Here is maybe some of the last content exclusive to this channel, the second excerpt from Vampires Will Never Hurt You, Excerpt The Second, Chapter I:
Five hours earlier, Hope Hadley was dropped off by a local bus that she’d hopped on at the nearest regional Greyhound depot. Hope was a tender seventeen years old, which was, at that moment and to her thinking, a most inconvenient age to be. It meant she was still a minor, and still subject to the court order—no matter how hard she resented it—that she’d been served requiring her to visit her biological father. Even if she’d rather be by her mother’s side as the poor woman battled cancer, or anywhere else for that matter.
The sun was setting over Lake Galena, a hazy orange sinking down through the cloud layer, reminding her for whatever reason of radiation. At present she was at the intersection of Rural Route 301 and Galena Avenue; across the street from her were two of the tiny hamlet’s six churches, the Gilead United Methodist Church and then the Church of St. James the Apostle, , along with the town and county supreme court. To her left (north) was the Gilead Diner, open 24-7. Kitty corner around the block to the left was Fair Street which lead past the local high school and eventually to the address of her father—a lawyer, she thought, wrinkling her tiny, pixie-like nose at the his odious profession—and his practice. If she felt like biting the bullet now, she could go see him directly, but she didn’t, she felt like procrastinating.
So Hope turned left and got a room at Smalley’s Inn, an authentically quaint little Irish Tavern and public house.
You need to see Hope and see her very well as she settles into her quaint little room at Smalley’s Inn, taking off her olive drab army jacket and sniffing her armpits in her black tanktop, applying an apple-lavender deodorant to cut down on the smell of “several days on Greyhounds” that still faintly clings to her. Hope is 5’3” and somewhere near 105 lbs. Her ears are pointed in an almost elfin way, and pierced multiple time. Her hair, cut in a short bob that accentuates her bangs, is dyed a shade of pure lilac. Hope is an attractive young girl, for certain, but not enough to be an actress or a model. However, Hope has a certain…something.
Hope didn’t know much about this something herself. And counterpoising Hope’s ability to unintentionally provoke unrequited adoration more unfortunately, she hadn’t even the most remote suspicions about the equal and opposite power that existed, something else entirely.
An hour later, Simon Stark turned on his headlights, driving into Gilead from the south along State Highway No. 6, hugging the curving dark banks of Lake Galena. Simon was a 31-year-old private detective who worked out of New York City and considered Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe to be his ideal self, his totem, his spirit animal, and his mentor. It was business that had brought him to the small town of Gilead. His client, a large, wealthy, eccentric black man with a Ving Rhames thing going on named Marcus Esadh, was secretive but paid well.
Although the job took him out of his back yard, the client was covering his expenses, and frankly, Stark and his partners were happy to get any work at all—the PI business was becoming increasingly focused on more and more heavily corporatized “digital investigation” which Stark had failed to be an early adopter of—and Stark personally was over the moon to have a case that didn’t amount to pinning the cuckold’s horns on a jealous husband, or confirming the suspicions of a suspicious wife. He’d been in this business eight years and had enough of that kind of case to last him eight lifetimes.
No, this time around, he was looking for a rare painting held in one of the hamlet of Gilead’s six churches. Not a Jackson Pollock or a Picasso or a Monet or a Warhol, but it was worth a pretty penny to his client. And there was a whiff of the Maltese Falcon to the whole thing that he had to admit made him the tiniest bit giddy. And it paid well enough to justify this field trip to New Hampshire.
Wrapped in the warmth of his gray Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Stark didn’t even notice the tiny inn where Hope had stopped at on foot, and continued to drive north on Galena Avenue towards less appealing lodging.
He was in the vampires’ trap with plenty of time to spare.
Four hours later, Meriwether Davis was cycling cigarette smoke through lifeless lungs. Meriwether was a dead man who just wanted to watch the world burn, okay, so sue him, maybe he wanted to be the guy holding the match, too. He was dressed sharply for the part, if not politically correctly, in one of the black leather trench-coats designed by Hugo Boss for the Gestapo. A Totenkopf twinkled silver on his lapel beside the rank insignia for a Sturmhauptfuhrer of the SS. The shiny polished jackboots he wore were also authentic Schutstaffel gear, and he was watching his step but knew getting mud or worse on them was inevitable. He thought it all nicely set off his jet black liberty spikes.
Meriwether was at his most honest with himself, which most likely had to do with the cocaine and crystal meth singing keening symphonies of furious insight in his bloodstream. He’d dragged a brat up here from a party he’d grabbed her at in Williamsburg, to kick off his wilding with a bang and a full tank.
Her bloody corpse sagged half-in, half-out the open back door of his black Econoline, her panties ripped down to her ankles, her eyes glazed and unseeing, the stuff of life oozing black as chocolate syrup in the moonlight from her long fake nails. What was her name? Something like Chelsea? Chesney?
Thrills ran through him, burning cocaine roars and crystal meth symphonies mixed into the blood he’d stolen. He was ready for the wilding to begin, all aquiver with excitement.
Meriwether had little use for rules, but would accept a minimum of them to avoid facing the consequences of the majority he was nominally breaking. Case in point: his Clan didn’t want him to wear the SS Eagle because it “represented loyalty to something other than Clan Nightshade” so he just didn’t wear it. He didn’t need to argue with some geezer that had been Reborn before the Holocaust about how he just wore this shit ‘cause it looked cool and pissed people off and it wasn’t some political statement or whatever.
Much bigger case: Cotillion said only one wilding for each of the clans of the Wild Hunt every eight years (only one wilding period every two years), so there was only one wilding for Clan Nightshade every eight years. Higher-ups in the clan, which was pretty much every one, said this was because wildings required careful planning to avoid them becoming fiascoes, and Cotillion’s control of the mortal media was limited in terms of what media cycles they could suppress in a year, but Meriwether thought that was so much ass-covering bullshit. He’d bucked and strained against the structure of the Clan since he’d been turned by Faraday in 1989, after failing spectacularly to sexually assault her at an Iron Cross concert.
Why even bother calling yourself a Wild Hunt clan if you were so eager to waltz to the Cotillion’s tune and tempo, Meriwether wondered increasingly often.
But just now he was the closest to calm he could come.
See, Meriwether was an artist, he knew, of rarified skill.
His medium? He painted in his victims’ blood. He sculpted with the ruins of their homes and their lives. And the maestro’s hand was finally being unleashed. Maybe he’d finally be able to show Faraday his inner genius. A thousand bodies piled up, he thought, I never thought would be enough to show her just what I’ve been thinking,
His cellphone bleated an alarm. 11:40 PM. Five minutes before it was time to close the trap on Gilead. He dropped the glowing ashes of his cigarette into the chill wind, which carried them away. His fingers expertly unbuttoned his leather Gestapo trench coat. He unlimbered a 6” barreled Colt Anaconda from a shoulder holster rig, leather of jacket and holster creaking in the Autumn quiet. He swung out the cylinder and counted six rounds of .44 Magnum ammunition, then swung the cylinder casually back into place and cocked back the hammer.
He waxed philosophical on the meaning of life and the nature of love until he saw headlights approaching him from the west on Route 311. His van was parked about twenty feet off the curb on the north side of the road. Parked perpendicular to 311 was a truck full of diesel that he’d gotten from a fuel depot just a bit outside the trap. The approaching SUV was decelerating, the driver probably trying to make out what the huge shape parked across the road was—in fact an 18-wheeler.
Meriwether stepped into the middle of the road and fired. The exploding front driver side tire must have startled the driver’s balls into dropping, because the panicking man’s foot landed on the accelerator, not the break. Meriwether considered to stride smoothly forward, ducking. The green Subaru Outback—that’s what it was—sloughed onto its side, rolled several times, and then bounced in what seemed like cool action movie slow motion right over Meriwether’s head, narrowly missing him. Then it crunched into the diesel truck, and Meriwether could smell diesel leaking out onto the road.
He looked around, spun in a little circle, pleasantly surprised that he was completely unscathed.
“That was fucking cool!” he said out loud.
He could hear the loud, frantic ruckus of the Subaru’s driver, finding his wife crushed to death in the passenger seat, ignoring his own serious injuries to try and get the three kids in the back seat out of the car before it became a fiery death trap. Meriwether spun in that direction and fired three times, killing the father and all three kids (two waifs with one bullet; not hard for a .44 round to penetrate through a five year old at that range). Then he turned back to the west, where more headlights were approaching. He snapped up his magnum and fired one round through the windshield of a red Jeep Cherokee, the head of the little old school teacher behind the wheel exploding like a pomegranate with an M-80 stuffed inside it. Once again, things broke Meriwether’s way and the dead woman’s weight fell on the gas, not the brake. Meriwether danced aside as the Jeep rolled into the side of the tanker truck at a steady forty-five mph, clunking it just hard enough to cause the entire thing to erupt into a curtain of fire, wavering heat wilting Meriwether from dozens of feet away; an enormous flaming barricade.
Northeast route was fucking blocked, can I get an Amen?
He wished that Faraday had seen his artistry at work. But fuck that shit. He didn’t need the approval of some trim, no way.
Meriwether practically pranced westward, to where, not a hundred yards from the flaming wreckage, a few onlookers had exited a rear door of “La Famiglia” bar and grill to observe the aftermath of the carnage. As his quick stride ate up the distance, he slid five live shells into his Anaconda, letting the empties fall and clatter.
“What is happening?” a short, dumpy, panicking middle-aged woman not gifted with much in the way of a face either asked him in a shriek voice. His claw flashed forward and relieved her of the burden of that mug. She crumpled to the ground in a spray of blood and torn flesh.
“It’s a feeding frenzy,” Meriwether told them cheerfully. “And you’re the food!”
Then he pounced, fangs first, on the throat of the next man, like a timberwolf.
Two hours earlier, Catherine Faraday was listening to “Peter and the Wolf” piping through the earbuds of her iPod. She was standing along the edge of the deep dark woods on the curb of the eastern fork of Rural Route 6, waiting for a truck to come along. It had been decided that the county hospital down that road must be excluded from the hunting grounds.
Faraday, like Meriwether, was a vampie, though unlike Meriwether she had been for nearly 100 years. She had been Sired—such a preposterous, outdated, patriarchal word, she thought—in 1909, just before the First World War. At the time, she’d been a fiery suffragette, a Russian émigré to the United Kingdom and a prominent member of the latter’s Women’s Social and Political Union. No doubt her Sire—ugh, add vaguely incestuous to the list—had found her passion appealing…among other things.
Faraday wasn’t awaiting the beginning of the Wilding with the hot-headed bloodlust of her Childe Meriwether—who was charged with securing the northeastern route out of town about two hours from now, and whom she desperately hoped wouldn’t fuck up and embarrass her, as he so often did. To her, Wildings were not unlike a necessary evil—they gave release to the impetuous nature of new blood and the ravenous appetites of the Elders, but didn’t do much for her. Her Sire had often teased her over the years that she should have been Reborn into one of the Cotillion clans, and if she’d supped recently, it seldom failed to bring a flush to her porcelain cheeks.
Just now, Faraday was pondering the nigh universal appeal of sluts to nearly all men: specifically the strange blend of disgust and desire men felt towards women they could safely pinhole as “sluts” or “whores”. Faraday was, for her own purposes, dressed as just such a woman. She was tall, leggy, and fair—she didn’t get a lot of sun, har har—and wore heavy eyeliner, a short black denim skirt, fishnets, 4” black leather boots and on top, a crimson tank top which scarcely covered the lacy black bra that cupped her breasts, and scarlet shrugs over her arms. Accentuating her breasts further were the criss-crossing shoulder holsters she wore, each holster containing a 9mm Beretta fitted with a silencer.
She was underdressed for the time of year, but the cold hadn’t bothered her much since she’d been a living breathing woman, over a century ago.
For the better part of an hour, she faded into the roadside shadows—the trees just beginning to change their hue provided a lovely lattice of darkness—letting the headlights and taillights of smaller vehicles pass her by as she waited for an 18-wheeler. Just letting the mortals move into and out of the trap as the small winds of their small fates blew them this way and that like fallen leaves. If a tractor trailer didn’t appear, she’d have to improvise, but she’d burn that particular bridge when she came to it.
As it turned out, a big old Mack truck was rumbling towards her moments after she had the thought. She stepped out into the spotlight of a streetlamp, putting all that skin and lace and makeup on display, and stuck out the thumb she was pretending to ride, her other thumb in her mouth.
Predictably—a pleasant non-surprise—the tractor trailer slowed to an awkward but controlled stop right alongside her. Observing that the trailer was full sized and plain unmarked white, she slipped quick and quiet as a moon-shadow around to the driver’s side door. The trucker was somewhere between the platonic ideal of a trucker and an out-and-out caricature of one; bib overalls, paunch, flannel, baseball cap, musk.
“Hey darlin’,” he said, eyes crawling all over her lean, exposed body in a way that made her feel greasy. “Where you headed?”
“Here,” she said, plum glossed lips pursing in a predatory smile.
Because they were in the vicinity of her tits, the trucker noticed the two guns she wore openly.
“Whoa babe,” he said, a prey animal recognizing the danger it’s in too late, “what’s with the heaters?”
“Don’t worry,” she said soothingly. “I don’t need them—for you.” She ripped off the driver’s side door one handed and threw it blindly behind her. It landed with a thunk, standing up at a jaunty angle from the grass and mud of the opposite curb. The driver made a face like he’d just shit himself—she could smell that thankfully he hadn’t—and frantically scooted away from her, maybe trying for a gun in the glovebox, maybe just fleeing in animal panic.
Either way, he was much too slow. She launched herself into the cab like a cougar, wrestled him underneath her, and grinning, buried her teeth in the fat of her neck.
Faraday latched onto the fat man’s jugular and drank him dry.
She climbed into the driver’s seat and wiped red from her chin. She hadn’t driven a semi-truck in a while, but thankfully, she didn’t need to drive it very far. She parked it lengthwise across the road, blocking the road completely, then yanked out the keys and threw them a few hundred feet into the dark of the woods.
Pausing her iPod, Faraday took out her cellphone and speed-dialed her Sire.
“Southeast route is secured. No one in Gilead is going to the hospital, and if they somehow contact the hospital by semaphore or some shit, ambulances are going to have a hell of a time getting through.”
“Perfect,” he replied; even after all these years she still found his Italian accent kind of sexy. “The table is just about set.”
It was minutes to midnight, and Lorenzo Medici—first among a few names he had grown attached to over the many years of his improbably long unlife—had just cut the power and to the town of Gilead. That should sew panic among the mortals and cut off land line communication. Lorenzo understood there were something called cellular phones that mortals could use to place calls from anywhere, but Cotillion had arranged for the local cellular tower to be taken care of, starting at the stroke of midnight, so he would just have to trust them.
Not particularly capable of comprehending 20th, let alone 21st, century technology, he had “cut” the lines in a rather stupidly literal way, hacking them to frayed tatters with his katana. The katana was a 16th century masterwork from the end of the Warring States period in Japan. Lorenzo had spent most of the 1500s in Japan, and that was where he had picked up his samurai sensibilities and ethos.
Every samurai has a master, and just now Lorenzo returned to his, riding the meticulously maintained black Benelli 500 VLM that he had liberated from Benito Mussolini’s motor pool when Italy’s National Fascist Party was collapsing during the end of WWII. He had modified the bike with a sidecar and a right-handed protective sheath that would let him draw his katana while driving.
The power station had been located on a plateau at the top of a steep hill called St. Michael’s Terrace. The angelic namesake had provided no divine protection. Lorenzo reared his 500cc bike like a stallion and plunged recklessly down the far end of the hill, plummeting downwards towards Old Route 6, a service road that snaked behind Gilead’s major shopping plaza through a hodge-podge of construction sites, auto collision places, storage depots, car dealerships, and—very keen to Lorenzo’s nose—one humane society pound full of baying hounds (the poor doomed strays could detect Lorenzo better than any human and at longer range). Long silky black hair streaming behind him, Lorenzo rode down through bare dirt and scrub and slaloming between trees and saplings, but he did so without a moment’s hesitation let alone a collision. He had nearly seven decades of experience with this particular bike, and it was like an extension of his body. Lorenzo ramped up onto Old Route 6, cutting a sharp left turn onto the broad dirt road that kicked up a cloud of dust.
Lorenzo had a bad feeling about this Wilding. The worst feeling he’d had about anything in a hundred years or more. And it wasn’t just the kid, Meriwether, who he fully expected to fuck up at a critical moment (Lorenzo was Meriwether’s Grandsire and felt personally responsible for the manic neo-Nazi’s many failings). But unfortunately, it was just a feeling, nothing he could explain logically. So if his master, Melciah Salomon, said there would be a wilding, then a wilding there would be.
Lorenzo leaned into a steep right turn from Old Route 6 onto Route 6, and almost immediately saw the bonfire. It had once been a Shell station but was now a lively and grand pyre, smoke and flames dancing high into the chill night air as the gasoline burned. The shadows of vampires—many of them newly turned from just one bite–danced and capered merrily around the flames. The Shell station sat right at the fork where Stonelay Avenue split into Route 6, and was situated right across the street from Ninham Plaza,
Lorenzo could hear the sound of screams, gunfire, shattering glass, and could smell blood and cordite, gas flame and panic. The Wilding must have started early, for all of these mortals to be caught up in the carnage already; all of the businesses in Ninham Plaza closed for the day long before midnight. Behind the flaming shell station was a plundered McDonald’s, the golden arches splattered with blood, exsanguinated corpses wrapped in chains dangling from them. The windows had been smashed out and the jagged blades of glass in them glistened like bloody fangs.
“Welcome, my Childe! Is it not glorious?” called out the voice of his master. Lorenzo recognized Melciah’s shadow stepping out from behind the blazing bonfire, and killed the engine of his idling bike. He set the kickstand and stepped off the bike only to kneel before Melciah. If Lorenzo was centuries old and Meriwether little more than an up-jumped mortal, Melciah was ancient, an Elder. He no longer resembled a mortal unless he’d gorged himself on scores of them. He stood short and solid in a resplendent black greatcoat, centuries out of fashion among mortals. He was as pale as bone and as bald as an egg, his lips withered away to leave his large and prominent fangs ever visible. Lorenzo guessed from his appearance that he had not yet begun to sup.
“Yes, my liege,” Lorenzo said tentatively.
Rather than motioning for him to stand, Melciah, bent to speak to him.
“Why so subdued? Tonight and tomorrow the dark tide will swell our ranks with new blood. It is a time for elation.”
Then why am I anything but elated? Lorenzo thought. His nerves struck him as ridiculous—as a vampire, nearly an Elder, of Clan Nightshade, he was an apex predator by night, and he had long ago learned to safekeep himself during the daylight, when the mortals held their flimsy grasp upon the world—yet he had survived this far by listening to his instincts.
“Is there something…different about this Wilding?” Lorenzo asked finally. “Something special, something you haven’t told me?”
“Lorenzo,” Melciah said, his smile revealing a mouth crammed full of jagged, razor sharp fangs, “as you told me long ago, I am the will, and you are the blade. The will decides. The blade cuts.” Melciah finally tapped him on the shoulder, and he rose.
His samurai sensibilities kept him from arguing with his master, but Lorenzo’s brow furrowed in worry. This wilding was something other than it seemed.
Melciah was keeping something from him.