Monday, August 28, 2017

Good to the Last Drop, Chapter 4: The Trap

I should probably mention that today is the release of my novel Good to the Last Drop

Here's chapter 4, though.

Chapter 4: The Trap

January 2nd, San Francisco

Marco Catalano, being unusually stubborn for someone who was both male and only partly Irish, walked through the evening, looking around the crypts of San Francisco to see if there was anything that didn’t know well enough to stay dead. In the back of his head, instead of a casual prayer, he had started going through a rock rendition of the Our Father, in German. It was a good tune to have while hunting.
Because Gregorian chant is not something I want to hunt vampires to.
He turned and looked at the new girl—Jackie. “Hi there.” He looked her over and sighed. “You look quite nice this evening.” He glanced at his watch. “Or should I say morning?”
She shrugged. “Just call it ‘late. What are you doing out?”
He looked out at the dark of Grant Street in Chinatown—he was in between cemeteries at the moment. “Hunting, or going for a walk. Something like that.”
Oh. Mind if I join you?”
Sure, I might as well be falling apart.”
They continued to walk down the street of the opulent neighborhood until they reached the docks along Fisherman’s Wharf. The skyline of the next city glowed in the not too distant horizon, along with a harbor cruise ship that was traveling around the bay with its continuously partying passengers. This view was lost on the two patrollers, mainly because all they saw was two women about to be sucked dry. Two targets were good for the concentration.
I’ll go for the one on the left, you the right. Sound good to you?” Marco looked over at Jackie to see whether she agreed, and found the space where she had been standing empty. He looked up to see her going at it with the two vampires.
Marco sighed. “Or we can just charge into the fight without thinking. That’s a classic.”
Marco pulled out a turpentine-soaked stake and headed after the newbie. One of the melodramatically-dressed Goth vampires saw him coming and charged head on, letting out a stereotypical horrid hiss. He briefly considered stapling the vamps hand to his forehead. His angst would send him to dust more quickly.
Dress normally, would you?” Marco growled, dodging to the right. “This isn’t a game.” Marco rammed the stake home as though he were clothes-lining the vampire.
Marco plucked the stake out, and placed it back in his belt as the vampire turned into dust. “Waste not, want not.”
Marco looked over to see Jackie being backed up against the railing by the other equally-overdressed vampire. He was about to go and help her, when he took a second look. He knew he didn’t need glasses, yet he could swear he saw a look of enjoyment on the young woman’s face.
Marco rolled his eyes. Yana had spent weeks fretting over how scary he was, and she had managed to hook up with a girl who seemed to enjoy killing the damned as much as he did.
Without hesitation, she leaped on the vampire, grabbed his head, and started making out with him… it seemed. She was actually spitting water into his mouth.
The vampire pushed her away and dropped to his knees, grabbing his throat as it disappeared under his fingers. Jackie smiled as his neck collapsed in on itself, along with the rest of his body. He then turned into dust, spilling into the breeze and blowing all over her hands, clothes, face, and hair.
Poor baby, can’t handle his drink.”
Jackie stood, faced away from the dust and took a deep breath, exhaling a deep sigh of satisfaction. She faced Marco, who still stood at a distance.
Pity, I get ready to leave, I get someone on the team who might be interesting.
Too much?” she asked, sounding surprisingly innocent for someone who had basically poured acid down his throat. But still, she was pretty nonchalant.
Jackie laughed and gave him a smile. Even from where he stood he could see her eyes dancing in the dim street light with the satisfaction of the kill. He found himself staring – he wasn’t used to being on the other side of that. “Let’s get you home.”
Why?” she protested.
Marco laughed. “I know you seem to be enjoying yourself, but as you can see…” He held up his watch. It was two hours to sunup.
Jackie sighed and replaced the holy water flask on her hip. “Suppose I can’t continue hunting when the sun is out.”
Not unless you have a ready answer for why you’re walking around with sharp pointy things in San Francisco.”
The two exchanged a look of amusement. They both knew that technically, they could go hunting in the daytime, but neither was up to the job of explaining why they were kicking open random crypt doors, looking inside for a few seconds, and then closing the door as if nothing had happened.
Jackie offered her hand. “It was nice meeting you.”
Marco walked up and yet again took her hand. “And where do you think you’re going?”
A slight sense of alarm took over Jackie. “I’m going home.” She pointed over her shoulder. “I was planning to walk down Grant.”
He gave her and incredulous look. “Uh huh. And then what?”
As she gave her answer, she realized how ridiculous it sounded. “Walk halfway across town.” She looked up at him and offered an embarrassed grin. He sighed, and walked over with her to the curbside edge.
Where exactly are you taking me?”
I’m going to put you in a cab and send you home. And if you even think of paying the fare, I’ll break your arm off here and now.”
This stunned Jackie and allowed Marco to lead her along. She never heard someone force chivalry on another, and threaten them if they tried otherwise. She was quickly seeing that this guy Marco was completely, utterly, undeniably…nuts.
They reached a major street and Marco waved down a cab. The foreign driver rolled down his window and asked with a surprising lack of accent, “Where to?”
Marco looked over at Jackie, who was still dumbfounded by threatening kindness. “You need me to check your wallet for you?” he asked, a slight tone of impatience coming through.
He shook his head and gave the driver Yana’s address. “All right then.” She watched Marco as he opened the door for her. “In you go.”
Jackie walked around and stepped into the cab, looking back up at him. “You know you don’t have to do this. I can handle the—”
He cut her off. “Do you think I was kidding about breaking your arm?” She stopped mid-sentence and just blankly stared at him. “Get in the cab.”
Without reaction from her, he placed her hand at her side and closed the door. He looked at the driver. “So how much is the damage?”
The cabby looked back at her, still a bit dumbstruck, and replied, “For her? Twenty.” Marco reached into his back pocket, pulled out a relatively small wad of twenties and handed one to him.
Before the driver took off, Marco called his attention again. “By the way? If you try anything, just remember I have your license plate memorized, and have no qualms about hunting you down and treating you with the same loving care that a white supremacist would have with you and yours. Am I understood?”
A look of pure horror emerged on the driver’s face as he mechanically nodded his agreement. “Good.” Marco pounded on the roof of the cab. “Tally-ho then.”
* * * *
Marco!” a voice snapped at him in the middle of the night. “Get up!”
His eyes snapped open. Yana was at his bedside. How did that happen?
We need to go, now!”
Marco kicked the covers off and rolled off the bed, onto his feet, still fully dressed, with a knife in his hand. “What is it?”
Yana looked over her shoulder. “No time, we have to go, now!”
He stopped, glanced at the door, fully locked and bolted. “Well, whatever you are, you’re not omniscient. At least theres that much.”
He looked over his shoulder and launched a side kick, his foot going through Yana’s chest, like a hologram. He smiled broadly as he pulled his leg back. “I didn’t know vampires could have astral projection. Or are you a ghost?”
The projected image of Yana smiled, speaking now with a slight Russian accent. “Glad to meet you, Marco. I’ve had my eye on you ever since you killed my brother.”
Marco winced, taken aback for a moment. A Russian accent meant a Russian vampire, and there was only one other Russian vampire that he knew outside of Amanda, and he had been killed in Brooklyn the year before. Which meant…
Marco smiled drolly. “Yes, your brother Mikhail. I hate to point out that Nuala killed him.” He raised a brow. “Let me guess, either you’re outside, or you have minions waiting? How absolutely cliché. Hell, you’re his vengeful brother, should I assume you’re a twin?”
The Yana image gave him Yana’s puppy-dog eyes and innocently asked, “Why would I have any minions?”
Marco backed up onto his bed. “You couldn’t count on me being cooperative enough to leave my room, and you can’t get in without an invite. You’d have them because I’m a scary bastard, otherwise why waste a demon and an assassin on me? I’m honored that the Council still thinks I’m a threat.”
Yana” raised a brow. “Threat? To me?”
The New Yorker’s eyes narrowed. The vampire didn’t contradict Marco’s statement about the Council, so that confirmed his supposition. The image didn’t say us, but me—which gave Marco a guess that the Council had only the one vampire left to go. “I know that you can be beaten. Otherwise, you’d just come out and strike. That you’re resorting to, well, this, means you want to wear us down, so you can kill us.”
Let’s find out,” the fake Yana said. “You’ve said you are what you’re needed to be. Well, I need you dead!”
An ax hit the door.

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