Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 23
Masters or Roddy shook his head sadly. His eyelids were heavy, hooding his eyes, and for the first time Dan thought he looked like a guy who was telling the truth, someone genuinely sad and disturbed that he had been swept accidentally into a net he hadn’t known anything about.
Didn’t mean he believed the guy. But he was closer than he had been to thinking maybe this idiot was just a stooge, someone who had been used but who wasn’t really involved with the vampires.
In that case, though, why didn’t he give them up? What was he protecting?
“I don’t know anything about vampires!” the man said for about the hundredth time. “If I did, I’d tell you! If you want me to write down a complete description of what I’ve been doing for the last three months, just give me some paper and a pencil. If you want to connect me to a lie detector, go ahead! I don’t know how else to convince you!”
Dan studied him for a long few moments. The guy still struck him as sincere. He knew the guy was pulling something, but he couldn’t figure out what. It bugged the hell out of Dan.
“Sure, why don’t you write out a statement?” Dan said. If nothing else, forcing Masters to go over his last couple of weeks in detail would give Dan some openings to poke around in. Since he knew the guy was lying about some things, it might let him know about what. “I’ll get you some paper.”
He left Masters/Roddy at the table and went into the station house, where he asked a local cop for a legal pad and a pen. He had no intention of handing his own silver Cross pen over to the suspect. The cop dug in his desk and came up with a steno notebook and a new, unsharpened pencil. “What am I supposed to do with this?” Dan asked.
The cop gave a shrug that indicated that he couldn’t care less. The locals had been less and less cooperative, and now only the appearance of their captain got any action out of them. Dan knew he was just another Fed to them, maybe more impenetrable than most because he wouldn’t tell them the first thing about what he and his group had come for.
“Pencil sharpener on the wall,” the cop said before shuffling from the room.
Dan carried the pencil to the ancient hand-crank sharpener, stuck it in, and listened to it grind. He had sent his group out to waste a couple of vampires, just because they could, while he stayed here to interrogate the suspect. He desperately wished he had gone along. Maybe the change of scenery would have given him a new perspective on the current problem, show him what he was missing. Instead he was stuck inside a small town, late-night police station, with the AC blowing on high and the bugs clattering against the lights outside and the hostile cops wishing he would go away so they could resume their ordinary lives.
Back through the steel door, he placed the pad on the table and spun it around, sliding it toward Brent Masters or Albert Roddy or whoever. He dropped the pencil on top of it. “Write,” he said. “And don’t leave anything out, especially the parts about your vampire friends.”
“I don’t believe in vampires,” the suspect said. “If you do, I think you need to be talking to a shrink instead of to me.”
“Just write.” Dan left him alone again. In an hour he’d check back in, maybe take him a glass of water. Maybe even take him out for a bathroom trip, if he hadn’t pissed in his pants by then.
Dan spent the hour reading emails and reports on his laptop. The station didn’t have wireless so he’d had to plug into their T-1 line. When it was over, wishing these bumpkins had had the sense to put some two-way glass in their one and only interrogation room (and a room deodorizer—the place still smelled like puke from the generations of drunks they’d had in there), he went back in to see what masterpiece Masters/Roddy had composed.
The suspect was out again, but this time his head tilted back, not forward. A sharp, metallic stink filled the room.
Blood had pooled on the floor beneath his chair.
Fuck. Dan dashed forward, dodging the table. His foot found some sprayed blood, and he almost slipped on the linoleum. He caught himself on Masters/Roddy’s leg, which moved beneath his hand, but lifelessly. Fuck!
The notepad was empty except for a thick glop of bright red blood soaking through the layers.
The pencil was jammed deep into the guy’s left eye socket, all the yellow buried, only the pink nub of eraser showing. He had done his right eye first; the eyeball, exploded, was all over his shirt and the table. That had to hurt, but it hadn’t killed him. Maybe the left one hadn’t, either, at first. Losing massive amounts of blood from both wounds had done the job, though.
And he had pissed in his pants, after all.
What a waste.
Dan mentally sighed. Maybe it was just as well. After all, this guy just saved Dan the trouble of having to take him out anyway.
ON THE SURFACE, the sun no doubt blazed through Norway’s vivid blue sky. Down here, where Dane kept descending through what felt like Dante’s circles of Hell, one would never know it. The deeper he went, the more he felt like he had stumbled into one of Enok’s nightmares—which, to Enok, would be more akin to paradise on earth.
On these lower levels, the darkness—figurative as well as literal—was almost complete. A few candles spat and smoked, the thin scents they gave off overpowered by the stinks of blood and filth. Even vampires, eyes adjusted to the dark over long centuries, needed some light to see by. But almost as if they were ashamed by what went on (an emotion Dane believed beyond the capacity of most nosferatu), they preferred to move about in the near blackness of the deep underground on these levels.
He had passed one almost entirely filled with tanks and pipes—copper, brass, stainless steel, reflecting with their various tints the few candles and handful of kerosene lanterns here. A passing worker had explained that this was where blood was processed to prevent spoilage and bottled for later consumption. This, too, was where the pipes to the bars on the upper levels came, the place from which they took their never-ending supply to serve those who visited this place.
He was surprised not to find security in spots like this. One person could cause havoc by destroying these tanks, knocking the blood delivery system off-line. Enok must have been confident that no one would find out about the place who might consider such an act, and that no non-vampire could make it past the front door except as a captive.
Dane wasn’t ready to make trouble. That would mean revealing himself. Just now he didn’t even know where Eben was, and he didn’t want to take a chance on stirring things up until they had agreed on it, and were both in positions where they could do the most damage.
If, indeed, they decided they could do anything at all.
So far, Dane had seen what he guessed were many hundreds of vampires here. Maybe as many as a thousand. Not nearly that many vehicles in the lot, so many probably came to stay, like Sarah Cavalier.
On the way down, the banister felt rougher under his palm than the ones higher up, as if fewer hands had worn it smooth. This was an unexpected bit of slapdash workmanship—Dane would have expected a banister to be sanded smooth before installation. Maybe the place had been thrown together in a hurry.
This floor had a closed door made of heavy, carved wood like most of the building thus far. It all made Dane wonder just how long Enok had been planning and building the place. That sawmill upstairs must have been busy for years on the project, and since sawdust had led him here, they presumably still used it.
The door swung open when he pushed on it. Inside, the smell of humans was stronger than it had been anywhere else. Sweat, fear, blood, urine, salt—all the odors that wafted from a human body under stress—tore at his nostrils like little barbed hooks, demanding his attention. He rushed through the doorway, pressing the big door closed behind him, and found himself in yet another large room, with columns supporting the floors above interspersed here and there and a few walls delineating specific areas. In one spot, a group of humans stood huddled together. They were naked and looked drugged. Heads drooped down to chests, jaws slack, eyes glazed over
He heard movement from behind a wall and stepped quickly into shadows. A couple of vampires emerged, took one of the humans—a man, obese and hairy—and led him back behind the wall. A moment later Dane heard a sharp report, almost like a gunshot but with less reverberation. Accompanying it was a hushed grunt, presumably from the big man. Then another noise, familiar but awful: a sharp blade slicing flesh. A liquid patter followed, like rain on a tin roof. Finally, the clatter of steel wheels on the floor.
Dane thought he recognized the sounds, and it turned his stomach. The two vampires had taken the man to a gurney or some similar contraption, used a pressure hammer to kill him, slit his throat, and bled him into a metal bucket or trough, then whisked him away for further “work.”
He could be wrong, of course. He needed a closer look.
The front section of the big room had been used for storage—big wooden cases on wheels were rolled into what looked like miniature freight yards. Given what he had just heard, he supposed that they were used for body removal. He worked his way between them, trying not to smell the inescapable aroma of death all around him. Some of the humans watched him come, but still remained unconcerned about his approach. He might have been an ant crossing the room toward them, for all they cared. Either they were drugged or they had been thoroughly broken of everything that had made them human.
He paused when the vampires returned for their next victim. They had developed a pretty efficient system, it seemed. They took away a woman in her late forties or early fifties, brown hair starting to go gray, a body she had obviously tried hard to fight gravity’s effects on finally giving in. When they had ducked back behind the wall, Dane continued.
When he got close enough to the pack of humans, he saw that he had been more or less right. They put the woman on her knees in front of a long metal trough, bent her forward over it, and put the gun to the back of her head. One tug on the trigger finished her. Then one of them held her in place while the other drew a blade across her throat. Blood fountained from the cut, joining the pinkish mix of brain and blood that splattered into the trough.
After giving her a couple of minutes there, they hoisted her onto a conveyor belt, hundreds of small steel wheels mounted over the trough, and gave her a shove. Another vampire caught the body a few feet away and dragged it out of Dane’s field of view. Blood continued to splash down into the trough as she went, and Dane had no doubt that farther down the line her body was sliced up so that not a drop of the precious fluid would be missed.
He had seen enough of this floor. It really was nothing but a slaughterhouse—slow moving, but if it operated all day every day, it would account for the deaths of more than enough humans to feed all the vampires in this place.
Heading for the door, he ran into one of the wheeled cases and smashed it into some others, making a racket. One of the vampires stopped, the next victim’s arm in his hands, and shouted something at him in Norwegian. Dane didn’t know what he said, but he didn’t sound pleased to see a trespasser.
“Sorry!” Dane answered, waving an arm at him. He went through the door and out, once again noting the lack of any serious security measures. As efficient as the assembly line system was, a little modernization would speed it up tremendously—not that he had any interest in helping improve the operations.
Returning to the stairs, he made his way down another level. This one was pitch black, silent, and smelled musty, vacant. He kept going, passing another, similar one. He began to hear screams—people, not drugged, he guessed, before they were taken upstairs (and it occurred to him here that there must be some sort of service elevator system in addition to these winding stairs). On what seemed to be the lowest level, the screams were louder than ever. Again, he was faced with a wooden door. Again, the door swung open at a touch, and no one challenged his presence there. He passed through.
On the other side, he found pens stretching as far as he could see, possibly a hundred of them or more, each with what looked like eight to a dozen people inside. The pens were screened in with chicken wire fence and short stock panels, like one might see in a pig barn.
Like the ones upstairs, they had been stripped of their clothing, their dignity.
In one pen, egged on by a couple of bug eaters wearing malicious grins, two of them fought each other, barehanded, drawing blood with teeth and nails and punishing fists.
In another, some of the people sat watching the fight in the first one, while others observed a man and woman rutting on the dirt floor—an act devoid of passion, romance, or sensuality, an animal act. Bug eaters supervised this, as well. From the over-the-shoulder glances the man shot them from time to time, he speculated that the whole thing was their idea, and not the humans’. The purpose was no doubt breeding, not pleasure. Most of the stock came from abductions, but if that could be augmented—possibly replaced, some day—by a breeding program, that would serve the vampires’ needs just as well.
Dane supposed that bug eaters, not vampires, served as the overseers on this level, to prevent vampires self-serving from the breeding stock. The bug eaters weren’t that far removed from human themselves, but watching them move about the people, casually inflicting pain and humiliation, one might think they didn’t remember their former lives. Maybe it was like reformed smokers or drinkers—disapproving more intensely of their old vices than people who had never shared them did.
A vampire, clad in traditional black, with a cloak of all things, like some second-rate Bram Stoker vision, stormed toward him with one hand thrust forward, pointing a finger as if it were loaded and ready to fire. He said something Dane didn’t understand, except in the abstract. He wasn’t happy at Dane’s presence here, that much Dane could follow.
“English?” Dane asked.
“Why do you here?”
“I’m just looking around,” Dane said. “Trying to see what’s what. Maybe I’m a little lost.”
“I think you are. Upstairs, is better for you.”
If he needed to, Dane could snap him in half without making an effort. Was he supposed to be the security guard for this level? The bug eaters’ supervisor? Enok’s master plan had some big holes in it, if that was the case. Not only could the humans, if they wanted to, climb or jump over the low fences that separated them, but they outnumbered the bug eaters and could rise up against them, successfully, Dane believed. One vampire wouldn’t be enough to turn the tide against them.
Enok certainly wouldn’t be the first leader, of a company or a country, better at ideas than execution. The flaws Dane had begun to perceive in this operation were unexpected, but he took some pleasure in finding them.
Enok was the baddest of them all, they said. But he was not perfect. He took short cuts. Therefore, he was not invincible.
At least, that’s how Dane saw the situation. He sincerely hoped he was right.
HE KNOWS. EVERYTHING.
When that registered, moments after leaving the Lilith Room, Eben stopped dead in his tracks. Stella was notorious among the vampire community. Her book, 30 Days of Night, had threatened to expose them—on her terms, not theirs. She had gone up against them and survived, and she had shown others how to do the same. Websites devoted to her had sprung up all over the internet. She had fans, adherents, in cities across the country, if not the globe.
To people who believed in the vampire threat, she was an inspiration. To vampires, she was a menace.
While Eben and Dane were here, she was vulnerable. Sure, she had proven that she could take care of herself. But now? From what Dane had said, and what Lilith had implied, Enok was a threat of a different magnitude than any she had yet faced.
Why had he left her home? Someone needed to watch over Barrow, but surely the townspeople could have handled it for a week or so—the population was vampire-savvy these days; they knew what had to be done and how to do it. Any bloodsuckers a
Stella, however, was alone. Unprepared. If Enok decided to take advantage of this opportunity…
Sarah Cavalier said something, but Eben didn’t hear. He turned in a slow circle, mind racing, ignoring his present circumstances. Then he felt pressure on his arm, and he snapped his focus to Sarah, before him, leaning in with a look of concern on her face. “Charles,” she said, with some urgency. “What’s going on?”
He blinked as if he had just rolled out of bed. She wasn’t kidding. Vampires stared at him as if he had just performed a stunt in the middle of the main hall. “Sorry,” he said.
“That’s twice in a couple of minutes. You’ve sort of got everybody riled up, wondering what gives.”
“I’m fine,” Eben declared, pasting a smile to his face.
“They aren’t so good with English, most of them.”
“Well, fuck them, as I don’t know how to say it in anything else,” Eben snarled. Why was he even having this conversation? He needed to get home to Stella.
But his weak show of well-being hadn’t made as much impression on the gathered vampires as his earlier behavior—almost trancelike, he guessed—had. They had closed ranks, forming a circle around him, still informal at this point, but he got the idea that it would only take a word to set them off. A hundred of them, probably. He wouldn’t have a chance.
He wouldn’t be able to get to Stella, either.
He had to get out of this, somehow, without raising any more undead eyebrows.
One of them said something to Sarah that Eben didn’t understand. She shot Eben an appraising glance and then replied in whatever the original language had been. “He said there’s something strange about you. ‘The stink of daylight,’ he said. I told him you were cool.”
“You are, right?”
“Of course. I can’t remember the last time I felt daylight.” He did, of course. It had been the day he and Stella sat together waiting for the first sunrise after the long darkness that had almost claimed Barrow. The sun’s rays had felt like a thousand slender blades, piercing him everywhere at once. He had well and truly died, to be revived only after Lilith traded his ashes to Stella for a DVD of the Barrow attack that Stella claimed—falsely—was the only copy.