Patrick was furious. He paced along the side of the road impatiently. To distract himself, he slipped a hand into his pocket to check the amulet he carried. At least it won’t be much longer, he thought. And then that bitch is going to pay. Once he’d realized that Abigail was fleeing the city, he’d had his police liaison set up roadblocks and start diverting traffic. Letting the mortals handle that at a remove had gotten the roads clear — which meant there was no reason for him to hold back. Especially after what she did to Adrian and Finn, and how she made Dad have to kill Henry before he lost it.
Thinking about Henry made Patrick particularly furious, too. Part of that was because Henry was still ‘the little brother,’ but a lot more of it was because it brought to mind Abigail’s other transgressions: She left a homeless man to turn into a ghoul in an alley! And that poor girl who had the misfortune of being her ‘donor.’ It’s sick. How the fuck can someone treat other people like that? Patrick’s teeth shifted to points just thinking about it. He spun on his heel and continued pacing. I am going to personally grind that psychotic bitch’s corpse into sausages for my brothers and all the people she’s turned. He didn’t care how much blood one of her enthralled victims might decide to dump on the leftover tripe: not even a vampire would be coming back from that.
“You know, you’re going to wear a rut in the shoulder if you keep that up,” a woman’s voice commented from behind him.
Patrick stopped and turned to address her. He did his best not to snap. He was irritable and low on reserves from all the on-again, off-again rain. He wanted to snap and snarl and eat someone, and being a walking corpse made Valerie set off his hunger instincts. But he knew he’d need her help. And that meant playing nice, even though he was hungry — and even though Valerie Grenz was one of the creepier vampires he’d ever met.
She was leaning against the police cruiser they’d commandeered, arms crossed and smiling slightly. Patrick frowned at her. It was difficult to take her seriously because she looked so young, even in the police officer’s uniform she’d also managed to appropriate before meeting up with him to set up their ambush.
“I’m sorry I don’t have your patience, Ms. Grenz,” Patrick ground out. “But I really want to get this done before this rogue ruins any more lives.”
Patrick had what his father considered a bad habit of sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. Patrick considered it practical curiosity. As such, he’d broken into Adrian’s bags four days ago and read the files on all of the scions they’d been supposed to ride herd on. Because of this, he happened to know that Valarie had died at the age of thirty-two — but apparently between malnourishment as a child, the quack medical practices of the time, and an extended wasting illness, she’d died an underdeveloped, scrawny, emaciated wreck of a human being. At least, that was the condition Patrick guessed she had been in because now, with the vampire curse restoring her to perfect physical health, she looked like she could pass for anything from sixteen to twenty-five years old, depending on how she dressed.
Valarie — it was just too hard to think of her as Ms. Grenz because of her appearance — grinned impishly. “And does pacing speed up the flow of time for you?” she asked. “That’s a trick you’ll have to teach me. All I’ve ever been able to manage is slowing it down. So, how about it? Coffee and magic lessons after we’re done here?”
In her uniform, she looked like she had to be the youngest rookie on the force — even though she was actually the oldest scion in the city. Patrick knew better than to judge by appearances, but the visual dissonance still threw him off at times. Still, what was really creepy about her was her ‘hobbies.’ Patrick couldn’t deny that she had a solid work ethic and everything in her file indicated that she took her responsibilities as a vampire very seriously. But she was also, apparently, a dedicated hedonist and an emotional voyeur in her free time. She deliberately chose ordinary mortals as donors instead of witches like her first blood had been because of the more intense link to their auras that her curse created when she fed on people who were too weak for her.
That was weird enough, but Valerie was also apparently into something called ‘LARPing.’ Patrick hadn’t recognized the acronym, but the file had mentioned she’d gotten into it after a fight that had resulted in her breaking up with her previous dungeon master. The file hadn’t said much about him since he’d been ignorant of the supernatural world, but it did note that Valerie had been dating him in addition to attending regular ‘sessions’ every Saturday for the two years prior to their break up. Given that she’d had a ‘dungeon master,’ they’d been dating, she was a hedonist and ‘LARPing’ had replaced that timeslot… well, Patrick had heard enough about BDSM to make the educated guess that LARPing was a more extreme or niche version that she’d turned to for distraction.
And that was just creepy. An emotional voyeur who got off on beating people, probably while watching how they felt about it? Or, as a more twisted possibility: who got off on being beaten while feeling how the ‘dungeon master’ was getting off on it? Patrick didn’t want to know which it was in Valerie’s case. Either way, freaks that got off on stuff like that… It was just wrong. And that was coming from someone who had to eat dead people to live.
“No,” Patrick said. A shiver ran down his spine. He knew enough about the power dynamic between vampires and ghouls to know that if she decided to push, he wouldn’t be allowed to refuse. “Thank you, but no.” But given that his father was a Director and she was a mere Scion, she probably wouldn’t be able to push things further than that.
Fortunately, Valerie just shrugged. “Alright,” she said cheerily.
Patrick felt another shiver. How was it that the creepiest people could always put off the most wholesomely normal appearance? Or was that just part of what made them so creepy to begin with? Or maybe it wasn’t that she was creepy at all: maybe it was just the intellectual dissonance of knowing that someone who looked so young and innocent was actually seriously twisted inside. At least most of the other vamps Patrick considered ‘creepy’ wore their creepiness out in the open, as it were.
Before he could say anything else back — not that Patrick had anything he wanted to say to a deceptively petite vampire — Valarie’s head suddenly snapped around. “Someone’s almost here,” she said. Her voice was abruptly without the ease and good humor it had implied before. “Traveling pretty fast, too.”
Patrick’s hand ducked into his pocket once more. The amulet confirmed it: this was the one. “Get ready!” he called to the others. “This is the real one!”
When Patrick had gone hunting for Abigail originally, he had been accompanied by three of his father’s donors who’d had military experience and two of the warlocks who worked under Lewellan’s guidance. With himself added into the mix, he’d been confident of being able to handle a newborn vampire. Given what had happened to Adrian, Finn, and the warlocks accompanying them, Patrick had been forced to reevaluate his impression of Abigail’s abilities. For that reason alone, he’d accepted Valerie’s offer to consolidate their forces. In fact, Patrick would have been even happier if he could’ve recruited another scion as well — but Mr. Dolcet hadn’t been heard from since Abigail chased off Henry, and Mr. Fiore wasn’t going to budge from his position on top of the faerie gate by the university campus.
Valerie’s presence had brought with it another four trigger-pullers, and an additional pair of warlocks. Admittedly, one of those was the other’s apprentice, but it was still an admirable multiplication of available force. However, they weren’t really positioned to do the maximum damage they could. Instead, they were all under cover on the other side of the road. Given the brutal levels of force Abigail had been willing to employ against anyone trying to contain her madness, Valerie had insisted that anyone who couldn’t survive being killed keep out of the line of fire until after Abigail was already engaged with those who could suffer multiple critical injuries without dying permanently.
Namely, those people consisted of Patrick and herself. However, when the shit hit the fan, the gunmen would open up — at least, Patrick’s would. He’d made sure they were under no misconceptions: he’d rather see Valerie and himself in need of blood and flesh in the morning than Abigail getting away to terrorize another city. Patrick turned and marched back to the police cruiser. It was positioned across the road, lights flashing in warning. They’d added reflective wooden blockades on either side of it to block off the shoulders, and Patrick had set out spike strips — invisible in the dark — just in front of those in case she was dumb enough to try and plow through.
And if Abigail tried to pull a U-turn and run? One of Lewellan’s guys — a fellow with a colorful history that no one ever discussed and Patrick hadn’t been able to dig up records on — just happened to have an M72 LAW on hand and the training to use it. Perhaps an anti-tank missile would be considered overkill for a fleeing car, but Patrick was unrepentantly okay with that. If he hadn’t teamed up with Valerie, his plan probably would’ve been to open with blowing Abigail’s vehicle to flaming wreckage. Preferably with her still in it. There was no such thing as overkill when dealing with a rogue undead.
They’d set up their ambush where the main road curved around a hill in order to minimize the time Abigail would have to turn and run — and make sure she would be too close for that to matter if it came to the LAW. At the same time, Valerie had insisted on the farce of impersonating police officers, just in case anyone had gotten on the road before the actual police had set up detours and somehow gotten ahead of Abigail. Patrick leaned against the cruiser and tapped the medallion in his pocket while he watched the approaching car’s lights encroach around the hill. That’s her for sure, though. This play acting of Valerie’s really is a farce: all we’re doing is throwing away half the element of surprise.
Patrick wasn’t entirely okay with that, and had said as much, but he’d put up with it. In his estimation, having a vampire on his side was worth the added risk, especially if she was going to shoulder most of it. Besides: the half of surprise that was left included multiple warlocks, plenty of guns, and a rocket launcher.
Valerie moved out into the middle of the road. She’d acquired a reflective vest to wear over her uniform and started waving a set of electronic flares when the car came around the bend, signaling for it to slow down and pull over.
Patrick tensed. This was where it was all going to go to hell. Abigail was going to try to run Valerie down, Patrick was certain. Then she’d try to blow through the blockade. Either that, or she’d try to bluff her way through by pretending to be a normal human, only for a close-quarters fight to erupt. We really should’ve just set up to blow her to shit when she came around the corner, Patrick thought with a scowl. But Valerie had been confident she would be fast enough to dodge a speeding car, if it came to that.
And just in case Valerie was wrong, Patrick had unobtrusively let the guys loyal to his father know that they had orders to unleash everything they had — the rocket included. Patrick had no desire to face a feral vampire and a rogue. Valerie’s donors could just freak out about their mistress being run over and exploded. After all: there was no such thing as overkill.
The car slowed down. Is she going to try to run? Then its driver pulled over. The vehicle stopped and its blinkers turned on. Patrick’s scowl deepened. Alright, he thought. So it’s going to be the attempted bluff.
Valerie clicked off the electric flares and approached the driver’s side window. Patrick pushed away from the cruiser and moved in to back her up.
The driver rolled his window down. He was an older man, but not elderly — possibly in his fifties — with dark hair and a slightly unkempt beard and mustache. He had his chair slid back — so he was tall. Patrick couldn’t make out much else without getting closer, so he did. Clearly this wasn’t Abigail — he had to be someone she’d enthralled into her service. Possibly another person who was going to be collapsing and turning into a ghoul in a few hours. Abigail had to be nearby, though: Patrick could feel his medallion reacting to her presence even through his pocket, now.
“Is there a problem, officer?” the enthralled man asked.
Valerie didn’t break character. She did glance at the back seat before leaning in toward the driver’s window, though. “Our office is assisting with a response to an Amber Alert,” she said. “We received word that an individual matching the missing girl was seen being forced into a vehicle leaving town in this direction, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to stop your engine and step out of the car so we can search it.”
By the time Valerie had finished talking, Patrick had reached the vehicle as well. He could easily look over her shoulder, and when he did his night vision let him see that the man was alone in the vehicle. The backseats and passenger’s side front seat were all empty.
“Oh my god,” the man gasped. “Of course.” He’d already put the car in park, but as soon as Valerie’s explanation passed her lips he turned off the engine. Then he opened his door and started to get out of the vehicle without protest. “I have a daughter,” he said. “Hearing about things like this used to scare me to death when she was younger.”
Valerie glanced at Patrick, showing him a frown that disappeared when she turned back to the man and slipped into her role as a fresh-faced public servant. Patrick, on the other hand, had no more patience for her charade — or whatever trick Abigail was trying to pull.
Valerie and Patrick took a step back to let the man out of the car. He was very tall, but had enough girth around his middle — and not his shoulders or arms — that he failed to be physically imposing despite his height. As soon as he was fully out of the vehicle, Patrick stepped past Valerie. He grabbed the man — enthralled or not he was clearly working for Abigail — and spun him around. The man protested, but Patrick twisted his arms behind his back and frogmarched him to the front of the car and pinned him against the hood.
“Hey!” The man continued to shout. “What are you-?! Stop this! I haven’t done anything!”
“It’s only because that might be true that I’m not putting a bullet in you right now,” Patrick growled. “Abigail is extremely dangerous and I’m not gambling that you aren’t working for her, willingly or otherwise.”
Patrick forced the keys out of the enthralled man’s hands and tossed them to Valerie. She scowled back at him. Her eyes glinted angrily, but Patrick didn’t care so much, now. He didn’t have to play nice to make sure she stuck around any more — and Patrick knew his father provided enough protection that she wouldn’t be able to throw a fit about him breaking character and cutting to the chase.
Besides, as far as Patrick was concerned, anyone who voluntarily assisted a monster like Abigail deserved a bullet to the head — and anyone who’d been forced to help her was going to need to be made fully aware of the supernatural world and gotten a lot of psychological counseling. Enough so that being a little rough now for safety’s sake wasn’t that big of a deal.
“Check the trunk,” Patrick snapped at Valerie. Still scowling she turned and stalked to the back of the car.
“Hey!” The enthralled man continued to shout. “Hey, I have rights, asshole!”
Patrick pulled the man back, then slammed him into the hood of the car again. “One of them is the right to remain silent,” he growled. “So shut up.”
“Detective!” Valerie suddenly called. “Patrick, I think you need to see this.”
Patrick glanced in her direction, then back at the man he was holding down. Unwilling to let one of Abigail’s minions go, Patrick pulled the man upright again and forced him to march to the rear of the vehicle. He tensed himself for whatever might have gotten Valerie so concerned — but the trunk was empty, except for the sorts of odds and ends you’d expect to find in a car. The amulet in his pocket sent an angry buzz through his side: Abigail was supposed to be there. So where the hell is…
And then Patrick saw it. Fastened to the rear bumper with medical tape and cloth bandages: an amulet. The mirror of the one he had in his pocket, and the one Valerie had, and the ones Adrian and Finn and Benjamin had carried. And as soon as he saw it, the amulet in Patrick’s pocket resonated. That was what it was being drawn to.
It took only seconds for Patrick to put everything together. “Son of a bitch!” he shouted in renewed fury. Abigail is a witch? That fucking explains the damage she’s doing: she isn’t just super-charged from killing people, she’s using their stolen essence to power spells in addition to the powers she’s gained as a vampire. There was an order of warlocks in England that had tried to achieve immortality by force: they’d managed to secure and hide a captive vampire during the third fae war, but their experiments had only transformed those who survived into ghouls before they’d been found out. They were aggressively hunted by the Center overseas, but still managed to lure in recruits with the promise of immortality. Due to the limitations of ghouls, however, their order had never spread to the Americas. Was Abigail one of them, or some new brand of fucked up terrorist with the same idea for achieving immortality?
The same idea and, apparently, better success: Salvatore was dead and she’d achieved vampirism. She’s probably hiding behind wards somewhere right now, using this to lead us all off her track, Patrick realized. Patrick let go of the man he was holding. He was just some patsy Abigail had dumped her amulet on to misdirect the people who were trying to stop her.
“God damnit!” Patrick shouted in frustration. He punched the side of the car, hard. The frame crumpled slightly, but then popped back out, leaving only a small dent. The mortal chump hastily backed away from him with his hands up. He looked scared. “What…?” he asked. “What’s going on?”
Patrick almost snarled at him, but realized his reaction was coming from his frustration and anger. Once again, Abigail had dragged an innocent into her fucking mess, and who knew where she was now? Instead of saying anything, Patrick hastily turned away. He could feel that his teeth had turned jagged. Hopefully the mortal hadn’t noticed. Maybe Valerie could spin things so he didn’t need to be made aware of the supernatural, after all. Otherwise he’d pretty much have to find a coven, or become someone’s blood donor, just for safety from the fae.
Another life ruined by this bitch. “I am going to fucking kill her,” he started to growl, “just as soon as we…”
Patrick didn’t get to finish venting the thought, though. William had heard enough — and he had noticed Patrick’s teeth when the ghoul snarled.
And William had spent countless hours at the range, practicing against the possibility of just this nightmare: the need to defend his family from someone who meant them harm. His gun appeared in his hand and snapped up in an instant. He sighted in just an instant more, and then squeezed the trigger.
Patrick didn’t even realize the bullet that blasted through the back of his skull was coming. He collapsed like a rag doll.
William snapped around to cover the young officer with his gun. She was gawking at him in open shock. “I’m sorry,” he blurted. “I don’t know if you know what he…”
But William didn’t get to finish his thought, either. Only he wasn’t interrupted by a single bullet: he was interrupted by a sudden cacophony of machine gun fire that slammed him into the side of Benjamin’s car and cut down the police woman.
The gun shots ceased almost as quickly as they’d started. That was lost on William, however. He started to slump down the side of the car, leaving streaks of blood behind him. He coughed and more blood gurgled in his throat. His gun slipped out of his fingers. He thought of his medical bag, stashed under the front seat, but knew he wouldn’t be able to get to it in time — or be able to do enough to make a difference even if he did.
His only regret was that he’d somehow gotten that policewoman killed, too. He should have realized that the ghoul would have more people somewhere. They’d had two teams set up to grab Abigail by the restaurant, after all.
And then Valerie got back up. William stared at her, uncomprehendingly. She staggered toward him, getting close enough for him to make out details through the fluctuating illumination of the police cruiser’s lights. She had fangs. She wasn’t a mortal, after all.
William couldn’t feel his body, but he could feel relief that he hadn’t gotten anyone innocent killed except perhaps himself. He should have been upset that the vampire had gotten back up, but he wasn’t. Maybe because he was dying? Maybe because she looked like his daughter.
Even with the fangs. Except hers weren’t shrinking away and she didn’t have blood smeared over her face.
She staggered closer. Then she crouched down. William’s vision started to fade.
And then Valerie lunged, and her teeth sank into William’s throat.