Scott M. Baker’s The Vampire Hunters is quality vampire fiction. Vampyrnomicon continues where Book I leaves off and I have to say that Book II is even better than Book I. Mr. Baker has expanded the story line substantially with a group of new vampire masters that are lusciously evil and decadent, as all vampires should be. He also delves into the back history of the vampires with a series of flashbacks that greatly adds to the details of the story. The Vampire Hunters trilogy is a must read for all vampire lovers. Book II is full of great characters, action, blood, carnage and some of the most evil vampires this side of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series and I highly recommend it. -- Peter Schwotzer of Famous Monsters of Filmland
THE VAMPIRE HUNTERS TRILOGY BOOK II
JESSICA REYNOLDS STOOD by the open manhole. The pungent odor of ammonia and human waste wafted out of the sewer, stinging her eyes and churning the bile in her stomach. Holding her breath and squinting against the discomfort, she leaned forward and stared down the access tunnel, but could not see the bottom. Despite the noon sun glaring overhead, its light penetrated only a few feet down the access tunnel, rendering the sewer ominously dark. Jessica did not have to see what was down there to fear it. What lurked below the streets of Washington was deadly, dangerous, and evil.
She stepped back from the manhole and walked over to the midnight-black Dodge Ram. “Tell me again why you’re going down there?”
“To flush out the nest,” said Drake Matthews. He slid on his brown leather jacket.
“I thought we destroyed the nest a few nights ago?”
“We did.” Drake slipped three wooden stakes into the special pouch stitched into the jacket lining. A bolt of pain from the cracked ribs he received in that struggle shot through his chest, a reminder of just how close a call they actually had.
“Why the rush? We haven’t recovered yet from the last battle.”
Alison Monroe stepped around from the open door of the Ram and joined Drake and Jessica. She loaded shells into a shotgun. “Because one master escaped. If we wait too long, she’ll create another nest.”
Jessica looked over at Alison, who wore her usual hunting uniform, black leather pants with a black turtleneck sweater, both of which she filled out quite nicely. Jessica tried unsuccessfully to curtail her jealousy. “How large could the nest get in only five days?”
“Masters have been known to sire up to two vampires a night. And each of those can sire vampires of their own.” Alison finished loading the shotgun. “You do the math.”
“Fifty-one, to be exact.” Jim Delmarco joined the group. “That’s assuming that each vampire sired two more a day every day over the past five days.”
“Why are you so sure the nest is here?”
“It’s more of an educated guess,” said Jim. “This is where the police found the car that the master stole near Wolf Trap the night we destroyed the nest. Assuming the surviving master stole the car to drive home, and assuming she parked it near the nest, then this is as a good a place as any to start looking.”
Jim reached under his jacket, pulled out a folded map, and spread it out on the Ram’s lowered tailgate. Jessica leaned over to look at it. The map showed the sewer system underneath Washington. Superimposed on the map in light blue ink was a street map of the city. Several streets had red ovals hand-drawn around them, with a small red X in between the ovals. Jim placed his finger on the X.
“We’re here, where the police found the stolen car. I drove through the neighborhood two days ago, covering every street within a half-mile radius of this location, and noted all the abandoned buildings. There are more than a dozen closed stores on this and the adjacent street. A boarded up school two blocks to our west. And a whole street of condemned Federalist-style row houses three blocks to the east.”
“We’ll start our search at the row houses and work our way back.” Drake unholstered his pair of Glocks and inserted into each firearm a magazine containing ten .40 caliber hollow-point rounds filled with holy water. He chambered one round into each Glock and slid the weapons into his twin shoulder holsters.
“Why won’t you let me go with you?” asked Jessica. Although relieved that Drake did not expect her to crawl through the sewer, part of her resented that Drake would be down there relying on Alison rather than her. “I can take care of myself.”
Alison rolled her eyes.
Drake was more diplomatic. “I need you up here to make sure no one blocks the manhole in case we need to get out in a hurry.”
Jessica feigned a smile. “I think I can handle that.”
“I know you can.” Drake took Jessica’s hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze, then turned to the others. “We ready?”
Jim finished folding the map and slid it into the pouch beside the two bottles of Heaven’s Fire, homemade napalm laced with chunks of crystallized holy water. He closed and secured the flap. “I guess so.”
Alison switched on the high-powered flashlight she had taped to the shotgun’s barrel, then pulled back the slide to load a round into the chamber. “Let’s kick some undead ass.”
The hunters stepped over to the open manhole. Drake crouched down and lowered his legs into the opening. When he had his footing on the access ladder, he began to climb down.
“Drake,” Jessica called after him. “Be careful.”
Alison stepped directly in front of Jessica. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him.” She followed her boss into the manhole.
Jim entered last.
Jess stood alone in the street, cursing herself for being so useless.
ENTERING INTO THE sewer proved more difficult than Drake anticipated. The ladder was a series of rectangular rungs imbedded into the wall, each rung only an inch in diameter and slippery from moisture. Once clear of the manhole, the walls sloped slightly outward, forcing them to climb down at an awkward angle. After a descent of almost fifteen feet, Drake reached a small landing. Turning around, he shined his flashlight into the bowels of the sewer. It measured ten feet in width and twelve in height, with an arched ceiling comprised of red bricks. A two-foot drop led from the landing to the floor. A trough eighteen inches wide ran down the center of the sewer, carrying a stream of brackish water. From this height, the area on either side of the trough looked slippery. Instead of jumping, Drake sat on the landing and eased himself down. As expected, his feet slid under him when he touched the floor, struggling to get a grip on the coating of raw sewage and human waste.
“Oh, Jesus.” Alison stepped onto the landing. “It smells like shit down here.”
“What did you expect? It’s a sewer.” Drake took Alison’s hand and helped her off the landing. He noticed how soft and warm her touch was, and how she gripped his hand for several seconds after she climbed down.
Jim joined them a moment later.
Once all three were gathered, Drake swung the flashlight to the south. “This is one of the sanitation lines that carries sewage to the waste treatment plant. According to the map, if we follow this line for a hundred feet we should come to a storm drain that runs under the abandoned row houses.
“Lead on,” said Jim with a lack of enthusiasm.
“What exactly are we looking for?” asked Alison.
“I’m not sure,” said Drake. “But I have a feeling we’ll know it when we find it.”
“WHAT’S THE PENALTY for locking your kids up in their room?” asked Ted Marlowe.
Bob Patterson kept his flashlight trained on the sewer walls, looking for damage. “Why’s that?”
“Because it’s the only way I’m gonna keep Susan in line. She didn’t come in until two this morning.”
“Kids will be kids.”
“But she’s only fourteen, for Christ’s sake.”
“Well, you’re the adult. Lay down the rules.”
“That’s easy for you to say. Rebecca ain’t a problem child.”
“She’s not now. But she was a few years ago. I just kept her on a short leash.”
Patterson lowered the flashlight, shining the beam across the floor. “Two years ago, when she was sixteen, one of her boyfriends dropped by the house to pick her up. A real asshole. Pulls up in front of the house in this shitbox of a car, blaring rap music. He’s wearing a leather Harley-Davidson vest, a black T-shirt with a pack of smokes rolled up in one sleeve, and a friggin’ ponytail. To top it off, Rebecca comes downstairs wearing her street slut outfit.”
“And you let him live?”
Patterson chuckled. “I followed them out onto the front porch. As they were getting into the car, I announced so the whole neighborhood could hear that if anything happened to my daughter that I didn’t approve of, the police would never find enough of his body parts to convict me.”
“Jesus, man. Rebecca must have been pissed.”
“She didn’t talk to me for a week. Neither did her mother, for that matter. Which wasn’t a bad thing.”
“I wish my old lady wouldn’t talk to me for a week. Shit. She’s been all over my ass for three days now. Ever since—”
Patterson sighed to himself. He never should have started this conversation because now Marlowe would never shut up. Marlowe was a nice enough guy and a good worker, but he could talk the ears off of a dead man. He drove Patterson crazy on these routine inspections when they walked through the sewers and checked each line for problems that required maintenance, which allowed more than enough time to ramble. This morning they were inspecting the storm drain lines that ran underneath the neighborhood. Since these lines carried rain water out of the area and into the Anacostia River, none of the sanitation troughs ran through here. Patterson preferred the routine checks of these lines. Sure, he and Tom still needed to wear the thick rubber boots and cumbersome overalls, but at least they weren’t traipsing through sewage and smelling shit.
The two men walked for another quarter of a mile while Marlowe yammered on about some reality television show he had watched the night before. Patterson swept the flashlight from one wall to the other. He stopped to illuminate a large opening in the ceiling.
Marlowe saw it at the same time. “Jesus, man. What the hell is it?”
Patterson stepped underneath it and directed his flashlight up. The hole was four feet in diameter and extended up at a forty-five degree angle. He estimated the tunnel’s length at fifteen to twenty feet.
Marlowe stepped beside Patterson and gazed up the tunnel. “What is it? An old lateral dump?”
“Doubt it. This isn’t a sanitation line.” Patterson directed the beam against the tunnel walls. “Besides, the surface is too rough. Something dug this out.”
Marlowe whistled. “Rats?”
“If there’s a rat out there that can chew through six yards of concrete and gravel, I sure as hell never want to meet it.”
Patterson concentrated the flashlight toward the far end of the tunnel. The beam barely illuminated a room. At least it looked like a room. In the dim light, Patterson could just about make out what appeared to be wooden beams running across a ceiling. “What’s above us?”
“A string of abandoned row houses.”
“Must have been a cave in.”
“Then where’s the debris?”
Patterson lowered the beam to the sewer floor and looked around. Nothing there but a few small chunks of cement. “I guess the only way to find out is for you to go up and have a look.”
“Because you’re fifty pounds lighter and ten years younger than me. And I’m your boss.”
Marlowe unclipped his utility belt and slid out of his heavy rubber boots. He took his flashlight and inserted it into the strap around his hardhat. “Why do I always do the grunt work?”
“Someday you’ll be a supervisor and then you can boss other people around.”
“Can you give me a hand?”
Patterson locked his fingers together and crouched. When Marlowe placed his foot in his hands, Patterson stood up and lifted his friend into the tunnel opening. Marlowe lost his footing and nearly fell out, but quickly regained his hold and started climbing. He crawled up a few feet and stopped.
“Jesus, man. It stinks up here.”
“What’s it smell like?” Patterson worried about a gas leak.
“Remember that nest of dead rats we found last year? It smells like that, only a lot worse.”
“No big deal. Something crawled up there and died, that’s all.”
“Maybe we should call the police.”
“Don’t be such a wuss,” chided Patterson. “Go on. The dead can’t hurt you.”
THE HUNTERS STOPPED at an intersection of sewer lines. A sanitation line continued ahead of them. A second one branched off to their left at a ninety-degree angle. A retaining wall one-foot high stretched across it. On the other side of the wall, the sewer was clean, with only a few pools of clear water near the walls.
Drake turned to Jim and motioned toward the branch. “Is this the way to the row houses?”
Jim pulled the map from his pouch and shined his flashlight on it. “According to this, that’s a storm drain line. It runs for about a hundred yards before it passes under the row houses.”
Drake tapped his finger on the graphic representing the string of row houses. “And that’s where we’ll find the nest.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Jim.
“It’s the ideal place for one. Those row houses are large enough to easily hold a nest. And there are no other occupied buildings around, so a nest could thrive there for months and stay undetected.” Drake reached under his jacket and withdrew a stake. “Let’s rock.”
SITTING IN THE driver’s seat of the Ram and fondling the two-way radio, Jessica contemplated for the umpteenth time checking in with Drake. She did not notice the Metro Police squad car pull up behind the truck until the driver switched on the flashing blues and gave her a brief burst from the siren. Jessica looked up into the rearview mirror. Shit. The squad car had parked over the open manhole. She didn’t need this.
The officer opened the door and stepped out. Jessica quickly sized him up. She estimated him at about six feet in height and weighing in at over two hundred pounds, but none of it fat. He had a well-toned physique that, although not intimidating, would certainly make most people think twice before challenging him. As the officer approached, Jessica noticed that he had not taken out his ticket book or placed his hand on his service revolver, which meant he did not view this stop as a potential threat. Maybe she could bluff her way out of this. Reaching up with her right hand, she unfastened the second and third buttons of her blouse.
The officer stopped by the driver’s door of the Ram and leaned forward. “Good afternoon, ma’am. Is everything okay?”
“No problem, officer. I broke down. That’s all.” Jessica shifted slightly in the driver’s seat, trying to display cleavage. His nameplate read Sergeant Wilson. Why did that name sound familiar?
“Do you need me to call a tow truck?”
“No, thanks. Someone’s coming to get me.”
“Good enough, ma’am. Just please turn on your flashers so no one hits you.”
“Sure.” Jessica went to turn on the hazard lights, only to realize she had no idea where to locate the switch. She fumbled around with various switches on the dashboard and steering column before finally finding it. By then, her unfamiliarity with the vehicle had made Wilson suspicious.
“Ma’am, if I could see your driver’s license, please.”
This is great, Jessica said to herself. Things can’t get much worse. She rummaged through her purse, took out her wallet and opened it, then pulled out her license and handed it over.
“And your registration, ma’am.”
Okay. Things could get worse. Jessica looked around the cab. She pulled down the visor. Nothing. She searched through the glove compartment. Nothing. She looked in the island between the front seats. Still nothing.
“Is there a problem?”
“No.” Jessica turned back to Wilson. “The truck belongs to my boyfriend, and he went to get a tow. He probably has the registration with him.”
“I see.” Wilson moved back two steps and placed his right hand on his service revolver. “Please step out of the vehicle, ma’am.”
Jessica slid out of the Ram and closed the driver’s door behind her. Wilson motioned for her to move away from the vehicle and into the space between the truck and the squad car. Keeping Jessica in his peripheral vision, he examined her driver’s license. His eyes suddenly lit up. “Your name is Jessica Reynolds, ma’am?”
“With The Washington Standard?”
“The same Jessica Reynolds who wrote that expose on how some Washington cops were getting freebies from the city’s hookers in return for not busting them?”
Jessica sighed. Things could get much, much worse.
“You mentioned me several times in that article.”
“I didn’t think anyone read it.” Jessica sounded more flippant than she wanted to.
“Oh, they did. My supervisor, for one. He suspended me for two weeks without pay. And my fiancée. She broke off our engagement. But not before screwing a couple of my buddies on the force and humiliating me.”
Jessica thought of a dozen responses, all of them smart-ass comebacks that only would get here into more trouble. At a momentary loss for words, all she could say was, “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize, ma’am. You were just doing your job. As I’m doing mine.” Wilson removed his citation book from his back pocket. “By the way, did you know your license expired two months ago? Please turn around and place both hands on the bed of the truck.”
The situation had just gone into full FUBAR mode.
MARLOWE STRUGGLED UP the tunnel, finding it difficult to maintain his footing because of the moisture that covered the walls. It had taken him almost ten minutes, and he was still a few feet from the top. Even worse, the higher he climbed the stronger the stench became. His eyes watered and his stomach threatened to heave from the intensity. He fought back the urge to vomit, not wanting to climb back down through his own puke.
“Everything okay?” Patterson called out from below.
“I’m almost there. But this thing is slippery as hell. Coming down is gonna be a bitch.”
“Forget it, then. We’ll note what we found in the log and check it out later.”
“I came this far. Hang on.”
Reaching the top, Marlowe made certain of his footing and hoisted himself so his upper body extended over the edge. He turned his head to the left, letting the beam from the hard hat’s flashlight fall on the opposite wall.
Several desiccated bodies in various stages of decomposition littered the floor. The corpses swarmed with large, reddish-brown cockroaches. To his right, near the edge of the tunnel, lay a body no more than a couple of days old. Its neck had been torn open, allowing the body to bleed out. Swollen by internal gas, the abdomen had burst, draining a steady stream of fluid that flowed into the tunnel, which explained it being so slippery. Maggots churned through the organs, devouring the decaying remains.
Marlow swallowed back the vomit rising in his throat.
“What do you see?” called Patterson.
“Jesus, man. This place is a charnel house. There’s half a dozen corpses up here. Looks like junkies have been using this place as a drug house, and several of them OD’d. One of them looks like he’s been dead only a few—”
A noise to his rear caught Marlowe’s attention. He spun his head around. The light shined on someone crouched behind him near the edge of the tunnel. The figure kept its head lowered, so Marlowe could not see the face. It had a ghastly pallid color. Probably some junkie on an extended high who hadn’t seen the light of day in weeks.
“Hey, buddy. What the fuck’s going o—”
The thing looked up, glaring at Marlowe with a face that was not human. The eyes glowed at him from sunken sockets, the blood-red irises surrounded by sickeningly yellow pupils. Black matted hair hung over a slightly-protruding and deeply-furrowed forehead. The shriveled lips pulled back to reveal stained, two-inch long fangs. A guttural snarl emanated from its throat.
Marlowe started to scream when the thing lunged, plunging its fangs into his throat.
PATTERSON HEARD MARLOWE talking, followed by a blood-curdling scream. He directed his flashlight up the tunnel.
“Ted, are you all right?”
No answer. In the dim light, Patterson could see his friend thrashing.
“Hang on. I’m coming up.”
He had no idea how, though. Patterson was looking for something to climb onto when he heard the dull thud of a body hitting concrete. He looked up to see Marlowe sliding down the tunnel. Patterson jumped aside a split second before Marlowe tumbled out and crashed onto the sewer floor. Patterson bent over to check on him. Part of Marlowe’s spinal column protruded through a mass of torn flesh and tissue where his head used to be. As Patterson stared in shock and disbelief, something rolled out of the tunnel and dropped beside him. Marlowe’s head stared up at him, its eyes glazed and frozen in terror.
Movement from inside the tunnel caught Patterson’s attention. He looked up to see three things scurrying down toward him, head first. Through the minimal light from the flashlight, all he could make out were fangs and glowing red eyes. Whatever these things were, they were not human. He did not intend to stick around long enough to find out.
Leaving his dead friend behind, Patterson headed back the way he came, running as fast as his two hundred and fifty pound bulk would carry him.
MARLOWE’S SCREAM REACHED the hunters. Drake and Alison had heard that anguished cry before. Too many times. They instantly knew what it meant: someone had found the nest, and paid for that discovery with his life. Without saying a word, the hunters ran toward the scream.
They had covered ten yards when they nearly collided with a large man in a sewer worker’s uniform coming in the other direction.
“Run,” Patterson panted, gasping for breath. “They’re right… behind me.”
The sound of approaching vampires drew close. Drake could tell by the snarls that these things were hungry, which boded ill.
“How many?” Drake asked.
“Fuck that,” said Patterson. “We gotta—”
“How many?” Drake asked again, more forcibly this time.
“Jim, take him back to the pick-up. We’ll hold them off as long as possible.”
“No arguments here.” Jim pushed Patterson in the direction they had just come from. “Move!”
As the other two beat a hasty retreat, Drake unholstered his Glocks and Alison raised the shotgun into firing position.
They did not have long to wait.
The three vampires lunged out of the darkness, their hideous features barely distinguishable in the light from the weapons-mounted flashlights. Drake and Alison waited until they closed to within ten feet before firing.
The first round of buckshot tore a massive hole in the lead vampire’s chest and stopped it in its tracks. Alison chambered a second round and fired again, knocking the vampire into the second one in line. They lay in a writhing heap. Alison pumped two more rounds into the mass of undead.
Drake fired three rounds from each Glock into the third vampire as it jumped over its fallen brethren. Each .40 caliber round punched a large hole into its chest, knocking it to the sewer floor. Then the holy water began to seep into the wounds. The vampire thrashed around in agony. Drake fired four more rounds into it. The vampire arched its body in pain, rolled onto its hands and knees, and scurried back down the sewer. Drake fired at its back until the chambers of both Glocks locked open. He ejected the empty magazines and quickly reloaded.
Untangling itself from its wounded brethren, the second vampire lunged at Alison. She aimed the shotgun at its chest. Before she could fire, it sprang onto the ceiling, crawled over her head, and dropped to the ground behind her. Alison spun around to shoot, but it raced away.
“It’s going after Jim,” she warned.
Alison turned back just as the first vampire sprang at her. She raised the shotgun and fired. The vampire’s head exploded. Blood gushed from its neck, splattering the hunters and the sewer walls. It disintegrated in mid-lunge, showering Alison in ash and momentarily blinding her.
Drake finished reloading and chambered a round in each Glock. He heard the vampire that had retreated approaching for another attack.
“Let’s get out of here.”
Alison shook her head to clear away the ash. “Roger that.”
“And keep your eyes open in case that other one decides to backtrack on us.”
Alison led the way back down the storm drain line, with Drake glancing over his shoulder every few seconds to check on their pursuer. On his third look, he saw the vampire closing to within ten feet. Drake stopped and spun around, firing eight rounds into its chest. All eight found their mark, ripping chunks out of the vampire’s torso until Drake could see through its abdomen. The vampire faltered. It leaned against the wall, grimacing in pain. Then it came for them again, only much slower.
Alison reached the intersection with the sanitation line and turned right, heading toward the Ram. Drake stopped her and motioned in the other direction. “This way. I want to lead it away from the others.”
“You’re the boss.”
Drake shot a quick look down the branch line and saw the vampire still limping after them.
JIM AND PATTERSON reached the access ladder that led up to Jessica. Patterson fell back against the wall, gasping. His chest heaved as he struggled for air. His shirt clung to his body, drenched in sweat. Jim thought he might have a coronary right there in the sewer.
“Leave me here… kid… and save… yourself.”
“No way. We’re almost there.”
Patterson looked at the ladder, and dejection washed over his face. “There’s no way… I’m making it… up there.”
Jim heard something approaching from down the sewer. “It’s only a fifteen-foot climb to safety. Or would you rather end up like your friend?”
That galvanized Patterson. He climbed up onto the landing and scaled the rungs. Jim followed right behind. Patterson moved excruciatingly slow, the combination of his weight and his fear making the climb more difficult than usual. Jim wanted to yell at him to move his fat ass, but reasoned making him nervous would not help the situation. Instead, every few seconds he checked the landing to see if the vampire had found them.
They had almost reached the top when Patterson stopped.
“Keep going,” ordered Jim. “We’re almost there.”
“I can’t. Some asshole parked their car over the manhole.” Patterson reached up and banged the underside of the car. “Hey, move this fuckin’ thing!”
Jim looked down again just as a vampire stuck its head up the access tunnel. It flashed a sardonic grin. With the deliberate slowness of a hunter stalking its prey, it crawled onto the landing and slowly climbed the ladder. Reaching into the bag, Jim pressed the five-second-delay detonator cap on one of the bottles of Heaven’s Fire. Sliding the bag off of his shoulder, he dangled it over the access tunnel and dropped it.
Realizing what was about to happen, the vampire let go of the rungs, dropped to the landing, and rolled off into the sewer just as the bag crashed onto the cement. The twin bottles burst. A second later, the detonator cap exploded, igniting the home-made napalm. A blast of hot air shot up the tunnel, followed by a mushroom cloud of smoke, forcing Jim to turn away.
When Jim looked down, he saw the landing awash in flames. Beyond the flames, crouching in the sewer and waiting to pounce, sat the vampire.
“Any luck moving that car?”
“No.” Patterson looked down the tunnel at the flames. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Buying us some time.”
But not enough. The gasoline-detergent mixture burned itself out enough that the flames no longer posed a threat. With an animalistic snarl, the vampire jumped from the sewer onto the landing and began climbing.
JESSICA STOOD WITH her hands against the bed of the Ram. She wanted to tell Wilson where he could put his citation book, but knew that doing so would only make things worse. In the past ten minutes he had written her up for illegal parking, driving with an expired license, and failure to have proper registration with the vehicle. She half expected him to smash the headlights with his nightstick then cite her for that. Wilson was in the process of writing her up for some other nonsensical infraction when Jessica heard a commotion from under the squad car. Bending slightly, she saw the top of someone’s head sticking out of the open manhole. The person reached up and banged on the underside of the squad car.
“Hey, move this fuckin’ thing!”
Wilson turned to Jessica, his eyes narrow with anger. “What did you say?”
“That wasn’t me.”
Wilson stared at Jessica, not certain whether to believe her, then looked around the area.
The muffled sound of a small explosion came from underneath the squad car. Seconds later, black smoke poured from underneath the chassis and billowed up the sides. Wilson dropped the citation book and stepped back.
“What the fuck?”
“You have to move your car off the manhole,” said Jessica.
“No way, lady. It’s on fire.”
“No it’s not. The fire’s coming from inside the sewer.”
“How do you know that?” Wilson’s hand moved toward his service revolver as he stared at the smoke coming from underneath his squad car.
Jessica did not have time to argue. She took a step toward Wilson and called his name. When he turned in her direction, she kicked him as hard as she could in the balls. Wilson’s cry of pain degenerated into a tearful gasp. His hands fell to his crotch. He dropped to his knees, muttering something unintelligible through the pain. Not that Jessica listened. She raced past Wilson and slid into the squad car. Thankfully, he had left the engine running. Unable to see because of the smoke, she felt around for the shift, moved it into reverse, and backed up. An overweight man struggled to climb out the manhole, but could not get enough of a grip on the flat pavement to pull himself out. Jessica shifted into park, climbed out of the squad car, and raced over to help.
THE VAMPIRE HAD scurried half-way up the ladder when Patterson called out, “Someone’s moving the car.”
“About time.” Though Jim wondered if he had any left.
The vampire pounced on Jim, its talon-like nails slicing into his flesh as it crawled its way up his back. Jim tried to pull away, but the vampire pinned him to the wall. Its left hand wrapped around Jim’s cheek, pushing his head to one side and exposing his neck. He smelled the thing’s decayed breath and felt the cold exhalation on his skin.
Patterson finally crawled through the manhole and onto the street. The afternoon sun poured into the manhole, bathing the vampire in its rays. It bellowed so loud the noise deafened Jim. The vampire tried to crawl down to escape, but Jim shoved his body back, pinning it against the wall. Its skin began to burn off in small strips that crumbled into ash, the destruction becoming more rapid the longer it stayed in the sunlight. The vampire flailed around, trying to break free, until it eventually disintegrated into a cloud of dust and ash that settled to the landing.
Jim climbed the rest of the way up the ladder. Jessica waited for him and helped him through the manhole. As he stood up, Jessica studied the bloody claw marks on his back. “Oh my God. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Jim looked beyond Jessica. “Is everything okay up here?”
“I just wondered why that cop had a gun trained on us.”
Jessica turned. Patterson stood three feet away with his arms raised above his head. Wilson had struggled to his feet and stumbled over to the Ram. Steadying himself against the bed with his left hand, he aimed his service revolver at Jessica and Jim with his right. Tears still streamed down his face.
“All three of you. Face down on the pavement. Now!”
DRAKE AND ALISON raced along the sanitation sewer as fast as they could. Accumulated layers of human waste encrusted the walkway, making the footing underneath as slippery as ice. They kept a lead on the pursuing vampire by pausing every fifty feet and firing a few rounds into it. Each time they succeeded in stopping it only for a few seconds, barely long enough for them to gain ground. Despite sustaining a score of wounds that would have been fatal to a human, it continued the pursuit, a little slower after each set of wounds, and a hell of a lot more pissed off. Drake and Alison were rapidly running out of ammunition and stamina.
“I have only one magazine left,” Drake panted. “What about you?”
“Two or three rounds at most.”
“Then we better think of something quick.”
“Way ahead of you.”
Alison stopped running, spun around, and crouched. The vampire was only twenty feet behind them and closing fast. Alison aimed the shotgun, lowered the barrel a few inches, and squeezed the trigger. The first round peppered its right leg with buckshot. The second blew off its leg at the knee. With a guttural howl, it crashed to the walkway only a few feet from Alison. Yet without missing a stride, it came after her, crawling on its arms and single good leg.
Standing up, Alison raced off after Drake.
“This way.” Drake stood by the opening to another branch line blocked by a foot-high retainer wall. Alison jumped over the sanitation trough to the opposite walkway, nearly losing her balance. Drake reached out, grabbed her hand, and yanked her into the storm drain line. She regained her footing on the dry floor. The two raced down the drain. After one hundred feet, they came to another landing and access tunnel adjacent to a construction site. An acetylene tank, a jack hammer, and a portable generator sat on either side of the landing. Across from the tunnel sat a storage area recessed into the wall and covered with a chain link fence. The gate stood open, a metal chain and padlock dangling off the handle.
Alison made for the landing, but Drake directed her into the storage area.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Trust me. I have an idea.”
Once inside, Drake pulled the gate shut and secured the chain around the metal supports. He had just secured the padlock between two links when the vampire slammed into the gate in front of him. Drake jumped back, stumbling into a stack of wooden crates.
Decayed tissue and tendons hung from the vampire’s severed leg. Buckshot wounds peppered its face and body, each oozing blood and gore. Smoke swirled from more than a dozen .40 caliber wounds where holy water burned into its body. It snarled at Drake. Then, realizing its victims were trapped, its expression changed. It ran a blackened tongue over its gums, as if savoring its next meal. Reaching up, the vampire grabbed the corner of the fence and began ripping it away from the support columns.
Drake took Alison by the arm and led her behind the wooden crates.
“Great plan, Einstein,” she said. “Any more brilliant ideas?”
“Yeah. Take cover.”
Alison sprawled face down between the crates and wall. Drake got onto his back and leaned around the corner of the last crate. By now, the vampire had pulled away an entire corner of the chain link fence. Drake aimed his Glock at the acetylene tank and fired off a round.
It ricocheted off of one of the metal supports.
He fired off a second round.
It struck the cement just to the right of the tank.
The vampire hoisted itself up onto the fence and pushed through the opening.
Drake fired off a third round.
It punctured the acetylene tank.
Drake covered his head with his arms and braced himself as the acetylene ignited. An ear shattering explosion rocked the sewer, flinging the jack hammer and generator down the line and ripping the chain links off of their support. Drake felt something heavy hit his back as the shattered remnants of the crates collapsed upon him. A massive fireball tore through the sewer and storage area, incinerating the vampire. Not even ashes remained.
An eerie silence descended over them. For a moment, Drake thought he was dead. After a few seconds he became aware of the crackling of flames and the clump of falling debris, and smelled the charred odor of burnt wood and leather. Crawling out from under the pile of wood, he checked himself. His jacket had been charred, and he had second-degree burns on his hands. Despite that, and a body that ached all over, he appeared to be all right. Tomorrow he would be in agony. But at least he was alive.
Alison! Stumbling over to where she had taken cover, Drake pulled off the wood that covered her. After what seemed like an eternity of digging, he saw the back of her leather coat. She lay motionless. Drake prayed she was just unconscious. He shook her shoulder, but got no response. Becoming increasingly worried, he removed the rest of the debris, then sat beside Alison and rolled her over. Wrapping one arm around her back, he used his free hand to gently slap her face. “Wake up. You can’t die like this.”
Alison moaned and twisted her neck. Her eyes opened, and she focused on his face. “Are you all right? Say something.”
She looked at him and smiled. “You don’t pay me enough for this shit.”
Drake pulled Alison close and hugged her.
Vampyrnomicon 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 first and third books in the trilogy, The Vampire Hunters and Dominion.