Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 17
Beyond that, though, the son of a bitch hadn’t changed one bit.
By the time the night had wound down, he and Marlow had somehow found common ground again. They were, after all, if not father and son then the next best thing. The bond between them could be stretched, endangered, but never truly severed. Marlow’s blood ran in Dane, and vice versa.
They had spent most of that week together, as long as Dane’s business kept him in the city. Near the end of it, Marlow had invited Dane to Barrow, that autumn, for a feeding frenzy the likes of which no one had ever seen. “Why don’t you come with me, for old time’s sake?” Marlow had asked. Dane thought about it, briefly considered proving to Marlow that he could keep an open mind. But then again, Dane was his own person—what the hell did he have to prove to anyone anymore?
Not wishing to anger Marlow, however, Dane decided to do the next best thing: tell a little white lie. “I’m sorry, my friend, but I have some important business to attend to on the West Coast. A little real estate investment I’ve had my eye on for quite some time is closing before year’s end. I’d hate to be away during that time. But you go…enjoy yourself. I’ll be with you in spirit, so to speak.”
Marlow laughed, an ugly, guttural sound. “I’ll raise a glass to you then, maybe? Is that how it is?”
“Don’t make it out to be more than it is. Seriously, I just have some pressing business to attend to. This was good tonight. Very good, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing you again. Let’s meet up upon your return…for old time’s sake, as you say.”
They embraced as friends, promising to meet again in New York after the New Year.
Marlow didn’t survive the trip, the shock of which might never leave Dane, despite everything since then.
And now ironically Dane had returned to Barrow, working with some of the people who had battled against the vampires last time.
“What do you really think that guy was talking about?” John asked, dragging Dane’s thoughts back to the present. “What’s going on up north?”
Dane hesitated. “I’m not sure yet…I hope it’s not what I think it is.”
“SO HERE’S WHERE we are,” announced Andy Gray.
Dane and John had returned to Andy’s house after a couple of hours of roaming Barrow’s neighborhoods, John giving Dane a thumbnail historical tour of the town. A high point, to John, was the former location of the Ikos Diner, where his brother Sam had once fed the whole town and regaled his diners with stories at the same time.
Dane had a hard time imagining the taciturn John Ikos sprouting from the same tree as an outgoing, gregarious restaurateur, but sometimes siblings could be more different than strangers, he knew.
Andy still sat where they had left him, in front of the computer screen. His eyes were bloodshot and ringed, and Dane realized that, with the exception of coming to fetch him at the hotel, he must have been sitting there for most of the last twenty-four hours or so. He rubbed a hand across his smooth head and gestured toward two empty chairs—he had brought in a folding chair from someplace to supplement the desk chairs. “Sit,” he said. “This’ll take a while.”
“What’d you find out?” John asked.
“Plenty, and the program Marcus wrote is still pulling down case files now, so I think we’ll get more. These crimes—many of them, anyway—are definitely linked, although I don’t think the same perpetrator committed them all. There are too many of them, in locations too far-flung, and sometimes practically simultaneously. After you guys left I widened the search parameters a bit, to include abductions without drained bodies, but with no ransom demands or recovered victims, figuring that while vampires might be tempted to feed on most occasions there also could be times when they’d skip that. That put a few hundred more crimes into the mix. Some are certainly not involved, but others looked to be pretty close to our model scenario.”
Dane figured Andy must have gotten used to giving lectures during his FBI days. He would have thought an agent would spend more time listening than talking, but the FBI was a huge bureaucracy—even Andy called it “the Bureau”—so probably there were meetings upon meetings, at which agents had to blather on about what they had learned.
In order, it appeared, for other agents and top brass to ignore them.
“So what did you find out?” John asked again.
“Like I said, we’ve got very similar crimes happening in wildly diverse locations. I tagged the ones in Savannah that you told us about and used those as the baseline. Somebody goes into a residence, kills one victim, drains their blood, and takes one or more others alive. No demand for ransom is ever made, and the victims don’t turn up again. This is a pretty specific and unusual scenario.”
Andy paused, waiting, as if someone might ask another question. No one did, so he took a deep breath and continued. “The files I’ve been reading through all share those same basic features. The sheer number of abductions is pretty staggering. So far—and like I said, they’re still rolling in—I count almost two hundred people snatched in the past month alone.”
“And we have no idea how long this has been going on,” Dane said.
“That’s right. You can do the math as well as I can—over the course of a year, if it’s been happening for that long, we’re talking about thousands.”
“And no one has put this all together before now?” John asked.
“I don’t think anyone has tried,” Andy said. “Why would they? Why would they assume that murders in Boston are tied in any way to murders in Belgrade? We’re just lucky Dane heard about the Savannah incidents and realized what they had to mean.”
Dane scratched his chin. “I don’t know about your definition of ‘lucky,’ but okay.”
“Because they haven’t connected these incidents,” Andy continued, “they haven’t caught some interesting aspects of them that I noticed tonight.”
“Like, at some locations—not all of them, but enough to attract my notice—crime scene investigators found sawdust embedded in the perp’s footprints.”
“Sawdust?” Dane asked. “He’s a carpenter?”
“Maybe. I’m not sure yet what it means. It’s just a strange anomaly, and the repetition made me think that maybe it was important. The sawdust was only found at scenes in northern Europe—Finland, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and so on. One of the crime scene units, in Copenhagen—you’d be surprised how thorough the Danish cops are—sent the samples they collected to a lab, and that lab came up with something that I found very curious.
“The sawdust comes from a distinctive source. Not the lumber itself, which comes from a variety of trees common to northern climates. But the trees themselves have another common element—they’re suffering from a particular type of hypoxia, a form of oxygen deprivation due to pollutants from a coal-fired power plant. The lab was able to identify, through the particular makeup of the pollutants, which plant it is, which is the Alta plant, in the northernmost section of Norway.”
“Let me make sure I have this right,” Dane said. “This particular sawdust, from this one region of Norway, was found at scenes all across northern Europe?”
“Which indicates a single predator hit all these places?”
“No,” Andy said. “That’s what’s really interesting. Some of these incidents happened on the same night. I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to be able to hit homes in Krakow and Stockholm within an hour’s time.”
“No—it’s not very likely,” said Dane.
“Not at all.”
“Which leaves what?” John asked.
“Which leaves the probability,” Andy replied, “that we’re talking about various perpetrators who had all spent time—very recently—at the same place.”
“In Norway. A sawmill, a lumberyard?”
“Could be those, or even a large construction project.”
“Could be. An apartment complex, an office build
“The more I think about it, the more I’m afraid that might be what all this is about,” Dane said. “A kind of stockyard for humans. They’re being abducted for breeding, food. So it’d really be more of a combination stockyard and—”
“Slaughterhouse,” said a voice from behind the three men.
Dane, Ikos, and Gray turned.
Eben Olemaun stood behind them, having clearly heard most of the conversation. Dane hadn’t detected Eben’s approach this time, which was rather disturbing. Dane couldn’t help but notice his stonelike expression, not that of a vampire, but one of a determined cop, someone who couldn’t help but get involved.
Two men and two vampires stood inside a home in Barrow, Alaska, each waiting for the other to make a move. Andy Gray was silent. He had never seen Eben—it was like having a legend in his home. Ikos was looking from man to man, wondering if there’d be a fight, but it was Dane who opened his mouth to speak.
Eben beat him to the punch, again.
“So…sounds like we need to check it out, right?” Eben said.
There was another long silence until another familiar shape appeared behind Eben, suprising even him.
It was his wife.
“There’ll be three of us, then,” Stella announced.
“No,” Eben said sharply. “No, Stella. Barrow can’t be left completely undefended. It’s still a while till the dark comes, but we don’t know that whoever’ll wait that long if they decide to come back.”
The argument had escalated to the point where the three vampires thought it best to go outside the walls of Barrow to continue the conversation. Eben obviously didn’t like Dane—and that was putting it mildly—but he seemed to like the entire growing situation even less. In another moment of irony, Eben and Dane found themselves on the same side of the fence on not one, but several points, the most important of which was possibly going in search of the alleged slaughterhouse, the second being Stella had to stay behind.
Convincing her would be another thing altogether.
“He’s right, Stella,” Dane said. “This has been ground zero too many times to rethink it now.”
“Eben…you’ve never even been out of the country before!”
“But I have,” Dane shot back. “Trust me, I’ll keep an eye on him.” I can’t even believe I said that, he thought.
Stella still fumed but said nothing. No point in arguing with the truth, Dane guessed.
Dane had put off mentioning the other thing, but now he felt he had to. After all his talk about how they could trust him, he couldn’t keep his secret under wraps any longer. “Something else happened in Savannah…. Before I caught him, Bork Dela sexually assaulted a young woman. She’s now pregnant. We couldn’t do anything about it, so she’s carrying the baby to term.”
“Oh my God,” Stella said. “Is that even possible?”
“It’s so rare as to be essentially legendary,” Dane answered. “And in those legends, vampires always destroy the infant at birth.”
“What would the child be like?” Eben asked.
“That’s what we don’t know. Something completely new, I guess.”
“But if the vampires have always destroyed them…” Stella began.
“I was thinking along the same lines, Stella,” Dane said. “I don’t know what they expected, or what they saw when those babies were born—if it ever really happened. But if they didn’t want them around, maybe there’s a good reason for that.”
“How does the lady in question feel about it?”
“She’s pretty freaked out,” Dane admitted. “As might be expected. I’ve got her in a safe place, with a trusted friend looking after her.”
“Are you sure this ‘friend’ will leave the baby alone when it’s born?” Eben asked.
“Yes. I have absolute faith in Ferrando.”
“When is she due?” Stella asked.
“That’s hard to say. When I left, she seemed to be progressing at hyperspeed. I haven’t been in touch since I got here…so my hope is that she hasn’t had the baby already.”
ANANU WOKE UP when Ferrando Merrin swept into her room and drew back the curtains.
From her bed she could see stars outside the second-floor window. Somehow she had quickly adjusted to sleeping through the day, but she still missed the sun’s warmth, the golden light of morning that should have been allowed to stream in through that east-facing window, the sight of blue skies mottled by clouds.
Her protectors, Dane and Merrin, had insisted that she adopt their ways, avoiding the sunlight, and she had gone along, but she still wasn’t convinced it was necessary. How could the sun hurt her? She was still herself, after all.
Merrin insisted, though, and he watched over her like a mother hen. Even though he didn’t eat himself—not regular food, and he was polite enough not to feed when she was around—he was an incredible cook. Even if he was just whipping up toast and eggs for breakfast, he put something special into it that she never would have thought of, seasoning the toast with a little rosemary and flakes of Parmesan cheese, for instance. During the long nights he made sure she didn’t watch too much late-night TV—mostly movies and infomercials at that hour—but tried to keep her entertained with books and games and music (unlike Mitch, his musical tastes had never stalled, but over the vast span of his unlife he had explored music from virtually every era and every culture, and while he could talk about it all with a fierce intelligence, he never left her feeling baffled or stupid).
Sometimes they went out at night, down to the coast so she could see moonlight on the water and great ships passing by out at sea, or into local swamps to watch the alligators and birds and fish engaged in their nightly dance of survival, all accompanied by the incessant trilling of insects.
She found that she actually missed Dane and Mitch and even AJ—their odd “family” had only been together for a couple of weeks, but at this point it was the only one she had. Merrin tried his best but he couldn’t replace the sounds of multiple voices in different parts of the house, footsteps here and there indicating someone’s presence, and the solicitous way that one or another checked in on her off and on throughout the days and the nights.
She had always felt safer with them around, too. Someone had always been awake, alert, watching out for danger. Merrin could most likely take care of himself—he wouldn’t have lasted so many years if he couldn’t—but he was still just one person. He had to rest sometimes and he couldn’t be everywhere at once.
It never dawned on her that this situation should be an aberration, something so unnatural despite feeling so right.
“Did you sleep well, Ana?” he asked her once he’d tucked the drapes into their tiebacks.
“Okay, I guess. I had some strange dreams.”
“Do you remember them?” He looked to be in his seventies, with black hair that had mostly turned white and a long, thin face, cheeks so pink he might have rouged them. His eyes were small and black, just tiny buttons really, dwarfed by a long nose that he’d mastered the art of looking down disapprovingly when he needed to. He stood as straight as a post and almost as thin as one, his arms and legs like a spider’s limbs.
“No.” She rubbed her eyes with the knuckles of her right hand, then pushed back the blankets and swung her legs off the bed. Fuzzy slippers had been parked next to the bed; she pushed her feet into them, then brought them back up, crossing her legs, Indian-style, on the mattress. “I never do these days. I just dream the weirdest shit, but then when I wake up it’s like poof! All gone.”
“It sounds like a horrible cliché, but sometimes we can discover great truths in our dreams,” he said. “Things that we hide from our conscious minds can reveal themselves there.”
“Do you dream? I mean, people like you?”
“Oh, heavens yes,” Merrin said. “Dreams like you wouldn’t believe. I’m not certain, but somet
“Do you remember those?” Ananu asked.
“Sometimes,” he said. “I write them down, when I do. I have dozens of dream journals, on one of the bookshelves at my home. I’d be pleased to show it to you someday—my home, I mean.”
“I’d like that. Thank you.”
“It’s rather nice. Some would call it a mansion, although my neighbors—the ones with real mansions—wouldn’t. It’s in the hills outside Asheville, North Carolina. God’s country, I used to call it there.”
“Do you believe in God?”
Merrin hesitated before answering, his cheeks pinking up a little more than they had been. “Let’s just say that if he exists, I hope he’s awfully damned forgiving.” He offered a smile. “Breakfast is ready. Would you like it downstairs, or shall I bring it up?”
“I’ll come down,” Ana said. An urgent need gripped her. “Just let me pee and I’ll be right down.”
Before he left the room, the mobile phone he kept with him constantly chirped. He snatched it from his belt before the second ring, glanced at the screen before answering. “Dane,” he said. “How are things?”
Merrin listened and made mm-hmm noises for a minute, frowned deeply, blew out a sigh, then handed the phone to Ananu. She clamped her thighs together, wiggling in discomfort. “Hi, Dane?”
“Hello, Ananu,” he said. Even across the miles, his voice sounded like he was right there with her. Just hearing him made her feel more secure. “How’s everything going there? You feeling okay?”
“I’m okay,” she said. “But—”
“Merrin’s treating you well?”
“It’s like he thinks he’s a butler or something. He won’t let me do anything for myself.”