Authors: Gregory Holden
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
American Blood: A Vampire’s Story
By Gregory Holden
Published by: Orion’s Belt Press
Copyright © 2009 by Gregory Holden all rights reserved.
No parts of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
First print edition.
Book cover art and design by Orion’s Belt Press.
With love to my wife and sons . . .
Patti, Dan, and Alex.
And with much less love to . . .
The American body politic
ice President Dwicke stared at the curious looking man sitting on one of the leather chairs in front of his desk.
“Mister Director, what we’re planning here . . . to use this creature to assassinate our terrorist is a huge risk.”
“It is, Mister Vice President, yet the reward for success can’t be taken lightly.”
Dwicke finished polishing the large, white safe next to his desk and sat down in his chair. “You understand we’ve been after this man for seven years and he’s outwitted us—even laughed at us—in front of the entire world.”
“Every American understands that.”
“Let’s hope. Can you guarantee total control of her after capture? This is non-negotiable.”
“Yes, yes, we’ll have complete control.”
Dwicke picked up a half-filled glass of scotch. “Your confidence is reassuring.”
“And yours is appreciated.”
Dwicke nodded and leaned back in his chair. “When do you expect to have her?”
“If things go as planned we should have her at the facility in the next few days.”
“And you’re convinced she’s the one.”
“The project leader has made a positive identification.”
“We received a transmission from one of our operatives who described an identifying mark on her at close range. The mark matches historical documents we’ve obtained.” The Director held up an image of two closely spaced symbols. “It’s her.”
“The fate of the operative?”
The Director fondled his pipe for a moment. “Consumed, unfortunately.”
“How many men are you going to serve up to her?”
“Only as many as it takes.”
“Well, there’s really no other way. Yet if she’s everything you claim we could solve other embarrassing problems.”
“Certainly, Mister Vice President. And there’s the bonus if our scientists can unlock her secrets we might be able to gain her incredible abilities without her need for blood.”
“I’ll settle for a nice quiet capture at this point.” Dwicke tapped his glass with his fingers. “I’ve arranged a special senate committee to provide oversight for this project.”
“Ooh, yes, the support we’ve received from Senator Asinas has been greatly appreciated.”
“He needs the administration’s support on a large chunk of pork attached to an upcoming senate bill.”
“It’s the way of Washington.”
Dwicke nodded and drained his glass. “The last time your agency attempted to capture one of these things was a disaster.” He picked up a file from his desk and tossed it toward the Director. “I’m still answering for the fallout on that and I won’t cash in any more favors for you.”
“The previous capture presented unknown dangers to us. We’ve taken the appropriate corrective measures. And besides, that female was purely instinctive. This one has a certain sense of morality that might work to our advantage.”
“A vampire with a sense of morality . . . is that possible?”
“That might be too strong. Let’s just say she’s a killer, but a very careful one.”
Dwicke cleared his throat and refilled his glass. “After her capture, Senator Asinas will begin discussions with the republican member on the committee.”
“He’s unaware of the project?”
“There’s no need to alarm him. I know exactly how to gain his support and, more importantly, his committee vote. We must cater to his conservative sensibilities.”
“I will help in any way possible.”
“Of course. And one last thing, Mister Director, if your agency does accomplish this mission, how will our target meet his end?”
“Mister Vice President, if she is everything we have hoped for he will die by the hands of a woman.”
“Perhaps a wrong choice of words.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see.” Dwicke stood up signaling the meeting was over.
The Director rose to his feet with the aid of his cane and walked toward the door but stopped halfway. “Will you be attending the committee meetings?”
“No, just keep me updated. As you know I do have an administration to run.”
The Director nodded. “Of course.”
“Greater is our terror of the unknown.”
, Roman Historian
yan discovered blood isn't red at night, it's nearly black. He noticed this when the first vampire he encountered tried to kill him, but a direct hit with a grenade had splattered its entrails on the ground. His shoes were covered with what looked like steaming, black bean soup. The second vampire, however, was still alive, still hungry. Somewhere close.
He aimed his flashlight along the road, but everywhere he looked a dark, crimson reflection danced in the light. His throat tightened as he saw the remains of his fellow team members. Four men had been slaughtered. The last drops of their lives seeped from their broken bodies, mingling just before the rain washed it all away. These men deserved better than to drain into a sewer.
He turned around to look for the fifth agent.
Something rushed toward him through the rain.
He raised his gun.
A violent collision knocked him off his feet; his head smacked the asphalt and he tried to blink away the pain.
“Am I what you want?”
He stared up at two glowing pink circles. He couldn’t tell if it was a reflection, or light coming from her pupils.
“Get off me!” He groped for his gun, but she pinned him down and flung it away.
“No one had to die here. I only wanted to disappear.”
Ryan reached up and grabbed her throat. It felt like a steel pole.
“You can’t stop me. You’re just food.” The female sighed and forced his hand from her throat. Dark viscous drops shook loose from the tips of her fangs and landed on his face.
“And you can’t hide anymore.”
The glow from her eyes brightened. “I don’t know how you found me, but there’s still time for more blood.”
“Then choke on my mine,” he said and spit at her.
The female wiped his saliva from her face and with an amused expression, stared at her hand. She turned and gave him a thoughtful look. “Am I supposed to let you go now?”
Ryan drew in a sharp breath and the female placed her hand a few inches over his mouth. “You’d rather spit again than beg for your life?”
“I won’t beg. Not to you.”
The female took her hand away and glanced up at the sky. “Most men cry for their lives at this moment.” She looked back down at him. “Of course I never listen.”
“You don’t have any pity.”
“A vampire with pity would starve.” She again reached out, but stopped her hand before touching him. “Your short life is so sad to me, yet each day you can watch the sunrise.”
Ryan tried to get her off his chest; she didn’t seem to notice. “My life—” he had to catch his breath, “—means nothing to you.”
“It’s everything to me.”
“Only my blood is.”
“No. Sometimes I want more.”
Ryan held his breath. “What does that mean?”
“I also enjoy flesh . . . if it’s still alive.” She licked her lips for a moment. “Maybe I’ll bite through your skull and have a treat.”
The female slid down on him until their faces were inches apart. Her breath had a bitter-sweet scent that reminded Ryan of copper. She touched his forehead with her tongue and one of her fangs pressed into the skin between his eyes. “Mm . . . I see in your thoughts you are curious about me. You wonder why something so beautiful can be so cruel.”
“You are.” His eyes became crossed while trying to get a clear look at the long fang almost piercing his skin.
He didn’t answer.
“And you are not a soldier or a killer.” Her fangs retracted and she frowned. “What are you?”
“Just a man . . . a scientist.”
“I’ve never eaten a scientist before.”
Ryan squeezed the rain from his eyes.
The female looked to the east; the night sky had turned grey. “Quick, which will it be? Your blood or your brain.”
“You pick,” he said, steeling himself for the inevitable.
She brought her lips close to his and extended her fangs. “Hmm, then I choose . . . both.”
A helpless calm came over him. Instead of his whole life flashing by all Ryan could think about was his weekly research journal, sitting on a lab bench, incomplete. He looked past her and noticed the sky growing lighter. His soon to be chewed and swallowed brain worked the problem. He cleared his throat. “When those things are out you talk funny.”
She appeared bewildered.
“Your fangs,” he said. “When they’re out it’s hard to understand you.”
The glow from her eyes disappeared and she raised an eyebrow. “They get in the way.”
“I believe it.”
The female bit her lower lip. “Is that all you wanted to say?”
“I wasn’t trying to be rude.”
“But you said I talk funny.”
Ryan forced an easy smile. “Look, are you really going to eat my brain?”
She nodded and scraped her bottom lip with her teeth.
“It’s an acquired taste,” she said and offered a wicked grin.
“Can we discuss it?”
“Silly human, you’re not the first food that’s tried to talk until sunrise.”
“What else can I do?”
“I can’t accept that you’re going to eat me.”
Her pupils turned a soft violet. “Then I’ll be gentle.”
“Please . . . .” Ryan gave a final struggle, but he couldn’t stop her; she was too strong. He had run out of time.
“I’m sorry, but this will hurt at first, really hurt, and you’ll fall asleep as I take your blood.” She placed her hand on his cheek and caressed his skin. “When I start on your flesh your mind should be gone and you won’t feel anything.” Her lips parted and her long fangs moved toward his neck.
“I don’t want to fall asleep—“
Automatic fire slammed into her side. The image of her shoulder exploding imprinted on Ryan’s mind.
He rolled onto his stomach. An explosive round had nearly blasted away her left arm. Her scream sounded so human. A reflex of his humanity, the sudden empathy one person might have for another, jerked at his conscious and slapped him hard. He looked off to the side of the road and wrenched his eyes away from where she had disappeared into the trees. Then he looked back toward the other side of the road and watched his savior crumple to the ground bleeding out, still clutching the high-powered assault rifle.
And there, through the rain . . . movement? He wiped the rain from his eyes and refocused. Something leaned against a small tree. He picked up his flashlight, took a step closer, and froze.
The female stood in front of him. Sharp gasps forced out between her lips. “I—I can’t hurt you . . . not now.” She braced herself up against the tree, not more than twenty feet away.
Ryan squinted at her through the rain. She had been shredded down her left side. Her long dark hair, soaked with rain and blood, had turned into a grisly mat that clung to her face and fell past her shoulders. Her left boot had been shot away; her foot a jumbled mess of flesh and bone. With her good hand she clutched her useless arm close to her chest.
He darted the flashlight around, looking for something to defend himself with.
“Please, find a weapon . . . don’t make me wait for the sun.”
Ryan realized he would live to see the coming dawn. He took several deep, deliberate breaths and pointed his flashlight at her face. “Now it’s your turn to beg.”
“Please . . .
“I won’t do that.”
“The killing must end.” He stepped closer to her and paused for a moment. The rain had stopped and he heard the sound of a vehicle coming up the road. He met her eyes again. “How many people have you murdered?”
“I—I can’t help what I am. Please . . . I can’t face the sun.”
“Why should your own death be easy for you? How many children have you consumed to satisfy your hunger for blood?”
“No! I’ve never—”
“Screaming for their mothers while you ripped their throats—”
“No!” She wrapped her good arm around the tree and pulled herself to her knees. “I’ve never taken a child—I’ve never hurt a child.” She struggled to stand, but slowly slid back to the ground, her strength nearly gone. The sky turned a shade lighter. In a few moments she would start to burn.
“We tracked three vampires before you turned that one,” he said and pointed the flashlight at the remains of the male vampire. “Those three have been found and destroyed. Day is here . . . are there any others?” Ryan walked over to her and she looked up at him. The pink glow had vanished from her eyes. He knelt down and touched her cheek. “The killing must stop.”
Something warm touched him and he glanced down. She had grasped his hand. He had always assumed vampires were cold, lifeless. It surprised him.
“Your hunt is over,” she said. “The rest are gone.”
As her life faded, he held her hand. “How do you know?” He suspected deception, it was the vampire way.
Her head rolled onto his hand and her eyes began to close; lazy wisps of steam rose from her skin. “When they died . . .” Her voice faded to a whisper. “I could feel them go. I can always feel them. I don’t feel any others. They’re gone.”
“I want to believe you.”
Again she opened her eyes and looked into his. “I wasn’t always this—this thing . . . I never wanted this life . . . It’s over . . . it’s finally time . . . time to die.”
Ryan pulled a clump of matted hair from her face and watched as her eyes closed.
A small white truck came into view: his team’s backup had arrived just in time for the gory cleanup. He laid the female’s head against the small sugar maple she had so desperately clung to.
Two men jumped out of the truck and began to survey the scene revealed by the early dawn. Bodies were in pieces. It was horrifying to see what the male and female had done to the five men as they fought for their lives. Ryan watched as a second truck pulled alongside the first. The passenger door opened and out stepped a short figure in a light brown overcoat waving around an unlit pipe in one hand and a cane in the other. He shuffled over to Ryan standing beside the female, sloshing without care through the red stained puddles between them.
“So the male is dead—good, very good,” he said, looking at one of the bloody piles. “The males are useless, they hold no answers.”
“Answers to what?”
“And the female?” the Director continued, ignoring Ryan as he poked her body with his cane.
“No, Doctor Ryan—look! She’s still alive, barely, yes, but still alive, even after being hit so many times.” The Director shook his head. “The fools allowed their enthusiasm to get the better of them.”
“They fought for their lives and lost.”
“As long as she’s still alive,” the Director said. “This is a victory for the agency.”
The man looked down at the female’s body. Steam from her skin was giving way to a noxious fume. “Your victory is going up in smoke.”
The Director put his pipe in his mouth and took it out. “Hurry, we must get her inside the truck.” He looked over the trees to the east. “The sun will turn her to ash.”
“Quit standing there and help. We must get her back to the facility.” The Director started giving loud, impatient orders to the others at the scene. Two men came over, wrapped the female inside a large body bag and zipped it closed. They handled her like a bag of dirt. Ryan watched as they carried her away to the second truck and tossed her inside.
“Why are you doing this? Leave her. Let it end.”
“Leave her? Let her die? Oh no, that would be foolish, very foolish. You’re a scientist—don’t you want to know why their kind exists? You really want this last chance,” and the Director pointed at the truck, “
, to be destroyed without getting answers?”
“She’s a killer and we’re only food to her. She’s evil.”
The Director looked longingly at his pipe for a moment. “You’re wrong about her—she’s no more evil than I am. I know some of her history, this one. She has been on this earth for a long time.” He put his pipe in a jacket pocket and stared directly at Ryan. “Yes, we’re food to her, but so are cattle to us. Within her are solutions to diseases, cancers, and longevity. You’re a scientist my good man. This messy field business isn’t for you. You shouldn’t have tagged along with the tracking team.” And the Director again looked toward the truck backing up the road. “She will be very useful.”
“Useful? How? Five men, good men, just died, and how many others just in the last few years?” Ryan shook his head and took a deep breath. “You asked me to help you find them, to end the mindless killing and I did. Its last moments had some humanity, leave it at that.”
“Humanity you say? This one was always a bit different from the others. Yes, she had a small spark of humanity, always buried deep within that would surface at times. She’s a monster to be sure; she would consume either one of us without any pause. It’s her nature.” The Director turned and looked at the clean up taking place. “If I told you there was an opportunity . . . to change her, what would you say?”
“Change her into what? She can never be human again. I’ve seen the preliminary mapping studies of these things. Their coding isn’t even primate anymore. Any remaining trace of us in their genes is a ghost lost in time.”
The Director took his pipe out of his jacket again. “This one’s different, and I have plans for her.”
Ryan absorbed this turn of events. He wanted to say something, but the Director had already turned away, hurrying toward a blue sedan that had just arrived.
The truck, with their prize secured, continued down the road and disappeared as the first ray of sun broke through the early morning gloom of the Maryland countryside.
yan kept to himself during the long, cold drive back to the facility. The five dead agents had been gathered in individual bags for safe keeping until the pieces were handed over to their families with whatever fabricated story the agency would surely use. Five viewings with the caskets closed tight. The two agents riding with him glanced at each other, sharing quick moments of disbelief at what they had witnessed back there. They ignored Ryan, which was fine. His own mind still struggled to distill the reality of what had happened. He should never have demanded to accompany the forward team. The Director had been right, he wasn’t a field man.