Dracula Cha Cha Cha ANNO DRACULA 1968 Chapter 19

Kate was lucky. Pilcher was in bed, dreaming of hippies jumping off a cliff. The call was taken by Sergeant Lynch at Shooter's Hill. He rounded up Dixon and Regan, suspended or not, to go to St Bartolph's.

If Sergeant Choley were on duty, Kate would be in a tumbril.

The drug was burning out of her - she didn't know how much sharper or more perceptive or monstrous she'd have become if she'd drained Jess dry - but she could still explain what she'd worked out.

Keith, Fran and Anna were in separate interview rooms. Two were murderers, one an accomplice, but it had all been Eric DeBoys'fault. He had intended that all the Black Monks take part in his blood-and-BOP ritual, binding them to him as accessories to murder if not in some mystic commingling of drugs and human sacrifice.

Obscurely, it was all about Croft, who would walk away free, as usual. DeBoys had been trying to get his loved-hated mentor's attention, but also hoped to turn Croft back into the vampire he used to be, the unashamed murderer and rapist who inspired the Black Monks. James Eastman wasn't the only member of the seminar group who saw Croft as the father who must be appeased, pleased, revered, replaced and destroyed.

DeBoys had let Nolan tag along to take photographs Croft would appear in and laid that silly trail with the scarf. It was his way of pressuring the professor. Bellaver often said some fools seemed to want to get nicked. Infusions of the blood-and-BOP mix - which had only been brewed up twice, but now had a street name: Crimson - nourished the rake's feeling of being beyond the reach of the law.

Anna, who could most easily cut a deal, kept schtumm. She resented the way Kate had been bumped in front of her - the next victim should have been hers, though her venom in Jess's wounds would have tipped off Dr John Hardy at the autopsy. Keith and Fran were in a classic prisoners'pickle - each not knowing if the other had turned Queen's Evidence. Fran would cut the deal first. Stressing DeBoys'powers of fascination, she might be able to plead manslaughter through mind-warpery.

The truth would come out, or as much of it as these cretins could give.

DeBoys had nurtured an inflated notion of his place in history. Using Carol as a lure, he'd fascinated Nolan to provide illustrations for his unwritten biography. At that, he'd be successful: someone - not Kate! - would write a paperback about this. No one knew how completely Nolan could be un-addled, though Monserrat was claiming some success with his hypnotic procedures. The snapper was on the party scene again, with a fresh interest in fast cars and renewed enthusiasm for dolly birds.

Kate and Nezumi had to make statements. Nezumi was happy to give details of which hospital - St Swithin's - she had sent Cathy and Pony to. As a follower of Shinto, she Brownie-swore to the truth of her testimony.

Jessica Van Helsing was in the same hospital. Michael Upton, a medical student who came with the ambulance, said he was more concerned by her drug intake than the cuts and bruises she'd suffered at the mercy of bloodsucking fiends. The side-effects of Bowles-Ottery pellets included acute stomach pains, which proselytisers seldom mentioned could be agonisingly fatal. Upton called vampires 'bloodsucking fiends'to her face, the cheeky sod.

Jess came round enough to ask for Paul Durward to sit in the ambulance with her. He'd done it, too. Kate didn't need a drug insight to see that the nit would stick by the boyfriend who'd been happy to see her killed. She hoped Jess would at least corner the feckless viper into marrying her and then drain him of his feeble life essence with her woolly-minded yet steely bounciness.

Inappropriately, before leaving the scene of the crime, Upton asked for Kate's phone number. Even more inappropriately, she gave it to him. If she wasn't arraigned for murder, she could look forward to a date in another bloody student bar. This time, she'd get her own drinks in. Medical students had access to drugs which made BOP seem like Maltesers.

At the police station, Kate told George Dixon everything except what she'd guessed about Eastman. If the biker ever assassinated his father, she hoped he'd be out of the country before B division got on his case.

After they were done, Jack Regan popped his head into the room and said, 'Own goal, eh? That'll muck up the score.'She hadn't thought of that. It had dawned on her, as she told the story, that Jessica's granddad wouldn't be grateful to her for saving the warm girl's life. much less, bringing in the murderers of Carol and Laura. To the Circle of Light, Enoch Powell and The 98.6, she was still a monster. The vampire community wouldn't be happy with her either. As a Fearless Vampire Killer, she could get a cross tattooed under her arm.

Dixon bade her good morning and said he'd tell Bellaver how it had shaken out in the end. She promised to go and see the Super, who was pruning his roses and boning up on parking regulations and the A to Z of Welwyn Garden City. It was wrong he wasn't here to see the end of it. She'd report to the Diogenes Club as soon as she was able. If solving the murders served their long-term, mysterious purposes, she supposed she should be happy about that.

Just before dawn, when vampire and warm alike were at their lowest ebb, calls started to come in. The School of Vampirism was on fire. The 98.6 were claiming responsibility. A full-scale student protest, fomented by the Socialist Vampire, got in the way of the Fire Brigade. The firemen had been run ragged all night by lesser arsons designed to distract and exhaust them before the big burn-up of 1968. The press were out in force, too. And the members of the Manfred Commission. The Battle of St Bartolph's was just beginning.

Kate's ears still rang. If you fire a gun in an enclosed space like a student common room, that happens. She also heard sirens, fire alarms, telephone bells, police whistles, steam kettles, the wireless pips, screams.

As the sun came up, the din got louder.

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