Natti pulled her key out of the door as she stepped into her entryway. She flicked on her lights as she closed the polished oak door and locked the shiny stainless steel doorknob. Then she reached for a metal handle in the middle of the door and turned it until two reinforced polymer bars locked into place, one above and one below the doorframe.
Exhausted, the shorter woman removed her high heels on her way to the bedroom. Natti grinned at her gold-tinted snakeskin shoes, commissioned just for her. Growing up, Natti had never had new, or nice, shoes. Even her older sister’s hand down footwear was cobbled together with second hand materials.
Natti flicked on her bedroom light and scanned the room. The red painted walls had just been scrubbed clean a few days ago, and they still looked fabulous. Her beige satin bedsheets had been gifted to her after she had negotiated peaceful relations between Anthill and Myrtle. It hadn’t been too difficult, but a win was a win, and Natti loved her flawless record.
The young woman stopped in front of her vanity mirror and began to detach her thick, gold hoop earrings. She winced at a black speck on her flawless, cocoa cheeks. Her finger brushed over it, but it didn’t move. The fuck is that? Lightly scraping with her fingernail, she stared at the tiny blackhead that remained in her skin. Natti growled.
A harsh voice startled her, “Blemish?”
Natti felt her spine shiver immediately. Her hand snapped for the concealed pistol attached to her garter belt. The young woman didn’t even touch it by the time someone latched onto her shoulders and threw her across the room onto her bed.
Sliding to a stop at the headrest, Natti felt the back of her head land with a thud. She pulled up her dress for the gun, but the man was already on top of her. A hand clasped her mouth as another put a knife to her jawline. Cold, hungry blue eyes stared right through her. Natti couldn’t even think about how to escape the pin. No! Please God, no!
The man made a shushing sound before speaking, “It doesn’t matter if you scream. Your house is very difficult to get into.”
Natti switched from not breathing, to fast breaths. The blood pulsing in her face steadied. Her eyes focused. He leaned his weight off of her and sat down across from her. Natti pushed herself up to sit against the headboard, “What the fuck Harris?” Blue eyes… She tried to ignore them.
Harris used to have a well-earned tan, now he sat in the middle of her bed with a drastically paler hue. “We have a problem.”
“They got away?” Keep your mind off of him. Focus on a different problem. Natti had learned early on how to bury her emotions and cover any tells she might have for lying. It wasn’t too long ago she had learned that vamps can listen to a heartbeat to pick up on a lie.
Harris stared with no emotion, he simply said, “Wayne Manor.”
Fuck. She kept a stern tone, knowing that her only way out of this was to keep her captor on her side. “Why are you here?”
The older man rolled his knife wrist in place, bouncing subtle reflections. “We tracked the Red Bones to their home. I took care of Tsara, and let James suffer, as requested. Before I could finish him off I was attacked, and turned. I thought about the best way to cut off my own head for most of the night. Then I tried to let the sun burn me. It didn’t take.”
Natti just stared back. He’s not holding back. He’s either recruiting me or planning to kill me after he gets what he wants.
“I had a few days to myself. I thought I’d just wander the camp until I lost my mind, because that’s what happens to vamps. But I found something. Someone in the tribe was keeping notes. Very specific notes about trading. The ledger was pretty well hidden in their communication tower; that leads me to believe that the trading wasn’t very popular among the populace.”
Am I fast enough to get my pistol?
“Someone high in the food chain was trading their own people to a tribe called, Wayne Manor. This ledger documented, on average, about two donations per month. They were specifically labeled as donations, with names next to them.” He tossed a battered, three ring notebook out of his thick green coat onto the bed.
She dared not touch it. “Why bring this to me?”
“Don’t be so conceited. You’re not the first person to hear be babble about all this shit. You’re only alive at the moment because you’re not playing stupid. I visited three others in Anthill today. I advised them to be honest.”
“You’re not giving me much incentive. How do I know being honest will keep me alive?”
Harris stood up and walked around the bed, never taking his eyes off of Natti. He opened a closet, with the rugged Sheriff Cliff gagged with a rag, hands tied overhead. “He’s been honest so far.”
Natti felt her heart skip, “Harris, what do you want?”
Harris glanced at Cliff, fresh blood trailed from the man’s left temple down to his blond beard. “I want to drain every human I’ve seen in the last two days.” He locked eyes with Natti again, “What I need is to find out how long you fucking people have known about these fucking blue eyed leeches. Tell me now; he dies if you lie to me.”
Natti took a deep breath, “No one will tell me, but I get the impression the people above me have inherited this deal.”
“And what is the pact between Anthill and Wayne Manor?”
“We send them at least one person a month.”
Natti felt her throat dry out, “We send scouts on suicide missions. Obviously, they think they’re going on routine runs, but we sent them where the blue eyes tell us to send them.”
Harris made a laughing sound, but something about it sounded hollow, “Did you try to send Deborah and James on one of these donations?”
“It was just supposed to be Deborah, I didn’t think James would volunteer.”
“Well that blew up in your fucking face.”
“Yes it did. Wayne Manor thinks we’re trying to start a goddamn war.”
Harris seemed to mull that over. “How do they contact you?”
Natti glanced to Cliff. The beaten man didn’t seem to have any fight left in him. “They send a representative to meet with our council.”
“Once every three moons, we’re due to meet in one.”
“We meet with one, but none of us believe they come completely alone.”
Harris nodded and began to untie Cliff. Natti’s shoulders buckled in relief. Cliff fumbled, but Harris helped him over to the bed. Natti helped steady Cliff onto his back.
Harris loomed over them as he stood straight, “Everything you two have told me lines up.”
Natti had her arms crossed over her knees, kneeling above the nearly unconscious Cliff. “Now what?”
Clive watched the beige Humvee bump through the scorching desert towards him. He was wearing his shade mask and goggles that blocked most sunlight, but he still felt like he was being spun over a bonfire. Running forward to meet the vehicle was all he wanted to do, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference, and he’d just need more blood later.
The blue eyed vampire sat down in the same spot that the circling drone had found him at. Clive hadn’t moved too far from his location for two days now. Enough gusts and breezes had blown through to have completely erased the message Deborah had left in the sand for him: Go home or die. He stared at the tiny mound ahead of him. The letters were gone, but the message was seared in his brain.
Glancing back up, Clive watched the drone speed off to his right. It followed an arrow that he had plowed into the sand, back and forth with his boots, then his hands. The trench was at least a kilometer long and knee deep, enough for the drone to spot. He had added an arrow point at the end for the drone to hopefully follow and find his deceased teammates.
The Humvee sped closer and closer until the driver slammed the brakes, nearly sliding the vehicle’s ass end into the small ditch. Clive jumped up as the rear passenger door opened for him. Leaping inside the shaded interior for Clive felt like jumping into a pool of water, which he had only ever done once in his life as a human.
Closing the door cut out even more light, but the Humvee was outfitted for the day guards only. Clive decided to leave his balaclava and dark goggles on. He recognized the driver and passenger ahead of him. They had both been born in Wayne Manor decades ago.
Before either could speak, Clive said, “Follow the ditch. My people are out there.”
Boris was an average looking guy with a flat, blonde goatee that Clive had threatened to shave off while the man slept. He accelerated along the arrow that Clive had dug. He cleared his throat, “Glad someone made it Clive.”
Amy turned around in the passenger seat. Her skin was as dark as Clive’s used to be. She slid her black sleeve back to expose her right wrist, “Need some?”
Clive held up a hand, “Later, thanks. I just need to finish up out here.”
“Alright,” she spun back to the window and the glaring rays ahead.
Clive glanced at all the windows, no tints at all. Looking outside was like looking at a glowing, white wall. Maybe I should take a drink. No, the day soldiers need to be prime on their shifts. Clive offered, “Do either of you guys need a white boost?”
Amy playfully picked up and wiggled a metal canteen from the center console. “All good. Just kick back Clive, you’ve been out here too long.”
“Agreed.” Clive let himself close his eyes and lay across the back seat.
Boris cut in before Clive got too comfortable, “You may have guessed that Neal’s pretty pissed, but he’s glad you made it.”
Clive fought the urge to force a sigh, “Yeah, and good to hear.”
Amy seemed to hesitate, “So, is this Deborah tough shit or what?”
Clive’s eyes peeled open; he stared at the ceiling. “What have you heard?”
Amy’s soft voice had a hint of disbelief, her heart quickened a beat or two, “I heard she’s fast as lightning and tougher than a boot.”
Images of his dead squad mates flicked through Clive’s head. “My team’s up ahead. You can judge for yourself.”
“I’m sorry. This bitch just has a reputation.”
Clive couldn’t bring himself to lower his rifle to the floor. His trigger hand felt like it was glued to the handle. “Deborah killed my people in the span of about two or three minutes. I haven’t seen so much as a scratch on them for maybe a year or more. I was taken out of the fight halfway through, but for some reason, she let me live.”
Boris shrugged, “Some of us get lucky man. No need to get that, uh, survivor guilt. You know?”
“I think she let me live, so I could send a message. I think this is her way of telling Neal not to fuck with her or her people.”
Amy turned around again, “Is that what you’re going to tell Mister Hamilton?”
Clive shook his head, “I’m just going to tell him what I witnessed. There was a flashbang, next thing I know, Deborah has one of our own rifles, and two or three soldiers aren’t fighting back.”
Amy sounded concerned, “She’s a red eye though, I thought you guys could wrangle them in pretty easy.”
“Honestly, there wasn’t any time for that.”
Clive stopped, hoping they’d stop asking questions. He had seen how close the others had gotten. A blue eyed vampire should have no issue ordering a red eye from a few meters, let alone when they’re close enough to whisper. Neal won’t want to hear that. Clive reflected for a moment. Why do I have the feeling Neal’s going to chop my fucking head off.