American Vampire Chapter 57 60
I had a hard time zeroing in on the vampire, but I knew, could feel, exactly where Carl Luck was in the room.
The heavy-set drug dealer - and apparent blood dealer - was crouching in the far corner of the huge bedroom, taking aim. I twisted my body just as a shot rang out. The bullet grazed my shoulder, searing it, and impacted the wall behind me.
I crouched and ran forward, sprinting as fast as I could. The room blurred past me.
Another shot rang out. But I was going too fast to turn or duck or do anything. A wicked pain kicked me in the stomach. But I didn't stop running, and now I was leaping.
Carl Luck screamed and shrank back, and I drove my flattened hand, with its sharp, pointed nails, straight through his throat. Through skin and Adam's apple, and through his spine, as well, severing it.
He jerked hard and instantly shit his pants.
Blood spurted everywhere as I pulled my hand free. I was already spinning, searching for the vampire, but there was no one there.
The pain in my stomach flared mightily, and I nearly doubled over. I gasped, fought to stay on my feet. It had been a silver bullet, I was sure of it. The pain...nearly unbearable. The searing pain...so similar to the crossbow bolt of a few months ago. Had the bullet gone all the way through? I didn't know.
Something flashed overhead. A white blur.
I looked up, raising my hand, just as something dropped down from above. A wide fist, like a hammer, that drove my head straight down into the floor.
The force of the blow was unlike anything I had ever felt before. How it didn't kill me, I don't know.
I lay there, gasping, struggling for breath, bleeding on the floor from my stomach, shoulder and mouth. My nose was broken, I was sure of it. Perhaps my jaw, too. The force of the punch had driven my face into the tiles, cracking the tiles. Blood flowed freely, filling the cracks like little crimson tributaries.
Someone grabbed my hair, lifted me up. My jaw hung slack. Yeah, it was broken. Shattered, perhaps.
’’So who do we have here?’’ I heard a voice ask from somewhere seemingly far away. It was the same voice I had heard earlier from the hallway. The same southern drawl.
He continued lifting until I was facing him. It was Captain Jack, of course, only this time he wasn't wearing his huge cowboy hat. No doubt he had lost his hat as he ambushed me from above.
’’Can't talk, huh? Cat got your tongue?’’ And he slapped me hard across the face. My disjointed jaw swung around like a swing in a storm, nearly hitting the back of my neck. The only thing keeping it in place was the bone and tendons and skin.
Now he gripped me by the throat and lifted. My jaw hung on his hand, bleeding down his arm. ’’Hmm. I've never seen you before. You must be a newbie. Only a newbie would break in on someone feeding.’’ He pulled me a little closer to his face. My eyes were so blurred I could barely make out the big Texan. ’’I don't like newbies. Newbies don't get it. Newbies try to change everything. I don't like change.’’
I couldn't talk, but I could think.
You're killing the little girl.
’’Oh, you mean my food source? I suppose so, but food sources know no ages, Newbie, although little girls and boys tend to have a richer, purer blood, which is what I prefer.’’
You're a f*king animal.
’’You don't know me well enough to call me names, little lady. Killing our own kind is looked down upon, but I think I'll make an exception here. I have a feeling you might make my life difficult if I let you out of here alive.’’
Now his hand tightened, crushing my throat. I saw his other hand reaching inside his coat pocket. I knew his thoughts. Hell, I was inside his twisted head.
He was reaching for a silver dagger.
I quit flailing and grabbed his hand at my throat with both of my own. I didn't know who the f*k this asshole was, but I knew I wasn't dead yet.
And with all the strength I had, I broke his wrist.
He screamed and dropped me. I landed on my feet and squared off.
But I was moving, using all my training and instincts, focusing my fear and hate and anger. I wasn't a slouch. I knew what I was doing. I hit him hard, repeatedly, driving my punches into the face. Who he was, I didn't care. How strong he was, I didn't know. How much damage I was doing, I couldn't tell.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aaron King standing in the doorway, his own jaw hanging down, holding a stun gun. I motioned for him to get the girl, projecting my thoughts to him as strongly as I could. He looked briefly confused and then moved to Maddie.
My brief pause was all Captain Jack needed. He leveled a devastating punch into my right eye. So hard that I heard my cheekbone shatter.
I stumbled backwards and as I did so, I saw something silver slash before me. His dagger. Amazingly, as it came down on me, all I could think of was my kids. I saw their faces. Their beautiful faces. The dagger sliced down, no doubt heading for my heart. Whether or not that would kill me, I didn't know, but I suspected it would. I suspected Captain Jack knew exactly what he was doing.
Except I've been trained in knife fighting. Trained by the best. I did the one thing we were taught to do when there was no real hope of avoiding a plunging knife.
Use my arm as a shield.
And, as I did just that, I heard my old instructor's voice: ’’Better to cut your arm than to die.’’
The knife slashed down as my arm came up....
The narrow blade plunged through my arm.
This was shaping up to be a hell of a shitty day. I couldn't even scream. I grunted while my lower jaw flapped.
But, believe it or not, I knew what I was doing. I turned my arm, and the blade came out of his hand. I backed away, stumbling, steam hissing from my forearm where the silver dagger's handle protruded from it.
Gasping and choking on my own blood, I pulled the blade free.
And that's when something snaked across the bedroom, something crackling and alive.
Aaron King's stun gun.
It did little damage to the big Texan in front of me, but the vampire did turn and grab at the wires, and when he did so, I leaped forward, and drove the silver dagger deep into him.
Deep into his heart.
I shrank away as the Texan went into wild convulsions. I had seen death before, but never quite like this. He didn't want to die. That much was clear. His body fought it, clawing at his bloody chest, which hissed steam. He turned to me more than once as if to ask: What the hell have you done? He even lunged at me one more time but didn't get very far.
He collapsed on the tiled floor, back arched, steam rising, holding his chest, gasping like a fish out of water. He did that for an unbelievable amount of time before he finally quit moving.
* * *
’’I've seen some weird shit in my time,’’ said Aaron King next to me. ’’But this takes the cake.’’
We were in the living room. Little Maddie was wrapped in blankets and resting in one corner of the voluminous couch. Aaron was sitting next to me, holding my hand, and holding my jaw in place, too.
’’You can't talk, I know, but what happened back there...’’ he started shaking his head, his face paler than any vampire's. ’’What the hell did happen back there?’’
I could have reached out with my mind, but I didn't. The old guy seemed to have had enough of a shock. I was just too exhausted to speak, even telepathically.
The bullet had traveled through my stomach and out my lower back, leaving a hell of a messy hole. Still, the exposure to silver was doing a number on me, leaving me exhausted and nearly unconscious.
’’Your poor jaw, lil'darlin'. Your poor arm. Sweet Jesus, what the hell went on back there?’’ He started shaking his head again, and then I saw there were tears in his eyes. ’’And what were they doing to this little one? They were taking her blood, weren't they? Is she sick?’’
I tried shaking my head. He understood my minute impulse. ’’No, of course she ain't sick. They're sick. Good Lord, what were they doing to her?’’
I tried shaking my head again.
Aaron King said, ’’Maybe I should quit asking so many questions.’’
I tried to smile. The old man held my jaw and my arms and did his best to comfort me.
’’The paramedics are coming. Tribal police will be here soon, too. We have a hell of a mess on our hands. I don't know where to start explaining or what to say.’’ He looked at me kindly, but I saw the confusion in his eyes. And fear. ’’You were shot in the stomach, stabbed in the arm. But your wounds have stopped bleeding...’’
He let his voice trail off and the old guy just kept holding me and patting me and keeping my poor, broken jaw in place, and we sat like that until the police swarmed into the room....
* * *
It was late.
I was loaded in the back of an ambulance. It was also coming on morning, which was perhaps an hour or so away. We had spent the night being quizzed from every conceivable angle. Mercifully, Detective Hanner from the Fullerton Police Department had appeared. And once she arrived, things started settling down.
Now Aaron King and I were left alone, and that's when he told me that he had decided to come check things out for himself. He didn't like the idea of me being alone. A few routine questions at the front desk - and no doubt full use of his Southern charm - had led him to connect Carl Luck with the oil-rich Texan. A few more inquiries later and he was on his way up to the suite...when he'd discovered the shattered door.
I nodded and whispered a thank you. Amazingly, I felt my jaw healing. It had also settled back into place;that is, roughly where it should be. Maybe I would forever have an overbite. As Aaron King sat there in the back of the ambulance, holding my hand, Detective Hanner opened the back door. She asked if she could have a moment alone with me, and the old investigator nodded. She told him he was no longer needed and he squeezed my hand lightly and said he would check up on me in a few days.
I nodded and wanted to thank him and I think he knew how grateful I was to him. Aaron King, who wasn't really Aaron King, nodded to Detective Hanner and left.
Hanner looked at me, then jabbed a thumb in King's direction. ’’Was that who I think it was?’’
I nodded again, and she shook her head and slipped inside the ambulance and shut the door behind her.
’’We need to talk,’’ she said.
’’Well, I need to talk,’’ she corrected. ’’I assume your jaw has not healed yet.’’
I shook my head gingerly.
She leaned over and examined me carefully. ’’Yeah, that's bad. Give it a day or so and you should be fine. At least, well enough to talk.’’ She lowered her voice further. ’’Kingsley asked me to talk to you.’’
She laughed lightly, as I'm sure my eyes just about popped out of my head.
’’Yes, I've known Mr. Fulcrum for a long, long time. Probably longer than you've been alive.’’ She sat on the edge of my gurney, resting her hands in her lap, and only occasionally looked me directly in the eyes. And when she did, those few times that our eyes actually met, I had the disconcerting feeling that I was looking at something very alien. Her eyes were a little too wide. Too searching. Too penetrating. And wild. So damn wild.
She's not human, I thought, and then wondered if she could hear my thoughts, too. Maybe that's why she rarely looked me in the eye. Maybe she knew the effect her eyes had.
Jesus, did I look like that, too?
But Detective Hanner did not give me any indication that she had heard my thoughts. Or maybe I was getting better at shielding them. I didn't know. There was still so much to learn.
’’Kingsley told me that you might have the medallion. He was sketchy on this, as he knows its importance and value. And he is right in not being too forthcoming about this. People will kill for that medallion. Vampires especially. You see, not all of us desire our current state. Some of us wish to be human again.’’
Her eyes flashed over mine briefly, and her pupils were nothing more than tiny black pinpricks. Her eyes continued over my face and settled on my jaw.
’’He thought he could trust me, and that I might help you.’’
She looked at me again, and I suddenly realized how vulnerable I was in this position. Her pupils flared briefly, and she nodded. ’’He's right, of course. You can trust me.’’ She looked at my arm, cocking her head to one side. ’’But you shouldn't take my word for it. There's many like us who aren't honorable. There are many like us who are like him - ’’ and here she nodded to another ambulance where I knew lay two bodies, Carl Luck and Captain Jack - ’’Yes, there are many who rape and pillage and act like asses. Just like humans, I suppose.
’’But you can trust me, even if you don't yet.’’ She rested her hand lightly on my leg and hers was an oddly comforting touch. I say oddly because I could feel the cold radiating through the blanket. ’’Long ago, I had a child once, too. He died of old age, and I watched him die from a distance, never getting close enough for him to recognize me. He, of course, thought his mother had died in a fire, as I had planned. You see, he was getting too old, and his mother was staying so young. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make.’’ She smiled weakly at me. ’’But I watched him from afar, helping him when he needed it. I suspect he thought he had a guardian angel. But little did he know it was just me.’’ She smiled again. ’’Lord help anyone who crossed him.’’
She laughed lightly and so did I. Mostly, though, I was entranced by her. Enchanted, even. She's like me, I kept thinking. She's like me. And I'm not alone.
’’We do not have much time, Samantha. I will take care of things on this end. Some killings are not as heavily investigated as others. Some people need to be convinced of this. I suspect, by the time everyone leaves here tonight, they will be convinced that this had been a drug deal gone bad. Very, very bad.
’’Oh, and the body of Captain Jack? Not to worry. He will decompose like anyone else. As far as the authorities are concerned, he is just another dead man. And not the creature he had been.’’
She looked at me again, and her alien eyes briefly locked onto mine. ’’I have already convinced them to let you go. In fact, many of the police here have no idea why you are here.’’ She smiled slyly. ’’Yes, I have been a vampire for a long, long time. I know things. You and I need to talk.’’
I nodded. Yes, we very much needed to talk.
And now she reached out and took my hand and the cold that permeated from her was shocking. I did my best not to gasp. ’’But first, you must take care of your little one. Do what you need to do, Samantha Moon, and I will help you find the answers you seek. Answers about the medallion...’’ Her voice trailed off. ’’But know this: There are no guarantees. Few know anything about this medallion. And those who do may not talk. Those who do, may, in fact, be dead.’’
I nodded and felt the tears come to me. So many tears these past few days. Detective Hanner squeezed my hand a little tighter. Two ice cold hands.
’’I don't envy you, Samantha. I don't know you, of course. But I don't envy you. You have a decision to make. Perhaps the most difficult decision I can imagine.’’
Detective Hanner released my hand and came over to my side and hugged me deeply, careful of my jaw. As she held me, I wept into her shoulder.
I was flying over the Pacific Ocean.
It was the next night. I had spent the day by my son's side, holding his hands, even as the doctors had raced in and out of the hospital. Some screamed at me to get out of the way. One even shoved me out of the way. They fought for his life. They fought hard to save him.
I watched from his bedside as the doctors used all their skill and medicines and machines. One doctor told me to expect the worst. To start making preparations. I told him to go to hell.
My son, for now, was still hanging on. Still alive.
The ocean was black and infinite. Crazy, glowing lights zigzagged beneath the surface, some bigger than others, and I knew this was life. Ocean life. Some of the bigger shapes didn't zig or zag so much as lumber slowly through the ocean, sometimes surfacing and blowing out great sprays of water that refracted the moonlight.
I flapped my massive wings languidly, riding the tides of night. Cold wind blew over my perfectly aerodynamic body.
It had been a hell of day. The black halo around my son was so dense. Nearly syrupy. He had only hours to live, I knew it. Danny was by his side. And so was my sister and my daughter. Sherbet had stopped by, and so had Fang and Kingsley. Mercifully at separate times. Aaron King, Knighthorse and Spinoza all stopped by, too, each bringing flowers. Aaron King checked my jaw, saw me talking, and just shook his head in wonder. Knighthorse and Spinoza were both irked that they had not been invited to the big showdown at the casino, until I reminded them I was a highly trained federal agent who could take care of herself.
The air was cold. Perhaps even freezing, but I felt perfectly comfortable. The moon was only half full overhead.
Had it really been only two weeks ago that the hulking monster that was Kingsley had appeared in my hotel suite?
I had checked on Maddie, too. The little girl was going to make it. She had needed a full blood transfusion. The black halo around her little body had all but disappeared.
The wind seemed to pick up from behind me, and I soared effortlessly. Below me, the pod of whales seemed to be keeping pace, their glowing bodies surfacing and spraying. I quickly swept past them.
I thought of the water. The dark water. The world seemed to slow down under water. Sound became muted, and light diffused.
I looked down again...stopped flapping, then tucked my wings in and dove.
* * *
I closed my eyes as I broke the surface.
My aerodynamic body cut easily through the water, and I shot down into the dark depths. But the water, much like the air, wasn't truly dark. Sparks of light zipped through it. Bright filaments that lit my way.
I flapped my wings and discovered to my great surprise and pleasure that I easily moved through the water, my wings expelling it behind me powerfully, moving me quickly along. Like a manta ray. I was a giant, bat-shaped manta ray.
I flapped my wings slowly but powerfully. Water surged past me, but did not hurt my eyes. This creature that I had become was amazingly adaptive and resilient.
I was amazingly adaptive and resilient.
But not my son. No, my son was dying, and he would be dead within hours. I knew it. The doctors knew it. Everyone knew it. You did not need to be a doctor or psychic to see the encroachment of death.
I could stop his death. I could give him eternal life, in fact. I could have my baby boy by my side forever. Detective Hanner had told me how to do it. The process of transformation. Of turning mortal into immortal.
It was a crazy idea. A reckless idea.
But I could save him - and then later return his mortality to him with the medallion.
Maybe. No one seemed to know for sure.
I continued flapping, my heart heavy. A creature sidled up next to me. A dolphin. No, two dolphins. They kept pace with me, thrusting with their powerful tails. I knew very little about dolphins but if I had to guess, they looked perplexed as hell. I didn't blame them. No doubt they had never seen the likes of me. A moment later, they pealed away, their auras leaving behind brightly phosphorescent vapor trails.
My son was going to die within hours. Maybe sooner.
This much was true.
I could save him. Giving him eternal life.
And I possessed a legendary medallion that could give him back his mortality. A loophole in death.
Not too many people had that option.
Not too many mothers. Desperate mothers.
I heard Kingsley's words again. And what if you can't change him back, Sam?
Anthony would be immortal. At age seven. Doomed to walk the earth forever. At age seven. To drink blood for all eternity.
At age seven.
It was one thing to consider turning the handsome, love-struck Fang into my immortal lover, someone who wanted to fill my nights with pleasure and companionship, perhaps for the rest of my existence, which could be thousands of years, but who knew? It was quite another thing to doom Anthony, my precious, precious child, to that same fate - he would always be seven years old, and a vampire. I could not even imagine how to explain it all to him if the medallion did not work.
My heart gave a tremendous heave.
I didn't know what to do. Who could possibly know what to do?
Time was running out.
My son was dying.
I tipped one of my wings and veered back toward the direction I had come.
My mind raced as I flapped hard, surging through the water, scattering tiny silver fish before me.
And then I came to a decision.
God, help me, I came to a decision.
I flapped my wings as hard as I could and burst free from the ocean and shot up into the night sky.