Vampire Trilogy Series (Book 2): Vampire Twilight, page 1
CORAL MOON BOOKS
Published By Coral Moon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, save those clearly in the public domain, is purely coincidental.
Vampire Twilight Copyright © 2007 Philip Henry
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Publisher, except for short quotes used for review or promotion. For information address the Publisher.
Cover art by Ron McCann
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Also by Philip Henry
Lucinda Sheridan was keeping a lot of secrets.
Most of these secrets she shared with dozens or even hundreds of people at the Ministry of the Shield, but there was one secret that was hers alone. She hid most of her arcane knowledge easily, though one thing she was failing miserably to hide was that she was scared. As she sat huddled in the back of the van with her arms wrapped tightly around her legs she knew her companions sensed her unease and were probably regretting allowing a Ministry research scientist to come along on a field mission. Lucinda envied the two women sitting at the front of the van. They were everything she wasn’t. Nicholl was brunette with green eyes and a body that was perfect. It really was. Lucinda and the other female members at Ministry HQ had been trying for years to find a fault with her but to their dismay, it was not there to be found. Bradley was sitting in the passenger seat and was the blonde, blue-eyed equivalent of Nicholl. Whatever a man’s taste in women was, you could be sure one of them would be his ideal. What made it worse was that they were also smart, witty, athletic, and heroic. No other woman merited a look with them in the vicinity.
Lucinda glanced over her own appearance and felt even more self-conscious. Her red hair had frizzed-up because she hadn’t had time to dry it properly that morning. Her nails were bitten short. She felt sure the fatigues she was wearing made her bum look big. But why? Nicholl and Bradley were wearing the same as she was. Why did they look as if they had just walked off a catwalk in Milan and got into the van and she looked like someone who should be sitting on a pavement somewhere begging for spare change to get some butt-reduction surgery? She decided they must have had the cut of their fatigues altered. Maybe there was a wing of the Ministry that had nothing to do with vampires and ghosts and supernatural phenomena, and its sole mandate was to make Nicholl and Bradley look good. It seemed plausible.
Nicholl and Bradley had been with the Ministry a long time. They had worked their way up the ranks, starting with three years of mostly fruitless ghost investigations, to their current assignment as vampire hunters. Usually they would have had to stay on ghost investigations for another two years before being promoted but a former vampire hunter, Christian Warke, had disappeared and they had been fast-tracked to fill the gap. They had both known Christian and had mixed feelings about their promotion. They were glad to become vampire hunters ahead of schedule, but Christian’s name appearing on the memorial plaque at the Ministry with the letters MPM beside it had given them pause. If they ever needed proof that their chosen profession was dangerous, there it was. They decided to proceed and had become excellent hunters. Warke may have got the job done but the hierarchy of the Ministry always hated his sloppy methods and questionable decisions. Nicholl and Bradley were more disciplined and killed vampires with clinical precision. Still, when they walked into Ministry HQ the first thing they always looked at was the name of their predecessor followed by those three initials that sent a chill up their spines. Missing Presumed Made.
Almost ten years had passed since Warke had been declared MPM. He had been on the trail of a vampire called Xavier in Northern Ireland and then he just disappeared. This had happened a few times before in the Ministry’s history and the vampire killings had always got worse afterwards. This had not happened in Warke’s case. In fact, the killings had stopped, and for the last ten years that area, Portrush, had been completely clear of vampire activity. The boffins at Ministry HQ were full of theories about what might have happened but it was all just guesswork. The only thing they were sure of was that Warke, as they knew him, was gone…one way or the other. Nicholl and Bradley took no chances when they hunted, they knew it was a very real possibility that one day their names could end up on that plaque too.
Lucinda was beginning to get a sickly feeling. Nicholl and Bradley were chatting and laughing to themselves at the front and didn’t notice her wincing with pain and grabbing her stomach. They were really going to track down a vampire. Lucinda had to face her fears if her plan had any chance of succeeding. She couldn’t allow herself to be intimidated. She glanced at the archaic weapons lying in the back of the van. The Ministry had developed some amazing technology over the years so why did most hunters still prefer to use swords, knives, crossbows and stakes? Lucinda liked the idea of being able to kill a vampire from a distance. To get within a stake’s length was madness.
The van skidded to a stop. “OK, we’re here,” Nicholl said. “You all right, Sheridan?”
“I’m fine, why?” Lucinda replied.
“You look pale,” Bradley answered.
“I’ve got red hair. I’m always pale.” Lucinda tried to force a smile.
“You look paler than usual.” Nicholl looked concerned.
“Just nerves. I’m ready.” Lucinda grabbed a sword and made for the back doors of the van.
“Wait,” Bradley said, chuckling at her enthusiasm. “The vampire isn’t here. This is just the graveyard. We’re going to make sure there actually is a vampire and look for clues as to where it might have gone.” Bradley got out.
Nicholl nodded to Lucinda. “Just relax, Sheridan, you’ll be OK.” Nicholl jumped out of the van.
Lucinda hated the Ministry rule about only calling other agents by their surname. The rule served two purposes: 1) Anyone overhearing Ministry agents talking would never be able to get their full name, even Ministry ID badges only gave the surname; and 2) It helped keep a professional distance. Some bureaucrat somewhere had decided long ago that it would be easier to kill a fellow agent who had been Made if you only referred to them by their surname. This was how naïve the pen pushers in the Ministry were. This was why Lucinda needed to see a vampire for real. All the field-reports she had read had been emotionless documents that told her nothing of how it actually felt to stand toe to toe with a creature that was pure evil and centuries old. Lucinda needed to know if she could handle that. Her plan could not succeed without it.
Nicholl and Bradley were talking to a ruggedly good-looking man in his thirties when Lucinda joined them.
“This kind of thing gives me the willies,” he said, his accent thick with Welsh inflections. “We’ve never had any trouble with grave robbers before. Who called you folks at Historical Heritage?”
“It was an anonymous call,” Bradley said quickly.
Griffin Edwards had been groundskeeper of this and several other graveyards in the area for just over a year. He felt guilty now. Nothing like this had ever happened before. He was praying
This is why Griffin was actually glad to have an excuse to get out of the house this morning, even if it was to look at an empty grave. He just wasn’t sure. Maybe he would change his preference again after a few years and go back to women. Was he really gay? Marco had been throwing a tantrum as he left that morning but the last thing he had shouted through the closing door was: “You can’t pretend to be something you’re not. You can’t deny what you really are.”
Bradley knelt down and saw that the turf covering the grave had obviously been pushed from below. She looked further into the grave and saw all the shattered pieces of the coffin lid were outside the coffin and embedded in the dirt. Bradley had seen graves that had been robbed before and if the robbers couldn’t lift the coffin lid they always chopped, usually with an axe. This left most of the debris inside the coffin. Plus, they rarely took the body – most grave robbers were in it for jewellery that the corpse was wearing when buried. The coffin was empty. The smell wasn’t right either. Bradley glanced at the headstone and saw the date this person had been buried was August 17, 1977. When a corpse has been down there as long as that not only does the body stink, but so does the coffin. The fabric that lines the coffin holds the smell of decomposition long after the body has been removed. This coffin didn’t smell because this body hadn’t been decomposing. Whoever was in this coffin was just sleeping. Waiting for a new age. Last night they had woken and clawed their way out.
Bradley stood and joined Nicholl, who had already found tracks leading from the grave and ending at the perimeter hedge. Beyond the hedge were open fields. Nicholl turned and nodded to Bradley. Bradley quickly took out her phone and walked away from the others as she made a call.
“Anything interesting in that direction?” Nicholl asked the groundsman.
Griffin dithered as he thought. “There’s a nice lake about three…”
“No,” Nicholl interrupted, “I mean buildings, historic buildings, old forts, castles, anything that’s derelict but still has a roof.”
Griffin was thrown by her quickfire questions and officious tone. He finally mustered an answer. “There’s an old abattoir that closed back in seventy-five. I don’t think it’s anything the Historical Heritage would want to save. The lot was on the market for years but it never sold. There’s nothing else out that way. The young ones go out there to smoke dope and fool around sometimes, but none of them would rob a grave. They aren’t that screwed up.” This was going to get in the papers. Marco was going to find out he was custodian to a bunch of decaying corpses in unfashionable clothes.
Griffin looked at the women. The blonde and brunette were gorgeous. If he had any heterosexual leanings he would be imagining all sorts of sexual scenarios, but he found that what he would really like to do is go shopping with them and stop for lunch in a nice little bistro to have a good old gossip about celebrities. These were not the desires of a heterosexual man. He looked at the redhead and thought about giving her a make-over and styling her hair. He was going to have to tell Marco the truth. He was going to have to admit what he was to himself and to everyone else. Griffin looked across the fog-covered fields and up to the grey sky. There was going to be a storm tonight.
Nicholl turned to Bradley and saw her put her phone away. She strode over to her partner with Lucinda tagging along behind her. Bradley spoke quietly but quickly. “No bodies found so far but two teenagers were reported missing. One male, one female. I have the plate and description of the car.”
“Shit,” Nicholl said. “He fed quickly. We’ve got a couple of hours before sunset. We should do this now.”
“Agreed.” Bradley nodded. They started quickly back to the van with Lucinda trying to keep up.
The reality of the situation seemed much more dangerous to Lucinda now. Those teenagers Bradley mentioned, were they dead? Were they undead? Were the three of them headed to some old factory to kill two beings that only hours ago had been normal, horny, dope-smoking teenagers? Wasn’t there another option? She was just about to say this all to Nicholl and Bradley when she realised how naïve it sounded. There was only one option and she knew it. There was no grace period when they could still be saved. No “kill the head vampire and the half-vampires return to normal.” Life wasn’t that fair. Lucinda knew how unfair life could be better than most. She kept her questions to herself and got back in the van. Griffin waved at the women as they left and was grateful that his early morning appointment had been so attractive.
Nicholl kept her foot on the accelerator and raced up the narrow little Welsh country roads, leaving trees and shrubs swaying in her wake. Bradley had got directions to the factory through the GPS system on her phone. Lucinda envied them again. They were so attuned to each other. They never argued, never got bitchy, never questioned or criticized each other. They were slick. They were an amazing team.
The pains in Lucinda’s stomach were getting worse. Her hands were beginning to shake. Was she really going to do this? Nicholl and Bradley would make sure she was safe, wouldn’t they? Lucinda had only passed basic combat training. Nicholl and Bradley were at the elite level. Maybe she would only get in the way. Maybe she should wait for the next vampire to rise and go on that field mission. But what about the plan? She didn’t have time to wait. As scared as she was, she had go on this mission. Everything depended on it.
“There it is,” Nicholl said coolly.
Bradley saw a car parked in the distance. “That’s the car the two teenagers were last seen in. We could have three in there.”
Lucinda’s stomach wrenched worse than ever. She started to eye up the weapons in the back. She saw a nice dagger in a leather sheath. She tied it around her ankle and began to feel like an SAS soldier. She looked for a main weapon. The crossbow would allow her to keep her distance, but it took time to reload. She didn’t want to be standing there pulling her wire while a vampire pounced on her. No, it would have to be a sword. She would hold onto the hilt of that sword and swing it hard at anything that came near her. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen. Hopefully Nicholl and Bradley would intercept it long before it got that close. Hopefully Nicholl and Bradley were as good as their reputation said they were.
The back doors of the van were flung open and Nicholl and Bradley lifted two stakes each and put them in the custom-built pockets in their fatigues. Nicholl then grabbed her favourite samurai sword and Bradley armed herself with a crossbow. They both picked up torches and checked they were working. Lucinda slid slowly out of the van and then grabbed the biggest broadsword she could find.
Nicholl grabbed the sword without asking and threw it back in. “That’s too heavy for you; you’ll never be able to swing it,” she said without even glancing at Lucinda. Nicholl grabbed another samurai sword and gave it to Lucinda. “These are sharper and easier to control. Stay close to us in there. Let us do all the work but if something comes toward you that isn’t us, take its fuckin’ head off.” Nicholl slammed the van doors and she and Bradley marched quickly toward the factory’s entrance. Lucinda’s head was spinning but she managed to stumble along behind them.
The factory was dark and damp inside. Like most factories, there were no windows. Some soulless Managing Director long ago had come up wit
The three women moved cautiously forward into the darkness. The corridors were letting a little light in through skylight windows, but they were so dirty it wasn’t helping much. The corridor led to the main floor of the factory. It was a huge space that would have been filled with machinery and conveyer belts that brought the carcasses to the many butchers on the floor in years gone by. Lucinda thought she still smelled the blood of those animals and bile rose in her throat. She managed to hold on to her breakfast and followed the two experienced women. Nicholl and Bradley stopped suddenly.
“There’s one,” Nicholl said softly.
Lucinda’s grasp tightened around her sword. The women in front of her kneeled to the ground and Lucinda saw what they were talking about. The body of an attractive teenage boy lay on the ground with his throat torn out. He was so white. So still. Lucinda’s gaze moved over him slowly and she saw his right arm ripped off and lying a short distance away.
“Doesn’t know his own strength, this one,” Bradley said clinically.
Lucinda could hold it no more. She dropped to her knees and vomited. She wretched loudly and Nicholl put her arm on her shoulder. “I’m OK,” Lucinda said, spitting out the last of it. “It was just shocking. I’ll be all right.”
A noise at the far end of the factory floor put Nicholl and Bradley on alert and they jumped to their feet. They gave each other a quick glance and bolted in the direction of the sound. Lucinda picked up Nicholl’s torch from the ground and stumbled after them. She found them standing back to back in the middle of the floor searching the vast space with a torch beam.