“Um, sir, do I need to sweep the barn today? Hensie has been kinda antsy since the last time I tried it…” Lucinda said, nervously shifting weight between the soles of her feet. Frank stared at her for a moment. Even from the couch, her pale form was tiny compared to any child he’d seen. Though to be fair, he never dealt with many cases involving toddlers. Teens, absolutely, but not a strangely intelligent and powerful four-year-old.
“Did you try to eat the hen again?” Frank groaned, his voice like a low rumble as he kicked himself off the sofa.
Lucinda fiddled with the end of her red and white romper that just barely reached to her thighs, “Um… Yeah, last week. It was an accident!”
Frank reached to pat the top of Lucinda’s head. “I know, I know,” He knew well by now it was very difficult for her to intend to hurt anything. She jumped and cried at the smallest of sounds. Only after meeting her did he understand why her family of fierce and noble land-owners threw her out. He almost agreed with their parenting method: get out there and figure it out for yourself. The idea appealed to him, but maybe not throwing a bloodthirsty infant into small-town Wakefield, Wyoming. Frank snatched the broom from Lucinda’s hands, who muffled a yelp at the sudden motion. He was too tired to really deal with it right now. “Alright, Lucy, how about you go feed the horses while I take care of the chicks?”
Lucy’s eyes brightened. Out of all the animals on his ranch, the horses were her favorite. She wasn’t any good at riding them, but she always asked Frank if he could hoist her up so she could ride on her favorite horse. Usually, she’d fall off seconds later. Sometimes he’d be there to help her up, but for once, she wouldn’t need his help. Instead, she’d push herself back up on it. It took about five minutes of being kicked off Kiela for her to give up on a pony-ride.
So, he meandered about his business in pops’s small and rickety barn. He was long gone, but Frank could always smell the smoke from his cigars when he entered. It’s why he never came in much. “Good morning, Helen,” He groaned as the hen ran wildly on the dirt. She squawked and squealed until he gently cradled her. Then he simply threw her back into her little nest. “Thanks for the eggs yesterday.” He began sweeping the loose hay into the corners, lazily wandering about each creaking plank. He never really liked the barn. It was built from sticks and stones, reeked of alcohol, and he always felt the cold chill of good ol’ pops whenever the door opened. Knowing that his new indentured servant was certainly strange, Frank could only wonder if pops was still haunting this place, sitting on the rocking chair with a now broken leg, still giving him that judging stare. “You wanna go to school?” Pops laughed, “G’luck with that, fella. Why don’t you just stay put for once? What would mama think?”
Mama would’ve helped him. He was sure of it. The rusty barn fell into complete disrepair as soon as pops was gone. Frank was busy now. He had a life besides shoveling cow feces. He'd feed them, sure, occasionally help put one down, but they never had names. Just chores as a part of daily life since mama loved those little chicks and piglets.
Until Lucinda arrived.
Each and every creature had a name and daily routine that Frank just never knew about. “Her name’s Priscilla, sir!” Lucy would say, holding a newborn chick close to her chest, “She loves getting her nails done, and tries to pick Mr. Williamson’s eyes out when she’s scared. She told me!” Even when Frank tried to appear more friendly, Priscilla was out for his blood specifically. For some reason, an alarming amount of animals seemed to hate him, but they loved Lucinda. Maybe pops had infected them with the ‘always cranky’ disease. Lucy giggled whenever he said it. “Nothing. Just… maybe they aren’t the sick ones.”
Speak of the devil, a meek knock appeared on the creaking wood that arched into an entryway. “Um, excuse me, sir? We’re all out of carrots. Oh! And milk. Do you wanna milk Betsy or should we go to the store? Also, there’s no more crackers and, um, I know we both like those, so…”
Frank rubbed his dry eyes, “If we’re already going to town, we’ll just get milk at the store. And why don’t you have your coat? It’s freezing out.”
“I was busy,” Lucy admitted in a mumble.
“Well, I don’t want you to get sick,” And not be able to work, He thought. “Now, go and grab your coat.”
Lucy quickly stiffened and nodded, then walked off to the main cabin. She looked so nervous when she did, but Frank couldn’t tell what it was for. With a readjustment of his own thick, maroon trench coat, he slowly strode out of the haunted shack and towards the small little cabin he called home. Painted white, three steps lead up to a quaint porch with a swinging bench and plants running amok along the fencing. The house itself wasn’t that big, just a tiny square with an arched roof and windows. So small that Lucy didn’t even have space for her own room yet, but he was planning to expand soon. Yeah… soon. Before she was a teen, at least. If she even stayed that long.
Lucinda came back to the porch and shut the door with her coat, hat and gloves on. The black, fuzzy gloves had the fingertips cut off so her fingers would actually fit, and she constantly had to push the hat over her eyes since it kept falling. The only thing that fit was the toddler’s coat with a boxy cut that went just slightly over the knees. Even with her winter accessories, Frank couldn’t help but think of a night months before. The night where Lucinda came into his life, and he finally got help around the house.
Like a scene from a fairytale, it was a dark and stormy night. Frank was spending another evening sleepless, mulling over the facts of his newest murder case. A serial killer, to be specific. None of the victims had anything in common, except for the fact that they looked like a pruned raisin and had two puncture wounds on either their wrists, sides, legs, or necks. The wrist and arm seemed to be the most common, and there were no more than three pairs of wounds. Some thought that it had to be a supernatural being’s wrath and that their town was doomed, but the less conservative and younger crowd had suspicions towards Dr. David Beckwith. He was one of the only in town with the medical knowledge to know how to do such a thing. His rather distant and mysterious personality didn’t help the poor doctor.
Then, there was a knock on the door. Now who would be out at the witch’s hour? Frank thought, leaving his corkboard of red strings and messy notes of no rhyme and reason. He approached the door and just before he grabbed the knob, a weak and high-pitched voice sniffled. “Is…” She sobbed, “Is anyone home?” With the chain lock still in place, Frank gently cracked open the door. Drenched and shivering with red puffy eyes, a toddler with jet-black hair, a red dress, and big eyes the same shade stood there, hugging herself.
“Now what’s a littlun like you doing out in the rain? Where’s your mama?” Frank asked through the crack.
“I–” She sniffed again, “I dunno, sir. I got kicked out– Said I was a disgrace,” She said, barely holding back her tears. Looking back, she probably was sobbing and Frank couldn’t distinguish the rain at the time. He really should’ve grabbed his glasses that night. “You’re the– The detective, right? On the bloodsucker case? Mr… Um, Williamson?”
“Suppose I am. What’s your name, then?”
“I’m– I’m Lucinda Rainilda,” She sniffed, stared at the wet wood, “Or… I used to be a Rainilda. May I come in, sir?” The wind picked up and almost took her with it. “I’ve gotta talk to you… I’ve got nowhere to go.”
Frank stared at her for a moment. The Rainilda’s had another kid? How was their mother still kicking? How did their newest little one even make it so far down? Back in the day, the Rainilda family had power over all of Wakefield, since they came from the New England area and brought their riches with them. Nowadays, that power had died, but the reputation and bloodmoney hadn’t. Frank could easily see why the man of the house threw out a kid who didn’t meet their standards. They had at least a dozen others. Now, Frank wasn’t exactly a fan of children, but seeing such a tiny little child shaking from the cold rain, something overtook that disdain. The door closed on Lucy, then she heard a click. The door opened fully. “C’mon in, before you catch a cold.”
It was only after the fact that he realized the reason she asked to come in, when he knew she had the power to break in with ease.
“Sir?” Lucinda said, tugging at the end of his trench coat. “You ready to go?”
Frank hummed. He helped Lucy into his new red Highlander, started the car (although he did have to slam his palm against the radio to make it actually work), and soon they were on a rocky, haphazardly made trail that took about thirty minutes to walk down and ten to drive into town. Why in the world did pops decide to live so far from basic necessities? That old geezer…
Downtown was always a quiet place, despite it being the most active area of Wakefield. People sort of just floated about with no real care or fear. Wakefield existed in its own bubble. Not many came and not many left. Frank was the rare case of both. He parked his car by the sidewalk and stuck out his arm in front of Lucy’s seat. The jerk of the vehicle always caused Lucy to lurch forward so far. The first time she rode in the car, she flew forward and slammed her head against the dashboard. She left the car as soon as possible, her knees shaking. She had a distinct hatred from the rocky trail leading to the pavement streets that threw her around like a ragdoll, but her love of the pavement streets and brick buildings made her forget the bumpy ride in seconds.
“Well, g’morning, Mr. Williamson,” Mrs. Baker respectfully nodded to him, her puppy tugging at its leash. Her gaze met Lucy’s and hardened into a glare. “Lucinda.”
“Barbara,” She squinted back, then pulled her eyelid and stuck her tongue out.
Barbara scoffed, “It’s Mrs. Baker to you, little lady. Really, Frank, you need to smack some manners into that girl.” She said, pulling the dog yapping at her feet. She tugged for Winston to quiet down. “How have you been, Frank? Ever since that last murder ain’t nobody seen you!” She laughed.
Frank shrugged and rubbed his eyes, “Been busy with that exact thing. What about you and Jim? Finally got over that flu or what?”
Barbara sighed wistfully, her hand on her chest, “No, unfortunately. The doc says he’s got a weak lung, whatever that means. But– Winston’s free of fleas!” She crouched down and picked up the small ankle-biting dog, holding it across her arm.
Lucy pouted and crossed her arms. “His name’s Muffie.”
Barbara’s head snapped to Lucy. She tried laughing politely, but there was something so aggressive in her tone it triggered Lucinda more. “It’s still Winston. I’m not naming him Muffie, Lucinda.”
“But his name is Muffie!” She stomped her foot.
Barbara turned to Frank, her brow furrowed and lips sealed, “Frank, I know your whole life revolves around trouble, but did you really need to have a girl so meddlesome, too?”
“Hey! You’re the one who won’t call him by his name!” Lucy insisted, grabbing the tail end of Frank’s trench coat. He could only shake his head and sigh at the absurdity of it all.
Frank shrugged, “Kids’ll be kids. What can you do?” He smirked, “Don’t act like you weren’t trouble back in the day.”
Barbara’s cheeks went pink. Tumbling over her words, she mumbled something unintelligible and turned right on her heel, her bouncy curls falling behind her as she stormed down the street. Lucy blew her a raspberry as she left. Frank chuckled and took her smaller hand. “Maybe we do need to work on your manners.”
“Boooo,” She whined. Soon enough, Frank was dragging her down the street and to the grocery store. It was mostly silent, maybe a few greetings on the way, a wave to the officers parked by the donut shop, and a few kids staring at Lucinda curiously. She looked up at Frank, “Don’t you think it’s weird she didn’t ask where I come from?”
“Oh, she asked,” Frank corrected, “But not in front of you. She stopped asking entirely after the answers were too vague for her to make gossip out of.”
Lucy hummed, taking his answer as simply satisfactory. A minute of silence, before she grumbled, “I don’t like Mrs. Baker.”
“I figured that out already.”
“I know, but I just gotta say it. You know that feeling where all the words feel tight in your heart and you just gotta go boom! with it?”
“Quite well, Lucy.”
They rounded the corner, and there stood a small store. Shaped like a square, Wakefield's lonely market had just two cramped aisles with stacks upon stacks of canned foods and other non-perishables. Any local knew that everything here came from good ol' Pete down by his farm outside of town. For as important he was to the community, nobody knew more than his name and location.
"Mr. Williamson!" The young clerk chirped, patting his hands on the desk rhythmically. “Nice to see you today!”
Frank tipped his head, “You as well, Dawson.” Lucinda simply waved to him, before ebbing her fingers together shyly. “How’s your daddy doing?”
“Fine, I suppose. Same old dad,” The young boy replied, scratching his neck as Frank slowly ambled around, browsing every wall for just the right foods and ingredients. “He’s still saying I shouldn’t become a detective, but I really do wanna.”
“One day,” Frank said. He bent down and showed Lucy one of the cans, “Does this look good? I think I’m gonna cook a stew tonight.”
Lucy examined it closely, humming slightly. She rubbed her chin thoughtfully, “Mm, I think so. What kind of stew?”
Lucy’s lips pursed. Frank could hear the ‘blagh’ that played in her head just from her face alone.
“Don’t worry, I’ll add some beef to your’s.”
With that, Lucinda grinned and nodded. “Perfect! I’m super hungry, anyway.”
Dawson giggled. Frank almost forgot he was there. That would’ve been terrible, considering Lucinda’s situation. Despite his constant drowsiness, he knew he had to be a bit more presentable and aware in public with her. “Ya know, you’re real close to that girlie. What’s the story, anyway? My daddy tells me that she just appeared outta thin air!”
Lucy stiffened. Frank stood up straight and fixed his coat. Ah. He was hoping this question would’ve died already. He usually just never answered, instead just giving a slight shrug or such a vague answer nobody could do anything past it. Dawson, though… There was a bright sunny day in his eyes, contrasting the famous cloudy winters of Wakefield. Frank looked down at Lucinda. She looked so scared… He saw her more as a helper than anything else, but seeing a toddler shaking wasn’t a nice sight. Just before Frank could answer, Lucy whimpered.
“My, um, My mama’s gone away,” She fidgeted with her fingers, “So I got sent to my uncle,” She glanced at Frank. They looked nothing alike, but it was good enough.
Dawson blinked, then covered his mouth with his palm in a shocked manner. “Oh… Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” He looked as if he could tear up any minute. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad thoughts or anything!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lucy said, nervously. It was clear that she didn’t mean to make the backstory so heart wrenching to the poor boy, but she wasn’t exactly great at talking. Frank knew that a bit too well. “I wasn’t there or anything,” She joked.Frank handed his bag of cans to Dawson, who’s grim expression showed that Lucy’s joker hadn’t exactly landed. So, to save Lucinda the guilt, Frank cleared his throat. “So, Dawson, how are you and Penny going?”
Dawson’s awkward grief left the moment his cheeks went pink. “O-Oh, well, fine! It’s great! I think, haha,” The moment Frank brought up Dawson’s love life, Dawson was more like a shy kid than the young adult he tried to be. “We’re going to see Dumbo tomorrow… She’s really into moving pictures and all that. And I like popcorn,” He said, his smile so wide Frank counted each one of his teeth.
Dawson went on much longer than he really should’ve of, going into detail about Penny’s ginger hair, her freckles, her cute green glasses, her cute little kitty named Bobby (Lucy approved of the name, don’t worry), and how Penny was dreaming of moving to New York and get out of this small town. Soon enough, Dawson’s voice became white static to Frank’s tired eyes. “So, um, yeah. Sorry, I went on forever,” Dawson said, handing Frank his full bag. He blinked awake and stared at Dawson. “Thanks for stopping by! I’ll make sure to tell ol’ Pete you like his carrots next time he stops by.”
Frank smiled respectfully and took his items with gratitude, even if he was just seconds away from screaming for Dawson to shut his lovey-dovey sweetness up and shove it up his– Wait. “Lucy?” Frank called. The small figure by his side… wasn’t. Oh no. That wasn’t good.
“Oh, Lucinda?” Dawson spoke lightly, “She went outside a while ago. She was clutching her stomach… I think she might’ve left and gone to the American Diner. She took some coins out of your pocket.”
“And you didn’t tell me?!” Frank was glad it was just them in the building.
Dawson swallowed nervously, “I just thought you were fine with it! Lucinda said you did all the time, so I just thought… anndddd now I’m realizing I should never trust children.”
“You think?” Frank groaned. Before the boy could apologize, Frank had already bolted out the door.
This was bad. Very, very bad. He should’ve asked, he should’ve fed her, he should’ve done something. He was getting too lax around Lucinda. He had to remember who she truly was. What she was. She wasn’t like him, or like Mrs. Baker, or like anyone. She’d never be normal, no matter how lazy Frank had gotten about that idea. “Lucy?” He shouted, scanning every sidewalk and alleyway. “Lucinda?!” He called again.
All he got were confused looks from the townsfolk. Granny Lisa’s stare was the most judging. Her entire life she took care of children, so seeing Detective Williamson struggle to find one little girl was an insult. He would’ve asked for her help in finding the child, but he knew that’d be an awful idea. It would just lead to another deal or another case he’d have to deal with.
He entered one more alleyway, and he heard two strange noises. A dog barking wildly and a weird, disgusting squelching sound that sucked in with a rhythmic pulse. As if… drinking. He knew that sound well. His heart stopped for a moment. He looked down the distance of the alley. Frank cursed under his breath. In the dim light of clouds from the other end, he could just barely see two forms. One with bouncy, curly hair and a yellow dress, laying on the ground in a pool of blood. The other’s back faced him. She had an oversized winter hat and boxy cute, her teeth sunken deep into the Mrs. Baker’s wrist.
“Lucinda!” He shouted in a panic, sliding onto his knees and stopping beside her. She didn’t budge, so Frank hesitantly grabbed her scalp and pulled her fangs out of Barbara. For just a moment, Lucy’s eyes were filled with an animalistic lust. The need to hunt and feed. Then, just as quickly, her pupils dilated. She slowly brought her gaze to Frank and blinked. Her breath was short. Her expression was blank. Red blood dripped from her lips and stained her chin and front of her coat. “Damn it,” Frank could barely hold back all the swears he had queued in his head, “Why now? Why couldn’t you wait for the night? I could’ve gotten one of the pigs!” He tried staying quiet. It wasn’t her fault, he tried to convince himself, it was her instincts. It was like blaming a lion for killing the zebras.
Then she pierced his heart. Happened every time Frank found Lucy like this. Fat tears welled up in her eyes and loud sobs left her mouth. “I didn’t mean to!” She wailed, hiccupping, “I was– I got hungry– and it just–” She could barely speak through her tears. Sniffs and hitched breaths barely made their way through her overwhelming guilt. “I didn’t wanna hurt Mrs. Baker– She just– I found her– and–” Lucy was hyperventilating now. How could this be ‘The Bloodsucker’ that everyone in town feared? And how did she get away with it for so long? Frank was always astounded by her incompetence and her contrary strength. She was, what, four? She was a toddler and she took down an adult just like that!
Frank grabbed her shoulders in an attempt to soothe her. “Calm down, Lucy. Try not to be too loud,” He sighed, truly exasperated. The most painful thing about a baby vampire was their uncontrollable and inconsistent hunger. It was impossible to guess the next time she’d crave that delicious crimson fluid. He pulled a handkerchief from his pockets and pulled Lucinda away from the mess. With a hint of annoyance, he wiped her tears with his thumb while he cleaned off her chin. Lucinda fought against the forceful janitorial session at first, but her sobs weakened her enough to give up. “Breathe, alright? It’s going to be okay. Did anyone see you, or was it just Barbara with you?”
Lucy pulled away from his napkin, “I dunno,” She hiccupped, “I can’t remember.”
Frank scanned the edges of the alley’s entrance. He heard no voices outside. It was the afternoon. The men were working and the women were downtown, enjoying the frivolousness or finishing the chores in their tiny town. Frank was tempted to ask if Lucinda subconsciously chose the perfect spot. “Do you know if she’s alive?” Frank questioned. Lucy shook her head (He wasn’t really sure why he asked, anyway. Of course she wouldn’t know. She was just as messy as Barbara was). Frank put two fingers against Barbara’s neck. A wave of relief hit him. It was slow, quiet, but a pulse was better than none.
“Lucy, you run back to the car now, alright? And when you start seeing people, just say that Mr. Williamson said he saw something weird and sent you back,” He said, gripping her shoulders tighter and placing his forehead against her’s. She was still sniffing tears, but his words and touch seemed to ground her more in each moment. She took a deep breath, albeit quivering. Slowly, stiffly, she nodded. Frank handed her the bag of groceries. “Go wait in the car.”
Lucinda left in a rush, doing her best to hide her teary eyes under her long hair. Most of the blood had been washed off, and hopefully nobody would ask her why she was carrying the groceries alone. Lucy was a bit of a pariah among her similarly aged peers, anyway. Frank stood up and rubbed his tired, baggy eyes. Great. Now his hair, beard, and trench coat were completely messed up, he’d have to waste five cents on a payphone to call his buddies at the department, and he’d have to make up a lie to tell Chief Jenkins and Dr. Beckwith about how he found her.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain tug at his pant leg. Frank was about to kick it away, before realizing who did it. A tiny, yapping dog named Winston. Well, that lie would be a lot more believable now. “Thanks Muffie,” He whispered, dropping down to pet the dog behind his ears, “Making my job a lot easier, ay?”
Frank looked up at the sky. The gray clouds and bitter, cold air attacked him in response. Finally, he stepped over Mrs. Baker’s unconscious body and made his way to the nearest payphone. Hopefully this would be over with quickly. He really needed a nap.