A red rose drawn in glitter. Caption reads: A glitter drawing of a rose.

Rose short story by Iris Carden

Five storeys below Brisbane’s Roma Street Police Station, is the headquarters for the Human Defence Unit. Its members are drawn from among the highest performing members of military, intelligence, and police forces throughout Australia, along with select highly specialised members of the civilian population. The Human Defence Unit and its elite staff are neither police, military nor intelligence. They do not exist.

A card arrived at the HDU addressed personally to Senior Agent Jo Burns.

The front of the card was black, with a red rose drawn in glitter. On the back was the message: “The Order of the Rose requests your attendance.” An address, and a time that night followed the message.

Jo asked Agent Marissa Tyler to find out what the Order of the Rose was.

An hour later, Marissa reported the HDU and its sister agencies around the world had no record of an Order of the Rose. An online search, however, had produced ten Orders of the Rose, all of which were related to role playing games.

“Add to that, their card looks like some kid’s arts and craft project, so it’s probably nonsense we can afford to ignore,” Marissa said.

“Probably,” Jo replied, “and yet, they know we exist, they know my name, and they know how to get a message to us.”

Jo went to the meeting, in a disused sandstone church. She knocked on the door, and it opened, so she walked in.

Inside, a dozen people in deep red cloaks, their heads and faces covered, were standing around a table with a large brass or gold cross on it. The cross was inlaid with red enamel. Beside the cross, was a brass, or gold, rose which was heavily decorated with red and green gemstones. Whether the stones were real or fakes, she couldn’t tell.

One of the cloaked people spoke: “Vampire killer Jo Burns, we welcome you, and invite you to join our order.” The voice was young and male.

“Um, thanks for the invitation, but I’d rather start with information. What is your order?”

“We are an ancient order, dedicated to the removal of vampires from the face of the Earth. We were founded nine hundred years ago, by a group from within the Knights Templar, who knew the danger of vampires.”

Of course it was the Templars. She realised now, that the cross was a Templar cross. She had a strong suspicion they were role playing gamers who had taken things too far by getting the real authority involved.

“And these Knights Templar decided to use glitter as a logo?”

“The glitter’s a modern innovation. It’s a near approximation of the Rose of Jerusalem, a copy of which you see on our altar. The original is at our home in Palestine.”

“Why do you want me to join your order?”

“You are known as a proficient vampire killer. We want you to join us as we hunt a vampire who has a very profile.”

He named a state politician, one Jo knew well, who was instrumental in organising supplying contaminated or out of date blood from the blood bank to vampires.

“Well, I’m not joining your club. I don’t need to be part of your club to hunt vampires when it’s necessary. Has anyone else in this room even faced a real -life vampire?”

There was an uncomfortable silence and an amount of fidgeting and foot shuffling.

She continued: “As I thought. Let me explain how it works here. If vampires obey the law and don’t harm anyone, they’re left alone. If they break the law, and become a danger to humans, my team deals with them. There’s no room in this for vigilante groups to get involved. If you attack someone just because they’re a vampire, my team and I will deal with you. You will either be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, or if carry on about vampires and act insane, we will have you locked in a mental health facility for the rest of your life. Do you understand me?”


“I said: ‘Do you understand me?’ I want an answer.”

“We understand you, but we are bound by our oath to fight the evil of vampires, and we will abide by our oath even if we become martyrs to our cause.”

“I don’t deal with good and evil. I deal with the law. If you break the law, I will deal with you. Bear that in mind.”

Jo left, and ordered round-the-clock observation of the politician they had named, in case the Order of the Rose really was stupid enough to attack him. She also called the politician and warned him of the threat.

It was two pm the next day when Jo and Trainee Agent Harry Smythe, in a car across the road from the politician’s house, saw three men in dark-coloured clothes arrive and try to break in via a window. The burglar alarm blared, as the two HDU agents called for back-up and ran across the road.

None of the young men had any actual skills in fighting, and they did not resist arrest for very long.

Jo noticed all three had matching tattoos on their wrists: a Templar cross on the left wrist, and a rose on the right.

Jo recognised the voice as one of them spoke, “The others all abandoned their oath after you spoke to us.”

“Well they were the smart ones. You realise the man you were hunting could have killed you far more easily than we arrested you. It might be time to give up on your game before someone gets hurt.”

“We haven’t gone to the home chapter for our training yet. That’s why we’re not very good at this. But this isn’t a game. It’s real. It’s all over the world. We have wealthy, powerful backers. Who do you think bought the church for us?”

Who indeed? Jo was not sure what to think about any of it.

She handed the prisoners over to the police to be charged with the attempted break and enter. They wouldn’t get much time for it, because it was an amateurish attempt and they’d had no chance at succeeding.

Then she wrote up her report, and circulated it to the HDU’s sister agencies around the world, in case the Order of the Rose wasn’t just a game.

Human Defence Unit Stories

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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