The Tenth Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker
New Orleans, Louisiana – 1972
“You cannot leave us, Catherine. Family ties are too strong. You must come back to us.”
“No, Mama Sallie, I can’t.
“You love this boy?”
“He’s a man, Mama Sallie. I do love him. He’s asked me to marry him.”
“He’s from the outside, Cathy. I approved you going to their schools so we could have educated men and women in our Family. You have not been fully initiated because we need daywalkers to guard us, but we could initiate him, make him one of us.”
“I know he wouldn’t want that, Mama.”
Sallie rose up on her throne, her ire illuminated by candlelight. “You told him?”
“No, Mama Sallie. I swear. It’s just that no one wants the initiation.”
“Not until afterward, Child.” The Queen relaxed marginally. This wasn’t going as well as she hoped, but then with each passing generation, an increasing number of the younger ones longed for a life on the outside. “Once initiated, they fall into line, sooner or later.”
“Mama, in my heart, I don’t believe he ever would. He would pine away for the sunlight. He wants to have babies with me. He couldn’t if he were initiated.”
“Babies? The babies belong to us. You belong to us.”
My mother belongs to you, Mama Sallie, but what if I…” Cathy let the suggestion hang in the air. She had been raised to love and revere Mama Sallie, almost as if she really were a Queen, but she was twenty-two now, a woman, and she had tasted the life outside, life without the Family.
Richard was a good man, an honest man. He loved her and she loved him but there was no room in their life together for the Family. Cathy was playing a dangerous game and on Mama Sallie’s home ground. She had to believe that Mama Sallie really did love her as if she were her own, and sometimes love inspired a parent to let go of their child, but would she?
Sallie Maria Oliberos had been the undisputed Matriarch of the Family for over one hundred years and even now, the 20th century world didn’t suspect the depth or depravity of their secrets. Cathy had been sheltered, chosen to be one of the daywalkers, assigned to protect the initiated while they slept and to do all that was necessary for them. But while Mama Sallie’s generosity to those she favored was legendary, her rage and thirst for vengeance was infamous. She could turn on Cathy in an instant, even to the point of ravaging her right here and now. She would wake up three night’s hence as initiated, as vampire.
“I swore an oath to your mother that I would not initiate any of her children, and I keep my vows, Cathy but beware. If you do not repent of this sin against the Family and renounce this man, then my vow will not protect your own unborn.”
“Please, Mama Sallie.” Cold fear gripped the young woman’s heart. “Mama, not my own babies. Please. How will my mother live knowing her grandbabies…”
“Then repent and return, Child.” Sallie’s voice was sugary now, as if she really believed she could convince Cathy to change her mind.
Cathy looked down at her lap draped in a modest skirt. Her plain white blouse was wrinkled due to August’s humidity and sweat born of fear. “I…I’m sorry, Mama Sallie. I already told him yes.”
“You really mean to leave us, do you? You rely on my vow to your own mother too much I think.” Sallie took a deep breath and Cathy thought she could dare to look up. She saw an unusual expression on Mama’s face. Was it actually pity?
“I will give you a chance. I won’t stop you from leaving but you will bear a curse in your womb.”
“No,” Cathy’s whisper was carried on a hot breath.
“If your first-born male is worthy, seeks out and cleaves to our Enemy, and remains faithful to the Enemy and his own family, he will be spared. Only fidelity keeps the curse at bay but nothing ever breaks it.”
“And…and if he…”
“You know that answer. Your first-born male child, Cathy. Bring him up well for if you don’t, when he loses faith, he becomes one of us.”
Catherine trembled uncontrollably. She thought she was going to vomit. Mama Sallie was granting her an unusual form of generosity, but it all rested on Cathy’s shoulders as a mother. She had to raise her children, her first-born son, to trust in God and remain a faithful believer, husband, and father. Only keeping his vows would keep him safe. Breaking any of them would see him initiated into the life of the Undead for all eternity.
Cathy stood up and when Sallie offered up her hand, she took it and kissed it. Having long been associated with them, she no longer noticed the chill of animated and yet dead flesh.
“Thank you, Mama. I will raise my son up well. He will be mine, not yours.”
“We shall see, little Cathy. We shall see. You may now leave my presence.”
Catherine turned and stepped into the outer chamber, took a moment to compose herself and then left the building. She had once taken it for granted that she was the youngest of a long line of Mama Sallie’s descendants, her having married, and more than once, and birthing at least a dozen children before she had volunteered to become one of the initiated.
In mid-19th century New Orleans, she had already earned a dreaded reputation as the Voodoo Queen but the power that granted her was not enough. She made a pact so evil that even the most depraved of her followers quaked in terror at the very mention of it.
Cathy’s mother had asked Mama not to turn any of her children, and as blood kin, Sallie made the vow and honored it. But it was almost unheard of for anyone to successfully leave the Family and live an unharmed and unaffected existence on the outside. She was going to marry Richard Becker and then do everything in her power to protect their future children.
Las Vegas, Nevada – The Present
Sean had stopped reading the letter after the fifth time and was just staring at the paper now, as if it were blank and existed only as a message in potential. He had the answer, the answer to everything and he didn’t know what to feel.
Part of him wanted to hate Marishka for being a willing part of all this, but the person he hated most right now was his own Mom. All these years and she never even hinted about her past, her family…his family. At least Marishka tried to make it right.
It must have been terrible to be caught in the middle at the end, working for both the Family and Colton Boudreaux’s butchers. He had to laugh at that last part. Who were the monsters, a cult of vampires or a rogue band of religious fanatics? In some way, you could say the vampires were just trying to survive, most or all not having asked for this hideous existence, but what excuse did the Van Helsings have?
The Holy Order of Venandi. Artemis filled him in on the Order when they were driving to Vegas. Some say they predated the Emperor Constantine, that the group was first founded among the Jews who had followed Jesus.
Sean jumped as Raquel touched his shoulder.
“Sorry. I didn’t hear you.”
“Are you alright?”
“I don’t know, Raquel. Where did you get this again?”
“Remember Artemis said I’d be contacted earlier today by a friend?” “Friend” was a euphemism for a member of the Coalition or an ally, someone not a member but sympathetic, perhaps in contact with the independents or even some faction of the Family and willing to pass along information.
“Can’t say as I recall.”
“I got a call on one of the cells about ten this morning. They set up a meet at one of the casinos. It was an old man, looked homeless. He gave me this and then walked away.”
“Didn’t say how he got it?”
“He just said enough for us to ID each other. What is it…I mean if you don’t mind…?”
“It’s from Marishka.”
“Why would she…?”
It’s her Mom. The Van Helsings have her. That’s why she gave up the Family in San Francisco.”
“Oh my God, not even Artemis knows that. If he ever found out…”
“Glad he’s out arranging for better digs. Look, I’m not ready to tell you everything, but it looks like she’s trying to play the Family and the Van Helsings against each other, distract them all while she frees her Mom.”
“I know this sounds silly, but the Van Helsings are cold-blooded killers and she’s only one…one of the Undead. They know every weakness she has. Marishka would never get near them.”
“She says she has help. Maybe Artemis does know because she’s working with your people.”
“The Coalition? How…?”
“I don’t know but I need one of those burner phones.”
“Who are you going to call?”
Prior to Sean’s death, Catherine Martha Becker had last visited the Bay Area when her youngest grandchild was born. Her oldest child Kimberly had chosen never to marry so when Sean wedded Janet and then when she found out they were pregnant with Aaron, both she and Richard had been ecstatic.
Cathy worried from the day of Sean’s birth that he would become a victim of Mama Sallie’s curse. Sometimes even Richard questioned her unbridled zeal to bring Sean up in the faith when she didn’t put nearly the same amount of time into or restrictions upon Kim. It was probably why her son threw the faith back in her face when he was in High School. She cried herself to sleep for a week after he told her Christianity was bunk (although he used a stronger word).
After Sean’s memorial service (she couldn’t really call it a funeral without a body), Cathy went back to Utah. She and Richard had retired to St. George preferring a slower and quieter life and they managed to find a small church with which to fellowship in the shadow of a state dominated by another religion.
Richard died of cancer the previous year, but Cathy had a lot of friends and her volunteer work. Nearing her sixty-eighth year, she was physically healthy and mentally acute and sitting in the dark, she was also terribly worried. She had been ever since the night Sean died.
Was his body lost in the Bay? Without an actual corpse, she’d never know for sure if the curse wasn’t realized. Janet had been a mess, her husband’s death had been so sudden. Cathy couldn’t ask her the questions she needed to one woman to another.
Did she suspect Sean was having an affair? Had he been attending church regularly? Did he seem unusually disturbed or distracted?
Cathy thought that Sean had been tested once before when he was in college but thank God his response was to return to the church. She had prayed for his soul since before he was born. Was he lost to her now through the ordinary death or did he succumb to temptation and sin and then to Mama Sallie’s curse?
Then she got the letter from her telling her everything or if not everything, enough to confirm Cathy’s worst fears. She explained her involvement and how he had fallen. He was out there right now. The question now is what will he do?
Her cell rang. Caller ID blocked. Unusual to get a spam call after dark but it could be him. She never answered a call if the number was unknown. If it was him, he would probably leave a voice mail.
A minute later, her cell chirped and she checked it. One missed call and one voicemail. Her hand started shaking as she picked up the phone.
“It’s me. I know you’ll recognize my voice. We need to talk. I have so many questions. I’ll call five minutes after the end of this call. Answer this time.”
She put the phone on the end table next to her easy chair in the darkened living room, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had really lost him this time and now he wanted to talk.
“It’s me. Don’t use my name. Even with precautions someone might access this conversation.”
“It…” She bit her lower lip and summoned her resolve. “It will he hard to explain unless we can talk freely. How have you been?” It was a Mother’s question, like “have you been eating right” or “are you getting plenty of rest.”
“I can be at your home in a few hours.”
“Wait. It may not be safe here. How about a neutral place.”
Cathy pulled into the parking lot at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite. She and Richard hadn’t cared much for gambling for most of their marriage, but living just forty minutes from the Nevada state line, they occasionally went to Mesquite for the evening, had dinner and then casually played the slots. She lived a life that necessitated being cautious and to that end, she had memorized the areas of the parking lot with the least coverage by surveillance cameras.
She parked in the part of the lot she’d told him she would turned off her lights and engine and then flashed her headlights twice. A car two rows ahead flashed its lights three times. He was here.
A figure got out, a woman. He said he’d be using a go between to avoid being video taped. Cathy reached into her purse and put her hand on the butt of her Beretta Pico. If she wasn’t human and meant her harm the pistol wouldn’t do one bit of good.
Cathy rolled down the window halfway. “May I help you?”
“I’m from Sean. He’s in the car. He wants to talk to you. He told me to say ‘Manitoba’.” It was the code word they’d arranged.
“Yes, I’m supposed to say ‘Jalisco’.” When Sean was little, she made him memorize not only all fifty U.S. states but all of the provinces of Canada and the states in Mexico.
“Very well. Give an old woman a second.” Cathy took her hand out of her purse, rolled up the window and then opened the door. The last thing she was aware of before losing consciousness was the dart gun in Raquel’s right hand and the impact to her midsection.
The room was dark and quiet. At first Cathy thought she had fallen asleep on the living room couch. Then she remembered the phone call, the drive to Mesquite, the young woman with a gun.
“Do you feel like you can sit up?”
She froze at his voice. He was here. He was alive, but then again, he wasn’t.
“I’ll try. You really found it necessary to tranquillize your own mother, Sean?”
“Someone else did and I went along with it.”
“That young woman?” Cathy pushed herself up into a seated position with some difficulty. Her head was still fuzzy and her arms and legs felt weak.
“No. Someone else, but that’s not why we’re talking.”
Sean sounded so cold and distant, even to himself. This was his mother, the woman who loved him no matter what. But she also had secrets, terrible secrets and the worst one was about him. No, it wasn’t about what he’d become but how he had arrived at this unhappy station in life…or rather unlife.
“No son, I suppose it’s not. I assume we both got the same letter from her. This was one thing she was never to reveal to you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
She couldn’t see him clearly. The room was dimly lit. It would have been a living room or a small storage space. There was the sofa she was sitting on and a chair across the room for him but nothing else. All she could see was her son’s silhouette and bitter experience with the Undead made her wonder if it was all that was left of her little boy.
“How could I? Would you have believed me?”
“After the first time with Marishka, maybe. I don’t know. But once I became involved with Dolengen I certainly would have.”
“I…I hoped once you married…had children of your own…that you would be out of danger.”
“Or you didn’t want to face the consequences of the curse, your family’s curse.”
“What can I do now, Sean?”
“I want to know it all, Mom. I found the letter you got from her in your purse. It’s pretty much the same as mine. You’re here to fill in the blanks.”
“What happens to me after that?”
“I’m not going to hurt you if that’s what you mean.”
You had me kidnapped. I don’t even know where I am.”
“Las Vegas. After all this is over, you can get on a bus to Mesquite, pick up your car, and go home. We never have to speak again.”
“Sean, for the first twenty years of my life or so, I lived among the initiated.”
“Is that what you call us?”
“It’s what Mama Sallie calls you. The point is, I have a somewhat unique perspective on your experience. I…I never wanted this to happen to you and I always tried to prevent it.”
“Which explains why you were such a religious fanatic when it came to me. I get it. What I want is the rest of it. Who is this Mama Sallie, what is your exact relationship with her, and what does her Family have to do with the one Antonie was running in San Francisco?”
“You think there are different families, Sean?” She shook her head in the darkness confident that his enhanced eyesight allowed him to see the subtle nuances of her movements and facial expression. “No. It’s all one Family. They have different…branches but ultimately they are all united under the One.”
“That’s Mama Sallie?”
“No. She is the head of one branch. In fact, it’s possible that Antonie’s position is under her. I have no idea who rules the Undead worldwide. Perhaps Mama Sallie doesn’t even know.”
“Fine. Start at the beginning. We’ve got all night. Talk to me, Mom. Who are you really?”
“That’s all I can find out, Colton. My soft inquiries at Stanford turned up the same thing that her neighbors told me. Dr. Dawn Soto hasn’t been seen or heard from by anyone in the last two days. She didn’t put in a stop delivery to the postal service or even call in sick at work. Her son Andrew doesn’t know where she is, although he admits weeks will go by where they’re both too busy to even text.”
“Not at work or home. Best guess is she parked it somewhere and got a ride with a friend. Not supposed to be dating, but maybe she’s got a secret Romeo or Juliet.”
“You are still convinced Marishka is somehow involved, Augustine?”
“I’m not certain, but it’s such a coincidence that Marishka falls off the radar and then a few days later so does her old college roommate who just happens to be an authority in the experimental treatment of rare blood diseases.”
“I know where you’re going with this Augustine and it’s been tried before. Frankly, I think it’s a fool’s errand, treating vampirism like a disease instead of the evil curse it is.”
“I’m not saying anything one way or the other about it, Colton. Just reporting the facts. As far as Dawn Soto goes, right now, she’s a deadend.”
“Keep some team members on it. Have her office and home watched. Put someone on her son, too. You never know.”
“Already done, Colton. Have you heard how Rosalee is doing?”
“Too soon to tell, Augustine. She’s at a safe house being deprogrammed. Soonest we can expect to hear anything is a week, maybe two.”
“Just thought I’d ask.”
“Come on back to the nest. You’ve done all you can for now.”
“Nah. I’m going to check on Marishka’s Mom first.”
“It’s almost dawn, Augustine. Certainly we can’t expect anything so daring of her this close to sunrise.”
“Just a hunch. If Marishka has gone off the reservation rather than just lying low because Antonie and Dolengen have likely survived, then it couldn’t hurt to keep a close eye on our insurance policy.”
“If Marishka doesn’t surface soon, that’s one policy that is certain to expire.”
“Do you want me to take care of her now?”
“Let’s wait another day and night, Augustine. She may decide to grow wise.”
“Very well, Colton. I’ll see you soon.”
“Good, Augustine. Bye.” He broke the connection. Colton had been standing by his window yet again looking down at the city that never sleeps. He was wearying of the view, not because it lacked drama or beauty but because he had been here too long. Their leads were growing cold. Dol had either gone to ground or managed to escape completely as Antonie had done. Where could Marishka be hiding? Certainly she wouldn’t be so foolish as to really attempt to rescue her mother. She couldn’t know where the Van Helsings have hidden her, although he could not afford to be careless. Plans have gone wrong before.
He put on a jacket and decided to go for a walk. He had spent too many hours in his room, eating hotel food, having few or no visitors while conducting the op via cell phone and his lieutenants. Nothing felt real anymore. He needed relatively fresh air to breathe. The eastern horizon was getting lighter. Their prey should be scurrying back to their dens, those few left in or around San Francisco. That meant the streets would be safe for the one who so many undead considered their mortal enemy.
San Martin, CA
San Martin was a good location for them to hold her. It was within a forty-five minute drive of the Bay Area proper but far enough away not to be quite as outrageously expensive as was nearby Morgan Hill.
The home was a rental at the far end of a residential neighborhood. It didn’t take a lot of people to guard an 85-year-old woman, especially when they had been assured their location couldn’t be known to the enemy. However, Augustine, who had set up the op, assigned an older married couple and two of the younger Van Helsings in their early twenties to pose as a family. That let them come and go casually, always having at least two or three of them in the home at one time.
It was after eight when Augustine Barcelona pulled up in front. He’d called ahead so he would be expected. He knew he was being watched from inside. If the neighbors asked, they’d say he was working for the property manager come to see how their new arrangements were working out.
Sara answered the door. “Come in, August. Glad you could stop by.” She opened the door and stepped aside so he could enter.
“How’s she doing?” He walked in and then Sara closed and locked the door behind him.
“The old woman? Still sleeping. She gets tired easily.”
“Hi, Elijah, Dean.” Augustine nodded at the older and then younger man. “Where’s Olivia?”
“Checking on her.” Elijah nodded his head toward the hallway. “Her breathing sounded kind of wheezy. Sara thinks she might have asthma.”
Olivia came back down the hall and into the modest living room. “Hi Augustine. Good to see you again.”
“Olivia. How is she?”
“She had a rough night at times but seems to be resting comfortably now.”
Sara was a Registered Nurse and spoke up before the younger woman could answer. “No one mentioned it when they gave us her history but I’m pretty sure it’s undiagnosed asthma. Could be trouble at her age if she has a bad attack.”
“We wouldn’t want her to have to go to an ER, Augustine.”
“It probably won’t come to that, Elijah.”
Dean stood up and went into the kitchen. “Want some coffee, Augustine?”
“Yeah. Black. Thanks.” He sat down in a chair away from the front window. “I’m thinking she’s got about twenty-four hours give or take. Still no sign of Mariskha and she knows the consequences for non-compliance.
“Big county park just out back. We picked this place because of it. It’d be easy to hide the body.”
“My thought exactly, Elijah.” Augustine looked up as Dean handed him a chipped ceramic cup. “Thanks.” He took a tentative sip and then blew on the dark brown liquid.
Sara looked out the front window at the sound of a car going by.
“Probably not, August. Just being careful. No one’s supposed to know about us and we’re less vulnerable during the day, but it pays not to be stupid.”
Augustine chuckled and then took another experimental sip of his coffee. This time he deemed it cool enough to drink. “We all know that Sara, all too well.”
Informants among the Van Helsings were almost as unheard of as among the Family and for the same reason. Discipline was vicious to the point of being fatal. They were two clandestine armies engaged in an undercover war, one the vast majority of the human race didn’t know existed.
Still, there were always those who could be bought and in this case, the information revealed didn’t seem that vital. Marishka’s arrangement with the Coalition included disclosing the fact that her aging mother had been kidnapped by the Van Helsings out of her rent-controlled apartment in Oakland.
They had to hold her in a secure location which in theory could be anywhere, but in fact had to be reachable from the East Bay within a few hours. That still covered a lot of territory, but an independent friendly to the Coalition and who had the technical ability to hack certain bank accounts that were known to be used by the vampire hunters traced the transfer of funds to a property management company in San Martin.
The op had been mapped out for over a week. Different cars and trucks driving by at irregular intervals, plus both ground and air drone surveillance from the park directly behind the rented house established the number of people inside including a brief glimpse of their primary target confirming that Layla Taylor was being held inside.
Photos of the other four were sent to “The Database,” which could be one person or a team, and “TDB” identified all four as Van Helsings, the older two had an especially long and bloody history, although all four were known to be killers.
The op had been updated less than a day ago to include a new element, a distraction that would keep the Van Helsings occupied while the rest of the team entered through the rear and extracted the hostage. It was risky, but they had to fight the enemy on any battleground.
They just found out there was a bonus package. Augustine himself had paid a visit. If they could take him alive, the amount of intel he could provide would be immensely helpful.
“Third time the same delivery van came down the street.”
“Nobody would be that stupid Sara but like you said, take no chances.” Augustine reached inside his jacket and pulled out his 9 mm Browning.
“Driver’s stopped out front. Maybe it’s nothing, but positions, everyone. Olivia, you stay with the old woman.” Sara opened the drawer of an end table and produced her own handgun. The others did likewise. Dean went into the kitchen and looked out back while keeping far enough away from the glass to avoid making an easy target. Probably another false alarm. Elijah was at the entrance to the hallway and Augustine positioned himself behind and to the right of Sara.
The delivery driver rang the bell. It was a cool morning and she was covered almost head to toe including sunglasses and gloves along with a thick hat with a bill. Only a tiny bit of her light mocha colored skin on her face was visible.
Sara opened the door. “May I help you?”
Marishka roared baring her fangs and claws as she leapt forward ripping out Sara’s throat in an instant. Augustine managed to get a shot off before sharp nails laid the left side of his face open to the bone. Elijah put three shells into her and she collapsed, but with the front door still open, two masked and body-armored troops fired their semi-automatic rifles from the threshold killing him instantly.
The sniper’s single shot into Layla’s bedroom went almost unheard amid the chaos having used a silencer, she shell striking Olivia in the forehead and splattering her brains against the bedroom door and surrounding walls.
In the kitchen, Dean had time to retrieve his own rifle from the pantry but was torn between addressing the invaders in the living room or the six armed people rapidly advancing from the park grounds. Hearing footsteps less than eight feet behind him, he wheeled around and got off several shots before he was killed. His body was thrown backward into the sliding glass door, breaking but not shattering it. The rest of the Coalition force from the park reached the back and those inside shoved the young Van Helsing’s body aside to let them in.
“Hurry,” a muffled voice commanded. “Get the target out.”
Two troops ran down the hall and opened the last door to the right to see the 85-year-old African-American woman gasping for air and staring at the bloody carnage that had once been the head of one of her captors
“Evacuate.” Two other vans pulled up out front and as the sliding doors opened, Dawn Soto ran out of one of them. She reached Marishka who was coughing up blood.
“Did we get Mama?”
“I think so. We’ve got to get out of here. The cops will be here any second.”
A daytime op was especially dangerous but it was necessary because the kidnappers would never anticipate the special asset. Within fifteen seconds, all of the troops, the asset, the target, and an unconscious Augustine were loaded in the trio of vehicles and sped away.
“Anybody got a fucking inhaler? The woman can’t breathe.” The driver, probably one of the op leaders sounded infuriated but drove with calculated precision. It was less than a mile to a freeway entrance, but they could hear sirens in the distance.
“Mama.” Marishka had been resting her head in Dawn’s lap but rolled to one side to look at her Mother. “It’s me, Mama. It’s Marishka.” Then she turned back to Dawn. “Can’t you help her?”
“Sounds like an acute respiratory attack. We’ve got to get her to the hospital.”
“Not a chance,” the driver barked back. That’s a great way to get caught or dead. She’ll have to hang on.”
“Mama. I love you. I had to get you out of there. I’m sorry, Mama. I’m sorry about everything.”
Layla wheezed and carried on her last breath like a whisper were the words, “Marishka. My baby.” She died trying to touch her daughter’s face.
Then the lights seemed to go out as they drove up a ramp and into a tunnel, except it was the back of a tractor-trailer rig. Seconds later, the two other vans pulled in behind them. Doors were closed, their vehicles were swiftly secured, and then the eighteen-wheeler began to move. Five minutes later, they were on Highway 101 headed south.
“I’m not going to make it, am I, Dawn?”
“Oh Marishka, I told you it was a long shot. Your body’s rejecting the drugs and the harness under your clothes ran out of power ten minutes ago. It’s a miracle you made it as long as you did.”
“Thank you, Dawn. Thank you for trying, for letting me see daylight one last time before I…” Soto had to close Marishka’s eyes for her after she died.
They would switch transports again before splitting up. A smaller truck would take Dawn, Leila, and a rapidly decomposing Marishka and head back north on Interstate-5. The bodies of the two women would disappear forever and in a few days, Dawn would be inserted back into her normal life with a cover story and as a new member of the Coalition. Covert agents would watch over her to keep her safe.
A non-emergency medical van was on I-5 heading south just past 165. “We got to him in time. He’s still alive. Face is all fucked up, though.”
“Just keep him going. Augustine is 24-karat gold even if the Van Helsings know he’s been compromised. The op was screwed sideways but getting our hands on him makes up for it a hundred percent.”
Colton had been asleep for an hour when his cell phone rang. It was Rodriquez, one of Augustine’s men. “It’s all over the news, Boss. There was a massacre at the safe house. All four of our people are down and no sign of Augustine.”
“If he could report in, he would, which either means the authorities have him or they do.”
“Doubt it’s the cops unless they’re playing this one cagey. Reports say no arrests and no suspects. Neighbors report the assault was carried out by people in paramilitary uniforms with semi-auto rifles. I’m betting they took him.”
“Unfortunately, I have to agree. I’ll make all of the necessary security changes and cut off Augustine’s access.”
“Right, Boss. It’s a mess, and it means even if he can escape, phone numbers, passwords, nothing will work for him anymore.”
“A great man has been lost, Rodriquez. He’s a casualty of war. I will mourn my old friend. Then the vengeance of the Van Helsings will be felt most terribly. Carry on.”
Colton broke the connection and was the closest to weeping since the second death of his beloved wife. His comrade-in-arms was now in the hands of a ruthless enemy and all he could do was pray to the Virgin for his immortal soul.
Tomorrow, the war would begin again.
Las Vegas – Twelve Hours Later
The weight of revelation continued to drag Sean Becker’s soul downward. Artemis had secured them a better safe house, and Raquel had made sure his Mom got back to Mesquite and then returned to her home in St. George but Sean received yet another shock, this time over his burner cell. Marishka Taylor had suffered the second death.
It wasn’t that long ago that he decided he hated her, but she had risked everything attempting to save her Mom. Both of them perished and had been hastily buried in wilderness graves. When he could, he would make the pilgrimage to say his farewells.
What did he have left? He would never see his wife and children again. He could see his Mom but would he after hearing about the “family legacy?” He didn’t know yet. Too much had happened too fast. Artemis had just left intending to take a quick flight back to L.A. Something else came up at the same time Mariskha had died and the Coalition leader wasn’t talking about it. Must be something really important for him to risk traveling by air, but is was a short, straight shot from McCarran to LAX.
“I know you’re probably tired of hearing me ask this, but how are you?”
He had been staring at the surface of the coffee table sitting on the sofa in front of it, not really seeing or hearing anything. Raquel had walked back in the front door having delivered Artemis to the airport.
“Lousy, but I bet you already know that.”
“I can guess. I mean, I know you don’t want to talk about it but if you ever decide you want a friendly ear, I’m available.”
He took a breath and the smell of her blood was so strong he started to salivate. There was something else, something sexual. Sean thought she might be attracted to him in some strange way, but who could be attracted to the Undead? Then he remembered Marishka and Dol and almost laughed.
“Thanks. I’m not really good company right now.” Why did she have to be so inviting, so open? Was she insane? After how many years of being around his kind, didn’t she understand the danger?
“That’s okay. I’ve got nowhere to go tonight anyway.” She sat on the sofa next to him.
Was it just sex she wanted, love, or something else? There were several liters of blood sitting in the refrigerator donated by volunteers in the Coalition, but what if there were also men and women who didn’t mind or who even wanted to be taken personally? Was that part of the lure for her?
He stood up. “I think maybe I should take a walk.”
“You don’t want to do that, Sean. Not now. There’s a lot of heat on.”
“But not here in Vegas. Artemis is flying into that heat while we play it safe.”
“That’s what the Coalition is all about. Keeping you safe.”
“My kind you mean.”
“Well…yes. Is it such a bad thing?”
“I can’t be around you right now, Raquel. I don’t have that much control.”
She stood up and put her arms around his neck. “How much control do you really need?”
He grabbed her arms and pulled them off. “Please, Raquel. We can’t. It’s not right.”
“I just want to help. I thought…” She looked away. She was blushing. Her scent changed. It wasn’t alluring anymore.
“I’ll be back before dawn.” He turned away from her and walked to the front door. Then he stopped and looked back. “I’m sorry. I know you’re trying to help and I appreciate it. I just don’t trust myself right now. Maybe you shouldn’t either.”
He couldn’t tell what the look on her face was saying and decided it didn’t matter. Sean opened the front door and walked out into the night. There were several liters of good, strong blood in the refrigerator in the house behind him and he hadn’t had any of it since rising earlier in the evening.
He was tired of being fed out of a bottle like a baby. He wanted prey.
This is the next chapter in the Undead life of Sean Becker after City of Sin and as you’ve just read, there have been a number of (hopefully) startling reveals including the real reason for Sean’s curse and the fate of both Marishka and Augustine. There are also a couple of potential resources for Sean and the Coalition including Dawn Soto and Sean’s mother Cathy Becker. I’ve also noticed this is developing into an ensemble piece and is not so much focusing on Sean anymore. There are a lot of players in this game.
Here are the previous chapters in the series:
- The Beginning of the Fall
- Approaching Advent
- Without God
- They Will Run You Down in the Dark
- City of Sin
The next chapter is Aftermath.