I don’t know Jon all that well yet, he keeps to himself a lot. He’s damn hard to figure out with his smartass comments.
“Excuse me? Does that mean Emiko was there or not?”
There’s a pause on the line, some fumbling noises, and then Asa comes on the phone. “Yes, she was here. She fed from me and fled back into the darkness.”
Considering I caught her in the green house before the hunt she sure is eating a lot today. “I wonder what’s making her so hungry.”
“It’s got to be the cold and constant activity,” he replies. “It takes a lot out of a vamp and she’s been in a warmer climate for years now.”
“I suppose,” I say, though I’m not entirely convinced.
“How are things on your end? Any news yet?” Asa says.
“Nope. You think you can keep tracking the rogue or did she take too much blood from you?”
A slight hesitation and then, “I’m okay. I’ll head out now.”
We end the call and I focus again on the map in front of me. Yes, I could easily use the one on the computer Asa has uploaded and marked, but having the tactile map laid out helps me to think strategically.
Large, flat pink erasers with names indicate the last report of the hunter’s positions, and yellow highlighted areas indicate where Emiko attacked. She hasn’t been stupid enough to go after the employees in their homes, so we’re doing pretty well, all things considered.
Except for the dead wolf in cabin two. Poor chap. He seemed solid enough when we spoke in the lobby. I wonder which vampire he crossed paths with after he checked in? Vivian and Rafe said they’re looking into things, maybe Jon too, but I haven’t heard any news yet.
I shake my head at the thought of Asa getting a sound beating from Emiko. As a tracker, he never should have been in her line of sight, so he screwed something up there. Perhaps the army doesn’t make ‘em like they used to. I’ll have to treat him to drinks in the bar after all this and see if I can coax the details out of him.
He’s a tight-lipped bastard most of the time. Despite his recent rash behavior in killing Joanna, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He told me once, the hardest part of turning was not being able to contact his younger brother, Eric, whom he heard later followed in his footsteps and joined the Army, too. When you take into account his oldest brother was abducted by their mom when they were kids and left the country, well... I can see why not being able to connect with the younger brother he grew up with hurts so much.
Best he learns the hard lessons now. Watching from the alleys and doorways in London while my own fair sister aged and died alone was certainly no fun. When she refused to marry the sixty-year-old man our uncle picked out for her, the rebellious action condemned her to spinsterhood.
The muted ring of the phone pulls me out of my musings.
“This is Drew.” My new name still sounds odd, even after twenty years. Lipshultz on a vampire? What was I thinking? The poor dead sod who had the name happened to look an awful lot like me. Eh, it works.
“This is Cali. I don’t believe we’ve met yet, have we?” The lilting female voice reaches across the trans-continental line to me.
“No ma’am, we have not. My master speaks highly of you.”
“Ah, you’re one of the new seethe members. But of course, who else would be answering the bat phone, right?” Before I can formulate an answer, she continues. “How is Asa working out?”
I’m sure I’m not supposed to mention her nephew’s recent killing, so I’ll stick to the basics. “He seems to be adjusting well to the inn.”
“Which tells me squat. I’ll have to call and badger him on how he’s doing.” I hear a rustling of paperwork over the line. “The rogue, Emiko, is an interesting character to say the least.”
“What have you found out?”
“I’ll send the bulk of it over in an email. The recent news is what stuck out the most. It looks like she had a residence in Buenos Aires recently seized by the authorities.”
Which makes sense if they suspect her of the killings, but I’m not sure what the local law knows of her recent alleged crimes. “Was she renting or did she own it?”
“Excellent question, my good vamp. Glad to see you’re on the ball. She owned it and it happened to fall in a block up for re-zoning right now.”
“Are you suggesting this has something to do with the Tribunal or the charges against her?”
“I’m not sure what it means, but I don’t believe in coincidence,” Cali says.
“Can you find out who is behind the re-zoning and who will benefit from her property being seized?”
“Already on it. I’ll get back to you with details when I have them. Oh, and check out the email, there is some good gossip in there too.”
“Such as?” But she’s gone. The line is dead. Rather odd. Couldn’t quite place her accent either. I heard she runs a nightclub in Manhattan with Cy, the vamp Vivian turned a few decades ago. A shiver steals up my spine at my own memories of the city. It’s not a bad place by any means, just too many people and too loud for my taste. Which says a lot coming from a former Londoner.
Before I have a chance to open the email and review what Cali sent, the phone rings. It’s the line programmed in to all the hunters’ cells.
“This is Don.” An image of the slightly gray-haired, dapper vamp comes to mind. “I’m up by the northwest corner of the property, near the windmills. I’ve seen no sight of our prey. Over.”
I smile inwardly at the older vamp’s military affectations. “I’ll mark it on the map. Thanks.”
“No hint on where she was last? Over.”
“Considering its been over half an hour I doubt it will do you any good. But she was last seen at the Bowling alley, due south of you and slightly east.”
A sigh comes over the connection. “No, I suppose you’re right. I’ll keep trudging through the cold. Over and out.”
As we end the call, I can’t help but think his obvious discomfort is rather funny. The debonair vampire may have wanted the challenge, and paid dearly for it, but I bet all of the hunters are feeling the effects of the cold by now, at six hours into the hunt. Perhaps they would have enjoyed it more if it was a club-med type of experience—warm sandy beaches, locked inside all day, dark sultry nights where they hunt in a jungle.
I chuckle at the image. I wonder if the rest of the group is faring like Don, or if they truly understand what they got themselves into when they signed on for this frozen week of fun and adventure. Hell, should we gift wrap the damn rogue for them and give them her GPS locator information?
The two vamps hunting together, Stan and Stephen, seemed like they were crazy enough to be in this for the long hall. Sanji comes from a very warm climate; I bet she’s going to need to come in out of the elements to refuel soon. The wolves are from Canada, more than likely they are the best suited for this terrain and weather.
And the tall Amazonian-vamp, Bebe? She went out on her own and hasn’t reported in for a while. We’ll have to see how she’s doing. Maybe I should detour Asa to check where she was last seen? Better to be safe than sorry. Wonder if the woman wandered off the property.
A quick glance at the blips on the screen reveals the Brazilian is indeed still on the resort’s land. A cluster of dots by the employee apartments indicates the wolves, who agreed to wear trackers in a slim collar, have congregated for the moment. As I watch, the dots race toward the south, angling to the right side of the property.
I spin my chair, back to the map, and make some quick adjustments with the erasers. The werewolves either heard something or smelled something to make them dart off like that. When the vampires come in to warm up, maybe the wolves will stay out a bit longer and we can avoid having all the hunters back in the main building at once.
Tempers could be high and we still don’t know which vampire has a were-blood addiction and killed Melvyn. Best to avoid a bad scenario by not having both groups here together.
Checking the GPS locator numbers on the clipboard, I match up the signal numbers for Stan and Stephen. Placing their markers in new spots, I note the two are no longer hunting side by side, but have about a quarter of a mile between them. Could they be trying to set up a trap for their elusive prey?
The whole map looks like a stunted version of Risk, with advancing troops and retreating lines. I never fought on a battlefield with a unified force, but managed to survive on the streets and in the rural countryside alone, using sheer cunning.
A ringing breaks into my thoughts and I punch the speaker function on the hunter’s line. A smooth, mellow voice greets me, “Is anyone listening?”
“Drew here, go ahead.”
“This is Sanji. I’m calling to report a death.”
Adrenaline seeps into my body, causing my already heightened awareness to spike. I swing back to the blips on the screen and see she stands virtually on top of another signal. “Continue.”
“It looks as if the rogue had an altercation with Bebe and the Brazilian woman did not survive.”
Shit! This was always a possibility the hunters knew going in, but it’s still shocking nonetheless. “Is the corpse drained as well?”
“It wasn’t, but it is now,” Sanji says with satisfied lilt to her tone.
I think back to my own draining of Ivan when I beheaded him and my gut reels a bit at the thought of this one calmly mentioning how she recently drank from a beheaded vampire. Ugh. “Um, okay then. Where are her remains?”
“I’m outside of a small building connected to a bunch of cables—facing the main building, it’s to the left, but back about a mile of so. Oh—and the door has a big number one painted on it.”
“Got it.” I know from the computer screen that she’s standing near Gen One, the location for our primary generator. I wanted to know if the body was near her or perhaps she’s carrying Bebe’s cell, but I’ll leave it for now and send someone to check.
“Someone is approaching out of the woods.” She goes quiet for a moment and then comes back on the line. “It’s one of your seethe-mates, the one with the shaved head.”
Asa. “Okay, he’ll take care of things from here on out. Thanks for calling in.”
We disconnect right as the landline rings and I sense movement behind me. I turn while grabbing the handset to see Vivian leaning on the door jam.
“Man,” Asa says over the phone, “that was one bitch of a fight. I watched from the woods.”
“You can fill me in later. Can you take care of the body?”
A snort of disbelief comes over the line. “Oh yeah, after the Indian vamp had her fun, the pieces should fit easily into a sturdy garbage bag, no problem.”
The bloodthirstiness shown and reveled in for the past twelve hours disturbs me. I don’t think I want to be here for the next hunt, that is, if there is another.
“All right then, I’ll leave you to it.” I replace the phone in the cradle and give attention to my mistress. “You heard it all?”
“Yes. We knew it was a possibility, but I still regret it.” She stalks into the room wearing snug jeans and tight sweater. “Should we start placing bets on how long the hunt lasts? I have a feeling it’s not going to go the whole week.”
“You may be right.”
“Paul hasn’t come out yet, right?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Fine. I’m going to go see him and get him back in the game.”
And with that parting remark, she sashays down the hall past the conference room to the bolted door farther along the hallway.