“Seriously?” Gwen gazed skeptically at the printout of what was obviously a scam email. “People fall for this?”
Her partner nodded. “Our subject has used it effectively in the past.”
“Recent past?” Gwen’s skepticism wasn’t waning.
John nodded and opened his mouth, then closed it again.
“I know, I know. I give people too much credit.”
“Really, you do, Gwen. Not everyone has a high IQ. Even those that do will believe what they want, especially when they’re desperate.”
Gwen sighed. John was right. Still, she couldn’t understand how some people could be so stupid. “You are a finalist in this year’s $4,000,000 sweepstakes,” the email read. “A dinner to be held in your honor will take place at 8:00 in the evening on March 15. Come celebrate and learn if you are the lucky winner. Only finalists are invited. Must be present to win.” The email went on to give directions to a remote address and provide further congratulations to the potential winner.
“Beware the Ides of March,” Gwen muttered, rolling her eyes. She enjoyed her work as an investigator, but she didn’t enjoy saving people from situations that they could avoid given the tiniest drop of common sense.
“Look, the intel is pretty clear. This must be an old, experienced vampire. I, for one, give him props for figuring out a way to lure prey to his lair without raising alarm. We think he’s been operating this way for about 30 years, switching from snail mail to email about five years ago. He does his research, only targets loners who are down on their luck. As far as we can tell, he has nearly an 85 percent conversion rate.”
Gwen shook her head in disbelief and rolled her eyes again. “Oh, come on, Gwen,” John chided. “An 85 percent conversion rate! There’s not an ad agency around that can get close to that. This vamp’s a marketing genius.”
“Do you want me to take him out tomorrow night or bring him in so you can get lessons in marketing?”
John ignored the snide remark and sashayed out of the office, leaving Gwen to review the intel before the sting.
Gwen’s disdain for the general public grew as she reviewed the case. Since 1987, solitary members of the community had been lured to collect prizes of cash. The vampire never invited more than one finalist to his home at a time, and Gwen had to admire the undead’s ingenuity. After all, it had taken the agency nearly 30 years to catch up with him.
The next evening, Gwen headed toward the rendezvous undercover as Harriet Snodgrass. She wore an ill-fitting floral dress that looked like something from the sale rack at Goodwill, bright red lipstick and heavy blue eye shadow.
Gwen felt a growing respect for this particular vamp. She honestly believed he was doing the world a favor with his chosen MO—like a bottom feeder whose job it is to clean up after the rest of the inhabitants in a the pond. “We’ll see how tonight goes,” she whispered to herself.
Pulling up to the address, Gwen quickly took note of her surroundings. All was quiet. A Lincoln Continental with deeply tinted windows sat in the drive. She thought about how Harriet would feel at this moment—certain that her luck was about to improve, that a change of fate lay just around the corner. The intended victim would have been right about the change of fate, but it certainly wasn’t the change she would have expected.
Gwen took a deep breath and exited the car. The stillness of the evening sent an unfamiliar chill down her spine. She shrugged it off as she walked up to the door of the sprawling estate. Just before she pressed the bell, a deep voice startled her. “Forgive me for not receiving you personally. Let yourself in. It’s unlocked.”
The agent pulled open the heavy oak door and stepped into the foyer. The voice came again. “Please, make yourself comfortable. Dinner will be served momentarily.”
The evening was proceeding differently than Gwen had imagined. She began to feel nervous and to wonder if her plan would work. Where was her host? The disembodied voice seemed a bit overly dramatic.
Suddenly, Gwen felt a strong hand grasp the back of her neck. Unfamiliar fear gripped her heart as she began to struggle for freedom. As she thrashed about in an effort to pull her stake from its holster, her attacker let out a cry. She toppled forward when the grip on her neck suddenly released. Catching herself, she spun around to see John standing above the fresh pile of dust, a stake in his right hand and a crucifix held aloft in his left.
“Wha—you—why?” Gwen sputtered. She hadn’t called for backup on the job, hadn’t planned for it, hadn’t wanted it.
“After your reaction yesterday, I wasn’t sure this was a job you were up to. Good thing I came along. Looks like you might have been the main course.”
Gwen reddened. She wasn’t sure what made her the most furious—that John hadn’t trusted her to get the job done or that he had saved her life. He would be completely insufferable after this.