Oh, father tell me, do we get what we deserve?
Oh, we get what we deserve
From the song “Way Down We Go”
Songwriters: Daníel Kristjánsson Davíð Antonsson Jökull Júlíusson Rubin Pollock
Performed by Icelandic rock band “Kaleo”
The Eighth Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker
It was said that Colton Boudreaux could trace his line all the way back to Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, more commonly known as Cardinal Richelieu. Of course this couldn’t be literal as the famous (or infamous) 17th century French Cardinal had no offspring, at least as history records. However, Richelieu did have those young men and women he favored (though he himself was favored by few) and he did strongly support the colonization of New France (in what is modern-day Canada).
Boudreaux more factually could claim a line to the descendants of Acadian exiles—French-speakers from L’Acadie in what are now the Maritimes of Eastern Canada. These were from the French colonists who settled in Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries, some of whom are also descended from the Indigenous peoples of the region.
He was proudly Cajun, ostensibly Catholic, and secretly the head of one of the sects of the Van Helsing religious order, vampire hunters.
They had only taken the name “Van Helsings” for the past century or so, and were only known as such in the western nations. The appellation was designed to inspire fear among the vampires in those countries and accompanied by their reputation of thoroughly ruthless and cruel, perhaps equal to or exceeding the reputation of the undead themselves, they were indeed considered with extreme apprehension by those who to the majority of human kind would consider monsters.
He looked down at the city of San Francisco from his hotel room. He was paid well, so the hotel was of good quality and afforded a majestic view of the City by the Bay, but he had seen too much to be impressed. It was just another hotel in just another city, and he was holding just another lukewarm cup of mediocre coffee while contemplating the current operation.
The television was on in the background. It was tuned to an “all news” station that was repeating for the hundredth time about the burning of the artist colony housed in a dilapidated waterfront warehouse known locally as “the Demon’s Feast.” Somewhere between eighty-five to ninety corpses were confirmed so far, but he knew the Fire Department would recover many others once they were able to reach the lowest sub-floor of the warehouse, the lair of the infamous vampire called Antonie and his “Family.”
Colton took another sip of coffee and frowned. He walked into the bathroom and poured the remainder down the sink. It had never possessed any allure, but then he preferred Cafe’ Du Monde French Roast, and coffee with chicory was uncommon if not unheard of in this part of the country.
It was night and a portion of his team were acting as scouts, attempting to locate any survivors of the fire. He had personally supervised the planting of the incendiaries and knew that, as in so many other previous ops, the innocent must sometimes perish with the guilty. But who was to say that some or perhaps all of the people present in the upper levels weren’t in league with the damned which slept beneath them? They may well have been the “herd animals” providing blood to Antonie’s filthy scum.
Colton’s second-in-command Augustine Barcelona as always, cautioned his scouts not to approach any of the survivors since they were far too formidable at night. Simply follow them and find out where they would be at daybreak, then report back so that Colton, Augustine, and the other two core members could plan the next strike. It was a sound warning but not particularly necessary. Each member of Colton’s force was a seasoned professional of a dozen campaigns. They had lost their share for after all, their prey was extremely dangerous and cunning, but they had taken more than they had given, much more.
Colton wasn’t always convinced this was a war they could win. Vampires had been in the world since perhaps the beginning of the world, if the Jewish legends of Lilith could be considered accurate. However, it was a war that had to be fought either until the enemy was totally vanquished and the darkness was driven from Creation, or the darkness consumed the world and Satan was victorious.
Certainly the Virgin and the precious savior Jesus would not allow such a thing, but then Colton might only witness the final victory upon the resurrection of the Saints.
His dear wife Dolucila may have no hope of entering the eternal gates of Heaven thanks to the Creole Voodoo Queen Sallie Maria Oliberos.
It is said among the Cajuns that the Rougarou, what the Canadians called Loup Garou or werewolf, hunts down and kills Catholics who shun the festivals of Lent. As a small boy on his Grandfather’s knee, he was severely warned that Rougarou could read the souls of men and would hunt and kill those not sanctified to Christ and the Virgin.
Indeed, there were monsters who hunted among the Cajun but more, they hunted the hunters such as himself. Dolucila was two months pregnant with their first child when Queen Oliberos discovered where they had made a home under a name he thought known only to a trusted few. The Rougarou found her in the night and took her. She was violently raped by the cursed men and women for hours and she had been feasted upon by at least a dozen, but it was the black-hearted Oliberos who did the final taking, murdering his beloved wife and turning her into one of them.
The name “Rougarou” was a cover to frighten the Cajuns for there were no such thing as werewolves in Southern Louisiana. Oliberos and her Santería were vampires. Colton and the nameless ones above him thought them driven out of their traditional lairs in that area, or he would never have allowed himself to build a home anywhere near there. However, just like the current op, there were survivors, including the cult leader. Naturally they sought revenge, which he now understood very well.
It took months to track her. By then, she was part of a small cell southwest of New Orleans. The elite strike force he had assembled for this purpose dispatched the others moments after dawn when they were the most helpless, but Colton saved her for himself.
Dolucila was barely conscious as he stood above her, stake and mallet poised. He had already placed the Holy Crucifix between her breasts and laced her sleeping place with garlic, and combined with the rising of the Sun, the creature who was once his wife was helpless.
“I’m sorry, darling. I have to release you.”
She hissed softly, barely able to summon the strength. Then her face softened and although she did not speak, he knew her soul was pleading with him to slay the evil she had become. Colton’s tears dripped upon her face as he raised the mallet for the first time and he screamed blasphemies as he brought it down, plunging the wood into her bosom. The vampire’s blood splattered his face and chest each time he drove the stake further into her.
Dolucila wouldn’t be safe from returning until the ritual was completed, which involved beheading and other unsavory acts, but it was his duty, not just as a Van Helsing, but as a husband and a man to personally attend to the burial of his wife.
Colton was sometimes surprised to find the grief was still fresh even these nineteen years on. He was not however surprised that his hate remained for Queen Oliberos who had never been found, just as Antonie had now seemingly escaped his justice. He had carved the Holy sigil into the concrete floor underneath what had been the vampire leader’s seat of power, upon which he presided over the Family’s crypt. Let it serve as a warning to the vampires and their allies that the Van Helsings have come to San Francisco and that it was his personal mission to cleanse them all with fire.
Artemis was less than happy with their leaving so hurriedly. Everything felt so haphazard and careless, and that meant they had a better chance of getting caught. He hadn’t told Raquel and Sean the whole story about the Van Helsings or the man most likely hunting them tonight. The Van Helsings were greatly feared by the vampire brethren, regardless of affiliation, but one man among them was considered their greatest adversary. His name was Colton Boudreaux. Artemis knew of Colton and his kind, and he knew them all too well.
The small moving truck was double parked in front of Raquel’s flat. Fortunately she lived on the ground floor so anything large didn’t have to be carried down stairs. It wasn’t the weight since their kind was possessed with greater than human abilities including strength, it was a matter of time. They didn’t have very much of it.
After she had left the apartment, Artemis texted Raquel a list of what they’d need which included two large trunks. As the saying goes, this wasn’t her first “rodeo,” so she had anticipated this contingency, along with picking up additional “supplies” from their local if private “blood bank.” It would do them no good to escape the Van Helsings if, in the process, Artemis and Sean were both consumed with the lust and, after all, Raquel would be the nearest live prey. Even Artemis had to suppress the sense of how good and how sweet her blood smelled.
Sean had just loaded the last of the few items the Coalition leader allowed Raquel to bring out of her now former life when Artemis became sure of what he had suspected over the past hour or so.
“I’ll make one last sweep of the place,” he called to them from the sidewalk. “You two get in the cab and turn on the engine. I’ll be back in a minute.”
No need to involve them in this. Sean had enough blood, proverbial and literal, on his hands and although Raquel had volunteered to become part of the Coalition, he wanted to protect her from getting any blood on hers.
Rosalee Wing was a very good tracker. She had helped the Van Helsings bring down some of the most (literally) bloodthirsty vampires in the North American continent. They had just missed Antonie and his brood in Mexico where his Family had originally formed some thirty years ago, but she had been instrumental in discovering twenty newly acquired “members” which were summarily dispatched. She had been little more than a teen then, new to the cause, but she was recognized as having a natural talent for the business and she was highly motivated.
Most of the Van Helsings she knew had a hereditary vestment in the group. They had parents, grandparents, great-grandparents who had all been Van Helsings, even before they had taken on that name. Wing was different. She was a first generation and probably the last since she had chosen not to marry and have children.
She was only fifteen when her family was slaughtered. Rosalee’s father had allowed her to go to her very first sleepover at her best friend’s house when it happened. They had owned a restaurant, the Jade Lantern, and her Father, along with several other business people, grew tired of paying protection money to the Sung Ling gang who ran Seattle’s Chinatown. Most people turned a blind eye to Sung Ling’s activities. After all, criminal gangs had been well established among their people for centuries and had followed them from China to wherever else they had chosen to live. What was only spoken in hushed whispers was that the family running Sung Ling were vampires.
No one knew that fact when the Seattle police found her grandparents, parents, three brothers, two sisters, and a visiting cousin bathed in their own blood, the floor, walls, and even the ceiling of their home decorated with their gore. The news reported one of the more bizarre aspects of the murders was that almost all of the victims were missing their hearts and heads. Chinatown was reduced to abject terror for months afterward and fear of Sung Ling escalated to hysterical proportions. No one refused to pay their protection money after that night.
Her brother Jimmy was the only one not missing his head. Rosalee was horrified, grief-stricken, almost paralyzed with fear and sorrow, and didn’t take in many of the details until much later. With no immediate relatives left alive, she was placed with Mike and Christine Donaldson, friends of the Wing family for decades. Mike Donaldson’s father Robert had been the person to lend money to her grandfather so he could start the family’s restaurant, and the Donaldson’s and Wing’s remained close ever since. When she was twelve, she even had a crush on Mike’s and Christine’s son Terry, though he was five years older than she.
Rosalee still dreamed of the night that Jimmy came back to her or rather for her.
She had finally fallen asleep again after the nightmare and at first thought it was another dream.
“Rosy, I need you.”
Rosalee raised her head from the pillow. The clock on the night stand said 2:43 a.m.
She lay back down exhausted.
“Rosy, it’s me. It’s Jimmy. I need you.”
She opened her eyes expecting to be in her bedroom back home. Jimmy was a high school senior. He’d been accepted into U.C. Berkeley for the fall semester. He wanted to be an engineer. Rosalee adored her older brother but he could be really annoying sometimes. She was the oldest girl in the family and he enjoyed teasing her and playing pranks, largely to establish his dominance as the oldest and a male to all his siblings.
“Jimmy, it’s the middle of the night. Leave me alone.” Then she blinked and realized where she was. It couldn’t be Jimmy. Jimmy was dead and her family was gone.
“Rosy, it really is me. I’m okay. I didn’t stay buried like the others.”
She sat up and swung her legs out of bed. “Jimmy?”
“Yes, it’s me, Rosy. I’m outside. I need to see you. Hurry.”
She looked around finally convinced she was awake. She couldn’t see him and his voice seemed strange, like he was calling from far away.
“Come on out, Rosy. Don’t make me come in there after you.” He sounded like he was teasing, which wasn’t unusual, but there was something else, something dream-like about his voice.
She was standing. Rosalee hadn’t realized she had stood up. She grabbed her robe, which she had casually tossed on the floor when she went to bed, and put it on.
“I’m coming,” she whispered. She didn’t want to wake up Mike and Christine. If Jimmy had escaped the Sung Ling, he was probably in hiding and no one should know.
Creeping through the living room, she reached the front door. It had a small, decorative window at eye level. She looked out.
She was overjoyed as she flung open the front door and jumped out to hug him.
“I’m so glad to see you, I thought you were dead, ohmigawd, ohmigawd…”
He hugged her back and that’s when she felt how cold he was.
“I missed you too, Rosy. Can I come in? It’s freezing out here.”
“Sure, but be quiet. We don’t want to wake up Mike and Christine.”
“Sure, Rosy. Whatever you say.”
She let go of him and opened the door wider so he could walk inside. In the dim light, she didn’t notice how much he’d changed, particularly how pale his skin had become. All she knew is that her big brother was alive and she wasn’t alone anymore.
Rosalee closed the door and turned to look at her brother. Instead of Jimmy, a monster crudely clutched at her, baring long fangs. He hissed as he pulled her head to one side exposing the warm, smooth flesh of her throat.
Then the front door slammed open behind her and everything happened all at once. Men, she found out later there were three men and two women, rushed in, lights from portable lanterns bouncing around the room. Someone grabbed her from behind while others did something to Jimmy. There was the strong smell of garlic and they pressed something to his face making him scream. She smelled something awful which she was told afterward was odor of burning flesh.
Two of the people ran to Mike’s and Christine’s bedroom. They didn’t hurt them, but they were tied up and gagged “for their own safety.”
Rosalee was tied, gagged, and had a bag pulled over her head. She felt a sharp jab in the crook of her right arm and the last thing she remembered before she lost consciousness was being carried outside.
Her brother was a vampire. A man named Porphiro Villa and his team had been shadowing Jimmy since he had risen, hoping to find others like him and gather more intel on the Sung Ling. When they realized he was about to strike at Rosalee, to kill her, to turn her, they had to act fast and against orders to save her.
Porphiro had become her mentor and good friend, almost a second Father, but he never told her what happened to Jimmy that night. It was better that way, but now after so many years with the cause, it wasn’t hard to figure out.
He had brought her into the Van Helsings, taught her the business, gave her the means to seek out and avenge herself on those who murdered her family and turned her dear brother into a creature of Satan. Porphiro let her drive the stake into the heart of Madam Baozhai Mingzhu Hunan, the matriarchal leader of the gang and vampire family. She said it was her “sweet sixteen” birthday present.
During those early years, Rosalee channeled all of her fear and grief into the work and then she woke up one morning and realized the work was all she had left. She accepted this and never looked back.
Sadly, Porphiro died. It had been five years and his passing was oddly anti-climatic after the dramatic life he had led. He was having dinner alone in his apartment in Escondido and choked to death on a chicken bone. Colton had a second and then a third coroner confirm the cause of death. Those they hunted were sometimes subtle about how they executed their enemies.
Rosalee cursed herself for letting her mind wander. She was supposed to follow this group, two vampires and a human ally. It was the wildest stroke of luck that she had discovered them. Artemis was a legend in both the community of vampires and among the Van Helsings. No one knew how old he was or where he came from, or for that matter, why he was called the name of the Greek goddess of the hunt and the wilderness.
She was parked about a block away from where the moving truck was sitting. A dash mounted camera and directional mic was focused on the trio, though Artemis had gone back inside the building for a minute, recording everything they said and did. No one had mentioned their destination, but it was suspected that their hub in the west was in or near L.A., so that’s likely where they were headed. She had already notified units in Southern California to watch for their vehicle, giving them its license plate number and description as well as those of the truck’s occupants.
If Rosalee hadn’t let her thoughts drift indulging herself in her memories, it’s likely she couldn’t have been taken unawares. She hadn’t been a Van Helsing for over three decades by being careless. However, in the business, one mistake is all you get.
The driver’s side window shattered as two powerful arms were thrust through it and a fist struck her head.
Rosalee had laced the vehicle’s interior with garlic (it was a “junker” Augustine had picked up for a few hundred dollars in Oakland so she planned to ditch it after the op was finished) and prominently wore a crucifix (blessed by a Bishop of their order) around her neck. These were only marginal protection as the vampiric allergy to garlic varied somewhat in effectiveness with each member of the undead, and the abhorrence to Holy objects sometimes needed to be tailored to the sensitivity of their quarry. However, a blessed Holy crucifix generally “worked” even if the vampire had been an atheist in life.
Dazed, Rosalee found herself on the pavement next to her car and then she was struck again and blacked out for a moment. It was long enough unfortunately, for Artemis to relieve her of her neck wear and carry her into a nearby alley. She was reaching into her pocket for the silver dagger, an object which had also been subjected to a number of special blessings and consecrated in Holy Water, when he struck.
She didn’t experience much pain at first and then none at all. It wasn’t what she imagined. Rosalee was reminded of the dreamy feeling she had when Jimmy had called to her so many years ago. She could feel a small part of her trying to fight back both physically and spiritually. As the vampire consumed her blood he put something inside of her that made such resistance all but moot.
“Now my dear, since we don’t have much time, you’re going to have to come with us. I want to know everything you know starting with how you found us and who you’ve been talking to.”
Rosalee could feel trickles of blood seeping down her neck as she looked into his eyes. They were beautiful eyes, so lovely, so dreamy. She would have let him take her body and soul right there in that filthy alley. She all but begged him to strip and enter her, lust and need consuming the Asian woman like a fire. “God, no,” she thought. “After so long, why now? Why with him?”
He must have made a call on his cell because the truck she’d been watching pulled up just in front of the alley. Rosalee Wing willingly followed Artemis back to the street and into the back of the vehicle. The other vampire closed the door and when she heard the latch engage and moments later felt the truck lurch forward, she realized that life as she had known it was gone forever.
“I see, Augustine. Yes, I understand. I’m sorry for your loss.”
Colton was sitting up in bed. He’d managed to get a few hours sleep. In the business, you rested when you could since the cause demanded both your days and your nights.
“Of course. Naturally they’ll ditch the truck and find another form of transportation. They won’t be stupid enough to head for Los Angeles now.” He listened for a few seconds. “I agree. See if you can find them anyway. We might get lucky. Oh, I know this is a difficult time for you, but we have to keep up our efforts to locate the others, particularly the Countess and Marishka.”
He stood up and started pacing the floor. “Really. Stanford? It’s a long shot, but have Dr. Soto watched. She might try to make contact. Yes, that’s fine, Augustine. Again, I’m very sorry. She was a good soldier and now she has joined our other fallen heroes. Very well. When the time comes, you’ll have the honor of releasing her. Yes. Good-bye.”
Colton broke the connection. Rosalee wasn’t just good, she was one of the best, but even so, Artemis had managed to take her. It was a cold reminder that none of them were invulnerable, especially in the night.
Artemis was a strange one. He might turn Rosalee, but then again he might not. For a vampire, he occasionally showed mercy, even when he knew none would be granted to him from them. More often than not, those he took from the cause disappeared forever. That was most likely Rosalee’s fate, may God have mercy on her soul.
Still, they had a possible line on Marishka, though as he told Augustine, it was a shot in the dark. Dolgren was still among the missing, but she was more than a century old and was among the most cunning and independent of Antonie’s lieutenants. Antonie was rumored to be older still, though his background wasn’t all that clear, and he had escaped the order more than once since it became aware of him over a hundred and fifty years ago. He had ties in the U.S., Mexico, all over Europe, and in Russia so he could go to ground anywhere.
He would hunt them. He would run them down until the dark. He would run them down until they were caught. He would take them down into the second death, and the second grave, and commit their souls to the deepest circles of Hell.
“You’re letting her go? Are you out of your mind, Artemis?”
“What are my alternatives, Raquel? Do you want me to kill her, because that was my first thought.”
Another sunset, this time they watch it standing off of a little used dirt road in the desert. Sean and Artemis had dropped Raquel off in Kettleman City while they took the truck someplace it wouldn’t be noticed during the day. Now she had rejoined them with a beat up but serviceable used car paid for with cash and fitted with stolen plates. It would be good enough to get them where they were going and they had all night to get there.
“But, I mean…won’t she tell about…us?”
“You know how it works, Raquel. She won’t remember a thing after I took her back in San Francisco and I suppose sparing her life is some thanks for the fount of information she turned out to be.”
“Isn’t this a little bit like capturing Bin Laden and then letting him go so he can blow up more skyscrapers?” Sean retained certain political and social views and now that he had a better idea of who the Van Helsings were and what they were capable of, he considered them “terrorists,” no matter how irrational that might seem to someone who wasn’t a vampire.
“I suppose you could look at it that way Sean. On the other hand, the one thing she will remember is that we could have killed her, either with the final death or turned her into the second life, and we didn’t. Maybe she’ll consider that before she continues her quest against us.”
“Has that ever worked before?”
Artemis shook his head. “No. They’re a centuries old fanatical Christian order that is very effective at indoctrinating their members. Once my control over her wanes…well, she’ll remember a certain amount of…trauma and a few other things. She might never be mentally in a place to face those like us again.”
Raquel had never been bitten or influenced but Sean knew exactly what Artemis meant. To be horrified and also compulsively and erotically drawn to a vampire was hideously conflicting. If Dol had let him go rather than turning him, Sean had no idea how his life would have unfolded. Who knows what someone, even someone with Rosalee’s experiences (Artemis did get her to tell them everything), would wake up to once released?
“We’ll drop her off a few miles outside one of the little towns around here. She’ll find her way there, probably locate a hospital or the Sheriff’s office and what she does after that is up to her. By then, we’ll be gone without a trace.”
“So you hope, Artemis.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time, Raquel. We’ve seen the worst of it, for now anyway.”
“Then it’s time to go.” Raquel looked in the backseat of the car she bought. Rosalee was sitting placidly, like a Stepford Wife waiting obediently for the next instruction. She was a killer. She had told them everything she had ever seen, the names of every vampire and human ally she had executed. She had her reasons, they all did, but Raquel realized this middle-aged Chinese-American woman would willingly slit her throat if she thought it was required. The younger woman shuddered and wondered for the thousandth time since crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge if she were really cut out for this work.
Artemis got into the backseat with Rosalee. She turned to him and smiled. “I’ve missed you.” To Raquel, she sounded like a housewife from some 1960s sitcom welcoming her husband home. It made her nauseous.
She got behind the steering wheel and Sean sat down next to her. “Ready?” She turned over the car’s motor not waiting for an answer.
Artemis kissed Rosalee on the cheek and she giggled. Then he said,”Let’s go.”
Sean looked back. Was Artemis just playing with Rosalee now? He definitely had a sick or at least mischievous side to his nature. Then again, ten minutes before Raquel pulled up with their ride, the two vampires took turns feeding on their prisoner, so who was he to call someone else “sick?”
Among the items Artemis had Raquel purchase was a five-gallon Jerry Can filled with gasoline, road flares, batteries, some wiring, and a cheap kitchen timer. He had rigged his primitive demolition device to ignite the truck an hour from now which should safely see them out of the area. He’d wiped down the truck for fingerprints anyway, since Sean’s, Raquel’s, and probably Rosalee’s were doubtless on record somewhere.
A cloud of dust followed their car as they drove back toward the main highway. The moon was just rising in the east. It was another night. Maybe they hadn’t gotten what they deserved, for who knew the mind of God in His consideration of the vampire, but they continued to survive.
Rosalee Wing blankly stared straight ahead into the darkness still a physical, mental, and spiritual slave to a creature of the night. But somewhere inside a fifteen-year-old girl was crying.
I wrote this for the Music Challenge #20: “Way Down We Go” by Kaleo #amwriting #musicchallenge #MLMM hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.
Today, the music challenge involves a chart called Way Down We Go which was written and recorded by Icelandic rock band Kaleo. You can find the full lyrics of the song plus the YouTube video of Kaleo’s performance at the first link above. It’s a really fabulous chart so I highly recommend it, and it’s been featured in the movie Collateral Beauty, in a trailer for the movie Logan, in the trailer for the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black, as well as the shows Suits, Supergirl, The Blacklist, Notorious, Lucifer, Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, Blindspot, Eyewitness, and The Vampire Diaries, an advertisement for Boots UK, and Riverdale.
I liked the song and the lyrics but needed an interpretation which I found at Lyric Interpretations. It definitely has a religious tone to it which fits perfectly with the vampire-based series I’ve been authoring. The tune’s moodiness leant itself to introspection, so I used it to introduce some new characters and their motivations to hopefully flesh a few things out in the universe I’m creating.
I also had to look up Cardinal Richelieu, Cajun and Creole ethnicities and cultures, as well as Seattle’s Chinatown. Don’t worry. All people and business names are fictitious except for places like San Francisco, Seattle, and L.A.
Click the first link above and/or Mister Linky to read other stories based on the prompt.
Although Sean Becker isn’t the star of the show this time around, here are the previous chapters in his saga:
You first met The Van Helsings in the flash fiction tale The Burning.
You can find out more about vampires such Dol in the story Stop Me From Falling.
BONUS: Learn more about Marishka’s past in the story A Quiet Evening’s Conversation.