The warehouse that I was to call home was nice enough. It was wide, tall, and old, but the interior had been weatherproofed and blanketed in soft quilts of sound dampening foam, like the kind they sprayed into FBI interrogation chambers in the field.
I gazed around wearily at the crates that speckled the empty floor like toys in a messy room; they shined bright, new, and mysterious. I don’t know who brought them there, but it didn’t take a sharp mind to know that Dane didn’t do it himself.
Beside me, Chester was flipping through a stack of papers. I caught a glimpse at the numbers, maybe DNA sequencing? Either way, to me it looked like gibberish. In the corner, Mykhailo’s lumbering form dolled out small tarot cards in their pattern on the ground; he touched the edges gently, more gently than I would think someone like him was capable of handling anything.
A car screeched to a halt outside. High wail denoted fast cylinders and the screech was from racing tires, so it wasn’t Danes truck.
The guy who walked in could have been Dane though, 20 years ago. He looked like he had stepped out of a Blackwater day camp; the same haircut they all had, the smooth movement, and the dead eyes all wrapped in expensive black clothing that told anyone who looked at them than you had a secret to keep. He was unarmed from what I could tell, but that made him look like an empty shelf; something was supposed to go there.
He told us his name, Jon, and then he sat around and said nothing. Myki asked questions, Jon shrugged them off and neither of them were into it. We waited for Dane.
A few minutes later, he saunters in with a heavy load of grief that he likes to carry. He and Jon are old buddies and that makes me nervous. I see Myki feels the same way. Chester is still nose deep in his papers.
Dane does the Dane thing, cracks open the crates, shows us the goods and reaffirms that were all in it for the 6-month haul. The stuff he’s showing makes it impossible to say no.
Its not just the food, the plaything like the TV and consols. It’s not just the weapons and the cash; its that all around us is something we want. If Dane was fishing, he got the right bate.
A mobile laboratory that must have cost like hell grabs hold of Chester and doesn’t let go. Myki sees the simple things; beds, clothes and weights, and goes right to it. Jon is stripping down an M4 and swapping parts in a few seconds, and I’m left looking at a detectives dream; databasing servers, high-rez touch screen and a forensics table to boot. Even a ballistics range that can be set up and analyzed in real time via scan. This isn’t the small time, this is the big league for sure. Were sitting in a warehouse that I would have praised any criminal for choosing simply because its perfectly located, perfectly dilapidated and perfectly anonymous, and were supposed to be the good guys.
But it feels wrong. When I look at it from the outside, I cant put my finger on it, but something is off. Not even with Dane, I honestly don’t doubt his intentions, but the way he moves has a practice to it that I can’t shake. The stuff he gives is just right, like a formula that offers no surprise.
I catch the old man staring off sometimes, and I know he’s not looking anywhere in this world.
He’s dirty and not just because he killed that cop and probably those other people; he’s dirty because somewhere deep down, he feels dead. My shoulder aches and the gun feels heavy again.
It’s hard to escape a sin.
We set up, we settle in and we make smalltalk. Dane says something is happening, that were playing catch up to a gig he already had in motion before his team sold him out, or at least tried to. I told the bureau I had a cover op going and would be out of pocket for a while. They smelled a lie, but I was the analyst who brought them the gangland murders and the weapons cache that polished up a corrupt local chapter of the FBI like no amount of tired advertising could, so they let it slide. Still have to report in weekly though, and with results. And then there are my other masters.
Im shocked out of my brooding when Dane leaps us to life. He says its more Vampires, but that were targeting humans this time. Apparently there is an organization of mortals who specialize in Vampiric transport. The dead things have trouble traveling over any distance, as Dane explains. They tend to stick to a city or a town, but sometimes they need a move, and that might involve crossing their hated star; so they turn to these guys to box ‘em up and deliver them into a dark new city, with new friends, new enemies and plenty of blood.
We all load up, and Dane answers a few of my questions about weakness; wooden stakes are a no go, has to be silver and then it only paralyzes them; usually. Holy water does jack, and they don’t need to be invited into a house to come inside. That was a bummer; I wanted that to be real. The only death he knows about is the sun, and they don’t like fire. Also, strangely, they don’t like crosses. Dane says they have a phobia, especially the newly turned.
I take a moment to wonder if Dane believes in God. Hell, if any of us do.
I go light, but add an MP5 and a few silver rods to my Luger. I also change into the brand new, non descript ‘street’ clothes that all paramilitary guys wear, defeating the purpose of the look. Dane says its mostly for coverage since these things tend to get bloody, and I can’t afford to buy a new suit every day.
Mykhailo doesn’t touch a gun, but adds a bardic of stakes to his new outfit. Chester seems pained to leave the lab behind, but suits up all the same, and Jon straps his own gear on, making him look like a porcupine with metal as quills. He doesn’t take silver.
We take two SUV’s across town to an old subway station. Myki and Dane get the rear, while Jon, Chester and myself continue on around the block to the main opening.
The place was dark, ominous and old, lined with the skeletal remains of scaffolding along the walls painting bright mosaics over worn paint; new skin growing over old bones. Our radios chirped progress as Dane and Mykhailo flushed whoever might be hiding in the underground palace towards the three of us. Chester and Jon armed up and stalked into the darkened gloom of the tunnel, but I stayed on the main platform, searching the dusty offices of the station.
Inside, the rank stench of mold overcame me, and I saw the remains of a shelter there for vagabonds from the decades past; old mattresses, wrappers and unlit candles.
On a desk that must have been made around the turn of the century, I spotted the only out of place item in the room; an old book, worn yellow with age. Inside were names and numbers; old codes and ages that matched to nothing. But I could guess what it meant.
In my ear, Mykhailho, Jon and Chester reported fining a stairwell that led to a secure door; I heard the explosion of breach from far down the tunnel.
Far away in the dark, like a dream barely remembered, I could hear the pop of gunfire and the scream of human anguish, but my mind was deep in the search. On the back cover of the strange book, I discovered a slim silicon key; veins of platinum wire snaked across its thin surface.
I tore the room apart looking for the lock this device opened, and in the time it took me to search, Dane arrived having scouted the other tunnels. It seemed the trio had found the smugglers room, and with the efficiency of trained killers, they had ended them.
Meanwhile, I had just about given up hope, when something spoke to me from some unremembered recess of my mind. I crossed the old wall safe. Probably installed in the 30’s, the worn metal creaked when I moved it and showered me with rust. The inside was covered in grime and dirt, but it looked dirtier than anything else in the room. Sweeping the much aside, I saw why; whoever had placed the grime there did it to conceal a small electronic slit; I placed the key inside.
Across the room, a robotic ‘click’ popped from the worn linoleum floor. Walking to it, I saw that a section of the ground maybe 8 feet long and 3 feet wide has come up above the rest just an inch. I pressed down instinctively, and the match swung open.
Inside was the smooth, polished oak of an old coffin. A quick search found a button and wench squeaked somewhere bellow. The first coffin moved like a lumbering beast to meet me, and I easily dragged it out to fine another just bellow it. In all, 6 vessels of the dead were there, and Dane and I searched them like the haunted chambers they were.
Not surprisingly, the last one held danger.
The lid swung suddenly with the force of anger from the dead thing inside, and a well dressed, elderly looking man was on me in moments. Luckily, Dane stepped in and attempted to end the fight early. As I rolled away and to my feet, the old hunter stabbed a powerful stroke at the creature’s heart. It landed, but the Vampiric speed caused only a glancing blow, and the stake wedged somewhere between its ribs. It slammed a heavy fist into dane, and I heard the wind knock out of him as he fell back. I fired.
The slug landed near the heart, a kill shot for any man, but these were no longer son’s of Adam, but disciples of the damned. Blood spread across the dark jacket, but the thing did not even notice it. In a swift move, it grabbed the silver stake and came at me.
Looking back, I am disquieted to remember that the silver seemed to have no effect on him.
I fired again, and the result was similar; only this time he followed with a savage trust into my left arm. I felt the bent metal rip my flesh and stab into my bone. Reflexively, I swung the weapon towards him, but in these quarters his speed was too much and he locked my hand safely away. I was trapped, and when he opened his mouth, wild hunger seemed to radiate from his eyes. I saw into him like the yawning maw of the underworld, and before they landed, I could feel the blood in my veins spilling out of the gash that was about to rend the flesh from my throat.
His face exploded then, hollow point ammunition entered the back of his skull, expanded and then push a pocket of air hard against the bones of his face. Brain and blood rained down upon me, but at that moment, the terror gone, it felt like cool rain.
I then realized this Vampire didn’t want part in this; he was trying to end it swiftly, but he seemed weakend, perhaps he had not feed since he arrived? Either way, he ran. Crashing through the brittle window of the office, with his speed he fled into the darkness of the tunnel beyond.
Dane and I followed, pouring on fire but to little avail. Unknown the to the dead, Jon was waiting just ahead, as when he made himself a target, Jon emptoed the clip of an M4 into his chest.
As soon as the fire stopped, Mykhailo was on him, thrusting a silver rod into his heart, the damned ceased movement, but not the warrior. His blood up, Myki turned the Vampires head into a mess of pulp as he smashed it over and over into the steel tracks, all the while screaming a womens name, and laying blame for some past offense on this thing.
Clearly the blame rested on the world, but when a man’s blood is up, that reason is covered with dark clouds of hate.
When he stopped, we all got up to speed; Myki and Jon along with Chester had located the mortals who smuggled these Vampires in, and in a quick firefight they had sent them to the hell they deserved. Chester had found some papers; transport times, names etc. Might be useful.
We all cleaned the scene and then Dane stayed behind to fake a fire to cover our presence. I broke the lock on the coffin safe, hopefully burying it forever.
That night we returned, a job well done, and celebrated in each out own way. But as I have come to find, there is a price for all this; his information is sound, and his equipment unmatched, but when you work for dane, you walk a very thin line that your conscious has trouble balancing on. Everything just feels… wrong.
That night, I got a notice to meet someone outside. Dane and Jon were drinking, Myki sleeping and Chester in his own world, so I went; Rebecca Chambers met me. She wanted to meet, tomorrow. I got a time, a place and the young redhead who used to work for Southerland left me alone in the street.
I was tired, suddenly. I had so many people who worked through me, and so many people to report to, all thinking they were the most important. I went in and took a shower, my burden visibly weighing on my weary frame, and then I hit the pillow and fell swiftly into a deep sleep that I hoped would remain undisturbed.
I dreamed of fire.