Author's note: This poor example of tepid storytelling is the sequel to "What Fate Can Steal From Us".
The very idea seems like the surreal icing on top of the bizarre and gruesome cake my life has become but my new friends say I am lucky. What is the good fortune that the Fates have graciously bestowed upon me? Nothing less than the chance to keep my real name, Todd Briggs, and identity when they all had to abandon theirs after encountering the creatures we hunt. Personally, I would willingly alter any of the events that lead to such good luck but as they say, the past is only memories but living with them is almost impossible at times.
I survived the ambush in Afghanistan that killed all the other members of my Special Forces team, the civilian aid workers we were assisting and hundreds of villagers. The ambush was the result of several intelligence failures by desk bound REMF's and once word got out I left the army behind to begin a new civilian life with my wife, Jillian. A few months later during an extended road trip vacation in south Florida that was suppose to help us settle into normal life Jillian and I were kidnapped then tortured by a coven of vampires. We had unknowingly encountered the group a short time before at a diner with the leader of the coven becoming infatuated with my wife. Through means that I am still uncertain about, my wife was "convinced" to become one of those creatures with her drinking the blood from my dying body her final initiation. Only my military training enabled me to break free and escape leaving the vampires scrambling to escape the fire I started in the house where I was being held.
At best, my good fortune is abstract and relative in its definition but nonetheless as my teammates and I go through the motions of pursuing the only remaining purpose we have in life it's easy to see actual envy in their eyes over something I could not care less about. With everything I had lost, I felt as empty and soulless as the creatures I now hunted.
For eighteen months after my fellow vampires hunters found me near death, washed ashore on a small mangrove island on the edge of the Everglades I lived in the shadows with them learning the nature of the enemy that I had long relegated to the realm of late Saturday night horror movies and comic books. My education in their true characteristics and behavior was quick and dramatic after my recovery. The coven that adopted Jillian had utterly disappeared leaving me to follow the team into the jungles of southern Mexico chasing a different group that was preying on small villages.
All during that time in the hot, steamy jungles I was told by the people that had become the only family left to me that past experience suggested the authorities would ultimately declare my wife and I part of the unfortunate statistics of people who disappear without a trace. But that changed once we returned to the Louisiana compound that served as our home base.
My wife and I had in fact been declared dead, it was speculated by authorities that we had run afoul of some roaming killer who had long since moved on to other targets. That assumption fell apart when the creature that my wife had become was caught on a store video camera leading away a college girl who was now missing and presumed dead due to the blood and DNA found in a nearby abandoned house. The law enforcement bureaucratic machinery jumped back into action, the case file created for my wife, and I was pulled from whatever dusty storage it was consigned. A few news reports later Robbie McBride, the leader of the band of vampire hunters I was with quickly pushed me to contact the police. At first, I thought Robbie had gone totally insane but after he explained how we would present my resurrection, I understood the tactical advantage he wanted us to exploit.
After the arrangement of a very unconventional meeting at a roadside motel I explained to the local, state, and federal police involved that while I was overseas my wife had become part of some death cult and had lead me into an ambush with the ultimate purpose of having me murdered for insurance money. While I was being tortured by the cult members I saw how fanatically enthralled my wife was with the leader of the group and explained only my military training and escape prevented my murder
At the end of my tale, every cop in the motel room looked at me as if I had fallen to earth from some alien spaceship. However, Robbie had engineered a few people to back up my cover story and once the police checked them out their disbelief was suspended. When we all parted ways the police wanted my current address and instructed me to stay in contact. My address, also engineered by Robbie, was a small trailer deep in the Louisiana bayou that was difficult at best to find but nonetheless was something they accepted.
After a couple of days of debriefing, the assorted police raced away from the fleabag motel leaving me in the parking lot alone again. My souvenir for coming forward was the return of my driver's license that I had purposely abandoned at the burned out house where the coven had tortured me and ultimately turned Jillian. Looking at it, I felt both the urge to laugh and puke with what I felt was a huge waste of time. But Robbie was right, my resurrection did provide a new opportunity to hunt Jillian and her coven, but I never thought it would come from my in-laws.
If the same rules and paperwork existed during ancient Roman times after wading through the process to legally bring me back I figured Lazarus would have probably have told Jesus to skip the whole thing as being too much trouble. Several weeks passed dealing with a ton of paperwork and apathetic bureaucrats leaving me in a legal limbo. Even with the hassle Robbie was adamant about my identity being resurrected forcing me to hold up in my trailer while the rest of my team once again left to hunt vampires, but this time somewhere in Washington State. While my reappearance was not released to the press, it made enough of a ripple in official circles that one morning I found an email from my in-laws asking me to come see them about information they had on Jillian's current location.
Jillian's very rich and powerful parents were not happy the day she brought me home and they refused to have much to do with me for the entire time we were married. However, by the end of that day I was on the road driving to their house in Maryland loaded for vampire bear with enough weapons to supply an infantry platoon hidden in my truck.
My in-laws and I skipped the hugs and tears of a heartfelt reunion upon my arrival but my father-in-law did usher me into his study to show me the information about Jillian. The first item was a bank statement on Jillian's saving account showing recent activity in New York City. The withdrawals were all made in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn with times ranging from early morning to late at night. Just as I was about question whether it was actually Jillian making the withdrawals dad-in-law showed me a picture of Jillian taken from the ATM camera. The picture was black and white but I was dazed at seeing how beautiful she stilled looked. The only problem was that while her face was the same one I fell in love with, some human element was missing. While I couldn't care less about my in-laws I let stand the explanation of her becoming entangled with a death cult.
The next morning I left their house for the rest of the drive to New York. For my in-laws I was on a rescue mission but my sole purpose was to kill her and as many of her coven with special attention reserved for the leader of the coven, a creature going by the name Simon and his chief minion named Lewis.
For several hot summer days after arriving in New York I staked out a couple of the ATM's where the most transactions were made going as far as to surreptitiously install my own cameras both inside the booth housing the ATM and one outside using a fish eye lens. I was trying to catch what type of car they may be using or a direction they would take walking away. It was a bad time to be new to the city, days before a young girl was abducted in broad daylight in Central Park. Those nearby remarked the unusual level of terror in her screams and both civilians and police ran toward the source of the shrieks only to find the girl's mother dead. Thousands of flyers with the girl's picture were posted across the city and I could feel the edge on everyone. I was certain that it was no coincidence that at least a few vampires were walking the streets at the same time.
I tried to reach my vampire hunting teammates for support but operational security procedures were still in effect and none of my calls was answered, there was simply too big a chance that someone could be compromised in some way which would spell disaster for the whole team. That left the cameras covering two ATMs and me watching a third from the refuge of an all night coffee house directly in view of the banking machine. The streams of people were never ending both night and day making me wish vampires really were nocturnal creatures. Once becoming a vampire hunter, I learned they could move around quite well during the day, they just could not openly display their horrific behavior, which would draw attention they did not want. With that in mind during the day I settled into a routine at the coffee house acting like I was writing on my laptop and at night I would review the video from my cameras at the other two ATMs.
It was the fourth day of my vigil at the coffee house that fate finally cut me a break. The early lunchtime crowd was beginning to file in when I caught sight of the vampire Lewis at the ATM. Lewis had taken special interest in torturing me while the coven leader, Simon, and his chief wife, Alice, worked on Jillian. With my arms still tied above my head and watching Jillian go through the final stages of the change, I promised Lewis I would return every favor he had given me, at the time the creature thought what I said was very funny.
Much to my surprise and unease Lewis did me the favor of crossing the street and walking into the very coffee house I now sat taking a seat at the counter. Ignoring the monster he was Lewis in appearance was a short and ugly man who even as a vampire seemed destined to garner no respect unless he exposed his array of fangs. Watching from my booth he seemed interested in a particular waitress who did her best to ignore him and letting a male server take his order.
Vampire senses are somewhat better than humans but I wasn't worried about him recognizing me due to the crowd and the fact that I had greatly changed much of appearance since the last time he saw me. After Lewis received his order and left, I took the chance of talking with the waitress instead of following him. While clearing tables I whipped out a fake but realistic looking Homeland Security badge and ID and pulling her out of general view.
"Yeah," she said wiping her hands on a small towel she carried, "the little weirdo has asked me out several times but he made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What is he, a terrorist or something?
"No miss," I said, "I'd just like to question the guy, he matches the description of someone we have an interest in. Do you know where he lives by chance?"
The waitress was visibly excited now, "You know I actually overheard him say something about that over his cell phone yesterday. Some important item he was waiting for was delivered that day which had him about to jump out of his pants with pleasure. He also said something about the boss lady going to Boston to sightsee and he was tired of being alone. He gave directions to the caller of an old warehouse sitting right on the harbor a few blocks from here. It's one of the things that freaked me out about him, that's not a place anyone should even think about living in." After telling her this was classified and getting the address, I was out the door, a conveniently placed city utilities truck I stole offered a way to cruise the area without being noticed.
The warehouse was not as big as I expected sitting at the very last part of a dead end street but had a small dock extending out into harbor. It was a one-story brick structure with only a few small windows and a heavy security door as a business entrance with an equally imposing garage door beside it. Across the street was a parking lot protected by a rusty and dilapidated chain-link fence offering no easy way to observe the building without having to go through a manned security booth at its entrance. The next street over dead-ended as well with the neighboring lot to the warehouse vacant. It was clear that it would take a fully armed squad to enter from the front door and more than likely the dock entrance but as I drove away, I did see an air conditioning unit on the roof, which meant there had to be a way inside from it.
I quickly ditched the city truck close to where it was parked hoping the poor guy I stole it from wouldn't get into too much trouble. I felt sure my reconnaissance of the warehouse area went unnoticed, but to enter the building I would have to approach it from the water, which added a completely new dimension to the problem. Vampires could walk during the day but were mostly active at night and according to the waitress, Lewis was alone at this moment and if he left the building the next day, I would try to enter from the roof.
That night I entered the water up current from the building and simply drifted down close to the dock. The water while cool, was comfortable as long as I didn't think what pollution what might be mixed in it, I just told myself that while in special operations I must have swam in far worse. My position did offer me a straight-line view of the heavy door and early that morning Lewis walked out heading into the city. Just as soon as he was out of sight, I was on the dock and climbing up a drainage pipe to the roof hoping the archaic tubes could hold my weight and the supplies I carried in the waterproof rucksack on my back.
After plopping on the roof I surveyed the surroundings, I was in serious luck, not only did the building have a stairwell access to the roof but two huge glass skylights that allowed me to look inside. Except for the office, which I could not see, the interior was completely empty aside from an elaborate shipping container about the size and shape of a large briefcase sitting on a table. Removing several panes from one of the skylights then repelling down was child's play, my Heckler and Koch MP-5 in position to fire the instant I saw any movement.
There are only two sure ways to kill vampires, the first is to destroy the head and the second is to burn the entire body down to bones. Anything less and their almost supernatural ability to regenerate will have them running around again within a couple of months after the most extensive injuries. Still though, the small submachine gun I carried firing off the hollow point rounds I had loaded would tear chunks out of their bodies leaving them ineffective allowing me to remove the head with a razor sharp machete I had strapped to my side.
I quickly cleared out the office seeing the mounds of junk food trash Lewis had left behind. Vampires might need human blood but they still ate food very much like we do, after seeing the crap Lewis had left behind the creature grossed me out even more. The container was the next thing I inspected, inside I was surprised to find a glass case holding strange book.
Being the curious sort, after breaking open the case, I looked through the book. Instead of opening like a normal book, the cover flipped up like a note pad. Both the cover and pages were synthetic but even to my untrained eye I could tell it was ancient. Special Forces required the learning of two languages but I knew four and was familiar with many more and the writing in the book was of no language I had ever seen before. What about had me drop the book was seeing a world map with the land features of that during the last ice age. Along those expanded coastlines were small notations that I was sure had to be cities.
Realizing I was losing valuable time I stuffed the book into the cargo pocket of my pants, cleaned up the mess I had created, again sealed the container, and got into position to intercept Lewis. About an hour later I heard the keys jingle at the lock of the door and while the creature was stepping inside blinded by the change from bright sunlight outside to the darkness inside I shot the bastard with a tranquilizer dart full of dead-man blood, the only thing known to incapacitate vampires. They need fresh blood, have them ingest of injected with blood pulled from a dead body and it will knock a vampire out in seconds. .
The dart struck Lewis dead center on his chest, dropping him like a rock and unconscious but not before I had time to reintroduce myself as his eyes closed. After that I got to work, I needed answers and something was screaming at me that my time was running out.
Lewis was soon hanging from the rafters by his arms much the same way he had done me, his feet several inches off the floor. The dead-man blood from the tranquilizer dart had worn off leaving him weak but coherent of his dire situation. After using what the intelligence spooks called enhanced interrogation techniques, Lewis told me the location of the rest of the coven, several safe houses around the country, and when Jillian would return from Boston. As for the strange book, I had the creature begging for mercy and that he had no idea what was even in the shipping container. Despite my deepest desire to continue to inflict more pain, after I was convinced he did not know I had to stop.
Lewis did beg for mercy even more as it became apparent to both of us that his time was ending, he excused the torture he inflicted on me and other humans as just part of his nature like wolves hunting sheep. He started to say something after that but the swing of my machete and the impact of his severed head hitting the floor silenced him forever.
Leaving the body hanging from the rafters I turned off all the building lights, found a chair, and waited for Jillian to return. Earlier, my plan was to catch the entire coven setting off the C-4 charges that were placed all through the building but events didn't play out like I wanted so putting down Jillian would have to do. Instead, Jillian displayed her talent to surprise me even after becoming something inhuman.
She called the office phone about thirty minutes before the heavy garage door started to open from a remote in the car she was driving. That in itself was no issue since I was able to scramble for cover and have the muzzle of my submachine gun aimed close to where I knew her head would be. What did surprise me was the terrified face of the recently abducted child staring at me which Jillian was using as cover. It was then I figured the earlier call was to make sure the coast was clear and with Lewis not answering she must have figured something was amiss.
"Hello," Jillian called out, "come out whoever you are. The child is still unhurt but I can twist its neck in a second so let's not do anything rash shall we."
Stepping out from my cover and hitting a row of light switches, I walked toward the car aiming my weapon at both the child and my former wife. "I know all marriages lose that passion and grow cold but honey but I never thought I would be aiming a weapon at your head." I said feeling uncomfortably excited over the prospect of shooting the woman I once loved.
Without missing a beat Jillian looked at me smiling, her face beautiful but her eyes cold and utterly alien. "Oh Todd, it's so good to see you, we parted under such bad terms down in Florida."
"Well, that is something I intend to fix right now." I was less than three feet away from the car and could have easily fired off a burst debilitating Jillian enough for me to remove her head but the child would die.
"Well now sweetie, here is where you have to make a decision." She said slowly opening the door and getting out of the car but while keeping the little girl in the line of fire. "Do you hate me enough to kill this little girl so you can remove my head? Are you the type of person who can sacrifice an innocent child for the greater good of others?" She asked almost giddy figuring I was trapped in an ethical dilemma. "Let me grab that shipping container and drive away and I will give you the child unharmed."
Just days before I had discounted the importance of my identity and the person I once thought myself to be, I felt empty looking only to feed my desire for revenge for a life and future taken from me. But standing before Jillian I realized that no matter how consumed with hate I might be, I still had my soul and I had a choice.
"I know who I am Jillian, it's a deal. You know how good I am, any funny moved and even with your enhanced reflexes I will drop you and then with great pleasure remove your head."
Jillian had watched me many times while I was in the army at the various training demonstrations open for public viewing, I was the best at urban and close combat and even as a vampire she still possessed a strong self-preservation instinct. We then performed a strange dance with us both edging closer to the case on the table. My weapon aimed at Jillian's head, the silent by terrified she held between us, and her cold eyes locked on my weapon looking for any sign I might squeeze the trigger.
With one hand she reached for the handle on the shipping container and gently lowered the child to the floor. For the briefest of seconds our eyes locked together, during that moment anything could have happened. With one hand still on the child's neck Jillian could easily have twisted killing her and I could have increased the pressure ever so slightly on the trigger of my weapon blowing chunks of Jillian's body all over the building. When that moment passed I had the child in my arms and Jillian was sprinting from the building with the shipping case not knowing I had the book that was inside.
Still wanting to blow up the building I put the child back in Jillian's car and drove away. I blew the building several blocks away and dropped the child off at the nearest homeless shelter knowing she would be returned to her father and hoping she would eventually recover. Weeks later the child did recover enough to say that Jillian had taken her to Boston to sightsee and demanded the child call her mommy. The book that apparently was very important to the vampires did offer another mystery, on the back was a diagram that looked like some type of starburst formation enclosed in a circle, the very same diagram tattooed to the right forearm of Robbie McBride, the leader of my band of vampire hunters. I had accepted the extreme security measures practiced by the group when I joined but when I saw Robbie again questions would have to be answered.
Second author's note: Excuse the typos, with my crazy schedule lately I am sure there are more than usual, I'll correct them when I can.