Immortal Remains 2 - 30 Days of Night, page 8
“He is powerful,” Adler finally said. “He is frightening, as well. I do believe that he’s quite mad. And he doesn’t care what any of us have to say.” Adler now had a faraway look and was silent again for a moment before continuing. “He wants to do…what he wants to do. I’m certain that your arguments would fall on deaf ears—he’s the kind of fellow who would love nothing more than all-out war with the humans. He’s convinced that our kind would win, and then we could raise humans like farmers do cows. Dinner on the hoof. Only without the hooves.”
“Who is he? What’s his name?”
Adler glanced away again, and when he spoke, it was too soft for Dane to hear.
“Bork. Dela,” Adler said, louder but with a tremor in his voice.
Dane knew the name. His reputation preceded him. What he hadn’t known was that Bork Dela was still among the undead—it had been years, it seemed, since he’d been reported anywhere.
Yet here he was, in Savannah. Apparently waging a one-man campaign to change the rules of engagement with the human world.
“You’re sure about that? You’re sure it’s really him?”
“Absolutely,” Adler said.
Now it was Dane’s turn to be quiet. An antique clock ticktocked relentlessly in the background.
“From your silence,” Adler said, “I take it you’re aware of his reputation.”
“I’m plenty aware, yes. I just didn’t know he was in the United States.”
“He prefers it that way. Half the nosferatu believe he’s dead. The other half are afraid to wonder.”
“It sounds like he’s making some moves now. What’s he been up to in the interim?”
“He was one of Vicente’s bodyguards for a long while,” Adler said. “Of course, he didn’t go to Barrow with the exalted one, or I’m sure Vicente would still be with us.”
Dane knew that Vicente had died in Barrow, killed by Stella Olemaun’s husband Eben after the sheriff had turned himself in order to defend his town. That much was now common vampire lore, but what few knew—what Dane only knew because Stella had told him—was that Dane’s own maker, Marlow, had been killed by Vicente. Most of the undead believed that Eben Olemaun had killed them both.
For all the hell Marlow had put Dane through, all the trouble and pain, Dane had loved him regardless.
Vicente had killed Marlow, so Dane didn’t worship Vicente’s memory the way most vampires did. Vicente had been the closest the undead world had to a regent, but he was short-tempered and bloodthirsty, and Dane believed they were just as well off without him.
“And now Bork Dela’s here, threatening to expose us all,” Dane said. “And you thought you’d just go ahead and let him.”
“Dane, there’s a deep philosophical divide between our kind. We don’t all think that would be the tragedy you do.”
“I don’t see you joining him on his home invasions. Or do you? Maybe you take his sloppy seconds.”
Adler waved a hand in front of his nose as if to ward off an unpleasant stench. “Hardly. I have no love for Bork Dela. Like I said, he’s completely mad. But neither do I want to make an enemy of him. However, it appears that you do, in which case, I would advise you to get your affairs in order.”
Dane rose from the chair, glad he wouldn’t have to destroy it after all. “I’ll take my chances,” he said. “What does Dela have to do with the military assault I told you about?”
“I have no idea at all,” Adler said. “I would guess nothing. It’s certainly not his style, and it hasn’t happened to anyone else.”
“Has anyone else crossed him?”
“A few unfortunates. Bork dealt with them personally. He’s not the type to send subordinates to do his killing.”
“But he travels with guards.”
“Yes, when he doesn’t want to be interrupted at his business. It’s not the same. They’re undead as well. They don’t use weapons like UV lights.”
Dane had thought that was a strange choice for vampires anyway—most of them wouldn’t want to be on the same continent with such weapons. “Okay,” he said. “I can buy that. Where can I find Dela?”
Adler pursed his lips. “Surely you can’t expect me to tell you that,” he said after a long moment.
“Surely you’d like to keep the Sargent intact.”
“Very well,” Adler said, sighing. “Once a barbarian, always one, I suppose. There’s an island, called Braddock Key on the maps that bother to show it. It’s out past Harvey Island and Raccoon Key. It’s uninhabited, officially, although there’s an antebellum mansion out there from the days when it was believed that with enough slaves one could make any place inhabitable. That’s where he stays.”
“I tell you this only because I know you’ll never survive an attempt to find him there. You’re a tough one, Dane. You’ve demonstrated that. But he is Bork Dela, and he’s not all alone.”
“What makes you think I am?”
“Unless I’ve completely misread you, I don’t think you’re the sort to involve others in a suicide mission.”
“If I find out you’ve warned him,” Dane said, knowing that he would need at least a day to arrange the trip out there, “you’ll wish you had committed suicide a long time ago. Are we clear about that?”
“Perfectly clear,” Adler said. “Have no worries on that score. I am not at all interested in telling Bork Dela that I gave him up to you. I still think you’re on a fool’s errand, young Dane. But I wouldn’t want to bet my life on it.”
“YOU OKAY in there, Ana?”
She didn’t answer for a second. Ananu had been in AJ’s bathroom, vomiting for the past several minutes. The place was small enough that there was no avoiding the sound of her retching. He was starting to feel a little sick from listening to her.
“I’m okay,” she croaked at last. The toilet flushed, then Mitch heard running water. More long seconds passed before the bathroom door swung open. Ana stood there in the white undershirt and cotton boxers he had found for her in AJ’s dresser. During the day Mitch had bought her some jeans and a couple of T-shirts, underwear and socks, and even some Day-Glo orange sneakers that reminded him of traffic cones but that he thought she would like. He had forgotten about nightclothes, though. Ana was less than half his age, younger even than Karin would have been if she had lived, and he felt strange about watching the way her breasts jiggled beneath the undershirt, her nipples poking tents in the fabric where there had never been tents before.
Especially since she was ill and had gotten a few flecks of vomit on the right sleeve. Her face looked greenish, which might have been from the fluorescent light fixture mounted over the sink in the bathroom. But that was behind her; most of the light falling on her now was from an incandescent bulb in the hall.
“You don’t look okay.”
“Well, I’m puking my guts out. How you think I should look, like Beyoncé?”
Mitch rubbed a hand through his short hair. “I don’t know who that is…. She’s a singer, right?”
Ana wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and looked at him like he had grown arms sticking out of his head. “Right.”
“If she wasn’t one of the Ronettes I probably haven’t heard of her,” Mitch said. “Musically I got stuck in the fifties and never quite made it past 1967. Any story you can’t tell with three chords and some sweet harmonies isn’t worth telling. Back that up with a wall of sound and you got an epic novel, way I see it.”
“I guess that’s why you got all that vinyl and no CDs.”
While Mitch had been shopping, Dane had told Ana about Mitch’s apartment on Congress Street, including the Wall o’ Vinyl in his living room he had described to Dane. If whoever had attacked them at the warehouse messed with his record collection, he would be forced to kick some serious ass. “I try to live a simple life.”
“Simpleminded, more like.”
“Look, do I need to call you a doctor or anything?”
“I don’t know, okay? I’m sick. I think maybe it’s that Plan B you got me doing its thing. Least that’s what I’m hoping because I don’t want to have the flu on top of everything else.”
“Let’s hope you don’t, because there’s not enough room in this house for both of us and your germs, too.”
What passed for a hallway was no bigger than his apartment’s walk-in closet. Besides the bathroom and the bedroom Ana used, a third door hid a linen closet. An open doorway led into the living and dining area, with a small kitchen on the far side of that. From the kitchen, a door opened into the backyard, which was so overgrown it looked like jungle. Having been here before, Mitch hadn’t expected luxury, but he hoped the girl wasn’t too disappointed with the accommodations.
Ana took a half step forward, then her eyes fluttered and she started to pitch toward him, catching herself on the doorjamb just as Mitch put his hands out to break her fall. She blinked twice and gave him a lopsided grin. “I guess I better get back in bed.”
“You want some water or anything?”
“A glass of water would be good, thanks,” she said. She swiveled and headed into the bedroom. Mitch went to the kitchen, drew a tall glass of water. When he got back to the bedroom with it, Ana was in bed, breathing steadily. Sound asleep. Mitch put the water on the nightstand crowded in beside the bed and returned to his own place on the couch.
He lay on the couch with a sheet pulled up to his chest, wishing AJ wasn’t such a cheap bastard that he wouldn’t spring for central air. How much could it cost to cool a shoebox like this? He had known humid summer days in Detroit, but nothing like this. The low country seemed its own special kind of hell. He wished for a moment that he could’ve just gone back to Detroit after his first summer here, but that mistake on the job there had sent him south for his health. He couldn’t go back.
Now a mistake on the job here had cost him almost everything else he had left in life.
His chest itched from the heat and humidity and the couch had a spring sticking in his kidney and people had tried to kill him. Every time you think you’ve hit rock bottom…
Somewhere the high-pitched whine of a mosquito sounded, but he couldn’t locate the little bastard. He figured he’d have to wait until it landed on him, then he could swat it, hopefully before it bit him.
Is that what Dane’s like? he wondered. Moving from one victim to the next, drinking blood, never tasting fresh seafood or pasta or Kung Pao chicken? Mosquitoes, with rare exceptions, didn’t kill their victims. Mitch guessed Dane was more like a shark, a relentless death machine that very few survived.
Still…despite what Dane was, as fantastic and terrifying a person, Mitch had never felt threatened by him for one second. He had come to truly believe that Dane was a vampire—reluctantly, but finally he hadn’t seen any other possible explanation for the things Dane showed and told him. What did they call that? Occam’s razor. Yeah, that’s it. The simplest explanation was always the right one, no matter how crazy it seemed.
He thought that Ana was safe under Dane’s protection, as well. Safe as she’d be anywhere. Mitch had both Mossbergs loaded, one standing next to the couch and the other by the front door, ready to grab at the slightest hint of trouble. He would do what he could, but somehow he thought if things got really bad, he would want Dane at his side.
The guy might be a monster, but sometimes you need a monster around.
He heard the mosquito again, swatted at empty air, and silently prayed for Dane to get back as soon as he could.
Nothing Dane had ever heard about him made him want to take the vampire on.
Dela was, as far as he could tell, absolutely bloodthirsty, even for the undead. He didn’t kill just to live, he thrived on it, making a hobby of death.
He liked to see how long he could stretch it out, the stories said. Or how painful he could make it. Some said he would put off his own feeding if it meant he could watch a human suffer that much longer.
Vampires had enough bad press without specimens like him around.
The first time Dane remembered becoming aware of Bork Dela had been during the Second World War. Dela had been a man then, not a vampire. A Romanian, he had somehow nonetheless gained Hitler’s trust and had become one of the mad dictator’s closest advisers.
The rumor was that Bork Dela had been the one who introduced the Führer to the world of the occult, to which Hitler had taken immediately. Hitler had devoted considerable resources, most notably his SS, to pursuing supernatural knowledge. Bork Dela had also continued working in that direction, somehow coming to the attention—probably through his own investigation—of the vampire community. Once turned, Bork Dela had gone right back to work at Hitler’s side, disappearing after the Nazi leader’s suicide.
Another rumor was that Hitler hadn’t been a suicide at all, but that Dela, recognizing the reality of the situation, had killed his own patron and fed on his blood. From everything Dane had heard about Dela, he had no trouble believing it. Bork Dela could have had the blood of every insane megalomaniac in history running in his veins.
Dane obviously didn’t object to the idea that something needed to be done about the Dela situation here in Savannah. It could only be good for their species as a whole. But Dela was tough, almost impossible to kill.
If it had to be Bork Dela, then so be it, and damn the consequences. Dane had faced difficult challenges before and had always come out okay.
If one considered remaining a virtually immortal bloodsucker to be okay.
Some nights, Dane had his doubts. So far, he had always managed to put them aside and keep going.
Driving AJ’s truck back to Pooler along country roads so dark, the stars blotted out by cloud cover, he might have been the only sentient being for a hundred miles. The dark had always been the natural refuge of his kind, a country the human world could visit but never really know.
The last time Dane had stood in the sun had been in the spring of 1859.
The slavery issue was drawing to a head, but New York was largely in the abolition camp. That day had been one of those first warm sunny days that came after you started to think winter would never end, then suddenly you were peeling off your coat outside before you even realized that you weren’t freezing anymore.
He had been walking home from work—he was a carpenter by trade, a journeyman, building cabinets for a fine new house in Harlem—and had come across what looked at first like a parade blocking Broadway. Holding his coat over his shoulder, he stopped to see what the commotion was, and realized from the signs and slogans that it was a pro-slavery demonstration. There must have been three hundred people. He wove through the crowd, anxious to see what sorts of New Yorkers believed it was a good idea to buy and sell fellow human beings simply because they had been born with dark skin and had come from Africa instead of Europe. He couldn’t understand that, had been convinced that it was the sole province of ignorant Southerners, and that in such a sophisticated place as New York City it could not possibly gain a foothold.
And yet, there they were, three hundred New Yorkers marching down Broadway on a late spring afternoon with the sun slanting between the buildings at them. Dane had to take a second look when he realized that he recognized some of the marchers.
Herman Koslowski, the master carpenter to whom he had been apprenticed, the big Pole who had taught him how to find the heart of a piece of wood, how to shape it and sculpt it and join it to its fellows in order to make anything from the smallest box to the biggest mansion.
Deila Carmony, who had lived in the house next door to his parents since he’d been ten. Now thirty-two, Dane had his own place but he still saw Deila Carmony nearly once a week.
Dane shook his head in astonishment. People he had called friends, marching in support of slavery. He felt like someone had punched him in the gut with a fist weighted down with pennies. Maybe if he t
But they had already passed him by. He started after them. The crowd of people watching had grown thicker—most of them opposed to slavery, catcalling, hurling profanities at the marchers—and he couldn’t work his way through as easily as he had before. By the time he reached the front rank of spectators, the parade had moved on. Dane started following it, wanting to catch up to his friends.
It didn’t occur to him that to the onlookers, he might appear to be just another of the pro-slavery contingent, a little on the slow side but still dedicated enough to march down Broadway.
After three blocks, that false impression was made abundantly clear.
A big man with fists the size of hams broke from the crowd as Dane passed. He muttered something Dane didn’t understand in a thick Irish accent, and when Dane didn’t react appropriately, one of those massive fists caught Dane on the cheekbone, just beneath the eye. Dane’s head snapped back, flashes of colored light, like fireworks, exploding in his vision. The guy followed up with a left to Dane’s other cheek, and Dane’s feet flopped out from beneath him, his knees turning to noodles. By the time he hit the ground, the man had moved back into the crowd. A couple of other people, braver now that the big Irishman had put him down, came out of the crowd, kicking him. One woman, older even than Deila Carmony, spat a thick gob of phlegm in his face and called him a word he didn’t think old women knew.
As quickly as he could, Dane got to his feet and ran the other way, back up Broadway, away from the marchers. When he got to a place where the people hadn’t seen him, he struck into the crowd, then through it and onto a side street. The sun had finished setting, the spring sky purple and blue—like, he guessed, his eye would be soon.
As gas lamps were lit, he wandered the streets, running through the events of the last forty minutes or so, wondering where he had gone wrong.