On the way back to the hotel my phone I received a text. A quick glance at the display showed Ware’s number. I pulled over to the side of the road and hit the flashers then unlocked the phone and opened the text.
*Meeting with the mayor. Pick you up tomorrow morning to continue?*
I started to text back when the phone rang. Ware again. I answered.
“Herzeg. I was just reading your text.”
“Yeah,” Ware said. “Turns out I was left alone for a bit right after I sent it. Have you had any further thoughts that can help find this cult?”
“I take it you can’t speak freely?” I said.
“Door’s open, people just outside, so we may want to make this quick.”
“Okay,” I said. “I encountered one of the vampires. Unfortunately, he ran before I could get close to him. Can we get together after your meeting?”
“I’d love to join you for dinner. Meet at the same Restaurant?”
“One minute, somebody just brought me a courier envelope.”
“Shit.” The voice sounded faint, like he’d set the phone down.
“Detective?” I asked.
“I’ve got to go.” Again, Ware’s voice was faint.
“You will sit right there and wait for the Mayor,” another voice said.
“You don’t understand. I…”
“James!” I shouted.
A scraping noise, as of the phone sliding on a hard surface then Ware spoke. “I just got a picture of my daughter. There’s a red marker slash on her throat.”
“What’s the address?” I asked.
“Look, I can get the Captain to send…”
“To send people who aren’t prepared to deal with vampires? What’s the address?”
He gave the address. I punched it into the GPS. Estimated time, fifteen minutes.
“Got it,” I said. “I’m on my way. I may need you to fix a few tickets later.”
The humor felt flat in my own ears as I checked traffic before pulling out.
“Just get my little girl safe,” Ware said. “I’ll pay the fines myself if I have to.”
I sped down the street.
Ware’s daughter. He had a daughter. And a daughter meant a mother–a wife or lover.
I shook my head. Stupid thought to be having. An innocent threatened by vampires. That should be my only thought.
That, and killing the vampires, was my only concern.
I broke just about every traffic law on the books. The GPS estimated fifteen minutes. I made it in twelve. Sheer chance protected me from encountering any police on the way. A gamble that had been. Being stopped would have lost more time than any I gained from speed.
I knew before I reached the house that I was too late. The sense of vampire hit me as I turned down the last street.
I screeched to a halt in the street in front of the house and burst out of the car running. The door was open and the sense of vampire was still strong. It was still here. I pulled the gun as I sprinted up the walkway.
I paused for a moment at the doorway, gun at low ready, eyes closed to give them the moment I needed to adjust to the dark. I lunged sideways into the door, hard, so that it would fly back and slam into anyone standing behind it.
I swept the room with my gaze. There, in the far corner I could see the vampire. He held a girl, quick guess was somewhere between ten and thirteen years of age. He turned to face me, holding the girl in front of him. One hand held her throat just under the jaw, the other wrapped around her waist.
The hand on the girl’s throat only held, not squeezed. The girl screamed. I raised the gun, taking careful aim. I held my breath. Without a chance to sight in the gun I could not be confident to hit the vampire and not the girl.
“Put the girl, down.”
The vampire shifted the girl in it’s grip. My target area had just gotten smaller.
“I don’t think so, dhampyre.”
“If the girl is harmed, you don’t walk out of here.” I pulled back the hammer. While I could not trust my aim, the vampire need not know that.
“I know you.” the vampire opened his mouth in a fangy snarl. “If I let her go, I don’t walk out of here either. We…” He looked at the girl in irritation as she continued to scream.
“Be silent.” His hand tightened.
The girl’s screams ceased. Her mouth still worked and she continued to struggle in his grasp.
I breathed a quick sigh of relief. He had only cut off her wind, not broken her neck. Still, that would not matter if we did not end this soon.
“We are at an impasse,” he said.
I smiled. “Perhaps.”
I lowered the gun.
“Perhaps,” I said again. “But you don’t want the girl, not when there’s much more succulent blood available.”
I slowly squatted and set the gun on the floor.
“There is no blood so sweet as dhampyre blood.” I stood. I pulled the stake from my left arm, feeling the rubber bands snap back against my skin. I tossed the stake aside.
“You’d much rather have me.” I pulled free the other stake and tossed it aside. I held my arms up and to the sides.
“You fool, I can have you both.” He tossed the girl aside. She hit a couch and rolled over it to land out of sight.
I could not spend any time on her, the vampire lunged in my direction.
I swung my left hand in a circle before me, knocking the vampire’s grasping hand aside. Vampires are stronger than I am. I turned and shifted, inside the grab of its other hand. They are faster than I am. My left hand twisted, snagging the vampire’s arm at the wrist. My right hand drove up and forward, catching the vampire just under the jaw.
Vampires don’t need to breath. There is no point in choking them. I continued to turn, driving my hip into the vampire and bending him over me. More turn and the vampire’s feet flew upwards. He crashed flat on his back on the floor. Vampires, however, are too arrogant to train.
I followed him down, landing on his chest. A quick lift and swing of leg and I was astride him. I release his wrist and drove my left hand up under his jaw, bouncing his head off the floor.
Such a blow would leave a human dazed or unconscious. It would only give a vampire a moment’s pause. But I only needed a moment. I reached back with my right hand and grabbed the hilt of the knife between my shoulder blades. I pulled it free and brought it down in a chopping swing against the vampire’s throat.
The damn blade broke.
I swore. I had managed to cut deep, but the vampire’s spine had defeated the cheap steel of the decorative bowie. Even with the silver filling the blades decorative engraving to slow things, I had seconds before the vampire regenerated enough to resume its attack.
I dove across the room to where I had tossed one of the stakes. My hands closed on it and I rolled to my feet.
The vampire was starting to rise. I sprang, drawing back then shoving forward with the stake. Into the stomach, just below the breastbone, in and up. I hit the heart.
The vampire went down. I sagged to my knees, watching it lay, immobile. My breath came in deep gasps.
“Is it…is it dead?” The girl peered at me from over the couch, her eyes wide.