Cait and the gang set out to find a killer when novelist Amanda Lowman is found dead just an hour after speaking to the Mystery Lovers Book Club about her true crime novel: The Vampire Murders. As Cait delves into Amanda's death she finds a spider web of lies and half truths that could very well be tied to a series of murders that took place fifteen years prior. The deeper Cait digs the more tangled the web and the closer she becomes to being the vampire killers next victim.
“What are you currently working on?” I asked as a means of moving the meeting along.
“It’s a fascinating case.” Amanda sat forward on her chair. “In fact, I think this one is going to be my best novel yet. I’m sure many of you will remember a case that involved two murders that were committed fifteen years ago on this very island.”
“Are you talking about the teenage girls who were murdered on Halloween night?” a man asked.
Amanda nodded. “The murders were not only strange in execution but there were very few suspects and, as of today, the killer has never been found.”
I was just a kid at the time of the murders, but I did remember hearing about them from my older brothers and sister, who’d been teenagers at the time. One had been at a party with several dozen classmates and the other had been loitering around town with a group of friends. When they hadn’t returned home by the following morning their parents had reported them missing. After an exhaustive search, their bodies were found in the woods miles from where either of them had been seen last. The really interesting—or perhaps I should say gross—thing about the case was that the blood had been completely drained from both bodies, although very little blood was found at the scene. It had been determined that the girls had been killed elsewhere and then dumped.
Amanda continued to speak, maintaining eye contact with her audience and pausing at just the perfect moments. No doubt about it; she had the group spellbound.
She paused for just a heartbeat, then continued. “Due, I imagine, to the two little puncture wounds in the necks of the victims, the fact that their blood had been drained, and that the teens had died not only on Halloween night but on a rare full-moon Halloween night, authorities labeled the case the Vampire Murders.”
“And they never found the vampire?” a woman whispered.
“No. As I said earlier, the killer was never identified. It was determined, based on the fact that the girls were killed in the same manner and by the same method, that they’d been murdered by the same person. And as I also mentioned, it was apparent that, due to the lack of blood where the bodies were found, the girls had been killed elsewhere and then dumped. Law enforcement personnel tried to determine a link between the two teenagers but one was never determined, other than their age and the high school they attended.”
Amanda paused and looked around the room. I wasn’t sure if she was going for dramatic effect or she simply needed to determine where to take the story next. Eventually she continued. “Bronwyn Hampton was a popular junior at Harthaven High School who was enrolled in advance placement classes and was involved in sports and after-school clubs and activities. She had been at a Halloween party at a classmate’s home on the night she died. She’d come with friends but, according to witnesses, she’d received a call that prompted her to leave early. It’s believed a boy she dated casually had been the one who called and arranged to pick her up from the party.”
Amanda took a sip of the water I’d provided her before going on. “Ruby Collingsworth was also a junior at Harthaven High. She had a reputation for being a bit of a troublemaker, although I think her rep as a troubled teen was overstated. On the night she died she’d been loitering around town with friends, getting into mischief the way kids do on Halloween. None of the friends interviewed claimed to know when she had left the group or where she had gone after leaving.”
“It really doesn’t sound like the girls had anything in common,” one of the women said.
“I agree, it doesn’t. And the law enforcement personnel who investigated the crime at the time determined the killings were random, that no link existed. I, on the other hand, disagree. One of the things I hope to do during my stay on the island is to try to prove that.”
“That sounds so interesting,” I commented. “And I’m sure we’ll all want to read your book when it’s published.”
There were general murmurs of agreement in the room.
“Did the sheriff come up with any suspects at all?” someone in the crowd asked.
“Sounds to me like some creature of the night assaulted them, took them back to his lair, had them for dinner, and then dumped the bodies,” one of the younger book club members asserted.
“That would be a good theory if this were a John Carpenter movie,” Amanda agreed, “but there were never any vampires on the suspect list, so the investigators determined that the murders had been carried out by a mere mortal. The prime suspect at the time was a man who went by the name of Dracon Moon. He was an old man who lived in a secluded old house on the north shore. The house is no longer there—in fact. it burned to the ground the day after the murders—but at the time there were quite a few islanders who believed Mr. Moon was the guilty party.”
“Why did they think he was guilty?” a plump woman who had moved to the island just two years earlier asked.
“Because he was a grouchy old recluse who lived in a spooky house and seemed to fit the profile of someone who might actually be a vampire. He disappeared after his home burned down, and as far as I know, he was never seen on the island again. It was determined the fire was set intentionally, and while there were quite a lot of islanders who spoke out against him, his guilt was never proven.”
“Maybe he perished in the fire,” someone speculated.
“There were those who believed Mr. Moon died in the fire,” Amanda confirmed. “The problem with that theory was that investigators didn’t find human remains in the rubble. There were a lot of people who believed Mr. Moon killed the kids and then set the fire to hide evidence of his bloodsucking hobby. They felt he somehow managed to flee the island in a private boat under the cover of night.”
The room was quiet as the thunder rolled on to shore and wind-driven rain began to hit the windows overlooking the harbor. It was the perfect backdrop for a spooky story.
“I don’t know what actually happened that night,” Amanda continued, “but I do know it makes for an interesting story and I hope to come up with enough information to fuel the plot of my book. I’ll be on the island for the next two weeks, interviewing people who were around back then. I’ve left some of my business cards on the front counter near the books I brought to sign. If you have anything at all to share about the incident, please feel free to email me.”
A loud clap of thunder shook the building at the same time the lights flickered.