Yes, fellow undead lovers another Vampire Trilogy. I consider that a good thing and those that know me and follow my on-line work know that I am a vampire fanatic. By that I mean real vampires, the undead creatures that prey on humans for survival, not the glorified sissy boy vampires that keep getting shoved down our throats. If you’ve read Justin’s Cronin’s The Passage and Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, you will absolutely love The Vampire Hunters. -- Peter Schwotzer of Famous Monster of Filmland
Scott M. Baker's The Vampire Hunters is a gut-wrenching, fast-paced horror thriller that takes you from the back streets of Washington to the rat infested sewer systems below. You cheer for both the hunter and the hunted as the author rains battle scenes with stomach turning death and destruction around every corner. -- Fangoria
THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS TRILOGY BOOK I
THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS
EVEN AT 10:00 in the evening, Union Station thrived with activity. Despite the hour, scores of people bustled around the main concourse. Passengers disembarking from, or waiting to board, their late-night train. Family and friends gathering to greet them or see them off. Porters hauling luggage to the appropriate platform. Cleaning crews sweeping the concourse and emptying trash cans. Shop owners peddling books, magazines, and last-minute souvenirs to weary travelers. And a vampire on the prowl for food.
Drake originally picked up its trail on the Mall, a prime hunting ground for vampires. Spotting the thing had been easy enough. On a balmy spring night it was the only figure walking along the Mall wearing a soiled red windbreaker with the hood pulled tightly over its head. Before Drake could close in to verify and make the kill, however, the vampire strayed from its usual pattern. Leaving the Mall, the vampire set off into downtown Washington, following Constitution Avenue, a route that provided it with more opportunities to feed. Drake had followed at a discrete distance, waiting for a chance to corner the evil and eliminate it. With so many people around, though, that chance had not materialized. When the vampire turned onto Louisiana Avenue and headed for Union Station, Drake hurried to catch up. He was still far enough behind that when he entered the train station fifteen seconds after the vampire, the thing already had melded into the crowd.
Drake now wandered the concourse, hunting his undead prey. That turned out to be far from easy. Union Station had two levels, each with a labyrinthine maze of corridors housing gift shops and food stalls. Beyond the station lay a multi-level parking garage, loading platforms, and maintenance yard. Drake scanned the area, vainly looking for a figure in a red windbreaker. So as not to look suspicious, he stopped occasionally at a bank of computer monitors listing the arrival/departure notifications, using the chance to scan waiting passengers.
He had just stepped away from a bank of monitors at the west end of the concourse when the cellular phone in the carry case on his belt began to ring. Only one person had the number—Alison Monroe. She had followed him from the Mall in their midnight-black Dodge Ram and now sat parked in front of Union Station, ready to move at a moment’s notice. Drake reached down and pressed the CALL button, then spoke into the microphone of his headset.
“Nothing,” Drake sighed.
“Sounds like par for the course for you,” she teased.
Drake smiled. “If you think you can do better, you’re welcome to try. I’d love to sit in the truck once in a while and let you do the boots on the ground.”
A chuckle came through the headset. “Sorry, boss. You don’t pay me enough for that shit. So what do we do now?”
“I’m beginning to think our friend was on to being tailed, and led us here so he could lose us.”
“You want me to circle the station and see if I can spot him?”
“No, sit tight for now. I want to give the station one more sweep, then…”
Drake sniffed. Almonds. No, more like ammonia—the smell of the putrefying flesh of a vampire.
“Boss, are you okay?”
“Hang on. I may be on to something.” Drake searched the concourse and spotted a figure in a red windbreaker as it disappeared into the men’s bathroom. Breaking into a jog, Drake headed after it. “I think I’ve found our friend.”
As Drake approached the men’s bathroom, he slowed his pace and looked around. No one was paying any attention to him. Reaching under his leather jacket, he pulled out one of the three wooden stakes he kept secure in a special pouch stitched into the jacket lining. Holding the base so the shaft rested against his right wrist and inner arm, he stepped into the bathroom.
The place reeked of decomposed flesh and the acrid smell of urine. Drake swallowed hard to force down the nausea that welled up in his throat. No one stood at the urinals. Keeping his back to the wall, Drake quietly moved across the bathroom to the section containing the stalls. Still no one. He stopped to listen, but only heard the whirring of an exhaust fan and the flow of running water from a broken toilet.
And a whimper.
Dropping to one knee and kneeling over, Drake examined the stalls. The last one on the right contained two sets of legs. He stood and raced to the stall, kicking open the door. A young boy, no more than ten, was sprawled backwards on the toilet, paralyzed with fear. The thing in the red windbreaker towered over the child, its head inches from the boy’s neck. One hand with talon-like fingernails pushed down on the boy’s shoulder while the other pushed his head in the opposite direction, exposing the youngster’s throat.
At the intrusion, the thing turned to glare at Drake. It had a pallid face straight from the depths of hell. Black matted hair hung over a slightly-protruding and deeply-furrowed forehead. A pair of blood-red eyes, the yellow pupils of which seemed to glow, leered from sunken sockets. A set of upper and lower fangs had replaced the cuspids, each fang two inches long and razor sharp. The sunken cheeks and gray pallor indicated that the thing had not eaten in a while. And it was not happy about being disturbed in the middle of a meal. Its cracked lips drew back in a snarl as an animalistic hiss filled the stall.
Drake raised his arm to plunge the stake into the vampire. The thing lunged at him unexpectedly, its hands connecting with Drake’s chest and throwing him backwards with the force of three men. Drake sailed across the bathroom, crashing through the door of the opposite stall and slamming into the toilet tank. Luckily, he kept his grip on the stake. Despite the pain and disorientation, he raised the stake to defend himself. Instead of pursuing its attack, the vampire hissed at Drake and bolted for the exit.
Drake scrambled to his feet and raced into the concourse in time to see the vampire duck into a walkway between a pair of stores, heading for the main entrance. Drake took off after it.
“Alison!” Drake practically yelled into the headset. “I have a snuffy heading for the main entrance. Cut him off.”
Still nothing. Reaching for the cellular phone, his hand touched the empty carrying case and the dangling cord of the headset. Great. Things were going from bad to worse.
OUT IN THE Ram, Alison listened to the battle unfold. She heard the metallic clang of the stall door being kicked open, followed by a hiss and body contact. Then the connection went dead.
“Boss, are you there? Boss?”
Reaching into the gym bag on the passenger seat, Alison pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and opened the breech to make sure it was loaded with the special ammo—two shells, the pellets of which had been soaked in holy water. She snapped the barrel closed and reached for the door handle.
Alison saw the vampire race out of Union Station onto the sidewalk. It frantically looked around for a means of escape, and found it. A tanker truck sat idle farther down Massachusetts Avenue, its flashers blinking. The driver stood near the cab asking directions from a young man in a business suit. Running over to the truck, the vampire began to crawl up into the cab. The driver, a burly man weighing at least two hundred and fifty pounds, grabbed the vampire by the shoulders and pulled it back onto the street. Spinning around, the vampire clutched the driver by his neck and hurled him across the street into the side of a parked SUV. Even from this distance, Alison heard the metallic thud and the shattering of glass. The vampire turned to confront the young man in the business suit, but he and several other bystanders already had started running. In what seemed like a single flowing motion, the vampire climbed up into the cab and slid in behind the steering wheel. With a hiss of airbrakes, the truck pulled out onto Massachusetts Avenue.
Drake emerged from Union Station, his attention immediately drawn to the commotion to his right. Seeing the assaulted driver and the truck as it pulled away, Drake quickly assessed what had happened. Without hesitating, he raced off after the truck, trying to reach the cab. He made it as far as the rear wheels of the tanker when the truck shifted gears and accelerated. Cutting in behind the trailer as it passed by, Drake grabbed the rear access ladder and jumped on. He paused just long enough to make sure of his footing, and then started to climb.
Shifting into drive, Alison pushed her foot down on the accelerator. The Ram’s engine thundered to life. She set off after the truck.
“He definitely doesn’t pay me enough for this shit.”
DRAKE PULLED HIS way to the top of the ladder just as they rolled past Georgetown Law School. From this vantage point, he spotted a slow-moving Cadillac in the left lane blocking their path. Drake felt the truck shift gears and increase speed. Moments later, a jolt rocked the entire trailer as the cab slammed into the car, propelling it forward. Rather than attempt to get out of the way, however, the Cadillac’s driver panicked and applied his brakes. This time the truck crashed into the Cadillac. The second, heavier jolt caused Drake to lose his footing and nearly fall off of the ladder.
A sickening screech of metal scraping against metal made Drake look up. Being pushed along by the truck, the Cadillac lost control. Its front end swayed back and forth, and then finally veered sharply to the right. The car almost made it out of the way when the truck rammed into its rear wheel well. The Cadillac spun around in a near one hundred and eighty degree turn until its front end slid underneath the truck’s tandem wheels. Drake held on tight. The trailer hooked the Cadillac’s front end and dragged it sideways down Massachusetts Avenue, the grinding and crunching of metal providing the perfect accompaniment to the firework of sparks. Suddenly, the tandem wheels obtained a grip on the Cadillac’s mangled hood, rode over its front end, and came down on the other side with a loud crash. Still hanging onto the ladder, Drake was thrown around like a piñata, his knees and ankles banging against the metal ladder. Bolts of pain shot through his legs.
The truck made a sharp turn to the left. For a moment, Drake thought the vampire had lost control and that they were about to overturn. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of a red, white, and blue Interstate Highway shield with the number 395 emblazoned across it. They were leaving the city and heading for the open road.
Things had just gone from worse to horrible.
ALISON GASPED AS the truck entered into the sharp turn. Not only because it nearly tipped over, but because the maneuver cut directly across the path of oncoming traffic. Half a dozen cars hit their brakes to avoid an accident, with two of the cars being rear-ended by the vehicles behind them. A Toyota Corolla speeding out of the street on the right entered the intersection just as the truck did, and was barely able to stop in time to avoid a collision. Unfortunately, the driver of the Metrobus behind him, his attention momentarily distracted by a rowdy group of teenagers in the rear, did not. The Metrobus slammed into the Toyota, shoving it directly into the path of the truck. Because of the steep turn, the truck hit the Toyota at an angle, shearing off the front end and spreading pieces of engine and shards of chassis for nearly one hundred feet.
Alison lifted her foot off the accelerator, slowly wound her way through the debris, then again applied gas once into the turn. By the time the two vehicles reached Route 395, she was only one hundred feet behind the truck. She watched as Drake regained his footing and pulled himself on top of the tanker. With his knees bent and leaning forward to maintain balance, he began to inch his way along the thin metal catwalk running the length of the tanker.
Alison’s eyes grew wide. She slammed her hand against the horn.
DRAKE HEARD THE signal from Alison. Relieved to have her nearby, he turned and acknowledged her with a wave. From inside the Ram, Alison frantically pointed in front of him.
Drake turned to see the cement beam of the E Street overpass hurtling toward him. He fell forward onto the catwalk a split second before the revetment whizzed by overhead, missing him by inches. He paused for a few seconds, taking several deep breaths to regain his composure. Then, lifting himself onto his hands and knees, he resumed crawling along the catwalk.
Drake didn’t see the approaching merge with the Southeast Freeway, and wasn’t prepared when the truck swerved left onto the entry ramp. The force of the turn knocked Drake off balance and he tumbled off the catwalk. Instinctively, he reached out to grab something, and with his right hand clutched the small safety rail that ran parallel to the catwalk. Dangling off the side of the truck, he could see the cement jersey barriers racing by a few feet beneath him. Drake lunged his left hand upward, trying to grab the safety rail, but missed. He tried again without success. He could feel his fingers going numb. Mustering all his strength, he made one final lunge for the safety rail and grasped it.
That was as far as Drake got. The curved metal surface of the tanker provided no traction for him to crawl back up.
ALISON QUICKLY TRIED to calculate what the next move should be, but drew a blank. The Southeast Freeway had only two lanes, which were even further restricted by a wall of jersey barriers lining the shoulder of each lane. To move alongside the truck now would put her in too great a danger of being sideswiped, knocking her out of the game just when the boss needed her most. No. She would have to wait and make her move after they reached a more open road.
The truck suddenly veered right, entering the off ramp for the Kevin J. Welsh Memorial Bridge. Once across the bridge and outside of the city, the truck increased speed to seventy miles per hour.
Alison noticed the flashing blue lights reflecting off the interior of the Ram’s cab before she heard the sirens. Glancing into the rearview mirror, she saw two D.C. police cars in pursuit and rapidly closing the distance. As if she already did not have enough to worry about.
Pushing her foot all the way down on the accelerator, she moved into position to help Drake.
THE VAMPIRE NOTICED the flashing blues at the same time Alison did, and looked into the side mirror. Then he noticed Drake hanging off the tanker. Their gazes met in the mirror’s reflection. For a second, each opponent glared at one another. Then the vampire’s eyes narrowed into blood red slits, and his lifeless lips sneered.
For Drake, things went from horrible to FUBAR.
The truck suddenly swung left and back again. Drake’s body slammed against the tanker, the pain so intense he thought his abdomen might explode. He tried lifting his right leg to the upper curve of the tanker, desperately hoping to gain a foothold, but the truck again lurched to the left. And again Drake slammed off the side of the tanker. He felt his grip weakening.
Both Drake and the vampire saw what was ahead of them at the same time. Approximately five hundred feet ahead of them, a red Nissan pick-up cruised along at fifty miles per hour, its flashers blinking. Two large red flags had been placed on either side of the bed. A yellow banner draped over the tailgate bore the words WIDE LOAD. Ahead of the Nissan, a tractor trailer plodded down the center of the highway, a cut-away section of a single-story house extending three feet over either side of the flatbed.
A single thought went through Drake’s mind. Shit!
The vampire steered to the right. The tanker converged on the Nissan like a wolf on its prey. Fortunately, the Nissan’s driver saw the approaching danger and moved into the breakdown lane where he came to a stop. The tanker roared past the Nissan and began to overtake the flatbed on its right side. When the two trucks were side by side, the vampire steered back to the left. The driver of the flatbed attempted to move out of the way, but the vampire continued to follow.
Drake anticipated the move. When the gap between the two trucks closed, he turned to one side and pulled his legs up against his chest, straining every muscle to sustain this semi-fetal position. The trucks collided where Drake’s legs had been a moment earlier. The house section snapped and splintered as the tanker tore along its length, showering Drake in shards and chunks of broken wood. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, the tanker passed by the flatbed and continued down the freeway.
But the damage had been done. The collision had shifted the house section so that more than six feet extended over the flatbed’s left rim. When the driver tried to pull into the left breakdown lane, the rear quarter of the house section slid onto the road and dragged along the pavement, pulling it almost completely off the flatbed. The driver stopped with a deafening huff from the airbrakes, the truck blocking the right lanes and the house section blocking the left.
ALISON HAD A split second to make her decision. Shifting into low gear, she aimed for the spot just behind the flatbed where the damaged house section still clung to it. Closing her eyes and lowering her head behind the steering wheel, she braced for the collision. A heavy jolt rocked the Ram, accompanied by the sounds of splintering wood, scraping metal, and fracturing glass. When she looked up, a huge spider web-like crack covered the left portion of the windshield. But she had made it through. Even better, a large debris field covered most of the left two lanes of the highway. While one police car stopped to attend to the accident site, the other slowed to a near crawl as it negotiated the scene.
If she wanted to save the boss, it was now or never while she still had an open road and no police interference.
She saw the tanker a good half mile in the lead and pulling away rapidly. Alison accelerated again, trying to ignore the whistling wind and shards of loose glass coming from the damaged windshield. She reached over and grabbed the shotgun.
NO ONE WAS more surprised than Drake that he still clung to the side of the tanker. The vampire had stopped trying to knock him off. Not that it mattered. He could feel his arms and hands going numb, and knew he would not be able to hold on much longer.
Out of the corner of his eye, Drake saw Alison begin to pass the tanker on the left as they entered the off ramp for the Inner Loop of the Beltway. She raced along the off ramp’s shoulder, staying just far enough to the rear so that she would not be spotted by the vampire while they made the turn. At the last second, she gunned it so that the Ram pulled even with the cab as they merged onto the Beltway. Racing from the off ramp at over sixty miles per hour, both vehicles cut off several cars and trucks. Tires screeched and horns blared as traffic swerved to avoid an accident, forcing all four lanes of the Beltway to a stop. Good, thought Drake, now we don’t have to worry about innocent bystanders.
They were only half a mile from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Alison let go of the steering wheel just long enough to blare the horn. The vampire turned to look and stared into the twin barrels of the shotgun.
Alison pulled the trigger.
The thunderous roar and flash from the gunpowder momentarily blinded her. When the smoke cleared, she saw the remains of the vampire’s head staring back at her. The face and top of its skull had been blown away, leaving large flaps of dead flesh that folded backwards like the petals of a gory flower. Its lower jaw remained intact as well as a fragment of the upper left jaw that hung loosely, still attached to a strand of flesh. Whiffs of white smoke drifted upwards from the mass of gore as the holy water reacted with pure evil. The vampire tried to hiss, both out of pain and hatred, but could only manage a bloody gurgle. Instead, it turned back to the road and futilely tried to steer.
Alison dropped her speed just enough to fall back parallel with the tanker, then slid as close as possible to the vehicle, placing the bed directly under the dangling Drake. The truck started swaying, grinding the tanker against the Ram and threatening to push it away. Alison steered into the tanker and blared the horn.
Drake let go. He dropped into the Ram’s bed with a heavy thud that knocked the wind out of him. Looking up, he saw the tandem wheels of the tanker only a few feet away, threatening to crush the Ram’s bed and him with it. Alison pulled into the center of the Beltway and slowed. When the Ram came to a stop, Drake stood up, ignoring the throbbing in his legs and knees and back, anxious to see what happened next. Alison stepped out of the cab and stood by the open door.
Entering the approaches to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the vampire attempted to keep the tanker straight, but had no way of knowing that the far right lane was closed for construction. The truck hit the jersey barriers blocking the lane and careened to the left at a forty-five degree angle. Not knowing what it had hit, the creature instinctively turned the steering wheel back to the right, sideswiping the barrier a second time. The cab spun one hundred and eighty degrees. The tanker, however, continued traveling straight. Ripping itself free from the trailer connection, the tanker bounced over the cab’s rear chassis and up onto the Jersey barrier. The grinding of metal against cement accompanied a panorama of sparks, but only for a few seconds. The hull of the tanker ruptured under the pressure, spewing forth a stream of gasoline that was immediately ignited by the sparks. Drake watched the tanker erupt into a mushroom cloud of orange-red flames and oily smoke.
A few seconds later, a headless figure staggered through the inferno rapidly spreading across the bridge. Engulfed by flames so intense that even cement decomposed and metal melted, the thing should already be destroyed. Yet it fought to survive. With each step, strips of dead flesh seared off and blew away, revealing muscles and organs that shriveled in the heat. Finally yielding to the inevitable, the vampire stopped. It let out a guttural howl from its shattered, burnt throat that sounded as if it had come straight from the depths of hell. The howling stopped only when the body crumbled into dust, which was instantly blown apart by the intense winds caused by the conflagration.
Only then did Drake become aware of the flashing red and blue lights reflecting off the metallic surface of the Ram. Alison stood facing to the rear, her hands clasped behind her head. A sharp, angry voice focused Drake’s concentration.
“You on the pick-up. I said place your hands behind your head and turn around. Now!”
In one slow motion, Drake turned around and raised his hands behind his head until his fingers interlocked. One of the police cars that had been chasing them sat twenty feet away. Two police officers stood by the front of the car, their pistols trained on Drake and Alison.
The older of the two cops, a muscular Hispanic with Rodriguez displayed on his nameplate, used the same angry voice on Drake again. “Get off the pick-up, slowly, and move beside your girlfriend.”
Drake complied. The two cops cautiously moved closer. Then the Hispanic sighed and rolled his eyes. “Oh, Christ. I should have known.”
“What do you mean?” asked his partner.
“You’re in the presence of a celebrity,” Rodriguez said sarcastically. “You’re about to arrest Drake Matthews.”
“Never mind. You’ll get sick of him soon enough.” Holstering his pistol, Rodriguez removed a pair of handcuffs from his belt and motioned for Drake to turn around. “I assume you won’t give me any trouble?”
Drake turned lowered his hands behind his back. “Do I ever?”
The Vampire Hunters is available as a trade paperback from Amazon or as part of the omnibus for the Kindle or Nook. Be sure to check out the sequels: Vampyrnomicon and Dominion.