In the eerie stillness of the
night, Anita’s voice rang out. “Who wants another blood sausage? Come on, Yvette. I know you need another one.” Leavenworth
I shrugged, acquiescing.
“I’ll take one,” Cathy answered. “But no onions this time!”
“Haley? What about you?”
After a few seconds of silence, Anita tried again. “Haley? Hey, where did you go?”
A foot scraped against the floorboard of the upper deck seconds before Haley gripped the railing and vaulted over, her reddish hair trailing behind her. She glanced at each of us but said nothing before dropping into a seat under the heater with her head ducked.
“You must be starving. I know I am.” Anita plopped another Bloody Big Bob in front of Haley before delivering two more to Cathy and me, and sitting down with her own next to the Munchen Haus beer stand.
A busy place during the day, at night the bratwurst and beer stand stood encased in shadows that hid the night creatures – creatures like us – from curious drunks. This is our group’s command post, gathering place, and also the final resting place of our former and still beloved leader. If the tourists knew what was buried under their noses, they’d choke on their hot brats.
Haley muttered an affirmative before digging into her sausage. A trickle of blood worked its way down her chin almost immediately, so fresh were Greg’s homemade deer knockwurst.
I didn’t see how she could be hungry – that must have been her fourth dog today. “What are we going to do tonight?” I asked around a mouthful.
“Well, I was thinking we could maybe hang out at the-” The thud that stopped Anita’s sentence sounded near. Too near. She put down her dog, cocked her head to the side, and was out of her chair before the bun hit the plate. Screeeech the bench squealed against the bricks as it slid back to make way for Anita’s battle-ready form. Her hands rested by her hips, close to her six-shooters and her nun-chucks.
Running footsteps bounced off the alley walls and echoed into the small outdoor restaurant. We all vaulted to our feet, poised to investigate. Anita had just taken three steps toward the alley when another thud came from
Front St. She spun on her heels. “it’s a trap! Come on, girls!”
We came fully awake and raced to back up Anita, who had jumped and rolled in mid-air across the length of the restaurant to land, pistols drawn, and legs kicking, on the sidewalk in front of the eatery. We heard the crack of bones and let out a war-whoop.
Anita had the first attacker flat on his slimy back. Four more stood around her in a semi-circle. We took positions at her rear.
“Get out of here,” she hissed. “This is our territory, suckers!”
“Yeah, take a hike!” Cathy growled. Her eyes narrowed as they zeroed in on one attacker after another. They widened when her gaze reached the tall blonde in the leather jacket.
I stood directly behind Anita, waiting for Cathy to hurry up and pick a target and sizing up one of my own. To my right, Haley ground her teeth.
“We are here now,” the leader said. He had the kind of face that said he wouldn’t have been a nice guy to know even before he’d become a vampire. “There’s not a damn thing you can do to make us go.”
“Oh yeah? How about this?” Anita whipped the lasso from her back pocket and swung at the leader. Once the perfect circle enclosed his neck, she snapped it tight, and his body stumbled forward. With a yell, she leapt to the top of the light post, tying off the remainder of the rope so that he hung from his neck next to a basket of peonies.
Cathy went for the stocky, Italian-looking guy and I took the one next to him. Cathy punched, the guy swerved, caught her fist, and attempted to push her backwards, but she wasn’t going anywhere. I kicked at my target, then swept my foot in a wide circle under him. He fell and sprang up, going right for my jugular, fangs out. I blocked with my trusty iPod, and said a prayer for its survival as the vamp’s fangs sank into the heavy tech. In the meantime, I kicked him in the groin.
To my right, Haley and the blonde squared off, both scowling. The blonde slid a long shiny blade from a sheath on her back. It gleamed in the moonlight, reflecting Haley’s face. “Come on then,” the blonde muttered. “Come and get me.”
Haley blinked, holding her hands out in front of her, palms up. Tiny blue arcs of light emitted from the centers of her hands. Whoa. This had to be magic. She took a step backwards as the blonde’s blade swept between them with a swoosh, barely missing her nose. At the same time, Haley splayed her palms straight out, and the little blue power arced, zapping the blonde twice. Smoke curled out her left shoulder and right chest. She didn’t scream, but her face went slack in shock, and the next second she dropped to the pavement like a sack of potatoes. Everybody froze and sucked in a breath they no longer needed to take.
The vamp who’d been hanging by the rope dropped the ground, took one look at the blonde, and gave a low whistle. It must have been a sign, because the attackers split, leaving the blonde laying there and Anita shrieking insults at their tails.
Cathy murmured, “Oh no, oh no,” her voice cracking as she rushed to examine the blonde. She knelt and touched the woman’s still-hot wounds, cursing. “What the hell did she do?”
“Yeah, Haley. Where’d you get that-” I jerked my head to the right and saw nothing but air. Haley was gone.
Anita had her hands on her hips. “Damn it, I had that one lassoed good, too. I was hoping to save him for one of Greg’s experiments.”
I stared down at my feet and shuddered, just imagining. Her husband’s experiments were notoriously nefarious. They often ended with him eating the brains. Zombies never made good doctors after all.
“We need to find her. Come on, Cathy.”
Cathy’s gaze never left the girl. “No. We need to get her out of here before somebody sees her.”
“Why? She’s no use to us.”
I saw a light bulb go off in her head and a shiver ran down my spine.
“But I could always give her to Greg…”
Cathy’s jaw tightened. “No. She needs medical attention. I’m taking her home with me.”
“You most certainly are not!” Anita’s ember-red eyes glowed.
Wrapping her arms underneath, Cathy lifted the blonde into her arms. “Yes, I am.”
If Anita’s face had held a thermostat, the mercury reading would have blown out the top of her head. “Cathy, you can’t. She’s the e-n-e-m-y!” She said the last word real slow, as though Cathy might be deaf. “She’ll probably kill you in your sleep.”
“Yes, I can. And you’re just going to have to live with it.” She looked down at the woman’s wounds and over to me for confirmation. “Besides, until we know what we’re dealing with here, we could all be in serious trouble. Haley’s new gifts might be something we can’t control.”
I nodded, wondering where the hell one got arcing blue magic-fire. “I’m going to try to track Haley,” I said, lifting my head in search of a scent. “We need some answers.”
Especially since that magic didn’t smell quite right…
Tires screeched around the corner leading to Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat, and I winced awake. Damn this place needed more quiet these days. I rubbed tired eyes and looked at the time. One p.m. might as well get up. I grabbed my iPod and texted Anita.
HEY ARE YOU UP?
YES, OF COURSE. I’M WORKING ON MY NEW JEANS. GREG’S COOKING. WHAT’S UP? YOU WANT TO COME OVER?
HA HA. NOT WITHOUT 1 MILLION SPF I DON’T!
DID YOU EVER FIND HALEY?
I groaned and laid back in my coffin. Haley. I’d searched for her all night and barely caught a trace of her scent. Whatever that girl was using for cologne these days just didn’t linger, or she was hiding it very well. Too well. I sat back up. NOPE AND NOT A CLUE.
ANY IDEA WHO THOSE GOONS WERE THAT ATTACKED US?
GREG SAID HE’S HEARD RUMORS OF ANOTHER SEETHE FROM THE WEST SIDE MOVING IN. HE SAID HE WILL PUT SOME FEELERS OUT AND FIND OUT THEIR LEADER.
Their leader. Once we identified the leader, we could take him or her out, effectively cutting off the seethe’s main source of power. If anybody knew who OUR seethe’s leader truly was, they’d probably laugh us right out of
. WHAT ABOUT CATHY? Eastern WA
HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING.
OKAY, I’M GONNA GO CHECK ON HER. I rolled out of bed, stretched and headed for the hot plate. A nice big morning mug of blood awaited me – boar’s blood in fact. That tangy taste hit just the right note in the morning to wake me right up. I grabbed the drink and headed across the dungeon’s rock-walled hallway to seek out Cathy’s chamber. She, Haley, and I all lived in the same underground hide-out, each with our own quarters and a shared kitchen, entertainment center, and workout room. I figured Cathy would either be home, or dead-and-home since she brought blondie back with her last night. Come to think of it, I hadn’t heard a fight. Still, I held my breath as I hesitated at her doorway and gave a quiet knock.
The room glowed funky blue thanks to the Lava Lamp in the corner by the massive four-poster bed. On the bed, I could see the blonde laying still as a dead chicken. Cathy sat on the bed next to her, tucking a stray strand of hair out of her face. I crept closer and bent down to get a better look at her wounds. Just as I sniffed at her, she bolted upright, and let out an ear-piercing shriek. Suddenly, her claws were everywhere, reaching for my face, my eyes, trying to grab my hair. “Shit!” I smacked her in the head with the mug and was satisfied by the thump that knocked her ass and nasty claws backwards.
“Hey!” Cathy side-punched me. “Knock it off, would you?”
“But - she tried to kill me!”
Cathy rolled her eyes. “You scared her. Duh!” Her hands soothed the maniac half-dead vampiress back onto the pillows. “There, there. She didn’t mean it.”
“The hell I didn’t,” I muttered under my breath.
Cathy shot me a snotty look.
“Well, did you find out anything?”
“No.” Cathy shook her head and stood, motioning me to join her in the doorway. “But that magic, it doesn’t smell right.”
“I know.” She didn’t have to tell me that. The only scent I’d found last night was zombie-related, certainly not my favorite. I hated to think what some kind of fucked up zombie magic could do to the small town of
in no time. Talk about a stinky mess with a sicko Bavarian theme. Leavenworth
“Did Haley come home last night?”
“No.” I shook my head and sighed. “I’m still looking.”
“T minus six and counting,” Cathy intoned, checking her watch. “We’ve got that long to make up a search plan.”
“Are you coming with me?” I cocked my head in the direction of the bed, hoping for an affirmative.
“No. I can’t leave her here all alone.”
“What if she… you know? Wakes all the way up and tries to kill you or something?”
Cathy’s head shook in an it-doesn’t-matter-so-shut-up way and I said a prayer, hoping she be there where I returned.
At dusk, I set off for Anita and Greg’s, keeping to the shadows, search plan in hand.
Anita pulled open the door and ushered me into the living room. “Well hello! Where’s Cathy?”
I shook my head in a don’t-ask manner and quickly changed the subject back to the other seethe. “Did Greg find anything?”
“As a matter of fact, he did.”
Greg stood over his worktable, and I tried hard not to glance at it. Life wasn’t going to get any better looking at what whatever business he had going on. He heard me enter, turned, and sent me a lopsided smile. It didn’t take long to spot the problem - part of his face was missing.
“His boss got hungry the other day,” Anita explained. She shrugged. “It happens.”
Yeesh. Yeah, in zombie land. I’d tried to talk to Anita about the dangers of living with a zombie several times, but she was just as stubborn a creature as Cathy. I shoved my hands in my pockets and tried not to think about it. “What have you got?”
Greg slapped a blurry heavily-pixelated photo on the desk. “This is their leader.”
I took a look at it and gasped. “No! Really?” I peered closer. “Are you sure?”
“Well then. We’ve got a problem. A BIG problem.”
“Yes we do,” Anita sang. “Blood sausages or blood curry for dinner?”
“But that’s impossible,” I said, turning the picture this way and that searching for an obvious mistake. “Crazy Zelda disappeared into the woods about ten years ago after the old Drifter Clan rode her out of town. Last I heard she was eatin’ bugs and bat-shit-crazy.”
“Probably eating anything that moves,” Greg corrected. “Nobody’s seen her since so we don’t really know. She could have bitten at least a hundred different animals by now. Probably even a zombie or two.”
Great. I refused to consider a vampire zombie mix and what that would do to my world. “So, how are we supposed to catch her, much less kill her?”
“That,” Greg said, moving back towards his work bench, “is your problem. I stay out of vampire politics. Too messy.”
My feet scurried towards the front door when the thing on the table screeched.
“Hey, don’t you want to stay for dinner?” Anita called.
“Nope. Gotta go. Looking for Haley.”
“Tell her ‘hi’ for me if you find her. Tell her she’s welcome for dinner any time.”
Greg’s chuckle slithered down my nerves as I banged the door behind me and took off into the night. I no longer had any appetite.
Haley. Two hours looking for her and I was no closer to locating her scent trail than if I’d stuck my head in a barrel and sealed it shut. Crap-o-la.
My feet carried me to Munchen Haus, the last place I’d seen her. Standing there in the midst of the empty tables, I turned my palms up and tried to imagine how she got blue electricity to arc out her hands. Just for stupidity’s sake, I jabbed them at the night sky and waited for something to happen. Nada. I was so wrapped up in my musings that I didn’t hear anybody enter until I got the tap on my shoulder. I spun and freaked. Fuck.
“Looking for somebody?” the Italian asked with a sneer. He appeared to be alone, but looks were often deceiving.
I took a step back and tried not to look scared as I listened for his buddies. “Nope. I just wanted a wiener.” Mental. Head. Slap.
The guy’s face lit up. “I happen to have one for you. Want to see it?”
Yeah. Sure. “That’s okay,” I said, backing towards the main entrance. “I’m not so hungry after all.”
The sound of a switchblade opening behind me sent images of my blood caking the sidewalk ripping through my mind so hard that I jumped. Actually, I leaped to the balcony banister and kept right on going. Up, over the top of the building and onto the roof of the next one.
Crash! Somebody landed on top of Munchen Haus with a heavy thump. These guys weren’t exactly light on their feet. I didn’t stick around – or even look back – to find out their weights. I just flat-out ran.
Huffing and puffing, four blocks later, and pretty much out of tall buildings to jump to, I still had the assholes right on my tail. What to do? Where could I go? I didn’t even have time to text, so I chanced the mental phone and called Anita. Anita, hey, where are you? I could use some help here.
Oh, Greg and I are just watching a horror movie. We’re really enjoying it. Want to come over?
No, I need some ass-kicking assistance. Hurry. I cut off before she could answer, cutting right and down towards the park. Maybe those bastards couldn’t swim. Hell, I couldn’t even swim. What the fuck was I thinking?
The moonlight glistened over the water that shone like a thin sheet of ice under the bridge. But it wasn’t ice. It was cold, dark and wet. And unfortunately, vampires weren’t made out of sugar. Still, I’d led a vampire to water, and did my best to lead them into the drink. I jumped over the rail.
My feet splashed into the river, seeking bottom. As soon as they hit, I sprang back up – high – aiming for the bank. A solid wall hit me from behind and I face-planted into a tree. Ouch. Whoever it was dragged me off it by my jacket collar. I tried to shrug out, but ended up falling towards the Earth. Funny how gravity works against you sometimes. Before my torso met the ground, I flipped in mid-air and landed on my ass with a dark figure on top of me. As soon as the bells cleared out of my head and my eyesight returned to normal, I wished it hadn’t. Green glowing eyes of craziness stared back at me, and breath worse than our leader’s after a mouse happy meal hit me full in the face. Welcome to insane-ville.
“Z-Zelda?” I stuttered.
Her cackle raised every hair on my body. I half expected her to offer me a bug, right then and there. Instead, she blew even more rancid air at my shuddering nostrils. Then she bit me. Right on the neck. Bit me and flew off, cackling to herself like a banshee.
My hand flew to my neck to check for blood and my stomach suddenly went queasy. I’d been bitten by the baddest insane bitch of them all. Would I live? I had no idea. But I knew who might.
The dungeon was deathly quiet as I entered – even for a dungeon – and my hand automatically went to my trusty 9mm. I didn’t know who or what I’d find in there, only that something wasn’t right. My neck ached and I told myself to forget it. I’d worry about that problem later.
A whimper that sounded like Haley’s issued from the direction of Cathy’s room and I raised the gun, my back to the wall. I slid slowly, straining to hear voices, movement, anything. But all I heard was Haley’s half-hysteric sobs.
I burst through Cathy’s room and recoiled. Blood everywhere. On the bed, the wall, on that dead bitch on the bed, and on Haley and Cathy. Cathy! I stepped closer to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. Alive. Well, for an undead personage, alive enough to count. I gave her shoulder a push as I noted the damage on the enemy vamp. Holes burned clean through her had singed the bed, walls, and drapery too. What wasn’t blood red in the room was smoking and black. I shook her shoulder again and Cathy stirred. “Hey, what happened here?”
Cathy sat up, blinked, and glared at the blonde, or what was left of her. “I came in to give her a packet of blood and she attacked me. Just out of nowhere. Bam!” She made hand motions to indicate the speed and direction of the attack. "I thought I was all alone with her, but then Haley just came outta no where and … Shit! Haley!”
She seemed to notice then that Haley sat huddled in the corner and scooted over to pull her into her arms. “Are you okay, Haley?”
Haley nodded, her pale skin about the only thing clean in this room. While they reconnected, I chanced a look at the blonde on the bed and my stomach sank through the floor. Neck bite. Check. Crazy eyes. Check. I resisted the urge to slap my hand over the pulsing wound on my own neck and instead busied myself with shoving my 9mm back into the holster. Well, that answered that question. I now knew exactly how this would all end. I figured I had a few hours, minimum, or about a week max. Unless I could catch Zelda first and get her to Greg and Anita’s for…processing. Yeesh. I shivered and walked over to Haley.
“So, how did you …uh…do that thing with your hands? What’s going on with you?” I gave her a we-don’t-talk-anymore look and waited. “And how come you smell like a zombie but you’re not eating brains?”
Haley’s lips twitched. Hell, maybe she was eating brains, for all I knew. This got better and better all the time! “Max and me…”
“The Mason guy?”
She nodded. “We’ve been experimenting with some of Greg’s potions-”
I raised a hand to stop her right there. “You let him do WHAT to you?”
Her shoulders snapped up into defensive mode and her chin jutted out. “We just injected ourselves with a little bit,” she paused as if unsure how much to tell. “And now I can sense these…these things that aren’t right. Like they’ve been infected with a virus or something.”
“Like her, Haley?” Cathy shifted, looking at the blonde former babe on the bed, in not quite the position she’d had in mind, I’m sure.
“They make my palms itch.” She glanced down at her hands and I looked away, neck throbbing, wondering how long it would be before her palms started itching again. It would be wise of me to get out of here, but nighttime was coming to a close and I couldn’t exactly go wandering off without a plan.
The television in Cathy’s room sparked to life, and all our heads swiveled to watch our leader come onto the screen. His fangs laid over the edge of his tiny jaw, giving him that fangs-for-the-memories look people put on hokey Halloween cards, and his triangle-shaped ears would have looked good on a jack ‘o lantern. Behind him, his tail twitched in that very distracting way it always did. Hallelujah, some things never changed.
As leader Yak-a-Doodle began his weekly speech, I phased out a bit, thinking about bigger problems. Like what the hell that bitch had infected me with, and how I was going to catch her before she vanished into her bug-eating cave again. I felt eyes on me and glanced over at Haley to find her staring right at my neck. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was fucked.
But then again, this could all be a very bad dream.