Immortal remains 2 30.., p.19

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 19

 

Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night
 


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  “We could just nab one off the street, beat the crap out of him until he tells us why he isn’t feeding on the locals.”

  They both knew why. It all pointed to the slaughterhouse idea being a reality. “They’re all just…blending in here. Wherever they really are, I don’t think it’s in town.”

  “There’s always that sawmill.”

  “True.” Dane didn’t know what good it would do to check out a sawmill in the middle of the night—that seemed to be a daytime sort of business to him. But if it was, in fact, a front for some sort of vampiric activity, then it would likely yield some clues after dark.

  Back in the car, Eben unfolded the map again and gave Dane directions. As they traveled, they didn’t speak except when Eben warned of an upcoming turn. They still hadn’t talked much at all. Dane had thought of this excursion as a necessary evil, not a bonding experience. At least, he and Eben weren’t at each other’s throats…for the time being.

  Outside the city, they found a pine forest, dark and aromatic but sparse by conventional standards. Snow drifted around the trunks of the trees, clinging to some of their branches. The water kept this area’s weather moderate, preventing it from being bare tundra, but it was still no horticulturalist’s dream landscape. Beyond the forests, mountains rose like dark, silent behemoths.

  After a few more miles, Eben told Dane to watch for a left turn. It came up suddenly after a curve in the road and was unmarked, a graded, wide, dirt and gravel lane leading off into the trees.

  “It should be at the end of this road,” Eben said. “Doesn’t sound like it’s very far, maybe a kilometer or two.”

  Dane cut the lights and took the road slowly, its washboard surface jolting them over and over again. Through the trees, the outline of a large structure started to become clear.

  “I would pull off,” Eben said. He pointed toward a side track joining the main road. “Go the rest of the way on foot. If they are here, they’re probably listening for cars.”

  Dane pulled onto the narrow lane and killed the engine. He flicked off the dome light and opened his door, and Eben did the same. Together, they made their way back to the dirt road and continued toward the structure up ahead. Here, away from the city, the breeze blew harder and the cold felt more intense. Unforgiving. A human wouldn’t want to be lost out here for very long.

  There was no sound but the wind through the branches, a lonely sound, like a Norse goddess weeping for fallen Asgard, and no odor but pine.

  “Nobody here,” Dane said. “The place is dead.”

  “I’m thinking that, too.”

  They kept on trudging up the road toward the mill. Its bulk loomed dark against the starry sky. No lights shone from within, no one moved about. A tall fence, topped with barbed wire, surrounded the place, but the gate stood open. On one side of the main building were piles of trees, cut down and shorn of branches. On another, stacks of cut lumber waited to be loaded onto trucks.

  “Another waste of time,” Dane remarked, regarding the forlorn scene. The realization sent a shock of depression through him. He had halted things temporarily, but not the overall scheme, whatever it was. And there were plenty more like Bork Dela out there, killing wantonly, abducting terrified victims for purposes unknown. The trail had led all the way here, then stopped cold.

  Eben shoved his hands into the pockets of his parka, and almost as if he had triggered it, his cell phone started to ring.

  Andy Gray’s number showed on the screen. “Andy Gray. Hello.”

  “Uh, Mr. Olemaun? Mr. Gray’s not here. It’s me. Marcus.”

  “Marcus Kitka?”

  “Yeah. Umm, that’s right.”

  The new sheriff’s kid, sounding nervous as hell. And why shouldn’t he? “What can I do for you, Marcus?”

  “Uhh, Andy, Mr. Gray, I mean, he told me to do some checking. Like on shipping schedules?” He paused, and Eben wondered if he was supposed to know what the kid was talking about. Marcus went on, the words tumbling out of him in a rush. “I guess this all happened in the last day or so, after you left. He said to tell you there was another incident that turned up, like just a few days ago. Five days ago, I guess. For some reason it didn’t turn up on the database right away, but when it did, it hit all the markers he was looking for. So then he decided to see if he could tie it to where you were going, in Norway, and that’s when he brought me in.

  “I tried all kinds of different variations, trying to connect the two. Finally, I found something. The whatever, incident, happened in a place called Cork. In Ireland? And so I checked on ships and found one called the Caroline G. It docked in Ireland the night of the incident there and now it’s docking in, what do you call it, Tromsø? Tonight. It’s supposed to come into Slip 22. Are you anywhere near the docks?”

  “Tonight?” Eben asked. “Are you sure?”

  “Yeah, I mean, I just looked at a picture of it from a satellite a few minutes ago. Not live, but taken tonight. It wasn’t far from shore.”

  “Fuck.” Eben pulled the phone away from his ear. “We aren’t near the docks, are we?”

  “We were, at the hotel,” Dane said.

  “Apparently we need to go back there,” Eben said. “Now.” He held the phone up again. “Is there anything else?”

  “No, I think that’s pretty much it. Mr. Gray, he just said to tell you if I found anything like that.”

  “Where is Andy?”

  “I don’t know. He’s not here.”

  “Okay, Marcus. Thank you. Bye.”

  “Bye, Mr. Olemaun.”

  Eben clicked END and stuffed the phone back into his pocket. “The docks,” he said. “Apparently there was another incident and abduction in Ireland, few nights ago. A ship docked nearby at the time is coming into Tromsø tonight.”

  “So you think if they put someone on the ship, that someone will be off-loaded tonight?”

  “And maybe taken to wherever the sawdust comes from, right. Andy wouldn’t have had Marcus tell us unless he thought the same thing.”

  “But Andy’s not there?”

  “No.”

  “Do you know where he is?”

  For about the hundredth time since they began this trip, Eben wanted to tear Dane’s head from his shoulders and beat his corpse with it. He recognized that it was mostly because he was, as Stella once said, “a jealous bastard who should have more confidence in himself,” but the reason didn’t matter as much as the fact that it bothered the hell out of him that Dane still walked the earth. Under other circumstances, he might even have liked the guy. But those circumstances didn’t exist, and these did. “Let’s not stand here talking about it.” He started toward the car. “We’ve got to get moving.”

  Dane came up behind him. “So you don’t know where Andy is.”

  “That’s right,” Eben said. “I don’t know where the hell Andy is. Now shut up and let’s go.”

  26

  CRUISE SHIPS, white and opulent in the thin moonlight as spectral wedding cakes, clogged Tromsø’s port. Dane moved past them, down to the less glamorous, more functional freight docks. Here the roadway was wet, glistening in bright lights from overhead. Men in dirty coveralls moved rapidly here and there, some carrying heavy tools that Dane didn’t know the uses of, or dragging hoses. Others blew on their hands to warm them, or walked with them jammed deep into pockets. These docks were all-night affairs, no banker’s hours here.

  “Slip 22,” Eben remarked.

  “I know.” Dane watched for the numbers, glad that he could at least read those. A ship had indeed docked at Slip 22, a massive freighter sitting low in the water. A crane hoisted off huge steel containers, while another one, with a giant net, seemed to be lifting a dozen wooden crates at a time. Containers, yellow and blue and green and brown and rust orange, were already stacked on the tarmac, and forklifts buzzed about hauling crates into a gigantic nearby warehouse.

  Dane parked the equivalent of a couple of city blocks away, and they slinked as close as the
y could get without being noticed by the dockhands. From the shadows, they watched the rush of activity.

  “Looks like they’ve been unloading for a while,” Eben said. “What if we’re too late?”

  A dark, windowless van rolled down the tarmac and came to a stop. “I don’t think so,” Dane said. He inclined his head toward the people getting out of the van. Gaunt, pale skinned, wearing black clothes hardly suited to the weather, they gathered just out of the twin tubes of the van’s headlights and waited for something.

  Three sailors led a dozen people down a gangway—people of every age, from a girl who couldn’t have been more than seven to a fiercely lined man in his eighties or nineties who walked with a cane, his spine curved like a question mark. One of the women was hugely obese, four hundred pounds, Dane estimated. Most were in better physical condition. Most were women. They all walked single file, shuffling their feet, eyes directed straight ahead.

  “They look drugged,” Dane whispered.

  Reaching the dock, the sailors led the people to the ones who had emerged from the van. A small packet changed hands. Money, Dane guessed, paying off the sailors. One of the people in black opened the back of the van, and the people from the ship filed in, one at a time. When the big woman climbed in the shocks groaned and the van sank at that corner, then righted itself.

  “Those are the people they’ve abducted,” Eben speculated.

  “The latest batch, anyway.” Dane started toward the Saab.

  “Where are you going?”

  “We’ve got to follow the van.”

  “Shouldn’t we try to help those people?”

  “We will. Not here, though. Wherever they’re being taken, that’s where we’ll find everything, I think.”

  Eben reluctantly shot a last glance toward the van, then joined Dane in a hurried but cautious walk back to the rented car. Reaching it, Dane got in behind the wheel and started the engine. Lights off, he crept forward to a position from which he could see the van. With the last of the passengers loaded on, one of the people in black—vampires, he corrected himself, he was certain of it—closed the back doors and climbed into the front.

  The van’s taillights glowed, and the vehicle lurched into motion. Dane gave it a few moments to turn up a nearby street, then clicked on his headlights and followed.

  The van took a direct route out of town, headed north—the direction from which Dane and Eben had just returned. As traffic thinned, Eben grew increasingly concerned. “Stay way back,” he said.

  “I am.”

  “Maybe I should be driving. I’m trained at vehicular surveillance.”

  “You were a sheriff in Barrow. How much surveillance could there be?”

  “Fuck you, my friend. You’d be surprised,” Eben snapped.

  Dane drifted back a little farther, until the van’s taillights were mere dots in the distance. He didn’t bother to say it—his relationship with Eben was strained enough as it was—but he had learned as much about surveillance techniques from TV shows and crime novels as Eben seemed to know, so screw him. He had been letting other vehicles get between their car and the van whenever possible. He tried to stay far enough back that the vampires in the van couldn’t make out any details of the car or its occupants.

  The side road they had taken earlier, down to the sawmill, flashed past. They kept going, ever north. Trees grew farther apart, shorter, with branches twisted and gnarled by wind and weather. Dane had to stay farther behind, because there was no other traffic on the road. His main worry would have been getting off the highway before the sun rose, but he knew the vampires in the van would have the same concern. Whenever they got off, he would, too.

  Finally, he saw brake lights flash ahead, and he slowed correspondingly. A moment later the van disappeared from sight.

  “Shit! How’d they do that?” Eben asked.

  Dane didn’t answer. He kept the Saab moving forward at a reduced speed, and as he neared the last point where he had seen the van, he cut the lights. No other vehicles were in sight so he didn’t worry about being run into.

  In another minute they came upon the answer. A dirt road headed off to the right, any view of its entrance blocked from the south by a huge boulder. Natural camouflage. Dane turned onto the road, really not much more than a rutted track carved into the tundra by regular traffic. Mud sucked at the Saab’s tires, and Dane feared getting stuck in it. But the van had made it, so he kept on.

  It was probably usually an icy road. Another effect of global warming. The mud pulled at the car, wrenching the wheel almost out of his hands, and Dane had to wrestle with it to stay on a steady course. They still hadn’t spotted the van again, but the road twisted and turned, angling gradually uphill through a narrow canyon, the sides growing taller as they went. As long as there were no other side roads, Dane figured it was still up ahead of them. The moon ducked behind a ribbon of cloud and Dane wished he could use headlights, but didn’t want to risk that—bad enough that the car’s engine growled and churned as they traveled.

  “They could be watching us right now,” Eben said.

  “True.”

  “We could get out and keep going on foot.”

  “We could, but we have no idea how far. What if we’re still out here when the sun comes up? Dammit, I don’t like any of this,” Dane said. He pointed the car up a steep section of road. At the top of the rise, he braked to a stop.

  A shallow valley spread out below them. Near the center of it, ringed by low, scrubby trees, was yet another sawmill. This one was smaller than the first one they had seen, just two stories with a few stacks of wood around its perimeter. If the other had been a big commercial operation, this one looked like a family affair, maybe for a little furniture business or something. Except it was parked out here in the middle of nowhere, without even many trees to speak of nearby.

  And something else—attached behind the two-story wooden building was a second structure, flat roofed and low to the ground. Moonlight glinted off sharp edges. The road they had been traveling on came to an end at a parking area next to the building, and the van had just pulled in next to about four dozen other vehicles of every size and description. The vampires who had been inside got out, and others emerged from the mill to meet them. Opening the back of the van, they helped the captives out and led them inside.

  “That’s it,” Eben said, his voice hushed by something resembling awe. “It’s got to be.”

  “Yes, it looks that way,” Dane agreed.

  “It doesn’t look very big. I expected something…I don’t know. Grand.”

  “Not very grand from here,” Dane agreed. “It looks like a supermarket connected to a mill.”

  “Pretty much.”

  “What do you think, a couple of miles from here?

  “About that. You want to walk or drive?”

  “It’s supposedly there for vampires, right? I say we drive up like we own the place.”

  Dane hoped they were getting close. It appeared so. But getting inside the stockyard/slaughterhouse and shutting it down were two very different things.

  It would be well guarded and full of nosferatu anxious to protect it.

  Two against…how many? No way to know from here. But many, based on the number of vehicles outside.

  The odds, frankly, were stacked against them.

  But then again, living forever had its disadvantages, too.

  Since settling in Barrow, Andy Gray had known of Stella and Eben Olemaun and had learned that not every vampire was an unmitigated bastard like Paul Norris. Dane seemed to fit into the same category. So far, of the four bloodsuckers he now knew personally, three turned out to be pretty decent folks.

  Except for the bloodsucking part.

  That didn’t mean, however, that he wanted to hang with them on a regular basis. And traveling across the country with one? That had been completely outside his life’s expectations.

  Traveling with a woman like Stella would have been a challenge under any
circumstances—she was attractive, headstrong, passionate, and she didn’t hesitate to point out stupidity when she saw it. Plus she was something of an icon to Andy—her book had forever altered the way he looked at the world.

  With those changes, Andy had gained self-confidence along with a new sense of his own physicality. Even with all that, Stella could, with a few sharp words and a withering glance, make him feel like he was back in high school. No wonder she was who she was before…all this happened.

  Travel with a vampire was its own kind of adventure. Because Stella had to avoid sunlight, they couldn’t just fly to Anchorage and then to Savannah. They had to make the trip in stages, holing up during the daytime and avoiding the sun. Andy had been back and forth across the country more times than he liked to think about, but never this way.

  The most recent red-eye had taken them as far as Atlanta. They’d be in Savannah soon, and he was just beginning to feel comfortable with her. Somewhat. After having slept for a while, he had ordered in room service: a salad and some chicken breasts, no skins, with vegetables on the side. Stella joined him in his room, bringing with her a sixteen-ounce Coke bottle full of blood that, unbelieveably, one of her local fans had delivered to the hotel for her.

  The conversation had started awkwardly as usual, although not as awkwardly as they had over the past few days. It had turned to war stories, though, of which they both had plenty, and Andy had started to feel looser as the meal went on. “…so there we were,” he was saying, “fourteen of us in our windbreakers with the big FBI emblazoned on the back, assault weapons in our hands, surrounding the house where these known terrorists had been planning who-knows-what, ordering explosives off the internet, for God’s sake. The Special Agent in Charge gives the order and we move in on the place, announcing ourselves, pounding on the door and then one of the guys uses a ram on it and we charge inside. Expecting to find, you know, a group of Middle Eastern guys with guns pointed at us, reading translated bomb-making manuals or something.”

  Stella eyed him over the lip of her bottle. When she drew it away from her mouth, he saw a little blood on her lips. Her tongue darted out, pink and delicate, lashing it away with a surprisingly sexy move.

 
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