Hell Breaks Loose
A wave of anxiety washed over Jody as she woke up. "Tommy," she called. She leaped out of bed and went into the living area, not stopping to turn on the light.
The loft was quiet. She checked the answering machine: no messages.
I'm not going to do this again, she thought. I can't handle another night of worrying.
She'd cleaned up the mess from the police search the night before, put lemon oil on the wood, scrubbed out the sinks and the tubs, and watched cable TV until dawn. All the time she thought about what Tommy had said about sharing, about being with someone who could understand what you saw and how you felt. She wanted that.
She wanted someone who could run the night with her, someone who could hear the buildings breathe and watch the sidewalks glow with heat just after sundown. But she wanted Tommy. She wanted love. She wanted the blood-high and she wanted sex that touched her heart. She wanted excitement and she wanted security.
She wanted to be part of the crowd, but she wanted to be an individual. She wanted to be human, but she wanted the strength, the senses, and the mental acuity of the vampire. She wanted it all.
What if I had a choice, she thought, if that medical student could cure me, would I go back to being human? It would mean that Tommy and I could stay together, but he would never know the feeling of being a god, and neither would I. Never again.
So I leave; what then? I'm alone. More alone than I've ever been. I hate being alone.
She stopped pacing and went to the window. The cop from the night before was out there, sitting in a brown Dodge, watching. The other cop had followed Tommy.
"Tommy, you jerk. Call me."
The cop would know where Tommy was. But how to get him to tell? Seduce him? Use the Vulcan nerve pinch? Sleeper hold?
Maybe I should just go up there and knock on the door, Rivera thought. "Inspector Alphonse Rivera, San Francisco PD. If you have a few minutes, I'd like to talk to you about being dead. How was it? Who did it? Did it piss you off?"
He adjusted himself in the car seat and took a sip from his coffee. He was trying to pace his smoking. No more than four cigarettes an hour. He was in his forties now and he couldn't handle the four-pack-a-night stakeouts - going home with his throat raw, his lungs seared, and a vicious ache in his sinuses. He checked his watch to see if enough time had passed since he'd last lit up. Almost. He rolled down the car window and something caught him by the throat, cutting off his breath. He dropped his coffee, feeling the scald in his lap as he reached in his jacket for his gun. Something caught his hand and held it like a bear trap.
The hand on his throat relaxed a bit and he sucked in a short breath. He tried to turn his head and the clamp on his throat cut off his breath again. A pretty face came through the window.
"Hi," Jody said. She loosened her grip on his throat a degree.
"Hi," Rivera croaked.
"Feel the grip on your wrist?"
Rivera felt the bear trap on his wrist tighten, his hand went numb, and his whole arm lit up with pain.
"Okay," Jody said. "I'm pretty sure I can crush your windpipe before you could move, but I wanted you to be sure too. You sure?"
Rivera tried to nod.
"Good. Your partner followed Tommy last night. Do you know where they are now?"
Again Rivera attempted to nod. On the seat next to him, the cell phone chirped.
She released his arm, snatched the gun out of his shoulder holster, flipped off the safety, and pointed it at his head, all before he could draw a single breath. "Take me there," she said.
Elijah Ben Sapir watched the red dots moving around on the video screen above his face. He had awakened feeling gleeful about killing the fledgling's toy boy, then he saw that his home had been invaded. He was hit with an emotion so rare it took him a while to recognize it. Fear. It had been a long time since he'd been afraid. It felt good.
The dots on the screen were moving around on the stern of the boat, scrambling in and out of the main cabin above. Every few seconds a dot would disappear off the screen, then reappear. They were getting in and out of a raft at the stern.
The vampire reached up and flipped a series of toggle switches. The big diesels on either side of his vault roared to life. Another toggle and an electric winch began grinding in the anchor.
"Move, move, move!" Tommy shouted into the cabin. "The engines started."
Barry came through the hatch carrying a bronze statue of a ballerina. Tommy waited at the stern of the yacht with Drew. Troy Lee, Lash, Jeff, Glint, and the Emperor and his troops were already in the raft, trying to find room to move around the paintings and statues.
"Over," Tommy said, taking the statue from Barry as the squat diver went over the side into the arms of the waiting Animals, almost capsizing the raft. Tommy threw the statue down to the Emperor, who caught it and went to the floor of the raft with its weight.
Tommy threw a leg over the railing, and looked back. "Light it, Drew. Now!"
Drew bent and held his lighter to the end of a wax-coated strip of cloth that ran across the stern deck and through the hatch to the main cabin. He watched the flame follow the trail for a few feet, then stood and joined Tommy at the rail. "It's going."
They went over the rail backward and the Animals obliged them by stepping aside and letting them both hit the floor of the raft unimpeded. The raft lurched and righted itself. Tommy fought for breath to give a command.
"Paddle, men!" the Emperor shouted.
The Animals began to beat the water with their paddles. There was a loud clunking noise from the yacht as the transmission engaged and the raft was rocked as the twin screws engaged and began pushing the yacht away from them.
"Rivera," Rivera said into the cell phone.
"The yacht is moving," Cavuto said. "I think I just aided these guys in looting it." He unzipped a leather case on the car seat, revealing a huge chrome-plated automatic pistol, a Desert Eagle.50-caliber. It fired bullets roughly the weight of a small dog and kicked like a jackhammer. One shot could reduce a cinder block to gravel.
"I'm on my way," Rivera said.
"What about the girl?" Cavuto slammed a clip into the Desert Eagle, dropped another one into his jacket pocket.
"She's - she'll be fine. I'm at Van Ness and Lombard. I'll be there in about three minutes. Don't call in backup."
"I'm not - oh Jesus Christ!"
"The fucking thing just blew up."
A fountain of flame shot from the stern of the Sanguine II, a second passed, and the rest of the yacht disappeared in a cloud of flame that rose into the sky above her. She had cleared the breakwater and was perhaps three hundred yards out into the bay when the fuse reached Drew's incendiary cocktail.
The raft had just made the dock when the explosion went off. Tommy leaped onto the dock and watched the mushroom cloud dissipate. The shock wave rolled in and Tommy reached back to the raft and caught the Emperor before he went into the water.
Debris rained down around them. A pool of fire and unexploded diesel fuel spread out across the water, illuminating the whole area with a dancing bright orange.
"Is this a party boat, or what?" Drew shouted.
The Animals scrambled out of the raft onto the dock and began handing up the objets d'art. Tommy stood aside and watched the burn. Bummer cowered in the Emperor's arms.
"Do you think we got him?"
Jeff handed the Degas ballerina to Troy and looked over his shoulder. "Fucking A, we got him. Nice mix, Drew."
Drew took a bow and almost went over the edge of the dock.
The Emperor said. "I can't help but think that the explosion may have attracted the attention of the authorities, gentlemen. I would recommend a speedy retreat."
Drew looked at the burning slick. "I wish I had some acid. This would be great on acid."
Jeff jumped down into the raft and handed up the last painting, the Miro. He looked past Troy Lee, who was wrestling up the heavy frame, and said, "Whoops."
"What?" Troy said.
Jeff nodded past him and the Animals turned around. Cavuto had a very large, very shiny pistol pointed at them.
"No one move!"
They didn't. The spearguns were stacked on the dock. Glint held the shotgun loosely at his side as he prayed. He dropped it.
"Drop it," Cavuto said.
"I did," said Clint.
"That's true, he did," Tommy said. "And before you asked. He should get extra credit for that."
Cavuto motioned with the pistol. "Everybody down. On your faces. Now!" The Animals dropped. Lazarus barked.
The Emperor stepped forward. "Officer, these young men have - "
"Now!" Cavuto screamed. The Emperor dropped to the dock with the Animals.
The screens went dark an instant before he was slammed against the side of the vault. He tumbled inside, feeling his flesh burn on the steel with every turn. The vault glowed red with the heat and had filled with smoke from the seared wires and the vampire's clothing.
After a few seconds the tumbling stopped. The vampire was jammed into one end of the vault, his face against his knees. His skin was stinging and he tried to will it to heal, but it had been days since he had fed, so the healing came slowly.
He located the lid by finding the smashed CRT and radar screens. Salt water sprayed in a fine mist from behind the screens. He pushed on the lid but it didn't move. He felt for the latches and released them, then heaved against the lid with force that would have crumpled a car fender, yet the lid stayed fast. The heat of the explosion had welded it shut.
I should have killed him last week, the vampire thought. This is what I get for indulging my pleasures.
He reached into the broken CRT, looking for the source of the spraying water, then concentrated his will and went to mist. The transition was slow, weak as he was, but when he had finally lost his solid form he followed the path of the water and wormed his way through the pinhole to the open ocean.
The vault lay on the bottom in a hundred and twenty feet of water and as soon as the vampire escaped, the pressure of four atmospheres condensed him to his solid shape. He tried to force himself to mist, failed, then swam toward the orange glow at the surface, thinking, The boy dies first, then a new suit.
He broke the surface in the midst of the flame slick, then scissor-kicked hard enough to bring himself completely out of the water and tried to go to mist. His limbs dissolved in the air, their vapor whipped by the flame and standing out white in the rolling black diesel smoke, but he could not hold. He fell back into the water, followed by a vortex of vapor that condensed back to solid form under water. Frustrated and angry, he began the swim around the breakwater toward the yacht club.
Cavuto panned the Desert Eagle back and forth across the heads of the prostrated Animals as he moved forward to get their weapons. Lazarus growled and backed away as the big cop approached. Sirens sounded in the distance. Crew members and yacht owners were popping out of the hatches of nearby yachts like curious prairie dogs.
"Inside!" Cavuto shouted, and the yachters ducked for cover.
Cavuto heard footsteps on the dock behind him and swung quickly around. The gate guard, looking down the cavelike barrel of the Eagle, stopped as if he'd hit a force field. Cavuto swung back to cover the Animals.
Over his shoulder Cavuto said, "Go back to the gate and call nine-one-one. Tell them to send me some backup."
"Right," the guard said.
"All right, scumbags, you're under arrest. And if any of you even twitches, I'll turn you into a red stain. You have the right..."
The vampire came out of the water like a wet comet and landed on the dock behind the Animals. He was burned black and his clothes hung in sooty shreds. Cavuto fired without thinking and missed. The vampire looked up long enough to grin at him, then reached down and snatched Tommy by the back of his shirt and yanked him up like a rag doll.
Cavuto aimed and fired again. The second shot hit the vampire in the thigh, taking out a three-inch chuck of flesh. The vampire dropped Tommy, turned on Cavuto, and leaped. The third bullet caught the vampire in the abdomen, the impact spraying flesh and spinning him in the air like a football. He landed in a heap at Cavuto's feet. The big cop tried to back away to get another shot off, but before he could aim, the vampire snatched the gun out of his hand, taking most of the skin off his trigger finger. He leaped backward, clawing inside his jacket for his detective special as the vampire tossed the Desert Eagle over his shoulder and climbed to his feet. "You are a dead man," he growled.
Cavuto watched the gaping wounds in the vampire's leg and stomach pulsing, bubbling, and filling with smoke. He caught the butt of his revolver just as the vampire leaped, his fingers outstretched to drive into Cavuto's chest.
Cavuto ducked, heard a hiss and a loud thunk, and looked up, amazed that he was still alive. The vampire had stopped an inch from him. A gleaming spear through his leg had pinned him to the dock. The black kid stood a few yards away, a gas-powered speargun in hand.
The vampire wrenched himself around and clawed at the spear. Cavuto yanked out his gun, but with his damaged finger he ended up flinging it off the dock. He heard the sound of tires behind him, then a car coming down the dock. A second spear thunked through the vampire's shoulder.
Tommy threw the speargun aside. The Animals were all on their feet. "Troy, throw me the sword!"
Troy Lee picked up the fighting sword from the deck and threw it at Tommy. Tommy sidestepped; the sword whizzed by him and clattered on the dock near Cavuto, who was standing motionless, stunned at almost seeing his own death.
"Handle first, you doofus," Tommy said as he ran after the sword.
The vampire yanked the spear out of his shoulder and reached for the one in his leg.
The Emperor picked up his wooden sword from the deck and charged the vampire. Lash caught him by the collar, yanking him aside as Barry fired a third spear, hitting the vampire in the hip. Jeff let go with a blast from the shotgun.
The vampire jerked with the impact of the shot and screamed.
Tommy dived for the fighting sword at Cavuto's feet. The big cop lifted him to his feet.
"Thanks," Tommy said.
"You're welcome," Cavuto said.
"I didn't kill those people."
"I'm figuring that out," Cavuto said.
A brown car skidded to a stop on the dock. Tommy looked up for an instant, then turned and headed toward the vampire, who was clawing at the spear in his leg. His wounds bubbled and seethed with vapor; his body was trying to heal even as new damage was inflicted on it.
Tommy raised the sword over the vampire's head and closed his eyes.
"No!" It was Jody's voice.
Tommy opened his eyes. Jody was on her knees, shielding the vampire, who had given up the struggle and was waiting for the final blow. "No," Jody said. "Don't kill him."
Tommy lowered the sword. Jody looked at Jeff, who still held the shotgun. "No," she said. Jeff looked at Tommy, who nodded. Jeff lowered the shotgun.
"Kill the fiend, now!" cried the Emperor, still struggling against Lash's hold on his coat.
"No," Jody said. She pulled the spear out of the vampire's leg and he screamed. She patted his head. "One more," she said quietly. She yanked the spear out of his hip and he gasped.
Jody propped the vampire up on her lap. The Animals and Cavuto stood watching, not sure what to do. Clint prayed quietly, barely audible over the approaching siren.
"Blood," the vampire said. He looked into Jody's eyes. "Yours."
"Give me that sword, Tommy." Jody said.
He hesitated and raised the sword to strike.
"No!" She covered the vampire with her body.
"But Jody, he's killed people."
"You don't know anything, Tommy. They were all going to die anyway."
"Get out of the way."
Jody turned to Cavuto. "Tell him. All the victims were terminally ill, weren't they?"
Cavuto nodded. "The coroner said that none of them had more than a few months."
Tommy was almost in tears. "He killed Simon."
"Simon had AIDS, Tommy."
"No way. Not Simon. Simon was the animal of the Animals."
"He was hiding it from you guys. He was scared to death. Now, please, give me the sword."
"No, get out of the way."
Tommy reared back for the killing blow. He felt a hand on his shoulder, then another one catch his sword arm and pull it down. He looked around to see the Emperor.
"Let him go, son. The measure of a man's power is the depth of his mercy. Give me the sword. The killing is over."
The Emperor worked the sword out of Tommy's grip and handed it to Jody. She took it, ran the blade across her wrist, then held the wound to the vampire's mouth. He took her arm in his hands and drank.
Jody looked at Cavuto. "Your partner is handcuffed to the wheel of the car. Get him and walk away before anyone else gets here. I need the car. I don't want to be followed either."
Cavuto dropped back into cop mode. "Bullshit."
"Go get your partner and go. Do you want to explain this?"
"All this." Jody pulled her arm out of the vampire's mouth and gestured around the dock. "Look, the murders will stop. I promise. We're leaving and we're never coming back. So let it drop. And leave Tommy and these guys alone."
"Or what?" Cavuto said.
Jody cradled the old vampire and lifted him as she stood up. "Or we'll come back." She carried the vampire to the cruiser and put him in the back seat and crawled in with him. Rivera was sitting in the front seat. Cavuto came to the side of the car and handed his handcuff key through the window to Rivera.
"I told you," Rivera said.
Cavuto nodded. "We're fucked, you know? We have to let them go."
Rivera unlocked the handcuffs and got out of the car. He stood next to Cavuto, not sure what to do next.
Jody stuck her head out the back window of the cruiser. "Come on, Tommy, you drive."
Tommy turned to the Emperor, who nodded for him to go, then to the Animals. "You guys, get that stuff off the dock. In Troy's car. Get out of here. I'll call you at the store tomorrow."
Tommy shrugged, got in the car, and started it. "What now?"
"To the loft, Tommy. He needs a dark place to heal."
"I'm not comfortable with this, Jody. I want you to know that. I'd like to know what your relationship is to this guy."
The vampire moaned.
"Drive," she said.
They pulled off the dock, leaving the Animals scrambling around collecting the art and the two policemen staring at them in amazement.
She said, "I love you, Tommy, but I need someone who's like me. Someone who understands. You know how that is, right?"
"So you run off with the first rich older guy that comes along?"
"He's the only one, Tommy." She stroked the vampire's burned hair. "I don't have any choice. I hate being alone. And if he died, then I'd never know about what I am."
"So you two are going away? You're leaving me?"
"I wish I could think of some other way. I'm sorry."
"I knew you'd break my heart."
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