In the last installment, Alex's new friend Ralph stumbles on a pack of Sabbat vampires and a fellow classmate that happens to be a vampire hunter. Now the trio are working together to track down Alex's long-lost fiend…but the results aren't what Alex had in mind.
This situation is wrong on SO many levels.
Ralph is helping Heather with her calculus homework. They're sitting at the kitchen table chomping on pizza and drinking Jolt Cola, the traditional dinner of the college student. I'm in the adjoining laundry room reading the instructions on the All Dye-Free bottle (Heather has allergies) to pre-treat stains.
Did I mention that Ralph is a twelve-year old tech mage and Heather is a vampire hunter? No? Damn, how'd I forget that? Did I also forget to mention those stains are from the blood of the last hunting pack my sire sent looking for me?
This situation is wrong on SO many levels.
I start the washer and head back into the kitchen. "How much longer you two gonna be?"
"About an hour, why?" asked Ralph.
"Well, for starters, I don't have the luxury of being able to down a two-liter of caffeine to stay up past my bedtime, so if you're coming with me we need to get going."
"Can I ride on the bike with you?" asked Ralph.
"I'll be good."
"Fine! But if you try to fondle me again…"
"That was an accident. I got scared and I had to hold onto SOMETHING."
Heather puts her head on the table and tries to hide her laughing.
So Ralph hops on the back of my Harley and Heather jumps in her 1989 Dodge Ram. Damn thing looks like it's done both. She actually has duck tape holding the bumper on. I'm waiting for Ralph to "fix it" like he did my bike. Then again, that truck is probably too far gone even for him. But it still runs and it doesn't pour out black smoke. It works.
A sewer rat volunteered the location of an abandoned house just across the river that he noticed a medical supply van in front of. He had heard from another of his kind that there was some activity in the place at night. The timing fit with the recent disappearances of two high school football players in Newark. I didn't question his motives for giving me the information, because he would have lied anyway and I really don't want to know. When dealing with the sewer rats, it's always best to just thank them and try to pretend the odor doesn't bother you.
So we cross the river and park in the first WaWa we find. We'll just walk the rest of the way. I'm packing my two Colt Anacondas full of phosphorous and an axe under my jacket. Heather has her martial arts and wooden stakes. And Ralph…
…he has a Jango Fett Blaster Pistol he bought from Toys R Us.
But he assures me that he has "fixed it."
We get across the street from the house. I see a light on in the basement. It flickers for a moment, goes out, then comes back on. Like a power surge. Like the kind of power surge you get with a mad scientist.
I think I found my fiend.
Four years ago, I tracked a fiend down to an abandoned warehouse outside of Chicago. I didn't know it was a fiend at the time. We were looking for a serial killer who always took a piece of his victim with him. The body part was always removed in a clean, surgical manner. I went in with seven swat team members. I'm the only one that came out. As a reward, I attracted my sire's attention.
"You got your shield, brat?" I ask Ralph. He nods excitedly. He's just WAY too happy.
I look at Heather. "You sure you don't want one of my guns?"
"No, I don't like guns."
"What, and you're normal?"
Heather and Ralph go around the back of the house. I find the cellar doors and listen for a moment. I hear a gruff breathing on the other side. Like some big rabid orangutan. This is so bad…
I grab the handle with my free hand and pull off the door in one movement. Something large moves at the base of the stairs. It has two heads. I throw up the shadows around it and jumped down into the basement.
It makes a weird wheezing noise as it struggles for air. I can see through my own shadows, and I see what looks like the melded bodies of two muscular young men transformed into a creature with four arms, two heads, spikes along the back and neck, an alligator tail, and not an ounce of sanity left.
Guess I found the football players.
I fire twice into its chest area at point blank range. It staggers back about half a foot, but then lunges toward me instinctively. The tail whips around and smacks my hand hard enough to make me lose one of my guns. Then I hear what sounds like a firecracker go off. I see a hole burn though the stomach of the critter and the energy bolt continues clear through and almost hits me. A look of surprise and relief comes across the monster's faces as it collapses in front of me.
"Damn it, Ralph. You almost hit me with that thing."
"I was nowhere near hitting you. I successfully calculated your location based on the shadow's proximity to the stairway, then figured the trajectory of the bolt and made the proper modifications before firing."
I look at Heather. "It was a lucky shot," she says.
Up through the floorboards comes the fiend all dolled up in horrid form. It's kind of a cross between the critters from the Alien movies and a velociraptor. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a glowing blue hand.
It backhands Ralph and he goes flying across the room and smacks into the far wall. I hear the crack of bone as he slumps onto the floor.
I hear the roar of the beast deep down in my soul. I bite down onto my own wrist and the blood pours out and turns to tentacles of shadow. The last thing I remember saying is "Get Ralph out of here" as I drop my other gun and lunge.
I wake up famished. I pull myself up and feel a pain in my lower back. I reach around and feel a burn mark and a bullet hole. There's the faint outline of a claw across my stomach. I rub my hand over my right shoulder and feel the remnants of a massive bite.
Then I realize I'm not in my room at the club, but Heather's basement.
I stagger up the steps and try to open the door. It's locked. I knock. After a few minutes I hear cautious footsteps come toward the door. The door unlocks and opens.
"Martin sent over a couple bottles for you," says Heather in a monotone. "They're in the fridge." She turns and walks away.
"He's fine." She stops walking, but doesn't turn to face me. "I got him all healed. It took a couple days, but he's o.k."
"How long have I been out?"
"Three days," she says.
"I must have been pretty hurt."
"You should have seen the other guy."
"What happened?" I asked. Even though I really didn't want to know.
"You frenzied. I guess it was seeing Ralph get hurt like that. You…you were different. There was all this black blood and shadow. It was everywhere. When you finally killed it, I thought you'd snap out of it. But you didn't. I had to shoot you to knock you out." She finally turns around. She's crying.
"I picked up an axe and I was going to kill you. But I couldn't. Ralph never would have forgiven me. I wouldn't have forgiven me, either."
I take a step toward her and she steps back.
"You're scared of me, aren't you?" I ask.
"Yeah. Don't take it personally."
"Nah. It's o.k. I'm scared of me, too."
Of Blood and Friendship