Blood & Curses

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Chapter 10: Hunted

“I’ve found them,” she said into her ear piece as the car left the parking space in the deck. She took her ear piece out and started the car after them. Following at a safe distance, she passed through the city until they were just on the outskirts of town.

The car turned down a gravel driveway and through a set of iron gates. She pulled the car over to the side of the road as the gates swung closed behind them. The estate was located in the background upon the large expanse of land. Turning the engine off, she walked up to the edge of the estate line. Her body began to hum at the energy that surrounded the area. Stopping, she stood by the iron gates.

Reaching out with her hand, she touched the iron as it seared into her skin. Snatching her hand away, blisters started to form along her fingertips where the iron burned her pale skin. She had followed the Elderidge family all the way over from England, only to be turned away by some sort of magic barrier. She was so close and yet so far.

She sighed in frustration as she turned away and walked back to her car across the street. Getting in, she slammed the door shut and picked up her cell phone from the passenger seat. Dialing her contact, she waited for them to answer.

“Kate? What do you have?” the voice on the other end asked.

“They’re living at the old Ashford Estate but we have a problem, David. The estate is surrounded by some sort of magical force field. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” she replied as she looked down at her hand.

“Do you know its origin?” he inquired.

“Not yet, but I’ll find out,” she answered.

“These vampires are dangerous. Don’t get too close. Once you’ve figured out how to get past that barrier, give me a call,” he said as the phone clicked.

Kate threw the phone into the seat next to her and leaned her head back against the headrest. Rubbing her eyes, she sighed long and hard. Regaining her composure, she started her engine and turned the car around.

She headed back towards the French Quarter where her leaders had set her up in a nice hotel overlooking the street below. Pulling into the hotel parking, she left her keys with the valet and headed through the revolving doors into the lobby.

Her sneakers squeaked along the marble floors as she made a beeline for the elevator. As grateful as she was for the paid hotel room, she felt like she drew too much attention to herself. While the hotel was the epitome of poise and grace, she wasn’t, much to the dismay of her leaders.

As Kate rode the elevator up to the top floor, she stood among hotel residents noticing their perfectly tailored business suits and crisp pencil skirts. She leaned her back against the cool elevator wall and fiddled with the hem of her dark green sweater. One of the women glanced over at her to look her up and down before returning her gaze to the front. As the door opened and closed on each floor, the patrons started to wonder why she was still onboard.

As soon as the doors opened for the top floor, she bolted off and down the hall towards her penthouse suite. Pulling her key card from the back pocket of her jeans, she opened the door quickly and shut it behind her. Kate threw her key card into the bowl on the hallway table and headed towards the kitchen.

Pulling out an emergency kit, she turned on the water faucet and ran her hand under the cool water. She pulled out a cold pack and squeezed it to activate it. Taking her hand out from under the water, she turned off the faucet and placed the compress on her hand.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” a voice said from behind her.

“I was wondering when you were going to show up,” she said as she turned around to see David sitting on a bar stool by the kitchen island. “Couldn’t this wait until after I have a shower?”

“You know the rules, Kate. We have to always be ready,” he said.

“I haven’t even had a chance to change clothes for the past two days. I’ve done everything the leaders have asked. I’ve surveilled them from a safe distance. I know their every move and how come we’re not going after Adrian Clemente? He has his claws deeper in this town than the Elderidge Clan,” Kate pointed out.

“That’s not your concern at the moment. Your objective is to keep watch over William and his family until the leaders say otherwise,” David instructed.

“I know but—”

“Just drop it, Kate. You have your orders and I have mine. Adrian Clemente and his Clan is off limits. See to it that it stays that way,” David said with a pleading look. He turned, heading for the door.

Kate followed him. “You’re not telling me the whole story. I know it.”

“You’re new to this, so I’ll give you a pass this time,” David said as he opened the door to her suite. “We recruited you for your ability and unfortunately, it appears that even you can’t break through the barrier so we’ll have to find another way.”

“What? You already knew about the barrier? Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, her hand still stinging from the burn she received before.

“It was on a need to know basis. We needed to know if you would be able to cross it and it turns out, we were wrong. Find the origin of the source, and then we’ll talk. Until then, lay low. Take a break if you want, but get back to work as soon as possible. We’ll be watching you,” he said as he shut the door behind him.

When she joined the Hunters, she hadn’t been sure what she had signed up for. They recruited her two years ago after she had her first encounter with a vampire and miraculously, escaped her fate. The Hunters had tracked her down after that encounter and asked her how.

Kate had always felt different as a child. Many would’ve called her imaginative. As a child, she recalled being able to barricade herself from the outside world, shutting out the noises all around her. To her, it was as if a thin, wispy energy field surrounded her, protecting her. She would use it on nights when her father arrived home drunk at the disapproval of her mother.

Her mother had told her that she possessed great strength and power, one that no one could ever take from her. She was told that it radiated within her and on those nights she would sit in the darkness of her closet and listen to her mother’s screams until they were phased out by the transparent wisps of energy she surrounded herself with.

When she got older, she realized that her imagination was more than that. She possessed an actual power to construct and deconstruct force fields around herself, others, and even, places. Kate knew that this was the real reason she was placed on this assignment. If anyone could get past the barricade, it would be her. She would just have to study it more until she found the answer.

The Hunters had been after the Elderidge Clan for over a month. The woman they had interrogated couldn’t recall much information, until she was placed under hypnosis by her mentor, David. While in that state, he was able to extract information regarding the youngest brother, Matthew. It was almost like there was a secret vendetta against them that she didn’t quite comprehend.

When she joined, she was under the impression that they went after dangerous vampires, the kind that would give you nightmares. At first, they did. Soon after, their goals expanded to all vampires, even those that lived peacefully after the fact. Kate wanted to say that she believed in their goals, but after witnessing the destruction of an entire Clan in Romania, her beliefs had been shaken.

They had begged for their lives. It was something she never thought a vampire would do given the monsters they were. The Hunters had shown no mercy when it came time to destroy them and yet, she stood back and just watched. Every time she closed her eyes, she could still see them and hear their screams of terror, a sound generally reserved for their victims. When she stared upon the face of the dying Clan leader, his eyes were sad. With his dying breath, he had taken out an old photograph and clutched it in his hand.

Now, she stood in the middle of the suite holding that same picture. It was of a woman and a child who she presumed were his family. It was the first time she had ever felt remorse for one of their kind and it frightened her. The more she learned about the vampires, the more she felt that in a way, they were just like her. Alone in the world.

Their gifts may have been different from hers but at one point, they were all human. It wasn’t their fault that they had become this. Many of them were never given the choice and it bothered her. While it may have been naïve for her to think these creatures could be rehabilitated, the Hunters had never even considered it.

Her phone vibrated in her back pocket removing her from her thoughts. Taking it out, she checked the message and saw that David had sent her an attachment. Opening it, she saw links to the Ashford family and an address to a descendent of one of their members that lived nearby. Getting the hint, she grabbed her car keys and key card out of the bowl and headed back out towards the hotel lobby and the valet.

Her work had really been riding her ass lately. It was only a matter of time before she crashed. Jumping back into her car, she decided to drive by Blush just to check in. Pulling down the back alley, she shut her engine and lights off as she watched the back door.

She knew it wasn’t her prerogative to watch Adrian but she had a feeling that something was off. Kate knew to rely on her instincts. It was a skill her mother had instilled within her and it got her out of tough situations more than once.

She pulled her long blonde hair back into a tight ponytail as she checked herself in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were pools of pale green light reflected in the glow of the outdoor light of the alleyway through the car windshield. A splatter of freckles crossed over the bridge of her nose. She had her Irish roots to thank for that.

Leaning back in her seat, she watched as patrons of the club dwindled out of the back door into the alleyway before heading off to their homes. They seemed happy as they hung off each other and staggered away. If there was one thing Kate was sure of, it was that Adrian knew how to throw a good party.

A car pulled past hers and drove down the length of the alley. It stopped right in front of the back door as a burly bouncer opened it, stepping out under the streetlight. Kate watched as the driver walked around to the back passenger door and opened it. David stepped out as the bouncer pulled a bulging envelope out of his inside pocket and handed it to him. They shook hands as David got back into the vehicle and it drove off.

The bouncer glanced up and down the alley, spotting Kate’s car. She ducked down, praying he hadn’t seen her. He looked on until he decided to go back into the club. Kate sat up straight and cranked up her car before backing out of the alley. She didn’t know what she had just witnessed, but whatever it was, she knew it would jeopardize her safety.

Peeling into the valet overhang, she rushed into the hotel and up to her suite. Instead of the elevator, she climbed the stairs taking two at a time. She couldn’t handle being in an enclosed space at the moment. Her breath was fast and raspy as she made it to the top floor and opened her door. Closing it, she leaned against the door to collect herself, her breathing starting to ease.

“We need to talk,” David said as he stood up from an armchair in the living room. The floor lamp was on beside him, the only light that illuminated the suite.

“Stay away from me,” she said as she raced into the kitchen, grabbing a knife out of the drawer.

He held his hands up. “I’m not the enemy here.”

“Oh yeah? Then explain to me what I just witnessed. It looked like an exchange to me,” she replied, as she held the knife out ready to defend herself.

“I’m not going to hurt you. Besides, you and I both know when your barrier is up that I wouldn’t even be able to get close to you,” he commented, putting his hands down but keeping his distance.

“Adrian Clemente and the Order of Hunters have an agreement here. It’s not something you need to be involved with,” he started.

“To hell it’s not!” she shouted. “I thought the goal was to eradicate all vampires and here you are, dealing with them. I don’t know our purpose anymore.”

“That’s true. Your training was all true. We just have to be delicate when it comes to Adrian. He’s embedded himself in society here. He can’t just go missing without a trace and not have the media go into a frenzy. It could ruin us and our mission,” he explained.

“So you’re going to double cross him? Is that it? If he can’t trust you then why should I?” Kate inquired.

“Because we’re still fighting a good fight. Some cases have to be dealt with differently than others. Like I said before, it’s a need to know,” he stated.

“I think this counts for a need to know situation. What was in the envelope?” she demanded.

David took the envelope out of his jacket pocket and slid it to her across the kitchen island. She opened it to reveal a large stack of cash.

“What’s this? He’s paying you? For what?” she questioned.

“I wish you wouldn’t ask so many questions. Arlo?” he said over his shoulder. Another man stepped out of the shadows as someone grabbed her from behind, knocking the knife out of her hand. As she struggled, she was forced onto the ground. She felt zip ties around her wrists as she looked up towards David and Arlo.

David squatted down in front of her. “Arlo is a Hunter who can control the dead. We chose this particular hotel and suite because unfortunately for you, it’s haunted. We needed a way to catch you off guard so you wouldn’t use your shield. Once you get us through that barrier, the Elderidge Clan won’t stand a chance.”

“Why?” she spat.

“We’ve been watching you very closely since we destroyed the Vladimir Clan. I watched you take this,” he said as he pulled the picture of the lost family out of her back jean pocket. “No Hunter would ever do that.”

“So, what are you going to do? Kill me?” she said through gritted teeth as she laid there, helpless.

“No,” he said as he brushed a strand of hair from her face. “Rehabilitate. Arlo, you know where to take her.”

“With pleasure,” Arlo said as he pulled a burlap sack over her head. He pulled her to her feet with ease and the world went dark as she felt a sharp pain on the back of her head, rendering her unconscious.

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