Even from half a mile away, Chase could tell. The small cabin down the slope, the ramshackle cabin surrounded by forest-Josh had died there. They had killed him...the beasts had killed him. He clicked the switchblade open, fingers tightly gripping the familiar grooves in the handle, and ran towards the cottage. It had taken only a few seconds for him to reach it, but in those heartbeats he had already known that they were long gone, and that they had taken his half-brother’s life with them. The night sky suddenly gave way to a downpour, soaking him before he could break down the locked door.
When he emerged inside, panting less from exertion than anticipation, the scene was exactly as he had expected it to be-the room was empty, bleached clean, the stench of blood underlying it all. Chase let the blade slip back into its handle, cursing under his breath. He returned to the wet outdoors, pulling on the hood of his leather jacket. His foot suddenly bumped against an object, making him bend down to inspect it. It was a bottle, a bottle of wine, almost washed clean from the rain. Chase lifted it to his face, greeted by the sharp scents of both blood and alcohol. He held the bottle inside his jacket as he walked back to the road, preserving whatever residue remained, while his instincts screamed for him to drop it. It was repulsive, but it was a lead. And so long as it was a lead, he would follow it.
Chase was in his hotel room within ten minutes, having easily navigated the roads in his long-owned Harley-Davidson. Not many were out in the rainy weather, and even less were driving. It was a stroke of luck, really.
He tossed his gun onto the bed, sitting beside it to inspect the bottle. It was Bordeaux, as he had presumed earlier, the deep, aged variety. The faded label didn’t read much, but a neon sticker on the base happily exclaimed a discount of 10%, at said ‘Wince’s Wine Barn’. A bit of poking around with a road map and Chase had located the store, glad to see that it was only a few blocks away. He could walk this time.
“I told you, I don’t know who bought it!”
Chase pulled the balding man further across the checkout counter, a hand firmly gripping his collar.
“I really hate to rain on your parade, Wince, but that isn’t going to work for me.”
The man found himself being hoisted even higher, making his panic-laden eyes widen.
“Please! I don’t even know who Wince is! I bought the store with the sign like that already!”
The switchblade was instantly at the salesman’s neck, a small smirk finding its way onto Chase’s expression.
“Well, sir, Wince or not, I hope you’re going to tell me what I need to know, or things aren’t looking all too good for you.”
He pressed the blade further, just enough to start drawing beads of blood. The would-be Wince gasped, nodding furiously.
“I’ll talk! Please, just, the knife...”
Chase roughly dropped the man, watching impatiently as he rubbed at his throat. The clerk glanced at him and, taking the bottle, scanned the sticker at the base.
“This was checked out at exactly 8:21 on Wednesday, the fifth of December last year. I still have no idea who bought this, but,” he said, shrinking at the sight of the blade moving towards him, “You could check the security tapes.”
Bottle grabbed from the counter, Chase slugged the man in the head and watched him crumple to the ground, taking care to cut the telephone lines and crush the man’s cell phone beneath a booted foot. He didn’t want the police barging in on him, especially at a moment so critical. They had a knack for getting in the way.
A quick trip to the back room and he found the monitors, waiting and ready to provide information. He easily bypassed the small security measures, scrolling down a list of dates to find what he needed. And, playing the footage, paused at exactly 8:21. Just as the clerk had said, the bottle of Bordeaux was on the counter and, behind it, a man, with long, curly blonde hair. Chase zoomed in to the image but, finding the resolution to be complete garbage, proceeded to delete the video with him in it and, keeping his hood low, took the back exit out.
“Police are looking for the suspect in an assault case, about six foot six, wearing a hood and carrying a knife. The victim was a Rodney Shipp, of Wince’s Wine Barn, who had sustained a sufficient concussion and small lacerations to the-”
Chase chuckled and turned off the radio, returning to the folder before him. It was full of photos and detailed profiling, all the result of years of work. Some of the photos had a large ‘x’ marked over them, and others a question mark. One photo made him stop flipping, looking closely at the man and recognizing him as the same in the store’s video. The paper clipped to it was his own report, curt and written in hurried scrawl.
Alexander, one of the newer additions to the Vulgaris.
Xavier’s kid, all-around jerk.
Has been off-radar for few weeks.
It took only a few seconds for Chase to realize the connection- both Josh and Alexander had disappeared around the same time, the former died in a cabin with a wine and blood cocktail lying around...Alex had been using Josh as bait, and no doubt had his plan backfire somehow. But if the both of them were dead, or otherwise detained, that could only mean one thing-more vampires. And that meant a whole lot more blood.
He grabbed his cell and pressed the second number on speed dial, inspecting his gun as he waited.
“Hello?”a sleepy, old voice said, clearly annoyed.
“It’s Chase, Godfrey. I need bullets. Now. I’m at the Delta Inn on Route 709.”
Chase ended the call, taking the satchel from beneath the bed and checking his stock. He had ten bullets, and five others already loaded into his Browning. They were specially crafted, elder wood coated in silver, and doused in holy water. Getting them to graze or pierce the heart of a vampire stunned them a few minutes, and that was plenty time to get out his personal stake and impale them, before dousing them in kerosene and burning their blasted bodies. It seemed like a lengthy process, but it was very quick, precise and clean. It sure beat trying to fight them one on one.
The doorbell buzzed a few hours later, making Chase stand from his meditative place on the floor, and swing the door open, mutely registering shock.
“I’m not saying I don’t appreciate this visit, or the view, but I was expecting someone else.”
The model-calibre woman at the door rolled her eyes, holding a wooden box towards him.
“I’m Eva, Godfrey’s granddaughter. He sent me, since I was in town. He warned me, too.”
Chase laughed, taking the box.
“Warned you? About what?”
She walked past him into the room, looking it over with a disapproving eye.
“That you have more exes than there are cars in the state.”
Chase put the box on the nightstand, opening the lid and popping some bullets into his handgun.
“Did you want to join that list?”
Eva turned and glared at him, before grabbing a wicker chair and sitting down on it, crossing her long, sun-kissed legs, and pulling her own gun from the holster on her super-short denim shorts.
“No, actually, I’m only here because my grandfather called in a favour and told me to help you obliterate some vamps.”
She returned the gun to its place, clearing her throat to return Chase’s appreciative gaze to her honey-brown eyes. He leaned against the wall, kicking the still-ajar door shut.
“Who says I need help?”
Eva flipped her shampoo-commercial hair over a shoulder, the deep brown curls falling mid-torso.
“He does. Apparently things are getting personal for you.”
Her voice held a question in it, eyebrows rising slightly. Chase returned to perusing his folders, marking an ‘x’ over Alexander’s face.
“I don’t know about that.” he said flatly, trying to end the conversation.
Eva walked over to him, stilettos clicking on the wooden floor.
“Tell me one thing, do you stake first or douse?”
Chase tossed the folder shut, grin spreading. This was going to go well.