An Exchange Between Police Officers

"Here, your coffee."

"Ah, bless you, son. How much do I owe you?"

"Forget about it, Sir; you don't need to-"

"Let me get the next one, then."

Anythin' been happening?

"No. No one's went in or out. We'll be here for quite a while I expect. He doesn't strike me as the homely type. He probably only uses the place for storage... Are you nervous, son?"

"No... I mean, not really."

"But it's your first stake-out?"

"Yeah, but the guy we're after isn't- well, I was gonna say he's not that interesting. He's probably gonna be an easy collar."

"'Not that interesting'. Keep it up, my lad, because that's the sort of arrogance that makes great and distinguished professionals in our field. You're right though, we did draw the boring lot today."

"You must have seen your fair share of 'interestin' ones', Sir."

"You're calling me old?"

"No, just distinguished. I mean, how else did you get to be so arrogant."

"That's a fair crack... Fair enough. You be careful now. When I retire next year the new'un you’ll be sitting in a car with for the great hours might not understand that lovely sense of humour you have."

"You know, I was surprised they paired us."

"Hmm? Why's that?"

"Well, I did hear about... the re-openin'? They're visitin' the Erikson case again- but you were on that originally, weren't you, Sir? How come you're here with me instead of... y'know."

"Ah, something about 'new blood'. I was set in my ways about that case. They want a fresh opinion."

"Do you think he's innocent?"

"Erikson? Well... Back then I was almost sure he was guilty. I would have cuffed you for even saying that he might have been innocent; 'what sort of question is that? Of course, he did it'. I did try my damn hardest to put him away for a long time, as well. I was mad as hell when that barrister of his got him into that hospital. I knew he was sick, but I thought- well, what with him doing in all those women- it wasn't a fitting punishment. A lot of the guys I've put away would dream of going to a place like he is now instead of prison."

"Sir, if you don't mind me sayin'... that must have been a huge moment in your career. The guy was so- well, he still is pretty famous, isn't he? Everyone's going wild that he might get released dependin' on how this plays out."

"Well, yes, it was definitely definitive. Me and Chaplin- he's moved on now, though, retired- we might have thought we were going up in the world. We might have thought we were heroes, arresting a guy like that, but it was just... Too confusing of a case to get any satisfaction out of it. That's why we wanted Erikson put away so bad. It was the only closure we could have got. It was in all the papers. Couldn't go down to the local without seeing one of those god-awful headlines for weeks after. What's that saying? That you're only meant to have your name in the paper twice: when you get married, and... Well, and then another time, I can't quite remember. Isn't this all a bit before your time though, son? How old are you?"

"I was in... college, Sir. When I heard about it, I mean."

"Jesus wept- maybe I am old."

"So, you... What do you think now? That he did it, still?"

"I don't...Yes, I do. He had to have done it. Why do you care? If you're after a promotion, there are easier ways to go about it. Don't get yourself put on that case, son. It will fry your head."

"Me? Please, I want nothin' to do with it. But, y'know, if we've got hours... Anyway, it's all they talk about down at the station, so I've kind of got a taste for it now. The new one- the dead girl- it's the same as the ones from twenty years ago. Exact same, they're sayin'- so, even if they think it's a copycat, they'll still have to see if Erikson's had any correspondence while in the hospital. I mean, it's getting the public interested in all that vampire stuff again! It's-"

"Son?"

"Yeah?"

"Do me a favour and stop talking."

"...Sorry, Sir."

"And no, he hasn't had correspondence with anyone while he's been inside. He's been living the same day, same routine, for the past twenty years. All that's changed is his medication dosage."

"But, it must make you angry, right Sir? That they've pushed you out? I bet you want to be back on the case, not here. Or, you're mad that they're even re-openin' it-"

"No, my lad, there's actually nowhere I'd rather be but here. That Erikson business spun me inside out and I have no intention of going down that plughole again. As far as I'm concerned, he was guilty when my chapter ended, and I'm not picking up that book again."

"... You're gonna smoke that in the car?"

"Don't be precious, they never pull you up about the smell. Open that window if you want."

"Ok, and will you tell me about... Well, when Erikson first came in? He handed himself in, didn't he?"

"This is going to be a trial with you, isn't it? I'll bet you saw it on the news at the time, yes? How much of all that do you remember?"

"Just that there were five victims, all women. Erikson had handed himself in... Or, was it that he'd given a witness statement, but it was false? And that raised suspicion against him. So, people assumed he did it."

"'Assumed'."

"Just-"

"And no, not quite; he didn't turn himself in because he claimed, and still does, that he didn't do it. He came to us to give, like you said, a witness statement. Do you know what he said in that witness statement, son? To this day, I can't fathom... Well, he came in, kicking up a fuss, talking this way and that, absolute nonsense. At first, we thought he was one of those cranks that think they're psychic. You've probably seen them on the TV- they claim they've had dreams about missing wee'uns, or that they touched a rock and know who Jack the Ripper was. We don't pay much attention to them, but you have to smile and nod. You see, most of them are just nosy and bored, and we thought that was the case with Errol Erikson.

"But it did turn out that he was different. He knew details of the murders that weren't even in the papers yet, and good God, that stuff was nearly impossible to keep under wraps, n'all. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry knew they would get a good sum for information, photos, stuff like that. One of our own got sacked for chatting up details of the case to a lady reporter down in the pub. Erikson knew the placement of the bite marks, for one. Descriptions of the victims to the letter when 'The Tribune' could only get 'young girl, 19' from us...Everything.

"We thought that he might really lead us on to something, but that's when he started mouthing off about vampires and the living dead. That's when we knew he wasn't playing with what we'd call a full deck."

"Yeah, I think I remember this now. He said that he didn't do it, 'cos a vampire had done it. That's what he claimed, right?"

"Yes, that's what he said. Well, he must have been crazy. Even after we made him for the murders, he still claimed it wasn't him, but he knew that it was his fault. That's what he said; "I didn't do it, but I came here to tell you all I know... It's my fault". That, to us, was a confession. Deep-seated, maybe. He was delusional; we thought some part of him knew that he was the perpetrator. I still hear him saying that. Sitting there, shaking- "It was my fault". But when we asked him about his motives, that quick snap- "No, it wasn't me!""

"He must have been very... confused, Sir."

"Oh sure! Poor, confused, ill. That's what his barrister was saying. At the time, I had no sympathy in my heart for someone who had pulled out a young lass's throat with his teeth, but now... Well, all I wanted was sense out of him. When he was put in that hospital, I was so angry, but a part of me thought that if he got better, he would see sense and realise what he had done. A fat lot of use those doctors have been, because he's still so out of touch with his actions-"

"Is that our man! Look!"

"Where?"

"He's turnin' the corner, him in the blue hat."

"He's not going in. No, that's not him."

"False start, sorry Sir."

"No worries, we'll keep waiting."

"... About Erikson-"

"Oh, please."

"Humour me, Sir, we'll get bored just sittin' here."

"Speak for yourself. There's nothing wrong with a bit of silence."

"What else could he have meant when he claimed it was his fault? That he had let it happen, maybe, if he had just seen the killings? That might be what they go with if they turn up new evidence of his innocence. 'Cos if he was as sick as you think, he might not have intervened, and then got it twisted in his mind- about vampires, and-"

"But there was a link there, between Erikson and vampires. He was fanatical about them. He had this whole 'woe is me' backstory as well, one that really pissed us off way back when. His older brother had bullied him when they were wee'uns, and it had traumatised Erikson. His older brother is dead now, no relation to any of this- cancer. Well, he had pinned Erikson down and used to force him to watch all these horror movies until he screamed and cried. He had been obsessed with these horror movies ever since, about reclaiming them and getting over his childhood fear."

"Vampire films, Sir?"

"Yes, the lot. He had built a sizeable collection. A week before the murders started, we actually already had Errol Erikson on our radar. He had reported a robbery at his gaff. This wasn't my division, so I got most of this second-hand while we had him in the interview room. One of our boys comes and points through the door- "yeah, that's the guy who went crazy after his film collection was stolen". While Erikson had been at work, someone had broken into his flat and nicked the TV, money, and that huge pile of films he had been accruing over the years. What they said was queer was that, at the time, Erikson didn't seem too worried about the valuables that anyone else would want back. No, no- all he cared about was getting these films that were gone.

"He had come home to find the door kicked in, but only starts to worry when he sees these empty video cases all over the floor. He was beyond spare about it because they had been his crutch for coping with his brother's actions when they were bairns. He told us that having them there as videos helped remind him that it wasn't real. Keeping the videos, looking at the covers, was ownership to him. He said he 'had power over them'. It was like 'keeping them caged', or something of that sort."

"And when they were taken from him. Well, it's textbook, isn't it Sir- that he lost his mind, lost control..."

"I can't begin to tell you... Some of these films, we looked them up. It wasn't vampire stuff that your teenage niece or whoever would watch. These were real video nasties, dirty."

"I bet the press had a field day with all of this, y'know. 'Ban violent movies now'."

"Yes, you'd be right. My ex-wife, she stopped our wee'uns from watching anything with 'blood' or 'curse' in the title after all this happened. But Erikson had surpassed the videos he saw as a lad. The films he had weren't just the ones his brother had forced him into. He was just collecting for the sake of it, in my opinion. Anything that he thought would have scared him as a child, he went ahead and bought. He claimed he never watched them. Some of them were so barmy- when we looked them up, it turned out they had been banned in the UK, they were so grim. Erikson had to get them imported from wherever. He must have spent a fortune, all to get control over something bad that happened to him when he was young

"While we thought he was a maniac, and wanted him put away, our man who answered his break in call had pages and pages of missing video titles in his notebook: 'The Vampire's Revenge', nonsense. 'Dracula's Adventure in'- wherever. He felt sorry for Errol, thought he was just an ill, sad, loser. Some fat nobody with a boring desk job more upset that his video collection had vanished rather than petty cash or the TV."

"It doesn't, like, leave 'em much to go on, does it? For the re-openin'. It probably is just a copycat. Is that what you think, Sir? The new victim?"

"Probably."

"Though, they'll be lookin' through all the old 'innocence' evidence as well, I guess. I heard there was an alibi that was disproven. That'll be called into question again."

"Hmm."

"An alibi confirmed by an eyewitness that Erikson was somewhere else at the time of one of the murders?"

"Well, yes. If it had went to trial back in the day, that would have been one of the main things Erikson's defence would have relied on. Erikson claimed that at the time of the first murder, he was in that church off of Neville Street, and the Vicar confirmed it. But we reckoned that was about twenty minutes before the actual murder happened, going off an estimated time of death. Well, me and the boys timed it. It took us about twenty minutes to run from the church to that alleyway. It wasn't evidence for us, it was just something for the timeline. Our thought was that he could have left and then done it."

"Sir, but... Didn't you say before that Erikson was- that he was on the heavier side?"

"... Hmm."

"Do you think he could have made that run in twenty minutes?"

"... This damn thing..."

"He was a heavy smoker as well, wasn't he?"

"... The air conditioning in this car never works. I keep asking... they need to get it fixed."

"Sir."

"I know. I... It's up to whoever is on the case now to look at everything we put together and determine what they think. It's out of my hands, son. Do you understand?"

"Yeah. I'm s-"

"The people running it now are going to have to go through all the transcripts I did, looking at everything Erikson claimed. Trying to make sense of it all. That's up to them.

"It does almost make you feel bad for 'em, doesn't it. I don't know whether I would rather be here or reading through pages of notes on vampires, demons-"

"Tulpas."

"You what?"

"Before he was put in the hospital, preparing for a trial, he had... Erikson had someone lined up to talk about, well, 'tulpas'; have you ever heard of one of them? Manifestations. He said if you feared something badly enough, you could make it come true from sheer obsessive thought. That's what he said happened when he lost control of his collection. He was terrified, he claimed. A killer from his imagination, can you credit it?"

"That's what he said to try and claim he was innocent? That it was his fault, but he hadn't done it. Well that's just stupid. No wonder you all thought he wa-"

"Yes, well. At the time, what was easier for me to believe? That Errol Erikson ran for twenty minutes, or that in a fit of paranoia, he had believed so badly that everything he was scared of was real, that it became real... I visited him, you know. Sometime afterwards, in the hospital. He was heavily sedated, but... He called it The Conglomerate. Everything he half-remembered from childhood. Everything he had seen from behind his fingers. Every nightmare that distorted those memories. Worse, stuff that he could only imagine, and hadn't seen. The covers of all those videos he had never watched. Every stray thought. He said it was all alive, and out there in the world in the form of a vampiric killer, and it was his fault."

"Do you... I mean, you can't credit any of that? It sounds nuts; you probably shouldn't give it a second thought."

"... It's all I think about."

"Sir?"

"What if I'm wrong? A week before this new murder, do you know what happened in the hospital? They decreased Erikson's medication. He probably had his first lucid thought in twenty years, and here I am sitting and wondering if it was fearful. That's why they don't want me on the case now that they're revisiting it."

"... I think... You know, it's been sensationalised over the years- but... Well... I bet it was really confusin' back-"

"That's him."

What? Who?

"That's him now. He's crossing the road. White shirt with the grey sports bag. Get up, that's our man. Get up! Before he goes inside."

"Ok, on your mark- let's go."