Chapter One Part One
David glanced up at the sun’s position as he lay hidden among the rhododendrons. It hung low and red in the summer sky, but was not yet brushing the horizon. He should have enough time, but he’d better make his move before sunset gave his quarry the advantage. The back-door of his target’s house was mere yards from his hiding place, but the open strip of lawn between them made it feel like miles. Great caution was, as always, called for.
With that in mind he checked through his bag one last time. Everything was there: a sturdy rowan stake, mallet, holy water, crucifix, silver plated knife, garlic, and wild rose oil.
He rose, raced across the grass towards the large, well-maintained Victorian house, and began to pick the lock on the old-fashioned wooden door, but his haste betrayed him and his tools jammed several times. He cursed quietly and pushed harder. The lock gave with a loud crack that made his heart pound. He swallowed and glanced towards the neat hedges, looking for curious neighbours. None appeared. He breathed an honest prayer of thanks. Some people might have put it down to luck, but he was certain it was more than that. He looked back at the hedges as he slipped inside. Good! No-one had heard.
Once inside, he pulled the house plans from his bag, laid them on the heavy wooden table which dominated the large kitchen, and located the cellar door. One of the first things The Order had drilled into him was to ‘always know exactly where you are going,’ and he was certain she did not use the bedrooms.
He tiptoed down the stairs into the dark cellar and shone his torch around. It was scrupulously clean and this first of three rooms was completely empty except for an ornate oak coffin. He pushed open the lid and looked down at the monster he had come to destroy.
She looked like a beautiful young woman. A curl of gold hair fell over one cheek as she slept on her side. Did vampires dream? Probably not – dreams were for those with hope not the undead and damned.
She looked about his age, and her skin had none of the pallor he associated with vampires, so she must have fed recently. That brought him back to the matter at hand – she might look like an angel in white satin pyjamas, but she was more akin to a demon, and he was here to free her from her hellish existence. Since she was lying on her side, he would have to decapitate her first and then use the stake when he could turn her over relatively safely – though, it was never completely safe until the ritual was complete.
He closed his eyes, whispered the first prayer, and brought the blade down hard. It was wrenched from his grasp before it hit. He cried out and staggered backwards. In the split second he was praying, she’d gone from lying down to standing opposite him across the coffin. His knife was in her right hand and her left shot out to grab his wrist before he could react. His head spun but taking a sharp breath cleared it enough for him to struggle and pull back. His wrist slipped from her grip far too easily, but he decided to worry about that later. He had to get out of here first. He grabbed his crucifix and pushed it between them. She didn’t flinch as expected, but she didn’t reach for him again either. He kept the crucifix raised as he retreated up the stairs.
“Hunter,” she said as he reached the top. He tried to ignore her, but his head turned against his will – she was standing at the base of the stairs. “You forgot your knife.” There was a definite ripple of suppressed laughter in her voice. He flinched , expecting her to throw it at him. Instead, she merely tossed it.
He caught it reflexively and winced as the blade sliced into his palm, his blood dripping on to the cold, stone stairs.
“Clumsy.” She smiled at him. “Get out of here, child, before you do yourself serious damage.” He took another deep breath to master his terror and fled across the kitchen into the late evening sun.
His heart was still pounding when he reached home. The first thing he did was head upstairs and deposit his partially digested lunch into the toilet bowl. He washed his face and stared into the mirror not really seeing his ghost pale reflection. He’d had some close calls, but this was his first true failure in a year of hunting. None of the others had been that fast. How had he survived? He’d have to go back tomorrow and finish it. If he didn’t, she’d hunt him down.
His reverie was broken by the sound of his phone ringing. He shook his head to clear it and went downstairs to answer it.
“D-david?” his mother sobbed before he could speak.
“Mum, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“D-david,” she repeated, “y-your father’s dead.”
“W-what?” His mind went blank as he tried to make sense of the words. “He can’t be. How?”
“H-he – he -” She obviously couldn’t get the words out. There was a brief shuffling sound as someone else took the phone.
“Dave?” It was his sister Sarah. “I-I told mum to let me call. She’s – well you can imagine.” She didn’t sound much better than their mother.
“Sal? What happened? I saw dad at the weekend; he was fine.”
“They were at the cinema and … well it was anaphylactic shock apparently, but they aren’t sure what caused it. There’s got to be a post-mortem.”
“I’ll come over,” he said. He didn’t relish the idea of going out after dark with a vampire after him, but his mother needed him.
“Dave, it’s late,” Sarah said. “I’ve brought Mum to my place for the night. She’ll be home during the day tomorrow visit then.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Quite sure, she needs sleep right now. The doctor’s given me something for her, and I’m about to put her to bed.” There was a long pause. “Damn, another death is the last thing we needed.”
“You can say that again. I’ll call over tomorrow.”
He put the phone down, wiped away the tears he hadn’t realised were falling, and tried to figure out what he was feeling. Sal and Martin had always been closer to their father than him and Emma for some reason, yet his heart ached as much as it had when Emma died or Martin vanished.
He’d meant to eat something once his stomach settled; then, go through some of the old hunters’ journals The Order had given him. However, the news had shot any chance of recovering his appetite. He did stare blankly at the pages of one of the leather-bound diaries for a while, but he wasn’t registering what he was reading and kept having to blink away tears. When another tear struck the page, he gave up and closed the book. These weren’t the originals, but they were antiques, and he didn’t want to damage them.
It looked like he wouldn’t get anything done tonight, so he gave up and went to bed.
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