curiosity. Maybe he was smarter than I'd given him credit for, but I somehow doubted it.

"Detective Stockwell, I'd like to introduce you to Peter Grange, from Grange Home Services, they installed and maintain my security system. Mr. Grange this is Detective Michael Stockwell of some assorted police state," I casually introduced the two.

The two men politely nodded to each other while they shook hands. Nice human touch, I thought. Mentally I pushed the vampires out of my head. It had been years since I had seen one, but every time a few men got together, I recalled how differently the vampires treated each other. I shook my head while motioning them to be seated. I turned into my seat and waited for the action. Peter looked uneasy.

Intrigued, I asked, "Detective Stockwell, would you mind telling Mr. Grange how it is you that you came to be on my doorstep?"

Clearing his throat the detective responded, "From Mrs. Rachel Hagen, Randolph Hagen's mother, I received a code and precise instructions on how to ender the compound, of what I believed at the time to be a possible crime scene, of her son's second residence. Furthermore, I was given directions on accessing the dwelling should I not get a response." His tone was short and very businesslike. Something sunk inside my heart. I wanted to run screaming into the desert.

He continued further slicing through my heart with, "After ringing the door bell and knocking repeatedly Ms. Gilliam answered the door herself making it unnecessary to utilize the secondary sets of codes and key."

Stockwell paused to take a breath of air and I jumped in, agitated, with, "Excuse me, Detective Stockwell, you failed to tell me all of this. Why?" His formal stilted cop phrasing hurt my stomach. Had I been compromised even more than I previously thought?

An uneasy feeling was churning through my entire body. Peter was looking a bit green himself.

"After the reception at the door," he continued in his cop speak meter, "I didn't quite know what to make of all this. I was unsure how you would respond to the news on top of the demise of your husband," at my dead stare he fumbled and changed his wording, "excuse me, your ex-husband."

Stunned Peter stammered, "Oh no! This can't have happened." The man's voice was arching to uncomfortably high notes. He frantically flipped though his manila file. A stricken look crossed his face and a horrified moan escaped his lips, "This can't be true!" Pale he looked at me with disbelief.

Tersely I bit out, "What?"

Detective Stockwell straightened himself up, knowing he was the focus of our attention and he looked quite grim. Peter was shuddering as he began to reply.

"It appears your list of contacts have been altered. Also, there are a few requests for information with what seems to be your signature. The address for some of the requests is a 825 Hollyberry."

Sickly I interrupted, "What was the date of the letter?"

Checking the correspondence Peter said, "Roughly two months ago. There's a notation in the file saying that there was a phone call from you preceding this exchange of information." Peter looked ghastly. Obviously the error was apparent to even him by this point. I wasn't pleased in the least, but didn't see how shooting the messenger would get me anything but a mess to clean up. Tempting as it was.

The cop dug into his pocket and brought out the notebook I had seen him writing in while watching him from the cameras in the room linked to my computer security monitors. Another twist flicked deep inside me as he began to scratch something down in his little book. I forced myself to spell out exactly what I'd thought had occurred.

"Okay, let's go through this slowly and see if I have it right. Two months ago or so you all received a letter?" I spoke very slowly. I had some horrible thought winging through my mind; I hoped I was wrong.

Peter flipped through his paperwork and said, "Yes, April 21," he provided the date after glancing at a page in front of him.

"April 21st?" A tremor started running up my spine as chills prickled my skin. Every hair on my body stood out stiffly as fears washed my mind blank. The date had been long etched on my soul.

Slowly I resumed, "On April 21st your office received a telephone call from someone claiming to be me? Please, Mr. Grange, explain to me how exactly this person was identified."

Detective Stockwell calmly stood and grabbed a folded cloth from the wet bar. He ran cold water over the bar towel and brought it to me, pressing it gently into my hands. Grasping it, I dabbed at my face and the back of my neck.

"Ah, well, it seems from the notes here in your file that our secretary, Marlene Wayne, wrote in the file that the person who called readily identified herself as Alanna Gilliam. Regrettably there is no indication of how she accomplished this." Peter wanly answered.

Stunned, I remembered all the time it took to choose the right security company. I was careful in deciding on a place, knowing how I didn't want to use some huge conglomerate that would forget humanity. After I had spent an extraordinary amount of hours researching companies suited to my needs, and without a hint of vampire ownership or silent partners I picked Peter's firm. The major selling point was their strict identification measures taken.

Cross-checking and private codes for each individual was one of the features highlighted by Peter's propaganda. And that was a big one given what else was out there. Knowing that some stray vampires might still want to check on me made me very thorough in my research. Now it seemed it was all for nothing.

A human family found me. Not the vampires, but my ex-husband and his family. They obviously broke through the security.

Quietly I continued, "So, somebody claiming to be me changed my file. Or just got access to my file." It was a valid set of questions, which really weren't meant to be questions, but given I still had a gun close by I figured I needed to try to play nice.

Peter responded, "Once the phone call came, it appears that there was a rash of correspondence. A new set of master codes were given to an individual identified in your file as Robert Kelsey, your great-uncle. In your original application and information sheets his name in fact appears. The address originally given was changed during the letter and email exchange and some requested material was sent."

I stopped him with a raised palm.

"For your information, my great-uncle is an eighty-nine year old feeble man living in a senior assisted living residence for over the past ten years. He is in a wheelchair with a horrific incurable degenerating bone disease. It should also be in my file, that as of a year ago, he is bedridden over ninety percent of the time as movements of any kind can send him into a spiral of pain that narcotics can't touch. I recall sending the information about him in response to the annual update check your company sends out." I took a deep breath and tried to keep from screaming. I knew it would do no good, but it all sure was enough to make me want to scream. It was all my uncle could do to push the button for help from the staff. He certainly didn't send lengthy letters and emails.

"As for the address of 825 Hollyberry you so causally rattled off a few minutes ago. That should have rung some major bells and set up red flags as it was mentioned in my first set of interviews to you personally. I specifically told you, Mr. Grange, at the outset I wanted your personal assurance that this exact type of error couldn't ever possibly take place. In fact, I distinctly recall you claiming this could never happen in a million years. Unless I've been in a deep coma, I don't seem to think such a passage of time has occurred." My anger tainted my words. Silence held for a full minute before Peter chanced a word or two. Not that he was helping, from my point of view. He appeared to be swapping colors of the rainbow as his emotions churned. Detective Stockwell watched the exchange with a slight frown between his eyes.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-11-26
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