There are few words well equipped to adequately convey the facial expressions sliding one after another across Camilla Hect’s face. Patience wasn’t quite right. Confusion? Not exactly. Exasperation was close but didn’t quite capture her longing for a cup of coffee she was absolutely not going to get for at least another hour. Gideon though, seemed oblivious to it all as she repeated the same nonsense over again.
“Seriously, Hect, listen - she is absolutely a vampire.”
“Nav” Camilla’s elbows rested on the desk in front of her as she rubbed her temples. She tried not to think about the mountain of paperwork she could be doing quietly, alone, with a steaming cup of coffee that would say nothing about small goths or vampires.
“Okay, but give it a chance, this is the dictionary definition of an X-File. Like, this is it Hect! This is our shot for a real, bonafide bonkers, investigation into the paranormal.”
Camilla let out a long slow breath, counting to ten in her mind as Gideon spoke. Her head still rested in the basket of her duly exasperated hands.
“Nav, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but an underweight goth wearing old clothes and a flu from twenty years ago are not the definitions of an X-File. If it has, somehow, unfortunately, made it into the dictionary it is listed under “idea” paragraph three, “bad”.”
Gideon seemed to have not heard a word Camilla said as she yanked a laptop out of her briefcase. And then, yep, there she was - pulling up a chair next to Camilla and knocking over a stack of blissfully silent paperwork, replacing it with her computer.
“This is absolutely an unsolved case, or as we say in the industry, a fucking X-File. Let me set the scene for you.”
Camilla did not have to look to know that Gideon was pulling up a real-life PowerPoint slide she had made when she should have been doing literally anything else.
“Twenty years ago 200 kids in town, all in their own homes, fast asleep and what not, died with no discernable illness or violence. Local sheriff never finds anything. The MBI can’t make heads or tails of it. The wealthy benefactors of the town both disappear leaving only their young daughter who mysteriously did not die behind with two elderly caretakers.
The daughter turns out to be a complete fucking reculse who only goes out at night. And, the wildest part is, this shit never hits the national news media, not really. Short blurb says some nonsense like there was a flu and kids died and that's really sad and we should all probably wash our hands more. But nothing about the actual massacre that appears to have taken place only leaving behind one tiny vampire.”
If Gideon paused to breathe amidst that monologue Camilla missed it. Her brows bent towards each other in the middle and she looked over at her colleague, who seemed to be admiring her own work on the PowerPoint slide. “No discernable trace of illness? Was foul play ruled out?”
“That’s the thing!” Gideon was practically vibrating out of Cam’s desk, “All the autopsies came back with no traces of foul play. None. Zilch. Zero. It’s like a bunch of kids were alive and then, like, they weren’t.”
“And you’re sure real doctors did those autopsies? They found nothing?” If Camilla sounded incredulous that’s because she was.
Gideon grinned at her, “Aha! You’re interested! You pretend like you don’t care but then some weird gross medical shit comes up and there you are, interested in the X-File.”
“An unexplained illness is one thing, Nav. But,” She was going to regret asking this, “Where are you seeing vampires in this morbid twenty-year-old news headline?”
“Sorry, Hect, are your eyes attached to your brain today?” She gestured haphazardly at the image on her laptop screen, “How can you see this and not see a vampire?”
The image on the screen was a low-resolution night camera picture of what looked like a small woman covered in - oh yikes - bones, approaching, Cam squinted, a mausoleum. Her eyes glowed in the bad night vision, face turned towards the camera in a sneer of anger, likely aimed at whatever poor schmuck had been unfortunate enough to try and take the picture.
Well, Camilla had to hand it to Gideon. That sure did look like a costume shop rendition of the undead. Which, come on, this was a little outlandish even for Gideon.
“I get it, Nav. She’s a spooky lady, but this young woman - who is clearly unwell by the way - is not a vampire. She’s an angry woman being spied on in the middle of the night while wearing an ancient Hot Topic knock-off dress.”
“Walking into a tomb, Hect! That is a real-life tomb!”
Cam squinted again. Sure, it looked like a tomb. But a lot of chunks of rock could look like that in the middle of the night. “Do you know that for sure?”
Gideon, again, gestured at the screen as if the truth of it would jump off the screen and bite Cam in the face.
Cam glanced between her partner’s eager face and the face of the scowling woman on the laptop. “And you want to go - sorry, where exactly do you want to go to find this poor woman?”
“Drearburh, it's about five hours north. An easy day's drive. We go out there, poke around, check the local archives about our little vampire lady and see what we find. Maybe we find nothing.” Gideon said like she absolutely expected they would find a lot more than nothing. “Or… we find out what happened to those kids and figure out why the local lady about town is queen of the undead!”
Camilla ran some quick and unfortunate math in her head, comparing the annoyance of a two-day trip to bother a young goth against the annoyance of having Gideon pester her about it for the next two months. The math was easy but the conclusion was, somehow, still very annoying.
“Fine, but on three conditions: You explain this to Sextus and you drive the whole way there. Also, you are not allowed to play anything by the Black Eyed Peas on the radio, or I will kick you out of the car and drive home without you.”
Gideon grinned like she had won a giant gold trophy rather than a long drive to a crumbling town with a mean little vampire lady.
Gideon was wide awake by 6:00 AM. She was jittery even without coffee and rushed through her morning workout. She emerged fresh and clean out of the shower by 7:00.
She paced. She made coffee out of habit but quickly realized that if she drank more than a sip she would explode. She poured out the coffee and replaced it with a protein shake. She forced the subject of breakfast and choked down some scrambled eggs, sausage, greens, and toast. It was 7:30 and Camilla wasn’t supposed to be here till 9:00. An hour and a half alone in her own home and Gideon felt like she was filled with bees.
This case was going to make her crazy. She had worked at least a hundred X-Files before. She’d spent days, weeks, sometimes months, obsessed with demon goats or lake monsters or serial killers that just didn’t add up. But nothing else had managed to turn her brain into a hot steaming pile of goth-obsessed soup.
How had those kids died? Gideon couldn’t wrap her head around it. She’d even called Magnus and Abigail, her adoptive parents and incurable academics, asking if they’d ever heard anything about it either in social work (Magnus) or history (Abigail). Neither had.
Abigail was immediately hooked. She had also found the old news articles that said absolutely nothing other than death happens, it’s sad, please make sure your kids wash their hands . They’d always had this in common. A good mystery, a desire to solve spooky secrets. As a kid they’d spent hours pretending to be ghost hunters, giggling in hushed voices as they explored haunted houses - all conveniently located amidst the dusty boxes of their attic. When not trouncing around the attic she’d spent hours watching old ghost movies with Abigail, absentmindedly wondering if her biological parents also were ghosts by now.
Maybe that was all this was. She was a kid with no biological parents fascinated by a whole town of parents with no kids. She’d always wondered, what happened to her first set of parents - were they dead? Or were they like all these people, parents without kids?
Gideon snapped herself out of her thoughts as they started to veer towards familiar and not-currently helpful terrain. She focused on the half-drunk protein concoction in front of her and knocked the rest of it back. She stood from her tiny kitchen bar and did the dishes. She spent the rest of the time before her partner arrived changing her suit three times, doing nervous pull-ups on the bar in front of her bedroom door, and then finally she gave in. She opened her laptop, and stared at fuzzy picture after picture of the vampire that she was sure would crack this case.
Three sharp honks sounded from the street in front of her apartment and Gideon swept her computer and various papers into the waiting carry-on briefcase. Two changes of clothes including one she could get dirty in: check. Wallet, phone, keys: check. She glanced around, swiping sunglasses from their resting place on the counter, and quickly checked her hair in the bathroom mirror. She paused, took a deep breath, and stared into her amber eyes in her reflection. This was it, time to go and solve an X-File.
Another honk, sharp and staccato, like “I know you heard the first three please stop admiring your hair and come down here so we can get this over with”.
Gideon pounded down the stairs and pulled the front door closed behind her with a thud. Camilla was leaning against the hood of the black MBI car reading something on her phone. She was dressed like she always was, a dark grey suit with an equally dark coat that ended just above her knees. Just an inch of ankle peeking out between the hem of her pants and the top of her black leather loafers. Her dark brown bob hung perfect, as always, sweeping into the dark curve of her jaw.
She didn’t even glance up as Gideon approached. She tossed the keys to her partner, read one more line before clicking her phone off, and swung round towards the passenger seat.
Gideon practically skipped, still giddy from the nervous energy, into the drivers’ seat. She turned, grinning towards Camilla, “Well Hect, you ready to go deal with the undead? Meet some ghosts? Chat with some vampires? Solve the most freezer-burned cold case from MBI cold storage?”
“You remember what I said, right?” Camilla buckled her seatbelt before looking over at Gideon, “No more Black Eyed Peas or I will turn this car around.”
Her grin widened. That was as close to an enthusiastic yes as Camilla Hect could muster.