Keeping up with the theme for May's Story A Day, I'm posting a good friend of mine's novella that I think you're going to really enjoy, especially if you love vampires and other supernatural creatures! Notice the nice dedication :)
Supernatural creatures have roamed the Earth since the beginning of time. There was a time when humans would not tolerate having vampires and other creatures in their midst, stealing their young and killing their fellow human beings. These humans took care of business with pitchforks, sharpened stakes, and fires. As the centuries passed, the supernatural creatures learned that they needed to hide in order to survive. As they did, humans evolved, and after a few decades, humans no longer believed the tales from mythology and folklore. Then the creatures became more bold again, showing themselves when they should have stayed hidden.
In 1945, the assistant director of the FBI suffered a horrible tragedy, which he learned later was supernaturally related. He created a small branch of the Department of Justice called the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation – the BSI. Little did he know that there were already men and women policing the world of the supernatural – or the “Fae.” The only difference was that this other group had a huge advantage over the humans running the BSI; they were also immortal, just like the creatures they policed. Should the BSI and the Immortals work together to keep the peace?
Follow agents and Immortals from the four supernaturally busiest places in the country – San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. and watch the BSI evolve.
Vampires, shapeshifters, succubae, and Immortals. What is the Justice Department hiding?
BSI: Bureau of Supernatural Investigation
(An Enchanted Immortals Novella)
By C.J. Pinard
Copyright 2013 C.J. Pinard
Smashwords Edition 2013
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is for my friend Kristen, for sharing her love of free gore with the world.
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” Joseph Conrad
Washington, D.C. – 1945
It was one a.m. and the small pub was closing. The D.C. night was quiet and had died down, and he was spent. A long week of college classes and a part-time job in a small diner had left him purely exhausted.
He slipped out of Joe’s Tavern and looked both ways down the foggy street before making his way along the sidewalk. Dim orange streetlights barely lit his way, every other one seemed to flicker, as if about to go out. The snapping of his shoes on the concrete was the only sound to keep him company. The quiet February night was cold and blustery, and the whiskey he’d consumed in the tavern was the only thing keeping him warm. He walked quickly past businesses, such as butcher shops and beauty shops. They were closed up tight for the night, and the weekend for that matter, and lay silent and dark as he passed. His breath turned to mist in the air as he hurried along.
He pulled the collar of his beige trench coat up tighter around his throat as he walked with his head down. He only had five blocks to make it to his modest downtown apartment. His father was a high-ranking government official in the FBI and was paid very well for his talents. As a World War I vet, his father had seen his share of horrors and dumped every last ounce of his energy into his job at the FBI, fighting crime. He was well respected and valued amongst his civil service peers, supervisors, and subordinates.
He thought about his father and how much he, too, respected him. It was hard to grow up under such an iron fist, but he now realized that it was for his own good. His sister, Macy, had not fared as well with the strict discipline, but she, too, was finally outgrowing her rebellion and was now doing well for herself, attending college in Connecticut to work in nursing.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t notice someone staggering out of the alley just ahead of him. The stranger dropped to the ground and lay still. He almost tripped over the bleeding man, stopping short before he did.
He looked down at the man who was lying at his feet. Bleeding from the neck, he peered into the stranger’s face and realized he wasn’t a stranger at all. It was his fellow classmate, Ronnie, whom he recognized from his Political Science class. As he bent down, he noticed Ronnie’s neck was torn open and blood was gushing fast from his pulsing carotid artery. He pressed a hand to the wound and looked into Ronnie’s terrified face.
“Ronnie! What happened?”
Wheezing, Ronnie choked out, “Paul, get out of here. Now, hurry, run.”
Paul bent down and placed his face close to Ronnie’s mouth. “What happened to you?”
Ronnie’s eyes went big as he looked beyond his Good Samaritan friend at the figure standing behind him. He let out a gasp and then blacked out.
Paul felt a cold tingle of dread crawl on his flesh, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He slowly rose to his feet and very carefully turned around. Ronnie’s blood trickled off the palm of Paul’s hand and leaked down his fingertips, splattering the concrete in slow, fat drops. Standing behind him was a man – no, it couldn’t be a man – a man would have whites to his eyes. This… creature had solid black eyes with not a speck of white, and had a set of fangs protruding from his mouth that would make a rattlesnake envious.
Paul gasped in horror and turned to run, but it was all in vain. The creature snatched him up by the collar of his trench coat and yanked him backward, pulling him into an intimate embrace with Paul’s back to his assailant’s front.
Paul, frozen with fear, listened as the man – the creature – hissed in his ear. “It will do you no good to run. You cannot outrun me, you cannot hide from me. I am stronger and faster than you, and you are nothing but a meal to me.” He ended his tirade with a deranged laugh.
Before Paul could expel his last cry, the creature bit down into his neck. He wheezed into the dark, empty night until his whimpers stopped and his body lie motionless on the sidewalk next to his friend, Ronnie.
The creature – the vampire – sped off into the night at preternatural speed, laughing and sated.
Washington, D.C. – 1945
The massive boardroom was set in front of a plate glass window on the third floor. He was passing out a stack of papers, setting them neatly in front of each chair around the table. The meeting was to start in ten minutes and he was especially anxious about this one.
Jim Blackwell, Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a sub department of the newly formed U.S. Department of Justice, was going to blow the minds of the six individuals invited to this meeting. A meeting that would change everything they thought they knew about the world.
Three months ago, Jim had received the phone call every parent dreads. His son, Paul Blackwell, had been murdered three blocks from his apartment on his way home from a tavern one night. As if the devastation of that news wasn’t enough, his death was very suspicious, and as of now, still unsolved.
Well, it was according to the Washington D.C. Police Department.
Jim’s grief let him do little else but search for his son’s killer. One day, while Jim was poring over police reports and photos, General Alexander Frost, a high-ranking Air Force official stationed in New Mexico, came into his office, catching Jim in an especially rare, vulnerable moment.
“Sir, a word?” General Frost said.
Jim looked up from his notes and reports, a pained expression across his handsome features. He looked at the five-star General, in his perfectly pressed green uniform, which was spattered with awards and medals. General Frost's hair and moustache matched his name, white as snow.
Jim stood and went around the desk to shake the General’s hand. “General Frost, this is a surprise. Please, have a seat.”
The General nodded and removed his cap, sitting as instructed. “Mr. Blackwell, I’m here about your son.”
Jim couldn’t hide his surprise. “Is that so? Do you have some information for me?”
General Frost’s usually confident appearance wavered a little bit, bordering on sheepish. “Yes, Jim. But it will require that you keep somewhat of an… open mind.”
“I am all ears, General. I just want to find out what happened to Paul, and get the son-of-a-bitch who killed him,” he said, clearing his throat to stay the sob that wanted to jerk up out of his chest.
The General nodded. “Well, sir, first I need to ask: Do you know what kind of work we do at our base in New Mexico?”
Jim thought for a minute, then replied, “Yes, you do tests on aircrafts, and I hear you do some top-secret investigations regarding craters in the earth out there.”
“Yes. All of that is true, but there are a very small number of us who are actually in charge of investigating… the strange and unusual. It’s our job to keep things that Americans cannot make sense of away from the public eye.”
Jim cocked his head to the side, interested, but serious. “Such as?”
The General looked hesitant. “Open mind, right, Jim?” At Jim’s nod, the General took a deep breath. “Extraterrestrial sightings, succubae, werewolves, shapeshifters, and vampires.”
Jim let a mirthful laugh. “C’mon, General, be serious with me here. I can handle it.”
General Frost measured Jim with a grave look. “I am being serious.”
At the General’s silence, Jim’s face also grew sober and all the blood drained from his face. “You aren’t joking, are you?” The General shook his head and Jim swallowed hard. “Tell me everything, Alexander.”
As Jim Blackwell looked around the boardroom, he spotted his chosen five: His two highest ranking FBI agents, Adam Swift and Gary Hall, and the three Special Agents in Charge (or, SACs) of the three (supernaturally) busiest areas of the country: San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans.
All the agents were silently staring at Jim as the boardroom door opened and General Frost walked in carrying a large metal suitcase. Jim smiled, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. He smoothed back his short black hair, then put his hands in the pockets of his suit pants.
“General Frost, thank you for coming,” Jim said.
The General removed his hat and nodded at Jim, silently coming to stand next to him.
Jim started, “Gentlemen, thank you for coming to this meeting. Today we are here because as Assistant Director, I have received permission to start a new sub branch of the D.O.J. It’s going to be called ‘The Bureau of Supernatural Investigation’ and you five have been chosen to be a part of it.”
The group let out a gasp and began murmuring amongst themselves.
Jim held up a hand. “Look, I know it sounds strange, but please hear us out. By the end of this meeting, not only will you have hard proof that we have a great need for this branch, you will feel the swell of pride knowing you are part of making history.
“Many of you know my son, Paul, was murdered three months ago here in D.C. His killer is still at large, and I now believe – no, I know – that he was killed by a vampire.”
The SAC of the Chicago office, a young man named Al Cartwright, laughed. “C’mon, Jim, with all due respect, I think your grief is clouding your judgment here.”
“Let me show you something, Al.” Jim walked to the suitcase the General had brought and entered a code into the scrolling lock, and the suitcase unlocked with a click. Raising the lid, he pulled out a brown paper sack about the size of a bowling ball, although it appeared to be quite light. He set the sack on the boardroom table and carefully removed its contents. He held a clean bony skull of a vampire up in both hands, careful to keep it from dropping.
“What in the hell is that?” Al asked, mortified.
The only difference the skull held from a normal human one was a large set of fangs where the eyeteeth should be. They were still very sharp.
“This, Al, is a vampire skull. The General and his men at the base in New Mexico collect these types of things.” He turned to face the General. “General Frost, where did you get this particular skull?”
The General cleared his throat. “A few of my airmen were out on the town one night and this thing attacked one of them.” He pointed at the skull. “One of my airmen used his service weapon to shoot the thing, but it didn’t stay down for long. He had the body in the back of the van to bring to us, believing it to be dead, when it recovered from its wounds and killed two of my men before the driver was able to shoot it again. Fortunately, my airman also had a buck knife on his belt and went through the arduous task of decapitating it while it was down. The van was a bloody mess.” He ended by shaking his head and letting out a small shudder.
Everyone in the room sat as still as statues. In the deathly quiet, you could almost hear their hearts beating.
“I thought that would get your attention,” Jim said with an amused look. He turned around and grabbed a stack of photographs while the agents passed around the skull, examining it, some of them putting their fingers to the sharp points of its teeth.
Jim laid a series of six photographs on the table.
The General grabbed the skull and carefully put it back in its sack, placing it back in the suitcase.
Jim said, “Take a look at these. In the first photograph, you will see a man. In the very last one, you will see a wolf. Look what happens in the four photographs in between.”
The men got up and gaped at the photographs of a shapeshifter transforming before the camera’s watchful eye. They let out a variety of curses.
“These cannot be real,” Agent Swift piped up. Special Agent Adam Swift was a seasoned agent out of the San Francisco office. In his late forties, he was a short, squat man with thinning brown hair, but a friendly smile. He was also damn good at his job, and had no unsolved cases.
“Oh, but they are, Agent Swift,” said Jim.
Agent Swift shook his head. “I need a cigarette.”
“One more, then we’ll let you go,” Jim said. He carefully stacked the photos and put them back in the suitcase, then removed a strange piece of metal and another photograph. He handed the metal to the first agent, who examined it, then passed it to the next.
Jim raised an eyebrow. “Ever seen anything like that?” he asked to no one in particular.
“That is a piece of an alien aircraft our men are investigating at the base in New Mexico. Best they can tell, it’s some sort of futuristic alloy material not yet known to us. Now, look at this.” He passed around a photograph of a strange creature with a large head and abnormally large eyes. It had no nose and a very small mouth, and a very thin body lacking sexual organs.
Adam Swift gawped at the photo then back up at Jim. “I’m really gonna need that smoke now.”
PART I: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – 1946
Special Agent Anthony Bianchi sat at his small desk in the Seattle, Washington FBI field office, where he had been hired five years earlier as a Special Agent. He was intently studying the photographs of a murder that occurred on a local Navy base. As he placed the photographs in neat order, he put his knuckles to his lips, his brow furrowed in concentration.
“Tony, a word?”
Agent Bianchi lifted his dark head to look in the direction of the voice. His boss, Special Agent in Charge Shane Green, was calling him from his office.
“Yeah, boss?” he asked at the doorway of the SAC’s office.
SAC Shane Green was a tall, red-haired man with a thin build. Tony was convinced he only owned three suits; a brown one, a blue one, and a black one.
“Have a seat, Tony,” SAC Green said.
Agent Bianchi nodded, sitting.
“So the San Francisco field office needs agents. How do you feel about going to California?”
Anthony Bianchi had a secret that very few people knew, his boss not being one of them. While not quite six feet tall with deep, smoky brown eyes and a head full of thick, jet-black Italian hair, he appeared to be barely thirty years old. The truth was, Tony was about seventy-five years old. So he couldn’t very well tell the SAC that he had already lived and worked in California about twenty years ago. He plastered on his charming smile.
“I would love that, sir,” he replied.
SAC Green smiled wide. “Great, just great. Start packing then, you’re to report in two weeks.”
Agent Bianchi stood and smiled, reaching out a hand to shake. “Thank you, sir.”
Exiting the office, he grinned to himself, happy to get back to California and the coven he’d left over two decades ago.
Two weeks later, Agent Bianchi parked his car in the lot of a small square brick building in downtown San Francisco. He narrowed his eyes at the structure and pondered why it was so… unremarkable. The FBI Building in Seattle had been a tall, grand design with mirrored windows. He thought this building resembled an oversized outhouse.
He exited his large beige Chevy and made his way to the door, which was just as unremarkable, save for an address number: 2200. He glanced at the number, then at the piece of paper in his hand. As soon as he opened the door, he was greeted immediately.
“Anthony Bianchi?” the man said, holding out his hand.
“Yes, that’s me,” he replied, shaking the man’s proffered hand.
The short man had a smoldering cigarette in his left hand and wore a friendly smile. “Adam Swift. Nice to meet you.”
Adam led the way to a small room that looked much like an interrogation room and indicated for him to sit.
“Cigarette?” Adam asked as he also sat.
Tony shook his head. “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
Adam took a long drag then tapped an ash into a heavy glass ashtray, setting it there to smolder. “So what did your SAC tell you when he informed you to report here?”
“That they needed agents in the San Francisco field office,” Tony replied matter-of-factly.
Agent Swift nodded. “I see.” He paused for a few seconds while Tony studied him. “So they didn’t tell you we’ve started a separate branch of the D.O.J.?”
“Well yes, he may have mentioned a sub-branch of the FBI, or I suppose, the D.O.J. for that matter. What’s this about?”
Adam took a deep breath, then began to cough. When he had regained his composure, he said, “The D.O.J. has started a branch called the Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. It’s something you’re going to have to keep an open mind about.”
Internally, Tony smiled. He was wondering when they’d catch on to the existence of the supernatural. He’d had plenty of experiences with vampires and shapeshifters in his seventy-plus years, but he feigned innocence. “What do you mean by ‘supernatural’, Agent Swift?”
Adam picked up the smoldering cigarette and took another long drag, measuring Tony with a serious stare. After blowing a long stream of smoke out, he replied, “Vampires, shapeshifters, werewolves, and the like.”
Tony’s eyes got big and he laughed, keeping up the ruse. “Seriously?”
Adam nodded. “Yes, apparently the Bureau thought you were cut out to handle it.” He stared intently at Tony. “So, are you?”
Tony shrugged, appearing to be indifferent and open-minded. “Sure, I’ll investigate whatever the government wants to as long as they keep paying me.”
It was hard to act so aloof when inside he was so excited he almost peed himself. He couldn’t believe he was actually going to get paid to investigate the supernatural, when as of now, he was only receiving immortality for doing the very same thing. He had to suppress a chuckle.
“Oh, good. Because we already have a job. There’s a dead body at the city morgue we’ve got to go look at.”
“Gah… dead bodies. Not my favorite. But lead the way, Agent Swift.”
Adam crushed out his cigarette and eyed Tony speculatively, thinking he’d been a little too accepting of the new agency and its odd assignment. Then he chalked it up to youth, thinking maybe he was just more open-minded than Adam had been at first, since there were so many movies and radio programs out with monsters and the like.
The truth was, Adam had almost had a heart attack that day in the boardroom at the FBI Headquarters when Director Blackwell had told him he was going to head up the San Francisco division of the BSI. He couldn’t believe his ears. He’d been working for the government his whole adult life, and was good at his job. He hardly had any unsolved cases, but the ones that were unsolved, he had to admit, were strange. After he’d had some time to think it through, he had pulled out his file of cold cases and had gone through them. He’d begun to realize that the Justice Department’s idea to start investigating these things wasn’t so far-fetched. The unsolved cases – all three of them – were the ones that kept him up at night. Two murders and a missing person’s case – were all under very strange circumstances.
The first was a grisly killing that took place in Golden Gate Park. The victim had been found with his throat ripped out, his head practically torn off. He was a local man with no family, who had just gotten out of the Army, having served his time in the early stages of World War II. The police were called in the early morning of dawn, while the low-lying fog was still sitting along the walking trails of the park where an older couple walking their dog made the horrific discovery. SFPD had determined it was most likely an animal attack. But that never sat right with Adam Swift. Wild animals did not wander into Golden Gate Park, even in the early morning deserted hours, but he could never put his finger on it.
The second was a simpler case, but just as bizarre. A body was found completely drained of blood in the back alley of McGuire’s Irish Pub off of Polk Street. The medical examiner couldn’t figure out how the blood had been drained, as there were no cuts or wounds on the young girl, yet during the autopsy, it was determined that she contained less than two pints of congealed blood in her body.
The third was the most baffling to Agent Swift. A young bike messenger had gone missing out of an alley in the Mission District. His bike was found, along with some blood, but no body. He seemed to have just disappeared into thin air. SFPD had it open as a missing person’s case, and had blamed the mob, but Agent Swift didn’t buy it. The kid was barely twenty years old, and his father was an SFPD officer and had no reason to owe anything to the mob – Irish, Italian, or otherwise.
And it now seems he may have a fourth case to add to his sleepless nights.
The agents arrived at the city morgue, which was located in the basement of the city hospital. They showed ID to the woman in the nurse’s uniform at the front desk, and were instructed to take the stairs to the basement.
Upon arrival, the lone doctor on duty, Dr. Jerry McKee, was more than happy to show them the body. Walking to several bodies on stretchers covered by white sheets, he lifted back the sheet to reveal a body drained of blood. This one, an old man.
“It’s very odd, you know. It’s just like the girl we found behind McGuire’s,” Dr. McKee said, pulling back the sheet with his right hand, while his left held a cigarette, its ash falling to the stone floor of the morgue. “I don’t get it.”
Agent Bianchi looked at the doctor and pointed to the body. “May I?”
Dr. McKee was in his sixties, with thinning gray hair and watery hazel eyes. “Knock yourself out, kid.”
Tony grabbed the corpse’s face and turned it slowly side to side. Pulling a handkerchief from his front pocket, he got very close, and with the handkerchief over his nose, looked at the neck and smiled as best he could through the stench of death. He pointed. “Look there.”
Agent Swift and Dr. McKee got in close and examined the two very faint puncture wounds on the victim’s pale, wrinkled neck.
“By golly you’re a sharp one, kid,” Dr. McKee said, setting his cigarette down on the edge of a sterile metal gurney and looking excitedly at Agent Bianchi. “What made you look there?”
Adam shot Tony a warning look. Tony shrugged. “Just a hunch. Perhaps the perpetrator used some sort of tool to drain this old timer’s blood out.”
Dr. McKee picked his cigarette back up and scratched at the remaining hairs on his head. “Why on Earth would anyone want to drain this guy’s blood?”
Agent Bianchi shrugged and looked at Adam Swift. “Maybe they’re obsessed with blood. Maybe some religious fanatics or devil worshipers.”
Dr. McKee nodded and grabbed the clipboard attached to the end of the gurney and began writing, speaking out loud. “Cause of death: Exsanguination by puncture wounds to the jugular vein.”
As the two agents exited the hospital and got into their car, Agent Swift said, “How did you know to look for puncture wounds?”
Tony’s handsome face lit up with a knowing smirk. “Why, Agent Swift, you mentioned we were now investigating vampires, so why not look for teeth marks?”
Agent Swift studied Tony for a long minute, his keen investigator skills knowing there was something not quite right about his new colleague and said, “All right, Agent Bianchi, you got me on that one.”
“I’m hungry. What’s good in San Francisco?” Tony asked in deflection.
“I know a diner,” Adam said, steering the car toward Third Street.
The sun had set on the City by the Bay as Agents Bianchi and Swift parked in the back lot of Sal’s Diner. A chilly ocean wind blew around them and Tony pulled the collar of his trench coat higher around his neck. As they entered the quaint diner, it was fairly busy, but they found a booth quickly and slid into a squeaky red one. A waitress with blonde hair in a ponytail and a pretty smile welcomed them. “Hi, I’m Sandy. What can I get you?”
“Two coffees and menus, sweetheart,” Agent Swift replied.
She grinned extra wide at Tony, then flicked her eyes back to Adam. “Coming right up.” And she was off.
They watched her walk away and Adam folded his hands on the table and looked at Tony. “So where you from, Anthony?”
A smile lit up his chiseled features. “Please call me Tony, only my mother calls me Anthony.” Or she did, when she was alive, Tony thought to himself.
Adam Swift smiled.
“Well I’m from Seattle. My parents were Italian immigrants, though. Moved to America when I was two.”
Sandy came to the table with their coffees. “What can I get you boys to eat?” She was mostly looking at Tony, chomping on gum and grinning.
“I’ll have the country fried steak and green beans,” Adam said.
Tony smiled at the pretty blonde. “Just a burger, sweetheart.”
She nodded and walked off.
“So did you like Seattle? I’ve been thinking about moving to Portland. My son just moved his family up there to take a job with Portland P.D.”
Tony smiled. “Well Portland and Seattle aren’t exactly the same, but if you like dreary weather, either will do. Although,” he paused, “I haven’t seen much sun here in the Sunshine State yet.”
Adam waved him off. “That’s because we’re the Golden State, not the Sunshine State. That’s Florida.”
Tony took a sip of his coffee and smiled around the rim of the cup. “I stand corrected.”
“Besides, it’s winter. I’ll get better in the summer.”
Tony stared at Adam, sizing him up. He could already tell Adam was a straight-laced kind of guy who was probably married to the Bureau and took his job seriously. He decided he could trust him and was happy he’d have him as a partner. “So, Agent Swift, what do we do about the body in the morgue, drained of blood? It’s not as if we can put out an APB for a vampire, can we?”
Adam chuckled. “Call me Adam, please. And no, we won’t be doing that. That’s why the DOJ made this branch. We’ve already begun to establish contacts in the communities where these supernatural creatures dwell. For instance, we know a clan of vampires that hang out in the Mission District. We don’t have contact with them, but we do monitor them. We’re hoping to gain actual informants and confidants among these creatures. We are also setting up liaisons with the local PD. In fact, we have one we’re training right now.”
Tony nodded. “I see. So what kind of creatures are we talking about?” He wanted to know exactly what the government knew. “Vampires and, what did you call them, shapeshifters?”
Sandy returned with their food and set it down in front of them. “Let me know if you need anything else, boys.”
Adam waited until she was a safe distance away. “Yes, mainly just vamps and shifters. We call them that because they seem to be able to morph their human bodies into different animals. At first we thought them to be werewolves, like the ones from folklore, but that’s not the case. While we’ve seen a few take a wolf form, we have also witnessed dogs and cats.”
Tony looked amused. “Is that so? Why would anyone want to lower themselves down the food chain like that?”
Adam swallowed a bite. “We can’t figure it out, but wonder if they only do it when it suits them, or maybe they’re just made differently and have to? We’re not sure. We’ve also noticed they are affected by the cycles of the moon.”
“Just like in folklore. I suppose that’s where the stories came from,” Tony smiled.
“We’re sure of it,” Adam confirmed.
Tony decided the first thing he was going to do when they were done with their meal and he was back in his hotel room, was contact the head of the Immortal coven out of San Francisco. First, he’d have to find out who it was.
Three weeks after his arrival in San Francisco, Special Agent Anthony Bianchi stood on the sidewalk on Hyde Street dressed in a pristine gray suit. He placed his hand on top of his derby to keep it from falling off his head as he stared up at the seven-story building. He held a small manila folder in his hand and smiled.
He slowly made his way through the front doors of the new building and walked up to the receptionist. She was a sassy blonde named Kathryn, and Tony had already set his sights on her. He could tell she was into him, too.
She looked up from a book she had been reading and smiled at him, her red-painted lips twisting into a lippy smirk, her blue eyes dancing with flirtation. “Agent Bianchi, what can we do for you today?”
“Now, doll, I’ve told you to call me Tony.”
“Okay, Tony, you here to see Jonathan?”
He nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
She pointed toward the elevator. “You know the way. Sixth floor, honey.”
He tipped his hat at her and walked off toward the elevator.
As he got in and closed the grate, he gave the beautiful Kathryn one more of his charming smiles, his deep, chocolate brown eyes twinkling back at her in his flirtatious way.
He knew he had to ask her out. He also knew she was another Immortal out of the San Francisco coven, and was glad he had located the coven so quickly upon arriving in the famous city.
He exited the elevator once it reached floor number six and padded down the hallway, then lightly rapped on the door marked Murphy Architecture.
Jonathan Murphy, longtime friend and owner of the very building in which they now stood, opened the door, a cigar clamped between his teeth.
“Tony, this is a nice surprise,” he said, removing the cigar and patting Tony on the back.
Jonathan towered over Anthony Bianchi. At six-foot-four, Jonathan’s wavy dark blonde hair and steely gray eyes were a stark contrast to Tony’s jet-black hair and warm brown eyes.
“Cigar?” Jonathan asked, taking a seat behind his desk.
Tony shook his head as he moved two cardboard tubes out of the way and sat on one of the couches in Jonathan’s office. “No thanks, man. Just came here for the weekly report.” He handed Jonathan the manila envelope.
Jonathan set the smoldering stogie on a green glass ashtray that sat on the edge of his desk and opened the envelope.
After he’d silently studied its contents, he closed it slowly and looked at Tony. “What is the Justice Department doing about this?”
Tony smiled. “All we can do, man. What are the Immortals doing about it?”
Jonathan picked up the cigar and took a drag, measuring Tony with an intense stare. After blowing out a thick stream of blue smoke, he said, “What we always do, keep the bloodsuckers in line. If we catch them doing shit like this,” he pointed at the envelope, “we take care of business.”
Tony nodded. “Well then it appears we’re going to need some of your help, as we can’t seem to locate the vampire or vampires who are doing this. This is the fourth. There were already two unsolved cases when I moved here, bodies exsanguinated as I told you last week, and now there are two more. Between you and us, we have to do something, or else the fine citizens of San Francisco are going to have a full-scale panic on their hands. I’m surprised the Chronicle hasn’t already made up some ridiculous name for this killer yet.”
“I’ll get with the head of the vampire clan.”
Tony perched a dark eyebrow at him. “What? You just going to invite him out for cocktails or what?”
Jonathan tapped an ash into the tray and leaned back as far as his squeaky leather chair allowed. “I don’t know how the coven in Seattle did business, but down here, we don’t screw around. Will is the head vamp around here. Although,” he said, looking out the window, “I haven’t seen him since Thomas’s little… mishap.”
“Thomas, your newest recruit? You gotta get that kid outta here, man. My partner, Agent Swift, is hot on your trail. He wants to solve that missing person’s case in the biggest, baddest way. And he’s got a nose like a bloodhound. He’s going to figure it out.”
Jonathan’s eyes flashed in anger and he pounded his large fist on his desk. “No, he’s not. I’ve got it under control. You remember, Bianchi, you are an Immortal first, a Justice Department employee second.”
Tony stood up and calmly grabbed the folder from Jonathan’s desk. “You don’t need to remind me of my place, Jonathan. I’ve been doing this a long time.”
Jonathan stood, setting the cigar down again. He walked around the desk and put his hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Look, I’m sorry. I just get a bit defensive when it comes to Thomas. The Queens promised me a partner a long time ago, and when they didn’t deliver, I had to get one for myself.”
Tony looked at Jonathan’s hand on his shoulder and back up into his face. “I know. I get it. It’s cool, man. I’ll keep you updated.” He held up the folder. “Talk to you later.”
As Tony opened the door and walked through it, Jonathan called out, “And stay away from my receptionist!”
Tony gave a devilish smirk and closed the door behind him.
A week later, Jonathan, Tony, and Thomas O’Malley were all sitting in Jonathan Murphy’s large Chevy, watching a small house that sat scrunched amongst all the others at the top of Lombard Street. From the very top of the street, one could see the entire city of San Francisco with its twinkling lights and black water sloshing onto the sandy brown shore.
Night had set hours ago. As they sat in the car, they began to get restless.
“I say we just go knock on the door,” Tony said.
Jonathan shook his head. “No. Wait for them to come out. These leeches are trapped indoors all day, trust me, they’ll come out eventually. A vampire’s gotta eat.”
Thomas raked a hand through his wavy black hair and shuddered. “That’s so disturbing.”
Tony laughed, taking the gum out of his mouth and wrapping it in a piece of paper. “Get used to it, kid. It’s your job.”
Thomas O’Malley, just twenty years old and new to the Immortal coven of San Francisco, looked at Agent Bianchi. “Have you ever been bit by one?”
Tony scoffed. “No way. I’d never let one get close enough.”
“Well, I’ve seen one up close. It’s extremely frightening.” He shuddered at the memory.
Jonathan looked into the backseat at his newest recruit. “Well, you got skills now, kid. You won’t ever find yourself in that situation again.”
Tony knew about Thomas’s attack by a group of vampires a few months prior in the Mission District, and knew neither he nor Jonathan liked to talk about it.
“So, when are you guys due for your next dose?” Tony asked, tapping his fingers against the car’s open window frame.
A very elite group simply called “Immortals” made up the police of the supernatural world. This group was gifted an elixir made by the sylphs, who were comprised of ten Queens from around the world. The Queen of the Western United States, named Malina, was in charge of administering a dose of this elixir, aptly named “Enchantment” to the Immortals every five years, which kept them immortal. Along with their immortality, they each received one special gift. Jonathan possessed extreme strength, but Tony claimed to have never realized his gift. Jonathan thought it might be mind-reading, but he didn’t want to reveal it. Thomas had yet to discover his, as he had only become an Immortal a few months ago.
“Oh, shit, check it out,” Tony said, pointing at the small blue house.
The men turned their attention to three individuals leaving the house. They began walking down the narrow street, looking around. There were two males and one female. They were in black clothing and the woman was barely recognizable as female, but the Immortals all had good eyesight.
“I guess we’re going on foot,” Jonathan said, motioning them to get out of the car.
Thomas and Tony also exited the car and began following the vampires. A light mask of fog had settled in as the night drew on, and it blanketed the sidewalk, offering the Immortals extra protection.
The vampires walked about six blocks when they came to a small pub and wandered inside. The Immortals followed.
“This is the pub they found the dead body behind,” Tony said, looking around.
McGuire’s Pub was dimly lit but was very crowded. Loose women and nondescript men groped each other in the dark recesses of the bar and the bartender stayed busy, pouring shots of amber liquid into small, heavy-looking glasses.
“What can I get you boys?” the bartender asked. He was a short, chubby man who was clearly on the wrong side of fifty and didn’t look like he cared about anything.
“Scotch, neat, three of them,” Jonathan answered, pulling a roll of bills from his pocket.
“I really don’t –” Thomas began.
Jonathan cut him off. “You’re drinking.”
Thomas swallowed hard and simply nodded.
The three Immortals pounded back their shots, keeping their eyes on the vampires.
The female vampire had already sidled herself up to an unsuspecting human male, rubbing her red fingernails down his white dress shirt while pressing her lips to his ear, whispering God knows what. The other two vampires were talking to two other men, as the other women in the bar seemed to be preoccupied.
Thomas nudged Jonathan. “Look.”
Jonathan and Tony followed his line of sight to the female vampire leading the human man by his tie out the back door.
Jonathan held up a hand. “I got this. You two stay here and keep an eye on the other two bloodsuckers.”
Tony and Thomas nodded.
Jonathan followed the couple at a safe distance, and when she led the poor, unsuspecting man out the back alley, Jonathan went out after them, trying hard to be inconspicuous, but at six-four, it wasn’t that easy. He pushed his large body flat against the wall behind a dumpster and removed the derby from his head. He heard moans and groans as the couple began kissing, and as Jonathan peered around the dumpster, he watched for about a minute until when he saw the vampire’s eyes go black. She reared her head back and sank her fangs into the man’s neck with a moan.
The man gasped, then began pounding his fists uselessly against her shoulders, but with her extreme strength, she him held firm. Jonathan raced over and grabbed her by her mop of curly brown hair, yanking her off the man.
“What the…?” she began in protest.
The human slumped unconscious against the wall as Jonathan picked up the vampire and threw her down the alley, where she went sliding on her back. Before she could get up, Jonathan was on her, pinning her down on the ground. A trail of blood was running down the side of her mouth, and as she was pinned down with Jonathan’s large body straddling her, she looked up at him and smiled.
“You want some of this, big boy?” she asked.
He punched her in the face and she howled in pain.
Now, Jonathan Murphy was normally a gentleman, but he knew vampires weren’t really women and had no qualms about hitting this creature.
“You dick!” she howled.
He pulled a Colt .38 pistol from the waistband of his suit and aimed it at her heart.
The vampire laughed at him as she wiped more blood from her mouth. “Gonna shoot me, are ya?”
Jonathan thought he detected a slight accent and said, “What’s your name?” He cocked the pistol with his thumb.
She spit in his face. “Piss off!”
He punched her again.
“Stop doing that!”
“Listen, little vampire, I can hit much, much harder than that. I’ve been holding back. Tell me your name and how old you are and I may not break your nose and jaw next time. You may just do some jail time on the island. Otherwise, the council won’t need to know how you and your leech friends have been violating the Treaty.”
“Piss. Off. Copper.”
He sighed. “I, Jonathan Murphy, declare you guilty of the act of Treason against the Treaty of the Zie.”
Her eyes got big as Jonathan pulled the trigger three times. The vampire screeched an unearthly howl that spilt open the silent night. Jonathan jumped up, smoking pistol in his hand and watched as her body turned brown, then gray, then dissolved into dust, leaving only clothing behind.
Just then, Tony and Thomas came running out, having heard the gunshots, and looked at Jonathan with wide eyes, smoking gun in his right hand, and a huge smile on his face.
He looked up at his colleagues. “Remind me to bring stakes next time.”
Tony parked his Chevy into the parking lot behind the Hyde Street Bank Building and made his way up to the sixth floor, exiting the squeaky elevator and passed by the Justice Department’s newly leased offices, making his way down the hall to Murphy Architecture.
The Justice Department had moved into the new building a couple weeks’ prior, and Anthony was more than happy to leave behind the small, squat brick building they had formerly called home.
He knocked on the door.
“Come in,” he heard a voice say.
He turned the squealing brass doorknob and saw both Jonathan and Thomas sitting at desks with blueprints spread out before them.
Thomas looked up and smiled. “Agent Bianchi, how are you?”
“Fine, Tom. How about yourself?” he asked, removing his hat and smoothing down his thick, black hair.
“What brings you here?” Jonathan asked, placing a pencil behind his ear and sipping a large mug of coffee.
“I wanted to let you know that I’m pretty sure the two vampires we apprehended in the bar a few weeks ago were the ones responsible for the deaths in the city.”
Jonathan cocked his head to the side. “Well, it was most likely the girl, but she won’t be a problem anymore.” He smiled.
“Yes, but there have been no more suspicious deaths. Let’s hope some island therapy helps,” Tony finished.
The sylphs, the Fae of the air, resided on the Island of Nymph in the Gulf of Mexico where they kept a cluster of jail cells for both detainment and punishment purposes. The sylphs used air portals to travel, and as Jonathan, Thomas, and Anthony had detained the two remaining vampires that night, they had summoned the Queen of their district to portal the prisoners back to the island.
“All’s quiet on the supernatural front,” Tony said, grinning.
“Good to hear,” Jonathan replied. “But they won’t stay that way for long.”
Thomas looked confused. “Why’s that, boss?”
“Oh, the supes can’t stay hidden. They always screw up, and when they do, we’ll get them.”
Tony smiled. “That’s right.”
“So what did you tell the Justice Department?” Jonathan asked, suddenly curious.
“The truth, mostly. We were hanging out, having some drinks, and vampires came in and I shot one and killed it as it fed on a human. Then when the other two showed up, I warned them to leave San Francisco and they did.”
Jonathan chuckled. “You shot her?”
“How else was I going to explain it? They can’t know about us at all. Agreed?”
Jonathan nodded. “Agreed.”
“Well, I better get to work. I have a date tonight with a hot blonde babe.” He winked.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow, and Thomas looked at him.
Tony again grinned wickedly and closed the door as he left.
Adam Swift and Tony Bianchi walked through the front door of the San Francisco Police Department’s interrogation block. They were greeted by the BSI’s department liaison, Richard Johnson.
“How’s it hangin’, boys?” Richard asked, slapping Adam on the shoulder.
Adam smiled and used his smoldering cigarette to point to Tony. “Richard, this is our newest agent to the San Francisco field division, Special Agent Anthony Bianchi.”
Tony put his hand out and Richard pumped it up and down. “Nice to meet you, Anthony.”
“Call me Tony, please.”
“Can I call you Dick?” Tony asked with a slight smirk.
Richard shook his head and narrowed his eyes at Tony. “Not if you expect me to answer.”
Tony laughed. “Okay.”
“Right this way. We’ve got him in room three,” Richard said, leading the way down a sterile-looking hallway with white floors and walls, and gray doors lining its corridor.
Tony and Adam followed. Adam blew a stream of smoke out of his nostrils and Tony winced as it passed under his sensitive nose.
As they approached door three, Detective Johnson opened it with a key attached to his belt and ushered them in with a flourish.
They walked into the room and saw the lone man sitting at a plain white table. A single bulb hung from a chain suspended above the table and it swung slightly.
Adam looked at the man. He was a thin, pale man, his dark hair was slicked back, his eyes blue and bright, but bloodshot. His hand wobbled as he tapped a cigarette onto an ashtray, the only item on the large white table. He put the cigarette up to his lips with a shaky hand and glared at the two BSI agents and one detective as they walked in.
“Mind if we sit?” Tony asked the man.
He gave a curt nod and continued to stare at them.
“Edward Newman, correct?” Adam said, setting a thin manila envelope down on the clunky table and opening it. He set his cigarette in the ashtray.
“Yeah, call me Eddie,” the man answered.
Tony sat next to Adam and just listened.
“Very well. I’m Special Agent Adam Swift, and this is Special Agent Anthony Bianchi, we’re with the Justice Department. And this is Detective Richard Johnson with the SFPD.”
Edward nodded, but said nothing.
“So, tell us about your time in the war, Eddie,” Adam said.
Edward blew out a breath. “Well, I was going to college when I got drafted,” he began. “I didn’t want to go, but you know, I was of age and all that. I was only nineteen so I guess they needed men and I had to go.”
“Go on,” Tony said, making notes on a small notepad he’d produced from his suit jacket.
“Well, I mean, what can I say about war? It’s ugly. I wish I’d never gone, but it’s not like I had much of a choice.” He pulled the cigarette up and took another long drag from it, the nicotine seeming to calm him.
“Did you see anything… unusual while you were in France?” Adam asked.
Edward snorted. “I don’t think watching people get their body parts blown off would classify as normal, so unless you have all day, you’re gonna have to be more specific, Agent Swift.”
Adam nodded. “Fair enough, let me rephrase. Did you ever see anyone get killed and come back to life?”
“Why don’t you tell me why you’re asking me these questions and it might make it easier for me to answer.”
“All right,” Adam began. “We need another liaison for the Justice Department here in the SFPD and we hear you’re interested in police work.”
Edward narrowed his eyes at the agent and crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray, then leaned back and folded his arms over his skinny chest. “What has that to do, exactly, with me going to war?”
Richard Johnson slapped his palm against the table. “Cut the bullshit, Newman! Just answer the damn questions. We ain’t got all day here, you know.”
Edward put his hands up in surrender. “Shit, man, calm down. I just want to know why the Justice Department is so interested in what I saw while I was in the Army when I thought I was here to interview for a job as a cop.”
Richard stared at him for a minute, then measured his words carefully. “Because I was you three years ago. Brought back from war, torn up both inside and out. Not sleeping, not eating, nerves shot. Not because of the normal horrors of war, although those were bad enough. No, it was from seeing men get shot in the chest or the head and not die, or even leave a scar for that matter. From seeing a grown man turn into an animal right before my eyes, and then watching that animal, be it a wolf, a large cat or whatever, drag my dying servicemen off to safety and then jump right back into the melee and rescue more men – as an animal.”
Edward’s mouth was open. “I thought I’d imagined that shit, man. Thought maybe I wasn’t sleeping well or they were lacing our food with some kind of drug or something.”
Adam shook his head. “No, son, you most certainly did not imagine those things. Those were vampires and shapeshifters you saw, and this is why you have been chosen to be a liaison between SFPD and the Justice Department. Richard here, he is our other one. He also went to war and saw the same things. Unexplained things that probably made both of you feel as if you were losing the plot. Am I right?”
Edward nodded. His body visibly relaxed and a small smile spread across his pale face. “I can’t tell you how relieved I feel. I thought I was going crazy. I’ve been having nightmares. Vampires, you say? Like in the horror picture shows I’ve seen at the theater?”
“The very same,” Tony answered.
“Do they drink blood?” he asked.
“Yes,” Richard replied.
Edward put a hand to his mouth and looked down at the table. “One night we were camped out in a ditch. I was sharing a tent with another guy, Jack something or other. I had fallen asleep, but I woke up when I heard a moan. I looked over and saw another soldier lying on top of Jack. At first I thought they had some freaky queer thing going on, but as I had one eye open, it seemed this other soldier had his mouth to Jack’s neck. It was then I saw blood running down from his throat and pooling on the blanket under him. I remember gasping and the other soldier heard me and left the tent so fast, it looked as though he had disappeared into thin air. The next morning I chalked it up to a bad dream, but as Jack was folding up his bedding, I saw the blood on his blanket. I was horrified, man. I refused to believe what I’d seen. I had too much else to worry about. I mean, Jack didn’t have no marks on his neck or nothin’.”
Adam Swift nodded as Tony jotted furious notes on his notepad. “Definitely vampire.”
Edward swore under his breath.
“I saw similar things too, man,” Richard said, tapping an ash into the communal ashtray.
Edward pointed at it. “Can I bum a smoke?”
Richard quickly pulled an entire pack out and slid it over to Edward. “Keep it.” He also fished a matchbook from his shirt pocket and pushed it toward Edward, who was already sliding one from the pack.
Edward cupped his hand around the flame as he lit the cigarette. “So I have a question,” he said, blowing smoke out of the side of his mouth.
“Go ahead,” Tony said, trying to stifle a cough from all the bluish smoke circulating in the small room.
“So if these… monsters have these powers – shapeshifting and eternal life, and apparently great speed and the inability to die, what in the sam-hill are they doing fighting in wars? I mean, seems they could do just about anything they want.”
Adam nodded. “I was thinking about that too. I think some of them feel like they may owe some sort of penance to humanity. They take lives to survive, but feel if they try to save human lives in other ways, it somehow negates the killings they commit to survive.”
“That’s right,” Tony interjected. “We captured a vampire once when I worked in the Seattle office, and he said something along those lines. He had fought in both the Civil War and the Korean War. Claimed he did it to make up for his past sins. He said he felt he could be an asset to the military with his abilities.”
“So what happened to him?” Edward asked, intrigued.
Tony smiled. “We verified his story, then we let him go.”
“Why didn’t you kill him?” Edward asked.
“We don’t kill these creatures,” Adam said. “Unless we catch them taking a human life, or of course in self-defense we can, but otherwise we do not.”
Edward’s eyebrows went up. “So you just let them go?”
Tony nodded. “A lot of times, they don’t kill. They drink blood or they hunt humans without killing them. We don’t know much about them, but when we capture one, we try to get information about them.”
“Interesting,” Edward said, drumming his fingers on the tabletop.
Tony folded his hands on the table. “So do you think you would be interested in this job? Along with your salary from the SFPD, you will receive a small salary from the DOJ as well.”
Edward nodded. “Yes. I’m very interested in this. I’m curious to learn more about these creatures. What would I have to do?”
“You just report to us anything strange that comes across your desk,” Adam said. “We will investigate it, along with the SFPD. But discretion will be of utmost importance. Only you and Detective Johnson here can know about it.”
“That’s it, just he and I will know about this?”
“Our boss, Sam Brown, he’ll know we’re working with the Justice Department, just not in what specific capacity,” Richard offered.
Edward nodded, then smiled. “When do I start?”
Anthony Bianchi and Adam Swift parked the car across the street from Golden Gate Park and got out, walking across the street as the sun sank low along the San Francisco skyline. The wind was icy and it swirled around them as they walked quickly through the massive black iron front gates of the park and began quietly walking a hiking trail through the park.
“So what are we looking for, exactly?” Agent Bianchi asked as they walked along the trail.
“Shifters. They like to run here. The trees and darkness provide them enough light from the moon to run free. They’ve been spotted here and in the Sutro Forest.”
Tony looked him quizzically. “Where’s the Sutro Forest?”
“Here, in the city,” Adam replied.
Tony raised his eyebrows. “There’s a forest in the middle of San Francisco?”
“Yeah, it’s not that large, but it’s there,” Adam replied, chuckling.
“Shh!” Adam said, putting a hand up.
Tony froze in his tracks. The night was now dark, illuminated by only a half moon, which caused even the shadows to have shadows. The trees and bushes along the park were eerily still, especially since it had just been windy.
From the corner of his eye, Tony spotted something blur by him in the shadows. He took off in a sprint toward it, using his enhanced eyesight to track its movements. Adam was on his heels, huffing and wheezing as he ran.
Tony crept up and saw it disappear behind a large redwood tree with nowhere else to go. He still couldn’t see exactly what it was, but its shape looked more of a human than animal. Once Adam caught up to him, he squinted into the darkness, then back up at Tony.
“What? Did you see something?” Adam panted.
Tony nodded, his eyesight and hearing fixated on the tree ahead of him, like a dog tracking its prey.
“I don’t see nothin’,” Adam said.
The creature darted out from behind the tree at unnatural speed and Tony gave chase, leaving Adam in his dust. Tony chased it all the way through the park, darting between bushes and tree stumps until it came to the park’s gates and sped through them. Tony pursued it into the street, almost getting hit by a car. Adam, to his credit, was trying his hardest to keep up.
The creature darted behind a nearby two-story building. Tony ran up to the building and placed his back along the building’s edge. Adam showed up a minute later, and Tony put his fingers to his lips to silence him. Adam nodded.
Tony inched along the building with his gun drawn and peered around the alley they believed the creature was trapped in. Not seeing it, Tony crept into the alley, keeping his back to the wall of the building. Adam followed, also with his service pistol drawn.
A lone orange street light illuminated the alley. Adam was having trouble seeing, but Tony was not. He could clearly see that the only things in the alley were two dumpsters and four sacks of trash. At the end of the alley was a tall cyclone fence. Just as Tony was heading toward it with the intention of scaling it, the creature jumped down from the top of the building and landed on Adam, causing his gun to go skittering away down the alley.
“ARGH!” Adam yelled.
Tony turned around as the man had Adam flat on his back. He was throwing punches, to which Adam was unsuccessfully trying to block with the palms of his hands.
Tony grabbed the man off with one hand, and as he looked into his face could see he had no whites at all to his eyes, and his fangs were out.
“Bloodsucker!” Tony grabbed him by his lapels and threw him to the ground, and with speed quicker than should be humanly possible, sped over to the vampire. Before it could get up, Tony twisted its head with a sickening crack. The vampire lay dead, well, temporarily dead, on the ground.
Adam got up, and was shaking as he brushed himself off. “How in the hell…?”
Tony said, “Let’s go before it wakes up. Unless you want me to kill it.”
“How? Shooting it won’t kill it, just like breaking its neck won’t,” Adam said, his voice hoarse and shaky. He had a black eye and a trickle of blood running down his mouth. He wiped it away with his thumb. “That sucker hits hard.”
Tony grinned at Adam and walked back over to the vampire. He twisted his head again with such force that it separated from the neck. Blood squirted out of the arteries and spilled in a fast moving puddle of black on the gray concrete. Tony held up the lone head by its hair and looked at Adam.
Adam stood there with his mouth open. “That’s not possible,” he breathed.
Tony tossed the head into the dumpster and wiped his hands on his pants. “Adam, we need to talk.”
The two BSI Agents were in the waiting room of San Francisco General’s emergency room, waiting for Adam to be seen by a doctor. He had an ice pack held against the back of his head.
“I told you, I don’t need to see no doctor,” Adam said, wincing at the cut on his lip as he spoke.
“Oh, but you do. I know the busted lip and black eye will heal, but I’m worried about that goose egg on the back of your head. That… thing was pounding you pretty hard.”
“Thanks,” Adam muttered.
Tony smiled. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
“No. Look, we have to go dispose of that body in the alley. We can’t leave that there for SFPD.”
Tony shook his head. “There won’t be a body. As we were leaving the alley, I saw the body turn to ash. There is only clothing left and a huge pile of ash both on the ground and in the dumpster. It’s like nature’s own disposal system.”
Adam looked around to make sure nobody heard, then glared at Tony. “So you gonna tell me, first of all, how you’re so strong, and second, how you know so much about vampires? Your comment to Edward and Richard didn’t go unnoticed. You said you dealt with them in Seattle.”
Tony took a deep breath. He was wondering how long he’d be able to keep this from Adam. When he was working for the FBI in Seattle, they didn’t work on supernatural cases, so aside from the occasional suspect chase, nobody could really tell Tony was more than human; special and powerful. He thought he owed it to Adam to explain what he was and how he had become that way. After all, if he was open-minded enough to believe in vampires and shapeshifters, hopefully he wouldn’t be too disbelieving of what he had to say.
“How old would you say I am, Adam?”
Adam’s eyebrows bunched together. “Well, that’s an odd question. What does it have to do with the fact that you’re as strong as Superman?”
“Humor me,” Tony replied.
“I don’t know. Thirty?”
Tony smiled. “I’m seventy-five years old. I was born in Italy in 1871.”
“That’s not possible. You’re not a vampire, are you?” He shrank back from Tony.
“No, I’m simply called an Immortal. I belong to a very small, elite sect of people who police the supernatural. I think it’s great the United States government has decided to do the same, but you must know, we’ve been doing it a lot longer.”
Adam shook his. “How hard did I hit my head?”
Tony laughed. “I’m serious. We’re granted immortality by a group of sylphs who inhabit an island in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“What in the hell is a sylph?”
“It’s sort of a faerie, if you will. Almost like a sorceress. They have an elixir we take every five years to keep us from aging. Also with that comes one special power.”
“Let me guess, yours is super-strength?” Adam said facetiously.
Tony shook his head. “No, actually it’s not. The added strength and heightened senses, like hearing and eyesight, go with the immortality, but you haven’t seen super-strength until you’ve seen Jonathan Murphy in action.”
Adam gasped. “The owner of the Murphy Architecture Building?”
“Yes, the very same. He’s a very, very old Immortal, one of the first, I believe.”
“Ya know, now that you say that, he did seem pretty strange.”
Tony laughed. “He’s English. What can I say?”
“That explains the strange accent. You can’t really notice it unless you pay close attention,” Adam said. “And I am a close-attention-paying kind of guy.”
Tony chuckled and patted Adam on the back. “Yes, you are.”
“So, if I’m to believe all this, I think I need more proof. It’s just so unbelievable to me.”
Tony nodded and pulled a switchblade out of his pocket and flicked it open. Adam watched curiously, then in horror as Tony pushed up his sleeve and sliced a two inch cut into the underside of his forearm. Blood trickled down the caramel colored skin of his arm.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Adam gasped.
Adam stared at the cut and watched as it slowly began to knit itself together. After about 90 seconds, there was nothing there at all, not even a scar.
He looked up at Tony and shook his head. “I need a cigarette.”
PART II: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – 1963
Special Agent Christian Estes leaned back in his chair, drumming a pencil against his large oak desk. He was completely lost in his thoughts as he pondered the photos spread out on his desk. They just didn’t make sense, and to make matters worse, they’d arrived anonymously via U.S. mail with no return address.
Christian couldn’t figure out why someone would mail the FBI a series of photographs depicting a dark-skinned woman stripping her clothes off and seemingly turning into a large cat. Clearly this was a joke; these photos had to have been doctored.
Christian had used a large, heavy magnifying glass to study the pictures closely. They seemed to be legit, but he would let the lab analyze them. New, cutting-edge technology was being developed, like detection of fingerprints, and he would utilize that technology to see if he could identify the sender of these strange, yet intriguing photos.
“What’cha got there, Estes?”
Christian looked up to see his boss, Al Cartwright, standing in his doorway. Al’s small stature did not match his large attitude. Al was the SAC of the FBI’s Chicago field office, and he never let anyone forget it. Been at the job almost twenty years, and was nearing retirement.
“Hey, boss,” Christian said. “Just some pictures I got in the mail.”
Al adjusted his skinny black tie and walked to Christian’s desk. He took some reading glasses from his shirt pocket and slid them on. As he peered down at them, he gasped when he saw the last two photos. “Where did you get these, you say?”
“In the mail.”
“Do you still have the envelope?” Al asked.
Christian nodded and pulled it out from the top drawer of his desk, handing it to Al.
Al flipped it over then back to the front. “No return address, of course.” Then he sniffed it.
Christian was watching him curiously and raised an eyebrow. “Smell any evidence on there?”
“No, smartass, I don’t.”
Christian chuckled. “Okay well, what do you make of these then? I mean, what is this? A hoax?”
Al removed his glasses and slid them back into his shirt pocket. He stared at him for a long minute before asking, “Christian, how old are you?”
“Uh, just turned twenty-nine, boss.”
“What made you want to become an FBI agent?” Al asked.
Christian smiled. “Nothing specific, just always knew I wanted to be a cop, but my parents made me go to college. So I figured FBI would be a good way to keep them happy, and myself. Got myself a degree in Criminal Justice.”
Al sat on the edge of Christian’s desk. He studied Christian’s wavy light brown hair and the wonder and excitement in his blue eyes. He remembered being so young and excited to be working in federal law enforcement and the thrill of it all. “You think you have an open mind, Chris?”
Christian nodded. “Yes, I’d like to think so.”
“We have an elite branch of the Bureau that nobody really knows about. It’s pretty hush-hush but if you’re interested, I can see if I can get you in.”
Christian’s eyes lit up. “Really? What kind of work is it?”
Al’s eyes slipped down to the photos on his desk, then looked back up at Christian. “Stuff like this.” He jabbed at the photo of the large cat with his stubby forefinger.
“Are you saying these photos are real? Like this lady just stripped her clothes off in Lincoln Park and literally turned into this damn tiger or whatever this is?”
Al squinted at the pictures. “That cat has spots. I’d say it’s probably a leopard.”
“I don’t give a good god damn what it is! You believe this broad turned into this cat? Come on, Al, shoot straight with me here.”
“What do you believe, Special Agent Estes?” Al’s tone and facial expressions were almost mocking.
Christian raked a hand through his hair and blew out a breath, leaning back in his chair as if to get some distance from the offending pictures. “Honestly, I don’t know. The pictures look real enough, it’s just that…”
“It’s incomprehensible that this could actually happen,” Al finished for him.
Christian nodded. “Yes.”
“Son, these pictures are real. That is a shapeshifter. The Justice Department has a branch of agents who handle these things. You interested?”
Christian’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you screwing with me?”
Al laughed. “No, I’m not. You want in?”
Christian nodded. “Oh, hell yes I want in. When do I start?”
The fourteen-week course had been both grueling and informative. Sent away to a remote town in Georgia for training, he’d been practically sequestered for the entire fourteen weeks on a large former military base, converted for training of all federal law enforcement, including his… special branch.
His mind was both on fire and numb at the same time. His body was now more fit than it had ever been, and his nerves – shot. So much information was fed to him during his training that by the time it was done, he wasn’t sure if he was excited or terrified to get back in the field and actually start learning how to both deal with and detain these creatures that roamed the cities and towns of Illinois.
Hell, the whole country, for that matter – according to his instructors.
Not much was known about the shapeshifters and vampires, but what they did know was that both species were essentially immortal, meaning they didn’t age, were not susceptible to disease, and could heal quickly. It did not, however, mean that they couldn’t die. The shifters were especially vulnerable to death in their animal forms, as a lot of times they were caught off-guard, distracted by things around them.
“The easiest way to kill one is to shoot it, either with a gun, an arrow, whatever, then once its down, stab it in the heart or cut its head off,” Annette said to Christian as they sat in a parked car.
The pair was assigned to watch the house of an alleged local vampire clan, and they’d been parked about an hour in the dark across from a large mansion that sat on the edge of a lake. The mansion was surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. Occasionally, Dobermans could be seen roaming the property. Two small windows high on the third floor were lit up, and aside from the flickering of decorative outside lights, no other activity was happening in the house that they could see.
“And how do you know so much about how to kill them?” Christian asked, sliding a piece of gum from its wrapper and folding it neatly into his mouth while fixing Annette with an intense stare.
Annette watched the gum slip into Christian’s mouth past his full lips and perfect teeth and realized he had asked her something. She smiled at him, her light brown eyes flashing with embarrassment.
He grinned at her. “How do you know so much about these things?” He pointed at the mansion.
“Well, I transferred from the L.A. field office. I had my fair share of run-ins with vamps and shifters.”
Christian studied her pretty pale elfin face that was peppered with freckles, and wondered if her curly red hair was as soft as it looked. “You’re awfully young to not only be an agent, but to have already been in long enough to have earned a transfer.”
She shrugged. “I’m not as young as I look. Besides,” she said, plucking the pack of gum from his shirt pocket and helping herself to a piece, “I was done with California. I had a friend there who was from Chicago and she told me all about it, so I decided to transfer here, see if I liked it or not.”
“Well, do you?”
She flipped the gum into her mouth and shook her head. “Ya know, it’s too early to tell. I think I need to experience more of the nightlife, see some shows, that sort of thing.”
He nodded. “I also hear you’re the first female BSI agent. Not very common to have broads as agents, let alone in this division.” He turned his head to look at the mansion once again, lifting a set of heavy black binoculars to his eyes to make sure they didn’t miss anybody coming or going.
Annette didn’t want to, but she took a little peek into Christian’s mind. She didn’t care about where he came from or how much money he made, she was more curious to see if he had a problem with a female partner. His mind seemed to be on the house at the time though, but she really didn’t get the feeling that he would treat a female colleague in a derogatory manner or that he held any deep-seated chauvinistic views.
“Yeah, well I aced all the tests and beat out most of the guys in both physical tests and speed at the academy, so it’s not like they could refuse me. Besides, I make good bait, don’t I?”
Christian slid the binoculars down from his face and looked at her and laughed. “Yes, you do. You want to go scale that fence with the sharp points on each rail and go ring the doorbell, pretending to be lost? Maybe we can get you a Girl Scout’s uniform and you can pretend to be peddling cookies.”
She punched him in the arm. “Very funny.”
“Shit, look,” Christian said, pointing toward the house again. “Looks like we have ourselves a vampire.”
Annette looked to where he was pointing and frowned. She then opened the door to the clunky 1961 Ford sedan and slipped out as quietly as she could. With her enhanced hearing, she heard Christian whisper-yell, “What in the hell are you doing?”
She slunk around the car, crouching down to stay hidden, and peered at the house. She raised the large camera up to her face and cranked the lens to get the camera in focus and began snapping pictures of the two vampires exiting the large house. I bet Leo knows who these bloodsuckers are, she thought to herself.
Leo was the head of the Chicago Immortals coven. Annette Russell had left the Los Angeles coven three years before to move to Chicago. Her friend, Kathryn, had told her about her human life here, and Annette thought it sounded like a nice place to start over. She had been in Los Angeles for almost forty years and needed a change. When the BSI formed almost twenty years prior, word spread amongst the Immortal covens and they tried their hardest to get at least one Immortal into each field office, at least in the large cities, to monitor what the U.S. government – the humans – knew about the supernatural. Annette had gladly volunteered and was surprised when she was accepted into the position. Being highly male-dominated, she knew she had to prove herself, but her combination of enhanced senses and strength, along with her extensive knowledge of vampires and shapeshifters, impressed the Justice Department officials greatly, and they were happy to have her onboard.
Annette slipped back into the car, closing the car door as quietly as she could.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Christian asked her, an incredulous expression on his handsome face.
She raised the camera that was hanging from a strap around her neck. “Taking pictures.”
He shook his head. “They could have seen you.”
She looked at him with amusement and raised her chin. “So?”
He turned his head in the direction of the mansion again to see the two vampires getting into a large black chauffeured town car and then watched as one large, burly man used a key to unlock a padlock on the wrought iron gate. He swung it open so the car could pass through.
“We following?” Annette asked.
Christian nodded, pulling the gum from his mouth and flicking it out the window. “Oh, yeah.”
Leo Burton swallowed the last of his whiskey and set the empty tumbler on the bar, signaling the waiting bartender for a refill. The bartender quickly complied, pouring another measure while Leo slid him a generous tip. He quickly pocked it and set the bottle down, wiping off the counter, but staying close to Leo and Annette.
“You’re not drinking?” Leo asked in his deep, booming voice. His feet practically reached the floor, even though the barstool was set high off the ground. He barely fit on it anyway. Leo looked like he could bench press a steam train. His Marine Corps haircut was always in a sharp flattop that looked like you might hurt yourself if you touched it.
Annette smiled. “No, not tonight.” She paused, watching him throw back his third dose of Irish poison. She knew his body chemistry would burn it off fast and understood why most Immortals drank. She used to love tequila shots but decided about ten years ago they were a waste of money and stopped drinking altogether. “So what do you say?” She pointed at the photo again.
Leo slid the tumbler back toward the bartender, who lifted the bottle questioningly. Leo shook his head no. He picked up the eight-by-ten photograph and looked at it. “That’s definitely Jeremy.”
She lifted a ginger eyebrow. “Jeremy? What kind of name is that?”
Leo chuckled, his hazel eyes glossy. “Who the hell knows. He’s the head of the local vampire clan, though.” He poked the photo with his middle finger. “Devious, mean little bastard too. I wish the council would just let me kill him. He’s a prick.”
“Gee, don’t hold back, Leo. Tell me how you really feel,” Annette replied, laughing. She shuddered at the venom in his voice, though. Leo’s Immortal gift was super-strength and she’d seen him in action.
Leo was still looking at the photo. “I don’t know who the broad is, though. He usually hangs out with a female vamp named Vivian but this doesn’t look like her. Although,” he put the photo close to his face, “I suppose if she put on a blonde wig, maybe. This photo is really bad.”
Annette nodded. “I know, I was kind of in a hurry when I took it.”
He put the picture down and looked at her. “Why?”
“I was with my new partner, Estes. He wanted me to get back in the car. We were on a stakeout.”
“You liking the BSI?” he asked, seeming genuinely interested in the agency and her job.
She nodded, grabbing a handful of peanuts from a bowl on the bar and popping them in her mouth. “Yes, it’s very interesting. The government has no flippin’ clue about the shifters and vamps though.”
Leo raised both eyebrows. “No clue at all?”
She swallowed the dry peanuts then signaled the bartender for a drink. “Well, I mean, they have a general idea, but they don’t know half the stuff we do,” she said. She looked at the bartender. “Just a Coke, Rick.”
“For instance, when we saw ol’ Jeremy and his date here leaving the house, we followed them in their car. They made about three stops before ending up at some god-awful nightclub for the rest of the night. It was actually quite boring. We followed them into the club but they didn’t do much except sit there and stare at the humans.”
“No feeding?” Leo asked, interested. “Normally they use those clubs to find their next meal.”
“Not that I could see, but I did see a few disappear into a backroom. What bothered me is that Christian didn’t want to get out of the car during the three stops they made. I wanted to know what they were stopping for.”
Leo waved his hand. “Probably visiting blood whores.”
Annette nodded. “Probably. But still.”
“Tell me something, does your partner know about us?”
She looked at Leo incredulously. “Of course not. And I don’t plan on telling him. Why do you ask?”
“Just to hear you answer the question correctly. And you passed.” Leo winked at her.
“So, where are you from, Estes?” Annette asked, licking barbeque sauce from her fingers.
He looked at her messy fingers and the sauce on her lips and shook his head, smiling. “I’m an Illinois native.”
She nodded. “That’s great you got to stay local for the job.”
“I know,” he said, sipping his iced tea. “I hear the Bureau is starting to send people out of their hometowns. I guess it does put a damper on undercover operations if someone from your high school is a shapeshifter and recognizes you.”
She laughed as she wiped her mouth with a napkin. “Yeah, that would definitely be very awkward.”
He stared at the napkin she had tucked into her black button-up shirt and was amused at how down-to-earth Annette was. “So you said you’re from L.A.?”
She shook her head. “No, born in Oklahoma, actually. Took off to L.A. to find work when I was eighteen. I grew up on a dairy farm with six siblings. I had to get the hell out of there.” She set down the rib she had gnawed clean and picked up another one.
“You know, that sauce matches your hair,” Christian said. “In fact, I think you may actually have some in your hair.”
She absently smoothed a stray curl behind her ear. She normally wore her hair up and away from her face, but sometimes the curls would escape and frame her face. “Oops. What can I say? I love ribs.”
Christian paused the forkful of baked beans at his lips. “Well, you are from the South.”
She laughed. “I suppose.”
The bell above the small diner’s door chimed and neither of them turned around, but as the man who entered alone approached the counter, Annette could hear an animalistic grunting ringing in her ears.
Stupid whore! I should rip her face off. She crosses me one more time and I will! Thinks she can screw around on me? Doesn’t she know who I am? She wants an animal in bed? Oh, I’ll give her an animal, all right. Won’t she be surprised when she lies down with a man and wakes up with a two hundred pound cat!
Annette stiffened at his words. All the blood drained from her face as she slowly turned around to see a tall-ish man with dark skin and shifty eyes approach the counter and study the menu posted above the pimply-face clerk’s head.
Christian studied her face. “What is it, Russell?”
“Ah, nothing. Tell me, Estes, what do you make of the guy at the counter?”
Christian slid his eyes past her and cocked his head to the right. “Nothing, really. Seems a bit shady but other than that…”
“Keep an eye on him,” she cautioned.
He smirked. “Why? You know him?”
“Uh, yeah,” she lied. “I think he’s a shifter.”
Christian’s eyes got big. “What? How do you know that?”
Shit. “Uh, he hit on me in a bar once. Was super drunk, said he was an animal in bed. It was quite disgusting, I’ll tell you.”
Christian threw back his head and laughed. “Okay, while that’s not the most romantic line, that doesn’t mean he’s a shifter!”
“Then call it women’s intuition.” She looked at him very serious, her face still pale. “Just humor me, Estes, okay?”
He nodded and shrugged. “Okay.”
The dark-skinned man grabbed a tray of fried chicken and red beans and rice and sat at a nearby table, eating alone. Annette turned around in her seat, pretending to study the menu, but slid a glance in his direction. She could see he was indeed wearing a gold wedding ring and feared for his wife.
Even if she was, perhaps, a cheating whore.
The man quickly finished his meal and left out the door. Christian and Annette were already in their government vehicle in the parking lot, waiting for him to exit the diner.
The shapeshifter took off down the sidewalk on foot and headed toward nearby Lincoln Park.
Christian looked at Annette from the driver’s seat of the Ford. “We gonna follow on foot?”
She nodded. “Oh, yes.”
They quietly left the car and began following him. The sun was beginning to go down and the streetlights popped on, their orange glow matching the colors of the fading sunset along the Chicago skyline.
“Where the hell is he going?” Christian asked, slightly winded at their fast-walking, trying to keep up with the man – and Annette, who didn’t seem to be having any troubles.
Annette grinned at him. “You need to exercise more.”
“Are you offering to be my personal instructor?”
She bit her lip and shook her head. Then she punched him in the arm for good measure. “In your dreams, Estes.”
“Look,” Christian said as the man kept to the park’s path, “not everyone can be as fit as you.” He raked her with his eyes from head to toe.
A red stain crept up her neck and settled into her pale face and she looked away. “Gotta keep up with the big boys, you know.”
Christian laughed. Annette didn’t even clear five-foot-three and probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet with boots on. But what she lacked in physical stature, she made up with in attitude. He liked that.
The shifter looked as though he was heading for a dense copse of trees at the edge of the waterfront.
“It’s game time,” Annette said, pushing her chin in the man’s direction.
Christian raised his eyebrows. “Game time?”
“Just try to keep up,” she muttered, taking off at a slow jog.
When they reached the thicket of trees, Christian turned to Annette and put his hand on his holster. He whispered, “I’ll go first, stay behind me –”
Without warning, a large black panther pounced out from behind a thick tree and pinned Annette to the ground. It was growling and began swiping its beastly claws along her chest and neck while its massive weight kept her flat. She was screaming, her fists flailing punches at the creature, her feet trying to kick it off her.
Christian went to grab his service pistol and his sweaty hands slipped twice, before he got it unsnapped from its holster, and even then he almost dropped it. Finally taking aim, the second he cocked back the hammer, the creature whipped its head around and looked right at Christian, who swallowed hard. Wasting no time, he fired three shots at the panther, his eyes locked with its yellow ones. The gigantic cat howled in pain and jumped off Annette and came bounding toward Christian.
Annette rolled over and had her revolver out before she had even stood up fully and fired two shots into the back of its skull before it reached Christian, who was also up at the ready, aiming to shoot.
The panther slumped over, five bullet holes seeping dark red blood from its head and torso. As it took its last breath, its furry black body began to change. Its claws and teeth shrank back into its body, its fur dissipating into dark brown skin, its eyes turning from yellow slits to normal chocolate brown pupils. Where once there was a panther, lay a very dead, naked human.
Annette limped over to Christian, who had to grab hold of her before she collapsed. She had vicious, bloody stripes on her neck and chest, her shirt ripped to shreds. Christian holstered his gun and kept his eyes on the shapeshifter. His hands were shaking as he took off his jacket and put it around Annette, who then passed out in his arms.
Leo Burton rushed into the emergency room of Mercy Hospital in Chicago, frantic. He grabbed the first nurse he laid eyes on and looked down at her. “I need Annette Russell’s room.”
The nurse, a small blonde lady with a nametag that read Lisa, looked at the large meat hook wrapped around her upper arm, then back up into the face of its owner. His face was twisted with pain and panic. Untangling herself from his grip, she pointed to the reception desk. “You’ll need to ask the candy striper. She has a directory.”
He nodded and the nurse walked off in a huff, adjusting her uniform.
After locating Annette’s room, Leo’s large legs easily took the stairs two at a time to the third floor.
“Sir, can I help you?” he heard a female voice say as he whizzed by the nurse’s station. Totally ignoring her, he barreled into room six and stopped when he saw Annette sitting up in the hospital bed, smiling. The room was all white, even the bedcoverings and the paint, and a curtain was open, letting in some daylight. There was a young man sitting in a chair next to her bed and Leo’s eyes were immediately drawn to their linked hands.
Annette’s eyes flicked up to the doorway and she smiled even wider. “Hey, Leo.”
Christian pulled his hand from hers. He turned around and frowned at the large and imposing figure taking up most of the doorway.
“Hey, kid, you okay?”
She nodded. “Ah, Leo, this is my colleague, Special Agent Christian Estes. Christian, this is my… friend, Leo.”
The two men shook hands.
“Please,” Christian said, indicating the chair, “I was just leaving anyway. I have a shitload of paperwork to fill out.”
Leo nodded. “Thanks.”
With a small wave, Christian said, “I’ll see you back in the office soon, Russell. Get better.”
“See you later, Estes.” She smiled.
Leo watched Christian leave and stood up and hugged Annette. She winced and he pulled off her quickly, eyeing her bandaging, which was seeping blood. “Holy shit, woman, what the hell happened?”
She took a deep breath. “Shifter got me.”
He sat back down, his eyes big. “Tell me everything.”
When she was finished with the tale, he looked at her and said, “So you realize your three mistakes, right?”
She looked at him, confused. “Well I realized two of them right away, but a third?”
“Yes, first, you didn’t have your gun drawn,” he started.
She nodded. “I was working on it.”
Ignoring her, he continued, “Secondly, you underestimated the shifter. I mean, what were you expecting, to get to watch him shift?”
“Well, yeah, I was hoping to show Junior there…” She pointed at the doorway.
He cut her off. “No. They shift very fast, split-second fast, Annette.”
She sighed. “I know. And number three?”
“Bringing that rookie human agent with you.”
Her eyes flashed in anger. “But he’s not just some human, he’s a BSI agent! He’s gotta learn. On the job training, what better way to get his feet wet? That pathetic academy they sent us to in Georgia didn’t teach us nothin’. There’s no amount of training that prepares a person for something like this.”
“Well you’re lucky he’s a decent shot, looks like he slowed it down enough for you to get a shot off. What did you tell the hospital staff?”
She smiled slightly. “That we were hiking and a panther attacked us.”
He raised an eyebrow. “A panther attack in Illinois?”
She shrugged and sipped some water out of a straw from a cup she had on a tray next to her bed. “Not my problem, really. Gave them a fake name.”
“And the body? Do I need to take care of it?”
“No, Agent Estes dropped me in the ER then went straight to BSI headquarters and reported it. I guess the SAC already sent a team out to take care of it.”
“Sounds like they are gonna be a good asset to us.”
She nodded. “Yes, I think once they learn more about the Fae, they’re going to help us out a lot. I’m just glad I could get in with them.”
“We are too, kid, we are too,” Leo said, smiling at her. “So when you going back to work?”
She gingerly pulled the bandage off her neck and said, “How does it look?”
He squinted at it and said, “The dried blood makes it look worse than it is, but they’re already scabbed over. You probably won’t even have a scar three days from now.”
She nodded. “Good. Well I’m taking a week off. The government’s paying for it and there’s no way to explain the rapid healing to the BSI. I don’t care how open-minded they are.”
Christian slid the key into the lock of his one-bedroom apartment in Hyde Park. His body was physically exhausted but his mind was buzzing, the memories and events of the day bouncing around in his brain like a ball in a pinball machine. What was causing his pounding headache, however, were the unanswered questions.
He stripped off his trench coat, which was coated in Annette’s dried blood, and tossed it into the hamper. Kicking off his shoes, he made his way to the fridge and grabbed a can of beer. Then he walked to the large black and white TV and turned the dial, flipping it on.
He plunked himself on the couch, looking at the Andy Griffith Show, but not really watching it. As he put the beer to his lips and let the cool, tart liquid wash down his throat, he let out a shudder, thinking about that cat’s yellow eyes staring at him as he shot it.
How is it possible for a human being to turn into an animal? What would cause something like that? Some radiation exposure or something?
The answer was: they weren’t human beings.
At the academy, they’d been schooled on shapeshifters and vampires. And while vampires fascinated him, he almost found them easier to understand on a scientific level. Apparently to become one, a normal human being has to be bitten by one, have some of their blood drained and drunk by a vampire, then the human has to drink the vampire’s blood. Apparently the mixing causes a full transformation after about three full days. Christian thought of this as a type of poisoning which caused the side effects of not being able to tolerate sunlight and rapid healing. The non-aging/immortality thing was odd, but he could still wrap his mind around that condition more than a shapeshifter. Apparently, they were born that way. Or so, the BSI had been told by a few they had extracted information from.
How they extracted the information, Christian didn’t even want to speculate on.
Again with the immortality, once reaching adulthood, they just stopped aging. They can live for decades, centuries, millennia even, as long as they didn’t get themselves killed, which seemed to happen often, especially in their animal forms. What he’d been taught was that they weren’t very bright. Maybe stupidity was also in their genes.
Christian laughed humorlessly at his little joke when he took one last swig from the beer can, which was now about empty.
His last questions, however, were the most haunting. He was no doctor, but he knew there was no way on God’s green Earth that Annette should have been sitting up and smiling less than a day after such a vicious attack. He didn’t care how many narcotics they’d pumped into her. Those wounds should have at least required a few hundred stitches. He’d seen the claws on that beast, they were practically glinting in the dwindling light of sunset as it pounced. Instead, the doctors had said the wounds seemed “superficial” and would heal on their own.
Whatever that means.
Annette, while pretty and attractive in a sexual way, was also a little strange. There was something off about her but Christian couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe it was a combination of things. Her background seemed strange; no family around and she just randomly moves to Chicago? She seemed adventuresome and driven, so he’d chalked it up to that. Then there were her physical abilities. She’d beat out all the guys in her class at the academy in both speed and skill – and even bragged about it. And that panther, my God. He saw the way she’d fought it off. That thing should have chopped her head off with one swipe of those claws, but she’d held her ground against it.
Perhaps vampires and shapeshifters weren’t the only supernatural creatures out there. He’d seen her in the sunlight so he knew she wasn’t a vampire. Could she be a shifter? His mind was buzzing again, and it wasn’t from the beer.
Christian shuddered again and asked Andy Griffith’s smiling face on the screen, “What in God’s name have I gotten myself involved in?”
A week later, Christian and Annette were seated in the conference room at BSI headquarters for their weekly briefing.
“Special Agent Russell, would you like to join me up here and tell us what happened on the night of October 2nd?” said SAC Al Cartwright.
Annette nodded, stood, and shot Christian a warning look. He was confused by this, but said nothing.
Since the BSI was still a top secret part of the Justice Department, each field office only had about ten agents and all the ones from the Chicago field office were all seated around the conference room table. Annette Russell was the only female in the Chicago field office.
She stood, straightening out her black polyester skirt and blazer and looped a stray curl behind her ear. “I think you all have heard about the shapeshifter attack so I’ll make this quick and just give you the facts so you don’t have to speculate anymore. We followed the suspect on foot from a diner to a somewhat secluded walking trail in Lincoln Park. Instead of having our weapons drawn, we decided to try to sneak up on him as he went deep into the woods for what we assumed was a shift. We were right about that, but were caught off-guard when he literally pounced out, now no longer a man but a two hundred pound black panther with yellow eyes and teeth and claws that meant business.
“He sprang on me, but my wonderful partner, Estes here,” she looked at Christian and smiled, “was quick on his feet and shot him, then he collapsed and died. I’ll tell you though, even though we didn’t get to see him transform into the cat, it was sure a sight watching him morph back into a man.”
The room was deathly quiet, all the agents just staring at her.
“So they really do exist…” said a young agent sitting right next her.
She laughed. “Yeah, Jameson, they really do. You think the government just made up this stuff? These creatures are very real. Make sure your weapon is out and at the ready when you think you’re going to confront one.”
Another agent named Ray Porter said, “Why were you following him anyway? Did you know he was a shifter?”
“That’s a good question, Porter. The guy was acting weird, kind of twitchy and had shifty eyes – no pun intended – and I just had a feeling about him.”
The agents frowned at her. It wasn’t the answer they were looking for but she had nothing else to give them. Intuition or just a hunch was going to have do for now. Telling them she was one hundred and thirteen years old and had the Immortal gift of mind-reading was not an option. Yeah, women’s intuition was definitely going to have to win out on this one.
“Thank you, Agent Russell. Is there anything else you’d like to share? Advice or tips?” SAC Cartwright asked.
She nodded. “Yes, please watch your backs and never go out alone at night. Shifters are one thing, but vampires, I hear, are a lot more deadly.”
“Briefing adjourned, see you back next Monday,” Al Cartwright said.
As they left the meeting, Christian looked at Annette and said, “You really aren’t going to tell me how you knew he was a shifter, are you?”
She smiled and popped a piece of gum into her mouth. “Nope.”
“I need to speak to Leo,” said the dark-skinned female as she took a seat at the bar.
Rick the bartender nodded and wandered into the backroom.
Leo was in his office, a smoldering cigar at his desk and a mountain of paperwork under the pencil he was holding. He was the bar’s owner and didn’t like being interrupted while he was balancing the books.
“Boss, there’s a lady out here asking for you.”
Leo looked up from his duties and narrowed his eyes at the bartender. “Tell her to get lost, I’m busy.”
Rick went back to the bar and informed the woman he wasn’t available.
She let out a huff and walked to the back where she had seen Rick disappear to.
“Lady, you can’t go back there!” Rick said, following her.
She quickly found Leo’s office and opened the door without knocking. “Leo, I need to talk to you.”
Rick entered a few seconds later. “Sorry, boss, I told her you were busy, but –”
Leo didn’t even look at the bartender, as he stared at the woman. “It’s ok, Rick. Just close the door behind you.”
He nodded and left, pulling the door with him.
Leo leaned back in his chair and took a long drag of his cigar, staring at the woman, who had helped herself to a seat on the long sofa in Leo’s office. “So what’s it been, Pearl, about ten years?”
She nodded, chomping on gum. She had a heavy east coast accent. “Yeah, I think so.”
“So what the hell do you want? I’m busy.”
“I’d like to know what happened to Howie,” she said, her arms folded. She smoothed her powder blue skirt and was tapping the shoe of her heeled black mary janes on his hardwood floor.
Smoke wafted through the air and seemed to get stuck in her high, sleek black beehive hairdo. She waved it away and exaggerated a cough.
“Who is Howie?” he asked, curious.
She huffed. “My brother, you asshole!”
“I’m still not following, doll. If he’s missing, check the local dog pound. Otherwise, I don’t care.”
She stood up and stomped her foot. “He’s dead, you insensitive prick! Someone killed him in Lincoln Park and I know you and your little cops did something to him.”
Recognition passed over Leo’s face and he smiled. “The human cops killed him, not us. Justice Department, in fact.”
She swallowed down a sob but maintained her composure, slumping back to the sofa. “What do you know about it?”
He measured his words carefully. The shapeshifters didn’t know about the BSI and the Immortals wanted to keep it that way. “I don’t know much, I was told that he shifted and attacked the cops, they shot him, end of story. Did they not explain this to you when you went to identify the body, or whatever else they called you to do?”
“Yes,” she said quietly. “They told me what you just said. But it makes no sense. Howie wouldn’t shift like that and attack people, he had to have been provoked.”
Leo set the cigar down. “Pearl, did Howie beat his wife?”
She stared at him horror. “Of course not.”
“But she was human, wasn’t she?”
Pearl nodded. “Yeah, I told him he shouldn’t be getting involved with no human girl, but he married her and I thought they were doing okay.”
“Why do you ask? What does it matter?” she asked suspiciously.
Leo blew out a breath. “No reason.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t believe you. You know something and you better tell me!”
“So how’s Morrie doing?” he asked in deflection.
“Oh, so you haven’t seen me in ten years, but you sure know who the new clan leader is.”
Leo laughed. “You are seriously deluded if you think I am not going to keep tight tabs on your shifter clan and the vampires. What do you think we do here?”
“To answer your question, Morrie was just fine until last week when he lost one of his clan members. He sent me here looking for answers.”
“I don’t believe you. He was your brother. You’re grieving and want someone to blame. You want to point the finger? Point it at Howie. He shouldn’t have shifted and attacked humans, especially in public. I don’t know what he was thinking, but it was the end of him.”
She was looking at him, part mortified, part furious.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m swamped here.” He pointed to the stacks of paperwork.
“You’re a real dick, you know that, Leo?” she huffed, walking toward the door.
He waved. “Give Morrie my regards!”
As she stormed out, the door slammed shut, rattling the frame.
Christian and Annette were again staking out the creepy mansion of the supposed head of the local vampire clan. The house was quiet and so was Christian. Ever since the incident with Howie the shapeshifter, Christian had been less friendly and decidedly more quiet. Annette had tried talking to him but he said it was nothing, totally denying that he was acting differently.
She looked over at him, his face in the driver’s seat looking in the direction of the house, his fingers strumming absently on the steering wheel. She gazed at the back of his head and then looked back down at the magazine she was pretending to read. She took a listen to his ruminating stream of consciousness.
I’ve got to get to the bottom of this. What if the Bureau has hired a shapeshifter? There’s definitely something off about her… I am going to figure out what it is. I wonder if I should ask her out on a date and see if I can get her in bed. While she’s sleeping, I can look around her house. I’m pretty sure at the academy they said that shifters have higher than usual body temps. I’ve only ever touched her once when I took her to the hospital, but I was too pumped up and panicked to notice. Maybe if I put my hand on her arm, or pretend to bump into her, I could feel her skin. But then I’d have to let my hand linger too long, and she’d definitely think that was weird…
Annette suppressed a smile at his angsty inner monologue. So he thought she was a shifter. That’s kind of funny, she thought. It’s not as if he’d ever guess what she really was, though. There was no way she was going to tell him; he’d have to just keep speculating. She did briefly wonder, however, if he was going to come on to her and try to sleep with her.
Not that the thought had never crossed her mind.
But now she’d know it was because he was trying to find out if she was something other than human, and not because he was interested. She sighed loudly and Christian turned his head and looked at her.
“Everything okay?” he asked, seeming concerned.
She nodded. “Oh yes, of course. Just bored. Wish these vampires would keep a regular schedule so we wouldn’t have to sit out here all night.”
Christian grinned. “We could try to break in or peek in the windows.”
She looked at him curiously. “Ever been bitten by a Doberman?”
“No, but maybe you should go. You seem to have the magical ability to fight off large animals,” he said. It was a teasing tone, but the snarky undercurrent wasn’t lost on her.
And to heal very quickly from their bites and scratches! he added inside his head.
He was now smirking and she stared at him without smiling. “You got something to say, Estes?”
His smile fell. “No, why?”
“Well, you’ve been acting weird and I think you should come out with it. I know the shifter attack freaked you out and everything, but I really am okay. As you can see.”
Oh yes, much better than you should be.
She frowned. Sometimes she hated her little ability. She decided to tune out his thoughts. She didn’t want to hear any more.
“Vampires at ten o’clock,” she said, pointing at the house, grateful for the reprieve from the tense conversation. She hoped he didn’t want to continue it later.
He pulled the heavy black binoculars up to his eyes while Annette put the camera up to her face and started snapping photos. At least there was a full moon tonight and visibility was a bit better than it had been the last time.
“They’re fixin’ to leave,” Annette said, still snapping pictures.
He lowered the binoculars and looked at her with amusement in his eyes. “Fixin’?”
She shrugged and pulled the stale gum from her mouth, wrapping it in a tissue. “I’m from the South, what can I say?”
She chuckled. “No promises.”
The town car backed out of the wrought iron gates and the large bodyguard again shut the gates manually as the car slowly headed away into the night. The two BSI agents followed at a safe distance, this time determined to keep a tighter tail.
“You go around back,” Annette said, waving in the direction of the backyard. She had her gun drawn and was sneaking up to peer in the large front window of the quaint house the town car had stopped at, which had lights burning in it.
Christian nodded and crept toward the gate, which thankfully wasn’t latched. He pushed it open a small ways and slipped through, disappearing into the backyard.
Annette had her back against the house and slunk around to the front, ducking down behind a neatly trimmed rosebush, careful to avoid thorns. It was cold out so the bush wasn’t very hearty, but she wasn’t taking any chances. She looked toward the street again, seeing the vampires’ car and knew nobody was in it. Even with the blacked-out windows, her enhanced eyesight gave her the assurance that it was empty.
She slowly peered into the front window. Thin, gauzy yellow ruffled curtains hung, and a large gap on the side let her see in clearly. One of the vampires, a male she recognized from the town car, and a human girl, were both sitting at the dining room table. A large man with huge biceps and a short black crew cut stood by the table with his arms folded. They appeared to be in a conversation. The vampire was looking at the girl hungrily, even licking his lips once or twice, but the girl, a smallish brown-haired girl wearing a fluffy white bathrobe, was sitting with her hands in her lap, not meeting the gaze of either man.
Annette closed her eyes and tried to hear what they were talking about. She caught bits and pieces. “You know that’s the price, Jeremy,” she heard the big guy say.
“All right, whatever,” Jeremy the vampire replied, waving his hand.
Annette slipped a pen from her pants pocket and wrote Jeremy on the palm of her hand and slipped the pen back in her pocket.
So professional, she chided herself.
“Stand up,” said the big guy, using his fingers to motion for the girl to stand.
She did as instructed and the vampire wrapped his arms around her. He looked down into her face and Annette watched as his light colored eyes turned jet-black, with no whites at all. Gleaming white fangs were suddenly on display, and he tipped her head back by grabbing her hair, and with a seemingly gentle move, he sank his fangs into her neck.
“Oh, gross,” Annette said with a shudder, then realized she had said it at the exact same time as the big guy.
A man’s yell interrupted her peeping and Annette tore off toward the backyard, where she found Christian pointing a gun at a very pissed off-looking wolf. It was snarling, drool swinging from his jaws, its legs stiffened in an attack stance.
Annette pointed her gun in the direction of the wolf, and as she grabbed Christian’s coat jacket to pull him toward the gate, the big guy Annette had seen in the window came barreling out the backdoor, standing on the back stoop, staring.
He looked at the wolf, then to the two agents. Then he did something odd. He addressed the wolf. “What the hell is going on here, Donny?”
The wolf turned its head and looked at the large man, then back at the agents and continued to growl.
Annette put her hands up in mock surrender. “I’m sorry, man. We were just leaving.”
The large man stepped off the stoop and took a couple of steps in her direction. She couldn’t decide who to look at, him or the wolf, who was still snarling, but not moving.
He shot Annette a murderous look. “What the hell are you doing in my yard, bitch?”
“We’re cops,” she said. “We were chasing a suspect down the street and thought we saw him go into your yard. Clearly he is not here, so we will be leaving.”
Just then, Jeremy the vampire came out through the backdoor, and looked curiously at the scene in front of him.
Not wanting to be recognized, Annette quickly turned around and yanked Christian by the sleeve and shoved him through the gate and into the car.
Christian was biting his nails, not that he had any left. SAC Al Cartwright was reading over their incident reports, and Christian was nervous he was going to be reprimanded for the incident, although he wasn’t sure what for. He was irritated that Annette was sitting coolly next to him and seemed to be unbothered by the seriousness of the situation. He wished he had her confidence. He looked over at her, annoyed at her pristine appearance when he could barely pick out matching clothes this morning, he was so distracted. Her red curls were pinned up at the back of her head, her dark blue pantsuit, neatly pressed.
“Well, kids, what have we learned here?” Al asked, removing his reading glasses and setting the report down, his eyes flicking between the two of them.
Annette cleared her throat. “After I’d calmed down and Agent Estes and I talked, I believe what we walked in on was a blood donor’s house. I suppose if a human gives up their blood voluntarily, it’s not really a crime, right?”
“As long as he doesn’t kill her by accident,” Al said.
“But you said she seemed coerced by the big fellow,” Christian said to Annette.
“Well, he was definitely her pimp. What else she gives up besides blood, we’ll probably never know.”
“And the wolf?” Al asked.
Annette took a deep breath. “Well, I staked out the house the next few nights after that.”
Al and Christian both looked at in her shock. Taking in their faces, she waved her hand and added with a slight laugh, “Don’t worry, I stayed in my car. Anyway, I believe the home belongs to shifters. The girl is human, probably the girlfriend or wife of the big guy, and I believe he makes money off the vamps by loaning out his girl as a blood whore.”
“That would make more sense,” Al said. He slid the typewritten report back toward Annette. “Revise your report and add that in.”
Christian looked lost in thought. “Do you think vampires can drink shifter blood?”
Annette knew the answer, and it was a big, fat no. Not that she could tell him that she had interrogated a vampire in 1920 who told her it tasted like bitter poison and he would rather die again than drink it. So instead, she smiled. “I don’t know, but we do know the vampires and shifters don’t get along too well, so I can’t imagine a shifter would let a vampire take blood, voluntarily or not.”
Al nodded. “Good point.”
As they were dismissed, Annette briefly wondered if Howie, the dead shapeshifter, had pimped out his human wife this way.
“What’s this?” Leo asked, pointing to the small slip of paper Annette handed to him. He threw back his whiskey and signaled Rick for another.
“The address to the local shifter-slash-blood-whore’s house.”
He studied the paper and nodded. “Wanna tell me what happened?”
She started at the beginning, her excellent memory not leaving out a single detail.
“That was stupid. A shifter and the head of the local vampire clan together in one house? You trying to get this kid Estes killed?”
She shook her head. “Not at all. I had no idea shifters lived there. I thought it was a simple blood donor stop-off. I never dreamed a shifter would loan out his girl to a vamp.”
“Times, they are a-changin’, girl,” Leo said, staring into her amber-colored eyes intently.
She turned her head to the side. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He ran his finger along the edge of his shot glass. “It seems the shifters and vampires are getting along better these days. I think they’re calling some kind of truce, sort of an us-against-them thing.”
She broke his stare and gazed absently at the couple on the dance floor of the small bar. They were dancing slowly to an instrumental ballad played by the live band, and she put her hand up to her mouth. “I see. That would make sense, I suppose.”
“Pearl came to see me last week,” Leo blurted out.
“Who?” she asked, still staring off into space.
“Howie’s sister, you know, of the shifter you killed.”
Annette’s eyes snapped back to his. “Well I’ll be damned. That’s why he looked so familiar to me in that diner. I knew he was a shifter, and aside from his thoughts, I couldn’t figure out how I knew… I just did.”
“You got instincts, kid.”
“Wow, what’s it been, ten years since you heard from Pearl?”
He nodded. “Yup. Shocked the hell out of me, too. Didn’t even know she was still around. But she sure came out quick when she wanted answers about her brother.”
“So what did you tell her?”
He shrugged. “That her brother shifted in front of two feds and then attacked, and they shot and killed him.”
“And she bought that?” Annette asked incredulously.
Leo laughed. “It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
A smirk kicked up on the side of her mouth. “A very loose version of it, I suppose. It’s what we told the BSI.”
“Never let the facts get in the way of a good memo,” he said with a salacious grin.
She laughed. “So what are you going to do about her?”
“There’s nothing to do, she won’t be a problem.”
Famous last words, Annette thought.
Annette couldn’t help herself; she had to stake out the shapeshifters’ house again. This time, though, she brought Christian along, and had asked Leo to stay in a car nearby in case she ran into trouble.
This was more than a stakeout. She planned on approaching the shifters this time, unbeknownst to poor Christian, who thought he was in for another night of magazine reading and flirtatious banter.
“Does Al even know we’re out here?” Christian asked, peeling a sunflower seed from his mouth and flicking it into the car’s built-in ashtray.
Annette smiled and nodded. “Of course he does. He doesn’t care if we do stakeouts. It’s not like he has to pay us overtime.”
“Yeah, about that. I have a life, you know.”
Annette snorted. “Really? Am I keeping you from a hot date on a Friday night?”
This is my Friday night hot date, Christian thought… and Annette heard.
Annette bit back a smile. “Really? What’s her name?”
“I can get chicks, you know,” he said with mock sincerity.
Annette wasn’t buying it. “I know you can, a young, good-lookin’ guy like you.”
Christian’s face flushed red. He was glad it was dark in the car and Annette couldn’t see. “You think I’m good looking?”
She studied him for a minute. “Yeah. You know, you kind of have a James Dean thing going on.” She pointed at him with her finger making circles at his face.
He smiled at her and studied her face. His eyes trailed down to her full, cherry-red lips then back up to her yellowish-brown eyes framed by eyelashes coated in dark mascara. That was the only makeup she seemed to wear, though, and Christian liked that.
A light in the shapeshifter’s house flicked on and Annette’s eyes flipped from Christian’s face to the house behind him. She pointed. “Look.”
Christian turned to look at the house and saw that not only the porch light was illuminated, but the living room light, as well. Then, as luck would have it, a familiar black town car pulled up into the driveway, as if on cue.
“Wow, we sure got lucky,” Christian whispered, pointing at the black sedan.
Annette shook her head. “No, I figured Jeremy would show up again tonight.”
“Because vamps have to feed at least once a week. Although they do indulge more than that quite frequently,” Annette answered.
“And you know this, how?” Christian asked.
She exhaled dramatically. “Did you not pay attention at the academy?” She was lying. They didn’t teach this at the academy, she just knew it from years of experience.
“Uh, yes I did but I don’t remember that. And I took notes.”
Of course you did, Annette thought.
He turned his head and looked back toward the house, where the large shapeshifter from the other night stepped out onto the porch to greet Jeremy. They didn’t shake hands, but they seemed friendly enough. The shifter opened the screen door and ushered the vampire in with a flourish. His eyes scanned the dark street before going back inside, closing the door.
“C’mon, let’s go look in the window,” Annette said, tapping Christian on the shoulder.
“Seriously?” he said, looking at her as if she were crazy.
She nodded. “Yeah, c’mon.”
Christian didn’t want to, but he couldn’t wuss out in front of his female partner. Plus he worked for the BSI now. This is my job, he thought to himself.
He drew his gun this time, following Annette and feeling kind of bad for letting her lead. They snaked up to the front window and slunk around the side of the house with their backs against it.
Annette peered in and saw the same scene as before. Human girl in a white bathrobe and the shifter with his hands out. The vampire placed several bills into his outstretched palm.
Now, Annette had obviously never seen the big guy shift – she just assumed he was one by the way he had spoken directly to the wolf the night they’d been discovered in the backyard. They had yet to discover if a shifter, while in human form, could communicate directly with one who was in animal form. She suspected so, by the way he had spoken to the wolf.
She knew she was taking a big risk sleazing around the house the way she was – and dragging Agent Estes with her, but her confidence was a bit more bolstered thanks to Leo being in the car down the street. She had spotted his Ford about an hour ago as she was talking to Christian. Leo was insanely strong and was a very old Immortal who took shit from absolutely nobody. She’d only been in the Chicago coven for a couple of years, but in that time, she had seen him literally tear off the heads of vampires and break the necks of shapeshifters, both in human form and animal form. The thought made her shudder, but she knew Leo had her back. Always.
As Jeremy bit down into the human’s neck, the large shifter watched with disgust then walked into the adjoining kitchen and busied himself in there, but Annette could see he was still keeping an eye on them. She motioned for Christian to watch, and as he peered in, the vampire, with his mouth still at her neck, began to untie her robe at the waist and opened it. His pale hands trailed up her flat stomach to her bare chest and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Christian let out a gasp when the large shifter moved unnaturally fast back to the dining room area of the small house and grabbed the vampire by his wavy black hair, slamming him to the ground.
Jeremy recovered and hissed at the shifter, who then shifted into a large tiger, his clothes exploding off of him into bits, and lunged at the vampire. The human female, although she seemed drowsy from the bite, sort of shook her head and snapped back to reality, and as she saw the vampire backhand the large tiger, she let out a blood-curdling scream.
Another male appeared from a hallway off the side of the kitchen. He was tall and thin, with long, scraggly hair and bad teeth. His eyes widened as he observed the brawl and quickly morphed into the gray wolf Annette and Christian had witnessed the other night.
A blurring fast fight was on – the shapeshifters seemed to be getting the upper hand but the vampire was holding his own. The female was screaming and had her arms wrapped around herself. She seemed to be conflicted on what to do, whether to run out of the house or help her boyfriend in the fight.
Annette ran to the front door with Christian on her tail and threw open the front door and fired two shots into the low ceiling of the small home. The fight suddenly stopped. Plaster dust from the hole rained down on their heads. The tiger, the wolf, and the now very bloody, disheveled vampire stopped and stared at her – along with the human female who yelled, “Help them, please!”
Christian walked to her and sat her down in one of the dining room chairs. “Sit and be quiet.”
Annette produced an ID. “Department of Justice. What the hell is going on here, mister?” She directed her question at the vampire. “Do you have a permit for these animals?”
He stared at her, dumbfounded, then a small smirk found his face as he wiped blood from his mouth with his finger. “No, officer, I don’t. Perhaps you should call Animal Control and have them picked up. They are quite the menace, as you can see.”
“They’re not animals!” the human female screamed.
Annette raised her eyebrow at her, amused. “Then what are they?”
“Donny, Andy, help me out here!” she yelled at the tiger and wolf.
They were still frozen, staring at Annette, who was clearly nervous, the attack from Howie in Lincoln Park still fresh in her mind.
Just then, Jeremy blurred out of the house at superhuman speed, leaving a wisp of air in his wake. He stormed into the town car and it squealed off down the street.
Donny slowly turned from a wolf into a very thin, naked man. Andy, however, lunged at Annette in his tiger form but Annette was ready for him.
She ducked, rolling once on the ground and getting up. “You need to show yourself as human, or I promise you, I will shoot you.” She was up and had her gun aimed at the tiger. The tiger lunged at her again without thought.
Christian fired a shot at it and missed.
Before she could get a shot off, though, Leo burst through the front door and surprised the large cat, tackling it and snapping its neck. He threw it to the carpeted floor of the small house.
The human female screamed at the top of her lungs, a shrilly, devastated, blood-curdling scream.
Donny yelled, “No! Andy!”
Christian was still with the human female and had his mouth open.
They all watched in horror as Andy’s orange and black stripes turned into tanned human skin and his other features turned into a naked human male, lying motionless on the floor.
The female ran up to him.
“Carol, don’t touch him! He needs to heal!” Donny screamed, holding her back. He looked up at Leo, Annette, and Christian and said, “Who the hell are you people and what are you doing here?”
“Like I said, Feds,” Annette answered, trying to maintain some sort of semblance of control while she was shaking.
“Wait, I know you two, you were in our backyard a few weeks ago.”
Christian stood up. “That’s right. We’re with the Justice Department.”
“Well you need to get out of here. You’ve already seen too much,” Donny said, pointing at his friend. He seemed to have absolutely no shame that he was standing there as naked as the day he was born.
“Trust us, son, we’ve already seen plenty long before tonight,” Leo answered.
Christian looked from Annette to Leo, then back at Annette. She could hear his frantic, jumbled thoughts as he tried to make sense of how Leo, whom he’d only met once in her hospital room, not only seemed to know all about shifters, but had been strong enough to kill a tiger with his bare hands. Christian knew he wasn’t BSI.
He would get answers tonight, even if it killed him.
Donny reached down and put his ear next to Andy’s mouth. “He’s still breathing, but barely.” He looked at Carol, who had tears streaming down her pale face. Two bloody holes were leaking down her neck.
She nodded and laid her head on his chest.
“Ma’am, do you know this shapeshifter?”
She lifted her head and looked at Leo a little surprised. “Yes, he’s my husband.”
Annette lifted an eyebrow at her. “And you let him loan you out to vampires?”
She nodded and wrung her hands. “We needed the money. But I don’t give up no sex. I knew he was feelin’ me up, but I was in a trance and couldn’t stop Jeremy. I’m always in a trance when he bites me.”
“Do you know you’re called a ‘blood whore’?”
She looked at him disgust. “A blood whore?”
“Yes,” Annette said. “I suggest you stop before it kills you. Unless you want this…” she motioned around to the destruction of the living room furniture, “to happen again. Feeding is sexually arousing to vampires.”
She shuddered. “Ew.”
Leo gave commanding eyes to Annette, who motioned to Christian. “Have a good night, folks.”
The three walked out of the small house, leaving one stunned human and a dumbfounded shapeshifter in the house.
“In the words of Ricky Ricardo, you have some ‘splanin’ to do, Lucy,” Christian said as he brushed a stray red curl from Annette’s face.
They were sitting in Christian’s apartment, TV on but not really watching it. They had been kissing for a while, mostly because Annette was trying to avoid answering questions about herself but she knew Leo had blown their cover and was trying to find a diplomatic way of telling him.
She smiled at the Lucy comment, as that wasn’t the first time she’d been called that since the popular actress had become a household name. Then her face grew serious. “Here’s the thing. I’m one-hundred and thirteen years old.”
Christian threw his head back and laughed. “Okay, joker, stop playing around.”
A serious looked passed over her features and she untangled herself from his sensuous grip. “I’m serious, Christian. I was born in Oklahoma in 1850. I went to Los Angeles in the late 1800s and got married. Tim was killed by a shapeshifter and an Immortal named Scott found me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
He raised his eyebrows at her. “An Immortal? You mean a vampire?”
She shook her head, her red curls bouncing freely. “No, I belong to a coven of former humans who police the Fae – vampires and shapeshifters.”
“Yes, that’s what we call them. We’ve been around for decades. First Immortal was created in 1809,” she said with seriousness.
He clucked his tongue. OK, I’ll play, he thought. “That’s quite a tall tale, Annie. I mean, how do you keep from aging?”
She smiled, her brown eyes twinkling. “I knew you’d ask that. A sylph gives us a magical elixir to drink every five years. It tastes like toxic waste and burns like fire, but it does the trick.”
“Yeah, she’s kind of like a witch, or a faerie. I’d never call her a witch, though. They’re kind of temperamental.”
“They?” he asked, still amused by her story.
“There are a coven of them, they live on an island in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Now he was laughing. “Prove it.”
She turned her head at him, getting annoyed. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you. Leo is going to kill me.”
“So how old is Leo?”
“Oh, he’s close to two hundred years old.”
He leaned in to kiss her once more. “So tell me, little miss immortal, if you have this secret group that police the… Fae – what do you need the BSI for?”
Her ruby red lips twisted into a facetious grin. “Who else is going to save your asses?”
He leaned back. “Really. Well, I want in.”
She nodded. “I knew you were going to say that. I’ll talk to Leo. I’m not sure we need two BSI Immortals in this field office, though.”
“Oh, so you think you’re something special, do you?” he asked, running light fingers over her arm.
She raised her chin. “Yes, yes I do.”
He nodded. “I see. Well now that I know about your secret group, you’re not going to have to kill me, are you?”
“I think if you’re not careful, a vampire or shifter will do that for you.”
He shook his head and faked a pout. “Low blow, Russell.”
She leaned over and kissed him once again, giggling into his mouth.
PART III: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – 1989
Special Agent Lauren Clark stepped out of her late model Ford sedan and wiped the sweat from her upper lip with her fingertip. She absolutely hated the summer. Seems as a Florida native she’d be used to it, and as a kid it hadn’t bothered her, but as she’d grown into an adult, she decided the whole upper lip sweat moustache wasn’t a good look for her.
She blew out a breath, her blonde bangs tousled by the air she blew as she moved them out of the way of her sunglasses once again.
“Black, one sugar, just the way you like it, sugar,” said Tristan Ellis with a smirk, handing her the steaming coffee in a paper cup from the gas station.
She had gone back into the car where the air conditioning was blasting after scanning the parking lot of the Circle-K convenience store. She grabbed the cup and blew on it and said, “It’s too hot for this crap but I need the caffeine jolt. This weather is making me sleepy.”
Tristan nodded. “I heard that. It gets humid in Minnesota, but the summers ain’t no joke here!”
Lauren looked at his shiny bald brown head and nodded at it. “At least you can keep cool without hair. I’m about to shave my own damn head.”
He laughed. “You definitely will not get any play with this look.” He pointed at his head. “Fortunately for me, I can rock the q-ball look with no problem.”
Lauren laughed and put the car in gear, sipping her coffee while steering the ridiculously large, white, government-issued car one-handed. They drove in silence until they pulled up to the BSI headquarters on St. Charles Street, lucky enough to find a spot in front on the street.
As they took the elevator to the third floor, Tristan looked at Lauren and admired her dark green pantsuit and shiny high-heeled, nude-colored pumps. He respected her for dressing so conservatively, versus the ostentatious 80s style of pink and blue floral patterned dresses and blouses with the ridiculous shoulder pads he thought made women look like linebackers. He preferred his football players to be on the field or TV, not in his office.
The elevator dinged their arrival and they made their way to the boss’s office to give a report.
The SAC’s office was large. Glass walls made up the outside with a wooden door Lauren found useless. Why have glass walls and a solid wooden door? The government definitely designed this office, she thought with a snicker she had to suppress.
She knocked on the door and waited for a response. Peering around the solid door through the glass, she saw her boss was on the phone. She put her pinky and thumb up to her ear at Tristan to indicate to him the boss was on the phone.
“I know,” Tristan said. “I can see that.” He pointed at the sparkling glass wall.
“Come in,” said a voice.
They opened the door just as Special Agent in Charge Sheila Morris was hanging up.
“Sit down, you two,” she said, pointing at the chairs in front of her massive oak desk.
Sheila, the SAC of the New Orleans division, definitely did embrace the flamboyancy of the 80s era. With her large gold earrings and bright pink fitted polyester dress, and long, fluorescent fingernails, she obviously liked to be noticed. Her black hair was weaved with braids of synthetic hair and the pink lipstick on her full lips matched her nails perfectly. Lauren suspected her shoes under the desk also matched.
Tristan and Lauren couldn’t help but wonder if they were in trouble by the way she was glaring at them.
“So, what’s the 4-1-1 from my two favorite agents?” she asked, powdering her nose with a compact she’d pulled from her desk drawer.
Lauren tried to hide the incredulous look on her face, as she hardly wore any makeup at all and wondered why women bothered sometimes. She cleared her throat and plastered on a smile. “Nothing, really. We cruised the Riverwalk and weaved our way through the Quarter and even Bourbon Street last night, but didn’t see much.”
Sheila paused the powder puff at her nose and raised her penciled-on eyebrows. “Cruised?”
Tristan interjected, “I think Agent Clark is trying to relay that we didn’t run into any shifters or vampires, ma’am,” he said in his most respectable Southern way. Even though he was from the Northeast, Tristan learned quickly that he’d better embrace Southern manners or be treated like a Yankee.
“I see,” Sheila said, placing the circular compact back into the desk drawer and shutting it. She steepled her fingers, which looked a little painful because of how long and curvy her pink fingernails were.
“Where you two ya-hoos headed to tonight?” she asked, seemingly genuinely curious.
Lauren opened up a small manila folder and read from it. “It seems we have a tip about some succubus in a club downtown – she’s making her rounds there.”
Sheila nodded. “I was briefed about this during a telephone conference yesterday with D.C. The succubae are definitely not hiding anymore.”
“I remember hearing about them at the academy. They’re vampires, right?” Tristan asked.
SAC Morris nodded. “Yes, in a way. They are immortal for sure, but instead of drinking blood, they take a person’s… soul. It sounds so crazy to say it like that, but it’s the only way of explaining it.”
Tristan raised a dark eyebrow. “Their soul. Are you serious, boss?”
She laughed a little, her perfectly straight, white teeth on proud display. “Yes, Agent Ellis, that’s all we got for now. It seems the victim will not only lose a lot of his memory of the event, but his emotions seem to be almost dead afterward.”
“His?” Tristan questioned.
“Yes,” Lauren interjected. “Succubae are only female. They are usually very beautiful females and lure their victims with the promise of sexual favors.”
Tristan’s eyebrows raised. “Doesn’t sound like a bad tradeoff. Who needs their soul anyway?”
Lauren punched Tristan in the arm. “Very funny, wise guy.” She looked at her boss. “Men!”
Sheila picked up her pen and started writing. “Yeah, Agent Clark, men. You should try one on sometime. They do serve a purpose…” she shot a glance at agent Ellis, “sometimes.”
Tristan, not so much.
“So I take it you two are going to be staking out this…” she glanced at the folder Lauren had handed her, “Muse Club tonight in the French Quarter?”
“Oh, and what a horrible assignment that will be!” Tristan said.
Lauren ignored him and looked at her boss. “Yes, we’ll be there.”
Tristan looked at Lauren. “Mm, mm, mm… I can’t wait to see you in a mini-skirt!”
She shot daggers at him with her eyes. “Not on your life, buddy.”
Lauren tugged at her skirt, willing it to be longer. She had to borrow the damn thing from her roommate – Priscilla – who was the complete and polar opposite of her. In fact, Priscilla had begged to come to Club Muse with her tonight. When Lauren informed her it was strictly government business, she had pouted and informed her that Thursday nights weren’t the best night to go, but it would still be ‘happenin’. Lauren had just shook her head with her hand out, asking for the skirt. She was both relieved and disappointed they were both a size 6, as the skirt fit perfectly. She definitely wasn’t going to show any cleavage, though, as she was drawing the line at the short, black spandex skirt.
She met Tristan at the front of the club as MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” blasted out through the front door. Paying the ten-dollar cover, they both wandered into the club.
The rap music was an assault on Lauren’s ears, but she endured it, all in the name of federal law enforcement. As much as her partner, Tristan Ellis annoyed her, she was relieved he was here, helping her not feel so out of place in the massive club.
Bodies were writhing on the dance floor and Lauren was already scanning the club for the succubus in question, a female going by the name Quinn, who was stealing poor mortals’ souls just to stay alive.
She noticed some eyes on her, and again yanked on her skirt, feeling it was too short.
“Stop fidgeting!” Tristan scolded. “You have awesome legs, be proud of them!”
She gasped. “Ellis!”
He laughed, smacking her arm. “Seriously, take a compliment, girl. I don’t get why you don’t have a man yet.”
She looked at him as if she wanted to slap him.
He put his hands up in surrender. “Okay, maybe I kinda get it. You some lezbo or something? I mean, if you hate men, just tell me.”
She stomped her right foot, which was encased in a flat shoe. “I am not a lesbian! Not that there’s anything wrong with that… I am just very… selective with who I date.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And who is that?”
She looked away from him, the pulsing lights from the dance floor flashing on her pretty face. “Nobody at the moment. I’m single and free to do what I want.”
He admired the way her blonde hair hung down on her shoulders. She always wore her hair up for work and he’d never noticed how pretty it was down – although he’d often wondered.
Tristan Ellis grew up in Minneapolis. His family lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and while his friends growing up were busy stealing cars and slinging dope, he stayed inside to help care for his mother, who was sick with sickle-cell anemia. He secretly admired the Minneapolis PD and all they stood for, not despising them like his schoolmates. He graduated from high school with pretty good grades, and when his mother died his senior year of high school, she made him promise he’d go to college.
True to his word, he received a degree from the University of Minnesota in Criminal Justice in 1985 and was quickly picked up by the FBI. He thought he would need some sort of experience to join, but it turned out the Justice Department was quickly learning that young graduates with clean backgrounds and no other training made the perfect clean slates for them to train. They found those with experience in other law enforcement venues were harder to train in the ways of the FBI, and would frequently recruit from college campuses.
One large drawback to joining the FBI was that one had to move away from home – probably for good. They’d have to go to a part of the country where they knew nobody, and where nobody knew them. That person would be a stranger, a nobody to everyone around them, and that made for the perfect undercover agent.
Fresh from the Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Tristan drew the long straw and got selected for the field office in New Orleans, Louisiana. In his first year, he had four unsolved cases – all of them supernaturally related, but he didn’t know that back then. He just knew the cases were strange and unexplainable. Determined as he was, he dug and dug until he dug too deep and got pulled aside by the SAC of the field division, asking him if he was interested in the BSI. Of course he wanted in.
Things became clear to Tristan after he went back to training and joined the BSI. The unsolved cases were picked up and quickly solved. He even got the pleasure of detaining and interrogating a vampire in 1987, which was an eye-opening experience.
It also almost cost him his life. He learned quickly that you can’t treat vampires like regular suspects. You know, super-human strength and all that.
“Are you listening to a word I said?” Lauren said.
“I’m sorry, girl. What did you say?” he replied, breaking out of his trip down memory lane.
She huffed. “I said, that lady over there matches the description of Quinn, our succubus.”
Tristan followed her line of sight to a very beautiful woman with hair as black as night – so black it reflected every rainbow color the strobe pumped out, gleaming perfectly off her sleek, sharp haircut. She had cherry red lips and skin as pale as alabaster. Her eye makeup was done jet-black and cat style, and even from a distance, Tristan could see they were a very light color, probably blue. She was surrounded by two men and three women. One of the men looked to be a very young blonde man, probably no older than twenty-one, if that, and he seemed very enamored by her.
Tristan nodded. “Yes, she does seem to fit the description perfectly. What is the plan?”
When the succubus looked their way, almost as if she felt their eyes on her, Lauren and Tristan looked at each other. “We’ll just keep an eye on her. If she leaves with anybody, we follow.”
“Can I at least have a beer?” he asked.
“Negative. We’re on the clock.”
Tristan looked at her and laughed. “Really? I don’t remember submitting an overtime sheet.”
She looked up at him. “We’re on the swing shift tonight, or did you forget that you only spent 5 minutes in the office today with the SAC?”
“Oh, I guess you have a point.”
“Go to the bar and get me a club soda, will ya? And no alcohol for you,” she chided.
He nodded and left her standing alone in a dark corner of the bar with her arm leaned up against a tall round table with no chairs. She was watching the succubus she assumed to be Quinn.
Quinn leaned in and whispered something in the blonde man’s ear and he smiled at her with a gleam in eye, something Lauren could only assume was lust. She had probably promised him something of a sexual nature and the poor sap seemed to be falling for it.
As Tristan made his way to the bar, he looked back once again at the succubus. Quinn caught his eye once more, her pale eyes locking on his chocolate brown ones. Even from across the club, Tristan seemed to be mesmerized by her. His eyes raked over her body. The skin-tight red shirt matched her lips perfectly and showed off her large breasts. Her short, white skirt accented the muscular lines in her thighs while her legs were crossed. She had on very high, glossy red pumps, which swished as she rocked her ankle back and forth as she spoke to the blonde man.
Tristan licked his lips then let out a breath, running a hand over his bald head. “Snap out of it, dude,” he hissed at himself.
“Excuse me?” asked the bartender.
Tristan smiled at the man with the mullet hairdo, which was shorter and feathered in the front, and all party in the back. “Oh, sorry, just talking to myself. A club soda and a Coke, please.”
The bartender nodded, the lights from the club making the large fake diamond in his left ear gleam under them. Tristan spied the comb in his back pocket as the bartender turned around to pour his drinks and laughed.
As Tristan headed back in Lauren’s direction, he caught Quinn’s eye once again, willing himself to look away. Yeah, he’d love to hit that, but it wasn’t worth it, he had to tell himself.
He reached Lauren at the dark table and set her club soda on the table. “I think she knows we’re watching her,” he said flatly.
Lauren took a long drag from the little black straw and nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure she does know. But whatever. Hopefully she thinks we’re swingers or something and not cops.”
“So what happens after she takes this dude’s soul… or whatever it is she does?” Tristan asked, feeling stupid for even asking. He couldn’t believe that was even possible, it sounded so ludicrous.
“Well, in about seven days, he turns into a vampire,” Lauren replied matter-of-factly.
Tristan spit Coke out, then wiped it away with the back of his hand.
He looked around to see if anyone saw him, then lowered his voice even more. “We have to get that kid out of there then!”
She nodded. “I agree.” She paused and stared at the young, blonde man, who was now running kisses up Quinn’s neck. She had her head back, appearing to be completely enjoying herself. “Although, if he kills her, he won’t turn into one.”
Tristan stared at her in shock. “You’re screwing with me, right?”
“You’re such a rookie, Ellis.”
SAC Sheila Morris read over the report as the two agents were once again seated in her office. Sheila’s color of the day was green, and her dress, fingernails, and shoes – even her eye shadow – boasted the bright green shade.
“Your report says they were kissing. Did you observe anything else?” she asked, flipping her dark eyes between the two agents.
Tristan looked at Lauren, then back at his boss. “At one point she had both her hands on either side of his face and was staring into his eyes, but I don’t know if that is significant.”
Sheila nodded. “It is. They only require physical contact. It doesn’t have to be sexual intercourse. It doesn’t even have to be highly sexual. They can just kiss intently, and we do know it has to do with locking eyes. Did you get close enough to see if her eyes changed colors?”
Lauren shook her head. “No, we were across the club. Their eyes change color?”
Sheila blew out a breath and pulled a nail file from the drawer. “Did you two ya-hoos pay any attention at the academy? I mean, at all? Yes, all vampires, their eyes turn pure black – no whites at all – when they feed.”
Tristan was getting both angry and a bit uncomfortable with the conversation. “We know vampires’ eyes turn black, but this is a succubus.”
Sheila tapped the nail file against the edge of the desk after blowing nail dust from it. “Succubae are vampires. Their eyes turn black when they feed, and in their case, off the soul, not blood.”
“So noted,” Lauren muttered.
“Back to the club, both of you. That poor kid is probably gonna be our latest bloodsucker soon. Yet another damned vampire we’re going to have to monitor,” Sheila said, shoving the nail file back in the drawer and pulling out a pen, jotting notes into a notebook.
“Is it true if he kills her, he won’t turn into one?” Tristan asked.
Sheila’s pen paused mid-scrawl. “We don’t know that for a fact, but hey, if you two can prove it, I’ll promote you both.”
Lauren’s eyebrows rose. “Are you serious?”
Sheila went back to writing and chuckled. “No, I’m not serious. But for real, if you find that out, I will be very impressed.”
A heavy silence hung in the air as the agents sat in their chairs and stared at their boss.
“You two, get the hell out of here. I have work to do.”
They both left her office and closed the wood door behind them.
As they reached their cubicles, Tristan looked at Lauren. “You gonna wear the skirt again?”
She scowled at him. “Piss off, Ellis.”
Tristan and Lauren were in line in front of Club Muse in the French Quarter. It was now Saturday night and they had ignored their boss’s orders to go on Friday night. They knew Saturday night would be much more busy, and that’s what they wanted – a busy club with lots of distractions so they could watch the succubus in question – and in action.
They knew they were taking a chance – if succubae were like vampires, they only needed to feed about once a week, but by the look of this particular succubus, they knew she’d be back for more. Tristan could tell she was cocky and confident, and could feed from whomever and whenever she wanted.
Lauren, feeling a bit more confident tonight in a slightly longer pencil skirt, but a tight-fitting pink ruffled tank top, strolled in with Tristan, who decided to wear a T-shirt with some parachute pants and shiny tasseled loafers. “All you’re missing is a high-top fade,” Lauren said, suppressing a laugh at his outfit.
He stared at her in disbelief. “What do you know about high-top fades?”
She put her hands on her slender hips. “Hey, I watch MTV, you know. I’m not as stuffy as you think I am.”
Truth was, Priscilla always had it on in the apartment but Lauren never purposely watched. Sometimes it was just unavoidable. Like trying to look away from a train wreck.
Tristan smiled at her. “Oh yeah? Well then I want you to be all over me tonight. Pretend I’m your pimp and you’re my hoe.”
She gasped. “Never!”
He threw his head back. “That’s what I thought, hooka!”
She shook her head and paid the five-dollar cover charge to get inside, strolling into the massive club, which was definitely busy.
“The Bureau better be reimbursing us for these charges,” Tristan said, shoving his wallet into his back pocket.
She nodded. “Yeah, just put it on your monthly expense report.”
Both of them looked toward the corner of the club where they had seen Quinn previously, and sure enough, she was there, surrounded by an entourage of females and a large white man with a bald head wearing a tight white T-shirt.
“Wonder what a powerful succubus like her needs security for?” Tristan said, jutting his chin toward Quinn’s location.
Lauren looked. “I don’t know, but I think we need to approach her tonight. Since apparently they only feed off males, you get to be tonight’s bait.”
Tristan’s mouth kicked up in a grin. “Oh, the way you treat me.”
She looked at him and laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be very painful.”
They walked toward the area Quinn was sitting at, and Tristan went to try to sit next to her, but the bouncer put his arm out. “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
Tristan, whose six-foot frame matched the bouncer’s, looked him straight in his blue eyes. “I’d like to talk to the pretty lady. Is that okay?” He flicked his eyes toward Quinn, who was smiling invitingly.
The bouncer looked at Quinn, who briefly met his eyes and nodded, then back to Tristan.
The bouncer lowered his arm and Tristan went to sit next to her on the small sofa perched in the corner of the dark club.
“Hi, I’m Tristan. I couldn’t help but notice you across the club. You’re way too beautiful not to notice.”
“Quinn. Nice to meet you, dark stranger,” she purred, her voice both feminine and raspy.
Tristan thought this comment was odd, but continued. “This is my friend, Lauren. We’d like to get to know you better.”
Lauren had to hand it to him – he was a smooth talker for sure.
Quinn measured Lauren with an intense stare. As tough as Lauren thought she was, she admitted to herself that Quinn’s icy blue stare made her a bit uncomfortable. There was something behind those cold eyes that Lauren found creepy, almost frightening. She stole a glance at Tristan, who seemed to be enjoying the female’s attention, and quickly realized why succubae only chose male victims – they were the only ones who fell for their charms. While Lauren’s hackles were raised and she felt on full alert at the eeriness of this woman – this creature – Tristan seemed to be completely smitten with her.
And that scared Lauren even more than Quinn did.
Truth was, the cold stare reminded her of her father’s when she was young. He was an iron fist in her household; it was his way or the highway. She and her two sisters – and especially their mother – all cowered under her father’s controlling ways. He drank too much, which made his belligerence even worse. Lauren was the oldest of three and as soon as she graduated high school, she bolted from home to attend the University of Florida. She was glad her sisters had each other, and was happy they’d be leaving home in two more years, as they were twins and would both be turning eighteen. Lauren felt being under her father’s thumb had led to her being so tightly wound herself, and tried every day to relax, but wasn’t having much luck.
She was happy she’d been placed in New Orleans after graduating from the academy. Being from Tampa, it wasn’t a huge adjustment for her, but it was far enough away to ward off the guilt trips her parents would most likely make about her not visiting enough if she lived closer. She was only twenty-four and had secured first a place in the FBI, then a slot in the BSI when one opened.
Not that she had applied for the BSI.
The unsolved case of a voodoo priestess had sealed it for her. The woman was found unresponsive in her tarot card shop, called in by a customer, and when Special Agent Lauren Clark arrived, she could see the victim lying face-up with a buck knife protruding from her chest. What was odd, though, was that the victim also had a lot of dried blood smeared around her mouth.
That, and she was completely naked.
After the voodoo priestess was transported to the morgue, Lauren waited for a report of cause of death. The next day she received a call from the medical examiner. “You wanna meet me down here while I do the autopsy?” he’d asked Lauren over the phone.
She shuddered at his question. She normally would not. But her boss had encouraged her to sit in on a few and had told the M.E. to call her for the next one. She walked the two blocks to the medical examiner’s office and headed straight for the room she hated the most. Just part of the job, she’d tell herself every time she walked through the doors of the smelly, sterile room.
“Hey, Miss Clark. I’ve got her in drawer three,” the young man said, setting his tools down in neat rows on the gleaming metal table he’d prepared for the autopsy. Dr. Erick Collins had only been on the job two years so he was still excitable as he talked about the cases. Lauren thought it was cute. He even flirted with her when she was there.
But he was still creepy. I mean, who chooses to do this for a living anyway?
M.E. Collins pulled drawer number three open and flipped back the sheet. Lauren was surprised to see the body looking normal and not sullen and ashen like most African-American people started to look as they decomposed. She chalked it up to it having only been about twenty-four hours since death.
Erick began chatting about a new restaurant in the Quarter as they were getting ready to move her to a rolling gurney when, seemingly at the same time, both the special agent and the medical examiner noticed there was no stab wound in her chest any longer. They each opened their mouths to say something to the other, when suddenly the voodoo woman sat up and screamed bloody murder.
They both backed up and Lauren went for the door of the morgue to call for help when, before their eyes, the naked woman looked at the scene before her and quickly shifted into a large reddish-brown wolf. It snarled at them both, then bolted through the open door. The police never caught it, and Lauren never saw Dr. Erick Collins again.
A shudder trickled down her spine again as the DJ of Club Muse made an announcement about people bogging him down with song requests and it bolted her out of her memories. Her eyes shot over to Tristan, whose eyes were entirely too close to Quinn’s – whose own eyes were now jet-black – and she leapt over the sofa they were sitting at and right onto Tristan.
They had parked in an alley about five blocks away and had to walk and not talk all the way there. Both were now exploding.
Lauren slammed the car door and started up the sedan. “What in God’s name is your problem?” she yelled at Tristan.
“Woman, you are way too demanding for a Saturday night,” he replied, slamming his own door and looking at his partner with disdain.
She stared at him incredulously. “Are you shitting me, Ellis? That was a damn succubus. She almost had you!”
“I had it under control! You didn’t have to drag me off like that. You made me look like some whipped little bitch!”
Lauren put the car in drive and peeled out into traffic, barely missing an oncoming car.
“No more. I can’t do this again. It’s not going to happen again,” she seethed.
Tristan had his arms folded. “I’m your partner! You don’t trust me?”
“It’s her I don’t trust! You’re male, Tristan. Don’t you get it? It’s not your fault. You were perfectly comfortable in her presence while I felt like peeling off my own skin every time she looked at me. She made me physically sick. She’s evil.”
Tristan calmed down a little and studied Lauren’s face and could see genuine sincerity there. “Huh. I didn’t get that from her at all.”
“You sure you’re not exaggerating?”
She snorted and rolled down her window to get some fresh air, even though the air conditioning was on in the car. “No, I’m not.”
There was more silence as she pulled up to his apartment. He went to open the door and looked at her. “Look, I’m sorry, Clark. I really didn’t mean to scare you. I can handle myself, though.”
She shook her head. “I know your intentions are good, but you know what they say about good intentions…”
“The road to hell is paved with them,” Tristan finished.
“See you Monday. Stay inside the rest of the weekend,” she ordered.
He looked at her long and hard, then nodded, closing the car door behind him.
Ace Malone was watching the cemetery from his car. He tapped his long fingers on the door through the open window.
“So how was Island Duty?” he asked Erick.
Erick looked up from the book he was reading and glared at his new boss, the head of the New Orleans Immortal coven. “It pretty much sucked, but isn’t that what they all say after playing corrections officer to a bunch of incarcerated vamps and shifters on the island for two years? Eight years of medical school and I was doing something a trained monkey could be hired to do.”
Ace laughed. “Yes, well you may not see it now, but what you learned over there will come in handy one of these days.”
Erick closed the book. “Like sitting in a car in front of a very dark, old cemetery waiting for the dead to rise?”
Ace looked past him and into the cemetery again. A large, thick black iron gate surrounded it and he thought how irreverent it was that they didn’t put solid fences around where the dead were resting. It seemed that it was this way all around the South. Ace scrubbed a hand over his light blonde buzz cut and then over his light five o’clock shadow. “We’re not exactly waiting for the dead to rise. The undead, more like it.”
Erick snorted. “Oh, I beg your pardon.”
“Well did you at least learn to get a better grasp on your gift?”
Erick’s face lit up with a cocky grin. “Would you like me to get out and lift up the car with you in it so I can demonstrate?”
Ace laughed. “No, that won’t be necessary. Besides,” he said, looking up at the sky which was bloated with clouds, “it looks like rain. I’d hate to see you try to lift this thing when it’s soaking wet and slippery.”
“Well that’s where you’ll come in handy. You’ll just have to keep the rain off me,” Erick answered.
“Hey… I can manipulate the elements to a certain extent, but I’m not Mother Nature.”
Their super-sensitive hearing picked up a noise in the cemetery. They whipped their heads around to see someone slinking through the gravestones and stop at the one they were watching.
“Is that him?” Erick whispered.
Ace nodded, holding binoculars up to his face. “Yes, that’s definitely Elias. Beautiful bastard that he is.”
Erick motioned for the binoculars and Ace handed them over. Erick let out a whistle through his teeth. “I see what you mean. Looks like he belongs in a magazine or something.”
Elias De la Cruz was a two-hundred-year-old vampire who stood over six feet tall and had long, curly black hair and haunting brown bedroom eyes. Erick wondered if his skin had once been a warm caramel, because now it was quite pale. Not as pale as other vampires he’d seen, but definitely lacking that warm Spanish hue.
Elias was bent over a grave, staring at it intently as if waiting for something to happen.
“Where’d you get this tip from anyway?” Ace asked, taking a swig of Pepsi from a can.
“We had a vampire on the island who was about a year out from release. He somehow found out I was from Louisiana and offered up some information about the vampire clan here in Na’wlins.”
Ace laughed. “Somehow found out, huh? Couldn’t have been that strong New Orleans drawl of yours? The accents of the natives are unmistakable around here.”
“Yeah, well anyway so we told this vamp he could get out early if his information panned out. Turns out he was right. He said the head of the clan was named Elias and he was looking for a mate. Was turning young girls, trying to find the right one. Destroying them if they didn’t please him after the turning.”
Ace raised both eyebrows. “Young girls?”
Erick waved a hand. “Yeah, you know, like late teens, early twenties.” He looked to the cemetery again. “Look,” he pointed.
The observed Elias open up a large stone crypt and walk inside of it. After about two agonizing minutes, he came out holding a female with long, golden hair wrapped in a sheet or blanket.
“What the hell?” Ace said.
Erick whistled through his teeth again. “Straight out of Dracula. Someone’s been reading too much Bram Stoker.”
“That leech is older than the Irish author, smartass,” Ace whispered.
Elias walked to a small red Porsche 911 and gingerly placed her into the front seat. He went around to the driver’s side and started up the sports car, driving off slowly.
“What do we do now, boss?” Erick asked.
Ace started up his black Camaro with a grin. “Why, we follow him, of course.”
“There’s a shitload of new vampires in the clan, I hear,” Tristan said, picking chicken from his teeth.
“That’s disgusting,” Lauren said, sipping her unsweetened tea.
“Wings are not disgusting. Besides, the Saints are playing, you can’t watch the game without hot wings.”
She laughed. “Yes, actually you can.”
He wiped hot sauce from his lips. “Well I can’t have beer on duty so wings will have to do. Especially since they’re playing the Vikings. I should be at home. With a beer.”
She glanced up at the TV set in the corner of the small restaurant and shook her head. A football fan she was not. She pointed at his plate of wings and fried okra. “I see you’re embracing the Southern food.”
He smiled. “I embraced Southern food before I moved to the South. It just tastes better here.”
“That’s because it originated here. Duh.”
He lowered his voice and looked around. “So what do you think the boss is going to want us to do about the succubus?”
“Leave her the hell alone,” Lauren answered quickly. “I mean it, Tristan. Stay away from her. We gave our supervisors the report. They can take it from here.”
He moved his eyes from the TV back to her blue ones. “What does that mean? They’re going to kill her?”
She shrugged, removing the napkin from her lap and folding it neatly on her now-empty plate. “I don’t know, but I do know that succubae are the most dangerous of vampires.”
“Is there a reason we didn’t learn about them at the academy?” he asked, his full attention now on the conversation.
“Nobody knew anything about them, not truly, just thought they were female vampires. But we learned that not all female vampires are succubae but all succubae are vampires, feeding off of the soul instead of blood. Seems the safer of the two, right?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes, but it’s not, it just makes new vampires like the boss said.”
“Yes, of the worst kind. When a regular vampire turns a human, it becomes just like him, blood drinking with a sunlight allergy. But when a succubus takes the soul of her victim, who is almost always male, he becomes almost feral. Most regular vampires maintain some of their humanity and try to live quietly and stay under the radar, but the soulless ones usually have to be put down. There have been rare cases where the vampires created can be tamed, so to speak, and live amongst other vampires in a clan.”
“So they drink blood like a regular vampire? They don’t go around sucking souls or whatever like a succubus?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, we have never seen or heard of a male succubus. Not saying it’s not possible, but we’ve never experienced that. I’ve been doing some research.”
“Didn’t the boss say something about the victim killing the succubus to reverse the change?”
She nodded. “Yes, it’s rumored that if he kills her within seven days of the… assault… he gets his ‘soul’ back, and he doesn’t become a blood-sucking night demon.”
Tristan shuddered. “I wonder how many of them know this.”
“Not many,” she said. “This is why we like to follow the victims and keep our eyes on the succubus. I think the Bureau is leaning toward approaching the victims and telling them they need to kill the succubus to get their life back.”
“What if we just kill her?”
She sucked in a breath as if thinking. “I don’t think that works. I think the victim has to do it.”
“Geez. This sounds like something out of mythology and folklore.”
She smiled. “It is. These creatures have been around for thousands of years. In the last couple of centuries, they’ve become good at hiding. Guess they were tired of townsfolk with torches and pitchforks knocking on their doors and burning them alive in their own homes. And now that people don’t believe they’re real anymore, they’re becoming more bold again.”
Tristan looked down at his half-finished food and pushed the plate away. “I don’t think I’m hungry anymore.”
After the lunchtime conversation with Lauren, Tristan decided he was going to Club Muse by himself to check out the succubus without having to be on the clock. His curiosity was even more piqued than before… and he wanted to watch her intently. No talking to her this time.
Or that’s what he told himself.
Thursday nights were not that busy but they were busy enough. He arrived earlier than he should have and ordered a beer from the bar, grateful he could drink and wasn’t on duty. He chatted up with the bartender for a while and then found a seat in the dark recesses of the club and watched as the place became more packed.
After about two hours, he spotted her.
She went to sit in the lounge she had chosen before, the same large bodyguard/bouncer at her side, who he now realized not only didn’t work for the club, but was probably not even human.
He briefly wondered if she’d created that particular monster and shuddered thinking about it.
It didn’t take long for the boys to line up. She had her same entourage of girls, and Tristan studied them closely too, unable to determine if they were succubae, vampires, or just humans. His instincts told him they were probably human girls, duped by this succubus to hang out with her, chosen solely on their beautiful looks, but Tristan couldn’t be sure. And he sure as hell did not want to find out the hard way.
The night dragged on. He continued to watch the succubus and her friends very closely, but she didn’t seem to take an interest in anyone in particular. So far, Tristan didn’t think she’d noticed him sitting there, but he wasn’t taking any chances by showing himself. She’d surely remember him from last weekend and surely she’d know something was up if he caught her eye again.
Tristan had been at the club for over three hours now. Young MC’s “Bust a Move” started playing through the speakers and he smiled. He loved this song.
“You want to dance?”
Tristan whipped his head around to see a girl with short, blunt hair the color of fire talking to him. Her eyes were crystal blue and her skin was as white as paper. She was staring at him, smiling, and he realized this was one of her girls.
He smiled back and got up from the chair he’d been sitting in and grabbed her hand, which was cold to the touch. “Sure.”
The two danced together for the next three songs. He held onto her hips as she swayed them in a short silver sequined dress, After the third song ended, Tristan told her he needed a break. He was dripping sweat and needed a breather. He noticed his dancing partner not only didn’t seem to be sweaty, she wasn’t flushed red with heat, nor was she even out of breath. Everyone else on the dance floor was hot, as it was crowded with writhing bodies and the temperature inside seemed to match outside.
He thanked her for the dance but she grabbed his hand and said, “Come sit with me.”
He cautiously followed her to the lounge and made eye contact with the succubus.
He plastered on a smile and turned to his red-haired dancing partner. “I’m Tristan, by the way,” he said.
She smiled. “Eva.”
He nodded. “This is Trisha and Quinn.” She pointed to the blonde and to the succubus.
Quinn was staring at him intently and he had to look away. He was already feeling a draw toward her and he knew if he stayed around her very much longer, he would be in big, big trouble.
“You were here last weekend.”
He looked at Quinn briefly and decided to just be a dick. “Yeah. So?”
She smiled, the harsh red of her lipstick glittering off the lights. “So, how come you left so suddenly? Was that your girlfriend you were with?”
“Something like that,” he replied without looking at her.
“Why don’t you come sit by me?” she purred, patting the sofa seat next to her.
Now he did look at her. Then he looked at the other two girls – vampires – who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to him anymore at all – and then back at Quinn.
She was still smiling, the strobe lights pulsing around her, flashing pink and green lights onto her pale face and shiny black hair.
Tristan did as she asked. He remembered from last week how good she had smelled. How just being this close to her made him want to put his hands all over her. His brain was screaming at him to get up and walk away, but his body wouldn’t obey.
He locked eyes with her as she leaned in to kiss him. As his eyes began to close and his lips drifted close to hers, he felt her lips brush his, then she pulled back and locked eyes with him once more.
Only now, her eyes weren’t blue, but jet-black with no pupils at all.
This should scare me, his brain told him. Yet, he stayed rooted to the spot until he felt a hand on the collar of his shirt, dragging him off the sofa until his body went flying into the crowd of people on the dance floor.
“Damn. Even his house looks like a castle,” Erick said as he and Ace pulled up to the large gates of the massive mansion set on the edge of the water. The gates, set on automatic sensors, had closed after Elias’s Porsche had gone through and barred them access.
A heavy fog from the lake began to drift into the yard around the large house, which was set in darkness and had no exterior lights. The black and brown painted house appeared to have three stories, with four tipped peaks at the very top. A large eight-foot wooden door with an oversized black iron knocker was set on top of six stone steps leading up to it. Bushes and trees obscured most of the first floor, but from what they could see, the windows were made of a thick, yellowish beveled glass on the first two floors, and clear glass at the top floors. The duo could see lights burning inside the mansion, but otherwise, it was quiet.
“We’ve been sitting here an hour, boss. What are you expecting to see?” Erick asked some time later.
Ace, who was over eighty years old and had learned the art of patience, said, “Not sure, but I’ll know when I see it.”
“I think we should go back to that nightclub and see if that succubus is still looking for victims. I wonder if Elias knows about her.” He pushed his chin in the direction of the creepy house.
Ace looked at Erick, his newest Immortal partner, and wanted to shake his head at his youth. Even though Ace still looked twenty-eight, he had the wisdom of an old man, and both dreaded and looked forward to mentoring young Dr. Erick Collins.
After Erick’s near-attack by the voodoo priestess shapeshifter, the BSI had stepped in and took care of business, fudging paperwork and cleaning up the legalities of a missing body from the morgue. Recruiting Lauren Clark into the BSI was a no-brainer decision of the SAC of the New Orleans division, but what to do with Dr. Collins was another decision. Sheila Morris had a secret friend in Ace Malone and gave him a call.
“A doctor?” Ace said, astounded. “Let me call you right back.”
He promptly dialed the sylph queen of the Southern United States, Patrice, and told her there was a doctor – even though he was a medical examiner, he was medically trained nonetheless – and the Zie Council jumped on it. Immortals, while quick healers, can still be killed and seriously hurt. Having a doctor onboard their secret organization would be invaluable, and Patrice knew this. “Absolutely,” she had tinkled over the phone to Ace. “Set it up. Call me back and I’ll meet you for his dosage.”
Ace called Sheila Morris back. “I’ll be by to pick him up in half an hour.”
Once Ace had arrived in the lobby of the FBI building, he smiled coolly at Erick. “Hi, Dr. Collins, I’m Ace Malone, come with me and we’ll get you debriefed.”
Erick, still in shock, looked up at Ace Malone, who stood well over six-feet tall, and nodded. “Are you part of the FBI, too?” he had asked.
Ace nodded. “Let’s go.”
“Was that lady a werewolf?” Erick asked as they got into the car.
Ace again nodded but said nothing.
Once they reached Ace’s small office on Canal Street, Erick was ushered inside and ordered to sit on the small sofa in the waiting area of the office. Ace ran a small marketing firm that overlooked the water and the Riverwalk and made a pretty good living with it.
Ace brought Erick a glass of water. After taking a sip, Erick asked, “What is this place?”
“This is my office,” he responded. “We’re waiting for one more person.”
Erick began to grow uneasy. Why wasn’t he being debriefed in some police station-type room with a two-way mirror and a sterile table and chairs?
Suddenly, a beautiful brunette woman wearing a long, blue dress literally appeared out of nowhere.
Erick jumped up and dropped his glass, shattering it on the flat indoor/outdoor carpeting that lined the office floor. “Holy shit!”
Ace went over to him. “Calm down, we’ll explain everything.”
“I’m sorry to have startled you, young man,” Patrice said in her soft, high-pitched voice.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Erick asked, sitting back on the couch at Ace’s direction and putting his head between his knees so he didn’t pass out – or throw up. Ace picked up the broken glass and put it in the trash. The water wasn’t absorbing into the cheap carpeting so he waved his hand in the air, and as Erick looked up, he watched as the water floated in mid-air at the direction of Ace’s hand and deposited itself into a nearby trashcan.
“Okay, someone clearly slipped something into my water…” Erick squeaked out.
Patrice looked at Ace accusingly. “Have you told him nothing?”
Ace shook his head. “Nope.”
Patrice sat next to Erick on the sofa but left plenty of room between them. Erick stared at her. She was absolutely beautiful. Tiny, about five feet tall, with big blue eyes that matched her dress and dark brown hair pulled up into loose bun at the back of her head. Her skin was slightly tanned and she had perfect lips. “Who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Patrice. I’m the sylph queen of the Southern United States. I represent the Council of the Zie.”
Erick raised both eyebrows. “Sylph?”
“Yes, dear,” she said, a small vial of what looked like blood appearing in her hand.”
Erick looked at it. “Did you just make that appear out of thin air?”
She smiled. “No, this dress has pockets.”
Erick swallowed hard and Ace watched on, amused.
“I’m going to give you this elixir we call ‘Enchantment’ to drink, and once you do, you’ll be part of an elite coven of Immortals who police the Fae,” she said as matter-of-factly and plainly as if she were telling him he had a dental appointment next Thursday.
“What?” He looked up. “Okay, Ace, right? Can you take me home, please?”
“Who do you live with?” Ace asked. He was still standing and his arms were folded over his dress shirt. His legs looked long in his black dress slacks.
Erick looked at him and took off his lab coat and used it to wipe sweat from his forehead and his palms. “Nobody. I live alone.”
“Family?” Ace asked.
Erick shook his head. “Parents are gone, I’m an only child. Not married,” he replied in his thick Louisiana drawl, looking at the both of them suspiciously.
Patrice looked at Ace and pulled the stopper off the vial. She produced a small sewing needle and pricked her index finger, dropping three drops of her blood into the vial.
Erick watched in fascination as the vial’s contents turned aqua colored and started swirling. She handed it to Erick. “Drink.”
He looked at the vial then back at Patrice and narrowed his eyes. “No.”
“You want to live forever?” Ace asked.
He looked up at him and chuckled without humor. “Who doesn’t?”
“Then drink,” he ordered.
“What if it kills me?”
Patrice gasped. “It will not!”
Ace shook his head. “See, you’ve offended our queen. She would never give you anything that would hurt you.”
For very long, Ace thought.
“And the conditions?” Erick asked, now somewhat intrigued.
“No more medical examiner job. You work for us now. You’ll live with me for a while… I’ll give you a job. Or you can work at the local hospital for a while to keep up your medical skills.”
“Ugh, I hate people. That’s why I work with dead ones.”
Ace laughed. “How about undead ones?”
“Another part of your job, you’ll help us police the vampires and shapeshifters of Louisiana,” Ace replied, his arms still folded. He was clearly enjoying Erick’s naivety.
Ace nodded. “The one that almost attacked you today in the morgue.”
“Oh. Well I know nothing of policing anything.”
“Oh, you will. Trust me, you won’t be afraid of much after drinking this.” Ace nodded at the vial.
“Sometime today, people,” Patrice said. “I have things to do.”
She shoved the vial into Erick’s hands and he stared at it. Shrugging, he drank its contents and handed the vial back to Patrice. “I don’t feel…” Then he screamed and fell off the couch, curling up in a ball and writhing around in pain, groaning.
“I hate this part,” Ace murmured.
“Well, good luck with that,” Patrice said, nodding toward Erick. She waved her hand and a shimmering portal appeared, and she stepped through it and disappeared.
Ace helped Erick back up to the couch.
“It feels like my insides are on fire,” Erick panted.
“I know, kid.”
“You’re right. Nothing going on here,” Ace said as he stared at Elias’s quiet mansion. “He’s already turned that girl into a bloodsucker. There’s nothing we can do until he brings her into public. Let’s head to Club Muse and see what’s shakin’.”
The duo paid the cover charge and walked in and looked around. It was already crowded and very loud. Ace had to resist the urge to put his fingers in his ears.
“How do these kids listen to this shit?” he asked, pointing at the speakers mounted on the ceiling.
Erick shrugged. “Can I get a drink, grandpa?”
“Funny. One, that’s it. I need you alert,” Ace said.
As they made their way to the bar, Ace looked over where they knew Quinn hung out and nudged Erick. “That black dude, he looks familiar.”
Erick’s eyes got big. “Holy crap, that’s Lauren’s BSI partner. Remember when we were in here last time and had to leave ‘cause I thought Lauren might spot me?”
Ace nodded and they watched in horror as Quinn suddenly locked eyes with Tristan. He had a glazed-over, almost drunk look on his face, and his hands were wandering shamelessly all over her body.
“Well don’t just stand there, doc. Go pull him off!” Ace barked.
They rushed over but Quinn’s large vampire bodyguard put his arm up as he saw Ace and Erick approach. “Go away.”
Erick pushed the vampire in the chest as hard as he could, which sent him flying. This was the best part of his Immortal job; Erick loved his special gift and grinned. The vampire got up and hissed, his teeth out, his eyes starting to turn black.
Ace tackled the bodyguard’s legs as he got up.
Erick grabbed Tristan by the back of the shirt and tossed him to the dance floor, where he went sliding on his back, clearing a path through a line of dancers, who all stopped and gasped at the fight.
The club’s security came running over as they saw the vampire bodyguard fighting with Ace, and Erick grabbed Tristan again, hoisting him to his feet.
Ace jumped up and grabbed them both. “Time to go.”
They found a backdoor emergency exit and left before security reached them.
“Who the hell are you people?” Tristan asked as Erick put him up against the Camaro and held him there by his shirt.
“Get in the car or I will force you in,” Erick said.
“Do you know who I am? I work….”
“We know who you are,” Ace answered. “And we just saved your ass. So either get in the car so we can take you home, or get in your own car. But you are not going back into that club and that succubus.” He pointed at the building.
Tristan’s eyes grew wide and shooed Erick’s hands from his shirt. Erick let go. “What do you know about a succubus?”
“You were almost her dinner,” Erick answered flatly, backing up slightly, seeing that Tristan was being compliant.
“Who are you guys?”
Erick and Ace looked at each other. “Let’s just say we also police the vampires and shifters around here.”
“Oh, you BSI, too?”
“No,” Ace answered flatly.
Tristan straightened out his shirt where he’d been grabbed and then folded his arms. “So… you two part of some secret government organization or something?”
“No, that would be the BSI,” Erick said with a laugh.
“You look familiar,” Tristan said.
“I have one of those faces,” Erick responded.
“How did you fight off that bodyguard? Vampires are wicked strong,” Tristan said, eyeing Erick suspiciously.
“I’m also wicked strong,” Erick responded.
They sat staring at each other in silence for a few more minutes. “Well, you can go, but promise us you won’t go back into that club by yourself,” Ace said.
“So that’s it. You come and do this big rescue and don’t tell me anything?”
“That pretty much sums it up.”
Tristan huffed. “You going to tell me your names?”
“No, you probably won’t see us again,” Ace said.
The two got into the Camaro and drove off, leaving Tristan standing in the dark parking lot, scratching his bald head.
Special Agent Tristan Ellis didn’t sleep at all that night. He tossed and turned, horrific images of Quinn’s black eyes dancing behind his eyelids every time he closed them.
Each night was the same, so by the end of the work week, he congratulated himself for not calling in sick once, even when he really wanted to because of pure exhaustion. He was looking forward to a weekend of rest.
The dreams of the succubus had become increasingly disturbing. Some of them were very sexual, causing him to not be able to get back to sleep; others were just as disturbing, horror-filled images of him turning into a vampire and biting random strangers, drinking their blood and leaving their empty husks behind just so he could stay alive… or undead, as it would seem.
The most disturbing of the dreams, however, were the ones where Quinn seemed to be calling to him, her alluring red lips and glittering blue eyes, beckoning him forward, red painted fingernails giving him a come hither sign and him floating forward, no control over his body. He wondered how long he had locked eyes with her, as he didn’t remember anything except going to sit next to her on the couch, and then suddenly being ripped from the ecstasy of her stare by the two strange men.
And who were those guys, anyway? What an odd encounter it had been. He wanted so badly to tell Lauren and SAC Morris about them, but feared he’d be castigated for going back to Club Muse by himself, so he’d kept silent. He cursed himself for not at least snatching part of the Camaro’s Louisiana plate number so he could run it through the new computer system the Justice Department had just received.
Tristan leaned back at his desk, four p.m. taking forever to make its way around the clock, and thought about who those guys could be. They seemed unnaturally strong, and they knew an awful lot about vampires and succubae. They were secretive, and the taller blonde one spoke as if he were a lot older than he looked.
“Vampires,” Tristan mumbled under his breath. “It was nighttime. I bet they’re a secret organization of vampires that keep their kind from being exposed to the public.”
While Tristan was wrong about the Immortals, he was surely going to be getting an up close and personal view of the world of vampires very soon.
“You wanted to see me?” Lauren asked as she walked into SAC Morris’s office Monday morning.
Sheila Morris looked up from her paperwork and scratched a bright blue fingernail into the top of her braids. “Yes, I have an assignment for you and Special Agent Ellis.”
“Well, he’s not here.”
“What? It’s nine a.m., he better be here,” Sheila replied.
Lauren was confused. “I assumed he called in sick since he wasn’t here. I know he said he was having trouble sleeping last week. I thought maybe he took a sick day.”
Sheila shook her head. “Nope, and I’ve been here since six.”
“That’s odd. He never calls in sick.”
Sheila waved her gold pen in the air. “Go by his place and check on him, then get back here. This assignment’s in Baton Rouge so it’s gonna be a long day.”
Lauren got into the white government-issued sedan and drove to Tristan’s apartment on the outskirts of New Orleans. She had only been here twice before; the other night when she’d dropped him off, and once when she had to drop off his Bureau ID he’d left in her car one Friday.
The apartment complex was moderately new, plain, but well kept. The grounds were well manicured and it was quiet, especially for a Monday morning.
Lauren knocked on the door, but the force of her rapping caused the door to creak open slightly. Her stomach flipped over in her gut and she put her hand on her holstered gun, easing the door open slowly.
“Ellis! You in here?”
She noticed the apartment was in darkness. All the curtains were drawn and the TV was on, but muted.
She got no response so she went to the bedroom where she saw a thick Minnesota Vikings blanket draped over the only window. It was very dark, but she could see Agent Ellis lying in bed, his still form looking to be asleep.
She crept over to him and shook his bare shoulder slightly. “Tristan, you okay?” His skin was cold to the touch and she feared the worst.
Then she saw him move and breathed a sigh of relief and shook him again. “Ellis, get up. You hungover or what? The boss sent me –”
Tristan bolted upright and blinked a few times looking confused. Lauren stepped back, alarmed. “You okay?”
He focused in on her and inhaled deeply through his nose. Then he jumped out of bed and Lauren backed up out of the room and fumbled for her gun. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she got goose bumps everywhere. Something wasn’t right. Especially since Tristan was completely naked and didn’t seem to care.
“Tristan…” she said, walking backward into the living room.
He slowly stalked after her, and once she got into the living room where there was a bit more light, she could see the smile on his face. She could also see that his eyes had turned completely black with no pupils at all. Lauren pulled her gun up and began to walk backward toward the door.
That’s when he lunged.
Two shots rang out, hitting Tristan in both the head and stomach. He went down with a thud and lay still on the carpet.
Lauren ran into the kitchen and grabbed the corded phone attached to the wall and could barely dial her boss’s number, her hands were shaking so badly. She kept the gun trained on Tristan’s still form. A blood pool began to form around his body, turning the light brown carpet black in the dim light.
“Oh, my God,” she sobbed, “Sheila send someone to Tristan’s place. He’s dead. I just shot him. Please help. Oh, God…”
“What! Why did you shoot him?”
“He… he… he’s a damn vampire, Sheila. Oh, God please, I need to leave in case he wakes up.”
“It’s okay, honey. I’m on my way and I’m bringing the cavalry. Hang up and get out of the apartment. Try to lock him in but stay near his door and shoot him again if he tries to leave.”
“Okay,” she choked.
She put the phone back on its cradle with a shaky hand and wiped at her tears with the back of the hand that was holding the gun. As she went to leave the apartment, she looked at the window and had an idea.
Keeping a wide berth around Tristan’s body, she went over to the window and pulled the curtains open, bathing the room in bright morning sunlight. None of it hit Tristan, but in about an hour, the sun would move and fry him.
If he was still… alive.
She wanted to go to him and see if he was still breathing. She knew feeling for a pulse wouldn’t do any good. She also thought about shooting him again in the head for good measure. After all, she had only told her boss she’d shot him; she didn’t say how many times. As she thought about it, she just didn’t have the heart to shoot him again. Her shoulders slumped and the tears began to fall again.
Then she heard police sirens.
Shit! Neighbors must have heard the shots!
She left the apartment quickly. Thankfully, Sheila and a crew of men in a van pulled up a few long minutes later, and Lauren told them which apartment it was. Then two men in a black Camaro pulled up.
“What apartment?” asked a tall blonde guy with a buzz cut. He shot Lauren a look, smiled at her, then looked back at Sheila. His partner stayed in the car. Lauren couldn’t see him very well.
“Apartment twelve,” Lauren responded.
He nodded and stalked off toward the stairs.
Just then NOPD pulled up, blazing lights and sirens, and two young uniformed officers got out of their car.
Sheila cut them off. “Special Agent in Charge Sheila Morris, FBI,” she said, flashing a badge. “You here about the gunshots?”
“Yes, ma’am, neighbors called it in.”
She nodded. “My agent here had an accidental discharge. We were here on a separate matter.” She handed the officers her business card. “Have your sergeant call me if he has any questions.”
The officers took her card, shrugged, and drove off.
“There’s a reason NOPD stands for, ‘Not our problem, dude’,” Sheila muttered, shaking her head.
Lauren was still shaking. “I can’t believe Tristan’s a vampire. What happened? Oh, God, Sheila, what happened?”
Sheila hugged Lauren. “It’ll be okay. We’ll take care of it.”
“What does that mean? Are you going to kill him?”
She said nothing, just continued hugging her on the sidewalk outside the apartment.
Two agents she recognized as colleagues came out wearing obviously fake paramedics uniforms. They were pushing a gurney with a body inside a black body bag past her and into their unmarked van. Lauren watched them load Tristan’s body inside and hoped her fellow agents had taken precautions.
“Who are the two guys in the Camaro?” she asked Sheila, wiping her eyes.
They were both still looking at the van. “Let’s just say they’re my clean-up crew.”
A week later, Lauren was sitting in her personally owned vehicle in the parking lot of Club Muse. It was a Friday night and she was debating on whether or not to go in. Her head was a foggy mess, her emotions numb. Tomorrow would be Tristan’s funeral and she felt he needed some vindication before she had to face his family. She was done crying, feeling like she failed Tristan, and now she was just… pissed off.
She hadn’t decided if she was going to kill the succubus or just scare her, although she didn’t think the bitch would scare very easily. She glanced at the clock on the dashboard and saw it was well after midnight. She knew the club closed at one a.m. and decided to just wait and see if she could catch her outside.
The thought that she might be committing suicide here tonight had crossed her mind. But again, her emotions were now numb, save for the buzz of angry adrenaline that coursed through her body and kept her awake at night, making her very difficult to get along with. Most of the agents in the office would smile sadly at her and offer her superficial condolences, but she also knew none of them had lost a partner, and couldn’t empathize. She hoped they never would have to.
She looked over at the submachine gun that was lying on the seat next to her. Knowing she had another round of shells in her right coat pocket, she wondered if it would be enough. She had taken a huge risk stealing it from the evidence locker in the basement of the FBI building, but she didn’t really consider it stealing. She’d return it when she was done. And if the bullets found at the scene tonight matched the ones from this gun, then so be it. Her prints won’t be on it when she’s done.
Lauren saw the back door of Club Muse open and was glad her instincts were right. That bitch was too good to exit out the front door like everyone else. And of course she had an entourage of bloodsuckers around her, which Lauren was also prepared for and smiled. There were no humans around. And if one of the four with her was a human, well, then she’d save them the slow death of being drained dry or being turned into one of them herself.
Oh, my God I have truly lost it! she thought.
She grabbed the machine gun and it felt heavy and clumsy in her hands. She said a silent prayer she wouldn’t shoot it off before she needed to. She hadn’t been trained on these types of weapons at the academy but felt confident enough she could hit all four of them quickly before she was attacked.
Lauren quietly closed the door, and as she begun to make her way across the parking lot, a hand grabbed her arm. She was jerked backward behind her car and large hands made her slide to a sit where the vampires couldn’t see her. There was a hand clamped over her mouth. She blinked with wide eyes up at Dr. Erick Collins.
“Don’t scream,” he said.
She nodded tear-filled eyes.
He removed his hand and she launched herself at him, hugging him around the neck. “Oh, my God, Erick, I thought I’d never see you again. What happened after the…” she was about to say ‘shapeshifter’ but thought better of it, “incident in the morgue?”
“Oh, the voodoo shifter lady? They made me quit the medical examiner job and I work for another, uh, agency now.”
“So you know?” she breathed.
He nodded. “Yes. I’m happy now, Lauren, no worries. Now, what in the hell do you think you’re doing taking on four vampires by yourself?”
She pulled the gun from her jacket and said sheepishly, “Uzi submachine gun.”
He snatched it from her hand and whispered, “Are you crazy?”
He peered over the car and saw Ace walking toward the group and could hear the conversation.
“Excuse me,” Ace said to the vampires, jerking a thumb behind him. “My car won’t start.”
“Get lost, Lurch,” the bald vampire said, spitting a stream of brown liquid on the ground. The group was heading toward a black Chevy van with flames painted on the side.
Erick rolled his eyes.
“What is he doing? Do you know him?” Lauren asked.
Erick nodded. “Yes, that’s my partner.”
“And you called me crazy?” Her eyes were wide again.
“Stay here,” he ordered.
She, of course, did the exact opposite of that, got up and followed him, snatching the gun from the ground where Erick had laid it.
Lauren and Erick watched as Ace pulled a lighter from his pocket and flicked it on. “Hey, assholes!” he said to the group of vampires, who were all seated in the van now. The big bald guy was driver’s seat, and was about to close the door.
“I told you to scram,” he said, getting out of the car. “But since you can’t listen…”
Ace waved his hand over the small flame of the lighter and right before everyone’s eyes, created a large ball of fire in his fist. He launched it right at the tough-looking vampire, who of course, let out a piercing screech as the flames hit him. He fell to the ground, his body quickly consumed by flames. The pile of ashes he left behind was an appropriate end to him.
Lauren couldn’t comprehend what Ace had just done, but decided she’d dissect it later. It was go time.
She ran toward the van, which was now engulfed in flames, and put the gun up. She saw one of the creatures exiting the van, half of her body on fire, and smiled.
She walked straight up to her and fired a burst of lightning-fast shots into her chest and head. Lauren watched in sick satisfaction as Quinn screamed and turned immediately to ash, leaving only a small white dress, which was being quickly consumed by the fire.
She felt Ace yank her backward and grab the gun from her. As she turned around, she saw him fire three shots into another vampire, who had escaped the van and was heading straight for them. He fell to the ground and Ace finished him off with two more shots to the heart. The vampire didn’t turn to ash, but quickly took on the appearance of a very dead, brown corpse covered in clothes.
She shuddered then looked over and saw Erick fighting with a vampire. This one was not on fire and they were throwing punches. The vampire was hissing fiercely as it tried to get its fangs into Erick. Lauren watched in horror as the vampire jumped onto Erick, and just as it was about to bite him, Erick grabbed its head and twisted. It slumped to the ground, lifeless, and Erick stood up, a murderous look on a face that Lauren had only ever seen shyness and friendliness. He bent down, twisting its head once again, but this time, separating it from the neck. Erick grinned evilly, and as he was about to toss it into the open door of the now fully-involved burning van, it turned to ash in a puff, leaving him holding nothing.
“Aww man, I wanted to throw it!” he said.
Ace laughed. Lauren just stood there dumbfounded.
The backdoor to the club opened and Ace grabbed Lauren and shoved her into the black Camaro. They quickly peeled off, leaving the burning van behind with no bodies inside.
“But my car’s there,” she said, panting and shaking.
“We’ll drive you back here tomorrow to get it,” Erick said.
She nodded and tried to take deep breaths. After a few minutes of silence, she said, “You two better start talking.”
Erick smiled. “We’re headed back to our place. We’ll explain everything.”
Ace and Erick walked away from the gravesite of the same cemetery they had been staking out a couple of weeks prior.
“That was a nice service,” Ace said.
“Yes, it was. At least his family will have closure now,” Erick replied.
“It’s only right. The poor kid wouldn’t be a very dead vampire if it wasn’t for the BSI. The government owes it to his family.”
Erick nodded as they got into the Camaro and drove away from Special Agent Tristan Ellis’s funeral. Ace helped SAC Morris put together a report stating Tristan had walked in on a drug deal and had been shot. Normally vampires would turn to dust when meeting their final death, as their true age catches up to them, but because Tristan had been such a new vampire, he still had a body to bury.
“His partner’s kinda hot,” Ace said.
Erick looked at him. “Lauren’s too sweet for you. Don’t even think about it.”
Ace chuckled. “We’ll see.”
Washington D.C. – 1947
Jim Blackwell was again at his desk in his large office in the FBI building. Two years had passed since he started up the BSI and his son’s undead murderer was still at large.
Jim had learned all he could about the Fae – the vampire and shapeshifters in D.C. – but had given up on finding Paul’s killer. That is, until he met Andrew Davies.
“Thank you, General Frost,” Andrew said, taking one of the plush chairs set in front of Director Blackwell’s desk.
The general removed his green cap and took the other seat.
As Jim studied Andrew, he thought the man looked pretty unremarkable. Average height, probably late twenties or early thirties, and moderate good looks, but there was something in his eyes that seemed very wise.
“So, Jim, as the director of the BSI, I think it’s time you know about the Immortals.”
Jim smiled. “I already know about them. Vampires and shapeshifters.”
Andrew looked to General Frost. “You want to explain?”
Alexander Frost shook his head. “Go ahead, Andrew.”
Andrew nodded and adjusted his black tie and smoothed down his brown suit pants. “Long before you started the BSI, there has been an organization of us who have been policing the Fae in the major cities of this country. Even in other countries for that matter.”
Jim nodded. “I see. And how do you do this? Do you have special weapons to kill them with?”
“Yes and no. I know this is going to sound crazy, so just stay with me.”
Jim laughed. “Crazy I can handle. Go on.”
“We all have gifts. For instance, I’m sixty-five years old.”
Jim’s eyes got big and Andrew heard Jim think, Get this crazy piece of shit out of my office.
“You think I’m a crazy piece of shit, don’t you?” Andrew asked.
Jim gasped. “How did you…?”
Andrew tapped his temple. “Like I was saying, each Immortal is bestowed a gift. Mine is mind-reading. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but we don’t get to choose. It kind of chooses us.”
Jim sat back in his seat and stared at Andrew, willing himself not to think of anything specific.
“I have a friend, Jonathan, who has the gift of extreme strength. That would have been my personal choice but it wasn’t my lot in life. I had another colleague named William who had the gift of flashing. He can move so fast, you won’t even see him. There are others who can manipulate the elements.”
Jim turned his head. “Elements?”
“Yes, water, air, fire… sometimes even weather.”
“You’re shitting me.”
Andrew shook his head and laughed. “No, sir, I am not.”
“Are you all males?” Jim asked, sitting forward, becoming more intrigued.
“No. There are females among us. Not a lot, but there are,” Andrew replied.
Jim nodded. “Go on.”
“So the reason I’m here is to let you know if you ever need help, you can call on us. We prefer to blend in with the humans, so please keep it discreet. I have just moved here from the Los Angeles area, and am setting up a coven here. I’ll be in D.C. for a few years, then I’m going back to L.A. It’s too cold here.” He smiled.
“Wow, this is… overwhelming,” Jim said, sitting back. He looked at General Frost. “How long have you known?”
“Only a few months, sir.”
Jim nodded. “I see.”
“I’d like to help you find the vampire who killed your son,” Andrew said, fixing Jim with an serious stare.
As Andrew laid out the details of his trap and ensnare plan, Jim listened intently, but he tried not to get his hopes up.
Andrew Davies and one of his new coven members, Hank Sorenson, were hanging around outside Joe’s Tavern, smoking cigarettes. Jim Blackwell was sitting in a parked car across the street, watching the Immortals, hoping the vampire would take the bait.
The incidence of vampire attacks outside that particular tavern had been frequent over the past two years, and both the BSI and the Immortals believed it was the work of one or two vampires.
Not only that, they had an eyewitness.
The night Paul was killed, both he and poor Ronnie lay on the sidewalk dying, and were discovered by a couple of college students passing by. Only Paul was dead; Ronnie still had a faint pulse and was rushed to George Washington Hospital, where he eventually recovered.
Ronnie had said the vampire was definitely a Caucasian-looking male, short brown hair. He had some kind of scar on the left side of his face, like a knife wound. He wasn’t even very tall or big in stature. Just very pale and very, very frightening.
This was the third night in a row they were out there, and as it turned out, third time’s a charm.
Andrew and Hank stood in a purposely dark area outside the pub where the streetlights didn’t quite reach. Before the vampire even turned the corner, Andrew heard his thoughts.
I’m starving and something smells like dinner. Followed by a demented laugh.
Andrew nudged Hank. “Get ready.”
Sure enough, the vampire came sleazing around the corner very slowly and smiled at the two men standing against the building, the scar on his left cheek wrinkling as he grinned.
“What do you want?” Andrew asked the vampire, faking fear.
The vampire said nothing, just got very close, showing no fear at all to the two men he made the mistake of thinking were merely human.
Jim Blackwell got out of his car and quietly crossed the street. He gripped the sharpened wooden stake in his sweaty fist, his whole body shaking with rage, fear, and adrenaline.
As the vampire got close, Hank put him up against the tavern’s brick wall and the vampire hissed. Hank was a big boy, two hundred pounds and a former boxer, whose Immortal gift was strength.
“Let me go, prick,” the vampire sneered.
Hank laughed, holding the vampire against the wall one-handed. “Nah, not today, bloodsucker. Today’s your unlucky day.”
“I’m gonna kill you slowly,” the vampire hissed through his fangs.
“You sound real stupid,” Andrew laughed.
“Oh look, our friend Jim is here,” Hank said as Jim approached.
“Who the hell are you?” the vampire asked, eyeing the stake, his cockiness gone.
Jim stood in front of the vampire and studied him, both of them staring each other down.
Jim raised the stake, and with both hands wrapped around it said, “This is for my Pauly.” He plunged the stake into the vampire’s chest and it let out an ungodly screech, disturbing the quiet, dark night.
Andrew and Hank stepped back, pulling Jim with them as the vampire’s body fell to the ground and began to turn brown, then gray, then to ash, leaving nothing behind but a pile of clothes and a wooden stake.
Jim tried to maintain his composure but a stray tear did slip out.
Andrew put his arm around Jim’s shoulders. “C’mon. I’ll buy you a beer.”
Please enjoy the first chapter from “Enchanted Immortals (Book 1)” from the Enchanted Immortals series:
By C.J. Pinard
Copyright 2012 C.J. Pinard
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
1946 – San Francisco, California
Fog. Always fog. How am I supposed to get any deliveries done in this mess? he thought. He continued to cycle through the busy streets to get his job done. There’s no rest for the weary, as his father always reminded him. He knew he would be working into the evening with the amount of deliveries he had to make today. Grateful for the work, he kept pedaling through the dense fog and decided to skip his lunch break. He didn’t need to spend an extra quarter on a sandwich; he’d had a big breakfast anyway. He’ll stop at dinnertime and get something.
Later, after an exhausting day, he was finally on his last delivery. He stopped at the tall bank building on Hyde Street and parked in the shade of the massive brick structure, noticing how the dwindling sun cast its large shadow all the way down the street. The fog seemed to now be a fleeting mist in the last remaining sunbeams. Chaining his bike to a fire hydrant that sat directly in front of the building, he went inside. Opening the heavy glass doors, he informed the pretty, neatly-dressed, blonde receptionist that he was here to make a delivery to Jonathan Murphy on the sixteenth floor. The receptionist pointed him toward the elevators, as she always did, and the messenger thanked her for her graciousness. She smiled sweetly at him. He switched the tube-shaped package to his left hand as he pushed the call button for the sixteenth floor.
As the elevator jerked to a start, he thought about what was waiting for him at home. He dreamed of moving out of his parents’ home; he was twenty years old after all, and should be on his own. His father had taught him to work hard but with The Depression a not-so-distant memory, work was still scarce. His father was encouraging him to follow in his footsteps and try out for the SFPD, but he had no interest in becoming a cop. He wanted the high-rise good life, just like the folks who worked in this very building. He was saving his pennies but it would be a while before he could move out. He thought of his high school girlfriend, Barbara, who had broken up with him after leaving to attend an all-girls college in Southern California.
Since when did girls go to college and become doctors anyway?
The shrill of the elevator bell bolted him out of his daydreams and he exited the squeaky elevator onto the sixteenth floor and padded down the plush hallway. Nice digs, he thought as he searched the mahogany doors for office number six. Finding it, he rapped on the beveled glass painted with the words Murphy Architecture and announced he had a delivery for a Mr. Jonathan Murphy. A gruff voice bade him to come in.
His eyes took in the office, which was decorated nicely, but humbly. A dark maroon-colored carpet covered the floor and a large blue sofa sat in the front of the office. Open blinds partially shaded the windows, casting a striped shadow over the multiple wood-framed awards and certificates adorning the cream-colored walls.
“Hello, sir, how are you today? I’ve got a delivery from the Richardson Firm for you,” the humble bike messenger said, handing the man a beat-up clipboard and ink pen.
“Yes, yes, young man, just set it down on the desk there,” Mr. Murphy replied, using his pen to indicate a large partners desk in the corner of the office.
He thought he detected a slight accent when Mr. Murphy spoke, and he couldn’t help but notice the older man’s strong hands; it seems he had seen hard physical work some time in his life. He was very tall, at least six-four, and his wavy blonde hair boasted gray at the temples; his eyes crinkled ever so slightly at the edges when he smiled, indicating that he probably had years of experience. Yet, he didn’t look older than forty, the bike messenger thought. He was wearing a very expensive-looking three-piece suit.
Mr. Murphy handed the clipboard back to him. “Thank you, son. You’re out late this evening, aren’t you?” he said, pressing a quarter into the boy’s palm after handing off the clipboard.
“Yes, sir. There’s no substitute for hard work, as my father always says,” he smiled, pushing a strand of black hair from his forehead. “And thank you,” he indicated to the quarter in his hand.
As the messenger turned to leave, the elder man asked him to wait. “Young man, what is your name?”
“Ah, what a nice, strong Irish name. Your parents immigrants?” he asked boldly.
“Yes. They came here from the ‘Old Country’ about twenty-five years ago, before I was born. My dad is a police officer here in the city now.”
“And how long have you been with the messenger company?”
“About two years, sir, since graduating high school. I’m trying to save enough money to get my own place, hopefully meet a nice girl, and settle down.”
“You interested in going to college?” Mr. Murphy quizzed.
“Oh, yes, I would love to. But my parents are barely making ends meet, I have to help them with the numerous notes they have due each month. Even my mother has taken to doing odd sewing jobs to help with the finances.”
Jonathan Murphy paused for a minute, looking intently at the young man. Thomas shifted uncomfortably then turned to leave, assuming the strange and imposing conversation was now over.
“Son, I can see that you are a hard worker, I can tell by the way you carry yourself and your good attitude. Every time you’ve made a delivery here, you are on time and have confidence and respect. If you would like a job in my firm, I would be happy to take you under my wing and teach you my architectural trade here. Is that something you would be interested in?” Jonathan fixed him with an intense, steely-gray stare.
Thomas has to mentally tell himself to close his mouth as he turned back around to face Mr. Murphy. He’s pretty sure his blue eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. “Uh… oh, wow. Of course, sir, that would be very gracious of you!” he practically spit the words out.
Jonathan walked over and shook his hand. “I don’t normally take chances like this, but you have a winning quality about you. And I’m a very good judge of character.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m so very grateful for this opportunity. I promise I won’t let you down. My father will be very pleased to hear this. Wh-when would you like me to start?” he stammered.
“This Monday would be fine, if your current employer will let you go that quickly,” Jonathan smiled.
“There are a hundred guys like me wanting messenger jobs, as my boss likes to remind me on a daily basis. I’m sure they won’t have too much heartburn over my short notice, Mr. Murphy,” Thomas quipped with a returning smile.
“All right, sounds like a plan. See you Monday, Thomas O’Malley.”
Thomas pedaled his squeaky blue bike down Hyde Street, his messenger bag swinging wildly behind him on his back. His mind was reeling. He couldn’t believe his luck; this was almost too good to be true. He had always admired Mr. Murphy when he would make deliveries there. He was always in awe of his nice office, his expensive suit, and his pretty receptionist. He couldn’t wait to get home to tell his parents the good news. He knew his father, especially, would be so proud.
Thomas finally reached home and dismounted his bike to open the large door to the small, detached garage, placing his bike inside and hurriedly closing the creaky garage door with a slam. He swiftly leapt over the neatly trimmed shrubs that lined the front of the house and ran up the four rickety porch steps as they wailed in protest under his weight. He burst through the front door and went straight to the kitchen where he knew his mother, Nell, would be inside cooking. He found her in her usual attire; a simple tea-length dress and yellow apron. She turned around when she heard Thomas come in. She greeted him with a smile, while he hurried over and pushed a strand of auburn hair off her face so he could give her a kiss on the cheek.
“Hi, honey. How was your day?” his mother asked, while stirring what appeared to be beef stroganoff on the stove. The smell wafted up into Thomas’s nose and made his stomach summersault, reminding him he skipped lunch.
“Mom! Where’s Dad? I have great news!” Thomas said, nearly tripping over his words.
“He’s in the front room reading the paper. Why, what’s going on, Tom?”
“Come with me, Mom. I need to talk to you both.”
Nell set her wooden spoon on the stove’s spoon-rest, wiped her hands on the handmade floral towel that hung on the oven’s handle, and followed Thomas into the living room as he went over to his father and sat down on the adjoining sofa.
“Hey, son. What’s the good word? You look awfully excited,” said his father, Joseph, a slightly strong Irish brogue still present in his speech. His navy blue police uniform pants were still on, but he wore only a plain white T-shirt. His duty belt was hanging by a hook on a hall tree in the house’s entryway.
“Mom, Dad, you’re not going to be believe this! Today I was making a delivery to this man named Jonathan Murphy at that huge bank building on Hyde Street. Well, he said he saw good qualities in me and wanted to give me a job! He’s going to teach me the architectural trade, Dad! Can you believe it? I was quite speechless.”
“Wow, that’s great news, Tom. When do you start?” his dad asked, a little less excited than he should be, his voice vaguely masked in skepticism. He was also trying to hide the disappointment in his son not following in his career footsteps.
“Monday. I gave Mr. Smith my notice today. He took it well.”
Nell walked over and gave her only son a hug. “I’m so proud of you, Tom. You are a good boy. You deserve this. Just don’t let him down, okay?”
“Oh, Mom, I won’t!”
She smiled at him. “Also, I can make you some new dress shirts. I’m thinking you’ll need at least five more. All you have are a couple for church.”
“Yes, mom, that would be great, thank you.”
His father eyed him curiously, deciding he would use his influence to do some digging on this Jonathan Murphy once he got to work the next day.
It was his last day of work, finally Friday. Thomas was to start at the Murphy Architectural Firm on Monday. He was still in utter shock of his luck. He had just completed the last delivery of the day, well actually of his life, when he was on his way home to enjoy the upcoming weekend. He was thinking about the new Alfred Hitchcock film he was anxious to see at the local movie house. He began to pedal even faster as it was now dark.
Because he was clearly not watching where he was going, and because it was now almost pitch-black out, Thomas took a corner a little too fast and crashed right into… something. He flew off his bike, ass-over-teakettle, and the next thing he knew, he was laid out flat on his back in the middle of the Mission District. He moaned, then shook off the smack to the head he had taken and sat up, looking around for his bicycle. He then heard the sounds of laughter. Not happy laughter, either; it sounded more like nails on a chalkboard. He quickly pulled himself to his feet and headed for his bike, not really wanting to find out where the laughter was coming from. He began to rub the back of his head where he had hit it and felt it was wet. Gosh-darnit, I hope I don’t need stitches, he thought, wiping his hand on his trousers.
Mounting his bike, he began to pedal off when three males suddenly appeared in the middle of the street; one was tall with long, wavy hair, and the one standing next to him was shorter, but was pretty average-looking. The last of them had unkempt greasy hair and a scruffy half-beard. The hair on the back of Thomas’s neck stood up and his arms became covered in gooseflesh. It seems fog had rolled in, because now it was eerily swirling and mounting around the three brooding figures that blocked his path down the shortcut alley he knew he had to take to get home. He could barely see them, as the one remaining streetlight was flickering, as if it was about to go out.
“Hey, fellas, excuse me, I need to get through,” Thomas indicated by jutting his chin in the direction of the alley, one foot resting on the ground.
“We aren’t your fellas,” the tallest one hissed with an accent. The other two began to laugh. It sounded anything but friendly.
“At any rate, I still need to get by you, so if you’d please move,” Thomas shot back, his patience quickly wearing thin, but his fear rising at the same time. He knew something was not right.
“He smells pure,” the shortest of them said to the other two, not taking his eyes off Thomas. The words seem to drip out, like venom from a rattlesnake’s mouth.
“All I smell is fear,” the scruffy one said with a slight snicker.
Then, swiftly, and without warning, the three were on Thomas. He screamed like a girl as he was knocked from his bike, his head hitting the pavement once again. He began to kick and thrash wildly while two of the thugs held him down and the biggest one sat on his chest. Their arms felt like steel grips as they pinned him to the ground. Suddenly, Thomas looked into the face of his assailant and thought he might pass out. He saw what looked like long, thin, dripping snake-like fangs protruding from the man’s mouth where his eyeteeth should be. His eyes were black with no pupils at all, and just as he lunged down to bite into Thomas’s neck, the attacker was suddenly whisked off of him and went flying through the air. Thomas and the other two watched as the gang leader was thrown at least fifty feet into the night, crashing into the brick wall of a nearby building. The creepy stranger slumped down the wall, motionless and bleeding from the head and face. Brick dust bellowed up and looked like flashes in the flickering streetlight. Thomas looked wildly around for whomever – or whatever – had done this. The other two thugs were on their feet on high alert, and Thomas sat stunned as he watched on as the ratty-looking one seemed to grow giant claws from where his hands should be. He also produced razor-sharp teeth, but instead of fangs, he had two entire rows of them, top and bottom. He was hissing like a deranged cat, spit dribbling from his mouth. Looking in the direction the men were gaping at, Thomas was stunned to see Jonathan Murphy standing there, suit torn, hair disheveled, and the most frightening, murderous look on his face Thomas had ever seen. On the last night of his mortal life, Thomas then mercifully slipped into unconsciousness.
END OF FREE PREVIEW
OTHER BOOKS BY C.J. PINARD:
Enchanted Immortals (Book 1)
Enchanted Immortals 2: The Vortex
Enchanted Immortals 3: The Vampyre
Enchanted Immortals 4: The Vixen
BSI: Bureau of Supernatural Investigation (An Enchanted Immortals Novella)
Patriotic Duty (When Riley Met Cara #1)
Tour of Duty (When Riley Met Cara #2)
Three of a Kind: Tales of Luck, Chance & Misfortune (short story collaboration)
Summer Sizzle: Stories of Love, Lust, and Passion (short story collaboration)
Blood Bites: Three Vampire Tales (short story collaboration)
Tidal Wave: Tales of Deep Passion (Story: When Riley Met Cara – A Short)
Unscathed (A contemporary romance collaboration with Tim O’Rourke)
Beneath Broken (contemporary romance)
Soul Rebel (Paranormal Romance)
The Lunar Effect (werewolf saga)
All books available on all reading venues.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
C.J. is a west coast native who has lived on both coasts and now lives near the middle, in Colorado! Coming from a family of writers and editors, she feels writing is in her blood and hopes people will lose themselves for a little while in the fantasy and fun of her stories. She also loves sweet red wine, the SF 49ers, and unlike most authors, doesn't have any cats. When she's not writing, she can be found chasing around her kids or working at her day job, which she totally feels interferes with her real life, but also sometimes gives her inspiration for her books, since reality is sometimes way more interesting than fiction.
She also loves getting notifications that people have sent her an email, added her on Facebook, or on Goodreads. So stop by and say hi – don't be shy! She's not! :)