The night was warm and the air bristled with the limitless energy of New York City. Lights buzzed, people hurried by, taxis honked, and the drivers screamed the occasional obscenity. Tourists clogged the streets and a million locals clamored to get into bars, restaurants, and theaters. It was a rather typical New York summer night.
But there was one thing out of place. Seven hundred feet up on top of an office building overlooking Sixth Avenue on an antenna rod hung the body of a once beautiful Great Dane. The poor dog looked like it had been mangled by a bear. It rested at a pitiful angle, its head drooping as if sad and forlorn.
On that roof with that dog were two men. One was shaking his head, his long dread locks waving back and forth and his white shirt whipping wildly in the breeze. The other was scanning the roof looking for something, his jaw set and his tattered black rain coat flapping in the wind.
The one in the trench coat turned back to the dog. He took it in for a moment. “I don’t like it. I’ve seen some weird stuff, but this just takes it to a whole new level, Ty. Why would someone do this?”
Tyler was a tall and slender man with lean runner’s muscles accented by the deep coffee colored skin that had managed to remain that way for some two hundred years without daylight. He still dressed in light clothing and with the trappings of his island roots despite the change in latitude. “Don’t know unless maybe they be trying to abate some fear, you know, prove somethin’. I agree, though, it be very strange, man. What do we do now, Kris?”
Kris walked a little closer. He sighed and shook his head. He slipped his hand inside his coat and slowly pulled a katana from the folds. The steel gleamed in the night, catching a thousand lights of a hundred colors. He judged the antenna and then with a forceful swing he snapped it. The dog fell to the ground with a thud and Kris winced.
Kris sheathed the blade. He bent down and rubbed the dog on the head, “Sorry, pup.” He grabbed the metal rod and pulled. It came out with a sucking noise followed by a pop as it broke free of the flesh. Kris found himself grimacing. It wasn’t that the sound or the blood bothered him. It was that a needless life had been lost.
Kris hefted the dog up onto his shoulder. He started to walk away. “Well, let’s see if we can’t find a better place for our canine friend here.”
Ty stepped in behind him as they made for the stairwell. “You going to take the stairs?”
“Fewer people, less likely to notice someone carrying a dead dog with a giant hole in it. Yes we’re taking the stairs. And what do you care, you’re undead. It’s not like you get tired. Besides, you could just jump.”
“Hey, just because I’m a vampire, don’t mean I can’t appreciate modern convenience.” They started down the endless coil of metal stairs.
It was true, though. Not very many people ever used stairs in Manhattan-especially not in a building that tall. It took a while but they made it to the bottom and into the building’s basement. Kris had become very familiar with the utility systems of the greater New York City area over the years he spent avoiding the common people of the city and it was no problem finding his way to the alleys.
They stepped out and Ty hustled over to his truck and dropped the tailgate. Kris slid the dog into the bed, “Always knew your strange love of trucks would come in handy some day.” He shut the tailgate, “You’re a heavy one, pup.”
Kris turned to look at Ty and saw him fly into a wall as if hit by a car. Ty slumped to the ground. Kris rushed over, “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good, man.” His eyes were darting to and fro trying to see something. “I don’t know what hit me. It hit like a damn freight train, though.”
Kris pulled out a shotgun. It wasn’t much on its own but he quickly changed out the shot cartridges for a special mix of powder that turned the shotgun into a flamethrower for a few seconds. He looked up and down the alley. Every shadow was suspect and the dark places were worse.
Ty pulled himself up to his feet. “I don’t like this, I’m not feeling it. I can’t see it, either. Whatever it is, it’s got to be powerful to be doing that with you close by.”
Kris walked a little further into the alley. “Hey, Ty, take a look at this.” He was looking at an old metal door with more rust than paint on it that was hanging open on its hinges and creaking ever so slightly.
Ty dusted off his pants and shook his head at the dark stains, “It be an open door. Big deal, man. Is this the part where the masked killer shows up right behind me with a machete?” His thick island accent boomed as it verged on his hearty chuckle.
“Nah, this is the part were you try to run away but he’s always in the room you’re going into.” He paused for a minute and let Ty snort at the joke, “But I do think it wants us to go in.”
“Good idea, walking into the trap knowing it be a trap just to be seeing what jumps out to get us. I like that. Smells a bit like cinders, though, mon.”
Kris nodded, “Sounds right. Let’s go. Got your stick?”
“Heh, question is, do I ever not have the stick?” his chuckle broke the tension and apprehension.
“I know you don’t have that thing when you’re serving drinks. The only weapon you have on you then is that silver tongue of yours. I don’t know how you do it but you can charm anything with…”
A clatter stopped him mid sentence and both went silent. Ty leaned in and peered deep into the dark, “The floor’s mostly gone. It looks like there was a huge fire down there. Been like this a while though, mon.”
“I’m not liking this, it moves faster than I do.”
“Just because you used to be the fastest thing in New York doesn’t mean you have to act like a five year old.” Kris ducked into the doorway.
It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust before he saw the scene that Ty had just described. Ty had been dead on, the floor and burnt timbers and the smell of old soot. But there was one thing that Ty hadn’t mentioned, or maybe hadn’t seen-the moving mass in the basement.
Kris walked up cautiously. He aimed his shotgun down into what at first appeared to be a writhing mass of shadow. As he realized what he was looking at, his head tilted to one side and his brow furrowed with confusion. There were some thirty people down there in tatters. They were bleeding, bruised, and disoriented. They stumbled around as if lost and exhausted. Low grumbling and mumbling noises came from them as if they were failing horribly to hum a thousand different tunes.
Kris slowly looked over to Ty, “Are those what I think they are?”
“Those be zombies, mon.” Ty said stunned and perplexed, “I haven’t seen zombies since, since Jamaica. Why in hell they be here, man?”
“I don’t know, but this is different.” Kris scanned quickly and saw some stairs. “No use worrying about zombies, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. We go up.”
Ty backed off from the hole as he followed Kris, “Bad ju-ju, mon, bad ju-ju.”
They went up the stairs slowly. Ty kept looking back as though the zombies might suddenly appear right behind him. Kris let the business end of the shotgun lead the way and pick out all the shadows and nooks and crannies before he showed more than the bridge of his nose to the second floor.
Kris fell back against the wall and waited for Ty to come up. “I feel vampires, how about you?” he asked in a whisper.
“I be feeling more than vampires. There be something else here, something bad.”
A man jumped out of a door and ran at them, mouth wide open to show off his teeth. Kris tilted the shotgun down. The man growled. Kris shook his head, flipped the gun around, and then clocked the man in the forehead with the dark oak butt of the gun. The man crumpled and then rolled on the floor in pain, clutching his face and moaning.
“They’re new. They’re wild and clueless, no tact. No resistance to me. It’s downright shameful.”
“Thirty or so zombies, a couple dozen freshly turned vampires, and some thing neither of us be feeling, something faster than me. It be playing some game, I think.”
A sound came from the dark hallway. It was skittering and rustling and it was low, both quiet and like something on the ground, except that it came from the ceiling. Kris took a few steps forward. He scanned the shadows with the shotgun and then dropped it.
Ty barely had a chance to yelp as something reached down from the shadows and pulled him up. It slammed him into the wall three times so fast that Kris could barely see or hear Ty crash into the plaster and wood once. A sickening crunch left Ty on the ground with his head twisted at an angle that no human could survive. There was blood everywhere.
Kris reached inside his trench coat with both hands, each going under a side. When his hands came out he had a glistening katana in one and an old peacemaker pistol in the other. In a second he was crouched over his friend and checking the terrible wound in his back.
“How bad is it?” Ty grunted through clenched teeth, fangs showing for the world to see.
“Enough to hurt and slow you down. I’m going on. When you heal get the hell out of here.” Kris started down the hall at a hurried pace, “And let Kahmir know what’s happening.”
Kris turned into an open doorway and stopped dead in his tracks, his pistol aimed at a girl. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen with long waves of blonde hair and gleaming green eyes. She was slender and lithe. The dress she wore did not quite fit and hung loosely about her showing pale white flesh beneath. Her lips were as dark as rubies and pursed just a bit as if ready for a kiss. She had the look of a cat toying with a mouse.
Kris fired a shot and it missed. He swore she flinched but it wasn’t enough to avoid a bullet. He fired off another round and again he thought she flickered. As he was about to pull the trigger the third time he heard Ty scream as everything went black.
For an instant he was simply in utter darkness. There was no light. There was no sound. There was no feeling. There was only cold, empty, blackness.
Then he was teetering on the edge of a building. He was just maintaining his balance as he perched on the precipice of a roof several stories above a city. He glanced out and realized he was not even sure what city it was in but it was far too small to be New York. He took a step back and landed on something firm. He had lost the pistol but he still had the katana. Relief washed over him.
He turned ever so slowly, his nerves strumming with fear for the first time in years. It made him feel human again.
“You are strange. I’m slower around you, weaker.” Her voice was sweet, full, and velvety. He could imagine a dozen radio stations lined up to hire her for that tone.
“You must be new to the Tri-State Area. Let me catch you up. I’m Kris Bane and Arthur and Kahmir may run things, but New York is my city. No vampire stays alive very long if I want them dead.”
“Then why do you let Domitius live?” She walked forward with a thousand years of grace and manipulation rolling off of her hips and pout.
“He’s a very talented old vampire, but his days are numbered and he knows it.”
“So I’ve heard. Turns out the stories he tells are true. The elders would have loved to have met you before I killed you, Kristian Alexander Blades-Bane, vampire hunter extraordinaire, the Sunblooded. You are the great cure for the disease. Pity your light goes out now.” Her words turned into snarls.
She rushed up the last few steps and her hand was wrapped tightly around his throat before he realized she was close enough to spit on him. He tried to cut her arm but she shook him like a rag doll and he felt every muscle cry out in agony, searing fire rushing through his joints. The sword fell to the ground. His vision was fading into little specks and he barely heard the iconic sound of the metal of a well made katana hitting the ground.
“New York City will be mine and no man with blood like sunlight will haunt me. Good night.” She flung him out from the building and his eyes grew wide with the realization that despite the air returning to his lungs and the feeling spreading back to his toes and fingertips he was dead in a few seconds. The pavement was coming too fast for anything else.