Read Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) Online

Authors: Andrew Domonkos

Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) (6 page)

7.

 
 
 

The police had interrogated Mark Lane for an interminable amount of time.
 
It felt like days.
 
The light they kept on him was disorientating, and he couldn’t be sure how long he had been in the catacombs of the Denver City Jail.
 
He wasn’t told what he was being held for.
 
They wanted to know about his daughter, Zara.
 
Where was she?
 
He had no idea.

 

Before the cops had kicked down his door, Mark had gotten a strange call from James
Sollero
, Twig’s father.
 
James wouldn’t go into details, but the kids were in trouble.
 
Mark had reacted poorly and started shouting at James, blaming and panicking.
 
He was infuriated that James was being so cryptic.
 
All James would say is that the kids had pissed off some “powerful people,” and that Mark had to get out of there and come hideout with him in some safe-house.
 
The crazy bastard wanted Mark to get in his car and drive to Utah, where this supposed safe house was located.
 
Mark chalked most of this up to delusions, and had the terrified thought that James himself had done something to the kids.
 
He was,
afterall
,
batshit
crazy.
 

 

Mark had hung up on him out of frustration and then proceeded to punch a wall.
 
After he had iced his sore hand, he called his brother.
 

 

The two hadn’t talked in years, but Leo was a lawyer and Mark had a sudden desire for some legal advice.
 
They had a rather nasty falling out over some shady business involving their father’s bequeathing of his lifesavings to Leo from his deathbed.
 
Leo,
the lawyer
, had gotten everything in writing.
 
It was how he had gotten it was a much debated subject among the rest of the Lane family.
 

 

So Mark called his brother, and after a few heated minutes of recriminations and accusations, the two men put aside their animosity and discussed the matter at hand.
 
Leo asked his brother if he had been watching the news.
 
Mark admitted he had not.
 
He had been working the graveyard shift and had forgotten to bring his phone.
 
By the time he had gotten home he had found his front door wide open, the apartment trashed, and his phone blinking with about fifty messages from an unlisted number.
 

 

 
          
Maybe his brother smelled a high profile case.
 
He said he was getting on a plane immediately.
 
He said that everything the DA had was circumstantial, except for a rather unfortunate surveillance video of Zara entering a mental hospital shortly before a large explosion went off and several patients went missing.
 
It sounded like Leo had already done quite a bit of research.
 
Mark had no idea what he was talking about, what is she accused of? What mental hospital?
 
He was full of questions.

 

It was while he was stammering and pacing his apartment that the front door suddenly launched off its hinges and a team of armored SWAT police came storming in with machine guns trained on Mark.
  
Mark went completely limp immediately, but a cop
tazered
him just the same.
 
It had hurt like hell.
 
He could hear his brother shouting from the cell phone, “Don’t say a word!” and then he repeated loudly several times.
 
“I’m coming!”

 

And Mark had kept quiet as instructed while every cop who watched too much television had made a go at Mark with their best
CSI
impressions.
 
They shouted and banged on the table.
 
Mark said nothing, and they accused him of everything.
 
They threatened him with stories of terrorism.
 

 

But Mark held firm and bit his tongue.
 
He sweated and squirmed while they circled him and flicked his ears and occasionally showed him pictures of a beautiful young woman.
 
Dead now because his daughter had killed her.
 
Blown to bits.
 
Not even a body left to bury, they said, shaking their heads with disgust at him.
 
They told him he would fry for this.

 

When Leonard Lane finally came into the room, the cop’s faces drooped like they both had gotten a whiff of some noxious gas.
 
Leo shoved court orders in their faces and began to take pictures of Mark with a little digital camera he retrieved from his briefcase.

 

“Oh yes, this is good.
 
Very good,” he said musically.
 
“Nice work gentlemen, just the type of savagery I’ve come to expect from the DPD.
 
You guys are really going for the gold medal in brutality this year.”

 

The two cops bristled and folded their arms.
 
“He got that resisting,” the big one said. “We have our interrogations on video.”
 
The shorter bald cop pointed up to a camera in the corner of the room.

 

“We’ll see how a judge feels about it.
 
What’s this?
 
Spit?” Leo touched a wet spot on Mark’s shirt.
 
“You should know better than anyone that spitting is a form of assault, right?
 
You should.
 
How many people you put away for it last year for assault by saliva? However many you needed to validate your existence?”
 
Leo shook his head as if the absurdity of things was too much to bear.
 
“Now since the DHS has ruled out terrorism, nice try by the way, you have no grounds to hold my client.
 
We’re leaving.
 
Let’s go Mark.”
 

 

Mark looked around like a little kid who had two parents giving him contradicting instructions.
 
One of the cops shrugged and opened his hand towards the door.
 
“This isn’t over.
 
I would stay in town if I were you,” said the red-haired man who had been breathing his coffee-breath all over Mark for hours.
 

 

“My client can go to the moon if he feels like it,” Leo said confidently.
 
“His trumped-up charges have been dropped.
 
Why don’t you spend your time looking for the real criminal here, Nicolas
Sollero
, he’s got a mental history you know.
 
So does his father.
 
Zara is an exemplar—”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” the big cop said.
 
“Save it for someone who gives a rat’s ass.
 
We know what’s what.” He then stomped out of the room with the other cop in tow.
 

 

Leo patted Mark on the shoulder.
 
“Don’t you worry, I’ll have both those
Micks
swinging from the rafters before dinner.
 
They don’t know who they are messing with.
 
C’mon little brother, we got a lot to go over.”

 

Mark followed his brother out in the hallway.
 
Leo wore a ridiculous ponytail that hung over the back of his suit.
 
Mark imagined what his father might think if he could see this: Leonard getting Mark out of jail instead of the other way around.
 
The old man would keel over all over again.
 

 

8.

 
 
 

Outside of the Blue Bunny hotel off Martin Luther King Boulevard a few dozen miles south of the nation’s capital, gun shots were ringing out.
 

 

Jonathan was unaccustomed to the sound, and each shot, both far and close, made him broil with anxiety.
 
He had spent the first hour hiding in the bathroom, where he thought the extra fortification would at least slow the bullets down some if they came in his direction.
 
There seemed to be some kind of war going on in the streets outside of the dirty little motel room but nobody seemed to care.
 
But why would they?
 
Jonathan mused.
 
These skirmishes were a drop in the bucket when compared to the wars and discord being waged in the capitol.
 
One pen stroke in those big stone buildings could level entire countries.
  

 

Occasionally a cop car’s siren would whine, and the battle would grow quiet for a while, and then about a half an hour later the shots would begin to ring out again.
 

 

Jonathan got up from his chair and checked the deadbolt again.
 
The little lock seemed very insufficient to separate him from the viciousness outside.
 
Sleep, was of course, impossible in such accommodations.
 
There was also the problem of the roaches.
  
He had seen a few darting about.
 
He could hear them talking too.
 
Murmuring really, he couldn’t quite make out the words.
 

 

 
          
But there were other things keeping him up besides the territorial disputes outside.
 
Being around Damon had begun to weigh on his nerves.
 
He pined for the days when he only knew the man through the impromptu photo-op at Whispering Pines, or an occasional phone call or email.
 
But now that he was Damon’s errand boy, he felt like his life was placed on the edge of a precipice, and that even the lightest touch would send him tumbling into oblivion, where more punishment undoubtedly awaited.
 

 

He knew what Damon was.
 
He was a demon sent to torture him.
 
To break his mind into a million scattered pieces.
 
He remembered the years he spent in seminary, before he was ousted as a deviant by that nosy deacon.
 
He had forgotten much of the preaching that went on there, but not the sermons that talked about hell and the creatures that dwelled there.
 
Perhaps Damon had come as some sort of ironic penance.
 
He had done very bad things in his life, so bad that he once thought himself a demon, until he saw the real thing.
 
Now he knew he was but a whelp to be manipulated.
 
A tool to be tossed aside the second his use ran out.
 

 

And now with Norah at his side, Damon had even more political power than before.
 
She was plugging him into all sorts of new networks of corruption.
 

 

More shots were fired outside and a few men began yelling and Jonathan could even hear their footsteps as the rushed past the door.
 
His urge to flee was becoming unbearable.
 
He was far too spineless to resist the demons up close, but if he could just get away…Mexico maybe, they wouldn’t bother to chase him.
 
Would they?
 
He stood up with all the intention of getting in the little car Damon had given him to run errands in and putting a few thousand miles between himself and the
Casparis
, but someone had come to the door and was lightly rapping.
 

 

“I have no money!
 
I have gun!”
 
Jonathan shouted, ducking behind the bed.
 

 

“Calm down,” the voice said.
 
“It’s only your generous benefactor.”
  
It was Damon’s calm and honeyed voice.
 
Jonathan swallowed hard and went to the door.
 
The roaches were laughing now.
  

 

Damon gave the man a long hard look.
 
“You appear to be melting doctor, are the lodgings not to your liking?”
 
Damon cracked a smile and looked around at the interior of the dirty room.

 

“No, no, it’s great.
 
I love it here,” Jonathan said, his voice cracking.
 
A shot rang out and tires screeched.
 
Jonathan ducked down cowered.
 
Damon looked curiously back into the night, scanning the dark streets for the source of the noise.
 
He shook his head and looked back at Jonathan.
 
“Are you going to invite me in or what?”
 

 

Jonathan blubbered, “Yes, yes, of course, come in, sir, mister
Caspari
, yes come in.”
 
The words rushed out of him like a flood, and he even bowed a few times like a servant.
 
His visions of a sunny beach in Mexico evaporated in the moldy air of the room.

 

“Enough of that.
 
Have a drink, see if it hardens that noodle of a spine.
 
Do you realize how terrible you look?
 
If you weren’t already an eminent psychologist I would bring one here to take a long look at you.”
 
Damon produced a bottle of wine he had hidden behind his back, and two little glasses he had in his pocket, which Jonathan received with shaking hands.
 
Damon walked over to the little table in the corner of the room and had a seat on the ugly orange and beige chair.
 
He slid a long cigar out of his breast pocket and lit it up.
 
“Make me one too,” he said, and Jonathan fumbled with the two little glasses and set them on the table.
 
“Gads, pour it straight man,” Damon complained as Jonathan tried to steady his hands.
 

 

“Sorry, it’s the gunshots, I’m sorry sir but it sounds like a war out there.”
 

 

“Yes,” Damon agreed nodding his head.
 
“And what do you suppose it’s over?”

 

Jonathan sat and took a hard slug of the whiskey.
 
It burnt his throat and he gagged, and then quickly took another one.
 

 

“That’s the spirit,” Damon said.

 

“I guess…it’s over money.
 
Or drugs,” Jonathan said carefully.
 

 

“Maybe for the leaders of these peasants.
 
But not for their soldiers.
 
They fight for something far less tangible.
 
Pride…honor…ego, take your pick. War is this way, it hasn’t changed in a thousand years and won’t change in a thousand more,” Damon sipped from his glass and stared at the sweating heap Jonathan had become.
 
“And in war we all become devils.
 
And no true solider is not haunted by himself.
 
No wound festers quite like memory.
 
But as a healer of memories, I’m sure you are aware of this truth.”

 

Jonathan couldn’t place it, but there was a hint of something strange in Damon’s voice.
 
For a moment, he thought it might be fear.
 
Was such a thing possible?
 
What could someone like Damon possibly be afraid of?
 

 

“Sir, I mean no impertinence, but is there something on your—” Jonathan began to say, reaching out for the bottle which Damon snatched up with amazing speed.
 

 

“I was once a soldier myself, you know,” Damon said wistfully.
 

 

Jonathan nodded.
 
Although he was still very much afraid of this man, he was still very curious about Damon’s bizarre past.
 
He knew when to keep quiet and when to grovel, and kept silent while Damon continued to talk of bygone eras.

 

“It was serendipity that whisked me from the battlefield and into the wizened graces of
Vlad
Tepes
,” Damon said, now standing and orating as if the room was full of spectators.
 
“He gave me life everlasting, taught me the power of fear, the importance of loyalty.”
 
He pounded his fist into his hand when he said loyalty.
 
He gave Jonathan an accusatory look and asked: “You know his story?
 
Not that Stoker rubbish?”

 

“Yes sir, I did graduate work in—”

 

“Spare me your resume,” Damon grumbled.
 
“A simple yes or no will suffice.”

 

“Yes, I know it.”

 

“Anyway,” Damon grabbed a fly out of the air and pinched the life from it, “he was betrayed by those he fought for, imprisoned and slandered.
 
Such is the price of honor in dishonorable times.”

 

Damon handed the bottle back to Jonathan who put it to his lips and tilted it.
 
“Did you fight in other wars? Like Vietnam?” Jonathan said sheepishly.

 

Damon laughed hardily and almost slapped Jonathan on the shoulder before he thought better of it.
 
“No, as a matter of fact, not that one.
 
But I did associate with Heinrich Himmler for a time.
  
I even considered turning him, had I not thought he was dangerous enough as he was.
 
Such a military mind, rivaled only by maybe Patton’s.”

 

Jonathan took another shot.
 
It was unnerving to hear the name of a man second only to Hitler in the Nazi regime mentioned so casually, as if he was an old golf buddy.

 

Damon moved closer to Jonathan and looked down at him, his eyes flickering and his face twisting into a hideous visage.
 
All around the roaches were murmuring now in their strange language.

 

“I suppose what I’m trying to say, is that loyalty is all that matters,” Damon said softly.
 
“Without it, no house can stand. Do you understand this?”

 

“Absolutely, sir.
 
Yes,” Jonathan said, his words now tripping over each other from the booze.

 

“Good, that is what I like to hear,” Damon said.
 
“Now enough of my war stories.
 
There is much work for you.
 
Work that requires someone who can move freely in the daylight, which as you know is something I myself am incapable of.
 
That much Stoker did get right.
 
Can I trust you doctor?
 
Can you do what I ask?”

 

Jonathan could only nod.
 
He dare not look at the eyes of the demon.
 
Outside another few shots were fired followed by the sound of squealing tires.
 
Damon turned to leave.

 

“Ah the symphony of disquiet,” he said before opening the door and slipping casually out into the night.
 

 

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