Bloodshot (Cheshire Red Reports Series #1)

Bloodshot (Cheshire Red Reports Series #1)

by Cherie Priest

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780857686459
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Publication date: 07/28/2011
Series: Cheshire Red Reports Series , #1
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Cherie Priest is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the award-winning Clockwork Century series (Boneshaker, Dreadnought, Clementine), the Cheshire Red books (Bloodshot, Hellbent), and The Borden Dispatches (Maplecroft, Chapelwood).

Read an Excerpt

1

You wouldn't believe some of the weird shit people pay me to steal.

Old things, new things. Expensive things, rare things, gross things.

Lately it's been naughty things.

We've all heard stories about people who regret their tattoos. But I'd rather spend eternity with Tweety Bird inked on my ass than knowing there's a hide-the-cucumber short film out there with my name on it, and my bank account tells me I'm not alone. I've done three pilfer-the-porno cases in the last eight months, and I've got another one on deck.

But I think I'm going to tell that fourth case to go to hell. Maybe I'll quit doing them altogether. They make me feel like an ambulance chaser, or one of those private dicks who earns a living by spying on cheating spouses, and that's no fun. Profitable, yes, but there's no dignity in it, and I don't need the money that badly.

In fact, I don't need the money at all. I've been at this gig for nearly a century, and in that time I've stored up quite a healthy little nest egg.

I suppose this begs the question of why I'd even bother with loathsome cases, if all I'm going to do is bitch about them. It can't be mere boredom, can it? Mere boredom cannot explain why I willingly breached the bedroom of a fifty-year-old man with a penchant for stuffed animals in Star Trek uniforms.

Perhaps I need to do some soul searching on this one.

But I say all that to simply say this: I was ready for a different kind of case. I would even go so far as to say I was eager for a different kind of case, but if you haven't heard the old adage about being careful what you wish for, and you'd like a cautionary fable based upon that finger-wagging premise, well then. Keep reading.

Have I got a doozy for you.

It began with a card I received in the mail. A simple card doesn't sound so strange, but the extenuating circumstances were these: (1) The card arrived at my home address; (2) it was addressed to me, personally, by name; and (3) I didn't recognize the handwriting. I can count on one hand the number of people who might send me a note at home, and I've known each of those folks for decades. This was somebody new. And instinct and experience told me that this was Not A Good Thing.

The envelope also lacked a postmark, which was a neat trick considering the locked residential boxes downstairs. So it wasn't marked in any way, and it didn't smell like anything, either. I held it under my nose and closed my eyes, and I caught a whiff of leather--from a glove? the mail carrier's bag?--and printer ink, and the rubbery taste of a moistening sponge.

What kind of prissy bitch won't lick an envelope?

That's easy. Another vampire.

Under the filthiest, most nonbathing of circumstances we don't leave much body odor, and what we do manufacture we prefer to minimize.

That extra bit of precaution told me plenty, even before I read the card. It told me that this came from someone who didn't want to be chased or traced. Somebody was trying to keep all the balls in his court, or all the cards in his hand--however you preferred to look at it.

I wasn't sure how I knew my mystery correspondent was a man, but I was right. The message within was typed in italics, as if I ought to whisper should I read it aloud. It said,

Dear Ms. Pendle,

I wish to speak with you about a business matter of utmost confidentiality and great personal significance. I have very deep pockets and I require complete discretion. Please contact me at the phone number below.

Thank you for your time,

Ian Stott

And he signed it with a drop of blood, just in case I was too dense to gather the nature of my potential client. The blood smelled sweet and a smidgen sour--not like the Asian sauce, but more like the candy. It's subtly different from the blood of a living person--both more appealing and less so. It's tough to describe.

We're dead, sort of. Everything smells and tastes different.

A few things look different, too. My pupils are permanently dilated, so although my eyes once were brown, now they're black. I'm as white as a compact fluorescent bulb, which you might expect from a woman who avoids the sun to the best of her ability, and my teeth . . . well, I try not to show them when I smile.

They're not all incriminatingly pointy, don't get me wrong. When I yawn I'm not flashing a row of shark's choppers, but my canines are decidedly pokey. Thank God they don't hang down as long as they once did. (I know a guy. He filed them for me.) These days they may be short, but they're still sharp enough to puncture an oil can, and that's how I like it.

My hair is more or less the same as it always was, a shade of black that doesn't require any further descriptors. It's short because--and I tell you this at the risk of dating myself--it was cut in a flapper style when I was still alive. It used to bother me that it won't grow any longer now that I'm post-viable, but I've convinced myself that it's just as well. It helps reinforce that whole "sexual ambiguity" thing.

Did I mention that already?

No? Well, it's easy to sum up. I'm on three Most Wanted lists internationally . . . and on every single one I'm listed as a man known only as "Cheshire Red." I'm not sure how this happened, or why.

I'm tallish for a woman, or shortish for a man. I'm slender, with breasts that are small enough to go unremarked. In the dark, at a glance, on a grainy security camera, I could pass for a young man. And far be it from me to argue with the feebs. If they want to keep on the lookout for a dude, so much the better for my career path and continued operation.

But anyway.

Ian Stott.

The number at the bottom of his summons wasn't local, and I didn't recognize the area code. Call me paranoid, but I had some reservations about dialing it up. I considered jaunting down to the nearest gas station and using the pay phone. Then I remembered that the bastard already knew where I lived, and I'd just be closing the barn door after the horse had run off. Hell, I was lucky he hadn't shown up on my doorstep.

Come to think of it, I wondered why he hadn't.

I wondered if he was watching me. I wondered if . . .

Okay. You would be right to call me paranoid, obviously, yes. But you don't survive as long as I have by being sloppy and easily accessible. That's a recipe for disaster. I'm much happier when I feel invisible.

I fondled the card between two fingers and tried to talk myself out of my phobic spiral.

He'd given me a name. Was it his real name? There was no telling. But he'd signed it properly, although I noted after looking again at the envelope, the signature didn't match the chicken-scratch scrawl of the address. The signature was large and smooth, and easy to read. My address would've been more legible if it'd been composed in pickup sticks.

Okay, so he knew where I lived, but he was respecting my space. Apparently. Again I had an irritating flash of nervousness, wondering if he was right outside--or across the street, or downstairs, or hiding in a closet.

Because I couldn't stop myself, I rushed to the hall closet and flung it open to make sure. Packed with shades of brown, black, and gray as usual, it was devoid of any two-legged lurkers. For about five seconds, I was relieved. Then I scanned the rest of the room with renewed frantic suspicion.

I grabbed a big black knife--my personal favorite, a carbon steel jobbie nearly a foot long--and I kicked in my own bathroom door. Empty. And now it also had a cracked tile on the wall where the knob had knocked it. Fantastic.

Too crazy to stop once I got myself started, I ran to the bedroom and checked that closet as well. More brown, black, and gray. No intruders.

Into the kitchen I burst. The walk-in pantry was secure.

The spare bedroom, of course! But it was likewise bereft of uninvited guests, as a mad crashing investigation shortly revealed.

Having exhausted my innate store of neurotic lunacy, I felt like an idiot. I really should've just called the number in the first place. I sat down on the arm of the couch, fished my phone out of my bag, took a deep breath, and dialed.

The phone at the other end only rang once before it was answered.

"Hello, Ms. Pendle," said a smooth, low voice.

"Hello, Mr. Stott." I tried to keep it dry and droll. No sense in letting him know he'd rattled me.

"Please, call me Ian. I thank you for responding to my message. I realize you're a busy woman, and I am certain that your time is valuable, but I wish to state up front that I'm prepared to pay you handsomely for it."

I listened hard and tried to get a good handle on the speaker. Another vampire, definitely. I'd known that much already, but hearing the preternatural, almost musical timbre in his words would've cinched it, regardless. He was well educated and calm, and American.

"That's what you implied in your note, yes," I said. "But as much as I love the money-is-no-object school of business, I still need to know what you're after before I can name a price."

"That's quite reasonable, and I'm happy to accommodate you. However, I am reluctant to discuss such a thing over the phone." Hmm. A dash of technophobia? He might be older than he sounded.

"Okay. You want to meet up? I can make that happen."

"You'll want someplace public, I expect. Bright lights, people milling about." He didn't have much of an accent, and I couldn't place what I detected. Not southern, not urban northern, not midwestern. He could've been a TV anchor if he hadn't been speaking so softly.

"This isn't a blind date, Ian. I don't need a room full of witnesses and a girlfriend who knows the get-me-outta-here safe word. There's a wine bar down on Third Street called Vina. It's dark and quiet, and it's often busy but it's never conspicuously crowded. Two primary entrances, easy to escape if necessary, easy to hide out in the open. Will that work for you?"

I heard a smile in his voice when he echoed, "A blind date. Funny you should put it that way." Then he said, "Yes, that's fine with me. Is tonight too soon?"

"Tonight is never too soon. Can you meet me there in an hour?" I checked my watch and noted that it wasn't quite eight PM. "Wait. Let's make it two hours. The bar doesn't close until two in the morning, so we'll have plenty of time to chat."

"Very well," he said. "I'll see you then, Ms. Pendle." And he hung up.

I hadn't bothered to tell him he could call me Raylene. As a freelance contractor I like to keep things stuffy on my end. I get little enough respect as it is, since I'm not affiliated with any of the major Houses--either here in town, or anywhere else.

Vampires tend to be pack animals out of social convenience. They coagulate around one particularly old, strong, or charismatic figure and entrench themselves in legitimate enterprises in much the same way the Mafia does. More often than not, this works for them. They mostly get left alone, and when they don't, they're tough enough as a group to smack down any external threats.

But external threats are few and far between, and usually they come from other vampires. Did I say that we were social creatures? I might have misspoken. It's a love-hate thing, the way we get along with one another. It's just as well there are so few of us anymore.

I could've made it down to Vina in an hour, but I didn't feel like rushing.

I felt like changing clothes, freshening up, checking my email, maybe playing a game of Internet Scrabble, and then wandering down to Third Street at my leisure.

There was method to my madness.

For one thing, it's important to always project the appearance of control. We would operate on my terms--when I want, where I want. I always try to establish this right out of the gate, because it gets clients accustomed to the idea that I'll be calling the shots. They pay me to achieve an objective. How I achieve that objective is up to my own discretion and no one else's, and I will accept no restrictions. This is not to say that I'm a rabid berserker off the leash or anything. That's bad for business and bad for the low-key, invisible vibe I struggle to maintain.

But I am the queen of situational ethics.

And for another thing, Stott had thrown me more than I would've cared to admit, and I needed to calm myself down. I wanted to meet him after a bath and maybe an adult beverage.

I'm not Dracula and I do drink . . . wine. In fact I rather enjoy it, though more than a glass at a time makes me woozy. Blame it on a semi-dead metabolism or anything else you like, but I don't process alcohol well or quickly. I've never met a vampire who does. Therefore, I kept it light--just a few sips of something out of a box. It was enough to settle my nerves, but not enough to slow me down.

I dressed, but I didn't dress up. It attracts too much attention.

I wore three shades of gray with black accents--boots, bag, et cetera. I ran a hand through my hair and called it "done." I closed my wee, lightweight laptop and stuck it into my bag. I picked up my keys and stuffed them into my pocket. And I left the condo, locking it behind me. The locking part took a full minute. I like locks, and I have some good ones.

Down in the parking garage under the building I keep a blue-gray Thunderbird. It's not the newest model, but it's not old enough to count as a classic--and it's got more miles on it than you'd guess. I could afford a better car, sure, but I like the way this one drives and no one ever looks at it twice. Only this time I left it in its assigned space. Traffic would be a bitch, parking would be worse, and I could make it to my destination in thirty minutes if I kept up a steady pace. It was all downhill, anyway.

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Bloodshot 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
Zot79 More than 1 year ago
I had a few misgivings when I learned that the latest book by one of my new favorite writers was going to be an urban fantasy vampire story. Not my thing. I didn't make it even half-way through a crazy popular novel about sparkly vampires that's been made into crazy popular series of films. I finished, barely, a literary classic that had been paranormalized with vampires and zombies. But based on my delightful experiences with Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnought, I had to give Bloodshot a try. It worked for me. It kept me awake past my bedtime turning pages (which is more than I can say for the classic science fiction book I set aside). I'll tell you why. You can read the cover blurb for yourself. Action. This book has plenty of action. One thing you must say about being a vampire master thief on the run from every police department including Interpol is that you don't lead a dull life. When Raylene isn't breaking into somebody else's warehouse or office, somebody is breaking into hers. This tends to lead to either a fight or a chase or both. The author does a great job with them all. Adventure. This comes from being on the run and being a vampire. Raylene inhabits the night. She has to keep moving. Her latest job has her tracking down and stealing government documents about a secret project. This forces her to travel the country to follow clues and break into the aforementioned warehouses and offices and the reader gets to follow along. Suspense. There are some good twists and turns here. I did see a couple of them coming, but not all. Secret government projects and mysterious men-in-black are not unfamiliar territory. But the author does a good job of weaving them into a fairly believable story (once you get past the bit about vampires existing). Snark. I wasn't sure I would be able to tolerate Raylene's first-person narrative for the entire 359 pages. It grew on me. I mostly enjoyed it. I didn't find the humor to be laugh-out-loud funny. But the note of bemusement kept the tone of the story light. I have a few complaints. There is at least one killing in the book that does not seem justified, even by Raylene's apparent moral code. Then again, she's a vampire, and a thief, and a killer. On at least one, maybe two, occasions I felt a little cheated by the ease and convenience of Raylene's escape from an impossible situation. This wasn't due to her skill or power, just a break that went her way. But overall I was happy with my reading experience. I give it 4 stars out of 5. I'll be looking forward to the next Cheshire Red book, along with the next Clockwork Century book, and anything else that Cherie Priest writes.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Century old vampire Raylene "Cheshire Red" Pendle is a thief who steals valuable items. The cops assume the brazen crook is a man as she does nothing to change their bias. Instead, the Seattle resident lives sort of alone with a couple of street people in an abandoned warehouse where she hordes much of her values. Blind wealthy vampire Ian Stott hires Raylene to steal top secret government documents detailing inhuman black-op military experiments on vampires and other illegal aliens. Their testing on Ian took away his eyesight. She kills an intruder before going to Atlanta to follow up on a clue to another experiment victim. Raylene meets the brother Adrian, a former SEAL turned drag queen with no obvious place to tuck in his lower head. However, her inquiry takes a nasty spin as she learns Project Bloodshot still exists even if officially it was shut down years ago. This group's private sector backer also has goons ready to turn anyone into a test tube especially those making inquiries. This is an enjoyable urban fantasy made fresh by the interesting support characters who provide insight and action while also lampooning the sub-genre. The experiments are somewhat unique with the military tests on vampires, but will remind readers somewhat of Lora Leigh's Breed series. Raylene is a kick butt loner who finds herself working for a sightless vampiric client with a humongous drag queen as a sidekick while the Men in Black and a scientific lunatic give chase; what more can a reader want from the cast? Although nothing major is wrapped up, Cheshire Priest opens Chesire Red with an exciting tale. Harriet Klausner
Faboolicious More than 1 year ago
I received this as an ARC though the Goodreads giveaway. I was all set to hate this book a few chapters in, but before I knew it, I was eagerly turning pages and on the edge of my seat towards the end. As far as Vampire stories go, it's not exactly unique, but it did have a premise that was new to me. A vampire blinded by military experimentation hiring another vampire to help him out is quite intriguing after all. Raylene, also known as Chesire Red in the crime world, came across as an obnoxious teenager at first. Her attempts at being funny were just plain annoying, and she wasn't likable to me at all. Towards the end of the book, however, I began to like her more and more. She has spunk, she's brave, and well, she can actually be funny some of the time. I will most likely read the sequel, since I am curious by nature, and there is still a mystery to be solved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A "Rollercoaster"read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I’m always very cautious when I pick up an urban fantasy book. For two reasons: 1. I’m not a romance reader, so the moment I see a paranormal/urban fantasy with romance and unexplainable feelings stirring from the loins because there’s a character with bestial urges and dangerous animal/pheromone attractiveness, it makes me roll my eyes and go for the next book on the list. 2. Inter species fluid swapping makes me cringe. Enough about this I am going off subject... I am very pleased to say, this book has NONE of the things I was not looking for in this type of book. Actually, in fact, I was pleased with this book overall. I loved the writing style, and what grabbed me after a couple of chapters is Raylene herself. Raylene is a character so well written, and so filled with wit and charm you can’t help but like her. She’s got an attitude, and her insults are beyond hilarious not to mention, her narration of the story is what really keeps the plot going and interesting. I’m not sure who you would compare her to, as my experience reading in this genre is somewhat limited, but I’d have to say her wit and insults got me laughing out loud at times. Her snide side comments also provide for much of the comic humor that goes on throughout this book. That is not to say this book is in anyway a light hearted read. The real plot itself is dark and the overall setting and some of the characters are oily, seedy, and awful. So there is a balance between action and humor here that makes the reading certainly ‘feel’ light even though the subject isn’t close to that. What I thought was fun was Raylene seems to attract a small group of followers and she has no choice to accept them. I thought the two orphans showed the ‘softer’ side of Raylene (does she really have one though? maybe!) and the other two followers show potential romances (maybe? although her choice at the end rather surprised me). The book overall was really good and I had fun reading this. There were moments where the action was so fast paced and almost movie quality reading, and then there’s comedy moments where I found myself laughing out loud. I’m really looking forward to reading Hellbent, the next book that comes after this one. Greatly recommended for urban fantasy fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ElizabethT More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It's the first of two books out so far and I hope the next come out soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
7hir7een More than 1 year ago
I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I’ve liked the other works by Cherie Priest that I have read, but I didn’t really picture her writing a vampire book. I’m glad she did, because I really enjoyed it. It’s a dark urban fantasy comedy thriller vampire conspiracy book. If that sounds like a lot to pack into one book, may I direct you the Priest’s Clockwork Century series? Cherie Priest is very good at crafting a multi-faceted novel, and making it work. The narration is snarky and funny. The plot is different than anything I’ve read lately, and was interesting. The twists and turns helped keep it lively. Notably, unlike most urban fantasy vampire books, the protagonist is not in bed with someone in the first 30 pages of the book. While I must admit that I enjoy well-placed, well-written smut as much as the next person, its absence isn’t missed. Overall, Bloodshot is a fun romp, and I’d recommend it to fans of Cherie Priest, vampires, snarky narrators and urban fantasy.
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