The Orphan

Warren: Club Trinity, 10 p.m.

The heavy beat of the tunes the DJ was piping through the tall speakers mounted in the rafters made the club vibrate. The smell of alcohol and was faintly offset by scent of incense piped through the large air handlers. Through all this human forms wove, laughed, drank and danced. I breathed it in for a moment, testing the supernatural acuity of my senses.

I leaned on the balcony railing and opened my eyes slightly, looking down on the teaming throng writhing their way along the dance floor. A flash of red drew my attention to a tall, dark-haired beauty standing next to a support pillar. She wore a long, red dress tonight and it clung to her sensual curves. I felt my hunger for her stir. Sonja.

She smiled up at me. It was the first smile she’d shown me in weeks. Since well before the trouble that led me to create a Childe I loathed. Then, suddenly, she was gone.

Something was wrong. I leaned over the railing trying to see what happened, but she’d moved under the balcony too far. I caught sight of her again facing away from me. There was another man there and then suddenly, something sharp burst from her back. She went rigid. Firm hands grabbed her before she collapsed and whisked her from my sight again.

I stood there frozen for a long moment, disbelieving what my eyes told me was fact. Then, I burst into action, moving through the crowd like a barracuda through water; first I was there, then I was where Sonja had just been standing. I’d leapt from the balcony so fast, no one saw anything but a blur. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but I was move exponentially faster than I had ever moved before. One large man expertly maneuvered her out the front doors as if she’d only passed out, while another threw a long coat around her shoulders to conceal the horrid wound.

A large group of cheering kids blocked my view and I snarled inwardly with frustration. The moment they were out of my way, I was out the doors and looking for Sonja and her captors. I saw them stuffing her into the back seat of a grey sedan. One looked back at me and then yelled for the driver to, “Go go go!” He barely threw himself in after Sonja before the car took off in a chorus of screeching tires.

I memorized the plates as I pulled out my cell phone and pressed the speed dial for Gillian. I started to run after the car as I told Rose, “Get my car and head to Lincoln Way. Keep your phone on so I can give you more directions.” I put on the ear piece and dropped the phone back into my pocket. I’d keep the line open and I knew she would do the same.

Having already sensed my tone and urgency, Gillian’s personality had already receded and was replaced by Rose’s more impassioned personality. “I understand,” Rose replied. I could hear her breathing and knew she was already running.

I used another burst of speed to race after the car, then leaped with all the supernatural power and grace my sire had graced me. I hurtled through the cold night air and landed on the roof of the grey sedan like a spider pouncing on prey as it ran through a four way stop. It dented where my hands and knees impacted and I nearly bounced and flung himself off the car. Drivers who had the right of way mashed their horns and swerved to avoid a collision.

The driver of the grey sedan was more concerned about getting me off the car than traffic laws. He accelerated hard, the hit the breaks. I managed to stay on top, though my hands ripped up some of the thin sheet metal covering of the roof. The car took off again when the driver realized I hadn’t been dislodged.

The sedan roared down the street, hopping madly over railroad tracks and barreled into the light-controlled intersection at Lincoln. Without stopping, it ran the red light and made a hard left, wheels screaming in protest. I lost my grip and was thrown across the street until I hit the glass-enclosed bus stop way-point. It shattered in a sparkling rain of glass. My momentum was only broken by the heavy wood and steel bench bolted to the concrete inside.

I picked himself up as I glared at the retreating car. I couldn’t continue the pursuit on foot. Although I could catch up to the car in terms of sheer speed, it wasn’t a pace I could maintain for long without having to feed again very soon. Besides, I had risked the Masquerade enough already. If I drew more attention I could be held in breach of hte Duke’s law. I couldn’t afford my pursuit of my sire’s captors delayed one second more than necessary, and that meant avoiding attention of kine and Kindred alike.

I kept my eyes on the retreating sedan. “Rose, I’m at the bus stop in front of the tire store. I need a pickup.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

Moments later, my car pulled up. I didn’t wait for it to stop before grabbing the door and throwing myself inside.

“Grey four-door. License plate NWE 035. I saw them head straight east through the Lincoln Way and Duff intersection.”

Rose nodded. “That will take them out of the city pretty quickly. Nothing along that route but farm houses and town of Nevada.”

“Right,” I affirmed. “Keep your eyes open in case they turn onto a side road but keep on them.” I dug under my seat and pulled out the kevlar vest Melvin had given me the last time they had to go up against a bunch of gunmen. I strapped it on, then popped the glove compartment. Inside there was a spare handgun I’d liberated from said previous bunch of gunmen as well as a punch dagger. I gripped the dagger it in my fist and strapped that one onto my left arm, then drew the one I usually kept on my person. I could grip that one with my right hand, but I didn’t strap it since I might need to retain manual dexterity if we caught up with the bastards that grabbed Sonja. Besides, I didn’t want to accidentally stab my car door getting out.

Rose slammed the gas pedal to the floor after clearing the last controlled intersection and sped through the underpass over which ran the wide, interstate highway lanes. She glanced at Warren nostrils flaring and eyes burning with intensity. “Don’t worry boss. We’ll get the fuckers. Every last one of them.”

I realized she was feeling a reflection of the emotions that churned in my own soul. It was a thirst for revenge, a lust for battle. For Blood.

The men in the grey sedan noticed they were being followed pretty quickly because Rose had to draw close for them to read the license plates; it was too dark to tell the color of the car anymore. They hit their accelerator and began to slowly pull away. Rose had already buried the gas pedal on Warren’s old beater. I punched the glove compartment door in frustration and wondered if it would ever open again now that it sported a new concave fashion and puncture slot in the middle.

Rose and I continued pursuit, helpless to do anything about their Sonja’s captors pulling away. We knew that if their quarry turned off, they’d know it, at least for a while. The town of Nevada was up ahead, though, and there was a real danger they could lose the sedan there.

I reached over and grabbed the wheel. I told Rose to turn off the headlights. I could see perfectly well in the dark (a handy trick Logan had taught me) so all she had to do was break when I told her to while I steered. The idea was that the grey sedan would think they’d given up the chase.

It seemed to work. The sedan slowed once they hit the town’s outskirts, then turned off into a wide parking lot. I realized immediately that this was the site of new construction. The diocese was building a new church here. I could see the bones of the building already rising from the ground and that most of the walls were up.

I had Rose drive past and pull into the next available parking lot. That happened to belong to a medical clinic and it was mostly empty now. That would do. I hopped out of the car and heard Rose’s car door open and close, too. I turned to tell her to stay here.

“Wait,” she said and paced around the car. “Think. If they were going to kill her, she’d already be dead. Anything else they’re going to do is going to take a little time.”

I watched her. It sounded sensible, but I wasn’t feeling all that sensible right now. She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and planted a fierce, hungry kiss on his lips. I stared back at her, seeing the same furious rage that burned me reflected through her eyes.

“I’ll be behind you,” she said. “Well behind you, but I’m not staying at the car tonight. Tonight I’m your backup. Now go get ‘em.”

I turned and looked across a grassy drainage ditch toward the new construction. They’d already dragged Sonja somewhere inside. My eyes penetrated shadow and gloom spotting a half dozen men stationed in shaded spots around the construction site out of pools of light made by spotlights turned on to protect the site by construction workers.

I was going to break the sixth commandment tonight. A lot. I meant to do it until I had Sonja and answers.

“Don’t get killed,” I told her unnecessarily. She was already zipping up a bullet proof vest. Where in the name of God had she found one of those? I didn’t remember seeing it before, though I vaguely remembered mentioning it to her once. I guess she took it seriously. Smart, given the kind of danger I usually found myself in.

I turned my attention to the the parking lot of the new church, which lay on the other side of that grassy drainage ditch. I counted a half dozen men, most of them obviously wearing shoulder holsters over dark-colored shirts. I frowned. Was it already warm enough to go without jackets? I’d lost track of the weather and even time of year since I died. It didn’t matter much anymore.

By the bulk, I could tell they all wore vests. Wasn’t going to help them tonight; bullet-proof vests weren’t knife proof, and that’s what I was coming at them with. In fact, they were practically useless against a blade. The material resisted ballistic impacts, not the cutting action of things like blades and broad-heads.

I burned some more of my internal reserves, pouring on strength and speed. It was almost ridiculously easy to find myself behind my first target. I mapped in my mind exactly where I’d hit him and then in a blink of an eye, his spine was punctured twice and a third punch rammed a knife into his brain through the back of his head. I’d underestimated my own strength, though. I took out half his skull.

His partner was only a few paces away. He had just enough time to turn and draw his weapon on me. I caught his hand, shoved his aim toward the sky and drove my punch knife into his throat. His fingers convulsively squeezed the trigger, firing rounds into the sky that gave me away. So it would be the hard way from here on out.

Another pair of guards were positioned at the other side of the lot where they had a view of their partner’s position. They were professionals, then, always having at least one other group covering. Bullets flew at me and then I was moving too fast for them to target. Still, a lucky shot or two scraped a shoulder and another impacted my vest. Neither bothered me or slowed me.

It was over for the first one before he knew I was there. The second I disarmed and hefted off his feet as if he weighed no more than a child. I pushed his neck back and took a bite. After a quick snack to recharge, I was off again, heading straight for a pair of guards that were already shooting at me from what would soon be the front entrance of the church.

I slammed into the two of them with all the strength and power I had. I must have hit them at eighty miles an hour. At least, it felt like that. We blew through the frame where the front doors would go. The impact must have shattered their spines.

Then I was inside. It was eerie because there were all these rafters up and I could see them clearly against the stars. In the candle light, they looked like the remains of a rotted rib cage.

Candle light. I hissed in irritation at the reminder of a vampire’s most deadly foe; fire.

“You came,” said a snake-like voice. I would know Bishop Steele’s voice anywhere. “I knew you couldn’t resist coming to the rescue of an innocent girl.”

I frowned. Just who the hell did he think he have? I looked around and saw a casked sitting with the top half open. There was an open can of gas sitting on top of the casked and the bishop stood nearby with a lit candle. The bastard had to be nuts. He could have set himself on fire as well as Sonja doing that. But the message was clear — one misstep and they both went up in a fireball.

“What do you want, Bishop?” I said.

“To talk with you. I wanted … an even playing field so to speak. I knew you wouldn’t take anything I said seriously unless I had your undivided attention. Thus the little drama I’ve set up.”

I took a step toward him, trying to gauge if I could grab Sonja out of the casket and get out of her before the Bisho burned us all alive.

He seemed to sense my intent. “Tch. Don’t make me drop the candle. Your girlfriend here is soaked in gasoline. I guarantee you could not possibly get her out of here before the fireball enveloped both of you.”

I froze. “I have nothing to say to you, Bishop. Give me Sonja and you get out of here alive.”

“Oh, I don’t think your threat holds much water, Deacon Brody. I’m protected, as you well know, by others of your own kind. Important others. You are not to contact me. I thought my benefactor made that clear to you in our last meeting? The one where you somehow summoned me to you like a fucking dog.”

The gloves were off and the Bishop’s protection no longer benefited him. Melvin and I already had that as fact from the Duke himself. We had leave to do whatever it took to stave off or prevent the brewing war and the Duke had made it clear he didn’t care if we had to step on toes. The bishop obviously didn’t know that. I decided it would be a fact I’d enjoy surprising him with later.

He took my silence as agreement and continued yammering at me while I envisioned skinning him alive.

“You see, I don’t think we are really very different. We both are men of the cloth, or at least, we used to be.” He gave me a sick smile. “Yet we have our little vices, do we not?” The twisted bastard’s smile grew bigger. I couldn’t get the image of him corrupting kids out of my head. My rage burned bright again.

“We should be working together, not wasting so much energy and… manpower on pointless conflict.”

“Get to the point,” I said. I was losing patience. The longer he talked, the more I was willing try for Sonja despite the risk of fire. I hated the sound of his voice that much.

“You have what I want; the Blood. And I have something you want; vital information about those of your kind with whom I deal.”

I hesitated. He would turn on his own benefactors? Did I scare him that much? Or was he just that much of cowardly worm he was trying to hedge his bets against.

“Information I could give you through our connection to the church,” he continued. “My benefactors would be unable to detect it, wouldn’t know the secrets I was giving you. You might even be able to take them down with what I give you. All I ask is that you think about it.”

A man materialized behind him and put a hand on the bishop’s shoulder. “I’ll be leaving now,” he said. “Remember what we talked about.”

I recognized the man. He was that wizard-for-hire I’d shot at a warehouse trap the Bishop had set for my friends and I a few months back. He didn’t look all that pleased to see me again, but he didn’t stick around to swap stories about old times. He and the bishop vanished.

I was at the casket in one blink and in the next, I had her out of there. I carried her out the back of the church, where I sensed Rose had taken position. There were two more dead men back here, shot. She must have killed them while I was smashing my way in the front because I never heard the shots.

Rose was frowning at me. “Who’s that, boss?”

I looked down at the woman in my arms. She had on the red dress I’d seen her wear early, had red hair, but it wasn’t Sonja. And there was a lot of blood from around the stake they’d driven through her heart. With a snarl, I ripped the stake out, but she remained very dead.

“Kine. They murdered this girl knowing I’d think it was Sonja,” I said.

Rose didn’t say anything. She just took my arm, put it around her shoulders, then put an arm around my waist to comfort me. I was so angry I was shaking. I wanted to kill everything and everyone just out of pure rage at having been tricked, at the fact an innocent girl had been set up and murdered just so that bastard could have a conversation with me. I was angry with myself for letting it happen. Nine people dead tonight and for what?

Rose sensed I was close to losing it, but she took the risk. She clung to me until I found myself. Odd to think that a young woman who barely had a grip on reality herself could be my rock in a crimson storm, but she was.

I closed my eyes and slowly calmed down. I hadn’t been thinking straight all night. I never stopped to think about what I saw. I didn’t take into account what could have happened if I’d been seen going after those men at the club. And I hadn’t been thinking about what was going to happen once shooting had started here.

I was now. Police approached in cars with screaming sirens. I knew they’d be here in a minute, but Rose calmly watched me, looking into my eyes and tried to lend me strength to keep things from turning into a worse bloodbath.

Finally I put the slain woman in red down on the ground and let Rose lead me back to the car. We were pulling away from the medical parking lot just as the cops screeched to a halt in the new church’s parking lot. Rose drove. I had a lot to think about.

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