It had been her last day at work. She had only been working at the clothing retail store for a few months before the managers decided to close the place down. Who knew how much work was involved in packing up all that merchandise and demolishing the insides of the store? Selene had been stuck with twelve hour days for a couple weeks now, but finally she was leaving the store for the last time.
Night had already fallen, leaving a pale red haze far in the distance where the sun had set. Stars were starting to twinkle in to view and the moon was a crooked cresent in the sky. It's a shame she hadn't managed to save up enough cash to get the car she needed. Walking home after long days was rough. On the bright side, she had been staying with a very nice old couple. She would eat, sleep the weekend away and then start the slow annoying process of looking for a new job.
Or a new city to live.
Selene glanced around warily as she crossed the street and started down a sidewalk. Maybe she was just being paranoid. There was always that feeling that someone was watching. Or following. Even now as she turned around to walk backwards for a moment, there wasn't anyone there. Years after.. and she still didn't feel safe.
As she turned around, paranoia was justified! There was someone standing right there and she nearly ran in to them.
She staggered backwards, turning on a heel in a fraction of a moment to switch direction and dart off the sidewalk to run through the grass. All the while fumbling in to her jacket for the small handgun she had hidden. She could hear the footsteps hitting fallen leaves behind her, as she turned around the corner of an empty house and squeezed between the wooden doors of the backyard fence. Once inside she slid under an overgrown bush trying to catch her breath and load bullets in to the gun.
I wish I may...I wish I might...I wish upon the moon tonight.
The Jeep Cherokee double parked in the Chik-Fill-Et across the street hummed with a dying energy. Car keys withdrawn from the ignition, the monster of machinery and gasoline fell silent.
One with the night.
The silhouette of a single figure in the driver's seat of the car was still, deathly still. Thin and willowy like the tall reeds swaying in the night breeze in the partition between the restaurant and the road, the person looked more skeletal then human. Within the hushed vehicle, the air smelled of soggy pickles, smoke, and the faint aroma of fry oil. An open folder lay on the passenger seat, caught half in the fluorescent glow of a street light glaring down at the car. Pictures lay strewn like half remembered memories...faded faces laughing in the stillness
Bullet casings clung to the curves of the seat itself, some spent and some still ready to be used, glistening in deadly anticipation.
Another timeless moments and then movement.
The car door swung open slowly, oiled hinges barely squeaking as a mouth yawned in the side of the truck.
The thin figure slid out of the car with less noise then it had opened, clad in clothes so tight and dark it seemed as though he were some wayward shadow, lost from a body and suddenly suppressed within the overwhelming power of night.
It moved with a slow and meticulous sense of time, reaching into the car to pull out a sleek handgun, sliding the clip into the firearm with nary more then a slight click to disturb its quiet vigil.
Within the space of a moment, the gun had vanished upon its person...and a can of some sort had taken its place, also pulled from the depths of the car.
Staring at a wrist with no indication of time save for the faint glimmer of neon hands, the silhouette went into action.
He did not so much run as he glided, a serene sort of foot after foot that was both soundless as it was graceful. Perhaps the figure could have been a dancer, spinning across the polished floors of some high society party with an effortless glamor so few possessed. Or perhaps a dexterous thief, swinging from rooftop to rooftop to relinquish precious gems from overweight men with bad hair.
But his steps were purposeful...as was the effortless swing in which he brought up the can and pressed upon the button.
A hiss issued forth in the night, a figure moving after another darting creature pausing to turn.
"Who are-" But he never finished.
A cherry was lit in the dark, a spark issuing from a zippo lighter held in the right hand...a gloved hand. The torrential inferno roaring from the stream released from the aerosal can played havok with a single glimmer of gold on the ring finger of his right hand...at least until the person before him was washed over in the brilliance...and screaming, darted down the paved street in a stumbling scramble.
It was the work of a moment to retrieve the slim handgun...and five shots echoed in the listless night.
"Buuuuurn baby burn...buuuuurn baby burn..." There was almost a giggle to the singsong utterance from the man holding the smoking gun over the swiftly charring corpse.
Raising up his right hand, the sound of pursing lips drawing together and apart echoed over the hungry crackle of flames.
"Ashes to ashes...dust to dust...forever and ever, to have and to hold...amen."
That the moon had been fuller when I proposed...maybe then it would have heard me.
Four, five, six...! Selene's fingers fumbled to put the last of the bullets in the gun, but her hand paused with the last one. He followed. She knows he did. His footsteps had fell hard on the empty cement driveway. But he stopped.
"Who are-" That was him. Cut off by the sudden sound of fwoooowm! followed by a bright glow she could see even from her hiding spot. The smell of smoke and charred flesh came soon after. Her hand rose up to her face to block the scent, but unable to stop the tickle in her throat and her cough. The gunshots were the worst. Startled by the sound, she nearly screamed and dropped the few bullets she had left in her hands. Selene scrambled to stuffed them safely back in her pockets. There was a new voice.
A singsong taunt. An odd prayer. Right Alisha.
She stiffened. Selene was sure she must have heard that wrong. Then she was positive it was just a trick. Something to draw her out from hiding. She wasn't going to go though! She was going to sit here until she was sure it was safe.
As quietly as possible, she closed her now loaded gun with a soft click. Listening, there didn't seem to be any more sounds of footsteps or mumbled phrases. Selene crawled out from under the bush, staying crouched low to the ground as she inched around the side of the house and came back to the fence. What had been burning was nothing more than embers now, leaving everything just as dark as it had been before. She didn't see anything. Not at first. Not until she had stepped out in to the yard and saw someone standing there over the charred remains of a corpse.
Selene had the gun up, pointed and aimed, though struggling to keep her hands from shaking. There was something familiar, but she couldn't focus on it right now.
The fading embers of the once vampire drifted on the night breeze. In the morning, little but scorched clothes and an ashy residue would remain here.
A fitting monument.
That was number ten...Derrik Calhoune...one step closer to exacting revenge for a crime likely forgotten. The strewn pictures in his side seat told a story of more however, named, dates, faces, bios...he hunted them with a meticulous passion unrivaled by even the most expert game hunter.
And yet this was the first time he'd been held at gunpoint.
Certainly when one was in the business of exterminating monsters, a certain expectancy for extraneous danger went into calculation. If your prey did not have a firearm to use against you, the ignorant law enforcement almost certainly would. His work was short, but messy...the flames were noticeable and the screams were usually loud.
Even so, he had yet to be caught in an alley by a ghoul with an AK-47, or gunned down on a highway by frightened rent-a-cops.
So this was a new experience.
The flickering fire winking out in the charred corpse outlined the woman for a brief moment, only a second before darkness closed in on them both. Just him, her, and a gun somewhere in between.
A match made in heaven...if he was gonna get killed, why not by a human? It made sense in a sort of cruel cosmic way.
"Saving your ass," he responded as coolly as he could. "You probably don't understand how close you came to being a...assaulted just a moment ago."
Now that the actual revenge was over, his old mannerisms began creeping into him again. Sweaty palms, slight stutter, a fake 'cool guy' accent that faded with each hitch of a word...it was a slow evolutionary digression. How typical was it that only when faced with the cold, unfeeling undead could he be the badass he liked to picture himself as?
Why was it that she was so damn familiar?
Taking a tentative step back, hands clad in black moved slowly out as if to create an impromptu barrier between he and the barrel of the gun.
"I don't mean you any harm...my quarrel was with ashes there..."
The moment he rose his hands, there was a click as she cocked the pistol. Her hand was still shaking, but she was keeping her aim. Selene didn't know what to do. He could have easily been lying about his intentions. A trap to catch her off guard. But... but she couldn't shake the sense of familiarity. His face was hidden by the shadow and his clothes as dark as the night around them. Yet, that tone of his voice.
Selene hesitated, keeping her stance. "I know... I know exactly what he was after." she started off tentatively. Somewhere along the way, she found that bravery that had kept her moving the past few years. Suddenly she was not shaking anymore, and had the anger to continue.
"A vampire. YOU on the other hand I'm not so sure about. What do you want? Who are you supposed to be?"
"I?" The question was simple and yet incredulous in nature. Although if she knew about the existence of vampires then certainly he WOULD cut a strange figure...standing clad in black with the ashes of the monster at his feet. Humans were not meant to contend with the undead...it simply wasn't done.
And yet here he stood as a testament to the ability of mortals to prevail over those innately superior in most ways. So what was he but an anomaly, a nobody, and impossibility given human form.
"I'm...you could say...errr...that is...it's kinda like...eh..." He stammered for an answer, stepping back from her loaded gun with his hands up...is this how he was to go? Blasted in the face by the damsel in distress? What a strange fractured fairy tale this all was.
"I'm a hunter..." he said simply with a nervous laugh "This is what I do most of the time..."
It was all he could say honestly, there was nothing else for him to explain...although there was a question nagging at his mind.
A hunter. Vampire hunter? Did those actually exist outside of movies and books? This was real life, where waiting for a hero was about as useful as waiting for a cure to the common cold. It wasn't reality. Reality was watching her family get slaughter and spending years moving from place to place hoping it didn't catch up with her.
And now there was a vampire hunter?
"You don't sound very convincing." she responded cooly. For a vampire hunter, he didn't sound like one. Then again, he was the first one she had ever seen.
Selene slowly lowered the gun, but her body was still tense. She was prepared to start running if he made even the slightest movement towards her. "How do you know about them? How does anyone?" Selene answered sharply at first. After a few silent moments, she continued, this time her voice was so quiet it could barely be heard.
"They killed my family. All of them. ...it was my sister's special day..."
As the barrel of the gun slid down, he counted the seconds. They fell away like dominoes, each one a step away from a pitiful death outside a Chik-Fil-Et at the hands of a woman he had saved. Allowing himself a sigh of relief, the hunter leaned back on the balls of his feet. Of course...how else do people learn of monsters then through monstrous acts? Vampires were never so sloppy as to be noticed in passing. What the public knew of the glorified ticks was rooted in folklore, legend, and in the grubby hands of the Hollywood script writers. One might suppose it was a sort of armor, the kind of plated protection no glass or metal could provide. The creatures had effectively turned their existence from fact to fiction...who would possibly believe a wedding had been butchered by the cast from Twilight?
Wanted for murders he would never dream of committing, the real murderers had seamlessly melted into the storybooks from whence they came...leaving only blood and misery behind.
"I know the feeling," It was odd. Ever since Alisha, he hadn't been able to speak to many people, much less women. It was as though Alisha's face superimposed itself over the person in question...and then there would be only pain. Maybe the darkness helped in that regard...
"I was...we were going to be married," He began, the words rattling out of his mouth like loose stones down a hill...something set loose by this woman...this female who KNEW...really KNEW where he was coming from. "You ever hear of the wedding massacre about five years ago? It hit papers across America for awhile...lots of hype. Happened in Black Pine, Virginia...the guy they pinned the murders on was me, Nicholas Marin Dorsey...dunno why I'm telling you, but if you know about them then maybe you'll get where I'm coming from when I say that I hunt these fuckers."
The stutter was gone...only a bitter spit of hatred remained.
"They killed them...everyone...no reason I could think of, just slaughtered. They left me alive...probably to be the fall guy. Who would believe it was vampires? Better that it was a crazy groom that offed his family and went on the run then some tabloid drivel...and so I hunt every face I remember from that night...I will take from them what they took from me...life....if they have any that is."
With a sudden kick, Nick scattered the remaining ashes and sighed...trying to banish the hatred from his heart...at least for the moment.
"Look...sorry to seem like a basket case, but I have reason to do what I do...ya know?"
Selene listened silently. Her brows furrowed in a serious expression, until slowly... with every word he spoke, it changed from confusion to surprise. There was a lurch in her stomach just as she realized who he was, and confirmed solidly when he spoke his name. So dumbfounded, even after he was done talking she was still quiet from the shock.
"Nick..!" saying his name with breathless disbelief, in an instant Selene had moved forward. She through her arms around his waist (gun still clung in her hand!) and released a choked sob. This was Nick! Alisha's boyfriend, Nick. Guy who saved her life, Nick. Only person left in the world alive, Nick. And he was actually right here!
"I thought you would be dead too by now! Or the cops... or something!" Her grip was tight, and it would take a crowbar to pull her off. But she finally tilted her head to look up at him.
Selene? For a moment his mind stalled, caught against a gear and squalled it's inability to fathom. It was only a moment though, the girl's image swimming up from a sea of frozen faces to bob gently in the pool of his consciousness. Of course...it had been her. Back then he'd...had he saved her? The image was foggy, the memory restrained by screams and gore too vivid to remember...but she'd escaped that day hadn't she?
Or was she...
Rigidly, Nick allowed himself to embrace the only link he had to innocence and the nervous geek he'd been what seemed like eons ago. The sister of a murdered bride, vows of love now frozen in a grimace of silent rigor mortis...no one had seen the bodies of those from the wedding, it had been too horrific.
Now, here, on the trail of the monsters who had taken his life as sure as if they had pulled the trigger of a weapon...he found solace in that anxious face, so similar to hers.
"H-hey Selene," He started with a hitch to his words...tears standing...he couldn't blink, musn't blink. Wasn't cool to cry. "B-Been a long time eh...holding up alright?"
How lame...he couldn't think of something momentous to say? No...of course not...it took all his energy not to burst into tears. Give him vampires any day...but a survivor from his one-time wedding attempt? He'd rather take the police.
Selene laughed. It was a choked, shaky laugh but soft as she shifted to rest her forehead against his chest. He was a dork. Though in the dark he carried himself differently and the tone of his voice had changed, Nick was still a dork. After spending the past few years moving from place to place, something familiar was like breathing fresh air for the first time.
"I'm still alive." she had stepped back with a half grin, until she glanced down where ash was just blowing away in the wind. This time she might not have been. Sometimes she had thought she was just being paranoid - picking up to leave a town just because she was spooked by shadows. But that vampire had said her name. Hello Selene.
Suddenly, the elation to see Nick again had shifted to something more awkward. The memories about that day. Broken bloodied bodies of their friends and family. What do you say after something like that? It had taken her months before she landed somewhere and could even have a conversation with someone!
"Um... I'm staying somewhere. Do you... want to come with me?"
With a laugh, Nick let the hug fall apart. For a few moments all he could do was guffaw, rolling laughter staining the air in a joviality both strained and real at the same time. When Selene cast him a bemused expression, Nick held up a hand as if to give pause to her curiosity. Laughter...there was only laughter for almost fifteen seconds. Any longer and it might have seemed insane...it probably already erred on the disturbing side and so clamping his mouth shut, Nick swallowed the last bits of his hiccuping mirth.
"Ah...I'm sorry," he said, both hands on his knees as he steadied his breathing. "I just...a girl asking me to come home with her after I torch a Fang...just...sorry..."
Straightening, he shrugged his narrow shoulders as if throwing off the weight of her gaze. "My humor's gotten a bit shot since..."
Was it the wedding? Did the display of gore, blood, and human suffering so twist him that his very sense of humor was bent? No...it wasn't then. Even in the days that followed, his sarcastic quips still cheered his bitter heart while hiding from the fuzz. It...it had been when he killed the first vampire, fang, vamp...whatever. That sick satisfaction he felt when it drifted into ashes, it had been there that his humor was crippled.
"Yeah...a place to stay would be nice...we can take my car." He turned from her, dark eyes swimming through shadows looking for...for...
More...he was looking for more of the sneaky bastards.
"Parked it up by the Chik-Fil-et...C'mon, we shouldn't stick around."
He started back the way he came in a light jog, his heart in sync with his steps as his mind wrapped around the nighttime encounter. Why were they after Selene? Certainly it was no coincidence that the vampire targeted her...not a second time...but why? In the years he'd hunted the fuckers, not one had ever come looking for him in a dark alley or a lonely side road. It might be that he always kept on the move, but that answer grated against his instincts.
The fang had been after Selene for a reason...but why?
Either way...if there was one, there would be more...he'd have to forgo sleeping for awhile.
Not that it helped...the nightmares were too vivid and he always woke more tired then when he'd slept...
Weird. This was definitely weird. Talking to someone that was so familiar, yet a complete stranger at the same time. Selene had fallen in to a quick step behind him, watching as he moved. His looks had changed. It was hard to explain how. Maybe a change in weight or it could have simply been the life he led for the past few years. There were so many questions swimming in her head. Was he on the run from the police still? ...How did he start killing vampires?
When they reached the jeep and he fussed to get things out of the way for her to sit, she picked up the envelop that just barely had the corner of a picture peeking out. Taking it, she blinked at the faces. Just a normal photo, one of those you see in family albums. Nothing preplanned or set up, just scattered people in weird positions. A captured moment of real life. Alisha was grinning like a mad fiend while in a blushing Nick's lap. Selene was pushing a cousin out of her chair. A couple uncles in the back were making faces at the camera. She smiled for half a moment. She didn't have any pictures of her old life...
Tucking it back in to the folder and climbing in to the vehicle to sit, Selene had mumbled out the directions to the place she was staying. "They're old and I live in the garage. It's late so we'll have to be quiet, but I don't think they'll mind."
How strange to see a moving face in his passenger seat rather then the frozen expressions of those dead or soon to be dead...it was almost unnerving. Sliding into the driver's seat, Nick woke his slumbering mount with a concise turn of a key. The engine hummed to life, a puttering smoothness that Nick had always enjoyed.
Backing out of the Chick Fil Et parking lot, He spun the black jeep out into the road and toward where Selene directed him. Although it would not have been considered safe, Nick kept sneaking glances at Selene as he drove. She certainly had changed little, same gentle facial structure, lithe figure...she even kept her hair the same way. In contrast, Nick had lost his glasses and had begun to grow stubble over his baby-smooth face. His hair was longer now, tied back in a pony tail to avoid getting in the way and whereas his general body structure hadn't changed, as a whole he'd become tighter, springier...like a gymnist right before a match.
He didn't park in the driveway, opting to pull into the lot for the community swimming pool instead.
"C'mon..." he said, easing open the door and sliding out. He made sure to grab both a knife and a gun, tucking the items into his pants while keeping a wary eye on the shadows around them. "I'll crash with you for a bit, but we need to hit the road at dawn...when we have sunlight on our side. If they found you here then you aren't safe...we need to get away from here before more show up. Ashy vamp back there was a piker compared to what most of these things can do." Walking fast and keeping his eyes constantly roving, Nick led Selene back toward her temporary home.
He hated to uproot her life...but if the suckers were after her then staying in one place was roughly the equivalent of erecting a neon "Eat Here" sign.
"Don't worry," Nick added in a hushed smile, trying to alleviate her concern, "Chances are you won't be bothered by them again...we should just relocate temporarily to be safe eh?"
As the two humans departed, the jeep gave a low rattle, gears banging against gears in a grinding screech. For a moment it seemed as though the entire vehicle would implode...and then with a gagging cough, a mixture of exhaust fumes and black smoke poured from the tailpipe in a swirling mass.
From those shadows, a pale hand grasped the rear bumper to settle a shaking body as the free hand reached up to secure a wide brimmed hat set slanted on blond curls.
"Ayiyiyiyiyi," the voice exclaimed quietly, the baritone directly contrasting the somewhat childish exclamation uttered. "The last time...fucking last time I hide out in an engine...yiyiyiyi...what a trip...what a ride, what a..." But he had discovered his cell phone had not survived the trip...and with a sigh, he placed the broken device on the ground beside the jeep.
"There goes backup...stupid phone with its stupid 'indestructableness'...can't even handle a mistform ride in the gearshift...stupid, stupid, stupid."
Dusting off his long coat and checking the pockets to make sure he was stocked with Little Debbie treats, the vampire followed his assigned prey with the air of a sulking ten year old...muttering all the way about his damn phone.
Derrik had been stupid...Artemis (Arty to his friends) had insisted they be tactful about the approach...even jovial...but friggin Derrik McEatsyourface had insisted he go suave and scary...and look where that landed him.
Murdered by a hair accessory and a lighter...tragic.
Arty, however, would play this closer to the vest. Nick was an accomplished hunter and Selene...well...apparently she had to be treated with care...the reason why was not yet known to him.
Vamp higher ups kept mum as the word on her.
So for now he would observe...and find a way to off that nasty skinny kid with the trigger happy sparkflames...
"C'est la vie. Moving here, moving there." Selene gave a slight shrug of her shoulder as she climbed of out the vehicle. She cast a small grim smile at her own little quip. Picking up and moving at the drop of a hat wasn't something new. At least this time she had just finished up her job and had a final paycheck in her pocket. Money was always the hardest thing to come by when you were dashing from place to place. It wasn't like how they showed it in movies...
Selene let them in to the house, quiet as she could when stepping in to the kitchen. The lights were out and the house was dark. The couple that owned the house was probably already in bed. On the table was a plate wrapped in plastic wrap. Leftovers for dinner left for Selene. She picked it up, tucking it under her arm as she crossed the kitchen to a closed door and let them in to the garage.
The light flickered on revealing a finished room. Bare walls, scare furniture. There was a huge sofa with extra pillows and blankets piled on top. A dresser with a TV. In the corner had a big duffel bag with waded up clothes tumbling out. Here and there a dirty shirt or a pair of pants lying on the floor. Selene set the plate of food on top of the TV before she went around the room snatching up her things and throwing them on top of the bag.
"It's um... pretty lame. But I don't usually stay places for very long. I guess I've been here too long already." Ugh. She didn't want to think about it. ...but it was so hard not to! With Nick right here and everything else looking her right in the face.
Stooping, Nick fished up discarded clothing with the grace of some gangly stork. It didn’t look like she’d been living unfavorably, the room was cluttered but not in the way that denoted a lack of care or effort. Nick winced in realization that she might have been comfortable here…but vampires had a way of uprooting even the most placid of lifestyles. Tossing a wayward bra at the bag with the hint of red at his pale cheeks, Nick tried to not let the sheer incredulity of the situation throw him off balance.
The odds of running into Selena of all people were astronomical at best. One might suppose that with vampires targeting her, one might be more inclined as a hunter to cross paths…but tracking down fangs was a sketchy business at best. In the last month, Nick had killed two…but they had been more luck than anything else. Surveillance cameras, news stories, contacts, obituaries…tracking a dead man was tracking a mouse in a heavy rain, more dead ends and backtracking then most go-getters have time for. If a fang didn’t want to be found, they virtually disappeared…Nick was lucky vamps didn’t take him seriously yet…otherwise his job might be thrice as hard…even impossible.
“Weird? Nah…” Nick answered, trailing off. It WAS weird...a vampire attack on the same person was as likely as getting hit by lightning in the middle of a shark attack...and by one of the same fangs as from the wedding massacre years ago? Things were too coincidental for even Nick to dismiss. Selena had something the Fangs wanted…and if they didn’t move soon, they’d get it.
“I guess I didn’t expect to see you again…I mean after…you know.”
Smooth talking wasn’t ever his specialty…maybe it was that she looked so similar to his wife to be, it was a bit unnerving…like walking around with the faded contents of a photograph. “You look…well,” He concluded lamely with a half smile, grabbing an elusive sock and stuffing it into the bulging bag, “And your part time home beats mine any day…a bed is far superior to a backseat ya know.”
She zipped up her bag, and Nick was already moving to the door.
“We can catch up on the road. I’d like to be more then forty miles out of this town by daybreak, we can widen the gap during the day…when they can’t move."
The trick was getting out tonight…call it a premonition, but Nick felt there were more of those monsters…just lurking in the shadows.
To be more accurate, one of the ‘monsters’ was lurking in the kitchen of the elderly couple’s home…bathed in the incandescent glow of the refrigerator light. Pushing through various brands of yogurt, cottage cheese, and suspiciously lumpy milk, Artemis was looking for something solid to wash down his last meal. The blood of the old was like dipping your hand into a box of those assorted chocolates on Valentine’s Day…sometimes you got the creamy dark chocolate everyone wants to bite into…and sometimes you get the toothpaste taste caught on your tongue. Unfortunately, it was the latter for Arty. In the end, he mixed in almost half the bottle of Hershey chocolate syrup into the milk and downed it, grimacing at the way the milk had to force its way down his throat. He’d throw it up in an hour…but having a chocolatey aftertaste rather then that sour old man stink was worth the agony.
Arty’s acute hearing picked up the noises from the garage…no doubt the birds were getting ready to wing out of the nest. Derrik had done anything but the mission…now they’d get on the move and damn if humans weren’t hard to catch when they whisked around like nomads.
Lifting the home phone delicately off the cradle, Artemis placed the receiver against his pale face and dialed a number he knew he’d catch flak about later. The line clicked on the second ring, and only silence issued forth from both sides of the phone…as though the phone had been picked up by a ghost from both ends. Few could understand how much breathing played a roll into a sense of entity on either side of the line…and the undead did not breathe.
“Princey? Princey dear…this is Arty checking in, do you read me?”
There was at least ten seconds of silence before another voice answered. Artemis winced as he noted the edge of anger creeping into the voice which had ordered him here…things were not turning out swimmingly…not anymore.
“Artemis…where are you calling me from?”
“Err…about that sir,” Artemis back peddled, falling into honorifics as his humor stalled and died. “Turns out cell phones can’t stand a mist transformation as well as I’d hoped…and Derrik was regrettably…erm…torched sir.”
“Torched?” The word sounded almost as though it would melt through the phone and dissolve Artemis where he stood.
Artemis swallowed hard, a surprisingly human gesture after almost three hundred years. “There was an unexpected hiccup in the plan sir…there was a hunter on scene and he…he destroyed Derrik.”
“Did you deal with him?” the voice purred, the violence in the voice an almost palpable force.
“Err…no,” Artemis admitted, twirling the cord around one pale finger nervously, “It was an old friend of yours and he’s well armed...Nick.”
“Nick?!” The voice hissed, prompting Adrian to hold the phone away from his head with a pained grimace. “Murderous wretch, I’ll….!” But the voice paused…and then continued with a slightly quieter tone. “How…coincidental… don’t you think Artemis?”
“Quite,” the vampire agreed without thinking “Should I deal with him?”
“No,” the voice ordered, a smug confidence creeping over the anger “For now I want you to follow and observe them…Nick hasn’t surfaced for months and this opportunity is far to favorable to let you botch it up with your eccentric methods…don’t attack unless I order you to, merely follow them for now. You can do that can’t you Artemis?”
“Of course sir,” Artemis assured with a smile no one would see, “I won’t fail you.”
The voice did not speak once more and only the click of a call ended alerted Adrian that the Prince was not interested in his assurances. Frowning at the phone as he placed it back on the cradle, Adrian turned back toward the cracked window, his body convalescing with the surroundings till not but a faint trail of mist remained…as though he had never been there at all.
Stepping quietly into the night once more, Nick kept his eyes on the rooftops and shadows as they moved down the dark road. Idly, two fingers found the ring on his finger, twisting it back and forth as though it were the key to some elusive safe. As they approached the vehicle, Nick retrieved his keys and loaded what little supplies Selena had into the backseat, the duffel bags upsetting a pile of pictures and papers that cascaded to the floor. Slipping into the driver seat, Nick winked at his new companion hopefully as he switched the car into drive and pulled out into the road.
Before the first rays of sun had touched the silent house they had left, the jeep had long vanished from the small town, whisked away by the larger roads and hopefully…safety.
Tail lights melted into mile markers along the dark road. Nick was familiar with traveling, but he'd never known how much he'd bounce around till after the massacre. Town names faded like the fake names he used on trial credit cards, a job in Big Lake, Wisconsin about as far from his mind as the one in Fort Perth, Maine. The difference between the two was a year and yet it might be days. Monsters never slept...or if they did, it was always at the most opportune times. Wendigos in the Colorado Rockies, Changelings in towns around Lake Eerie, or the odd werewolf cropping up in some slum city with a million faces that might as well have been one.
Wiping sleep from his eyes, Nick craned his head to glance in the back. Selene was draped over maps of the town she'd just left, face abnormally peaceful when caught by the rare headlights passing them on the road. For half a moment, Nick forgot it was Selene at all...she was so similar to his late fiance it was almost unnerving.
Eyes on the road...wheel in hands...steady in the lane.
Nick played no music, he found it interrupted his thoughts. A hunter needed to be prepared for every eventuality, and music only distracted without need. As of now, he needed to remember where they were...and where they were going.
He took a right off the interstate and pulled into a shady motel, not bothering to read where he was on the map. He'd have time to track their position and continue west toward the evening...the best time to be on the road if avoiding vampires.
Nudging his passanger, Nick folded out of the side door and rummaged for his wallet. Fifteen credit cards greeted him and after a cursory glance he chose one and started for the entrance.
"If we sleep by day and travel by night, we should be well out of the fangs' reach by the end of the week...just bear with some odd sleeping habits till then...nothing too hard I hope." Flashing a weary grin, he entered the door...booking a room for the day.
A quick stop by the car again yielded three trips of lugging supplies in misshapen bags...files fit to bursting with papers.
"Helps to have it all on hand," he said with a smile and a shrug "Plus I don't get cops wondering why I have a small armory in my back seat."
Selene didn't mind the quiet. The hum of the jeep and the occasional passing of cars on the road made it's own soothing sort of music. She didn't have a car of her own. Those sort of things with their titles and insurance could easily be looked up and traced. That mistake had been made early on when she tried to get an apartment. If you didn't want to be found, you just couldn't have... anything.
Nick apparently had the same idea, explaining how everything he had was in those few bags. Selene grinned a soft understanding expression. It just felt so lifting to know someone else knew exactly how she felt.
"Yeah, I get it. I kinda gave up having stuff ages ago. But man, I so miss that remote monster truck we used to drive around the parking lot all the time." Her own bag was hefted over her shoulder until they had reached their new temporary room. Selene just tossed it on the floor near one of the beds and stretched her arms over her head to ease her stiffness.
"No shit, remember when I asked my roomie to mod it so we could race it professionally? God...the things we used to do." Falling back on the bed, Nick stared at what could have been the same ceiling in a thousand dives across America. One day he might look up and see something else rather then the same plaster cavas, but for now it was familiar.
Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes and sighed. It had been a long drive, longer then most and even now he wasn't sure he could be out of the woods yet. Fangs had ways to track people and if they went out of their way for Selena then he'd painted a target on his back.
But why her?
It couldn't be some sort of half-assed clean up...it was too late for that. There was a reason the vamps wanted her and Nick hated walking into things half blind.
He needed to know.
Whipping out one phone of a family in the dozens, he selected a number he hadn't bothered to even look at for the last three years. Donna Paltzky...psychic extraordinaire...legit witch with a legit practice and a penchant for turning hunters up down and all around who sought her help. Still...if there was anyone who could give him a spoiler on Fang plans, it was her.
From here she was a few days cross country. So long as they could keep ahead of the trackers they'd be fine.
Her house was neutral after all.
Smiling at Selena, Nick tried to be reassuring. Hunting wasn't the best in terms of life expectancy and certainly this woman didn't deserve it.
"Hey, I saw a McDonalds a ways back...want me to run grab us something?"
"I think I'd kill for a pillow case full of fries." Selene muttered in reply. She was crawling on to her bed and plopping down face first in to the mattress. It felt so good to just lay down and the hotel beds were a lot more comfortable than they actually looked. Definitely beat sleeping in a public library or a weird coworker's couch.
Selene grabbed a pillow to tuck under her head, and kicked off her shoes in to the floor in the same motion. She had her eyes closed already, but offered up a wide grin.
"If you get me a milkshake too, Nick, I'll be your beeeest friend." Gods, that's a request she hadn't made in forever. Every time he went out with her sister, she'd ask for them to bring back something for her and she'd be their best friend. It could have been a century ago for how long it seemed!