There was no time for wound-licking. As the dented car containing their colleague pulled steadily away from the pursuing gang-members, the vampires slowed to a jog, then a trot, and finally stopped chasing altogether.
"Kreuger ain't gonna be happy." One of the gang, a vampire with black tattoos depicting a permanent snarl across his face and an obvious penchant for leather, plucked a dented cigarette and a scratched, gold zippo out of his jacket pocket and lit up. He let the blue smoke of his vice drift away on the night air. "Shame about Charlie, too," he added, as he walked towards the pavement, with the rest of his gang.
"What now, Boss?" Tattoo-face, the de-facto leader looked at the vampire who'd spoken, the one with the buckshot face, and grimaced. Blue smoke escaped through his teeth as he hissed. "Reckon Charlie's gonna beat them bastards to a pulp?"
"No, I don't reckon Charlie's gonna 'beat them bastards to a pulp'. I reckon Charlie's gonna be a wuss, and he's gonna spill everything he knows before they off him. Permanently. So we've gotta tell Kreuger, ain't we? We ******** up bad, and now some group are after him 'cos of some bint with an overprotective daddy. So we've either gotta go hide somewhere, an' that don't work with Kreuger, or we've gotta go after 'em and make an example." Tattoo-face swept the cigarette from his lips and flicked some ash from the tip. "Only way to keep from gettin' dusted. Pockmarks-"
"Scab," interjected the vampire with the holes in his face.
"Pockmarks, you an' Runt check the way they were going." A short, fat vampire, who'd probably had asthma when he was alive, and had certainly been picked last for everything in school, beamed at the assignment. In contrast, the newly-renamed Pockmarks scowled hideously. "Flash an' Harry, you check anywhere they could hide to ask those kindsa questions in the area. Abandoned warehouses, building sites, that style of thing. Grunt an' a*****e, you get the aerial stuff between the other two groups. All o' you, call in if you find 'em, and keep tabs. Don't try nuttin' heroic." The leading vampire sighed.
"An' I get to phone in an' tell Kreuger his favourite boys screwed up."
It was only a mercy that Charlie hadn't known anything very much, Tatt's reflected as he pulled this week's stolen smartphone from his pocket. None of the boys knew much; kidnap victims were collected in a specially reinforced, black van with fake numberplates, bound for who-knew-where, and only he knew the number that contacted Kreuger. He punched in the number, left a brief voicemail message detailing the failed ambush, as well as the reason they'd set it up, and hung up.
What he utterly failed to consider was fact that Charlie had known that his gangleader was the one the mercenaries would have to capture and torture for information if they wanted to get anywhere.
Eury was not inherently talkative, but the information he had gather was weighing heavy on his brow as he returned to the warehouse with a commandeered American sedan. There were no outward signs of distress to the vehicles, and it was as inconspicuous a vehicle as he could manage on short notice, a testament to Eury’s passive field craft. He didn’t so much as glance at Dani’s sopping wet clothing as he pressed gently on the gas and pulled off into the ebb of general traffic around the dock’s third shift heading home now, although he did reach over and turn on her seat warmer and turned the ambient heat up a few degrees.
The route he took was a long one, turning in on itself and expertly ditching any potential tails in a motley assortment of parking lots, intersections, and dead ends. If anyone was following them, it wasn’t in a vehicle, and as they headed east towards the outskirts of town and building became more sparse, and traffic waned from near gridlock to non-existence as he made a final turn on a quarter mile long drive to an apparently abandoned old garage, turning out his headlights. He pulled into the open bay, and the door shut automatically behind him, shutting out all ambient light from the stars and city reflecting off the clouds. Automatic lights came on, illuminating the peculiarly hygienic old maintenance bay, and it became immediately apparent to even the untrained eye that this was a true trade master’s safe house.
No light could enter or exit the building. Each window was blacked out and sealed around its edges, each door lined with rubber and fortified with electric locks and shining with obscure runes, glowing faintly to deter any attempts at forced entry. There was a suite of computer monitors arrayed around a commercial grade server, displaying ambient security statuses and several cameras in a range of visual spectrums of the surrounding area. There were readouts for countermeasures, algorithm updates for his weapons suites, and a dozen other pertinent dockets of information freely exposed to Dani’s eyes. The depth of this operation was laid out in a one hundred square foot garage. There was a locked door that clearly used to be an office, and a single bed parallel to the computer station, as well as a mini-fridge, but beyond that the arrangements were remarkably sparse.
Eury turned the car off and stepped out, a flurry of poignant intent, still clearly lost in thought. He returned with a blanket and a small folder drawn from a cabinet beside the desk, and motioned to the swivel chair as he began to arrange photographs and snippets of information within the folder before handing it to her. Within she would find photographs ranging in age from over 60 years old to those taken within the last month, each with a dossier on the person in question, their common feature being their vampirism and their affiliation: the Teutonic Front, a shadow organization, a remnant of the former Nazi Occult Division, and a formerly infamous mercenary group turned armed thugs. The first dozen pages were dedicated to the tumultuous career of Karl Rittenhouse, listing his dozen or so aliases, locally known as Tatts, and annotated with first hand remarks that could only be based on Eury’s personal experience.
“I have been hunting this group of men personally for over half a century, and for them to appear now means the depth of this organization is infinitely greater than what I expect. The substantial fee these men levy for little more than muscle work, and the limited scope of knowledge their underlings have mean that they have segmented their business into easily separated cells, and this man-” he paused, stamping Karl’s face with his finger- “Is our only link to the greater organization. We have to get our hands on him, or we have nothing.”
The drive had been one she rather enjoyed despite the being cold from head to toe, but she was rather built for cold weather so the slight chill running down her spine was a-okay in the long run. The warmth that was being pumped through her though, was always an added bonus since wet clothes just sucks. She'd correct that later, but for now she enjoyed the ride with her bag at her feet and her hands in her lap.
When they arrived at Johnny boy's 'crib,' she couldn't be surprised at the state it was in. Felt like she was transported straight into a Batman movie, straight up awesome. Yet she did have to worry on the aftermath of this whole ordeal since he hadn't made any attempts to blindfold her so she couldn't find this place later. Movies always said an unlucky joe was popped at the end if that was the case, but then again that was in the movies and movies are full of s**t right?
She'd have to think of an exit plan if the s**t hit the fan.
Stepping out of the sedan, she looked about and almost felt overwhelmed. Big spaces freaked her out a bit, a fact that her older sister usually exploited when the teasing streak hit her. That being said, Dani bit her lip and shifted her weight from her right foot to her left, the squish of wet boots. Hopefully the barkeep back at the Bloodlust would pass along the drachma and it would fall into Ska's hands. Ska would know that Dani was busy and that meant back the hell off and don't try to locate me, also don't spy on me with Dorian. Nah, she'd be good.
Her head swung round as Johnny boy started to talk, she came in at the end of what he was saying but pretended she was with him 100% of the way. Her gaze dropping to the folder he handed to her and she cracked it open just a bit to glance at the paperwork. Green eyes then rose slowly, regarding the boss man vampire that would be next on their shopping list. Stepping closer, she placed the folder upon the edge of the table and leaned close to Johnny boy. Gaze sweeping the collective of photos and she tsked her tongue, "men of rank never travel without flunkies, their the ultimate kingpins in their own circles."
Her hand landed upon Johnny boy's back with a soft -thump-
"Eyes forward buddy." If he looked at her, she made a gun with her hand and pointed it forward's with another click of her tongue as she took three steps. Bag dropping to her feet as she did, pivoting on the last step before her hand grasped the ends of her shirt and she stripped it off. While her clothes were somewhat dry, they smelled of God only knew what and she didn't want to have that smell following her. Her ruined boots landing last upon the pile. She stripped down to her undergarments before crouching down and opening her bag. Removing fresh undergarments, she glanced back to make sure Johnny boy was keeping his eyes forward. If not, she'd glare.
Throwing her ruined boots and ruined clothing into a separate ziploc bag, she crammed the bag into the bottom of her duffle bag. Taking a can of unscented shampoo and conditioner that didn't need water to take the stench from her hair. Small miracles indeed.
Once she had gotten the fresh undergarments on, she slipped into a pair of worn black jeans and already broken in combat boots. The laces pulled taunt as she stood, a black tank top in her hand as she turned back towards Johnny boy. She walked back to the table, pulling the tank top down into place while pulling the hair tie from her hair. Crimson tresses fell about her as she secured the hair tie about her right wrist and slipped the shampoo and conditioner packets into the back left pocket of her jeans.
"Aight," she picked up the folder again as though nothing happened, standing beside Johnny boy and resting on arm on his shoulder in a chummy fashion, "now how to find this particular bloodsucker and avoid his little boyfriends?"
Vampires are noted for their cunning, their strength, their blood drinking and and their tendency to burst into flames in the sunlight*. They are certainly not known for their ability to track cars. Four of the six currently fanning out over the city in search of their lost comrade were among those who were renowned for their inability to track vehicles. The other two needed some preparation, but with this vehicle, they were as blind as the other four. There were no tell-tale skid marks, and the few granules of glass from the shattered windscreen petered out after a few blocks.
"Got anything?" asked Pockmarks, nee Scab, after thirty minutes of fruitless searching. Runt, the fat dwarf, walked calmly towards him from the other end of his assigned street and shook his head.
"Not a bloody thing. If I didn't know better, I'd say the ******** vanished into thin air." Runt's lips, already thin, pressed into a mere line. "Remember those old experiments? What if-"
"If you're gonna say 'what if someone managed to stop the car from turning into a burning pile of wreckage', I'm gonna kick you back down the other end of the street." Beads of blood, made black by the streetlights, squeezed out of the myriad wounds on Pockmarks face as he glowered. "Every time you say that ya embarrass us both. It wouldn't make anythin' left behind invisible."
Runt blinked his black eyes a few times, and then his face twisted into a sneer.
It was Pockmarks' turn to pause, then he frowned and gave a deep nod.
"Arright, granted, but you try tellin' Tatts that the car teleported. He'd gut you an' make sausages out o' yer innards before you even had time to finish speakin'." A phone beeped and, purely on reflex, Pockmarks reached into a pocket and pressed a few buttons. "'Sides, we got no evide-" He grunted as he looked at the small screen. "They found Charlie. Down the docks, burned to a crisp. No sign of the car. Tatts is pissed, wants us to get a move-on before the newbies ******** everything up an' we got no clues."
Runt clucked his tongue, an impatient mannerism from when he was alive. "Bats?" he enquired.
"Bats," Pockmarks confirmed. "Unless we want a nice fragrant run through the sewers."
There were a pair of faint noises as the two vampires imploded into two black clouds. Two bats fluttered madly up into the air, circled once or twice to gain height, and then made a beeline straight towards the docks. The night was drawing on, and they had much to do before morning.
* Despite the claims of certain fangirls, sparkling in sunlight isn't all that common.
<~It's alright Mae. I'm in the process of packing and cleaning house. We move beginning of May, but we need it cleaned up and out before end of April because we leave for MI the last weekend of, for a wedding, and won't be able to clean it after then.~>
"The one we captured gave me a few addresses, known hangouts and the lot, a few throwaway cellular numbers that will be useless within 24 hours, and most importantly the location of their next intended grab- or where it was before I killed a few of them in the streets." He had removed his jacket and set it on an empty desk, also taking his weapons out for cleaning as he spoke. He cleared his sidearm of ammunition, ejecting the magazine and removing the slide. In a matter of seconds, he had rendered it down to major components, spread on the table, a dizzying view of the weapon's mechanics to the inexperienced. He began to clean the build of carbon off the weapon's pieces with a stiff bristled brush, leaning against the wall to face Dani.
His arms were broad and large, making the large components of the weapon look diminutive as he scrubbed them, and it was suddenly obvious to her undoubtedly sharp gaze that his tattoos held a central Slavic theme. If she had any experience with organized crime, she would recognize them as the markings of a Russian Mafia member, and image not recompense with his cool, collected, military demeanor. There were details hidden beneath his snug fitting t-shirt, and it could be assumed there were more yet to be seen beneath his trousers, although it was unlikely she'd get to examine those. He spoke freely, trying to bounce his thoughts off her out loud, considering how to best isolate his old nemesis and exact his revenge- no, extract the information. The vengeance would just be a delicious cherry on top.
"The rest of this operation has to be carried out with the presumption that they're already out to get us," he said simply, letting it hang in the air, his eyes flicking from the barrel in his hands to Dani. There would be no separation, no taking a break. In a matter of hours, Eury had uprooted Dani from her quiet investigative position and thrust her into a war between some of the cities most dangerous creatures and a grizzled, worthless mercenary. Eury sighed, setting aside the piece he'd been cleaning and crossed his arms, speaking with and even, emotionless tone; "Is there anything you need? Absolutely mission essential that you don't have?"
Dani took all with a pinch of salt, when he had begun to go on about the sudden vendetta because of him off-ing a few vamps in the street...she did give pause. Her lips twitched, a slight show of discomfort as she crossed her arms before her chest and rocked back to center her weight upon her left foot. Head cocking to the side, she looked at Johnny-boy.
She really looked. Not at him physically, she had gotten an eye full already and while he did qualify on her 'not unattractive' scale, something about him just prodded her 'caution' button. She intended to find out what before it bit her in the a**.
"I assumed we were already under the threat of being hunted down, the vamps you ashed upon leaving the bar....were very aggressive right off the bat. We didn't just stumble into their way, they were there with a cause and made no plays of being discrete. So they must already know you and you know they know you."
She was on the defensive, arms crossed and her weight ready to shift if the need be. Weighing her options, she cursed inwardly for how this job had already deviated from her usual means of operating. Survival meant she'd have to go on a wing, take whatever was hurled at her and spin it in her favor. Eh, she didn't like that. That was Ska's style~ take the bull by the horns and dance with it. Dani rather observe the bull for a few weeks and then eliminate the threat without getting to involved. Not being involved meant never putting the temptation in her palms, never letting the deal become to sweet~ it had kept her safe so far and she'd be damned if she was going to blow her resolve here and now.
"All I need is a pack of cigarettes," the few other things she needed were in her emergency bag or located on her personage already, like the dirk tucked into a sheath along her back and the athame tucked into her right boot.
"Are we going to wait for the sharks to find us or put blood in the waters to draw them out?"
Eury had not planned for his mission to become so personal, and he had a feeling that she would not be satisfied with a veiled or dishonest answer, and he could not let her go at this point, both for the sake of OpSec and because he needed her. His facial features contorted, as if the words forming in his mouth had a bad taste, and he entered the small kitchenette he’d converted out of one of the two offices and turned the coffee pot on as he mulled it over, leaving her alone for a moment.
He returned with two cups, black. He would have brought creamer if he had any, but he doubted she wanted it anyways, and he sipped his gingerly before sighing in that agonizing way someone did before they opened another can of worms. “My name is not John, and I am nearly a century old despite my youthful exterior,” he stated simply, making it clear questions should be saved until the end. It was the preface to a deluge of facts, illustrating an illustrious but tragic career, first as a soldier of the Red Army, then a demon hunter, and finally a simple gun for a hire, a ronin, a man without master to pledge his undying loyalty to.
Eury was born in the impoverished outskirts of the grand industrial city, Stalingrad, just sixteen years before the start of the Second World War, and he made a hard living, grinding what he could from the less than arable land. Raised with a deep sense of patriotism, both for the Party & for the Motherland as a whole, Eury took up arms for the first time in his life following the outbreak of war in his homeland, his mother & father slain before his eyes. He took vengeance in blood, first during the prolonged siege of Stalingrad, then as he chased the fleeing German Army back to its homeland, volunteering for every clandestine sortie he might get to kill his enemy in.
Adopting his commanding officer as a new father figure, Eury became a Party member and a test subject after finishing off the monsters his enemy had unleashed from the ethereal realm in their ventures into the occult- where he had his first interaction with the cabal of vampires they were currently dealing with. He underwent a procedure which saw him killed, revived, and killed again, dozens of times over, his connection between the ephemeral and physical realms becoming not but a void. It was during this procedure that the majority of his remaining unit was lost, including his commanding officer, Captaion Ivanov, and his would was stripped from his body, creating a void of energy that made him extremely resistant to assaults of the occult beings he was tasked with destroying.
Unwavering in his dedication to the Motherland, Eury continued to serve through the Grand Army, becoming the premier operative in the fledgling KGB. During this time, Eury was selected to root out dissenters & witches among the organized crime syndicates, and did so through a deep cover operation that found him placed deep within the most brutal prison in the entire Republic. Demonstrating ceaseless loyalty & talent, Eury was selected as the prototype for continuation of Project: MONSTER. The procedures he underwent & the tools he was supplied with were a final gift from his beloved Party, the last vestige of his humanity crumbling in economic instabilities caused by their over extension of their rotting husk empire. Refusing to serve the new capitalist system, disheartened by their abuse of him and his comrades, Eury separated as quietly as he could from the only life he’d ever known.
For nearly thirty years now, he had been operating quietly as a contractor, providing security and carrying out assassinations, and in this case returning the daughter of a creature he was trained to kill back to her coven. It was evidence that his moral compass was calibrated to his own profit, a fact that obviously weighed heavy on his shoulders, but an unassailable truth. Eury would never be anything but a mercenary, a specialized one for sure, but he was doomed to be a wolf without a pack for as long as his body could sustain him- and there was no indication of it weakening any time soon, despite the patches of scars painted across his broad frame. His eyes had been defocused, as if staring a great deal into the distance or into the past itself, and now they shifted to weigh Dani’s expression for feedback.
She knew better than to follow him as he headed towards the kitchen, something she learned from a few less than friendly friends~ it was best to leave men alone when they went out of their way to get a few minutes alone. As he left, she shook her head from right to left and closed her eyes. Time to collect her own thoughts it seemed. A lack of denial or confirmation lead Dani to believe she was correct in a way, some of this business was personal so she shouldn't be surprised by anything.
The scent of black coffee jostled her from her thoughts, her eyes snapped open and she turned slightly towards him as he came forward and offered her a cup. Her fingers avoided brushing his as she took the cup from him and cradled it between her palms while a single finger would tap across the lid. A moment of silence settled between the two before he gave the spark notes version of his past as well as new light into this little job. All the while, she sipped at her coffee and stored the information away.
When he finished, she cleared her throat and placed her half full coffee cup upon the table. Her gaze swept the collected photos as she then tucked a loose lock of crimson behind her ear and slowly turned back towards him. Her thumbs slid into the waistband of her jeans along her hips and she cocked her head to the right. Before she said anything, she pointedly looked him over and a slight smirk laced her lips.
"Figured your name wasn't John, to generic. Given the Russian tattoos." her eyes switched to his arms pointedly before continuing, "I'd say your name is a strong Russian name as well."
He had laid it on the line so to speak so she wondered if that was her cue to give a little in order to balance things out, give a little trust and whatnot. A curious thing, disclosing information about yourself.
"You're right though, you do look pretty young. Don't worry, I'm pretty 'old' myself and my lifespan has pretty much been extended and bound."
It was a bit of an annoyance to explain as she leaned back against the table slightly and gave a sparse re-telling of her own 'identity' but it had to be done to stop questions later on. She had started off as a Witch, a real Witch, everything was in her blood which meant she had the ability to use ley lines. She and her sister had become practioners of black magic at an early age, earlier than what was considered 'norm' and it was that early show of ability to harness black magic, that Dorian had appeared before her sister. He was a demon, not the generic and normal kind, but a different kind of demon. Demons that lived in a parallel reality called the ever after which could be entered through a ley line, but only demons could survive the ever after.
A visible wince marked Dani's features as she pulled her hands from her hips and began to mess with her fingers. She felt the un-natural tinge in her fingertips at the thought of her demon witch sister. Ska had made a pact with Dorian, Dani would continue slowly, somehow merging her aura and being with the demon so that the by product was that Ska could be considered a demon witch and Dorian was no longer bound to return to the ever after when the sun set. Dani's little part in all this was that Dorian had extended the offer unto her but Dani wasn't ready to fully commit. Her sister had bound Dani to her then as a sort of familiar, but not~ and in that, took away the lifespan of 160 years given to a Witch. Lifespans for demons were unknown, but Dorian had made it clear that both sisters had extended their lifespans or became 'immortal' like the demons.
"It sounds restricting, but it isn't."
Self conscious, she turned her head to the right and inhaled deeply. She left out the fact that part of being bound to Ska and Dorian, meant that each of them had left a mark on her body. Ska's mark was the letter S in a loose script with a music note piercing the center. It appeared like a tattoo right behind her neck and was usually hidden by Dani's crimson hair. Dorian's mark looked like a clawed hand print tattoo that sat on her right inner ankle.
Regaining some composure, she flashed him a grin.
"So what is your name? Is it ridiculous to pronounce? My name's really Danica by the way."