Hunter/Hunted (teaser/scrap)


A teaser/story scrap by Melissa Vazquez

This story was featured in The Second Realm Short Story Collection: 2014

If there was one thing Maxwell Harding hated, it had to be vampires. Naturally, he was conveniently sitting at a table in Club Noir, the biggest rumored vampire nightclub in his native city of Moonlight Hills.

It wasn’t as though vampires were a thing reserved for teen idol actors within poorly acted movies, or were a thing reserved for Halloween. Here in Moonlight Hills, they existed and interacted with humans on a normal basis. For the most part, humans were to vampires what cows were to humans–a source of food and not very bright. The rumor that Club Noir was a vampire club was spread intentionally, Max was willing to bet. The idea of partying with vampires certainly kept a steady flow of human clientele, even if the membership price for a regular entrance card was steep. Club Noir kept a selective members-only group. Those who had no membership waited at the velvet ropes outside, trying to bribe the bouncers with money or cleavage that was one strip of cloth away from an indecent exposure charge.

Music pounded through the mostly dark club. The slow, sexy beat and female vocals kept the crowd on the dance floor pressed close to each other, hip to hip, chest to chest. Red lights above washed the club in bloody light. It was darker over where the tables where, near the bar. From the bar arose the sweet smell of liquor, in every variety, as the bartender danced and made drinks.

That was where Max sat, near the bar. He wasn’t alone in the wraparound booth he had chosen. Beside him was his co-worker and what he guess counted as a friend, or the closest thing Max had to a friend. His friend had an arm wrapped around two women who wore as little as they could possibly wear, without the clothing counting as lingerie. The threesome was laughing and clinking glasses together like this would be the last time they would get to party together.

He ignored his drunkenly loud-mouthed friend, his coal eyes scanning the club around him. The scantily clad women and drunken companions held no interest for him. He could tell who was human. The ones who shared the same genetic makeup as he did usually overdressed in this club. Or, under dressed, wearing scraps while still trying to be flashy and elegant. Vampires were usually easier to spot, because they didn’t feel the need to impress the human crowd. The human crowd was there to impress them, not the other way around.

At the end of the bar sat a woman in a dark cloak. He recognized the figure instantly. The cloak hid her feminine features but he knew who she was, under it. Ignoring the three drunken companions he had, he stood up to his full six-foot-three frame and made his way to the bar. He made a point to duck around the vampires, keeping himself obscured in the crowd of writhing, mostly naked humans. There may have been few who recognized him, but there was no need to invite any unwanted attention to himself. The pounding beat hid the heavy footsteps of his boots and the flashing lights cut his image into several variations of light and shadow. It was almost too easy to sneak around this noisy, squirming box of prey.

He sat down next to the swathed female beside him and brushed off the bartender when she approached. The bartender’s dark red eyes marked her for the vampire she was and they held no welcome towards him. She recognized him and the purpose of the female beside him. Noir was a woman too smart to fool. The club was hers, after all. Dealing with shady humans was like breathing, for the vampire club owner.

The cloaked female beside him wordlessly slid a small tablet over to him. The vampires he dealt with were technologically savvy. A few years ago, he had been dealing with photo printouts. Now he had a small tablet. He took the hand-held technology into his rough hands, sliding through a series of photos. There were two women in each picture, one with golden blonde hair and bright green eyes that shone red in the light, much like a cat’s. Beside her was a sullen dark-haired companion with eyes as dark as his and hair to match. As he flipped through the pictures, a third person joined them. A human.

His female companion didn’t need to explain the story to him. It had been the same over and over again. Vampires were notorious for keeping human pets, despite strict rules that said they could only interact with humans while feeding. The old, familiar anger burned within his gut as he eyed the human in the pictures. The boy couldn’t have even graduated college yet. He looked like an ordinary college kid, with no real flashy features about him. It was an old ploy. The vampires would use their charm to keep human pets around. They gave the humans gifts and seduced them with soft words and promises, until the human let them drink. All it took was a bit of charm to let the human be a constant food source, until the humans were bonded so deeply to the vampires that they wouldn’t want to leave their vampire’s side. They would be an endless food supply while they were brainwashed into thinking that their vampire loved them.

“Who,” he asked, his voice a low growl.

With that, the woman produced a small stack of papers from the tote bag on the ground next to her. The papers were also familiar to him, stating what the vampires considered important. Each paper contained a detailed profile on each of the two women. The blonde girl and the raven-haired girl were both profiled in name, age relative to their vampire years and the vampire that turned them. They both had very old vampire sires. When he saw the raven-haired woman’s occupation, his eyes widened a bit. Elite Order Guardian. Bodyguard to the vampire royalty within their society, the Order of the Moonlight. That meant that blonde woman was vampire royalty–yep, he was right. He saw the confirmation of her blood status with the seal of the Council of Ten, the leaders that ran the daily affairs and issues of government within the Order.

The last page was the declaration he was looking for. The Council of Ten decreed that the two above vampires were traitorous to the Order of the Moonlight. The warrant for their extinction followed, signed and dated at the bottom with all the counted signatures of the Council of Ten.

He was being asked to kill vampire royalty.

“Double the price for this one,” he said to his female companion, tapping on the sheet that profiled the Elite Order Guardian. Ravenna Stone. She would most likely be the bigger threat of the two, no doubt trained to fight and protect her charge, even at the cost of her own life.

The woman took the tablet and the sheet of paper back. Both were placed neatly into her tote bag. The tote bag looked absurd – like something for a soccer mom or school teacher, rather than one who dealt out death orders.

“In your account by the morning,” she said. It was usually the only thing she said to him now. Before, they had conversations about the targets she passed along. Now, with an established trust on both sides and confidence that he could get the job done, their meetings were short and secret, with minimal communication in case someone overheard.

“I’ll get started immediately.” Those were the last words he said to her as he stood up and made his way back to the table.

Back at his table, nothing had changed much. The two women were now pawing their way up his co-worker’s chest like he was a scratching post between two kittens. It was almost a pathetic sight to see.

“Can’t you guys go screw somewhere else?” he asked as he sat back down.

“Jealous, Maxie?” one of the women asked, her voice like syrup.

He scowled at her. She knew he hated the name she called him by–she just enjoyed pushing his buttons. It was the same for her female companion. That was part of the problem with keeping familiar company around. They got to know him after a while.

“Go be succubi somewhere else,” he snapped.

While it might have sounded like a casual insult, it was a subtle nod to the two ladies, that he knew what they were. While vampires had strict rules about how they interacted with humans, other supernatural creatures did not. Succubi and incubi were rare in the city but they had voracious appetites. He didn’t bother with cleaning up their trash. That was for another supernatural group of hunters within the city, people better organized and with more resources than him.

“I’ve got to get home. Work tomorrow.”

His co-worker protested, as did the two ladies around him. It took some casual chatter and goodbyes before he was able to get out of the overcrowded nightclub. He hated being there for anything besides business–and that was the business that his co-worker didn’t know about. To his co-worker, he was just another Joe Schmoe working the regular nine-to-five in their cubical farmland office.

That was how Max wanted it to stay. To the majority of people who knew him, he was just Maxwell Harding, the eternal bachelor who lived in a rather nice but small house in downtown Moonlight Hills. Women said he was too handsome to stay single. He thought there was nothing impressive with his coal-dark eyes and dirty blonde hair. He was nicely muscled as a requirement for his secondary line of work. Chasing down vampires couldn’t be done easily with a beer gut, or legs that hadn’t run a mile since high school track. He kept himself in shape out of necessity to his secondary line of work.

Very few people knew about his secondary line of work and that was just how he wanted to keep it. The less people knew about him chasing down vampires, the better. Most of the human population wouldn’t believe it anyway, and those who did were already bonded to a vampire, or wanted to be a vampire in some way.

It was a clear autumn night outside, with the brisk wind skittering leaves across the pavement. Overhead, the moon was half-full. Vampires partied like crazy on the full and new moons. Things should be relatively calm for now.

He made his way out to the parking lot and found the sleek black sedan he drove. It was the one luxury he allowed himself, a nice car with gorgeous leather interior and a mind-blowing sound system. Not that he really used the sound system much. The noise inside of Club Noir drove him crazy. He wasn’t going to follow it with a chaser of more loud music.

He had just slid into the driver’s seat when he saw something.

There were three people against the back wall of Club Noir. One stood off to the side, the obvious third wheel between the two. The two that stood together were close, in each other’s arms–

Well, shit.

That wasn’t a kissing couple. One had their lips to the throat of the other, in a very familiar pose. Those were vampires that had lured a human in to drink. Stupid vampires. Their own society rules said not to drink in public and here was a couple out in the open.

His heart began to beat faster with the thought of the chase. Instead of starting up his car, he reached over to the glove box and pulled out a small metal box with a keyhole in it. It was barely big enough to fit a pair of smart phones in the box. He unlocked the box and pulled out two pocket knives. The silver-coated steel gleamed in the yellow-orange streetlights above his car. Vampires had an allergy to silver. When cut by a silver knife, they were subject to what was called silver poisoning, where they would shortly die a slow, painful death if the silver wasn’t removed from their system. It was enough to land a couple of blows with a pocket knife to poison them and track them down. He didn’t have to go in for the kill right away.

He slipped the knives into his pocket, letting the latch on the sides of the knives catch onto the pocket itself, so they hung within easy reach. Then he calmly got out of the car and made his way over to the three figures at the side of the building.

As he got closer, adrenaline flooded through him in anticipation of that familiar chase. Then he recognized the three…from the pictures he had seen earlier. There was no way he was that fortunate. No way. He was never this lucky.

His targets were right in front of him.

This was the first chapter of a story idea started and scrapped, before being revamped and replotted. It takes place within the same city that Shadow Assassins starts in, Moonlight Hills. There’s even a nod to the Shadow Assassins above. Did you catch it?

 Succubi and incubi were rare in the city but they had voracious appetites. He didn’t bother with cleaning up their trash. That was for another supernatural group of hunters within the city, people better organized and with more resources than him.

The mysterious Order of the Moonlight makes an appearance in Shadow Assassins. Have you read it? Check out the first chapter excerpt of Shadow Assassins.

Shadow Assassins on Amazon | Shadow Assassins on Createspace | Shadow Assassins on Barnes & Noble

Featured image of vampire found here.