A full moon cast the cemetery looming high above the haunted mansion in an eerie glow. The dark woods surrounding the estate whispered with a danger so palpable, screech owls flapped their wings in fright. On Hallow’s Eve, the spookiest of nights, the visitor felt a presence as he scurried through the leaves and up the stone steps. A werewolf howled, its keening wail echoing through the thicket. Looking over his shoulder, certain he heard footsteps, the visitor yanked the hangman’s noose, the clanking of the dome in the bell tower so loud it rattled the windows.
What was that? Everett Stead glanced furtively over his shoulder as he heard a rustle behind him.
He forced himself to relax. His imagination was getting the best of him. For days now, he’d had the eerie sensation of being watched, was certain someone was following him though so far, he hadn’t been able to prove it. No one lurking outside his flat. No faces seen too many times to be a coincidence.
It started the evening he picked that toff’s pocket. The gent had stumbled out of an alley and blundered right into him, practically begging to be robbed, so Ev obliged. He didn’t wonder what a gentleman was doing in an alley. From the cut of his suit, he was well-off, so Ev figured he’d been getting a piece. Since Ev hadn’t had any in quite a while, he took the hand-tooled leather billcase out of spite, relieving Mr. Alexander Kuprin of five hundred quid in cash, his driver’s permit and one Visa Platinum credit card.
The last was more than he’d expected and in the coming weeks, with the expertise of the career-hacker, he’d taken the information he had and gotten a lot more on Mr. Kuprin and put it to good use.
Ev was an identity thief, one of the best, never caught and never even suspected. He stole information, used it to advantage, then dropped it and went on to bigger and better prey, and that was why he’d never gotten caught…until now. Because he was convinced somehow, he’d slipped up and that feeling he kept getting was a certainty someone was on his trail.
Maybe it was a good time to use his own credit card and take a trip to regions having no extradition to the UK.
He never got the chance. As he walked past yet another alley, hands reached out, encircled his neck and jerked him into the darkness.
“Got you now, Kuprin!”
Fear sent adrenalin splashing. He flung his attacker over his head, dashing him against the wall but the man recovered and whirled, raising something defensively.
A stake? No! Ev had one moment of scalding horror as it descended…
“Finally.” The thief’s murderer sighed as he looked at his companion who’d stood by watching the entire episode.
“Get his head off, set the body on fire, and Lexei Kuprin’ll be the history he should’ve been five hundred years ago.”
The deed was accomplished with the swiftness of experts in doing just that. Then, they strolled back onto the thoroughfare, blending into the crowd. It would be several minutes before anyone saw flames or smoke and they’d be long gone by then.
Someone had noticed, however. He’d been following Everett Stead for a fortnight, ever since he realized his wallet had been lifted, watching and waiting for the right moment to strike. Berating himself for being so careless, he’d seen the others after the thief and stood back to let Nature take its course. Gliding like a shadow into the alley to view the damage, he allowed himself gloating satisfaction as he watched the body burn, its severed head a flaming briquet a few feet away.
“Serves you right, you little bastard, for stealing a vampire’s identity.”
Hurrying to keep his appointment with the expert forger working on his new identity, Mr. Alexander Kuprin wafted into mist and left the alley, blending with London’s fog.