Chapter Three: Monster Hunter
Dirk flipped open his laptop and punched in his password. That brought up his screen, along with a rather extensive list of missed calls. Alestair, looking over his shoulder, saw that one of the calls was marked Babe. He whistled.
"You missed a call from her?" He asked, incredulous. Then he saw the other I.D. "What are you talking to them for? I thought you said this job was your idea."
"It was my idea," Dirk said. "But I needed their permission to interrogate some of the more intractable creatures I encountered." He hit the phone icon on the screen, and, after a minute, a blank face icon appeared. The voice spoke through metallic distortion.
"Mr. van Helsing. This is...unexpected. I had thought, after our last conversation, you would be reluctant to speak with me."
"Believe me, I'm not happy about it," Dirk growled.
The voice chuckled. "But you have to. Now that I do find interesting. What do you need?"
"It seems that the monsters that are messing with the city have been terrorizing others. I met a coatl and a kitsune who were both terrified of the thing. I can't figure out why they'd go after their own. Care to enlighten me?"
"They seem to be a large, organized group," the voice said. "They have cells in Hong Kong, Karachi, Accra, Johannesburg, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, et cetera. Quite a few of them have been hit in the last few weeks."
"I hit Beijing, Perth, and Tehran," Dirk said. "Who nailed the others?"
The voice spat two words like a vile drink. "Richard Locklear." Dirk sighed.
"Brilliant." The hunter looked at Alestair. "This complicates matters. Not only monsters, but the Order, too."
"Actually, he might be operating by himself," the voice said. "Our sources think the Order might have thrown him out."
Alestair looked at his friends. "That's news," he said.
"Ah, Mr. Harker," the man on the other side said. "Capital. But yes, we'll need both of you. Consider yourselves authorized to do what's necessary. Tell you what, I'll even throw a bone your way. Double murder, uptown. We think Locklear might be responsible. Find him, and you can pick up his trail."
Dirk looked at Alestair. "Thanks." And he ended the call.
"So what do we do?" Alestair asked, sighing.
The hunter shrugged. "Investigate."
Two hours later
"I don't like this," Alestair said.
"That's just your constipated demeanor talking," Dirk said, activating the UV flashlight he carried. "Come on now. It's just a crime scene. We've done this how many times?"
The vampire sighed, putting on a pair of red sunglasses. "More times than either of us has had birthdays."
"So why should this one be..." Dirk's voice trailed off. "Oh no." For a moment, the hunter's facade cracked, and Alestair saw a frightened, hurt child underneath. Then, Dirk's fists clenched. "This isn't murder, it's butchery." Alestair looked down, and then he snarled in pain as his fangs punched through his gums at the stench of decayed flesh, coupled with the metallic sting of blood.
"Dirk..." he gasped. "I can't..." The vampire doubled over, clutching his stomach.
The hunter turned to him. "It's okay. Just give me a second to..." He whirled at the sound of footsteps. "Well, that complicates things."
"We need to go," Alestair managed to spit out. Then, he turned and ran. Dirk reached into his pocket, dropping two small, round objects on the carpeted floor. As he turned, the hunter looked back momentarily. Then, he was startled by the heavy ka-chank of a shotgun being pumped. Benelli Nova, he realized. Apparently he didn't feel the pistol would cut it.
"Hello, Dirk," a cold, rasping voice said. "Remember me?"
"Like the first time I threw up," the hunter growled. "Why are you here, Richard?"
"Does Bosnia ring a bell?" Locklear snarled.
Dirk grinned in spite of the rather incendiary threat pointed at his face. "If you remember it like I do, you probably shouldn't have assumed I came alone." Suddenly, Locklear screamed in pain as Dirk heard the silenced Colt M1911 nine millimeter crack. Alestair squeezed off two more shots into the crazed hunter's chest and grabbed his friend's shoulder.
"Come on already," he said. "You've always been slow."
"This isn't over, van Helsing!" he screamed. "I'll kill you, you turncoat!"
Dirk and and Alestair ran toward a nearby window. "Jump," Alestair said.
"Crap," Dirk muttered, and then he plowed right through the glass. He grimaced as his legs slammed into the pavement, while Alestair landed with barely a sound.
"Work on those," he said, brushing off his suit. "You're rather bad at them."
"Lecture later," Dirk said. "Running, remember?" And they bolted off into the night, through three back alleys, and to the lot where their motorcycles were parked. Then, they roared off into the night.
Lucas looked out the shattered window and down at the caved pavement below.
"Do I even want to know what did that?" He asked Lucas.
The police chief shook his head. "I certainly wouldn't."
"Do the nearby buildings have security tapes?" The FBI agent asked, idly pushing some glass shards with his toe. "We could-"
"Already picked them up," Douglas said. "There's also some fresh bloodstains in the hallway. I took some samples myself."
"Good," Lucas said. "Let's get back to the station and analyze them."
"No need," Douglas told him, gesturing to the CSI team. "I've already sent it back. We are staying here until such time as we get results from the lab. Which will take about an hour."
"It's the middle of the night," the FBI agent protested.
"Welcome to the job," Douglas snapped. "It entails late work."
"Fine," Lucas said, turning away. "Where are we going to set up?"
"We have a van downstairs," he said. "As soon as we have a positive ID and a lead, we can move."
"So that was a wash," Alestair snarled, slamming his fist on the table.
Dirk sighed. "Leave it, Al. We got exactly what we needed."
"Did we?" The vampire exploded. "We got nothing, and you know it."
"I put surveillance in the apartment," Dirk replied, cracking his neck. "So now, we can investigate remotely." He flipped open his laptop and, after a few keystrokes, a grainy camera feed appeared on the screen. "One is a fixed mount rotating camera that I hooked directly into the apartment's electrical system. The other's a self-destructing drone. It'll get what we want and then melt down." He typed in several commands, and the machine began to move. The grainy image changed from black and white to a strange purple color.
"What's that?" Alestair asked.
"UV," he explained. "Coupled with a black light. It shows..."
"...blood," the vampire finished.
Dirk smiled. "You're catching on. Oh, look at that," he said, turning the drone. "Seems there's a large patch of it here. Where the body no doubt fell." He dipped the drone's arms, and suddenly, several small windows open on the screen. "This is coatl blood," he murmured. "There are poison markers in it."
"So Locklear killed a coatl," the vampire surmised. "That's a bad sign."
"It gets worse," he said softly. The machine moved again, and another spot of protein turned up, this one blue in color. "That's not blood."
"What is it, then?" Alestair asked.
"Leshi fluid," Dirk breathed, his voice low and reverent. "He killed a Leshi."
The vampire frowned, stroking his goatee. "Hm. Then he's using iron shot shells. Should we assume he's got shells of different kinds, too?"
"He's a hunter, not an idiot," van Helsing mused, running a hand through his hair. "Of course he's got other shells."
"Have you found anything for...what's wrong with you? While we're on the subject." Alestair asked.
"Immortal so far," van Helsing replied. "Moving on. So he kills a Leshi and a coatl. So he goes for the toughest monsters in town. Hm." He looked at the spot where Alestair had shot him. "Alestair, that doesn't look like normal blood, does it?" The vampire leaned closer to the screen.
"It's not," he said. "Can the drone analyze it?"
Dirk's fingers flew over the keys. "It'll analyze what I tell it to." The small machine dipped its arms to the floor, taking a sample of the fluid. The same sidebars opened on the screen, and he typed several lines of code into the program. "Hm. That doesn't look good," he said. "It's not human, that's for sure. But what exactly it is, I don't know." Then, another box opened, this one flaring red. "Aw crap," he muttered.
"What?" Alestair asked. "What'd you find-" He saw the box and he swore softly. "So he's a chimera?"
"Not any kind I've ever seen," Dirk replied, his voice monotone with shock. "It's some kind of plant matter. Almost Leshi-like, but less like an oak tree's sap. There's..." he stopped. "There's some kind of regenerating agent in his blood, but I can't tell what it is or what it does, aside from making it almost impossible to kill him."
"I didn't see him heal," Alestair murmured.
Van Helsing sighed. "Brilliant," he groaned. "Not only do we have dozens of monsters to contend with, but now, on top of everything else, Locklear isn't dead, and he got turned into a chimera." Dirk put his head in his hands. "This is all my fault. If I'd..."
"Stop it." Alestair smacked his friend in the head. "Stop that right now. You didn't know, couldn't know the truth about him. You couldn't have anticipated his betrayal or the consequences. What happened to him wasn't your fault at all. You did what you could with what you had."
"I know." Dirk sighed. "So we know he's a chimera, and we know he's hunting monsters. Even given the large Order presence in town, we haven't seen them do anything yet. So he's on his own, the Order's on their own, and we still have no idea what these monsters mean to accomplish. After tracking them halfway across the world and burning a half dozen of their hideouts to the ground."
Alestair shrugged. "They said that the murder might lead us to him. Maybe we missed something." Dirk nodded.
"I'll set the drone to look for anything out of the ordinary," he said. "I'm exhausted."
"Then get some rest," the vampire told him.
"I guess it couldn't hurt," Dirk said. And he laid back in the chair, soon falling asleep.
"I don't get it," Lucas said.
"What?" Douglas asked. "Did the results come back?"
"They came back, all right," The FBI agent murmured. "But according to the samples, there were five people in the apartment. Also, according to the data we gathered, one of them is a snake, one of them is an oak tree, one of them is a thorn bush, one is dead, and one is...well, I'm not quite sure what, but the data indicates he's not human. His DNA doesn't match anything I've ever seen. And I sent it to a half dozen zoology experts for a second opinion."
Douglas blinked. "What do you mean about the whole 'He's a thorn bush' thing?"
"His DNA actually doesn't look human," Lucas explained. "I sent it to the lab for a chemistry analysis, and each one came back more bizarre than the last. One of them closely matched a rattlesnake, but it wasn't the only crazy thing. Two of them seemed more plant-like than human, and the DNA bears it out. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. If I didn't know better, I'd say that it was the result of lab contaminants, but the lab's checked and cross-checked the samples. If the results are wrong, the test is messed up."
Douglas looked at the results. "If it's telling you a living man is a clump of thorny weeds, I'd say it's messed up."
"It can't be," Lucas murmured. "I've run the test myself a million times. It's good."
"So what does that leave us with?" The police chief challenged. "If the test isn't wrong, did they just murder a boa constrictor and a bunch of shrubbery? You and I both took samples from the bodies."
"I don't know," Lucas said. "Any luck getting that footage from the street the night of the murders?"
"Yeah," Douglas said. "Forensics has it. I brought it back for analysis. Shall we take a look?" He held up a flash drive.
The FBI agent took it from him and slid it into the computer. "Show us what there is to see," he intoned. A still frame of the street appeared on the screen. "Ready?" Douglas nodded, and Lucas hit the play button. "Okay." The screen slowly darkened as night fell. And then the men entered the frame. they were attired as their dead bodies had been, in jewelry and leather. They were laughing and joking as though they knew each other well.
Then the other man entered the frame. He, unlike the other men, had a flannel shirt on, and his long hair made him almost look like a hippie lumberjack. He walked calmly up to the two men, who stopped him. They exchanged words, and then one of the men pushed Flannel Hippie. He responded by punching the offender, which visibly upset both of them.
They attacked him, and Lucas thought he saw a switchblade. Flannel Hippie dodged and ducked a few strikes, but then the FBI agent saw the second man raise his hand, and he realized the weapon was definitely a switchblade. He thrust downward, and then the blade punched into Flannel Hippie's right shoulder. He raised his head, and then grabbed Switchman by the throat. The other guy (Lucas mentally nicknamed him Third Wheel) pulled another knife, a push dagger, from his coat and stabbed forward with it.
Then, it all became chaos. Flannel Hippie punched one of them so hard he flew back several feet and crashed into a mailbox. He grabbed the other man by the throat, lifting him off the ground with one hand. Then, he pulled out the switchblade and thrust it into the man's neck. As Lucas and Douglas watched, both were horrified to see him start ripping into the cornered man with animalistic ferocity. As Switchman tried to get up, Flannel Hippie did the same to him. After several minutes of vicious carnage, he got up, blood dripping from his hands and chin. Briefly, he faced the camera, and they could see his eyes, turned to a savage yellow in his ferocity. The man calmly took the two knives and threw them down a storm drain. Then, he calmly got up and walked away, leaving the torn corpses in his wake.
"That..." Lucas sat back, disbelieving. "That was savage."
"Ew," Douglas said.
The FBI agent looked at the police chief. "So. What did we just witness?"
"I think..." Douglas said, his words slow and deliberate. "I think this just got a whole lot more complicated."
Dirk woke up in his chair, his eyes refocusing in the dimly lit room. He sat up, rubbing his bleary eyes as he did.
"How long was I out?" He asked.
Alestair shrugged. "Four hours maybe? I didn't keep track. Anyway, I think I found what we were looking for. Locklear's shotgun is a newer model, and I ran a tracking algorithm using his known aliases. He didn't fly in, and as far as credit card records I could find show, he hasn't made it here before."
"So we need to figure out who sold a Benelli?" Dirk asked. "I'd think they're common."
"They are," the vampire said. "A large purchase of coined silver and shot shells shipped to the same assumed name, however, are not common. I found where he's staying, or at least where he had the rounds shipped."
Dirk frowned. "Why ship the shells?"
"They're eight gauge," Alestair replied. "Virtually useless for anything other than close combat, but they're absolutely brutal on unprotected flesh."
"That doesn't sound pleasant," the hunter murmured.
"It gets worse. He also ordered these." The vampire held up a printed list of machine parts. "They're the components to make twenty millimeter grenade shells for a launcher attachment. He wasn't carrying it last night, but we have to assume, for safety's sake, he has it."
Dirk frowned. "Well, this will hurt, won't it?"
"Certainly," Alestair replied, sighing. He gestured toward several gun cases in the corner. "I took the liberty of collecting some weapons while you were out, and you can have your pick. I will, of course, be taking several myself. It wouldn't do to fight him unprepared." Dirk went to the cases and looked inside.
"Oh, you know what I like," he said, grinning. An array of grenade launchers, shotguns, rifles, and other deadly weapons were inside. Dirk's eyes, however, were drawn to a weathered case with a fanged skull and crossbones on the top. "What's this?"
Alestair smiled. "I got it special for you. I know how much you like revolvers." Dirk opened the case and, to his surprise, he saw an old, almost archaic pistol inside.
"That's a Winchester Model 3," he breathed, reverently stroking the weapon's handle. "And these are the infamous Hellfire cartridges. Where did you find this?"
The vampire grinned toothily. "It was made by the Foundation a few centuries ago. When I asked Jen for it, she said you're the only living hunter that deserves to carry it. The bullets are specially prepared and as far as we know, it can kill anything. According to research..." he lowered his voice. "...it even works on gods. It apparently killed Camezotz a while back."
"Hm," Dirk mused. "A gun that kills death. I'll take it." He put the weapon and several circular racks of bullets in his belt. That done, he took a modified Remington 738 with silver .308 bullets. Alestair took a Franchi SPAS-15, along with shells, as well as several grenades.
"Let's pay him a visit," the vampire said, his eyes narrowing.
Lucas sighed. "Negative. I've been trying to run an ID on Flannel Hippie, but there's nothing I can find out there. He's clean."
"And no DNA," Douglas said, looking at the stack of papers. "He left nothing behind."
"So we've got nothing," The FBI agent surmised.
'We've worked with less," Douglas said. "Also, we think that that double murder uptown might have been a different culprit altogether."
"Who?" Lucas asked.
"An international terrorist. Richard Locklear Jr. He's wanted by Interpol for several terrorist attacks in Europe and Asia. He's also suspected of at least two dozen murders."
"So this is out of our league," Lucas murmured. "Great."
Douglas shrugged. "I wouldn't write it off like that. We can manage, if nothing else."
"Do we know where he is?" The FBI agent asked.
"No, but I'll put out an APB," the chief responded. "If he's here, we'll find him."