Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 15
Vampire, not kid, vampire, not kid, Andy reminded himself. He couldn’t afford to think of this bloodsucker as any different than the rest, just because he was younger. Maybe the kid hadn’t been at this long, maybe he had just been turned recently—that might explain the odd behavior—but he’d get the hang of the vampire life, soon enough. Once he did he’d be killing and feeding just like the others.
Andy knelt beside him, feeling the snow seeping through his jeans. The vampire was out cold, it seemed. Hand trembling, Andy held the knife against the kid’s scrawny throat.
The vampire twitched, one leg kicking out. His right eyelid fluttered.
“Better get it done,” John warned.
“I know!” Andy screamed, pressing harder on the blade. “Goddammit!” Pale skin gave way under the steel edge. He pushed down harder still and saw droplets of blood form, then run down the vampire’s neck in little streams. The vampire gave a tiny cry, like a newborn kitten mewling. Andy bit down on his lower lip and leaned on the blade, sawing with it.
Blood sprayed his hand, his arms. The vampire’s eyes snapped open. Andy sawed faster.
Slender-fingered hands clutched at his wrist. Andy put all his weight on the blade, hunching over the vampire. Bone snapped. Clawed fingertips dug into his arm.
“You’re doin’ fine, Andy. Finish it.”
“I’m trying!” Andy sliced at the monster’s neck like it was a recalcitrant slab of meat and he an angry butcher. He chopped through gristle and muscle and bone shards, finally forcing the blade through to the snow beneath, soaked now with hot blood.
The vampire twitched a couple more times, brown eyes still open and staring up at the stars. Andy shuddered, blew out a sigh, tossed the knife aside, and started scooping up clean snow to wash his hands.
John bent down and picked up his knife. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Fuck you,” Andy said. He wanted to vomit. “He’s just a little kid.”
“He’s not a kid, Andy. He’s a vampire. It’s not the same thing.”
“Yeah, I know,” Andy said, rubbing snow up and down his arms. “But it still feels wrong. I can’t get past it.”
John wiped the blade on his coat and returned the knife to its scabbard, snapping the flap over it. “You’ve come a long way since I first met you, Agent Gray. I hardly recognize you for the punk-ass you were when you came to Barrow. Tell you the truth, I didn’t think you’d do it at all.”
“Then why’d you give me the knife?”
“Had to find out for sure, right?”
“Christ, John, there might have been a better way.”
“I don’t know of any.”
Andy stood, dusting the snow from his arms and legs. His jeans were soaked through and he was starting to feel the cold. “Yeah, well, you’ve never struck me as the imaginative type.”
“Maybe not, but I’d like to think I’m practical as hell,” John said. He started gathering downed wood from nearby trees and piling it near the body. Andy did the same, still fuming about John testing him that way.
“You were looking for me?” John called as he scavenged some good-sized branches.
“Yeah,” Andy said. He started stacking the wood they had found into a kind of pyre, with small kindling at the bottom. Snaking a lighter from his pocket—he didn’t smoke anymore, but it never did well to be caught without fire around here—he held its flame to the kindling until tiny flames danced from the twigs, crackling gently and sending up the smell of wood smoke. He placed some of the larger sticks over the burning kindling, then as they caught he stood back to keep the smoke from his eyes and watched it burn.
“Any particular reason?”
“Met a strange guy, down at the Polar Bar. He said he knew Stella Olemaun—and he still does. There was just something about him that struck me as odd. Made me think of Paul…same situation, almost.”
John started setting some large branches on top of the fire. “This guy have a name?”
“He just called himself Dane.”
John froze, one log halfway in place. “You’re shitting me.”
“That’s what he said.”
“Black hair? Maybe a thin little goatee, mustache?”
“That’s the guy,” Andy said, surprised, stopping himself. John Ikos was full of surprises. “You know him?”
“Met him.” John put the rest of the wood on the fire, which was burning steadily now, giving off heat that sizzled the snow around it.
“Let’s get him on there,” John said, nodding toward the headless corpse of the vampire kid. He went around and picked up the kid’s shoulders, and Andy took him by the ankles. He wasn’t heavy, but they had to straddle the fire with him to get his body on the sturdiest logs. Once they had him in place, his clothes already beginning to smolder, John fetched the head and tossed it in as well. “You remember me tellin’ you I went to Los Angeles, looking for that fucker Norris?”
“Yeah. You didn’t much care for it, if I recall.”
“Hell on earth. Bloodsucking leeches every fuckin’ place you look. And that’s just the human population. Vampires are worse—only way you can tell ’em apart is the bloodsuckers don’t spend hours under sunlamps to get that bogus LA tan.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Andy said. He’d heard the story before, but once John got rolling on the horrors of Los Angeles you couldn’t stop him. “I’ve spent more than enough time there.”
“Right. Anyhow, you know I ran up against this one pale-skinned bastard, Santana Lutz. Had a whole gang of bloodsuckers with him, called themselves the Night Crew. They thought it was pretty cool, you know, like a rock band or a super-villain team in the funny books. I don’t like to say it, but all together they might have been too much for me to handle. I had help, though. A vampire named Billy—just a kid, a little older than this one. A teenager, I guess. And another one, who could kick some serious ass.”
Andy thought he saw where John was headed, and the idea filled him with dread. “Let me guess. Dane.”
“He’s one of them?”
“But I just met him in downtown Barrow.”
“Dane’s got some wild tricks, I know that much. Must’ve figured out a way to get in.”
The big man shrugged. “Can’t be good’s all I know. Dane once claimed that Lutz and some like him were tryin’ to start a war with humanity, to bring vampirism out into the open once and for all. Lutz thought they’d win and could become the dominant species on Earth. Grow humans for food.”
“Jesus,” Andy said.
“Dane’s not like him, though. He thinks the vamps are in the minority because of what they are—that they’ll never rule, and they shouldn’t. He steals blood from hospitals instead of killing for it, when he can.”
“Yeah, but come on—he’s still a vampire, John. A fucking monster.”
“Maybe.” John’s gaze rested on the bubbling flesh of the vampire boy. “But he’s got bigger stones than ninety-nine percent of the human beings I’ve met. Maybe a bigger heart, too. Say what you want, Dane is one brave motherfucker. He saved my life. I returned the favor. Well, saved his…unlife. Whatever. Thing is, if he’s here now there must be a reason for it. And I got a feeling trouble follows him like a dog after a bag of meat.
“And then there’s this whole thing about Stella Olemaun.”
“Yeah, he told me he knew her. Didn’t say how or when.”
Andy turned away from the fire. The stench was starting to gag him. “Well, now I’m glad I came to tell you. I think.”
“I know what you mean,” John said. “I think I’m glad to know. Not sure. Got to sort that out still.”
“I think there’ll be a lot of sorting out done around here.”
“You think there’s something new in the works? Maybe they want to declare war for real—st
“I don’t know,” Andy replied.
“There’s always a few vampires up here, from late summer on, wantin’ to take advantage of the long nights…. Hey, speaking of takin’ advantage, I keep forgettin’ to ask you—whatever happened to that DVD you got your hands on, that showed the proof of the first attack?”
“That, my friend,” Andy remarked with a small grin, “is information that’s strictly on a need-to-know basis.”
Ikos stared at Andy in disbelief.
“Are you kidding? Well fuck you then, Mister Andy Gray.”
“Oh, stop it…. Look, long story short: I burned somecopies and got them into the hands of different people. The right people, let’s say. People who know the truth, who have reasons to spread the word. When I say go—or if anything happens to me—they know what to do.”
“Well, of course, if it’s war, then everyone will know anyway.”
“Yes, I suppose you could say that.”
“This is some fucked-up shit, Andy,” John said. “This is seriously fucked.”
“YOU DIDN’T TELL HIM about YouTube?”
“Marcus, my boy…there are some things John Ikos is never going to understand,” Andy said. “YouTube is one of them. You’re not going to find him friending anyone on MySpace, either. If the time ever comes, there’s no one I’d rather have at my side in a fight, but he’s pretty much of a Luddite if I ever met one.”
“Word,” Marcus said. He was, what? Thirteen? He talked funny. That was okay. It reminded Andy of his daughters, of the fact that they’d never reach that age, but it also reminded him that other kids did, and that was good. Life went on. People grew up.
And some lived their whole lives without encountering vampires.
Marcus Kitka didn’t have the good fortune to be one of them.
In the last attack, back in 2003, he’d been trapped in the house his dad—the town’s new sheriff and brother of William Kitka, who had died in the first attack—had rented. As the story went, only the intercession of Stella and Eben Olemaun—in new, vampiric forms—had saved his life.
Since then, the kid had developed a marked interest in fighting vampires. Since his technical skills far surpassed Andy’s, he made a valuable ally.
Together, cobbling equipment from all over the state, they had built what Marcus liked to call Andy’s Fortress of Techitude. Andy just called it the War Room.
He had a dozen computers—mostly Macs, since service could be hard to come by in Barrow, but a couple of PCs as well. He had two satellite links and a T-1 line. DVD burners and video editing capability and triple failsafe network security with firewalls galore. The whole thing was in an old house that had been abandoned after the first attack, but had survived the fire. The walls were stone, twelve inches thick. The place had two wood-burning stoves and a fireplace almost big enough to stand up in. Andy had turned the back bedroom—one of three—into the War Room.
He let Marcus do the tricky hacking stuff. Andy had envisioned the War Room as a way to track who else across the globe knew about vampires—knew the truth, not the nonsense. He had found a surprising number of people who claimed they did, but at least half of them were wack jobs who had wet dreams about Frank Langella’s Dracula or those vampire romance novels by Anne Rice. When Andy did find people who really did seem to know what they were talking about, though, he wanted to check them out in more depth. His own FBI passwords and access codes had long since been deleted from the Bureau’s systems, but it turned out that Marcus could find ways in without them.
Together they ran complete background checks on the people Andy had identified. If they came up clean, then he initiated discreet contact by email. From their responses—and these people almost always replied, some within minutes of his first overture—he determined if they were people he wanted to take into his confidence.
Marcus even came in handy during some of this deliberation. He was just a kid, but he was also surprisingly adept at reading people. Maybe it was because he spent a lot of time on email and instant messaging, but he caught cues online that would have soared right past Andy. Together, they came up with a small network of people they trusted, and it was to these people that Andy had sent copies of the DVD and its damning evidence.
At Marcus’s urging, he had also posted the video of the attack on YouTube. Surprisingly, that had not been a terrific success.
His posts had been removed, or spoofed, but never taken seriously. Andy had envisioned a worldwide uproar over this, proof positive of the existence of the undead, and instead people thought it was a gag video, something done with Hollywood blood and latex appliances. He and some of the other supporters in his network had also built websites, displaying the footage in QuickTime, but those sites had either been shut down by their servers or otherwise blown off-line. Wikipedia entries made by his network were almost immediately edited or deleted.
Andy highly suspected the FBI’s Operation Red-Blooded was behind the suppression. From what he had learned about them—precious little, unfortunately—it seemed like just their style. They knew about the threat of vampires, that much was obvious. They also seemed to want to make sure the rest of the world didn’t know what they did.
Marcus, on the other hand, blamed the vampire community. It stood to reason, he insisted, that some of the people who had been turned were as tech savvy as he was, if not more so. There was no reason to think they’d lose those skills after they became vampires, and they would have a vested interest in keeping the truth of their existence quiet.
Andy had agreed with this, until tonight’s talk with John Ikos.
Maybe it was both. Which was an infinitely scarier prospect.
Marcus had tried backtracking some of the internet attacks, to see who was responsible, but so far without success.
A couple of Feds had visited the town a few months back. Andy didn’t recognize them, and they didn’t even see him, but he swore they were Operation Red-Blooded types. They tiptoed around the whole question of vampires, but they didn’t really ask about anything else. As if questioning people about “events in Barrow in late 2001” could mean anything else. It wasn’t like an al Qaeda cell had cropped up here.
“Yo,” Marcus said, from a computer station across the room. “I think I’ve got your database whipped into shape. You want to take a look?”
“I’ll bring it up over here,” Andy said. “Thanks, Marcus.”
He was glad that Brian Kitka didn’t mind Marcus staying at his place all hours. After his brief visit with John Ikos, Andy hadn’t wanted to get home and go to bed. He had found Marcus in the War Room, working on the database. School would be starting soon—even with Barrow’s population decimated by the two attacks, they made every attempt to continue with “normal” life—and his availability would be curtailed.
Andy opened the database across the network. At a glance, it looked good. Thorough. He’d been compiling statistics on violent murders that might have been vampire related, really just amassing data and dumping it onto Marcus. Marcus had come up with a database that could organize it all. Andy could search it by location, by general type of crime, by number of victims, by any arrests made, and even by the specifics of the crime—stabbings, shootings, stranglings, beheadings, assault with blunt objects, and the like.
He ran it through some tests and was pleased to see how functional Marcus had made it. It wouldn’t draw conclusions for him, but it would let him see at a glance how many fatal stabbings had occurred in North America in a given three-week period, for instance. A subfield showed how many of those crime scenes were notable for the lack of spilled blood, which might indicate a vampire’s attack.
“That’s awesome, Marcus,” he said after he played with it for a few minutes. “Why don’t you go on home and get some sleep?”
Marcus had switched to his Nintendo DS as soo
Andy returned to the database, fell into the familiar patterns of investigation, and promptly lost all track of time.
Alone in his hotel room, Dane listened to the daytime sounds of Barrow and thought about Stella…as well as what his next move could possibly be in this entire messy affair, one largely of his own making.
A radio in the room softly played KBRW, the Thistle and Shamrock show. Outside, trucks ground through their gears, people greeted one another on the street, shouting and laughing, a bird perched on the sill of Dane’s window and scolded those below on the street.
He had slept a while, then awakened while the sun still shone against the curtain over his window. After showering, he had poured himself a glass of blood and sat in the room’s easy chair, sifting through the previous evening’s events, pondering why he had come to Barrow.
But Stella kept intruding in those thoughts.
When the curtain started to go gray, he guessed he didn’t have much longer to wait until dark. He wasn’t sure what his first move would be tonight, but he didn’t want a night to pass without trying to come up with some answers. Before full dark fell, though, he was startled out of his reverie by a sharp rapping at his door.
He opened it a couple of inches, blocking the door with his body in case anyone tried to rush him. Andy Gray, the guy he had met at the Polar Bar, stood there. Once again, intuition seemed to have paid off.
“Hello,” Dane said.
“I saw John Ikos last night,” Andy said, without preamble. “I understand you two know each other.”
Dane stepped away from the door, inviting Andy inside. “Yes. We’ve met. Come in.”
“That’s about the way he put it, too. I guess you wouldn’t call yourselves friends.” Andy stepped into the room, closed the door behind himself.
“Not friends exactly,” Dane said. “Compadres, maybe. I don’t know if we have the right word in English.”