For Disclaimers See: Part One.
All the comments, good, bad and other can be sent to: Terias_McKlay@hotmail.com
*Author’s Note: Sorry once again about the length between updates, I had a set of finals to finish and a move for summer employment so I’ve been a busy little bard. Everything is settled now, more or less, so the updates should come a little more regularly.
“Climb on,” Megan looked down at her belay, Mark, a young man who was in her journalism program. They’d discovered early in their first year that they got on well and had taken to partnering on projects when possible. He was an international student from Australia and had been the one who’d gotten her interested in rock climbing initially.
When they couldn’t get out to the bluffs they substituted it with the climbing wall the university gym offered, as they were doing now. She realized Mark was looking rather oddly at her and snapped her attention back to the wall.
“You alright up there?”
“Yeah, sorry daydreaming.”
“At 10 metres, anyone ever tell you you’re a strange sheila?”
“Constantly,” Megan reached for her next handhold feeling her biceps strain under the pressure as she was forced to abandon her footholds to angle to the next set of grips.
“Did you finish Professor Lavelle’s assignment yet?”
“Not yet, I’ve got the prelim done.” Megan considered her next move, she wasn’t sure if she was flexible enough to get her feet under her if she angled to her right. She was mid move when her cell phone chirped.
“Puta,” the blonde made sure she had a steady grip before flipping open her phone. “Kensington here.”
“Ms. Kensington, I have those files you were looking for.”
“Perfect, how soon can I get them?”
“I’m off shift at six,” Megan looked at her watch, it was nearly five thirty.
“I can meet you at the usual in an hour.”
“See you then,” the dial tone sounded in her ear and Megan closed the phone. Megan looked down at the Aussie smiling apologetically.
“Let me guess, one of your sources,” he shook his head, “who are you hounding now?”
“No one, just working on a personal project.” The reporter began her descent. She was five feet from the floor when Mark stopped feeding slack into the line.
“So, now that I’ve got you tied up, so to speak, when are you going to let me take you out to supper?”
“Aww Mark, c’mon, we’ve got a nice thing going, why ruin it?”
“Because, I think we could have a better thing going,” he smiled at her and Megan couldn’t help but smile back. He really was a nice guy and she knew they could make a decent couple.
Admit it though, you’ve got more of a jones for Tara’s teacher then you have for him.
Truthfully, it had been awhile since anyone had sparked her interest romantically. She’d let off a little steam during the summer with one of her fellow interns but the woman had failed to hold her interest for longer than a few dates.
She’d dated sparingly during her first year simply due to time constraints.Her flings had largely consisted of men as well, again, because she didn’t have time to actively seek out other women and see which camp they belonged to.
Well I might make the effort for Ms. Fischer, brunette, blue eyes, legs for days…
“Oy, Megan you gonna answer me?”
“What? Sorry Mark.”
“That’s the second time you’ve gone off like that. You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah I’m fine I just… I don’t think it’s a good idea Mark, we have a really good working relationship and I don’t want to risk messing that up.”
Especially given my track record with relationships.
He looked like he wanted to argue but evidently thought better of it and lowered Megan to the ground.
“I’ll let it slide for now,” Mark stated his face breaking into a smile, “but don’t think I’m taking it as your final answer.”
“Alright Regis, let me go spend my money on foolish ventures.” Megan relieved herself of the climbing rig and handed it to her friend.
Megan entered the café getting an open table near the rear. She’d rushed home from the gym to shower and change. Traffic had slowed her down a little more than she had accounted for but she’d still managed to make it with a few minutes to spare.
Her source entered the small shop speaking briefly with the girl at the counter before making his way to Megan. He sat opposite her and handed her an envelope.
“I could lose my job for this.”
“You say that every time yet somehow we’ve been meeting for what? Three years?” He gave her a tolerant smile, by now, he knew she would never give him up just as she knew he needed the money. Over the years they’d come to a relatively friendly arrangement.
“That’s everything I could get my hands on about the Ballard kid and the woman’s attack. There are some crime scene photos and their background checks.” Megan nodded, he cleared his throat. “I’ve got something else.”
“But it’ll cost me.” He shrugged and sat back as the counter girl set down two coffees.
“Thanks,” she tipped her cup to him and took a drink. He made a face pouring a generous amount of sugar and cream in before tasting it himself, Megan shook her head. “What is it?”
“The attack seems to be similar to a slew of deaths in the last six months or so.”
“Do tell,” Megan put down her cup looking at the man.
“Forensics says the weapon was the same, whatever it was and the level of violence appears to be consistent. Three for it all.” Megan tapped her cup, if she wanted to help the Ballard kid she’d need all the information.
“Gimme.” He handed her a second envelope and Megan put them both into her leather satchel. She reached into her coat pocket and felt for the folded pieces of paper. She grabbed three palming them. She swallowed the rest of her coffee and grabbed her bag.
“Thanks, I’ll call you if I need anything else.” He shook her hand and Megan felt the bills slip from her grip to his.
“Have a nice night.”
Megan flicked on the light in her apartment moving directly for the fridge. She pulled a Tupperware from the freezer and tossed it into the microwave.
Mmm, nummy frozen treat. She shed her coat tossing it onto the couch and opened her bag as she sat down.
“Alright kid, let’s see what I can do.” She tore open the white envelope first laying out the contents. There was a set of medical records for Ballard, her mother and her guardian. There were also crime scene photos ranging from the lobby door to the blood spatter in the apartment. Megan put those aside and turned back to the medical files. She lifted Ballard’s file up frowning at the name.
“Payton Ballard?” She asked aloud raising an eyebrow. She flipped open the file and sure enough there was a picture of the girl who’d introduced herself as Lexina.
“Weird.” The microwave beeped at her from the kitchen and Megan stood bringing the file with her as she made her way toward the smell of food. It appeared the girl had been seriously injured in some kind of fight. She’d suffered a severe concussion, fractured ribs, lacerations along her wrists and been hospitalized for only three days.
“Weird again.” She sat back on the couch, meal in one hand folder in the other.
She picked up the mother’s folder noticing the woman had died the night Lex had been admitted. In fact, the girl was the one who’d managed to get her mother to the hospital.
“COD was catastrophic exsanguinations?” Megan looked at the autopsy photos her eyes widening at the long gash along the woman’s neck. She was more interested in the opposite side of the woman’s neck where tooth sized puncture wounds marred the pale skin.
Over the course of the year she’d been investigating the supernatural she’d realized that ‘catastrophic exsanguinations’ was a watchword for the morgue employees. It meant that the fatality was likely vampiric in nature, this was in turn relegated to the proper authorities at the PD who would quickly sweep the investigation under the rug or pin it on the city’s latest serial killer.
It was a conspiracy that ran deep into the political world and Megan sincerely doubted that it was limited to her city alone. The more she’d dug the more convinced she’d become that the hush campaign extended to a global level and she’d become increasingly cautious about keeping both herself and her sources anonymous.
She shook her head realizing that what had started out as a high school article criticizing the new age magic practitioners had led her deeper into the supernatural world then said practitioners had likely ever gone. With a sigh Megan tossed the file back on the table retrieving the personal file on Lexina. There was an application for a legal name change shortly after her mother’s death.
Wonder what that was about.
The girl had once been a star athlete and had any variety of extra curriculars and a decent grade point average. Everything had crashed a month or so before the end of last semester and Megan cross checked the dates.
Yeah I’d guess I’d blow off classes too if I’d seen my mother butchered by a vampire.
The official police report had stated that the mother’s boyfriend, a man named Max, was suspected of the murder. He hadn’t been seen or heard from since the attack and apparently the report issuing detectives were under the impression he’d skipped town.
“Right… more likely he was a tasty vampire treat and his body is in the Atlantic or he’s wondering around as one of those things. Cops,” she snorted, couldn’t even give the poor girl the justice she deserved.
Continuing her reading she noted the girl was slated to graduate this year despite her less than stellar marks last semester. She idly noted Lexina went to the same school as her ex-boyfriend from senior year.
In fact, looks like they’re in the same graduating class. Maybe I should give him a call, see what kind of reading I can get on her.
She discounted that idea almost as soon as the synapses fired. If she called him he would undoubtedly put himself under the impression that she wanted to get back together with him and that was NOT the message she wanted to send. She should still have enough contacts left in the high school system to get a half decent take on the girl if she needed it.
Or you know, you could go and talk to the poor kid. Athena’s files indicated she was still hospitalized which meant Lexina was likely completely on her own.
Poor thing must be a wreck. No wonder she wants to find this guy so bad.
Firming in her resolve the help the younger girl Megan picked up the crime scene photos one by one noting the extreme damage done the apartment building. Lexina’s apartment was considerably larger and more posh then her sister’s was and Megan made a mental note to ask Sam how she’d gotten so screwed on unit choices.
Blood spatter covered Athena’s room and the report indicated that while several of the patterns were consistent with arterial spray they were inconsistent with someone of Athena’s height.
Seven feet? What the fuck? She was attacked by an NBA player.
“Curious.” DNA results on the blood indicated that not only was it most certainly not human but the number of alleles didn’t match any know species. “Curiouser.”
The blonde put her meal down largely untouched and pulled her binder from her bag. She smiled at the cluster of drawings she had stashed in one of the side pockets courtesy of her niece.
She uncapped a pen and ripped a sheet of loose leaf free.
She tapped her teeth with her pen.
“What’s seven feet tall, not human and leaves claw marks in a solid concrete footing?” Having a thought Megan pulled the drawings from her binder flipping through them looking for the one Tara had given her after Lexina had left.
“She needs you,” is what the child had said before turning back to the TV. Tara was the main reason she’d begun to investigate the attack. Something about the look in the child’s eyes had jarred her into action though she wasn’t sure what.
“I bet that’d do it,” Megan stated aloud as she stared at Tara’s nightmarish monster, big, and quite unpleasant looking.
“Alright now I wonder how probable it is for one girl to be involved in two supernatural attacks. Especially when it looks like this thing made a beeline for her apartment.”
Maybe she’s a witch and she botched a summoning spell. That could explain the demon but not necessarily the vampire.
Speaking of vampires, how had the girl survived her mother’s attack? Forensics had found a broken chair and cords in the kitchen which indicated someone had been tied up. Epithelials had been matched to Lexina.
How had the girl managed to break free? The other chairs in the photo looked sturdy enough yet the one Lexina had been strapped too was in splinters. Better yet, how had she managed to get her mother to the hospital and carry her inside when she was injured to the point when any other person would have fallen over and died?
A healing spell? An anti-pain mantra? What the hell does this kid have?
“Grrr…” She tossed her pen onto the table and sat back folding her arms.
“Alright, I know Athena was probably attacked by a demon. Does that get me anywhere? Does Lexina realize it was a demon or is she gonna think I’m a nutjob if I tell her?” Megan decided that was unlikely, if the girl knew about vampires it shouldn’t be hard to convince her of the existence of other demons as well.
Megan ran a hand through her hair, there was something about the girl’s past that was nagging at her. The blonde stood up and grabbed a binder from her bookcase. It was a record of vampire activity for the past couple of years.
The number of deaths due to vampires had been severely curtailed in the past few months. Point of fact, the sharpest drop occurred shortly after Lexina’s mother had died.
Coincidence? Her gut told her not. She could understand Lexina going off on some sort of quest for revenge but how the Hell had she made such a difference? She was one little girl going against a city infested with vampires.
“Wait a minute.” She’d read something like this in one of her vampire books. Megan ripped through her books searching for the correct text finally landing on “Vampyre.”
It had been one of her first books and had a chapter listing vampire weaknesses, both real and mythical, and enemies of the undead.
Stakes, crosses, silver? No that’s not what…Here we go.
“To defend against the ever strengthening demon hordes, the priests and priestesses of the old orders begged the gods to send them Champions to fight the darkness. 13 warriors were Chosen, one for each of the 12 higher gods of the pantheon and a 13th to represent the human race. These warriors hunted the darkness chasing the shadowy figures of evil and subduing them. The people called them ‘Shadow Hunters’. These original Hunters, knowing the forces of evil would continue to test its might against humanity, swore blood oaths to forever stand against the darkness.
‘For every Hunter that would die their power would be transferred to a new vessel who would take up the mantel of the fallen warrior. To aid in the training of future generations of the Thirteens the Tribunal was formed. Comprised of the priests and priestesses of the old orders, these teachers, the Dhaskalos, would educate their warriors and act as counsel in the Thirteens’ never ending battle to defeat evil.”
She’d completely forgotten about that. She’d dismissed it early on as some sort of myth.
Right the same way I thought vampires didn’t exist. Gods I can be such a doorknob.
“A new Hunter is called upon their predecessor’s death. The transfer of power causes a flux in magical energy allowing any who can sense it to locate the Shadow Hunter should their aid be needed. Any who serve the good may call upon the Hunter though they traditionally are an aid of the ancient institution known as the Dhaskalos’ Tribunal. To guide their training a Dhaskalos is assigned to each warrior to hone their abilities and teach them to master their great power.”
Megan picked up one of the crime scene photos of Athena’s office. Bookcases were overturned and blood was pooled on the floor. She dug out her magnifying glass and looked at one of the texts. It was blurry but readable: “Vampyre: A History.”
No wonder Athena had gotten guardianship of the girl. The cover story of being the girl’s Aunt was so thin it was transparent, but an organization like the Dhaskalos’ Tribunal probably had more than enough power to grease the right wheels to get custody.
“Hey Siobhan, what’s happening?” The storekeeper jerked her head up from the computer and gave Megan a startled look. The blonde could see her immediately begin to close windows and shut the computer down.
“Megan, what a surprise.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, I know it’s after hours but I saw the light on and I wanted to check on you.” The witch smiled as she stood from her desk.
“I appreciate the concern.”
“Is that the polite way of telling me to mind my own business?”
“Hardly, but I’m not sure I believe you came all this way just to check on me. Especially since it is, as you say, after hours.” The blonde smiled realizing she’d been busted.
“That was actually kind of a fringe benefit.”
“I see, what do you need Little One?” Siobhan indicated for her to take a seat at the table in the alcove. Megan made sure to lock the shop door before moving to the table.
“You should remember to lock your door when you close, there’s no telling who’ll come walking in here at all hours.”
“You’re really worried about me aren’t you?” Siobhan asked, Megan thought she sensed some surprise in the shopkeeper’s voice.
“Of course I am. You’ve been really good to me Siobhan even when I came in here all cocky and suspicious. You’re a good friend and mentor and I want you to be safe,” Megan finished as she took a seat. Siobhan squeezed her shoulder and moved to the hot plate that held her kettle.
“Thank you and I’ll be sure to lock my door next time.” Megan smiled and nodded. “Tea?”
“Alright then, other then issues of personal safety why are you wandering around here at this time of night?” Megan forced herself not to ask why Siobhan was still here this late, it hadn’t looked like she was doing inventory. Instead, she concentrated on the task at hand.
“I met this girl a couple of weeks ago,’ Siobhan turned and quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Don’t look at me like that, that’s not what I meant,” Megan answered feeling a slight warming of her cheeks. The shopkeeper chuckled and motioned for the blonde to continue. Megan cleared her throat accepting the cup of tea.
“She was looking for a man who attacked her Aunt.”
“Given the damage to the building and the crime scene photos of the victim I don’t think it was a man at all, I think it was a demon.”
“What makes you so sure?” Megan pulled out a folder from her messenger bag and slid it across the table. Siobhan flipped it open her eyes widening. “Where did you get these?”
“Source inside the PD. The niece’s name is Lexina Ballard, her mother was killed last year by an unknown assailant. They had a suspect but no arrests. Lexina barely survived.” Megan stood up and pointed to the abdominal wounds.
“These look more like claw marks than anything else, and look,” she fanned out the photos pointing to a place in each photograph. “Always four marks, always parallel, same depth. I don’t know a weapon that would do this, nor anyone who’d be capable of this level of damage.”
“What do you want me to tell you Megan?” Siobhan asked finally taking a seat and pushing the photos away. She looked a little green around the gills.
“Tell me what this is,” Megan pulled out one of Tara’s pictures and placed it in front of the shop owner. Siobhan raised an eyebrow but put on her glasses.
“This could be any number of demons.”
“The MO matches six different murders in the area over the last three months and that’s just what I’ve found at a cursory glance, all other victims except Athena were under 25.”
“I don’t know of a demon that discriminates based on age.”
“That’s fine, look I just need you to point me in the right direction.”
“Researching demons is more time consuming then I think you realize.”
“Then call the Shadow Hunters get their asses on it. I mean they’re your guy’s supernatural hitmen right?”
“What makes you think I know them?”
“I know a Hunter is in the city, vampire related deaths have dropped drastically in the last eight months, which means one of the group was killed and a new Hunter was called, here, in this city. That would a cause a major flux of energy, I read it,” she explained at Siobhan’s questioning look.
“There’s no way that would go unnoticed by a person of your capability.”
“Alright, I know a Hunter is in the city,” Siobhan admitted, “that doesn’t explain why you think I know who it is.”
“This woman, her name is Athena, I’ve seen you talk with her in the shop. She’s from England, she arrived here almost two years ago. When Ballard’s mother was killed somehow she was awarded guardianship. Her cover of being the girl’s Aunt is about as real as Pamela Anderson’s breasts. She has no familial ties, no foster care experience she doesn’t even have citizenship for Christ’s sake.
‘Yet, for some reason she was still given custody. Strangely enough about a month before Meana Ballard’s death is when vamp numbers started to decline, directly afterwards there was a sharp drop that’s continued through the summer.” Megan looked over at her friend, “Lexina is one of the Thirteen isn’t she?” Siobhan sighed. “You know you can trust me.”
“How do you know about the vampire deaths?”
“Contacts in the morgue and the tenacity of a pit-bull. Don’t avoid the question.”
“Lexina is a Shadow Hunter,” Siobhan conceded.
“What’s the demon?”
“It looks like a Laox perhaps a Groxlar, I can’t be certain.”
“Here,” Megan pulled a second folder from her bag. “You might want to call her, she may not have linked the other deaths with Athena’s attacks, these are the areas where the attacks occurred. The demon must be bunked down somewhere in this area.” Siobhan stood picking up the cordless phone and dialling a number.
“Why didn’t you give her this information?”
“I didn’t want her thinking I was a freak if I was wrong.” Siobhan raised an eyebrow. “Or, I knocked on her door and she didn’t answer,” Megan said with a shrug.
“Lexina, it’s Siobhan, I may have some information on the demon that attacked Athena, I assume you’re on patrol so come by tomorrow sometime, I’ll be at the shop all day.” The shop owner hung up the phone, Megan smiled.
“Can I meet her?”
“You’ve already met her,” Siobhan stated.
“Yeah but I met her as this tall girl who’s bad at lying, I want to meet the Shadow Hunter.”
“Fine, not much damage it can do now, I doubt she’ll be in before noon, knowing Lexina she’s patrolling from sun down to sun up trying to find this demon.”
“I’ll come by right after class, don’t let her leave.”
“I’ll do what I can, now I have to get home, as do you.”
“Alright, I’m gone. See ya tomorrow.”
Megan kept alert as she began the long walk home. Her Jeep was running on empty and she wasn’t due to get paid until midnight, the extra expense for Lexina’s information had strapped her for cash. Hopefully, she would have enough gas to get from her parking lot to the gas station on the corner tomorrow morning.
With a sigh the blonde hitched her bag higher on her shoulder and put on a little more speed. She had hoped to be closer to home by the time night fell but the shorter days combined with the late visit to the shop saw her with the better part of 15 residential blocks and no sun. Siobhan had taught her some defensive spells but Megan had no interest in testing out their effectiveness at the moment.
“Alright Megan, you’ve walked these streets for almost 20 years, the worst you’ve encountered is some overzealous street punks, you’ll be fine.”
Famous last words.
Siobhan’s shop lay in the downtown core which gradually petered out to single dwelling residences. New construction initiates had started throwing up apartment complexes near the outskirts of the city years ago. The outer edges of the city now stretched far beyond
Megan’s neighbourhood and the once upper class yuppie apartment complex had degraded to university student status. The blonde had a small one bedroom on the 7th floor courtesy of her parents’ life insurance from when they’d been killed in a car accident two years ago.
A scream pierced the night breaking Megan from her reverie. It had sounded like it had come from the nearby park and it hadn’t sounded like an adult’s voice.
Okay, I can go and check that out and possibly die a horrible death, or I can live with the guilt that I didn’t check if I find out something happened to a child. Ugh, rock meet hard place.
Megan knew there wasn’t really a choice, it wasn’t in her to take the chance on a child’s life. She took off at a sprint heading for the area where the scream had originated.
By the time she made it to the park there was no sign of the child or of an attacker. Slowly the reporter moved toward the playground looking at the swing set which swung back and forth. Megan narrowed her eyes, there wasn’t a breath of wind anywhere.
“Okay…” The moonlight glinted off something on the swing and the blonde cocked her head. She touched her finger to it, jaw tightening when she realized it was blood. She knelt down looking at the sand where the drops could be seen leading toward the wooded area behind the park.
She moved out of the sand box and onto the grass touching her hand to the… Footprint? It didn’t look like any boot print she’d ever seen, for one it looked like a size 16 at least and it lacked the shape of a conventional shoe.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Megan muttered as she reached for her cell phone. Maybe Siobhan would know what to do. Her hand came up empty as she touched her belt where her phone was normally clipped.
“Nothing’s ever easy.” Megan blew out a breath. “Fuck.”
She heard a mewling coming from the bushes and barely resisted the urge to scream in startlement. “Well at least is doesn’t sound like a demon. In for a penny…”
Urged on by the thought that a child may still be in danger Megan moved to the forest attempting to keep quiet. What the hell was a kid doing out at this time of night anyway?
Parents these days.
The blonde pushed away some shrubs listening for any indication of life. The sounds became louder as she moved deeper into the forest and Megan was becoming increasingly aware of the stupidity of what she was doing. What was she really going to be capable of if she came up against a full fledged demon?
Or even a vampire for that matter. She felt more than saw something shift beside her and turned to inspect.
“Hello?” The darkness prevented her from being certain, the forest shadows seemed to be animals in themselves, but she could’ve sworn she’d seen movement. Her surprise barely had time to register before an eight foot… something, was standing in front of her.
Whoa. How the fuck does something that big move that quietly? Megan thought, her last one to register as she felt his claw connect.
The Hunter sat down at the bar signalling the bartender. She scanned the sparse midday occupants of the establishment trying to decide who would be worth questioning and who would just be good for a beating. She caught the eye of a female vampire, a girl not older than Lex when she’d first been turned.
Her fiery red hair was pulled into a French braid which hung low on her back. The skin tight tank top she wore revealed a slim figure covered in freckles and the navy blue color nearly matched her eyes.
It was those dark orbs that revealed the vampire was not as young as she seemed. Whatever innocence the leech had had as an unturned girl had long since vanished, leaving a soulless warrior of the undead.
The man she was with was hardly looking in her eyes though and she was using her good looks to her advantage. At the moment the vampire was trying to entice the poor sot into going downstairs with her and Lex shook her head.
The idiot was so enamoured with her looks that he didn’t notice she was looking at him the way a dog eyed a steak. Taking her beer and paying the bartender the Hunter moved over to the ill- fated pair.
“Move,” she ordered staring the man down.
“Now why would I do that?” He asked arching an eyebrow and looking at Lex suggestively. “If you want to sit with us there’s plenty of room right here,” he said patting his thigh.
Must not hurt humans, control Lex, control.
Lexina closed her fist and cracked her knuckles before shooting her hand out toward the man. The Hunter grabbed him by the collar and brought her face to within an inch of his.
“If you don’t get up I’m going to remove your means of reproducing.” Moving away Lex gave his shirt a tug sending him sprawling on the floor and leaving his seat vacant. The young Hunter sat down looking over at the pouting vampire. Lex flicked her eyes at the man who was still trying to organize himself.
“Hungry?” She asked the vampire. She couldn’t imagine any other reason the attractive girl would be sitting with that moron. Even vampires had standards and the leech had to be pretty desperate to be willing to feed on the filth she’d sat with.
“Starving,” the vamp admitted her eyes flashing the amber that indicated she was going to morph into her game face. Only fighting, feeding or being rabidly hungry usually made the vampire’s morph. The undead leeches depended on blending in to take their meals.
“Pretty girl like you could have any guy and probably any girl she wanted. Why the hell would you feed on that?” Lex asked jerking her thumb toward the man who now sat sulking two tables over.
“Time’s are lean; everyone knows you frequent our usual feeding grounds so we’ve had to take to eating less than desirable things.” Her distaste for her victim was now as obvious as Lex’s had been and the vamp looked up at her. The Hunter noticed the appreciative look and fought the urge to fidget in her seat.
As a general rule the bar was a ‘no fighting zone’ a place where humans and demons could consort peacefully with each other. She wasn’t sure if the rule applied to Hunters though and she could be in big trouble if the vamp had friends in the bar. She looked hungry enough to let her stomach rather than her good sense rule and Lexina had used herself as bait often enough to know she was a tasty vampire treat.
“Don’t worry Hunter, I’m not stupid. I may be hungry but I’m not that hungry.” Lex’s eyes widened, surely the vampire hadn’t read her thoughts. She’d never known of a vampire with magic but there were always firsts.
“How did you…?”
“You had that, ‘she’s staring at me like I’m a delicious morsel’ kinda look going on.” The vampire gave her another once over and licked her lips. “Not that you aren’t, nice build, a heart beat so strong I can hear it from here, tall, dark, really my type. It’s too bad Hunter, we’d make a stunning couple.”
“Um,” the young warrior wasn’t quite sure how to take that and she was grateful when the vampire let her off the hook.
“I assume you didn’t come to this dive for the atmosphere, what are you looking for?”
The Hunter recovered quickly from her discomfort and settled into business mode.
“A demon, big horned. Laox, maybe Mantarri, looks something like this.” Lex pulled out the carefully folded crayon drawing and handed it to the vampire. The leech laughed at the picture before handing it back to the Hunter.
“Well?” She shrugged and Lex sighed, even though the vampire knew who she was she wasn’t about to get something for nothing. The Hunter reached into her coat and pulled out two bags of plasma that she’d pilfered from the blood bank.
She held it out to the vampire who grabbed it and tried to pull it from the Hunter’s hand. Lex didn’t let go and the girl looked up at her curiously.
“You don’t tell me something useful, I’ll cut open that nice little throat of yours to get this back.” The vampire nodded and Lex let go. The girl flipped open a knife and made a small cut in one of the bags. She emptied the gut rot they served as the beer on tap onto the floor and poured the contents of the bag into the empty mug.
Clinic blood was the vampire equivalent of cigarettes in prison. When a vampire hunted they generally got a mixed bag. Though most tried to be careful about who they fed on sometimes they drank from people with blood diseases, Lex was told that left them decidedly lacking in good taste. Clinic blood was always clean and healthy and what it lacked in warmth it made up for in quality.
“A Shermak came in here a couple of days ago complaining someone had tossed him from his lair. Description pretty much matches the drawing, I figured it might be one of the baby eaters but I’ve never heard of them being in the city before.” The vampire said taking a long pull from her mug. All at once the leech seemed more at ease and less inclined to jump the young Shadow Hunter.
“Where’s the lair?”
“A mine in the forest, not sure exactly where but I can probably narrow it down to about a one kilometre block.” Lex pulled a pad of paper and a pen from her pocket and slid it to the vampire.
Lex sat down at her computer and flicked it on. Near as she could tell both the Laox and the Mantarri demon were fairly closely related. Chances were the two had been one species at some point and had evolved into their current forms.
Both were large bordering on eight feet tall in some cases. Laox had a smaller nose with a horn at the tip. Small spikes also lined its eyes that were a fiery red and ultra sensitive to light. The bone plates that covered its vulnerable stomach were divided into six pieces to allow for movement but also made it possible to get past the armour.
Mantarri on the other hand had a larger horn on their nose and rather than spikes rimming their eyes one large bone plate ran along their brow line. Their eyes were closer to purple than red and better suited to daylight though their night vision rivalled that of vampires.
Both species had a lust for violence and liked attacking humans, particularly children and teens. The nickname ‘baby eaters’ had come from the Aztecs. The books Lex had read through showed evidence of children being sacrificed to the demons of the Amazon in an attempt to appease the monsters.
It wasn't until the Spanish Conquistadors arrived that the attacks began to taper off in that area. Not surprisingly, attacks around the rest of the world had increased, though mostly it had been in the tropical and subtropical areas.
The few accounts she read that dealt with hunting Laox and Mantarri had mentioned that in almost all cases at least two Hunters had worked in concert to take the demon down.
Not an option in this case, as far as this city was concerned, she was the cavalry. Lex couldn’t wait for the other Hunters to finish their tasks and come to her aid, not at the rate the demon was picking people off. She’d have to go after if herself and hope for the best. She’d just have to try and work smart instead of going in swinging the way she usually did.
Lexina logged onto the Internet and went to the local police website. Nothing of any help would be on the public server but Athena wasn’t just a bad ass Brit with a gift for witchcraft.
Her Dhaskalos also happened to be a hacker, there hadn’t been a system yet that could keep the woman out. Lexina followed the procedure she’d seen Athena use countless times to hack into the system.
It took Lex less than a quarter of an hour to break through the firewall and decipher the encryption. She’d been on the site frequently in the last six weeks or so searching for a pattern in the demon’s killings. Lex knew now that there had been no pattern.
The demon moved from lair to lair randomly, likely killing the previous occupants before setting up camp. Using the search program Lex entered child and teen deaths within the last six months.
The files were doctored of course, someone in the department went through a lot of trouble to hide the staggering amount of inexplicable deaths. Most were homeless, people who wouldn’t be missed and the investigations could be swept neatly under a rug.
When you went deep enough most of the truth could be found. Lex didn’t need the truth, she needed a location. The most recent deaths had all occurred within a one click radius near the edge of the city. The woods there were favoured picnicking and making out spots, easy pickings for an eight foot demon.
All the victims had suffered severe lacerations and had their organs and viscera removed. A six year old boy had been so badly mutilated that they’d needed to use DNA testing to identify him. Lex felt the bile rise in her throat as she clicked through picture after picture of crime scene and autopsy photos.
In all, there had been ten deaths in that area in the past three months, Lex printed out a copy of the map comparing it to the one she’d bought off the vampire for a couple pints of blood.
The latest bodies had been found no more than 200 meters from the edge of the one kilometre block that contained the Shermac’s old lair. Lex rubbed her hands together with no little amount of glee: tonight she would hunt.
When Lex awoke it was nearly dusk. She poured herself some cereal and flicked on the TV. Once it was dark she would begin to explore the forest, letting the moonless night cloak her movements. Until the sun set all she could do was prepare her weapons and relax. She flicked the channel to one that was playing ‘The Sound of Music’.
She favoured the musicals to the gory hack and slash movies that tended to be on nowadays. She got enough of that crap already. By ten o’clock it was completely dark and Lex changed into her leathers. Her sword went on next, strapped over her shoulder so that only the hilt would show over her long leather duster.
She searched for a proper crossbow dismayed not to find one. Her heavy crossbow had been left shattered in Athena’s room and the one that was kept locked up in the training salle was far too heavy to be practical. Her light crossbow would be useless on a demon the size of the Laox so she left it sitting on her bed.
Reluctantly, she put a pair of sais into her boots and strapped her throwing knives onto her arms. Her long sleeves would keep the blades hidden and with a flick of her finger a catch would be released and the knife would slide into her hand. She caught sight of something that might be of use and placed it in her pocket. The young Shadow Hunter tied her long raven hair into a ponytail and set out.
Lexina pulled the map from her pocket using a small filtered flashlight to see the paper. If she had been going the right way she should be almost on top of the lair. It was dark, secluded and relatively close to the attack sites. Lex stepped lightly through the fall leaf cover trying not to make noise.
As it was she was moving much too loudly for her preference but she couldn’t tree walk the way a few of her predecessors had been able to so she was forced to keep her feet on the ground.
The Hunter crouched down when she reached an old mine, she looked at the entrance curiously, she hadn’t even realized this place was here. She’d damn near walked headlong into a demon’s house.
Good going Lex. Light poured from the entrance and smoke rose from an opening somewhere on top.
Guess it’s not a coal mine then.
Lex unsheathed her sword holding it at the ready as she moved toward the mine. Her skin prickled as she got nearer the mine leaving the girl with no doubt that this was where her enemy lay. Lex peeked around the mouth of the mine squinting in the dim firelight. The beast was hunched over at its makeshift bed, past the demon Lex could make out the unconscious form of a blonde woman.
From the look of it, the girl was scarcely older than Lex and might in fact be younger. At this distance it was hard to tell. There was a nagging familiarity about the girl and Lex wondered where she’d seen her before. The victim was still alive, her chest rose and fell softly and she twitched as the demon touched her arm.
The Laox took the girl over his shoulder and turned around. Lex ducked from the entrance praying the demon hadn’t seen her. No such luck.
Lex cursed as she heard the thump when Azriel dropped his prey and made his way to the entrance. The moment his foot came within her sight Lex swung her sword landing the length of the blade in the demon’s abdomen.
The Laox screamed with outrage and knocked the sword from Lex’s grip quickly rendering her without a long-range weapon. The girl rolled out of the way of a kick from a large foot and backed up into the cave.
So much for working smarter dumbass.
“Azriel I presume,” Lex said as she scanned the mine for weapons. The blonde girl groaned from her position on the ground and Lex hoped she didn’t wake up, the last thing she needed was some hysterical bimbo to protect while taking on the Laox.
Lex grabbed a log from the fire, swinging it like a club when the demon came to close. The Laox growled with frustration when it couldn’t land a blow.
“Give it up little one, you can’t defeat me,” he said his voice deep and piercing. It grated on her senses and she fought the urge to cover her ears.
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Lex sneered as she tossed the flaming log at the demon. He knocked it out of the way and advanced on Lex backing her into the wall of the mine. The Laox swung a fist at her, Lex caught his arm and punched over top landing her knuckles on what she assumed was the demon’s nose.
She let out a little grunt as her fist connected recoiling as the impact threatened to break bones. She stepped back cradling her hand, not able to get her guard up in time as an uppercut sent her into the wall.
She struggled as the demon put his forearm into her throat pinning her to the wall with his weight. The Hunter’s vision began to tunnel and she instinctively released the catch on one of her throwing knives. She drove the blade deep between a set of abdominal plates pushing the blade up to the hilt.
The Laox roared with pain and used his other hand to remove the knife while still holding her fast. The Shadow Hunter screamed as the blade was drawn deep along her face and across her eye. She squirmed in his grip as she felt a rough tongue lick at her wounds.
“I’ve never eaten a Hunter before, you taste good,” Azriel said his mouth dangerously to Lex’s ear.
“Too bad I’ll give you heartburn,” Lex pulled the taser from her coat pocket and pressed it against the demon’s chest. His body shook with the voltage, at least three times what it took to kill a human. Lex landed on her feet caught by surprise when the flailing demon nailed her with a fist and knocked her to the floor.
Lex shook her head to clear her mind, the last strike had left her reeling. She crawled along the sandy floor to get out of the demon’s striking distance dismayed when he grabbed her by the ankle.
Jesus, what’s it take? Die all freaking ready.
The demon picked her up and Lex dangled upside down, the tips of her fingers barely touching the earth. Lex twisted in the demon’s grip trying to force him to drop her. She was rewarded with a shot to her stomach that drove the breath from her lungs.
Blood began to trickle past her chin and over her forehead, the demon’s spiked knuckles had broken skin. The girl gasped for air as the demon began walking towards the blonde on the ground. Azriel dropped his arm and Lex saw stars as she hit her head on the ground and was dragged across the sand.
The Hunter grunted as the Laox moved by the fire her hand coming dangerously close to the flames.
What I wouldn’t give for a full gerrican and a few rags.
The blonde stirred as the demon came nearer screaming when she caught sight of it. The monster silenced her with a vicious punch to the jaw and picked her up the same way he had Lex. The Hunter managed to get a good look at the victim her eyes widening as recognition dawned. It was the girl from downstairs, the journalist.
“Megan,” she whispered as she fought hard to maintain her grip on consciousness. She was losing a considerable amount of blood from her stomach and being drug upside down was doing nothing for her cause.
Spell, I need a spell. Come on girl, start rhyming.
“Blinding light come to me,” Lex mumbled a half remembered spell from her first training sessions. The Laox’s sensitivity to light might work to her advantage.
What’s the next line, damn. What is it? The demon lifted her up again bringing her eyes level with his.
“I wouldn’t finish that spell blue eyes, you could find it hazardous to your health.” The demon head-butted her and Lex screamed in pain as she felt the snap of the cartilage in her nose. The spiked surface of the demon’s head dug into her face scratching and piercing the skin further.
She choked and coughed as the blood clogged her nose. Lex took a deep breath through her mouth wanting to scream again as her filled lungs pressed against her damaged ribs. She hadn’t been this badly injured since her mother’s death.
Payton pulled her mother from the car stumbling as she did so. Her adrenaline was beginning to wane and she’d be lucky to make it through the doors of the ER.
“Help! Somebody help me!” She screamed, a female doctor and a nurse rushed through the doors. Payton didn’t remember how but moments later both she and her mother were on gurneys being wheeled into trauma rooms.
“What’s your name Sweetheart?”
“Payton, I’m Doctor Milne. I want you to relax okay? You have to breathe,” the doctor coached as she began checking the girl’s body.
“My mother, look after her first,” Payton ordered trying to push the doctor towards her mother’s room.
“She’s being taken care of, you have to relax, does this hurt?” The woman asked as she put a gentle pressure on Payton’s stomach.
“Ugh,” Payton shifted trying to get away from the woman’s hands.
“She may have ruptured her spleen, I’m gonna need the portable chest x-ray.”
“My mom, is she gonna be okay?” Payton wheezed, it had suddenly become very hard to breathe.
“We’re taking care of her,” Dr. Milne promised.
“Breath sounds are shallow,” the nurse said. Milne felt her way along Payton’s ribs. One had been broken and the girl’s struggles had forced it into her lung.
“She punctured the left lung.”
“I can’t breathe,” Payton struggled to say.
“I know, Payton we have to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. When you wake up you’ll be connected to a respirator okay?” Payton nodded, she didn’t have the breath to say anything.
“Okay relax, you’ll feel light headed and then you’ll pass out.” Payton forced herself not to react and let the sedative do its job rather than fighting it as she usually would. Her last thoughts were of her mother as she felt the world fade away.
“Take her up to OR in about 15 minutes, we’ll have a surgery room prepped by then.”
“Great,” Payton listened as the voices got further away, the girl groggily touched a hand to her chest, it came away bloody.
Jesus, what happened, where’s mom?
Payton turned her head as much as the tubes would allow but couldn’t see inside the adjoining room because of the doors. The room appeared empty though, that much she could see.
Maybe they took Mom to surgery, must be why they don’t have a room for me.
“Payton?” the young Hunter turned her head to look at the doctor who’d called to her.
“We’re going to leave you on the machine until you get out of surgery ok? We have to repair your lung and some other internal damage.” Payton nodded and pointed to the room where her mother had been raising her eyebrows in question. The doctor’s eyes told her everything she needed to know. Her mother wasn’t in surgery.
“I’m sorry Payton,” the girl choked back a sob. “Your Aunt will be in to see you before surgery. Just rest, deal with everything later.”
My Aunt? I don’t have an Aunt, Payton thought as she tried to figure out who was posing as her family. It wasn’t until Athena walked into the Trauma Room that Payton’s mind began to work around the drugs she’d been injected with.
“Payton, goddess,” Athena looked as worried as Payton had ever seen her and she wished she could offer some comfort to the woman. Instead it was her Dhaskalos who broke her usually stony façade and took Payton’s hand.
“I’m sorry about your Mother,” Athena said sympathetically. Athena’s parents had been killed by a vampire as well, that was one of the major reasons her Dhaskalos had joined the Tribunal. “We’ll get through this, I promise.” Payton squeezed her Dhaskalos’ hand to show she understood and agreed. “I’ll take care of you.”