Skarlet: Part One of the Vampire Trinityby Thomas Emson
When a new drug starts turning users into vampires, it's open season on the living in this action-packed thriller in the tradition of Jonathan Maberry and The Walking Dead
Fear grips London as dozens of people die after taking a sinister new drug called Skarlet. But that's only the beginning. Forty-eight hours later, the dead partiers wake up/p>/b>/i>
When a new drug starts turning users into vampires, it's open season on the living in this action-packed thriller in the tradition of Jonathan Maberry and The Walking Dead
Fear grips London as dozens of people die after taking a sinister new drug called Skarlet. But that's only the beginning. Forty-eight hours later, the dead partiers wake up and begin butchering the living for their blood. Soon, London gives a name to its terror: Vampires.
Jake Lawton, bitter and betrayed after the Iraq War, finds himself fighting another battle - against the growing army of immortal hunters and their human cohorts. Lawton joins forces with the journalist who brought about his downfall and the dealer tricked into distributing the drug. Together they take on the spineless authorities, the ruthless cohorts, and the hungry dead. But the vampire plague unleashed in London is nothing to what lurks beneath the streets. Waiting to be fed ...Waiting to be resurrected ...Waiting to reign again over a city of human slaves.
“Emson feeds fresh blood to the vampire genre in this visceral hybrid of plague, panic, and the paranormal, which launches a series worth watching… Furious pacing doesn't preclude harsh poetic imagery as human greed blurs lines between friend and foe, victim and victimizer. Lawton's personal crises enrich the splattery carnage, and the plot is lent pathos by a misguided human population as dismal as the undead. The vampires of this energetic and philosophical fable are the rotting, deadly creatures of folklore, and a refrehsing change for readers who weary of the sexy undead.” Publishers Weekly
“Very exciting… Fast paced, with sharply defined characters and a very clever historical explanation for the modern-day vampires (it involves ancient Babylon and Alexander the Great), the book should find a large audience. It's worth pointing out that this is no "vampire romance"; it's an out-and-out horror story, dark and brutal and thrilling.” Booklist
“The premise behind the rise of the vampires is fresh and clever, and with this established and pieces of the backstory falling into place, the suspension of disbelief can be all but taken out of the equation, leaving you to enjoy the bloodthirsty rampage that Thomas has unleashed on a well researched London....A crimson delight. A gripping, action rich adventure thriller that breathes new life into the vampire mythos.” MyFavouriteBooks.blogspot.com
“Emson weaves a compelling story across multiple times and places, from Alexander the Great conquering Babylon to Iraq when the Ottomans ousted the British in 1920 to the most recent war in Iraq....And to somehow take these disparate locations and tie them together with modern London without skipping a beat...was quite entertaining.” BlogCritics.org
“London is gritty and grimy rather than glamorous, the vampires are mindless killing machines and the story's heroes are all realistically un-heroic. Fast pacing is maintained through out the book and the overall result is a most readable novel.” LoveVampires.com
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Read an Excerpt
Part One of the Vampire Trinity
By Thomas Emson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Thomas Emson
All rights reserved.
Five miles North of Brasov, Romania — 11 A.M., November 13, 1983
THE stranger said, "I'll buy your children."
The father gawped. He looked at his wife. The wife put her face in her hands and whimpered.
And the stranger said, "I'll pay a good price. Do the men in the town pay a good price? I will better it and take them away from you. Your lives will improve with all that money, yes?"
The father's face tightened. He glanced across at his children. They were huddled together near the door. His daughter glared at him, and hatred shone in her purple eyes.
But we have to survive, he thought, and your beauty sells for a good price.
The wife looked up at him, and her face flushed with grief. She said, "What if we become poor again? We won't have them to provide for us. No one will buy me, will they?"
"You'll not want," said the stranger. "What I give you will last until your old age. I will pay the highest price for your children and" — he stared down at the rags on the table — "for these."
The father shook his head. "I'll want double for these."
The stranger's face reddened. "They're not yours to barter with, sir."
"They're in my house, in my safe keeping. I'll bloody well barter if I want to." He leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Do you realize how difficult life is in Romania? They say we live well. They say we should love Ceausescu. We're better off than the Russians, better off than the English and the Americans. We're all equal, a Socialist paradise." Sitting back, he folded his arms. "That's bollocks. We're starving. We can't work unless we suck up to the Party, unless we join the Party. We can't eat unless we sell our daughter for sex. This is our life, and if I have something to sell, then you'll have to name a price."
"I will," said the stranger. "The price is your life."
The wife gasped and clutched at her breast. The son, cowering in the corner in his sister's embrace, cried. The boy's tears ran into the blood smearing his cheeks.
The father felt a chill spread through him. He looked at the stranger and studied his eyes. The man had a Middle Eastern look to him. His brown eyes were like bottomless pits, sucking the will out of the father. The stranger had already killed two men today. And the father was sure he'd kill him and his family, too. But bartering was a way of life for him, so he had to keep his nerve.
He said, "Give me half again what you give for the kids, and you can take these rags."
The stranger slammed his fist on the table. "They are not yours. You're only their keeper. I'll take them if I want, do you understand?"
The father's throat dried out. His wife grabbed his arm and squeezed. She leaned into him, and he smelled her sweat. Whispering, she said, "Get a good price for the children, give him this shit. He'll kill us, Constantin."
The father swallowed and said, "Give me a good price for the children, and you can take this rubbish."
The stranger relaxed. His shoulders sagged, and a smile spread across his face. "Good, good." He stared over to the children.
The girl rocked her weeping brother. She stared at the adults sitting around the kitchen table — the adults who were buying and selling her flesh.
The father looked away, fixed his gaze on the slices of material spread out on the table. He said, "How much will you give? The girl, she's fifteen, she's — soiled" — his wife blew her nose and sobbed — "but the boy, he's twelve, he's — he's untouched. Apart from the wound his stupid sister gave him today."
"She gave him that to protect him from your schemes, sir," said the stranger. "To make the boy ugly to your monstrous customers. She's brave."
"She's a fool," said the father. "He's damaged, now."
"But you'll still sell him."
He stared into the stranger's eyes and the desperation flickering in his breast blazed. "We must live, we must eat. I'll sell you my children."
The stranger said, "Good, then I'll take them." He stood up and perched his trilby on his head.
"Where — where will you take them? To your country?"
"Yes," said the father. "You're — Egyptian? A Palestinian? Fighting for your freedoms from the Israelis?"
The stranger chuckled. "I'm not. I'm a Babylonian."
"An ancient culture. Which spawned you and your family, too. But you don't seem to care about culture, do you?"
Anger ignited in the father's heart. "Culture doesn't feed you. Give me my money, and take these creatures with you. You've worn out your welcome." He jumped to his feet. He towered over the stranger, and for a moment he felt strong and powerful. He could steal this shrunken Arab's money and drive him out of his home. Then he'd have the children to sell to his regular customers — and he'd be laden with the Arab's stolen money. He stepped round the table with this in mind.
The stranger whipped out a gun.
The father froze, and his wife gasped.
"I'll pay you for your children, now," said the stranger.
The father tried to speak. "I — yes — I — good, good — we can — settle — the — the price —"
"The price, sir, for being willing to sell your own children, is death."
The gun fired. The father ducked, and as he ducked he saw blood burst out of his wife's face. He screamed and covered his head. Silence fell. He smelled the cordite. His son whined. Rolled up into a ball, the father prayed.
The stranger said, "You're a coward, and I am ashamed of you, brother."
The barrel pressed against the back of the father's head. It was cold and sent shudders down his body. His bladder felt queasy. He started to beg for mercy. A deafening noise filled his head and the world went black and still.CHAPTER 2
COMING TO WORSHIP
Soho, London — 9:15 P.M., February 6, 2008
JAKE Lawton, thirty-one years old with five bullet-holes in his body, watched the vampires stream into the club.
"Here they come," said Cal Milo, Lawton's partner on the door that night. "The gothed-up freaks. The bloodsuckers. The neck-biters."
Milo stared down from his six feet six as the vamps entered Religion. Some of them leered up at Milo. They weren't scared of him, showed him no respect despite his size and power. They sneered and pouted and minced as they filed past Milo and Lawton into the club.
Lawton spied for signs of drugs, booze, and weapons. His gaze flitted over the clubbers. He watched for ticks, for nervous looks, for sweaty brows. He looked at their white faces, their black-lined eyes. Chains looped from ears to noses, from eyelids to lips. Earrings clustered on lobes. Studs drilled into foreheads. Their lips were painted black or scarlet and when they bared their polished teeth, Lawton saw that a few had filed their canines into points.
"Come on, freakshows," said Milo, "or it'll be dawn and you'll turn into dust."
"Leave it," said Lawton.
"Hey, soldier boy. You do your job, I'll do mine."
"I am doing mine — and I'm doing yours as well. Keep the mouth shut and the eyes open."
Milo scowled at Lawton over the heads of the waiting goths. He said, "Don't pull rank on me, grunt. You're not in the army, now. You're a civilian and I'm chief bastard. I say what's what."
Lawton sighed. He didn't want trouble. He'd deal with it if it stepped up and challenged him, but better to calm situations down than stir them up.
"All right, Cal, whatever you say. Let's get them in."
"Lovers' tiff?" said a goth with blue hair, grinning up at Lawton.
Lawton saw the rage rise in Milo and decided to push his luck: he smiled at the clubber and said, "He's playing hard to get."
The goth and his mates laughed as they trooped into Religion. Lawton glanced at Milo, and Milo snarled. His hands were rolled into fists, and a pulse throbbed at his temple.
Lawton said, "You look like you're taking a shit, Cal."
"Fucking lovers' tiff. You bastard, Lawton. Soldier boys might like it up the arse, but I prefer women."
"Unfortunately, they don't prefer you."
"What kind of women did they have out there in Iraq, Lawton?"
Lawton didn't say anything. He watched the line of goths moving into the club. Wednesday night was vampire night. It was coming up to 9:30 p.m. and they were arriving for a 10:00 p.m. start. They'd be here all night, Lawton with them. The goths never caused much trouble, never any fights, and not many drugs, either. But the dealers would be here, as usual, preying on any potential customers.
The vampires who tagged along sometimes caused a bit of hassle. The staff would always find an odd couple holed up in a toilet cubicle, drinking each other's blood.
"They're sanguinarians," Jenna told him a few months ago. "They think they need blood to live. It's not much. It's consensual. They just make a little cut on a mate's arm, sip a little red."
Lawton had frowned, thought he'd seen everything. Obviously not. The hell of Iraq had not prepared him for blood-drinking, middle-class students.
Jenna laughed and said, "You've gone a bit pale. The sight of blood make you squeamish?"
"No, but the idea of drinking it does. These people need help."
She'd scowled, looked away, and said, "At least they don't murder innocent Iraqi civilians."
The Army kicked him out two years ago. Lawton came back to New Cross, where he'd been born, where his mother had died when he was a toddler. On his return he found a flat and sat in the flat all day and all night playing the incident over in his head. He drank to try and get rid of the pictures in his brain, but that didn't work. He got some unofficial security work, and that kept the wolves at bay. But he kept on drinking and he kept on staying awake.
He and Jenna had dated for a few years when they were teenagers. But Lawton joined up, and Jenna's heart broke. It healed, though, and they always got it on whenever he came home on leave.
But in 2003 they fell out over the war in Iraq. She'd gone on that march in London, that Stop The War crap.
"So you're supporting a dictator?" said Lawton.
"You're fighting for one — for two of them," said Jenna.
"Bush and Blair aren't dictators. They may be jerks, but they're not dictators, you stupid cow."
"Don't patronize me, Jake. What do you know? You're just a soldier, a killing machine, trained not to think — you do what they tell you to do."
She was right: he obeyed orders. That was the job. He didn't think about the rights and wrongs of the war, just got on with the soldiering.
But once he got out there, Lawton wished Jenna and her anti-war pals could've spent some time with him on the streets of Basra, feel the gratitude of the locals, see their relief at being freed from a tyrant's yoke.
Whatever came afterward — and what came afterward was a fuck up on a colossal scale, Lawton and his mates knew that — seeing those faces made it all worthwhile for him.
More than a year after the Army kicked him out, he'd seen Jenna again.
He was in a pub, Wednesday night, quick pint before a cash-in-hand job. A bunch of goths came in, loud and brash, dressed up in a mix of Renaissance and Victorian gear.
And there, in black, part of this circus, was Jenna. Her short, blond hair had gone long and dark. Her skin was pale, her lips — which looked so sexy in scarlet — were painted black.
When she saw him sitting at the bar, her smile went and her mouth opened. They held each other's eyes for a while, until she came over and said, "You're back," and he said, "What's happened to you?"
She sat next to him on a stool, and he looked down at her long legs in the leather mini skirt and black tights, boots up to her knees.
He bought her a vodka and they skirted around the issues of themselves and the war, focusing instead on a "How's your family?" and "What are you up to?" conversation.
"Are you headed out?" said Lawton, regretting his obvious question immediately.
"Yeah," said Jenna, "goth night, vampire night."
"Uh-huh. Soho. This club called Religion. Every Wednesday night" — and here she made an accent like Bela Lugosi in the original Dracula — "the children of the night rise up to drink the blood of innocents."
And she said she wasn't, telling him about sanguinarians and how they took a little drop from friends, and then saying that at least they didn't kill innocent Iraqi civilians.
Lawton had furrowed his brow, glanced over at Jenna's friends, and then asked her if she drank blood.
"No, Jake, I don't. I'm in it for the clothes and the music."
"Yeah. You always liked that kind of stuff. Bauhaus, Marilyn Manson."
"The Dresden Dolls, that kind of Dark Cabaret stuff. And London After Midnight, I like. And Manson still. He's cool." She sipped her drink, then said, "You should come down. I mean, if you're doing door work and you're looking for a job. I could put in a good word. I know the guy who runs the club."
"Do you?" he said, feeling a little flare of jealousy spark in his chest.
Lawton said he'd think about it, and thanks for the suggestion. The goths were leaving, and Jenna slid off the stool, saying she'd better be off. They looked at each other like they had when she came in, and Lawton reeled through the times when things had been good between them.
"It's good to see you again," he said.
"Yeah, you too, Jake, really."
She put an arm on his shoulder and went on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "I'll see you again," she said — a confirmation, not a question.
"That'd be good."
"Come into town. Go see Nathan Holt at Religion. Tell him I told you."
He nodded, and she waved and mouthed "bye" as she walked out of the pub after her friends.
That night, Lawton doored at an unlicensed boxing show in North London. He and two other bouncers had to fight off a dozen thugs who thought they didn't need tickets to get in. Knives and broken bottles, bricks and baseball bats, Lawton had no idea how he got out without getting badly hurt. And he thought, Screw that, and the next day he headed into Soho and found Religion.
Nathan, the manager, made him go on a Security Industry Authorization course — "It's all above board, Jake. All doormen, they got be authorized these days." — and a few weeks later, a regular salary dropping into his bank account, Lawton doored at Religion for the first time.
And nine months on, still there, he watched vampires wait in line.
Milo, still rabbiting on about Iraqi women, said, "All Muslims over there, ain't they. Don't do sex. Get stoned to death, don't they."
Lawton, eyes fixed on the crowd, said, "You know as much about Iraq as you do about women, Milo. And that's a little less than nothing."
"Think you're so fucking clever, Lawton. Think I don't know what you got up to out there?"
Lawton glared at the other doorman. A sweat broke out on the back of his neck, and a spark of anger ignited in his breast.
Milo, smiling, said, "Bet they're still after you, ain't they. The Army. Bet they want your head, Lawton. What happened, eh? Lost it, did you? Did some war crimes, then chickened out of the court martial?"
Lawton almost shot through the line of clubbers and smashed into Milo. But a voice saying, "Hello, soldier," stopped him. He looked down at her and smiled, but she must have noticed the fury in his eyes. "You okay?"
"I'm fine," he said, "You look great, Jen."
She rolled her eyes. "Not your thing, Jake, I know, but thanks anyway. See you later?"
He nodded, and Jenna winked at him, stroking her hand across his abdomen as she filed into the club.
"Your little bloodsucker there, Lawton? Or is she another kind of sucker?"
"That's obviously something you've never had experience of, Milo."
Lawton's anger had died away. He knew he shouldn't let Milo get to him. Being a soldier, he was used to wind-up and banter. But Milo pushed things too far. He was a bully, and bullies got Lawton's goat. He'd seen enough of that in the Army. And as a staff sergeant, he'd put a few of them in their place — officially and unofficially.
Lawton wound down. Only a few stragglers stringing into the club, now. He and Milo would move into the club at ten, a new pair replacing them on the door. A voice in his earpiece said that everything was okay inside. He relaxed, but then a familiar figure strolled around the corner.
Dressed in a black shirt, black tie, black suit, the streak of piss sneered up at Lawton. He stopped at the door, glanced at Milo, then looked at Lawton. He took a packet of fruit gums from his jacket pocket and popped one into his mouth. His face creased up as he sucked. "Sharp," he said. "A bit like you, Mr. Lawton."
Lawton scowled at him.
The streak of piss said, "I'm on the guest list tonight, Jakey-wakey."
"You're banned, Fraser — for life."
"Not tonight, mate."
"For life means tonight, means every night. On your way."
"My way is that way," said Fraser Lithgow, pointing into the club, and he started up the stairs.
Lawton put an arm out to stop him, saying, "Hold your horses, golden boy. You are banned. For life. You know that, so don't be an idiot."
"He's not banned. Not tonight," said a voice.
Excerpted from Skarlet by Thomas Emson. Copyright © 2012 Thomas Emson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
THOMAS EMSON is a writer who lives in Kent in the UK. Skarlet is his second novel, and the first in the Vampire Trinity.
THOMAS EMSON is a writer who lives in Kent in the UK. Skarlet is his second novel, and the first in the Vampire Trinity. His first novel was Maneater.
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