The Vampire and the Dragon, PrOOF Vol. 1 - PROLOGUE

PROLOGUE

Present

I was covered in blood; not all of it mine. It was on my face and my clothes. I was on the same cold basement floor in the same position I’d been in for almost two weeks.

“Are you ready to do this?” The PrOOF agent asked me. He belonged to the agency for the ‘Preservation Of Occult Figures.’ He did not appear to believe in irony, just monsters.

“Do we really have to do it now?” I had nothing better to do at the moment, but still reveled in annoying him; my body pushing a bullet out of my spine - specifically from between the T9 and T10 vertebrae - with glacial speed.

“I’d like to get this done. I do actually have superiors to report to, you recall?” He attempted to harden his stance by crossing his arms, but found it difficult to do with the shoulder holster filled by the .357 Magnum that inflicted my wound. “Just tell your story. As if I weren’t part of it.”

“If only.” All I could really do was roll my eyes and be sarcastic, so that’s what I went with.

I could tell by his furrowed brow that he was sorting out whether that was an agreement on my part. He clicked on his tiny digital recorder and pointed it in my direction. “State your name for the record.”

“Stephen Duncan, and I’m a vampire being held against my will by-”

“Really? That’s what you’re going with, after every-“ He clicked off the recorder, dropped his head in frustration and sighed.

I smiled at the top of his head deviously. At least I think I did. He’d refused my requests for a mirror, so it’s possible I just grimaced like Stephen Hawking.

“Actually, I don’t give a shit at this point. It’s your deposition. State your name for the fucking record.” He clicked the recorder back on and scowled.

I regarded him, still smiling.

He rewound the recorder to erase his loss of composure, then clicked it back on. “State your name for the record,” he managed through a clamped jaw.

From the moment the bullet had taken up residence in my spine, I’d been trying to wiggle my toes and move my fingers; still nothing. If I’d been human, being shot at point blank range by that massive hand cannon would’ve worked out differently. For starters, I’d be dead. But specifically, the bullet would’ve obliterated the affected vertebrae as well as taking my heart, most of my lungs and probably my entire diaphragm along for the ride out of my torso. So, you know, things could’ve been worse.

“My name is Stephen Duncan, and I’m a vampire. I am currently being held against my will in the dank basement of a house in some Podunk-ass town named Wilson, New York. I have been treated poorly by PrOOF and I fear my life remains in danger.”

It was interesting to watch him struggle with his emotions. I could tell that his patience – threadbare after the past thirteen days – was close to snapping. He bent to pick up the recorder, rewound it once more to erase what I’d said, then set it down again and straightened up. After a quiet moment during which he sucked his teeth, he said, “You should understand that PrOOF isn’t some kind of…Amnesty International for ghosts and goblins. We do what we can to protect occult assets. However, protection of our agents and the general public is a much higher mandate. So as far as your treatment goes, yeah, that’s not a problem for my superiors. I have all the operational latitude I need to dispose of any asset. Including you.” He put the recorder down on the cellar floor, just out of my reach. “I’d like it if you’d recount the events that started with our visit to your apartment. I’d also like to have your origin story again as well.”

Dude.” I put as much exasperation into my tone as possible. It wasn’t difficult. “I already told you how I got made. I need to ‘recount’ that again?”

He rolled his neck on his shoulders for a moment, then graced me with a withering stare that told me exactly how he felt about being in this basement. With me. After a long sigh, he bent down and clicked on the recorder again. “You know what? I’m going to head out and…I’m going to take a bit of a break. Go ahead and talk to the nice recorder. Or don’t. Whatever.”

With that, he was up the stairs and through what was left of the cellar door. I heard his steps slap the hardwood floors of the house above. Then, faintly, I heard the engine of the Crown Victoria start and the crunch of gravel as he drove off.

Ah, well. Fuck it.