Secrets and Lies

Written by Glassdarkly, June 2006

This had to be the most frustrating interview that Detective Inspector Phil Briggs had ever conducted.

Okay, it had started off pretty normal. He and his Detective Sergeant, Andy Clark, were in the interview room with the suspect, the tape was running and the clock was ticking. All well and good. The suspect, however, was soon busy giving them the runaround like nobody's business and he'd kept it up for hours. To start with, it hadn't been too bad – just the usual denials – but then things had become - well, decidedly odd.

"I told you!" The suspect leaned forward across the table and glared at Phil and Andy. "In fact, I told you three times already. There hasn't been any sodding murder. Your witness got it all wrong."

"Witnesses!" Andy was beginning to lose his rag a little. He was quite a bit older than Phil and still yearned for the good old days when roughing up the suspect in the interrogation room was almost part of the job.

Phil put a restraining hand on Andy's arm. He thought of saying something to him about watching his blood-pressure, sort of as a joke but not really. He didn't, though. In truth, there was something about this bloke that made Phil bristle up too. To put it bluntly, he was an arrogant little sod. He couldn't be more than five foot seven or eight and yet he seemed to have balls made of brass. He was beginning to make Phil feel quite inadequate in the todger department just by the way he talked.

He was a funny-looking bloke too – big head with an aggressively short hair-cut, like a skin-head or a football hooligan – yet he wore these delicate little wire-framed glasses and the constables who'd strip searched him when he'd first arrived at the nick had been joking that he must be a poofter because he shaved his chest. Nice coat too – Phil had noticed it immediately because he liked to dress well himself – a black woollen one that sort of swirled out when he ran. He'd run pretty fast as well, and only stopped because Phil was armed.

"Two witnesses – two!" Andy jabbed his pen in the suspect's direction, "say they can testify to seeing you stab the victim through the heart with a sharp piece of - " he looked down at his notes again and frowned – "er – wood."

"Oh yeah?" The suspect surged forward aggressively until he was almost nose to nose with Andy. "Can your witnesses plural show you where the body is, then?"

He thumped back into his chair and scowled at them, then glanced across at the clock.

"Bloody hell!" he muttered. "What's taking so sodding long?"

Phil rolled his eyes. He wished he knew. "Sir," he said, keeping his voice as calm as he could, "if you don't want this interview to drag out longer than necessary, I suggest you start by giving us your name and your version of events – as I've been saying for the last half hour."

The suspect glared again but then his eyes narrowed and he got this kind of smirk on his face that made Andy start to fume so obviously, Phil expected to see steam come out of his ears.

"Either of you gents got a fag?" the bloke asked, suddenly. "I'm dying for a smoke, see, and if I get one, I'll spill."

"What?" Phil blinked at him. Then he remembered. "This is a no smoking building," he said. "I'm afraid you'll have to go without."

"Right." The suspect folded his arms and looked more stubborn than ever. "No smoking, no squawking."

There was a deafening silence, during which the annoying smirk got even more annoying. Then Andy reached into his jacket pocket with a muttered, "Sod the regulations. At this rate, we'll be here all bloody night."

He brought out a packet of cigarettes and offered one to the suspect, who raised a mocking eyebrow, which seemed to say he'd always known they'd give in.

"Ta," he said as he took one, somehow managing to make the word sound the very opposite of what it was, and he bent forward to accept a light. Phil watched him draw the smoke deep into his lungs and then exhale it through his nose. He coughed discreetly and waved the smoke away from him.

The suspect blew more smoke then gestured towards the video recorder. "Before I say anything," he said. "Turn that bloody thing off."

"We can't do that, sir, I'm afraid," Phil began, but Andy was leaning across to do it already. He cocked an eyebrow at Phil, frowning, and Phil sighed and nodded, though there'd be hell to pay later. Fuck knew how many regulations they were ignoring here. Phil thought of the paperwork and shuddered.

"Right, then, sunshine," Andy folded his arms. "If you're so fucking innocent, you tell us what really happened."

The suspect took another drag. He looked more serious now. "S'like this," he said. "There was this nest of vampires, see, and they were making a right nuisance of themselves –"

"Stop – right there." Phil put his hand over his face a moment. When he looked up again, he was just in time to see the suspect roll his eyes.

"Do you want to know what happened or not?" he said. "Make your sodding minds up, will you?"

"I'm listening." Andy lit a cigarette of his own, much to Phil's annoyance. "Sounds like quite a story."

"Yeah – it is. As it turned out, these weren't ordinary vampires, see – they were part of a cult who worship some ancient soul-sucking demon wotsit or other. Never liked religious nutters, me – dunno about you."

"Are we really going to listen to this rubbish?" Phil was appalled at the slight whining tone in his voice. Andy, however, seemed completely fascinated. Phil couldn't explain that glazed look on his face otherwise.

"As I was saying - " the suspect frowned at Phil for interrupting, " – I was bored so I went down there to sort 'em out, expecting I'd just have to dust a few common-or-garden vamps, only to find myself facing the whole sodding coven. Well, when I say coven, vampires don't really have covens but I dunno what else to call 'em -'cept a bunch of stupid wankers."

He looked around for somewhere to stub out his cigarette and, not spotting anywhere, dropped it on the floor and trod it out in a shower of sparks.

"So anyway, what with things being a bit harder for me these days in the vamp-dusting department, I was beating a strategic retreat, see, to fetch reinforcements, but two of 'em came after me and – well, there was a bit of a barney."

"You don't say. What a surprise." Andy stubbed his own cigarette out on the floor. He began to drum his fingers on the table and Phil gave him an irritated glance.

The suspect blinked at Andy as if he'd missed the sarcasm. "Not really a surprise, no" he said. "So anyway, I got the better of 'em in the end – experience will tell see, in spite of me being human now – and that must be what your two witnesses saw – me dusting the bastards."

"So let me get this straight." Andy was doodling on his notepad now. "You did kill someone after all – in fact, two someones."

"Two vampires." The suspect looked a bit defensive. "Look," he said, "it was self-defence – them or me – besides, they'd probably chomped their way round half of Wood Green before I bumped into 'em. Had any odd unsolved murders round here lately?"

"Now that you mention it – "Phil found he was completely caught up in the story now, in spite of himself. Andy, meanwhile, looked aghast. "That wino," he said. "Remember that gash in his neck, guv? And what did old Stewart in the path lab say about him?"

"He'd been exsanguinated," Phil said, reluctantly. There'd been that pair of addicts too – the ones found dead in the squat.

He shook his head. This was stupid. He was about to say there was no such thing as vampires but it was too late. Andy was already asking questions.

"So how long you reckon these – these vampires've been around this manor, then?" he said, and he was looking at the suspect quite differently suddenly – almost with respect.

The bloke seemed to realise it because he sat back in his chair, splayed his legs wide and relaxed. Now he looked like he owned the place.

"Not that long," he said, confidently. "Couple of months at the most. That tie-in with the killings?"

"Yeah." Andy sounded like he really believed this crap. Before Phil could interrupt, he was off again.

"So these witnesses saw you kill two vampires, right?" At the suspect's nod, he went on, "How many of 'em's left then?"

"At least a dozen." The bloke was looking a lot more serious now and a lot less angry and for a moment, Phil wondered if Andy was being much cleverer than he'd ever given him credit for – lulling the bloke into a sense of false security before knocking his stupid story on its head.

However, Andy's next words persuaded Phil that his D.S. had seriously lost it.

"So what do we do, then?" Andy asked, leaning forward earnestly. "How do we go about catching these vampires?"

"You don't." The bloke's tone was emphatic. "Nah – you leave vampire slaying to the professionals, mate. There's a knack to it, see."

Phil thought it was about time he intervened and brought the whole thing back to reality.

"And that's you, is it?" he asked sarcastically. "These professionals?"

The suspect helped himself to another of Andy's cigarettes and lit it. He had a considering look on his face.

"Well," he said, "I'm not actually a vampire slayer of course. They're all girls for some weird fucking reason – which is rampant sexism, if you ask me – but I have had a lot of experience in the vamp slaying department, what with having been one."

"One what?" Phil had completely lost track of what the suspect was talking about.

"A vampire." The bloke rolled his eyes again impatiently. "I used to be one – and well-respected and feared among my kind, I can tell you. Dusted plenty of the uppity bastards in my time – gotta keep the lower orders in their place, haven't you?"

"Used to be a vampire?" Phil was still lost and from the look on Andy's face he wasn't doing much better.

"Yeah – it's a funny story really. There was this prophecy, see, about the vampire with a soul and how he'd help save the world and then get rewarded by being made human."

"Er – funny in what sense?" If this was a joke, Phil thought he must have missed the punchline.

The bloke laughed – a real dirty snigger of a laugh. "What's funny," he said, "is that this sad old git Angel – my sire, that is – thought it was all about him when it turns out he'd missed his chance even before he signed it away – something to do with that freaky kid of his. So, hey presto! I get dusted being all heroic and next thing I know, I'm alive again – really alive again."

Phil was about to ask what angels had to do with all this but he stopped himself just in time. It'd be unicorns next.

"So," he said, steepling his fingers together on the table in front of him and pressing the tips together hard, "let me get this straight. You used to be a vampire but now you're not and you didn't actually murder anyone this evening but were 'dusting' vampires. Will they come back as regular humans too, I wonder?"

He put all the sarcasm he could muster into his tone but again, the bloke seemed oblivious to it.

"What are you - stupid or something?" he said, scowling. "Of course they sodding won't. Prophecy's a one-time deal and I'm the lucky winner – back to all the joys of being human, like pissing and shitting and sodding well needing glasses. Lucky me, 'ey?"

He blew smoke again looking positively gloomy but then he shrugged and stubbed out his cigarette - on the table this time. "Still," he said, "there are compensations. Always said she wanted a normal relationship, didn't she, and I am normal now, except for this of course." And he patted his perfectly ordinary looking crotch in a very self-satisfied way.

Phil was about to ask who she was but Andy cut in. Being forced to listen to this last bit of arrant nonsense seemed to have shaken him out of his funk.

"The only normal thing about you, sunshine, is that you're a fucking liar. Dunno why I ever listened to this crap in the first place."

"Because it's true?" The suspect raised that mocking eyebrow again. "You can do what you like, sunshine, I'm sticking to my story."

"Right." Andy's brow was lowered and his shoulders squared. He pocketed his cigarettes, leaned over and switched the tape back on. "Talk," he said.

That had been two hours ago. It was four o'clock in the morning now and Phil could hardly keep his eyes open. He'd had to call Linda and tell her he wouldn't be home and she hadn't sounded pleased. That probably meant no sex for a week, though currently sex was the last thing on his mind. All he wanted was a bed to fall into.

The suspect however was still going strong, still giving them the stonewall treatment and looking at his watch impatiently. Phil knew he'd made his one phone call the minute he'd been brought into the station but when no one arrived, assumed he'd wasted it calling his mum or his girlfriend. However, he definitely seemed to be expecting someone.

Phil had just started on his fifth cup of coffee in far too short a space of time and was beginning to feel a bit hyper and edgy on top of the tiredness when the desk sergeant opened the door and looked into the room. He sniffed the air and coughed then looked daggers at them.

"Against regulations, that," he said, scowling. "There'll be hell to pay if the super finds out."

"Bugger the super!" Andy wiped his hand across his face, as if trying to wipe away his exhaustion. "What is it, George?"

"Bloke at the front desk," the sergeant said. "Posh – glasses, nice coat." He pointed at the suspect. "Bit like him in fact but taller and older and not quite so bleeding lippy. He's waving bits of paper at me, D.I. Briggs. Think you'd better see him."

"What sort of bits of paper?" Phil had hardly got the words out when a man stuck his head round the door behind the sergeant and then pushed past him into the room. He was in his late forties, Phil thought, distinguished looking with greying temples and cool green eyes that stared disconcertingly hard.

"Detective Inspector Briggs?" he asked, in a tone that made it clear he knew perfectly well who he was speaking to. "Detective Chief Superintendent Giles, seconded to M.I.5."

He was flashing accreditation as he spoke, though Phil didn't get a good look at it. He was going to ask to see it again but somehow, when he looked into the tall man's eyes he just – didn't. Instead, Andy with him, he stood up, gesturing at the desk sergeant to go away and close the door behind him.

"Sit down, sit down." D.C.S. Giles waved them back to their seats. He had an aura of insufferable, but inarguable, superiority. Phil found he'd sat down again and so had Andy and now they were forced to look up at the man.

The suspect meanwhile was pointing at his watch. "What time d'you call this?" he asked, in an aggrieved tone.

"Oh, do shut up, Sp- er Detective Constable Pratt," his rescuer said wearily. "We got your message but there was work to do first."

The suspect subsided back into his seat looking sulky. "How come I only get to be a constable?" he said. "It's not sodding fair."

"I'll show you what's fair with the flat of my hand if you don't watch it," D.C.S. Giles said, his expression becoming positively frosty as he glared at the smaller man. Then, abruptly, he turned to Phil and Andy all breezy upper class charm. "You'll have to forgive D.C. Pratt here," he said. "He can't help being – well, a bit of a prat, to put it mildly. What's he been telling you?"

"Nothing," Phil said. This Mr Giles's eyes were mesmerising. "Nothing on the record, that is. Off the record, he spun us some yarn about slaying vampires."

"Vampires?" Mr Giles looked thunderous for a moment and then almost impressed, as if he'd seen an unremarkable dog perform rather a clever trick. "What will he think of next? Mind you, gentlemen, it's as good a story as any."

Andy looked like he was working up to an outburst again. He'd never been impressed by a public school accent. "If he's a police officer, why didn't he tell us? Where's his warrant card, eh?"

Mr Giles continued to circle the table so that their eyes were forced to follow him. It made Phil feel a bit dizzy and Andy didn't look too good either.

"My dear Detective Sergeant - Clark, isn't it? I'm afraid it wasn't possible for D.C. Pratt to reveal his true identity because we're engaged in clandestine surveillance work– all sanctioned by M.I.5 of course."

"Anti-terrorist?" Phil blurted the words out before he could stop himself and thought –just for a moment – that Mr Giles rather jumped on what he said.

"Yes, that's right, D.I. Briggs. Very astute of you. So you see, whatever your witnesses thought they saw wasn't really what they saw at all."

"Told you," D.C. Pratt muttered half under his breath but he went quiet again when Mr Giles glared at him. "Maybe I won't deal with you myself," he said. "Maybe I'll just hand you straight over to her."

"Promises, promises," D.C. Pratt sneered, but Phil thought he went a bit pale all the same. At any rate, he didn't say any more.

"So," Mr Giles went on, "now that's all sorted, we'll be on our way."

He motioned with his head and D.C. Pratt stood up. He still looked cocky but maybe not quite so much. In fact, there was a very slight hang-dog air about him. Mr Giles grabbed hold of his arm quite hard as if he was afraid he'd do a runner and steered him towards the door. "Good night to you, gentlemen," he said, in passing. "So sorry to have put you to all this trouble."

Phil watched them go with his mouth hanging open. Even now, part of his brain was screaming at the other part to demand another look at D.C.S. Giles's accreditation. The other part, however, took no notice. It was just too dazed and confused.

As they went out the door, Mr Giles took a firm grip on the scruff of D.C. Pratt's neck and Phil heard him say, "What were you thinking, Spike, going out slaying on your own like that? Buffy's been so terribly worried – sent me to get you back as soon as possible –and you've been smoking again, haven't you."

As their footsteps faded away down the corridor, Andy said to Phil, "Did you hear that, guv? Their boss is some bloke called Buffy. Must be an old retired colonel - name like that." He sneered and repeated the name. "Buffy!"

"Yeah," Phil agreed half-heartedly and after a moment, Andy said, "Still – s'a bit weird innit, about those murders – you know, with the blood draining an' all."

"Yeah," Phil said again, but then he shook his head in an attempt to clear the cobwebs, which it seemed to be full of. He felt like he was waking up from a very annoying dream.

"Vampires!" he said loudly, determined to convince himself. "Load of daft old bollocks!"