The story of Alex Austin continues, 4 years after the events in The Game.
If Martin doesn't stop that infernal singing, I swear I'll shoot him again.
Wait, he enjoys being shot.
I can't win.
I got a lead on that damn fiend...at least...I got a lead on A fiend. Whether or not it's MY fiend I don't know yet. But there are four dead bodies at a QuickMart that look like they were thrown threw a meat grinder a couple of times. Actually, according to official reports the bodies didn't look like that. According to official reports, there were no bodies. There was no quadruple homicide at the QuickMart. The QuickMart is simply "closed for repairs."
But I was there, so I know.
I heard the initial report come over the scanner. By the time I got there, the police cars were leaving without their lights flashing and a suspicious looking construction crew was moving stuff in and out.
You know, I'm still not completely clear on how this shadowplay stuff really works, but it makes sneaking about real easy. I got a good peek in the back window to see the bodies while they started the clean up. The arms were missing from what I think was at one time a black woman. They had been neatly cut from the body. I dare say surgically removed. Then the Bishop showed up and I had to get the hell outta Dodge. Apparently the bastard is my sire's sire. And I don't think grandpop would be any more forgiving than daddy.
I wonder if that eye ever healed? I hope not. That would be funny if he had to spend the rest of eternity wearing an eye patch.
Martin lost an eye a few months ago when one of his partner's got a little TOO violent...by my standards that is, not Martin's. Martin just laughed it off and a couple of days later had a new eye. So now he has one blue eye and one green eye.
I didn't ask where the eye came from or how he got it to go in right. It twitches occasionally and his peripheral vision isn't what it used to be, but it works.
And I find that disturbing.
Does that qualify as a semblance of humanity? Is the fact that my jaded, hardened self can still find anything disturbing a good thing?
Ah, I'm not gonna start with that again. I have work to do.
Evidence disappears quick when vampires are involved. Yesterday there was a missing persons report on the MSN newswire service that confirmed what happened at the QuickMart. Vampires must hate the internet. You can normally get to an editor and stop a story from running with a standard print newspaper. Most TV reporters are already under the thumb of this or that elder, so they are no real threat. They always report to their masters before running with questionable material. But internet news is right there almost as soon as the first report comes over the police scanner. Then you can print it or download it and store it for later use. But you have to move fast because even elders that still can't use a cell phone have ghouls that can hack.
So I spend a lot of time online looking for clues before they disappear.
Oh my God. That damn singing.
"Martin, don't make me have to break your leg!"
"Really, Alex?" he says. "Do you MEAAAAN it this time?" He sounds so hopeful.
"I'm leaving," I tell him as I shut off the computer. "I gotta go find a dead man's mom before she becomes a dead woman."
As I walk by him to leave, he gives me a puppy-dog face. "But what about my leg? You never break anything on me anymore."
"Oh, alright. Hold still." He bounces around me like a little kid that just found out his parents were taking him to Disneyland. "I said hold still. I'm not gonna chase you."
He stands still in front of me with his right leg slightly extended. I lift my foot and will all the force in my body bring my size 10 Nike down on his shin. I hear the bone snap. He falls to the ground in his giddy agony.
I just need some air.
You might think we don't really NEED air. Not on a physical level. The lungs don't do anything with it. But we can feel the different between stagnant indoor manufactured air and the real thing.
I need the real thing.
I need air that doesn't reek of the recreational pharmaceuticals that fill Martin's club. I need air that doesn't weigh heavy with the odor of unmentionable bodily fluids like the air in the special "guest suites" behind Martin's club.
So I step out into the alley behind the Club as I put on my black trench. I feel the tingle of cold against my skin, like a thousand tiny fingernails tapping on my cheek. I pretend to shiver because the people around me shiver. I hate the cold. Not because it bothers me, but because it makes it easy for mortals to notice you're not breathing.
I'm not the only one not breathing in this alley.
"Nice trench." He says as he almost glides toward me. For an instant he seems intriguing. If I were still mortal, I probably would have thought about going home with him. "Beautiful texture," he says as his fingertips slide across my arm. "Is it a Wang?"
Oh hell no, I'm thinking. I shake out the cobwebs and push his hand away.
"Actually, I got it at Wal-Mart. But thanks for asking, poseur."
He smiles softly and shakes his head. Before I can blink, his hand removes a Glock .45 from nowhere and plugs me with two shots. I fell the burn of phosphorous in my gut.
I don't remember much after that.
I do remember the utter look of shock on his face as I lunged at him. Apparently he didn't expect me to soak that kind of damage. But Martin had taught me a few things about absorbing pain.
My little poseur friend did not have such training.
When I come out of it, I'm crouched over my would-be assassin's limp, bloodless body with the taste of his soul in my mouth. Another body lies dead not far away. I walked over to examine the corpse. One clean slash to the throat. Must have got in the way for some reason.
I start looking for identification. I open up the wallet and get smacked in the face with a police badge.
I can't win.
I drag both bodies back into the club.
"What happened to your shirt?" asks Martin. "Did it hurt?"
"Yes, Martin. It hurt like hell. I got shot with phosphorous rounds. Does that make you happy?"
"Only if there are rounds left for me."
"You have issues," I say as I walk past him dragging the bodies.
I throw them in a corner of the storage room.
I look through the wallet. Shit. Family photo. Wife, two kids and a goddamn dog. Poseur's body is easy enough to deal with. Martin will sell it for parts to one of his contacts. I could care less what happens to him.
My fellow officer was another matter.
Common sense (correction-common vampire sense) says destroy the body quick. But if he just disappears that means his wife doesn't see a widow's pension unless he's eventually declared dead. She looks like a full-time mom. I don't think she could support two kids on her own, much less two kids and a dog.
But I can't just let them find the body with the neck ripped out. We get a little edgy when we find one of our own dead. Listen to me, talking like I still belong...
"Beating yourself up again?" says Martin.
I try to ignore him. I know he's about to get philosophical.
"You know, Lilith teaches that pain is the doorway to true understanding. You'd be better off beating yourself physically than mentally...I doesn't hurt as much."
I almost heard a faint cry of remorse in his voice. Almost.
"Monsters we are, Alex..."
"Stop it," I say. I feel a bloody tear roll down my cheek.
I don't let him finish the damn clique. I'm across the room and on top of him, ramming his head against the concrete of the storage room. I stop when I here the skull bone finally give. His eyes roll back for a minute, and then he goes limp. I sit on the floor next to him and wait for him to wake up.
He sits up with a smile on his face and rubs the back of his head.
"Feel better?" he asks.
"Much, thank you. You really are good at that, you know."
"Nice to know I can do something right."
We both start laughing.
"You wanna know what the real problem is, Martin?"
"I didn't need to vamp out to take that punk. I could have snapped his little poseur neck with one try. If I had kept myself in check, maybe that cop would be going home to his wife instead of lying here in the storage room."
"Then why did you let go?"
"Because for that one split second, I didn't care anymore. I didn't care if anyone saw me. I didn't care about the consequences. I just...I just wanted his blood."
"Congratulations. Maybe you really are a vampire."
I look over at the cop's body. Maybe Martin could fix the neck. Find his car and crash it into a wall and make it look like an accident. Use a little Jedi Mind trick to create some witnesses...
I was a vampire after all.
I wipe another red tear from my face before it falls onto my burnt shirt. Bloodstains don't come out, you know. Of course, neither do phosphorous burns, but still...
Martin pats me on the shoulder and gets up to leave as I start crying like a 12 year old that can't find her N'Sync CD. Good, I think to myself. So long as I can still cry, I haven't truly become one of them.
Chapter Two: Me and My Shadows