Sorcery of the Blood
Alice G. Holmes © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Footsteps echoed in the night, signaling the approach of our prey. Martin clung to the alley wall, machete in hand, blue eyes wide behind his glasses. I could see a sheen of sweat on his cheek, and I placed a finger to my lips, reminding him to be silent. He nodded, and I headed to the mouth of the alley. I had a performance to put on. I ruffled my hair, loosened my tie, and did my best to appear inebriated.
Just to add a little extra to the act, I began singing in a slurred voice. I could practically hear the monster’s delight as I walked down the alley. Sometimes I wished I knew what the fuck they were thinking. Nothing but blood and murder.
“Are you lost, little boy?” a voice asked in a sickly sweet tone.
I turned. A white woman stood there with long legs and brown hair. She wore a purple pantsuit like she’d finished a late night at an office nearby. There was something wrong with her eyes, just like the rest of them. No depth; her eyes were empty and still. I palmed the stake up my sleeve, making sure she couldn’t see it.
“’M not little,” I replied, wagging my finger at her. “I’m big where it counts.”
“Of course you are,” she said, grinning at me. God, she couldn’t be this stupid. Then again what did I know? It’s not like I knew of any Mensa vampires.
Martin was in position, but I didn’t dare look at him for fear of tipping her off. No need to take any risks on a hunt. I staggered up to her, playing up the drunk angle. I could practically hear Martin rolling his eyes. “I am. I can show you. Come back to my place, and I’ll prove it.”
“Why would I want to do that?” she asked. Her fangs were sliding down as she grinned; she was ready to pounce. “You can show me right here.”
I smiled back, standing up straight. “Okay.” I shouted, “Now!” And threw myself at her. I grabbed her around the middle and tackled her to the ground. She howled, teeth snapping at my neck. I dodged the fangs and rammed the iron stake into her heart.
She screamed, face contorted in demonic rage. Her fingers had turned into claws, and she was scratching the hell out of my back. I looked up to see Martin standing over us, and he said, “Move.” I tore myself away from the creature, and she let out an unearthly howl before Martin cut off her head.
The body went limp, and I got to my feet and said, “Nice work.”
“You too,” Martin replied. His eyes were still wide, and a tremor went through him. He looked like a kid who was in way over his head. I knew better.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Fine,” he said, his voice squeaking. I raised an eyebrow, and he sighed. “Sorry. I’ve got a bad feeling is all.”
I snorted. “When don’t you have a bad feeling?” I went to where I’d hidden my bag at the alley’s mouth and took out the lighter fluid. I drenched the corpse in it, making sure to use the entire can.
“I’m serious, Kingston. Something’s coming.”
“Well, when it gets here, we’ll deal with it. Just like this one.” I grabbed the book of matches and uttered a quick prayer. Didn’t make a difference; we’d already done our work. The ritual was more for my comfort. Martin hated it but he didn’t begrudge me. I struck the match and tossed it. The body burned hot, bright, and fast, and was gone in seconds.
Martin handed me the machete after he’d cleaned it off with the edge of his shirt. I tossed the blade in the bag along with the can and the matches. I retrieved the stake and slipped it in my pocket. I slung the bag on my back and headed out of the alley with Martin at my side. I threw an arm around him and said, “You worry too much.”
“You should take a break. When’s the last time you went out?” When I gestured to our surroundings, he pursed his lips with annoyance. “I mean besides hunting.”
“I went to the movies Saturday,” I said.
“You tracked a vampire to the movies and killed him after. That doesn’t count as going out,” Martin said, and I sighed. We walked to the parking garage where we’d stashed the car. I was glad to see there was no attendant around, given the sight of us. The fluorescent lights of the garage rendered my brown skin a sickly shade. If I looked sick, Martin appeared unearthly.
He was so white he glowed under the harsh lights. He had strawberry-blond hair and pale-blue eyes like a husky. I loved the way his hair gleamed in the light, and I wanted to run my hands through it. I jammed my hands into my pockets instead, one curling around the stake. Something solid to hang on to. We found the car, and I pulled out the key fob to unlock it.
“Okay, yes, I’ve been hunting a lot. But there’s more of these fuckers popping up by the minute,” I reminded him.
Martin bit his lower lip as I tossed the bag in the trunk, fiddling with one of the beads on his fidget bracelet. It struck me we made an odd pair. He’d opted for jeans, an Ozzy shirt, black thick-framed glasses, and Converse sneakers. I was in one of my old navy suits and brown loafers. Blood soaked our clothes, which was why I was eager to get going before someone spotted us. We got in the car and drove off.
He had curled up in the passenger seat, staring out of the window. Martin still twirling his beads, not saying anything right away. He looked delicate, almost fragile, which was why he was usually the bait. He could lure them in with his boyish charm, and vampires would trip over themselves to get a bite.
They didn’t know he was strong, physically and mentally. Or when he set his mind to something, he would get it done. Or that he’s the smartest person I’d ever met either in my regular life or my hunting life. Not to mention the most compassionate, which was one of the reasons we’d been arguing so much as of late. I admired his tenacious streak. Not so much when he aimed that tenacity at me.
He was thinking, and I tensed for an argument. I entertained the idea of kissing him to shut him up, something I’d dreamed about but wouldn’t do. When we drove onto the 101 loop, Martin said, “We should talk to Tyrone.”
“Fuck no!” I snapped, struggling to keep my eyes on the road.
“He can help. He’s got his own crew, and we’re low on manpower.”
“He’s a fucking vampire. We can’t trust that bloodsucker.”
“Yes, we can.” Martin’s voice strained.
I chanced a look at him and saw Martin clenching his jaw. “Look, just because he switched to donor blood while you two were fucking doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. For all we know he’s stalking school kids now.”
Martin slammed his fist against the dashboard. “He’s not like that. Not all vampires are evil.”
“Like fuck they aren’t!” I shot back. “Do we gotta go over this again? They killed your family. They killed my brother. How are they not evil?” I regretted it the minute I said it, but I wouldn’t take it back. Martin balled his hands into fists, shoulders tensing up around his ears.
He growled, “Kingston Patrick St. Louis, that is fucking low.”
“It’s the truth.”
I didn’t expect him to understand. Martin had grown up without his family. He didn’t know anything about them except for some pictures in a scrapbook. While their deaths hurt Martin, he had never known them. My brother and I were thick as thieves, and I missed Seph every day.
As we drove over Tempe Town Lake, I could hear Martin raggedly breathing through his nose. I didn’t press further as he would lash out. He may have admired me before when I was still his teacher, but it wouldn’t stop him from decking me. I knew from experience.
In the intimate darkness of the car, I wanted to confess to Martin the real reason I didn’t like Tyrone. It wasn’t only that he was a vampire, though it didn’t help. I knew there were vampires who didn’t kill or harm humans and they were a low priority for a hunter. No, my problem with Tyrone was he made Martin question the mission.
Martin was an adult; he was allowed to have his own opinions. Except the “not all vampires” approach was getting on my goddamn nerves. He had refused to come on this hunt with me at first. Not until we confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt this vampire was guilty. Who knew how many people she killed while we were investigating. Somehow the loss of innocent life didn’t bother him. Or if it did, he kept the information to himself.
A smaller part of me could admit I was motivated by jealousy. I’d known Martin for years, I’d mentored him both in our daytime and nighttime professions. In that time I’d found underneath the cherubic visage, there was a sensitive man who should have been in a different line of work. If not for what happened to his family, he would have been.
You didn’t have to be ruthless to work in finance, but it helped. Ditto, vampire hunting.
As I watched him learn and become more deadly, I’d also watched his heart sink. Then the regret had come, and he’d begun questioning if what we were doing was good or if we were lying to ourselves. He’d called us murderers at one point. He was pretty drunk at the time, so I paid him no mind.
When we arrived at his apartment, Martin said, “See you in the morning.”
“Want me to pick you up?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I’ll Uber. Later.” He got out of the car and slammed the door.
I wanted to follow him upstairs and apologize. Explain that I didn’t mean to be hard on him, and that I worried he’d get hurt. And maybe admit I’d been in love with him for over half a decade. I rubbed my eyes and shook my head; it wasn’t worth getting into. I didn’t interest Martin. I was his boss, not his boyfriend.
The drive to my condo was short, and once I’d parked, I was operating on autopilot. I left the bag of weapons in the trunk, too tired to drag them upstairs. As I left the garage, there came a sound of footsteps behind me. I turned my head but saw nothing.
A strange feeling crept down my spine, and my hand went to the stake in my pocket. I pulled the stake out and readied myself to attack. My ears strained to hear anything else, but all was quiet. I muttered, “You’re getting paranoid, buddy.” Still, I kept the stake in hand until I was safe inside.
After locking up, I took a shower and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. My head felt full and I wanted to lie down and forget everything. I had work in the morning, and I needed sleep. There were one or two details I needed to see to first, which was how I found myself in my home office.
I flipped on the light and sighed as I looked at the map of the Phoenix metro area. I grabbed a red pin from my desk and pushed it into the location where we’d hunted down tonight’s vampire. There were more red pins on the map in the past month than there were for the past several years. It made me anxious.
There were too many pins on the map period. Red for successful hunts, yellow for hunts in progress, green for allies, and blue for neutrals like Tyrone. There were only two green pins, and I’d have to remove them soon. Jaden told me he and his partner Makia were headed up north. Something about a legendary vampire stalking the Midwest. I’d had to take eight green pins out in the last six months as other hunters died or abandoned the city. Soon, Martin and I would be the only ones left.
I grimaced at the prospect. Two hunters in a city this size? We were going to be busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, as my father would say. I turned away from the map and logged into my computer. I needed to check on leads for another case. The city police database was laughably easy to hack. With my experience, I could search for patterns the cops wouldn’t see. I had my suspicions about a murder I’d noticed in the news, and upon viewing the autopsy reports, I knew I was right.
We’d have to go out again tomorrow. Another vampire, this one in Arcadia. Martin wouldn’t be happy, he had plans on Friday. The hunt took precedence. Rather than call or text, I emailed him the coroner’s report and shut off the laptop. I leaned back in the chair, letting my thoughts drift.
Martin’s record keeping was more meticulous than mine; he had to know the danger. More and more vampires were coming to Phoenix. I suspected it was because they knew our defenses were low. Maybe Martin was right about asking Tyrone for help.
I glanced at the clock and saw it was nearly 1:00 a.m. Definitely time to sleep. I left my office, turning off the lights as I went. I resolved to snooze for a few hours, work out, get coffee, and head to work. I’d be tired, but that wasn’t new. I went to bed, making sure to plug my phone in. As I drifted off, I wished Martin were with me so I could have someone to hold.
The next morning, I was running a bit late. The best part of being on salary rather than hourly? If I wasn’t in at 9:00 a.m. sharp, it was no big deal. I smiled at Martin as I walked in, carrying a tray with two lattes. I handed him one and said, “Good morning, Mister von Brandt.”
“Good morning, Mister St. Louis,” he replied in a clipped tone. Still angry then. I could work with that. I closed the door and sat behind my desk, asking, “What’s on the agenda today? Anything besides the meeting with Calhoun?”
“Mister Khan wants you to look over some contract negotiations with Mister Shane. He thinks they’re fudging the numbers on their profits.”
“Great. Did you get my email?”
“Yes.” Martin sipped his latte. “We’re going out tonight.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Can we go to Applebee’s?”
That made me raise an eyebrow. “What?”
“There’s an Applebee’s near the crime scene. I’ve got a craving for mozzarella sticks.” His cheeks had a pink tinge. I loved when Martin got embarrassed; he was so cute when he blushed.
I smiled and said, “Yeah, okay. We’ll go to Applebee’s, and then we can go hunting.”
He smiled back and said, “Get to work, King Louis.” And he left the office. I chuckled at the nickname and pulled up my plans for the day. I already had the presentation ready for Calhoun; he’d love our plan to take his business from local to regional. Shane would be a pain in the ass.
Being a business management consultant paid the bills, but it wasn’t my calling. You couldn’t make money off vampire hunting, and believe me, I’d tried.
I had a tiring day; thankfully everything went off without a hitch. Calhoun signed on with us, and Shane gave me the correct numbers once I proved his profits were incorrect. I decided to pack it in for the day around seven. It was past sunset, so the creatures of the night would be awake.
Martin had already gone home, and we had plans to meet at Applebee’s. I was amused he’d been so shy about the request. He was learning about the finer things in life from me. At heart, he was still a kid from the Pacific Northwest who opted for thrift store clothing and dining at McDonald’s. Applebee’s was “too expensive” to Martin, so I was buying. I didn’t mind, as mozzarella sticks wouldn’t break the bank.
I could pretend it was a date.
As I entered the garage, I had that weird feeling again, like last night. I had a stake up my sleeve and was trying to grab it when claws dug into my shoulders. I struggled to break free, but a strange calm washed over me. Like I’d sunk into a bath after a long day, and all the tension went out of my body. Lips brushed my ear, and I heard a deep voice say, “We meet at last, Kingston St. Louis.”
“Who—?” I asked, and I heard soft laughter. A body pressed against my back, hard and unyielding as steel.
“Let’s just say I’m a public servant. You’ve been a thorn in my side since I came to town, and I intend to stop that right now. Where’s your partner?”
“Don’t know,” I muttered. A lie, of course. I wouldn’t betray Martin. “How are you doing this?” I referred to the calm feeling.
“My secret,” he murmured. He slid his lips down my neck, and he whispered, “Don’t be afraid, I have a gift for you.”
Before I could respond, teeth punctured my throat. A hand went over my mouth, stifling my scream. As my vision went black, I remembered seeing brown hair, a white hat, and a wicked smile. I thanked God Martin wasn’t there, and then sank into the darkness.