Vampire Romance: AMBER - The Grue Series (Vampire Romance, Paranormal, The Grue Series Book 1), page 1
Copyright © 2016 by Nancy Adams & Stormy Summers.
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May 21st, 1981
The two boys had been watching the house for weeks, sure that this was the one they wanted to hit, and this particular Tuesday was the day to do it. They hadn’t seen anyone moving around in it during the day for almost a month, now, but it wasn’t empty or abandoned. The furniture they could see through the windows was expensive, and so were the television and stereo. They were betting there’d be other things of value inside, too.
The only time the house seemed to be occupied was at night. That’s when lights came on, music floated across the yard, and sometimes there was laughter. However, in the daytime, it was almost as if it were a haunted house, with no sign of life anywhere. Whoever the odd occupants were, they didn’t seem to be home during the day at all.
“It’s a freakin’ whorehouse,” said Kenny, the ringleader of the little group. He was nineteen, and with a total of four burglaries under his belt, he was the expert on the subject of target houses.
Eighteen-year-old Alex shook his head. “Nah, it’s not busy enough for that. I think it’s some rich asshole’s party-house, where he brings his girlfriends. His wife probably doesn’t even know the place exists.”
Stewart, the youngest at only seventeen, didn’t offer an opinion. He knew the only reason he was even allowed into the club was his car, and he always worried that he’d do the wrong thing, or say the wrong thing, and Kenny would boot him out again. He just sat there behind the wheel and waited.
It was nearly three in the afternoon, and the neighborhood was as deserted as it was going to get. The three boys sat there for another full minute, and then Kenny said, “Okay, let’s do it!"
He and Alex got out of the car, and walked down the sidewalk as if they belonged in the neighborhood. They entered the gate that opened into the front yard, and closed it carefully behind them, then jogged across the broad expanse of lawn and up the steps to the front door.
Kenny slipped the lock with a butter knife he’d brought from home, and pushed it open, but it stopped when it reached the end of the safety chain. He leaned into it hard, and the chain snapped after only a few seconds of strain.
They froze and listened for any sign they’d been detected, but there was nothing. A moment later, they were inside, and watching out the big front picture window showed that no one seemed to have paid them any attention from outside, either.
Kenny pointed to the stereo, and Alex began disconnecting the wires and cables while Kenny slipped up the stairs. Kenny was the bedroom man, usually able to find the places where people hid their valuables. He made it to the second floor, and opened the first door he came to.
Then he froze, for there on the bed was a sleeping woman. He almost panicked and ran, but she didn’t stir, so he stood there and looked at her for a moment.
There was almost no light in the room; the heavy curtains over the windows didn’t let anything through. The small amount coming through the door he held open was all there was, and that was barely enough to let him see the woman lying there. He pulled the door closed and backed slowly away, careful not to make a sound. He waited a moment, and decided that she apparently hadn’t wakened, and then looked into the next room.
Damn! This one held a man, lying flat on his back with his hands crossed over his chest, just as if he were ready for a coffin. He was sleeping so soundly that Kenny would have sworn he wasn’t even breathing, but that was silly. Wasn’t it?
He took a silent and cautious step into the room, and leaned down close to the man on the bed. He listened and stared as hard as he could.
Geez, this guy was dead!
He snapped back and spun to go out of the room, but his heart was racing. What in the world had they stumbled into, here? He went back to the room with the sleeping woman, and opened her door again, moved slowly toward her until he was sure that she, too, was lying there without breathing. He steeled his nerve and reached out to touch her throat.
It was cold, and there wasn’t even a hint of a pulse.
He made a quick check of the other bedrooms, then, and found three more. One of them was a tiny girl, maybe even a kid, he didn’t know. He turned back into the hallway and called Alex.
“Hey, Man,” he said, “you better get up here. I think maybe we got a problem!"
Alex came up a moment later, and Kenny pointed into the biggest room. A tall man lay there, and like all the others, he was completely devoid of any signs of life. Alex looked, and then looked again. Kenny stood to the side of the bed on which the corpse lay, and just watched.
“Holy crap, he’s dead!” Alex said. “Turn on a light or something, would you?”
Kenny looked for a light switch, and didn’t see one where he expected it, so he just stepped over to the window and threw open the curtain. Sunlight streamed in and illuminated the dead man on the bed, and both boys leaned in close to get a better look. The light coming in cut at an angle directly across th
There didn’t seem to be any marks on him, and Kenny didn’t think there had been any on the others. “Maybe we stumbled on some suicide cult thing,” he said.
Alex nodded. “Could be—hey, what’s that smell? You smell something burning?”
Kenny started to shake his head, but then he caught it, too. It was a smoky smell, and it was coming from…
“Holy shit, this guy’s smoking!” he yelled, and suddenly the dead man’s eyes flew open and his legs burst into flame, all at once.
Kenny screamed and tried to jump back but he ran into Alex, and then the guy was jumping up and screaming something, but when they looked at him they saw his mouth open wide in a grimace of pain, and his fangs glinted in the sunlight.
“Vampire!” they screamed together, and tried to run out the bedroom door, but the man grabbed them and carried them by their necks into the hallway. The flames on his legs died out once he was out of the sun, but he was charred, and as Alex watched, he pulled Kenny up to his face and screamed something unintelligible at him, then plunged his fangs into the boy’s throat.
Blood. Fresh blood was what he needed, to help his body heal from its burns. He sucked on Kenny’s throat, drawing hard. Alex was whimpering, crying, and Kenny was fighting, trying to break free of the man’s grip, but he was weakening, and no matter how hard he hit the bastard it didn’t seem to matter.
The man broke his suction on Kenny’s throat and turned his eyes to Alex, but there was something in them, some indefinable, terrifying thing that the boy saw, and he began to scream. Kenny heard him, and added his own weak, mewling screams to Alex’s.
Stewart heard them, too, and leapt out of the car to try to see what was happening, but all he saw was the house. He called out to them once, then again, and suddenly the window, the one and only window that didn’t have curtains covering it on the inside, burst outward, and Kenny came flying out through it. He landed on his neck, and even from thirty feet away, Stewart heard the snap as it broke.
Inside the house, the tall man with the fangs had heard the boy leaving his car, and if he’d been thinking more clearly, he might not have reacted as he had. There was something about being set afire, though, and wakened from a dead sleep, that just really ticked him off, and so he had thrown the skinnier boy back through the bedroom door without thought. His body had crashed through the window without slowing down, and now both the one outside and the one still in his hand were screaming like terrified children.
Well, that’s what they were, to him.
“What are you doing in my house?” he demanded, but the boy he was holding was screaming too incoherently to make a response. The vampire forced his thoughts to coalesce into something resembling order, and realized that his world had just crashed down around him.
The boy outside was calling out to his friends.
“Alex? Kenny?” he called, but then someone across the street came out of a house and demanded to know what was going on.
“My friends, they, they went in that house, and someone’s hurting them.” He had run through the gate and rushed to Kenny’s side. “Oh, God, Kenny—Geez, he’s dead! God, look at his throat! Oh, Geez, call the police, please, call the police now!"
The vampire stifled a roar of rage, and threw Alex the length of the hall. All the work of getting this place set up, all the time he and the others had invested here—it was all going up in smoke, all because some punks decided to rob them.
Alex hit the wall where the hallway turned ninety degrees, and slid to the floor. His head had struck the wall hard enough to crack his skull, and he was dying of a massive concussion even before he came to rest. The vampire had heard the boy outside, and knew it would only be a matter of minutes before the police would respond; here in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the cops weren’t as slow as they were in the inner city, and he figured he had about a dozen minutes, at most.
But the sun was up, and one thing he’d failed to do was plan an escape route. Things had gone well here for almost ten years; no one had bothered them, even if they did think them a little strange, and they’d lived here without a problem until now.
A siren sounded in the distance. If it was a cop responding to the call that had just been made, then he had less time than he thought. There was no way he could get them out of the house, and the rest were too young to even rise in the daytime. It would all be on him.
He stormed through the nearest bedroom door, grabbed the man lying there by his neck and tossed him over his own shoulder like a rag doll. He turned instantly to the next room and pushed open the door, grabbing the tiny girl and piling her on top of the man, then hurriedly went after the other two women. With two on each shoulder, he rushed down the stairs and heard the squeal of tires as a squad car shrieked its way around the corner down the street.
That boy outside was shouting again. “Here! Over here!” he called, but the vampire didn’t worry about him. He opened the door to the cellar and hurried through it, then rushed down the stairs, careful to pull the door closed behind him. He got to the bottom and looked around, but there was only one hope: there, in the corner, was an old coal bin, and it was still half-full of ancient lumps of filthy coal.
He dropped his family onto the floor and went into the bin, shoved coal around quickly to make a hole, then hurriedly dragged the bodies inside and pulled the piled coal in on top of them all. The coal dust was floating through the air, and all he could do was hope that it would settle before the cops got up the nerve to come down there.
Stewart ran to the officers that exited the first car, and with tears flowing, he confessed to his part in the burglary of the house and then showed them Kenny’s body in the yard. One of the cops put him into the backseat of the squad car, and the officers waited with hands on their guns until three more cars arrived over the next ten minutes.
The lieutenant from homicide, whose name was Dickens, took charge when he arrived only a minute after the last car, and used a bullhorn to try to negotiate with whoever was inside.
“Attention!” he called out, his voice amplified by the device. “This is the police. You are surrounded. Come out with your hands in the air where we can see them!"
When there was no response after five minutes, Dickens tried again. “Attention in the house! There is no way out. Send out your hostage and come out with your hands visible, and no one will get hurt."
Another five minutes passed with no response of any kind.
“Too quiet,” Dickens said to his sergeant. “Something’s not right, here. I’m going inside.”
“Sir, let me go with you,” said the sergeant, a grizzled old cop named Madison. “If we go in front and back at the same time, maybe we can catch ‘em between us.”
Dickens nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll take the front, you go on around back, and let me know when you’re ready.”
They timed it perfectly, and both entered the house at the same time. Madison and Dickens met in the living room, and then worked their way upstairs. They found Alex’s body where it had fallen and checked it for a pulse, but there was none.
Carefully, they searched the rest of the house, guns drawn and held at the ready, but they found nothing. When they finally made it down to the basement, one of the uniform officers pointed out the heavy smell of coal dust, but Dickens just pointed at the bin.
“Plenty of coal there,” he said, “so that might explain the smell, don’t you think?” He looked around for a moment, and then led his men back upstairs.
“What we got here,” he said, “is a slick situation. Whoever did these kids split in a hurry, before we even got close. Let’s talk to the neighbors, see what they know about the people who lived here. My gut says these kids might have stumbled onto something they weren’t supposed to see, something so big that the perps killed ‘em and split, gone somewhere else to start over.”
Madison agreed. “I’m thinking maybe they walked into a big drug deal, LT. These boy
A new detective shook his head. “Sir, I disagree,” he said. “There’s something strange here. I mean look at the bodies—the one outside has a few small cuts on him from when he flew through the glass of the window, but none of them is deep. And yet he seems to have lost a lot of blood, blood that isn’t lying on the ground where he landed, or anywhere inside, but if you look at his throat, there are two puncture marks. Then there’s the other one, the kid inside. He’s got a broken skull, and it looks like he was flung into the wall so hard that it caved in his head. How could that happen? And look at the bed, in the room where the window was broken—there are burn marks on it, burn marks that are in the shape of the lower half of a human body. Doesn’t all that mean something to you?”
Dickens looked at the kid, and raised his eyebrows. “Well, hell, Sherlock, since you’ve got it all figured out, why don’t you just tell us what it means?”
The kid frowned, but didn’t back down. “Sir—bite marks on the neck—very little blood—incredibly strong perpetrators—Sir, it smacks of vampires, to me!"
Madison rolled his eyes, and Dickens shook his head.
“Vampires? Did you—did you really just say vampires? Good God in Heaven, boy, do you know how ridiculous you sound? Freaking vampires! Jeez You Ess!"
The kid tried one more time. “Sir, we got a notice two weeks ago that we’re to report any seemingly paranormal events to the FBI’s Unusual Cases division. I think this case qualifies.”
Dickens turned away. “Well, tell you what, then, Junior,” he said. “You just go right ahead and report away! Maybe it’ll get you a shot on the X-Files.”
The kid glared at his superior’s back, but went to call in the report. Thirty minutes later, Dickens was notified that two special agents would arrive in the morning to take over the case.
The neighbors were helpful, the way neighbors of horrific crime scenes usually are, telling the officers how they’d always known there was something strange about the two men and three women who had lived in that house. They were a weird bunch, and only seemed to come out at night. A few of the neighbors admitted to seeing them at various nightclubs, and even grudgingly acknowledged that they’d always been friendly and polite, but still...