Night of the Hunter

A trespasser on my property! How dare they? No one stepped foot on my boundaries unless I approved. At least, that was how I intended it to go. Instead, some foul human decided to meander through my land, doing who knew what. I would correct them for their grave mistake.

After I scented them, I used my vampiric senses to trail after the interloper. I kept my distance and discovered it was an armed female. She stopped running, and I froze. She couldn’t smell me. She clutched a wooden stake in one hand and turned around slowly.

There was no way she guessed my presence. Humans could no more identify a vampire during the night in the woods, than an ant could identify a truck roaring past on a highway. But still. “I know I’m not alone,” her voice rang out in a pleasant alto tone. I uttered not a peep. “I am aware whose property this is. Show yourself.”

I rushed forward with preternatural speed, grabbed the stake from her hand, threw it into the trees, and fixed my eyes on hers. I would use hypnosis to get the information I desired. “Quiet,” I whispered. Her eyes glazed over. I took a hand and swiped quickly, yet gently over her wrist. When a few drops of blood beaded on the surface of her skin, I used a finger and brought them to my lips. A familiar taste. Who was this human?

She struggled to break my hold on her, and I dropped her wrist, surprised. No human could break my hypnosis… unless I faced a Hunter. Interesting. “Yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed. The stake probably gave it away.” She seemed unaware that I had ingested some of her blood. So my powers of persuasion worked partly on her. That was good to know.

“I am Vlad. If you wished for a tour of my property, you should have knocked on the front door. I never say no to a beautiful woman.” I winked and the female made a disgusted sound.

“I know what you are. My family has hunted your kind for generations. Prepare to die, vampire.” She removed a hand from the pocket of her jacket and threw dust in my face. I sniffed the air and wiped my eyes. A slight burning sensation…was this garlic powder? I laughed.

“Garlic has no effect on me, love.” I lunged and grabbed her by the collar of her jacket, then tossed her against a tree. She fell unconscious when her head cracked against the trunk. I lifted her over a shoulder and took her down to the basement, where I slung her on a chair and bound her tight with rope.

She was not pleased when she woke. I offered her a drink of water and she slapped the glass from my hand in anger, refusing it. “Okay, I was simply trying to be a courteous host. I’m not the one who went trespassing with the intent to murder somebody.”

“You aren’t a somebody, monster. You are evil incarnate. Murderer. Devil.” She spat at me for good measure.

“Well, that’s unpleasant. Who is going to clean that up? Not me, I can tell you that. Now, then. Let’s get down to business, sweetheart. Why are you here?”

“I will tell you nothing.” She thrashed around trying to loosen her binding.

“If there is one thing you learn over five or six centuries, it’s how to properly tie a knot. You’re not getting loose, love. I’m going to be honest. You’ve got to be the worst Hunter I have ever dealt with. Who sent you here?”

She gritted her pretty little white teeth and said, “I won’t tell you anything. Let me go.” A further thrashing of the chair commenced, and I rolled my eyes, then sighed. I guessed that I would do this the easy way.

I flashed to within two inches of her face and locked eyes with her. I smiled in satisfaction as I watched hers instantly glaze over. I lowered my voice and smoldered at her. “Now, love, we are going to have a conversation, you and I. Does that sound all right?” I smiled when she nodded. “I want you to tell me the truth whenever I ask a question. Can you do that for me? It would make me very happy.” 

“Yes,” she said eagerly. I felt a little guilty for laying it on so thick, but as I said, she was the one who trespassed with the intent to kill me.

“Who sent you, darling?”

She moved her mouth and struggled to speak. Sweat broke out on her forehead from the effort. She shook and tried again and again to open her mouth and answer.

“Stop. It’s okay, love.” I turned away from her while my mind raced. This was magic. Someone had magicked a Hunter, probably a novice, to come after me. I tried another tactic. “Do you know who I am?”

“I know you’re a vampire. I kill vampires.”

“How did you know I was a vampire? And how did you know where to find me?”

“I was given your address and told what you were. My mission was to kill the vampire. Or…” She thrashed again in the chair.

“Be still,” I said, irritated, but she broke free of my spell. I watched as spittle and foam dripped from her mouth. Her body spasmed violently until all at once, it stopped. She drooped and didn’t move again. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she had activated a suicide pill because her mission had failed.

What the hell was going on here? I hated Hunters and gave them no reason to attack. I did not kill for blood anymore and hadn’t for centuries. I only killed in self-defense. Someone sent a fledgling Hunter. They knew she would fail. Someone sought to send a message, but what were they trying to say?

I checked the young woman’s pockets and found a folded up piece of paper. The words written on it sent a chill up my spine.

“I’m coming” was all it said. Who was coming…and why?

The body proved a nuisance. I couldn’t take it to the human authorities. This was a death for the supernatural community. Unfortunately, we had no headquarters that I could drop it off at, so I dumped it into a river and returned home.

“Renfield,” I asked my bonded human when I returned home, “go and fetch me my books on magic, please.”

“Yes, master,” he bowed and went to grant my request. The man refused to be turned into a proper vampire, not for lack of trying. The turning just didn’t take. He seemed to age slowly and be long-lived, but not immortal, and he refused to drink any blood but a couple of ounces of mine every once in a while. He remained completely obedient and loyal. I had given up telling him that he didn’t have to call me master.

I might have to ask some of the other Legends if they had any wisdom to share with me regarding my ordeal. I had little experience with magic, and I didn’t want a new battle with an unseen foe.

I tried to think of anyone left alive who had reason to hate me. This caused me to fall into a deep melancholy, so I read the books by moonlight, brooding on a balcony, lonely, and feeling sorry for myself.

***

The cryptic note read I’m coming and that’s all. A more helpful message might have included details like a name or the purpose of the assumed future visit. I anticipated violence. Violence always stowed away on things like this, hiding until the most inopportune moment, and then suddenly, I’d have a stake at my throat. Or worse.

Since I had no clues, I decided to proceed with life as though the note had never existed. Whoever wanted me could come and find me. I had other things to do besides cower in my estate like a suckling baby. Well, not really. I had returned to the modern world without shouting it from the rooftops, or, I supposed nowadays, it would be announcing it on social media.

I did not announce my return on social media. I sort of acted as if I had never been gone. No one noticed. Humans these days! I would have to check on attaining that verification badge, otherwise, I’d never get any followers. There were already several existing accounts purporting to be me! I found it quite irritating.

There were so many vampire movies and books that people had reached a saturation point and the undead had been declared dead in some circles. I didn’t care if they showed us sparkling, poofing into thin air when staked, or exploding upon exposure to the sun, we never went out of style! I would have words with anyone who claimed otherwise.

But I didn’t know what to do with myself in this world. A brooding vampire in a Victorian mansion no longer worked as an occupation. Long gone were the days when a gentleman could live off old money and attend the occasional dinner and ball to keep up the appearance of a noble title.

Now people had careers and jobs. Humans owned businesses and went to college. All of these things occurred over the ages, but keeping a low profile was much easier back then! Nobody had any privacy now. If there was one thing a vampire needed more than blood and the night, it was privacy!

What would I do? What did I want to do? I had no interest in starting or owning a business. I hated getting dirty and would rather kiss a snake than get in a fistfight. I didn’t wish to be employed either. Dracula did not have a boss. I was an Alpha. I simply preferred to be a leader…away from crowds. So I needed a position behind the scenes, calling the shots, while others did my bidding. Yes, that sounded appropriate.

What if…no, that would be too campy. I loved the idea, though. I could direct horror movies. Specifically, vampire horror movies. They would be little independent arthouse films. Nothing too splashy with computer-generated special effects. Mine would be love letters to the classics. Reminiscent and melodramatic, yet fresh and inspiring. I could accomplish this. I had the money. I needed to find out how to hire a crew.

Lost in my thoughts, I walked through the woods surrounding my property. A routine, such as one where a human would jog around a park, only I needed no exercise. But I still patrolled the grounds, if that is what one would call it.

It was how I discovered the last hunter, the one with the cryptic message stuffed in her pocket. I couldn’t help but grow suspicious. I would protect my property.

Finding nothing peculiar, I returned home. When I stepped through the door, a figure ambushed me. What felt like a skillet bashed me in the face. My nose broke and started healing. The cartilage and bone mending in my cheek hurt worse than the injury. Anger flared and blazed in my chest.

I spotted a shadow against the wall nearest the door and flashed with superhuman speed to the obscured figure. My right fist punched a hole through the wall and the intruder dodged, spinning away.

A roundhouse kick to the back of my skull stunned me for a couple of seconds. I growled and shook my head. When I turned, the figure darted down the hall. I followed and leaped at the stranger. We fell in a tangle, and I pinned the person down by straddling their torso and hooking their arms under my knees.

“Get off me, Vlad!” A female voice yelled. She struggled to free herself and I gripped her tighter.

“Who are you?” I asked, quiet and dangerous. A bad temper radiated through my chest and oozed out past my vocal cords. I wanted to rip the head from this assailant.

“Get off me and I’ll tell you,” she gritted through clenched teeth and renewed her struggles.

“Tell me first and then I’ll release you. Maybe. Let me remind you that you are the intruder here.” I squeezed her arms with my legs and jabbed her with my right knee for added effect.

“Ow, you boar. I’m a Van Helsing. I come with information you will want to hear.”

I rose from the Hunter with caution and put several feet between the two of us. She stood with a speed that could mean only one thing: this Van Helsing was a vampire. Interesting.

“My name is Brit Van Helsing. I am a descendant of your nemesis. I am not here as a Hunter.”

“Then why the attack?” I appraised my opponent. She stood to my chin, with dark hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore functional pants and boots, and I did not spot any weapons. That didn’t mean she didn’t have a stake stashed in one of her boots.

“I’m a Van Helsing. It would be ridiculous if I didn’t take a shot at you, even a half-hearted one.” She grinned.

“You’re a vampire,” I replied, stating the obvious.

“No shit, Sherlock. That happened by accident. A story for another time.”

“Your own family will hunt you now.”

“I can look after myself. Do you want the information or not?” Brit walked over to a chair and flopped down in it.

We looked at each other. I took a seat near her and the silence stretched. “Well?” I asked. “What is this information you came here to tell me?”

“You’ve got two batshit crazy immortals after you.” Her eyes looked black as a void and pinned me like daggers. “Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe.”

“I do not know these names. Who are they?”

“They were a hundred years or so before your original birth. Mystics. They were gifted immortality by God.” When I scoffed, she rolled her eyes and continued. “Or a deity pretending to be a god with the power to give immortality. Their mission is to eradicate evil. They believe their mission is divine.”

“I can think of fifty others who are exceedingly eviler than I, out there right now murdering and who knows what else. Why me?”

“I have no idea. Maybe they drew your name from a hat or have a naughty list and the next not-crossed out name on that list is yours? I am but a messenger.”

“Why are you telling me this? Why not keep the information from me in hopes that I might fall victim to these creatures and have your family blood feud resolved once and for all?”

“I don’t know, Vlad. Maybe becoming a vampire made me feel inclined to warn one of my kind.”

“Well, thank you.” What to do with this information? First I had to learn the history of these two immortals and locate their residence. What were they? Were they one of a kind?

“Oh, and one more thing. These two women, they’re the leaders of a cult.”

“A cult?” I laughed warily.

“Yep. I told you they were batshit crazy. They started a cult. Their followers don’t worship them. They insist their master is the one true god. But they have minions so devoted they will do anything they are told. Be careful.” She let herself out and I remained in my chair, thinking. I guess Brit wasn’t offering to help.

How did I intend to battle two immortals and their insane cult?

***

My mood stank like blood left out for the morning sun to bake. People underestimated me, still, and all the damn time! That stupid sparkling vampire had reduced the modern ones to Santa Claus! Middle-aged humans wore t-shirts with cartoon images of us and our fangs. “Bite me!” Or even worse, “You Slay Me!” How does a vampire ask for a date? Let’s go out for a bite to eat.

How about I rip your throat out and spit it in your face? I hated being the tame immortal, the one who didn’t kill, the one who learned to control his bloodlust so he’d be left alone. Then there was my love life, or lack of one. I was a vampire master, and sure, I could get laid anytime I wanted. But I didn’t want a one night stand. I wanted love.

If that ever got out, I would have to start killing again and take my chances. What did it matter now, anyway? Two immortal hunters were on my tail – Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. These two crazy bats were leaders of a modern cult and claimed they had a divine mission to annihilate evil. Somehow, I landed on their naughty list.

I completed my research and slammed my pen down on the table. First, Julian of Norwich, born in 1343. She supposedly died about seventy-three years old, which was ancient by the Middle Ages standards. She wrote the first book in the English language by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Norwich survived three bouts of the Black Death. I perused her book and found the constant mention of blood arousing, assuredly not her intent. Otherwise, it seemed like your average run of the mill religious manuscript. The fact so little survived about her makes her the perfect candidate for a Hunter. She chose to live as an anchoress, which meant she lived in a cell away from society. 

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if Norwich was a vampire herself. Perhaps she tried to abstain from drinking blood. It would also explain her insanity. I assumed her mental instability for obvious reasons.

Next came Margery Kempe. She also wrote a book which was considered the first autobiography written in the English language, imaginatively titled, The Book of Margery Kempe. Kempe claimed to see demons and that Jesus and Mary visited her. I knew she may very well have been visited by beings claiming to be Christ and his mother.

An internet search said she was married with a child and was even tried for heresy, possibly for preaching publicly and claiming to know who was damned. Her public spectacles didn’t make her popular. I knew better than to assume everything she claimed was false.

Perhaps these two women were quite sane and truly believed their mission was divine. A following would help them navigate the modern world and would serve as wonderful henchmen. Could I reason with them? Make a deal? If Kempe truly knew whether a person was damned, then I was a goner. With no soul, I would surely set off her Spidey-Sense.

Could I find them isolated and take them out one by one? Immortal or not, a beheading should neutralize both. Did they have superhuman strength or speed? I had no idea.

I went out to find dinner and stalked a human murderer. I could smell it on him. I wanted to see his murders and revel in them. The blood would show me. When my fangs sank deep in his neck, I didn’t bother with gentleness. I felt like being what they expected of me: a murderer, evil, the devil.

This human was a thief. He beat his victims, sometimes stabbed them, removed anything of value, and left them to bleed out. Men, women, his choices varied. As his blood flowed inside, I relished the idea that I would drain him. It had been a while since I left a corpse in an alley.

I felt sorry for myself and that made me despise myself even more. If I wanted to truly be evil, I would have chosen an innocent. Maybe next time. I wiped my mouth and spit. The blood had already turned sour. I walked toward home.

“Vlad,” a voice called behind me. I didn’t recognize the voice and turned slowly, ready to defend myself. I saw a beautiful woman in her prime with short blond hair. She reminded me of my Joan, only much taller. Both Joan and this woman preferred an androgynous look. The mystery figure wore a man’s tailored suit. It clung to her thin frame.

“The one and only,” I held my arms out and smiled sarcastically. 

The stranger smiled back. “I am Julian of Norwich.” She lunged at me with preternatural speed, which made her a supernatural. I scented her vampiric notes of iron, red currant, and clove. I tried to jerk away, but she caught me. My speed as a vampire was near unbeatable, so far as I knew. Until now. To my surprise, instead of attacking, she grabbed my face and pressed her lips to mine. I responded. I proved helpless to reject her kiss. I wanted it.

I grabbed her waist and pulled her closer to me. Our bodies met and she made a small sound of approval, which made me crush her to me even harder. Our lips and tongues danced and swirled for what seemed like an hour before we parted.

I swiped my tongue over my bottom lip and tasted blood. We had nipped each other and broken the skin. She tasted like ambrosia. I could see from the black of her eyes and rigid stance that she felt similar. I searched for any memory or glimpse of her life but had not received enough blood for any insights to bleed through (no pun intended). I wondered if she caught anything from my past.

After running a hand over her mouth, she said, “You may call me Jules.”

“Nice to meet you.” I wondered what she had planned. The last I heard, this woman was the leader of a cult who thought they were on a divine mission to eradicate evil from the world.

“Don’t be frightened, dear Vlad,” she said in a teasing tone. “Everything you’ve heard is outdated and incomplete. I wish you no harm. I swear it to all the gods.”

“Gods? I thought you were a Christian?” I expected an ascetic lunatic and what I saw was a modern, very lucid vampire. “I wasn’t expecting a vampire.”

“But you were expecting me?” She grinned mischievously.

“I was told you wanted me dead,” I replied flatly. 

She caressed my cheek. “Oh no, love. I have to control my public image. I can’t let people know I’ve gone soft. There is so much I want to tell you. Come with me.” She grabbed my hand, but I did not move. “What is it?”

I frowned. “You expect me to simply trust you? Trust must be earned, especially among supernaturals. I am curious to hear you out, but we must go to a neutral place.”

“Would you like to have dinner with me, then? Or, pretend to?” Her face lit up like we were about to have a wondrous adventure. I knew then that this Jules was even more seductive than the typical vampire. It would have been easy to follow her anywhere. But I was no fool.

I took my phone out and dialed Renfield. “Yes, master,” he answered.

“Ren, call Mistral and have them prepare my table for two. Thank you.” I hung up without waiting for his response. “I have a car.” This time I took her hand to guide her to my pristine silver Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. It waited for me far enough away from the crime scene I departed from.

“Very well, Vlad,” she acquiesced. “I shall let you lead this time as a gesture of good will.”

I didn’t comment but smiled. The smile did not reach my eyes. She noticed. As far as I was concerned, this woman was as dangerous as my nemesis Van Helsing ever was, possibly even more of a threat. I would not let my guard down.

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