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My fangs are good for two things: ripping flesh, and injecting neurotoxin to paralyze my prey. Right now, however, they were cutting the inside of my cheek. Not realizing I was nervously chewing my lip, I scolded myself. I wasn't fifteen anymore. Shaking my head, I begrudgingly admitted it was nearer to one hundred and fifteen. This act, this moment, I had been here dozens of times before. Why were my nerves bothering me?
A shadow swept out into the rain and moved quickly over the pavement, its footfalls not disturbing the puddles of muddy water.
That was why.
I shimmied up the side of a nearby building, using my claws to grip the brick veneer. I moved quickly and silently. Vaulting over the side, I landed on the balls of my feet and moved to the edge. I watched the shadow, but was careful not to stare at it for more than two seconds at a time. Inhumans have an uncanny ability to know when they're being watched. I couldn't risk it detecting me before I could make a move.
Tossing back my knee-length, black, leather jacket, I crouched down and stared at a point just beyond the shadow keeping it in my field of vision. My blond hair, usually a bit wavier, was matted to my head uncomfortably in the rain. A baggy black sweater, trousers, and boots were wrapped around my athletic frame. I wasn't sure why I favored black now. It certainly wasn't one of my favorite colors, but there was something about the darkness that required black. Plus it was easier to color coordinate when you didn't have a reflection.
As it moved so did I; a shadow ghosting a shadow. Skittering from roof to roof, I kept my stare locked on the dark form. Stumblingonce on an exposed ventilation pipe I nearly plowed into the lip of the building. It was only my preternatural quickness and agility that saved me from what could have been a very embarrassing story to tell my supervisor back at the office. He had chastised me many times for my habit of wearing heavy black boots. I couldn't help it. I had an affinity for chunky shoes.
As the shadow stopped, I threw myself down. Perhaps it had heard my foot hit the pipe or caught my scent on the cool night's breeze. I couldn't tell if it had detected me. Lying silently in a cold puddle of rainwater, I knew a moment of discomfort was much better than anything the shadow could do to me if discovered. I had to move. Hiding behind this lip, I was risking losing it. Truth be told, I was very good at my job. I was a predator. The hunt was now second nature to me. But the job always felt like punishment for what I was. It was either the Brimstone Syndicate or expulsion into the sun. At least this option kept me alive. That was more than I could say for many of my supernatural brethren. Many of whom I had personally terminated.
A strange thought occurred to me. I missed the beat of my heart. In this situation, when I was still human, I knew my heart would have been thumping hard and fast as it pumped the necessary blood to my body. I started to take a slow breath out of habit as I felt the emptiness in my ribcage. Shaking my head, I rolled onto my side.
Lifting my head, I peered down into the street. The shadow hovered just beyond a pool of light spilling down from the streetlamp. It stood completely still amidst the huge drops of rain; the wind barely ruffling its clothes. The dark fabrics it wore were just visible in the darkness, yet I could smell them. Silk had a very distinctive odor, probably because it came from a worm. I watched quietly, waiting for its next move.
It was already too late when I realized it. Its stare was burning into me.
Cursing under my breath, I moved without a second thought. My position had been compromised. The shadow was onto me. Shuffling to my feet, I leapt off the edge of the roof without looking below. I hit the wet sidewalk hard. A mortal's knees would have buckled from that height, but I took off into a dead sprint after my prey. One of the benefits of already being dead, I assured myself.
The shadow was ahead of me, but not by much. Decisions swarmed my brain. When I caught up with the shadow--if I did--what would I do? The .45 ACP pistol in my shoulder holster would only slow it down, and in fact shooting it would probably succeed in pissing it off more than anything. Diving over garbage cans and whipping around corners, I took mental inventory of my supplies. I was equipped with the bare minimum. I'm sure my tool kit was at home probably having a lovely night. I had a few spells in my jacket, but those weren't going to do anything either. I gritted my teeth. That only left me with one option. But I had to get close. Too close.
I had been caught off my game. But that's when fate always seems to intervene. Intending to have a quiet drink at a human bar, instead, he walked in. It took me a minute, but there was something about him, something familiar. Maybe it was the outdated, expensive clothes he wore. Maybe it was the way he moved; his hands and arms seemed to flow like water as he gestured. But it was his eyes that gave him away.
He was a Vampire.
That itself wasn't a crime, but what he had been doing was. Murder is murder, no matter if the perpetrator is Inhuman or not. He wasn't part of my caseload, but I had seen his mug shot in the Brimstone's database. His name was Vlad, or Gustav, or Adolph, or some other name like that Vampires thought gave them some kind of meaning or connection to the darkness. Mostly it just sounded stupid.
He was older than I was, but by how much I wasn't sure. That alone had me worried. As a Vampire aged, its grasp on sanity became more tenuous, and it grew in strength. Not a good combination. I could break a human's arm with little more than a twist of my wrist. This one, however, was probably strong enough to beat me into to a bloody smear on the sidewalk without giving it a second thought.
Why was he running then?
I skidded to a stop in the street as the warning sirens began to blare in my mind. He had no reason to run from me. He was easily strong enough to destroy me.
It must be a trap.
I became still and scanned the street. The shadow had vanished into the rain-soaked darkness. Reaching into my coat, I slid my hand around the Beretta's grip and pulled it free of the holster. Wrapping my free hand over my wrist to steady my aim, I started to backpedal slowly.
The street was empty. He had taken me to the edge of the city. Boards crisscrossed empty doors and windows only allowing the wind to howl through. Several barren lots containing only trash and abandoned cars that had seen better days occupied the opposite side of the street. A squat warehouse stood in the distance, the number of broken windows along the top outnumbering those still intact. As lightning flashed twice, I thought I could see shadows moving in the flickering light.
It started to make sense in my mind. This one was a tricky old bastard. It was a rookie mistake. I underestimated this Vampire. It could prove to be the final mistake of my afterlife. My instincts were screaming to run away, but I knew the second I turned my back they would be on me. I couldn't see them, but I knew they were there. The Vampire had lured me right into the middle of his brood.
Setting my jaw, I reached down my shirt collar and yanked off an amulet slung around my neck. A gaudy affair with a wide purple gem set in the middle of a twisting, silver mount. It was more than just ugly jewelry, though. I hated to do this, but I wasn't sure what I was up against. Dropping it, I crushed it with the heel of my boot. The spell was activated.
Backup was on its way. I hoped.
Magic was an odd thing. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn't. The "foolproof" amulets had become standard issue, but there were numerous reports of the spell malfunctioning and the message never getting through. Brimstone's top Mages assured the field agents that they worked. That was after I had seen another Seeker shredded by a pack of Werewolves when no backup showed.
Several ashen faces appeared out of the gloom. Their expressions were drawn, but their eyes glistened like polished black opals. They moved carefully and deliberately into a semicircle, pushing my back to the wall. If I ran, they would be on me in an instant. I started to feel like General Custer making his last stand.
He appeared out of the gloom, safely behind his brood. "This game is at an end, Seeker."
He knew what I was.
"Vlad." He just looked like a Vlad. I decided to go with it. "You are in violation of Brimstone Syndicate laws." My voice was firm despite the fear balling in my throat. "Surrender and the Tribunal may show you mercy."
Not entirely unattractive, Vlad's face was slightly thinner than the rest of his brood's. His pure white skin appeared flawless. He looked as if he were just about to turn thirty years old, or perhaps had just passed it. His youthful features were offset by his coal black eyes that told the true story of his age. Dark locks of hair sprawled down perfectly around his face as if never touched by the rain. His lips contorted into an odd smile that didn't seem quite human. It's said the oldest Vampires forget how to actually be human and instead resort to imitating them. His movements, while fluid, were powerful and over-exaggerated. It looked as though he were an alien inside a human's skin.
"Mercy..." Vlad tossed back his head and laughed. It echoed off the sides of the buildings and reverberated eerily into the distance. I was certain I heard a dog yelp in fear then run and hide. "Brimstone means nothing to me."
His accent was certainly European, but I couldn't quite track it. It was almost German, but not. It could have been Austrian, or possibly a more regional accent I wasn't familiar with. "You can't just kill people. There are rules to be followed."
Vlad's eyes flashed with intensity. "You do not dictate to me. We are Vampires, not the lapdogs Brimstone wants us to be." He walked into the circle and stood before me. "We are powerful. We should rule, not be subservient."
I caught another scent on the wind and allowed a small smile to creep onto my lips. I had to keep him talking. "You have no choice, Vlad. Surrender now or be destroyed."
"Vlad?" He pronounced the name carefully. I could tell it left a foul taste in his mouth. "Why do you keep referring to me as Vlad?"
I shrugged. "You look like a Vlad." Pointing my pistol as the Master Vampire's head, I knew the cavalry had arrived. "Last chance."
Vlad leaned forward and pressed his forehead to the barrel of my Beretta. "Then shoot." He knew he could probably disarm me before I pulled the trigger.
He didn't count on my backup.
A monstrous form rose up behind the brood, its yellow eyes luminous in the low light. It tossed back its head and howled. The next moments became a blur. Vlad's brood reacted to protect their master. Swarming and diving onto my backup, they were tossed like rag dolls in all directions. The remaining Vampires who hadn't been shredded scattered. They were young, and not ready to take on a Werewolf.
As Vlad unwisely turned his head to see the source of the mayhem, I pulled the trigger leveling the Master Vampire. It didn't kill him, but it was enough to give me the advantage. Diving on top of him, I pinned his arm behind his back and dug my fangs into his throat. I heard him moan as the neurotoxin began to work into his body. It wouldn't take long, even on one so powerful. I could smell the singed hair and sulfur that clung to his wound. It quickly started to churn my stomach.
Pulling my mouth free, I stood and looked down at the Master Vampire. The wound in his head was already starting to heal, but at a much slower rate thanks to my venom. Wiping his blood from my lips, I turned my attention to my backup.
Smirking, I snapped my fingers and pointed to the sidewalk next to me. "Toby, heel."
The massive Werewolf rose up in front of me and snarled.
He apparently didn't find it as amusing as I did. Werewolves, with the exception of the ancient ones, couldn't speak in wolf form. Laughing, I lifted my hands and patted the air. I was just happy to see him.
Toby was nearly eight feet tall when standing on his hind legs but Werewolf physiology usually demanded they hunch. His muzzle was more slender than some of the other wolves I had encountered, but no less threatening. His coat was shades of dark gray and white making him resemble an arctic timber wolf. His long, thick tail was solid gray except for the white tip. I always thought it looked like someone took Toby's tail and dipped it in a can of paint. His yellow eyes began to dull. The change was coming. Werewolves, unlike their silver screen brethren, didn't require the moon phases to transform. The moon still held sway over them, but it was only during a Werewolf's infancy that it involuntarily forced the change.
I looked down at Vlad. He was stirring slightly, but my venom seemed to be working. I had bought enough time to at least get him into a cell ... I hoped. I had the feeling that if I picked him up and slung him over my shoulder, he would wake up and take advantage of my vulnerable position. I was fast and strong, but I wasn't stupid.
I leveled my gaze on Toby. It would be some time before he was able to revert to human form. Might as well take advantage of his strength and power. Stepping over Vlad, I reached up and scratched Toby behind the ear. "Thanks, T," I said as he grunted in approval. I pointed down at the Master Vampire. "Could you carry him back to the office for me?"