Thirty five year old Julie Hall, owner and CEO of AIS Ltd. a hugely successful company in the Artificial Intelligence industry, had been directed by her smart phone to turn off the R130 in North County Dublin. As she squinted through the windscreen of her car while driving along the ink black, dark, side road, with grass growing down the middle, a stab of concern ran through her when her smart phone flashes “No GPS Signal” and the map disappears from the screen, although she knew she was close to the house as it had said two minutes to go before it died.
While her car was effectively cutting a path through overgrown hedgerows, the charging light on the dash came on then flashed red and the headlights slowly dimmed. As they disappeared altogether she saw a gap in the hedge to her left. Pulling over, she stopped in front of an ancient wrought iron gate. Sitting in total darkness, except for the faint glow from her smart phone, a rising nervousness creates a tingling sensation in her arms and legs. The engine dies. Turning the ignition key produces the click, click, click, sound of a dead battery. Resting her head on the steering wheel she thinks, “Paul was right, what was I thinking”
It had started the previous Saturday when she had swiped right for Philippe De Silva on her Tinder App. She had been using Tinder for some months as her busy life as a senior executive made it difficult to meet men in a casual social setting. They agreed to meet and for once a profile didn’t lie. Tall, lightly tanned, jet black hair, piercing blue eyes. Immaculately dressed in a light grey Italian suit, with dark tan shoes and blindingly white shirt, open at the neck. His warm, firm handshake and double cheek kiss creating a tingle of excitement in the pit of her stomach.
Over a glass of wine and pleasant conversation, his voice low and smooth, she smiles to herself and thinks of the Dracula movie she had watched recently on Netflix. Dracula had mesmerised his victims before drinking their blood. In the movie the vampire drank his victim’s blood by sucking it from their neck with his incisor teeth but Julie knew from searching the internet that in fact real vampires drink the blood of their victims by cutting into an artery and allowing the blood to flow into a drinking cup. Twenty minutes into their conversation she is disappointed when his phone rings and he takes the call. He then apologised and said he had to go and attend to some urgent family business, but perhaps she would like to come to a Halloween party he was organising the following Wednesday, the hug, and kiss left and right creating another tingle of excitement in the pit of her stomach. “My house is difficult to find”, he said “it’s an old rectory in the countryside, I’ll txt you the Satnav co- ordinates” and bowing slightly he smiled and left.
The bubble of her excitement was punctured at brunch the following day when her brother Paul, a Special Tactics and Operations Command Police Officer, more commonly known as S.W.A.T. shouted, “Are you fucking nuts” when she told him about it. Her angry reaction about minding his own fucking business got a curt “right, but a least give me the Satnav shit and I’ll check it out”
Now, sitting in her car and assuming the gate to her left is the entry to his house, she pulls the phone from its hands free cradle and presses two, Paul’s speed dial number. “Service not available” lights up the screen. Sitting in the ink black darkness except for the light from the phone her nervousness increases when the screen says, “only five percent battery left please charge or switch to battery saving mode” and her bladder screams to be emptied.
Opening the car door and risking some precious battery time shining the phone torchlight on the ground outside shows grass and weeds, no ditch, nettles or other stinging plants. Getting out of the car, she squats and relieves herself, feeling very vulnerable, heart thumping wildly. Risking more precious battery power to shine the light on the cast Iron gate set at the end of an overgrown gravel driveway, she commits the scene to memory, locks the car with the key and walks slowly to the gate. Feeling her way through, risking another five seconds of phone battery to find the direction of the driveway.
Walking slowly, feet sliding along to make sure she is still on the gravel, every minute feeling like an eternity, hearth thumping in her throat, using the phone light five more times the battery goes to three percent as an outline of a building appears directly ahead. She is about to use the phone light again when the clouds directly above open and a silver moon lights up the surroundings in an eerie light presenting a scene that’s almost as bad a walking through the dark. The old rectory house, in total darkness, is about one hundred metres away surrounded by tightly packed ancient headstones with the path to the door of the house winding through them in a zig zag fashion. Heart thumping madly, she walks through the headstones. In her imagination the headstones turn to look as she passes and she is certain she can hear a murmur of conversation but her rational mind tells her not to be so silly, the sound has to be coming from the party in the house.
Past the graves and up the three steps to the front door she reaches up to grab the large Brass knocker but before her raised hand reaches it the door opens and Philippe De Silva is standing there, dressed in a black evening dress suit his Halloween costume completed with a chalk white face and a broad smile on his crimson lips. “Come in, welcome”. His silky voiced greeting calms her nerves and she returns his smile as he takes her by the elbow and steers her along the hall saying “the party is this way”, throwing open the door at the end of the hall and stepping aside. Entering the room her normally analytical brain refuses to take in the scene she is presented with.
A girl of her own age is hanging from a trapeze swing by the back of her knees, hands tied behind her back, ankles tied together and her long hair pulled back and tied to her feet creating a bow effect except for one thing; her throat is cut from ear to ear, the cut so deep her spine is visible and her head is pulled back hard displaying a wide macabre grin at her throat while her upper body is hanging straight down with her blood flowing into a large silver cauldron, around which are standing six other women drinking the blood from the cauldron with silver soup ladles. As the scene sinks in, her scream dies in her throat and she faints to the floor
When she comes through Julie is lying on her side naked with a silver trapeze bar behind her knees, tied up in the same way the as the girl hanging from the ceiling, hands tied behind her back, ankles tied together, hair pulled back and tied to her ankles creating a bow shape and exposing her throat the skin tautly stretched, a dark grey silk handkerchief tied through her mouth turning her shouts of protest into a barely audible croak.
As she lies there, five men, dressed the same as Phillipe De Silva walk into the room, the women lick their ladles, place them on the table in front of them and shuffle out the door their dead eyes unseeing, skin waxy yellow, each of them with ear to ear train track scars around their necks.
Two of the men step up on the table and unhook the girl from the trapeze ropes. They carry her to the other end of the room gently place her on a bed, untie all the ropes and cover her with a white sheet
Two more pick Julie up from the floor by the silver trapeze bar, another supports her shoulders and they carry her to the table. Inserting the bar into the trapeze ropes they pull a third rope and Julie slowly rises, swinging slightly above the silver cauldron. She struggles and throws her body left and right but the three men hold her tight as Philippe De Silva walks over.
Standing in front of her he smiles and says “don’t worry Julie, you won’t feel any pain, your brain will feel a mild sense of surprise for about ten seconds and that’s it. “This will help” he says, as he inserts a hypodermic into the side of her neck.
The stainless steel surgical scalpel glints in the light as he places it behind her left ear.
The room erupts with noise, the door is smashed inwards off its hinges, the window is shattered, glass flying in all directions, two flash stun grenades explode in the room filling it with ear drum stunning noise, blinding white light and smoke as six S.W.A.T team members, two coming through the window and four through the door in full battle dress fan out across the room screaming “GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR, DON’T MOVE, LIE ON YOUR FACE, HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK, red focus lights from their assault rifles traversing the room in a dancing matrix. They didn’t notice the six small black winged creatures that flew out the door as they rushed in.
When the smoke cleared a total state of confusion erupts as the only things in the room are the S.W.A.T. team, a body shape covered in a sheet on the bed at the end of the room and Julie swinging gently to and fro on the trapeze bar, a small trickle of blood running down her left cheek into her hair.