The Vampire Hunter:
by Jp © January 2000
No portion of this text may be used or reproduced in whole or part without the writers expressed written permission.
Disclaimers: Even though these lovely young ladies may remind us of some other lovely ladies and this is just for fun…..in the words of Daffy Duck, ‘they're mine, mine! All mine!'
Other Stuff: A few choice words may pop up, a little grrl on grrl action (sorry, nothing too graphic, I haven't acquired that skill yet), there's a little breaking up to make up, and we are dealing with Vampires and a sword wielding Amazon so be on the look out for a couple buckets o' blood.
By the Ways: Once again I'm putting my landscaping abilities to use, ha! Book I, takes place in my own cryptic version of Washington D.C., so a lot of the places are very real, as to how to get there, I would just use the subway. Book II, takes place in Louisiana, and let's just say Mardi Gras is not conducive to building memory.
Peace & Blessings: Special thank yous to all the encouragement and helpful words of critique that people gave me on my first effort. See, it really works because here I am again. Inspirational bigups to the Food network and the sweet riffs of the late Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Chet Baker. Credits to Michal Salat, his royal badness (Prince), Bugs Bunny, Whoopi Goldberg and whoever else I borrowed chapter titles from. ; )
Last Words: You see something you like let me know, you see something I could fix let me know, if you've got a three year old rash and a bone to pick with the establishment don't bother; other than that I'm all ears: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: ‘Larieux' is pronounced like La Rue.
Random Tuesday, 9:59:46p.m. City Street.
The asphalt was nothing but a blur of black as her feet pounded the pavement. Long blonde locks streamed out behind her as she ran. Her chest was burning, her breathing labored. The rush of footfalls from behind alerted her that her attackers were still following. She made a quick turn between two parked cars and skirted down a dark alley. The lack of light did not register to her eyes, as her pupils naturally dilated wide to sweep in the faintest shaft of light. Her legs throbbed and her lungs were begging for rest, but now was not the time. As she drew close to the end of the alley, she saw a 7-foot high fence blocking her escape. She let out a huff of air as she pushed her body into overdrive. She ran at an angle, meeting with the wall of the building to her left. She used the juncture of the fence and the wall as a simple ladder. Her momentum carried her five feet up the wall and then she pushed off the wall with her left foot and somersaulted over the fence.
Her feet touched the ground and she was off again. She didn't have to look behind her to see her shadows leaping over the fence as if they were playing a simple game of leap frog. She laughingly thought that perhaps being a real Vampire did have its perks. She zipped across the moderately busy city street. Dodging rushing cars, she avoided the last minute swerve of a truck, as she leapt in the air and dove over the hood of a parked car, tucking her body and then rolling as she hit the ground. She made a quick decision, and rolled off the curb underneath a car. She lay flat and willed her heart to stop pounding so hard. Even in the dark, she could see her breath as it streamed out of her nose. She watched as six pairs of shoes ran past the car. She listened as they suddenly stopped. She smiled to herself as she listened to their labored breathing. Nice to know they get winded too. They began to speak in their native tongue, as written in the book of Aramis, but she understood them well.
"Where'd she go?" A gruff voice shot out.
"Fuck!" came a labored reply.
"What do we do Xander?" a female voice asked.
A wad of spit was expelled towards one of the parked cars. It landed just under the front tire. "We split up is what. She can't be that far, besides she needs to rest, so she's probably near by." Silver-grey eyes scanned the city street quickly. "Me and Thanos will go to the left. Sala--you and Shrieve will head off to the right. Cain and Micah, you two double back. We'll make the circuit and meet back here in about ten minutes. Give a holler if you find her." Five heads nodded as the trench-coated figures prepared to leave. "And remember, don't kill her, he needs her alive." Again, five heads nodded.
She watched from her hidden position as the feet in front of her dispersed. She counted to 100 and then rolled out from under the car. She stood up and shook off the remainder of spittle that was on her hand, letting out a quiet groan as she wiped the residue on her jeans. She took a mental note of which way the six had gone and ran straight ahead. If she could make it to the park, she might be able to make it to the cemetery, and if she could make it there, she could reach the church. They wouldn't dare follow her there, on account that it was sanctuary, and on the point that they would probably spontaneously combust on crossing the threshold. It was a good plan she decided, as she ran with renewed vigor.
It almost worked.
Xander's lanky frame made it easy for him to hide behind the large oak tree. Thanos squatted by Xander's booted feet and waited. He spoke in a voice barely above a whisper, but Xander picked up his voice none the less. "Are you sure she'll come this way, Xan?" The svelte man did not even cut his eyes towards the man at his feet. He scratched idly at his goatee and looked off into the open field of the park, his eyes allowing him to see further than normal into the dark. "I've been chasing this chick for three months. Trust me, she's heading for the church. She's got nowhere else to go, and sunrise is hours away." A wide grin spread across thin lips, revealing the two hard points of fangs. "Gotcha'." Thanos dared not lean out from his cover, but he could pick up her breathing. She was breathing hard as she zoomed past the row of ancient oaks, oblivious to the two men.
A brief moment of nostalgia hit her as she remembered that tumbling through a pile of leaves was added excitement to family football games on crisp November days. She wished that it was her brother tackling her to the ground, as the air was expelled from her body with a shoulder to her back. Her attackers' momentum sent them sliding for a few feet, until the grass slowed them. Suddenly the weight of the man was removed from her 5'4" frame only to be substituted with a rousing kick to her midsection. Green eyes snapped shut as pain blossomed through her compact frame. She rolled with the kick and tried to get up. She was roughly assisted as Xander grabbed a chunk of blonde hair and pulled her up. She only got a fleeting look into silver-gray eyes as he drove his skull into her face. Her knees buckled involuntarily and she slumped to the ground. She fought hard to stay conscious as her attacker let out a shrill call. There was silence for only a moment, and then she heard an echo of shrill calls reverberating in her skull.
Xander chuckled with amusement as the woman he scooped off the ground continued to struggle. "I've got you this time girlie. No escape tonight." The blonde clawed futilely at the hand in her hair. Soon she was wishing for the sweet certainty of death as her arms were pinned back and fists begin to pummel her body. The beating seemed to last forever. Her muscled frame tried to absorb as many blows as it could, but it soon became too much. Her mind was hazy with the promise of unconsciousness. Her head lolled back onto the shoulder of the man at her back. Xander laughed and licked his lips appreciatively at the expanse of smooth flesh exposed to him. His own pulse twitched as her vein pulsed beneath his lips. Xander looked up to his cohorts with a wicked smile. "You think he'd mind if I took a taste?" Laughter rang out among the six of them until a disembodied voice moved through the clearing. A quiet alto spoke the words, "I'd mind."
Six heads whipped about as they tried to find the owner of the voice. The blonde in Xander's arms picked up her head slightly, searching as well. Xander gripped his charge hard about the arms and bellowed out in English. "Show yourself!"
The deep voice spoke again, this time stronger, and closer. "In time, Xander, but for now, let the girl go."
As the sound of his own name reached his ears, Xander's face glazed over in an expression of recognition. The look was mirrored in the rest of the 5 as well. It was her. He darted his eyes about the bare treetops and began taking small steps with the blonde still in his arms. His brethren begin to spread out as well, taking defensive positions, frantically turning their heads about, looking over their shoulders. "Fuck off Hunter!"
Micah threw a steely brown-eyed gaze towards Xander. "Xander, take the girl, we'll hold her off." Xander, knew it would be his only shot. He cursed in his dead language and spit on the ground, a look of disgust, marring his baby-face. Before he could reply, the Hunter responded.
"You'll never make it , Micah." The words rolled off her lips in a sing-song manner. It was at that, that the blonde managed to open one teary green eye. She wanted to see her, even if it was just for a moment. It was ironic actually, that she was about to be saved by this woman. The woman that her kind avoided at all costs, was going to save her life, and then probably take it in the same moment. As scared as she was, the timbre of the woman's rich contra alto, was calming and surprisingly erotic. Her voice licked at her insides, like a lover whispering sweet nothings in the afterglow. The faintest of smiles crossed the blondes' lips. ‘Nice going, Clarion, you're about to die, and you can only think of sex.' "Leave her be Xander, and I'll make it quick."
"Fuck you Hunter!" Micah growled, bearing his fangs. "Leave, Xander!"
Xander gripped the girl about the waist and turned, intending to make a run. Her body pulled away from him as effortlessly as a feather floating to the ground. There was only a hint of sound as the steel of a blade removed his head from his body. He and the blonde fell away from each other like two crumbling columns. Both falling into a dark slumber that shielded them from the present massacre; only hers would not be permanent. However, she had no need to witness the skill of the woman who had momentarily saved her. She did not need to gaze upon the curtain of blue-black hair that cradled dark features to know it was her. She did not need to take in the six feet of her frame to know it was her. Nor was it necessary for her to look into the fearsome gaze colored indigo to know it was her. In more than 200 years of life, she herself had never actually seen her, but there was no mistake: it was The Vampire Hunter.
CH 1: An Introduction
Perhaps it was because I was born at the turn of the century. Or maybe it was because my parents consummated their love in one of the Pyramids at Giza. Whatever the case, I have lived for 800 years, and until I am cut down by my own blade I will probably continue to live for 800 more. I was born a girl, Talon Subira in Egypt in the year eleven fifty-nine. My mother was a servant in the court of Al-Adil the ruler of Egypt in its modern golden age. Her forbidden love affair with a soldier from the Crusades produced me. Whether it was the deep blue of my eyes or the strange mark that adorned my back, she knew I was an omen of evil, so she sold me to a childless Japanese farmer and his wife. Upon their death in my first full year of life, I was abandoned to the elements of nature, but I did not perish. I was found on the countryside, by a band of Ronin, and taken in by a middle-aged warrior. A week later when I spoke my first word, calling him mother, he smiled at me and raised my naked form high in the air, baptizing me in the light of the moon. I was reborn Yoshima Miakoda, first born son of Ito Matasuri.
I traveled with my father and my uncles (mataes) until the age of 16, when the time of the Calling came upon me. I became violently ill for several days until I finally exhausted my body and slipped into a coma. During my sleep, while my guardians prayed over my form and administered what medical attention they thought I needed, my mind was invaded by visions. I was assailed by blood filled images of fanged demons, which wore the faces of humans. Just when it seemed I could take no more, the bloody images faded from view and were replaced by an unfamiliar landscape, so real that it was like a map. This map would take me across a continent to Greece where others marked like myself gathered to learn of our fate. In the year twelve twenty-five, I along with seven others, left the confines of our home in Athens, spread out among the continents, and swore to uphold our oaths as protectors of innocents and Vampire killers.
After 800 years, I am one of two that remain from the group that left Athens. At the turn of the century I will be the oldest Hunter still alive and I will be one of the ten Hunters that remain. My kind has been decimated for the last 400 years and I will surely find myself falling upon my own blade, unless I find that which is key to my existence and key to human existence. The Daywalker must be found, or it will be over before it has begun.
With a flourish, the tall dark woman resheathed the Katana in the scabbard at her back, and walked to the limp body of the blonde. She pushed back the length of her coat as she squatted next to the golden head of the girl who lay on her side. With a touch that would have no doubt surprised the blonde girl as gentle, the dark woman rolled the girl onto her back and took in her features. She drew a slender finger down the pale column of a neck as she examined the girl for bites. The dark woman found herself attempting to smile, as she saw no marks on the girls' neck. An unfamiliar emotion of relief swept through her tall frame and for only the second time in 800 years, the woman hesitated in her decision. She faintly caressed the bruised face and willed away her swollen flesh. As angry purple bruises began to fade to a somber red, the blonde girl stirred.
The dark woman pulled back her hand as the girl emitted a soft moan. Reflexively, the blue-eyed warrior shrank back, as thoughts of what to do ran through her head. ‘Just stand up Yoshi. Just stand up and walk away. Just stand up…make sure she gets to the church and then walk away.' Yoshi decided she liked that idea, but before she could stand she was trapped in the jade gaze of the girl at her feet. Yoshi swore that the air was swallowed up around her. She hadn't seen green that color since she, her father, and her mateas came across a jade depository in the hill sides of Kyoto. The green eyed girl stared deep into Yoshi eyes and breathed out the word that the dark woman searched for. The word ‘beautiful' fell from pink lips and then just as quickly her eyelids fluttered closed and she gave in again to the dark. The dark woman raised up on her heels and rocked forward onto her knees. She breathed out the word yes, and drew a hovering hand down the length of the girl's body, never once touching her. She closed her eyes and continued her task. It was the closest the warrior had come to prayer in over a century. As she gently laid her bundle down on the steps of St. Francis, she took one last look at the pale beauty, having no idea it would only be through faith that she would survive what lay ahead.
* * *
CH 2: The Morning After
A pink hand shot out from underneath a striped comforter and knocked the ringing phone to the floor. A small hand blindly explored the hardwood floor until it connected with the fallen phone and dragged it under the comforter. A voice laded with sleep and two octaves lower than normal spoke into the handset.
"Good Lord, Claire, baby that you? You sound like death warmed over and twice reheated."
A light chuckle tickled the ears of the man on the other end. "That's certainly what I feel like."
"Jesus, Claire, you sound like my uncle Louie and he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and is working on a good case of bronchitis." The sweet lilt to the man's voice made her smile.
"Well, that and the fact that he gargles with glass."
Laughter filled the receiver. "Hey, there's one in every family. Anyway, how ya feeling and when the hell are you bringing your ass to work? You got lucky yesterday, but it's going on 10:30 and Marianna is liv-id." He punctuated the word with the sucking of his teeth.
The bundle of covers moved with a groan. "Marianna's livid because whatever she stuck up her ass has died now, and must be expelled into freedom."
A giggle crackled over the line. "Maybe she's not getting the right thing stuck up her ass."
A groan. "You're a sick man Riley."
Another laugh, followed by the clicking of a tongue. "Queer-yes. Sick-no."
"Yeah, well takes one to no one."
"To be a sicko or a queer?"
"Ugh, shut up you shit. Now look, what's up? I need something to tell her highness or she's going to come and hunt you down." He quickly depressed the button on his pen in rapid succession as he listened to her take in a breath.
"Ahh-fuck. Can't you just tell her I died and went to Jerusalem."
He could hear the covers rustle as she kicked inside her cocoon. "Tut, tut, cutie."
She mumbled half into the phone half into her pillow, "Man fuck me."
"Normally, that's not my gig, but for you Claire I'll try anything once."
She growled covering his laugh. "Shut it you freak. Face it Riley, you're a big fat dyke."
He sucked his teeth. "Oh yeah, and you're a Victorian gentleman, standing in a pasture, quite like the- one- in- the- painting -you're -supposed- to- be- restor--ing." His voice reached a melodious tone as he finished his sentence.
She raised a blonde eyebrow at his comment and spoke without thought. "Actually…" she stopped short and smiled to herself.
"Actually what?" He was genuinely curious at her comeback.
"Nada. Uh, 12:30 I'll be there."
He snorted. "Clarion Larieux, if your pretty little ass isn't in the lab at 12:30, I am so shoving my foot up your ass."
She laughed. "Just like I like it big daddy."
"Yeesh, nasty image there." He shook his head. "12:30 Larieux."
"Smooches, Riley, and yeah I'll be there."
She hung up before he could say something smart. The mass of blue and white comforter stretched and rippled as Clarion kicked at her covers like a 2 year-old having a tantrum. Finally, a disheveled blonde head appeared from under the comforter. She hung up the phone on its base and she sat up in her bed and rubbed at the grainy deposits in the corners of her eyes. Clarion stretched her arms and yawned and then opened her eyes fully for the second time in two days.
Somewhere in the night, Clarion lost her sleep shirt so she stood topless in front of her bathroom mirror. She blindly swatted at the light switch and physically repelled as the light invaded still sensitive green eyes. She sat down on top of the lid of the toilet and slowly dragged her hands down her face, distorting her features for a brief second. She propped her elbows on her knees and cupped her face in her hands. "Clarion, Clarion what have you gotten yourself into chèr?" The bouncy cadence of a Louisiana accent filled her ears as she stared at her reflection.
Most of the bruises had vanished from her body, leaving almost no evidence of the pummeling she had taken 48 hours ago. A pink crescent shape mark under her right eye was all that remained of the marks to her face. And while her ribs were decidedly still tender, no marks remained. Clarion flexed her muscles , both for the vanity of the action and testing her muscles. She laughed at her antics. "Oh yeah, bubba, you're the next WWF wrestling champ. She chuckled deeply as she thought on the boys she considered her brothers and the impromptu wrestling matches they engaged in when she last lived the Parish. The smile that so easily came to her face disappeared as quickly when she remembered how she had ended up so far away from home. Her thoughts ran heavy in her mind, so much so, that she did not take notice that she was speaking aloud. "I can never apologize enough can I? May God forgive me and may he have mercy on us all. Mercy on us all." Her voice trailed to a whisper as she reached and touched her reflection. She sighed and then let out a groan, slapping her toned thighs with her hands. "Allons ch¾ r, allons!"
* * *
CH 3: What if the Hokey Pokey is really what it's all about
In 800 years Yoshima Miakoda had become the model of human perfection. The fluid black material of her Gi snapped against an imaginary foe as she sliced her katana through the air and ended her drill. Black hair rested between her shoulder blades and cascaded half way down the wide expanse of her back, obscuring her sportsbra. She stood with her arms outstretched and let her head loll back. If anyone else lived out by the abandoned warehouse, they would have seen a woman that looked to be reveling in her own solid physique, that was as defined as it was feminine. She appeared to bathe in the sun that streamed in through the floor to ceiling windowed wall of her loft. The early afternoon sun warmed her olive hued features as its rays played across her muscled form. She stood that way, arms out stretched still holding her sword, head dipped back-- open-- for a long minute of silence. Suddenly the reverent silence was broken by the distinct growl-like texture of John Fogerty. Long black hair whipped itself into a frenzy as the tall woman placed her sword on the stand and bounced her way to the shower adding a rich, yet slightly off-key alto to "Traveling Band."
The tall woman glided into the back door of the book store so quietly that the blue-haired youngster tapping away at the laptop jumped three feet off of his stool at the sound of his name. The stoic woman cracked a faint smile as she walked around the panting form of the young man.
"For the love of Pete, Yosh, you trying to kill me!" A be-speckled boy no older than 17 turned wide brown eyes on the tall woman.
She ignored his glare as she hung up her jacket and went to pour some tea. "You cannot be a Samurai if you cannot hear." She put just the right amount of sarcasm and condescension in her voice to elicit a smile from the young boy.
"Hey save that grasshopper crap for someone else." He jabbed a stubby finger in the air and snorted with laughter.
"It's true. If you can take the pebble from my hand, you will know all." She held out her hand in front of the stout boy's face until he attempted to swat at it. She laughed moving her hand from his reach. "I see you still got that dirt on your chin." She tapped a tapered finger at the tiny triangle of hair on his chin.
He pouted and turned back to the computer. "Hey, it's a manly look."
She shrugged her shoulders with a chuckle as sipped from her tea. "Whatever you say Nate. Don't see it, but whatever you say." She leaned against the counter and watched the boy type away at the keys. "Hacking again are we?"
"Oh no." He shook his head vigorously. "Two nights in County was more than enough for me, thank you by the way." He curled his lip up at the smirking woman and then smiled as she rolled her eyes.
"Tully up front?"
"Did the new books come in yet?"
Nate didn't look up as he continued typing. "Uh, yeah, Gregor called and he'll have them here by three. And Gregor had a nice expletive filled message to give to you in regards to your uh, how shall I put this…persistent queries."
The usually reserved woman rumbled with laughter. "I like the way you put that. Be back in a few."
She exited the narrow hallway that lead to the front of the store and placed her mug on the counter as she walked to the bookcase. The mahogany colored young man squatting at her feet looked up and shot her a smile.
"Yosh, ‘sup." The boy stood and touched fists with the tall woman.
"Hey Tully. Nate got you out here doing all the hard stuff."
He blew out air. "Whatever, I figure I'd let him sit back there and read his porn until you came in and put him to work." They shared a laugh. "Oh hey," he jabbed his thumb into the air, "that fountain is on the fritz again."
The tall woman nodded and walked off to the right corner of the store that housed a 3 foot high stone carved waterfall. She grabbed her leatherman out of her back pocket and began fiddling with the wires behind the waterfall. "Hey Tully, did the rakes come in?"
"Yeah, I just opened a box."
"Good, cuz, bird man will probably be by today looking for his rake." Tully laughed at the nickname they had given to the eccentric man who came in the store every few days always looking for a new rake for his miniature Japanese garden. After snipping the frayed ends of a loose wire, the waterfall streamed to life once again and Yoshi stood taking in the breadth of the store. She crossed her arms across her chest as she watched Tully stack books and listened to the swift tattoo of Nate on the computer.
Yoshi inherited the store she stood in 10 years ago, when its previous owner died a valiant death aiding her in her cause. She promised him that she would take over the management of the small bookstore and continue to take in strays like he had done for her so many years ago. She breathed deep at the fresh memory of the old man, although it seemed like a lifetime ago. The modest book store specialized in Asian culture and was doing surprisingly well as Japanese philosophy filtered into the American mainstream. Yoshi took a gander at the Koi swimming idly in the window display and let out a satisfied sigh. She grabbed the morning paper and took a seat behind the counter as she awaited the first wave of lunchtime browsers.
She stretched her legs out in one of the cubby holes of the counter top and snapped the paper in the air as she noticed a folded page. She spoke over the newsprint. "Anything interesting going on in the world Tully?" The boy smiled, "check out page six" he retorted. They often played this game. He'd run across something peculiar in the paper and try to see if he beat her to a piece of information. He'd tried twice this week all ready, coming up empty handed with false alarms and old news both times. Third time's the charm.
Booted feet hit the ground with a thud. Brown eyes were patiently awaiting Yoshi's blue-eyed stare. She dropped the paper and stared at Tully. "Nate! In here." The blue-haired boy was by her side like he'd been waiting in the hallway. "Talk." He walked around the counter and Tully joined him by his side.
"This is the fourth one in the last four months. All the victims, pretty much fit the same description. Long blonde hair, hazel to green eyes, between 5'2" and 5'6", and an athletic build."
Tully added. "All the victims have lived within a 5 to 8 mile radius of St. Francis and most have been killed miles away from it. Two all the way on the other side of town." The three sat in silence for a moment, Yoshi taking in the comments and the boys awaiting her answer. She absently pulled at her lip as she looked past the boys and then arched an eyebrow as she spoke.
"Why's this important?"
Neither boy could fight the smiles of accomplishment that graced their faces. Nate spoke first. "Well, number one, they don't operate like this. It's not like they have fetish week or something. Nothing about these attacks are random."
Tully nodded his head as he leaned on the counter and started talking. "Secondly, this has nothing to do with a meal. These women have normally been reported missing for more than two days and then found after they've been dead for only a few hours. The second woman was reported missing for a week before she was found."
Yoshi wasted no time in asking in her next question. "So, that means what?"
"It means this shit is planned is what." Tully thumped a fist on the counter.
Yoshi glanced at a smiling Nate. "You agree?"
"Hell yeah. I think it also means their looking for something."
The dark woman let out a huff of air. She traced her jaw with a finger as she looked at both boys for a moment. "Hmm. Probably means they know something I don't right?"
Two heads nodded reluctantly. "Maybe, they just know what they're looking for?" Tully's attempt at a bright side came out like a question.
She arched an eyebrow and grunted. It was the equivalent of a smile. They sat in silence for a short eternity until she broke it much to their relief. "When do my books get here?"
"Three." Nate practically shouted.
Yoshi shook her head at their obvious nervousness. She managed a crooked grin as she sat up straight. "Good job guys." Two held breaths were released into nervous laughter. Tully turned and went back to the bookcase and Nate headed back to the back room, only stopping at the sound of his name. He turned around and cut off Yoshi with a wave of his hand.
"Don't even, I'm all ready on it." He smiled crookedly and bounded into the back. The tall woman nodded, continued sipping at her tea, and drumming her fingers into the counter as she silently willed 3:00 to come.
* * *
CH 4: You put your right foot in…put your right foot out…
Riley Witherspoon swiveled in the leather chair and leaned his close-cropped head out of the door to catch a glimpse of the blonde as she tried to make it to her office before Marianna intercepted her. Clarion stuck out her tongue and wiggled her eyebrows as she saw the thin man smiling at her. She was so busy making faces at Riley that she barely had time to whip her portfolio behind her back when Marianna came around the corner and stepped in front of her office door.
"Geez, Mare, scared me there." Clarion stopped in her tracks and held a free hand to her chest. Marianna was only two inches taller than Clarion but she wore four inch heels, just so people would have to look up to her. Actually, it just made the bone thin woman look absolutely gangly and out of proportion. Platinum blonde hair was pulled back in an impossibly tight bun, only adding to her pinched features, making her look like a snobby Ostrich.
Marianna pursed barely existent lips and spoke. "Clarion Larieux," she spat ", late again are we?"
Clarion guffawed as she stepped back. "Late, no way. I've been here for ten minutes. I ran out to the front to ask Charlie about some tickets he promised me." She spied the stocky man out of the corner of her eye and pointed a finger in his direction. "See, you can ask him." When Marianna turned her slender neck in the man's direction, Clarion zipped her portfolio out from behind her back and sent it flying into the waiting arms of Riley. He caught the leather case with a slap and slapped it down on the desk, just as Marianna turned her beaked nose face back in Clarion's direction. She eyed the small woman suspiciously and ran her tongue across her teeth in a sinister manner.
"Anyway, Larieux, I need that pasture picture done today and we need to clean out the blue room to make room for the college exhibit. Can you handle that Larieux?"
‘If you can handle me sucking your eyeballs out through a straw than sure' she thought. Instead, she used her perkiest voice possible and let her Southern drawl fall over every syllable. "Why sure thang, darlin'. By-e." Marianna rolled her eyes and stalked off down the hall at her awkward gait. She was barely out of ear shot, before Clarion entered her office and began laughing with Riley.
Riley hi-fived the woman as she tossed her coat on the hook and proceeded to sit on the edge of her desk. "You are priceless sweetie."
"Whatever. So what's up?"
"Well you're going to tell me what happened to you on Tuesday and what's with the little speed bump you got under your eye.
"Oy." She ran a small hand through her hair. "Just me being adventurous as always." ‘That's putting it lightly.' She sighed and tousled her hair and then stared at Riley quietly for a moment.
"What's going on Claire?"
"Do you think I should do something with my hair?"
From the yelp that the man let out, it could have been mistaken that he just won the 64 million dollar jackpot. He hopped up from the chair and grabbed the wide-eyed Clarion by the hands. "Are you serious, Clarion?"
"Uh..I don't know, but you're scaring me, and you're hurting me." She smiled and then laughed as Riley dropped her hands and did a little impromptu jig. "Calm down man, it's just a suggestion."
"But a suggestion that I think is long overdue, my dear."
"Oh you do?"
"Un huh. A suggestion that we should talk about as we get some lunch."
Clarion threw back her head in laughter. "Riley, I just got here."
"P-shaw! Fuck her! Let's go." Clarion couldn't contain her laughter as she was pulled off her desk and guided to her coat. "We need to discuss hair." Riley added a decidedly New York accent to his words as he did his best impression of a Long Island mother.
"All right. Don't get all verklempt on me." Clarion shot back in her own impression.
The two friends were walking arm and arm down the strip gossiping about some rich lady's supposed face lift, when Clarion stopped their strolled. Riley stopped a second later and turned to find his friend eyeing the sign on the window of a small book store. The Orchid it read. He continued to read the door, finding that it specialized in Asian culture.
"In the market for one of those little Zen gardens honey?"
Clarion laughed and turned to Riley. "Nah, just doing a little research."
She shrugged. "Thinking about introducing an exhibit to the museum. Maybe silk screen prints or something. Not sure, but I need to start somewhere right." The truth was Clarion was just intrigued with the woman that saved her. At least she thought it was a woman. She felt an involuntary shiver run up her spine as she remember the sweet husk of the Hunter's voice. It had to be her, there was only one woman Hunter left and Clarion wanted to find her. Just to thank her and then go running to the hills before she sniffed out her secret and then impaled her on her blade. The brief remembrance of piercing blue eyes caused her to shiver again, this time alerting Riley to her discomfort.
"You okay Claire?"
"Yeah. Hey, why don't you go and put in our order and let me run in here for just a second." Riley stomped his foot on the ground. "Oh don't be a baby. By the time that guy takes the order, messes it up, and redoes it as something completely new I will be in and out and by your side. ‘Kay." Riley grumbled something unintelligible and then stalked off to the deli two doors down. She laughed at his show and then entered the store.
The ringing of chimes caused Tully to raise his head from the pile of books on the floor. As his eyes fell on the green eyed blonde standing in the doorway he almost fell over. He scrambled to his feet as she flashed him a bright smile. Tully took in the rich chocolate color of the woman's slacks and the deep tan of her cashmere swing coat and almost lost himself. Clarion took his appreciation in stride as she widened her smile.
She raised an eyebrow as she looked up and touched a hand to her forehead. "I knew I shouldn't have gotten that tattoo on my forehead, do you think it's too much?"
The absurd question snapped Tully out of his stare. "I'm sorry, what?"
"The tattoo? Oh, I'm sorry, I- uh, I'm sorry."
She touched a hand to his shoulder. "It's okay, really." She removed her hand as the boy smiled nervously.
"Sorry, um, can I help?"
"Yes, I think you can." She clapped her hands together. "I'm looking for some books on Japanese warriors."
"Really." He nonchalantly glanced behind him, silently willing Nate to look at the damn monitor. "Well, what kind of warrior?" He decided stalling would be best. ‘C'mon on Nate!'
"What kind, oh boy. Um, little help here."
"Well, I mean, you've got Samurai, Ronin, who technically are Samurai, Ninjas, mythical, real, anime. There's a lot."
Clarion let out a huff. "Maybe I should have put some more thought into this." She nervously chewed her bottom lip.
Sensing her want to exit, Tully raised his hands. "One sec." ‘She's gonna kill me' "Hey! Yoshi! Need ya out front!" The boy's bellow caused Clarion to jump. "Sorry, boss is in the back." Clarion nodded as she smiled at the boy, handing him a business card and not noticing the entrance of the tall dark woman.
"Tully!, didn't I tell you to stop yelling like…"
Clarion had picked up her head at the sound of the voice, immediately locking jade eyes with two impossibly blue eyes. Blue eyes that she remembered. Tully looked from the blonde at his right back to the form of his boss and stepped from between them for fear their gazes would saw him in half with laser precision.
Yoshi lost her words as the searing gaze she had prepared for Tully melted into the undeniable leer of someone appreciating a thing of beauty. What the woman assumed was a freak reaction two nights ago, happened again. She hesitated. "Um," Yoshi swallowed hard, "you need something?"
Clarion did her best to reign in the lascivious smile that threatened to break across her features as she managed a subdued smile. ‘Oh yeah, need, want, crave, as in must have or head will explode!' She took a breath as she realized she hadn't answered the question. "Oh, yes, um. This nice young man here was explaining to me how I was way in over my head in my research and that perhaps I should narrow my sights."
Yoshi nodded and began walking towards the woman, surprised her legs were moving. Tully walked around the oblivious woman and stood at the counter with a red-faced Nate. "What is it that you're looking for?" Yoshi stepped a little closer and angled her head towards the bookcase, so the smaller woman didn't have to crane her neck to look up.
Clarion noticed the gesture and smiled. "I'm looking for a uh, woman. I mean..a warrior." Clarion shook her head and groaned. "I mean, I'm looking for a book on women warriors in Japan." She enunciated each word clearly more for her benefit than the tall woman who seemed to be fighting a smile.
An alto purred out, "A book on women warriors."
They shared a brief moment of silent staring that Yoshi broke with a gesture of her hand. "Then try this." She pulled down a soft cover book and handed it to the small blonde. Yoshi watched as the woman read the cover. "It should give you some good information and get you started. Help you narrow down your sights so to speak.
The blonde avoided the taller woman's eyes as she looked down and dug in her pocket for a ten dollar bill. She came up with it just as the front door swung open with a jangle. Four pairs of eyes were focused on the slim gentleman staring daggers at the blonde. "There you are! We need to go babe." He snapped his fingers for emphasis. Clarion gritted her teeth at the man. "I'll be there in two shakes Ri, just start walking." She smiled at him hard praying he got the hint. He tapped his watch without verbal comment and closed the door. Clarion let go of the breath she was holding and turned back around holding up the ten dollars. "For the book."
Yoshi mechanically removed the bill, scissoring it between her index and middle finger. It was subsequently snatched out by Nate only to be replaced by $2.15 cents. Yoshi barely noticed the action behind her as she and the blonde tried not to stare to hard at one another. Yoshi ignored the warmth of the young woman's hand as she laid out the change in it. Clarion pocketed her change and began to turn.
She stopped her turn and looked back at the woman who Clarion could swear was holding her breath. She shook the book in the air. "By the way thanks for the book and the help." She shot a glance at the two boys behind the register with the million dollar smiles plastered on their faces. ‘This should be easy.' "Oh and yes."
Yoshi stepped back and raised a slim eyebrow sky high. "Yes?"
"Yeah," Clarion smiled, "in answer to your question." She tossed her hand out and shrugged like it was the most logical statement.
The tall dark woman was clueless. "What question?"
Clarion chuckled. "About you wanting to get me coffee?"
Both eyebrows rose. "I want to get you coffee?"
Clarion clapped her hands together in excitement. "Well sure, I would love to get coffee with you, thanks for asking." She smiled brightly at the tall woman who was obviously fumbling for a thought. Clarion held in a laugh and spoke before the woman collapsed from the effort. "So, what time do you get off?"
A moment of silence went by as Yoshi fumbled with an answer, until Tully came to her rescue, yelling out "Six!"
Clarion had to look at the floor to keep from laughing. "Wow, you throw your voice really well. Six, that's great. I'll meet you here around six. Name's Yoshi, right?" The dark woman nodded dumbly. "Cool." She flashed the woman a toothy grin and then stepped to her right and waved at the two boys behind the counter. "Bye guys."
"Bye.", Nate and Tully sang out in unison. They continued waving until the woman was out of the door. The boys walked from behind the counter and stood next to the wide-eyed woman who was scratching her head in a gesture of disbelief and confusion. They stood quietly until Tully spoke.
"5'2" to 5'6", Nate added.
"Green eyes." Yoshi said in a breath.
The conversation came back to Tully. "Great a-
Yoshi cut him off. "Athletic build."
"That's what I was going to say."
"Uh huh." Nate added absently.
Suddenly, Yoshi released a groan. "Crap, what's her name, her name, I didn't…"
Tully quickly took out the small white card and held it out between Nate and himself. "Clarion. Giselle. Uh…Olathe. Larieux." Yoshi reached out without looking and took the card from Tully, reading for herself. She stared blankly out of the front window and held the card up and out to the side. "Nate."
The card was quickly snatched up by stubby fingers. "Got ya, if she's got a credit card, I've got her."
"Oh she's got credit cards all right." Tully rang out with a laugh.
"Yeah, way too many." Yoshi added monotonously. When she heard Nate scamper off she turned to Tully, who leaned on the counter doing his best to hide a smile. "Tully, I need your help." The boy piped up and smiled genuinely. "What do you do on a date?"
It was only out of the knowledge that she could rip him limb from limb that he didn't laugh out loud. He only shook his head at his tall friend and guided her to the stool behind the counter. "Don't worry Yosh, it's just coffee, not a date."
She rubbed her hands nervously on her jeans. "It's not?"
Tully smirked. "No. This is like a pre-date. It's pressureless, like a trial-run."
She focused blue eyes on soft brown. "That's what they do now."
‘So lost.' He gave Yoshi's shoulder a squeeze and leaned on the counter. "Yoshi, when's the last time you went on a date?"
Silence ensued for a hard ten seconds as a black eyebrow raised in thought. She scratched at her chin and then answered. "The cold war I think." Tully groaned. "No, maybe, the stock market crash."
Another moan, followed by a mumbled "Oh God."
"Nah, the Renaissance, yeah, yeah."
"No!", she shot back as if disgusted, "Harlem."
Tully threw his hands in the air. "Still. Oh man."
"Yeah, definitely Harlem." She wiggled her eyebrows sharing her own private joke as the young man stepped away and walked to one of the bookcases.
"There's got to be a Zen book of dating around here somewhere." He began to search the shelves until a wad of paper hit him in the skull. He turned back towards the woman, took note of the look on her face and broke into a laugh.
Yoshi sat up straight and looked around the store. "What?!"
He cocked an eyebrow. "You're pouting."
She let out an indignant "Ha". "I'm what?"
"Yeah, you're pouting. Your lip is basically on the floor." He pointed.
She attempted to look down at her lip and then in a huff she replaced her usual mask that catered to only two emotions: annoyed and opening up a can of whup-ass. "All right enough. Ugh! Do some work." She stood up with a thud. "I'm going for some lunch." She brushed by the young man and grabbed her jacket as she walked to the door. "And call Gregor and tell him, I want my freaking books!" With that she stalked out of the front door and turned left. The empty store quickly filled with the laughter of Nate and Tully.
Tully clutched his aching sides and through big breaths asked, "please say that's on tape?"
A renewed bout of laughter and a nod from Nate kept the boys busy with giggles as they went back to work.
* * *
CH 5: Fancy meeting you here
Fall was without a doubt, the best season of them all, followed closely by spring. Clarion had seen countless seasons, but she always longed for Fall. The colors, the smells, the air ripe with the cycle of life, the shorter days, the crisp nights, and the shorter days. Clarion let out a stream of curse words as she walked out of her office. That was the bad part about fall, the sun had this tendency of setting around 5:30p.m. And here it was 5:45. Clarion suddenly felt like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight. She'd be lucky if her carriage turned into a pumpkin and the horses into mice. As she rode the elevator down five flights she tried to decide between taking her car or just breaking into a leisurely run to cover the two blocks to the bookstore.
With her hand on the car door, she sighed inaudibly. ‘Shoulda' ran.' When she turned her head around, she was all smiles. There were four of them this time and she couldn't decide if that was good or bad. So instead of lashing out into some defensive position, Clarion did what she did best, she started talking. "You guys have got to be kidding right? I mean, do I have lo-jack on me or something? Cause you guys cannot be this good. Not that you're not good, but this is extremely irritating." She chuckled as she mentally sized up her four attackers. They were dressed in their standard uniform of black accented by long black trench coats. It was eerie, in that City of Angels meets The Matrix meets the Lost Boys of thing.
A pale-faced man wearing sunglasses and bearing his fangs stepped forward to speak. "C'mon now and we won't hav ta beat you." A strong English accent smothered his words.
Clarion smiled in interest. "You from London, Essex, right?" She didn't wait for his answer. "Damn, I love the country side don't you." He snorted in response. Two of the others stepped forward. Clarion stepped back colliding with her car. She held up her hands. "Okay, okay, look, here's my last ditch effort. I've got a hot date, in like ten minutes. If it goes well, you guys can meet me right back here tomorrow same time, same place and I'll go. Or hey, if it goes bad, I'll come and throw myself at your feet. Whadya' say, eh?" The pale man from Essex licked his lips and smiled as if he was contemplating her answer. He shifted his eyes to his companion at his right and she pressed the button on her keychain.
A high pitched wailing was emitted from her car startling her four would be captors for a brief second. She took the time and rolled over the hood of the car, praying she didn't mar the new finish on her mint-condition 1967 Stingray. Thick-soled brogans hit the ground and she ran. She could hear the man yell out "spread", but she had all ready hopped the garage railing to see which way they went. The chase was on.
It was going on 5:45 when Yoshi had finished packing the seven thin volumes in her backpack. For the fifth time. Tully laughed as he shut out the back lights and joined Nate up front. Tully placed a gentle hand on the tall woman's shoulder and she just about jumped through the roof. "Jesus! Yosh! chill out. It's just coffee."
"He's right, calm down. Let's go out front, the cool air will calm you down."
Yoshi shook her head and ran a nervous hand through dark locks. She had way too much nervous energy and she knew it had to be more than just an impending coffee date. "Guys, I should be home reading." She followed the boys out of the front door and tugged on the handle as it closed. She stared up at sky out of habit and glimpsed the last remains of the sun in orange and red tendrils that creased the sky. "And, I've got work tonight." She glared at the boys.
Tully grinned. "It doesn't have to last all night Yoshi."
"Unless you want it too." Nate squeaked. He was rewarded with a playful punch to the arm. She was thinking up a comeback when a swirl of black caught her eye. He was across the street in a long trench coat, blonde hair braided down his back, and he was wearing sunglasses. She pretended to be pushing at her cuticles when she spoke quietly. "What do you make of that boys, 3 o'clock?"
Nate and Tully had been asked this type of question enough to know how to be discreet. Nate answered first. "Could be a yuppie businessman with good fashion sense waiting frantically on his date with Sally from the copy room."
"Or it could be a well dressed blood-sucking night crawler awaiting a certain fair headed runner."
Yoshi dropped her bag to the ground and swung on her leather coat. It wasn't her trench, but the cargo actually had a few worthy amenities. "Is that your final answer?" she asked flatly.
Tully smirked as he watched the woman pull on her jacket. "Yes, Regis, yes it is."
She kept her eyes on the pacing man across the street. "All right take this bag to my house and dump it. Take the back way, drop it, and leave. Where's her office?"
"Two blocks up on Madison, what about-
She shook her head. "Don't do anything. Just go home, I'll see you tomorrow. Keep trying to find out who she is and keep your ears open. Go now." The boys left her without a word as they watched the tall woman eat up the sidewalk with a determined stride.
The dark woman was a block away when her hearing picked up the shrill whine of a car alarm. She got off the main sidewalk via an alley and broke into a dead run. She heard the distinct sound of panting as well as the rush of leather soles slapping concrete heading her way. She stopped running and stood in the shadow of dumpster as the blur of sound rushed by. She waited until a full head of blond hair streamed by and then she stepped out of the dark. The pale faced man that had been on Clarion's tail almost lost his head when his neck ran into a leather clad arm. His head snapped back with force as he was thrown to the ground. He found himself staring up the long length of denim clad legs that straddled his head. He was hoping it would be quick. It was.
Clarion was too busy racing down an alley to hear the strangled cry of her former chaser. Besides, she heard new footsteps, in the most unlikely of places…above her. She actually managed to stay on her feet for a moment as she absorbed the weight of the girl that leapt from the fire escape and newly attached herself to her back. Her momentum carried her a few feet, before Clarion tripped up and they tumbled to the concrete, knocking the wind out of herself as her back thudded to the ground. The fanged girl took advantage of Clarion's disorientation, grabbing her by a handful of hair and ramming her head into a nearby dumpster. She tipped her head back prepared to give a round up call, but the swift removal of her larynx ended that attempt. The girl clutched at her gaping wound out of pure reflex. She was still very much alive, but she was certainly in pain.
Yoshi shook moist muscle from her skin and stood in front of the girl. "They're dead. Do you know who I am?" A brisk nod and an angry middle finger were her response. Yoshi let out a deep laugh before lashing out and snapping the offending finger in two. The girl fell to the ground in pain. Yoshi grabbed a hand full of hair and pulled her up to her knees. "I guess I should have waited to rip out your throat after I talked to you, huh." Yoshi shrugged in amusement. "Crawl back to your coffin and tell whoever it concerns that I'm on to you." She leaned down close to the girl, almost nose to nose. "I don't know why you need her, but you can't have her." The girl defiantly thrust her other middle finger in the air. Yoshi flinched at her and the young girl ducked to avoid the blow that never came. Yoshi laughed and growled out, "get out of here." The girl obliged scurrying down the alley.
Yoshi turned around to look down at the woman beginning to stir. Clarion let out a moan as she raised up holding a hand to hear newly throbbing head. Instinctively she raised her head and gazed into hard blue eyes and the stone face of her savior. Clarion managed a smile that was not returned. "We gotta stop meeting like this Stretch." She sighed and watched as the tall woman avoided her eyes. "You gonna help a lady up or what?" Yoshi seemed to snap out of her reverie as she reached a hand down and helped the blonde to her feet. Yoshi backed away as she watched the woman dust her self off. Clarion was thinking of a way to break the tension when Yoshi spoke up.
Clarion smiled and ran a hand through her mussed hair. "Just the eyes I'm afraid. So, how bout that coffee."
Yoshi choked out a cough. "Uh, I don't know if that's the best idea."
"Oh come now, you afraid I'll play with your sword." The tall wall of a woman creased her brow and frowned. Clarion held up her hands. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Look, Yoshi, I'm not an idiot. I know what those things are. They were the same as two nights ago and the same as the ones from all the other nights."
"Do you know what they want with you?"
"No clue. So, Stretch, how bout it?"
"That coffee." Yoshi sighed and kicked at the ground. Clarion smiled. "Hey, I ran all the way out here, the least you could do is have a cup of coffee, besides, I owe you." Yoshi couldn't help but crack a smile. "Oh my goodness."
The tall woman looked up. "What?"
"Is that a smile, I see." The usually reticent woman expelled a whiff of a laugh as the corners of her mouth pulled into a wider smile. Clarion giggled. "Hey you better put that thing away you're going to blind me. Clarion stepped back with a laugh and feigned shielding her eyes from a bright light.
No more than the dark woman could stop the rumble of laughter that welled up deep in her belly could she stop the blush that was creeping into her face nor could she stop the full fledged smile that graced her face, raising high her cheek bones, causing the skin to crinkle at her eyes, and exposing straight white teeth. How foreign it was for her to really smile. To Clarion it looked as though her dark savior hadn't had a good smile in a hundred years or so. She hadn't. Yoshi curtailed her laugh and this time, without hesitation Yoshi spoke. "Okay, let's go get coffee."
* * *
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