Immortal remains 2 30.., p.16

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 16

 

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night
 


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  “It does have its limitations,” Andy admitted. Dane sat on the bed, indicated the easy chair with a nod of his head. Andy peeled off his parka and sat down with the jacket in his lap. “You keep it dark in here, I see.”

  “If you talked to Ikos, he probably told you why.”

  Andy nodded his head slowly. “I don’t know how you got into Barrow. Or how you got by me.”

  Dane regarded the man carefully. Andy sat in the chair, but his head thrust forward on his neck and moved slowly, taking in the room in a steady sweep, like a vulture sitting on a telephone pole scanning the landscape for carrion. With his shaved head and the way his muscles bunched when he moved, he looked like someone who had spent time gearing up for a championship cage fight. “Who are you, anyway? You’re not just anybody. Not even in this town.”

  Andy drew in a breath, held it for a minute. His chest, already swollen by weightlifting, expanded his shirt even more. “I used to be with the Bureau,” he said. “My partner—you may have heard of him—was an agent named Paul Norris. We were investigating Stella Olemaun, when he…became one of you. I tried to bring him in, and he murdered my family. We wound up here in Barrow, where John and I took care of Paul. That’s the short and sweet version.”

  Dane chuckled at that, breathy, exasperated. “I met your ex-partner. He shot me in the head.”

  “Really.”

  Both fell suddenly silent, the radio still playing softly in the background.

  “So. I presume you didn’t come in here trying to put a stake through my heart or anything stupid like that, did you?” Dane finally asked.

  “Like I said, I talked to John. I know you helped him out, in LA. I don’t think you’re here to do these people any damage. If I did, you’d be dead by now.”

  “Or you would.”

  “There’s always that possibility.”

  Dane couldn’t hold back another grin. “You’re just brimming with self-confidence, aren’t you?”

  “I didn’t used to, believe me. But I like me better this way.”

  “I bet you do.”

  They glared at each other in gloom.

  “So are you going to tell me why you’re here?” Andy asked.

  “I’m here because I heard that there’s something going on. Something big and something very bad. But I don’t know where and I don’t know who’s involved. That help any?”

  “Not a hell of a lot.” Andy studied him for long enough to make Dane wonder if he’d spilled blood on his chin.

  “Well then,” Dane said, spreading his hands. “Now what?”

  22

  “WELCOME TO the War Room,” Andy said, reluctantly ushering Dane and John Ikos in. They had stopped by the Polar Bar and picked up John, who had arranged with Andy to meet them there so Dane wouldn’t have to go back and forth through the security checkpoints.

  He and John had greeted each other warmly enough, but Dane thought he noticed a certain diffidence, as if the vampire hunter still had his doubts about the vampire. Would Andy really be so trusting as to let an envoy of “the enemy” of all people into the alleged inner sanctum?

  Considering that he was in the proverbial belly of the beast—maybe even now traveled up to its brain center—he was probably lucky that he was able to find two people willing to work alongside a vampire at all. Dane stopped just inside the door, stunned at how much high-tech equipment Andy had jammed into a relatively small room in an old stone house. “Impressive. By war, you mean war against us. Me.”

  “Present company excluded,” Andy said and looked at Dane. “For now.”

  Dane nodded, smiling. It had been a long time since he’d had to contend with male bonding rituals—he almost forgot that insults and threats for some humans were a sign of acceptance. “You do understand that some vampires—maybe more than I first realized—want exactly that: a war with humankind. Aren’t you worried that you’re playing into their hands?”

  Andy dropped into an office chair and started rocking slowly back and forth. John took a second one, spun it around and straddled the back. “The difference,” Andy said, “is that I’m talking about war on our terms, not on theirs. I wouldn’t want to see every city, town, and village on Earth turned into an armed camp, like Barrow. My guess is if we can bring it hard and fast, we can do significant damage to the bloodsuckers before they can organize a defense. But if we sit on our hands until they decide it’s time—and only then persuade the world’s population that it’s a real threat—then we’re toast.”

  “That’s probably pretty accurate,” Dane had to admit. He hoped that he wouldn’t be in the center of it all when it did finally come hard and fast against his kind. It could only get nasty.

  He examined the equipment, some of which, on closer inspection, looked like it had been carried around Alaska on the back of a mule. It all seemed functional, though, as far as he could tell. “You wanted to show me something special?”

  “I wanted to show you both something,” Andy said. “You were pretty vague about why you came here.”

  “There’s not much to say,” Dane said. “I had a run-in with…and killed a vampire named Bork Dela, who was murdering residents of Savannah in a horribly public fashion, draining his victims and beheading them and taking others, presumably alive, for reasons yet to be determined.” He hadn’t told anyone about what happened to Ananu, and while he couldn’t actually say why not, he decided to keep quiet about it for a while longer. “Before I finished him off, he told me that there was something going on, up north, that would eventually make the attack on Barrow look tame. I’m guessing that it had something to do with the live victims he had taken, but I have no idea what. In the house he had been using for a sanctuary, I found rooms—almost like meat lockers—where he had been stashing people. I think he was shipping them out someplace, probably still alive. But like I said, this is all speculation. I’m still at an impasse over this.”

  “It’s hard to speculate about what a bloodsucker’ll do,” John added. “Even, I guess, if you are one.”

  “That’s still more than I knew before,” Andy said. “That’ll help narrow things down a little.”

  “Narrow what?” Dane asked.

  “My search. We’ve been building this handy little database. If I put in beheadings plus blood draining plus abductions, that should give us a pretty limited number of events to look at.” Andy turned to his keyboard and pecked at it for a minute, then leaned back in the desk chair, folding his arms over his chest. On his monitor, a little rainbow-colored wheel spun around and around.

  When it stopped, Andy leaned toward the screen and gave a low whistle. “Not so limited after all,” he said. “This shows more than a hundred similar incidents.”

  “Over how long?” John asked.

  “In the last thirty days,” Andy said. “I’m a little afraid to search any wider than that. Decapitation, kidnapping, drained bodies. That pretty much sums it up, no?”

  “Pretty much,” Dane agreed, nodding.

  “Are there any other common links?” John asked. “Did they all take place in the same area?”

  “No, they’re all over the map. U.S., Canada, Sweden, Russia, the Balkans…all northern hemisphere, but that’s about the only commonality.”

  “So what does that tell us?” Dane asked. “That Dela wasn’t alone in whatever he was doing? That’s not much to go on.”

  “This is where the powers of the amazing Marcus come in,” Andy said. “It’s not foolproof, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I could have done. Now that I’ve selected these, all I have to do is ask the database and it’ll hack into as many of the local police agencies investigating these crimes as it can and snake their official reports. Maybe we’ll find something more out that way.”

  “Can you really do that?” Dane asked. “They just let you in?”

  Andy gave a small laugh. “Not exactly. But Marcus has created a program that uses passwords he’s already discovered and checks to see if they’re stil
l good. If they’re not, it takes the old one as a model and tries out more—as many as a hundred a minute. It won’t crack everything, and some systems he hasn’t been able to hack at all. And some still just keep their files on paper instead of entering them on computers, but that’s happening less and less. A lot of smaller police departments don’t have very sophisticated network security and we can get right in. Hell, there was a computer consultant in Illinois who used programs he found online to snag the FBI director’s secret password and get access to the Bureau’s system, where he was able to get the passwords of thirty-eight thousand Bureau employees. Post-9/11 or not, there’s still some serious problems with online security. I’d say out of these we can probably get forty or fifty case files, easy. Maybe a lot more.”

  “That’s not bad,” John said. “It’ll tell us more than we knew before.”

  “That’s the idea.” Andy punched some keys. “Here we go.”

  “Now we wait?” Dane asked.

  “Now we wait.”

  “Got anything to drink in the house?” John asked.

  “Not by your standards,” Andy said. “No whiskey or beer. Just some fruit juice, some sports beverages. Water.” He glanced at Dane. “I guess not by your standards, either…I’m sorry, I’m having somewhat of a hard time with this. With you here.”

  “Understood. If it makes you feel any better, I’m not going to hurt you. And don’t worry about me,” Dane said.

  Andy nodded, although Dane wasn’t entirely certain if he was reassured on that point.

  “You’re right, though,” John said, breaking through the awkwardness of the moment. “Right about now I could use a decent shot.”

  “Alcohol’s hard to come by around here,” Andy sighed, speaking to Dane. “A lot of communities in this area have a ‘damp’ law, which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages, but import, possession, and consumption, that’s okay. I don’t drink anymore—which was not the case before I got here. It’s available some places, but the closer it gets to the dark time, the less available it is. Once the sun goes down, you can’t get a drop anywhere. No one wants to be responsible for the combination of dark days and booze. Not a good idea around these parts.”

  “Seems reasonable,” Dane said.

  The three of them fell silent for a few minutes, all, Dane supposed, dwelling on the things that haunted them in their most private moments.

  For Dane, it was one of the rare occasions when he let a human like Andy Gray get under his skin. What he must think of Dane, of vampires in general to have set up…all this. A “war room.” It was pretty mind-blowing, come to think of it.

  It would be ironic for Andy to know that Dane didn’t kill the innocent—he would only select from people who weren’t contributing anything to society anyway…criminals, dealers, pimps, the kind of scumbags the world would be better off without anyway.

  Still, Dane did kill to live. A moral gray area, to be sure—playing God, to a certain extent. It did still bother him after all this time, despite the fact that killing was a last resort. Before he got to that point, he preferred getting blood from blood banks or plasma centers. Animal blood wasn’t the greatest option—okay in a pinch, but only a temporary one.

  Before he decided to break away from Marlow and go his own way, Dane had killed as a regular habit, like Marlow and the rest of the vampires he knew. It wasn’t until he was on his own and met vampires like Merrin and poor Yuki and some others, that he realized there were options. Compromises. Since then, he had tried to limit himself. He regretted the earlier murders, but chalked them up to not knowing any better. The people he did kill now, he was convinced, preyed on their fellow humans and deserved what they got.

  Dane continued to be haunted by the thought of roads not taken. What might have been if he hadn’t been turned, if he had remained human and married Vanessa Steward, for instance? He would be long since dead by now. But he might have had children and grandchildren. A line of decent, law-abiding citizens might have descended from him. Who could say what their contributions might have been?

  Just as likely, of course, he might have died on a battlefield at Gettysburg or Manassas or Chickamauga. Scavenger birds would have picked at his flesh, humans would have taken his weapons and buttons and boots and that one gold tooth, and the walking mosquitoes would have sucked the blood from his still warm corpse. He had wondered from time to time if he should have had the courage to destroy himself as soon as he reached the bug-eater stage. He had decided, though, that he didn’t truly think that. Vampires and humans could coexist, he believed. But it would take enlightened vampires like himself to make the rest understand that, and to convince humans that it was worth it.

  And really, in the end, he had been prone to fits of heightened pride and emotion. After all, hadn’t Dane been the one who had sought out Stella back in 2003…Dane mistakenly believing Eben to be responsible for Marlow’s death…Dane out to teach Stella a lesson she wouldn’t soon forget during the short time of her remaining life?

  “Andy,” John Ikos said after a time. “I don’t think Dane and me are going to be that helpful at interpreting police files. How about we take a walk and catch up with you later?”

  “Sure,” Andy said. “They’ve just started to come in, so I’ll have plenty to keep me busy for a while.”

  John caught Dane’s eye and ticked his gaze toward the door. Dane shrugged, turned the knob. The door led straight outside, down a couple of steps, and to a walkway between the house and a tall plank fence. As with most occupied structures in town, floodlights washed down the sides of the building near every door.

  He and John passed through the gate. Andy lived on a quiet residential street with no sidewalks, a few blocks from the commercial district. They headed in that direction, just walking, with no particular destination that Dane knew of.

  After they had covered a couple of blocks, John finally spoke. “I just wanted to say, you showed a lot of balls, comin’ here. The people around here found out what you were, me and Andy wouldn’t be able to help you. Period. They hate your kind, me included, and for a damn good reason.”

  “I guess we haven’t given them much reason to do anything else.”

  “That’s for sure. Anyhow, I just wanted to say that.”

  “I appreciate it.”

  They passed a couple in their midforties, walking hand-in-hand and talking softly, puffs of steam issuing from their mouths like visual evidence of the words of love they shared. Dane smiled at them as they passed, and John tossed them a brisk nod. When the people were out of earshot, he continued. “And Andy in there. He’s good people, and you can trust him, don’t worry about that.”

  “I didn’t get the sense he was a big proponent of letting vampires live.”

  “None of us are. But ones like you…Miss Olemaun, there are exceptions.”

  “There are more like us than you think.”

  “I know for sure there are plenty of the other kind.”

  He and Dane turned a corner and walked past a church, empty at this hour, its tall steeple and white walls washed by floodlights as if to declare its steadfastness to enemies viewing it from a distance.

  Dane hadn’t been inside a church since his battle with Marlow in the cathedral. He didn’t think it was appropriate for him to enter one. That did not, however, preclude him from thinking about faith and God and a higher purpose. With Ferrando Merrin and Alexandra Keeffe, who had been a traditional 50s housewife, literally baking a boysenberry pie when she was turned—she opened a window to set the pie out to cool and two rough hands reached in, grabbed her, drew her out (to this day she preferred Capri pants and sheath dresses to the typical black pants and shirts worn by most nosferatu)—and Matthew and Benjamin, a father and son who had been turned together in a Louisiana bayou in the late 1930s, Dane had conversed literally hundreds, if not thousands, of times about subjects that would have sent Marlow into fits of sputtering, violent rage.

  Did vampires fit into God’
s plan?

  Most undead would have laughed at the suggestion. Dane and his friends were cautious about with whom they raised such ideas. But among themselves, in private, they were anxious to explore them.

  Yes, vampires were murderers, and God hated murder. And yet, hadn’t He created sharks and spiders and every other predator on Earth, vampires included? Why would He allow such creatures to exist, if not intentionally?

  Wasn’t it possible that there was some unknown purpose for them, to be revealed in the fullness of time?

  Marlow and his ilk would have regarded such ideas as the height of hypocrisy. Maybe they were, Dane thought, but hypocrisy was in no shortage these days, from a president who professed Christianity and yet lied to send soldiers to their deaths all the way down to the grocer who keeps ground beef for sale a few days past its prime because it’s still pink—courtesy of the carbon monoxide pumped into it—because it wouldn’t be his kids eating the burgers made from it.

  After the cathedral incident, Dane didn’t see Marlow again until the summer of 2001. He was back in New York and it was August, the nights hot and steamy, and no one had any idea that, in another few weeks, the city and the world would irrevocably change. He had visited with some acquaintances, vampires, but not the ones with whom he had formed a small group of like-minded individuals. Dane was about to leave to go back to his safe house—most vampires had them, but he and Merrin and the others had set up their own network of them, secret even from the rest of the undead—when the front door opened and Marlow strode in.

  They regarded each other for several moments, warily, like two wolves from different packs encountering one another on contested ground. History had settled in between them, a mountain range of forbidding peaks and dangerous canyons. Their first words had been civil but cautious. Seeing Marlow there, however, had been an emotional moment, almost like running into a long-estranged parent or lover, and Dane decided not to leave right away after all.

  Marlow’s attire certainly had changed with the times since their last encounter all those years ago. Still bald, he now blended in perfectly with the punk scene, complete with beat-up leather jacket, six earrings in his left ear, and he was smoking like a chimney.

 
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