Blood & Curses

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Chapter 15: A Partner

Kate awoke inside her hotel room nestled comfortably beneath the feathery blanket. She sat up and scanned the room for any sign of David or Arlo as memories from the week before assaulted her senses. She had been taken by surprise, a trick that had rendered her focus useless to activate her ability to protect herself.

She looked down at her arms and saw bruises around her wrists where she had been shackled to a chair in a small, cold room within the rehabilitation center. When she had been taken, their goal was to beat her into submission as a Hunter. Her sympathy towards the enemy made her weak and clouded her judgement putting all future partners at risk.

Reaching for the lamp on the bedside table, she click on the light and swung her feet down to the ground. A glass of water and two aspirin were resting on a silver tray by the lamp. She took them without another thought and gulped the water, its sweet coolness flowing through her being.

Kate stumbled out of the plush bed and ran her hands against the wall, guiding her movements throughout the suite. Noticing her phone on the small table beside one of the armchairs in the living room, she snatched it up. Scrolling through the wall of texts and calls, she landed on a message from David.

The phone vibrated angrily in her hand as an incoming call alerted her attention.

“What do you want?” she snarled into the phone.

“I suppose I wasn’t expecting a friendly greeting,” David mused on the other end. “How are you feeling?”

“How am I feeling?” she asked, incredulously. “You kidnapped me and kept me in a hole for a week with just enough food and water to keep my heart beating. How do you think I’m feeling?”

“Your anger is warranted but we needed to know your position on the mission. That was the chosen punishment for your insubordination,” David stated, cool and collected.

“Insubordination? I have done everything any of you have ever asked me to do!”

“Now, now. No need to get upset. We all fall off the wagon once or twice. We were pleased to discover that your feelings towards the vampires were fleeting,” David assured.

“You know my story, David. How could I ever have any sort of feeling towards a vampire than pure rage? Your tactics were highly unnecessary,” Kate explained.

“Alastor didn’t believe they were,” David said flatly.

“Alastor?” Kate asked. Her voice grew meek at the mention of his name. Alastor was not just her boss, but also David’s boss. He was the leader of the Hunters and only involved himself in serious matters that required his delicate attention.

“Yes. He’ll be flying in from France soon to assess our progress in this investigation. He’s taken an interest to the Clan we’re hunting,” David explained.

“What about Adrian Clemente?” she asked, knowing that the last time she questioned their motives it had ended with her being taken. At this point, she didn’t care. She wanted them all dead. Every last vampire.

David chuckled under his breath. “I’m glad to see that you’re so enthusiastic about the demise of vampires but leave Adrian to me. I have something more special planned out for him. For the time being, I need you to focus on bringing down that barrier at the estate. I have a car waiting outside your hotel to take you to someone I’d like you to partner with.”

“Partners? I don’t do partners. You know that,” she growled. The last time she had a partner he had died during one of their vampire encounters. It was a mistake that she never wished to make again.

“If you have any issues, I suggest you take it up with Alastor. He’s the one who appointed him. I think you’ll enjoy the company of this one,” David mentioned. “And please, don’t forget your place next time. Alastor won’t be as patient.”

With that, the phone clicked on the other end as Kate lowered her hand from her face. Cursing under her breath, she moved throughout the room pulling on clothes that were presentable. Buttoning her jeans and straightening out her blue blouse, she slipped her arms into a brown leather jacket. Picking up the key card from the bowl and throwing a small purse with a long strap across her chest, she made her way to the lobby of the hotel.

Stepping out on the sidewalk under the overhang she peered through the window of the black sedan parked in front of the valet. A man on the driver’s side leaned over and opened the car door for her. Jumping into the car, she slammed the door shut and he pulled out into the busy street.

“You must be Caitríona Hayes,” he said as they drove through the city.

“Kate is just fine. My Irish name is kind of a handful,” she remarked, surprised at his perfect pronunciation.

“Are you from Ireland? I don’t hear an accent,” he asked.

“I was an army brat,” she said shortly. “Who are you?”

“Forgive me. My name is Logan and I was called in from the west coast to assist you,” he replied.

“I don’t need assistance,” Kate stated coldly.

Logan gave her a sideways glance. “I get it. I wasn’t used to having a partner when I first started out either but taking on a Clan of vampires the size of the Elderidge family isn’t anything to sneeze at. I’m surprised they didn’t call you in a partner sooner.”

“My last partner was ripped apart by vampires. I’m sure they didn’t tell you that when you took on the assignment,” she stated.

“Actually, they told me everything about you. Since we’re skipping the niceties we can just cut to the chase. How about we do this little tit for tat over a nice cup of coffee?” he asked as he swung the car into a nearby diner.

Cutting the engine off, he stepped out of the car without waiting for Kate and walked into the restaurant. Feeling her stomach rumble from the thought of food, she begrudgingly took herself out of the car and walked through the front door, a bell tinkling overhead. Finding Logan seated at a booth she sauntered over and slid down opposite him.

“What can I get for you?” a waitress asked as she approached the table.

“We’ll have coffee,” Logan replied.

“Actually, can I get your breakfast special, eggs over easy, and a side of orange juice in addition to the coffee? I’m famished,” Kate said as she stared at Logan across the table.

He sported a close cropped haircut and cool blue eyes. He had thin lips but a strong jawline and prominent brow. By her estimation, she pegged him as in his early 30s, a little older than herself. It amused her how casual he had dressed for their meeting. While most of her other colleagues would’ve chosen a suit, he wore a pair of khakis with a simple button down shirt.

“Absolutely. Coming right up,” the waitress replied as she walked away.

“I’m guessing they had to rehabilitate you,” Logan commented as the waitress came back with two cups of fresh brewed coffee.

“So you’ve been through it before?” Kate asked as she added cream and sugar to her brew.

“I haven’t experienced it personally but I have witnessed it being done,” he explained. “I know it’s hell for the person going through it. From the looks of you though I assume you’ve only been through it once.”

“Why? What happens if you go through it twice?” Kate asked, blowing the steam off the top of her coffee cup.

“Let’s just say, some of them make it and some of them don’t. The ones that make it are a shell of what they were. Almost zombie like when they emerge. I never see them again too long after that though,” he said taking a sip from his cup.

“You’re here to watch me, aren’t you?” Kate was beginning to see right through her organization and what they stood for.

“I’m here to observe, yes. I figure it’ll be easier to not try and bullshit you. I’m also here to help you. I hear this case has gotten a little hairy. Something about involvement with Voodoo?” He raised a brow as he gazed over his coffee.

“There’s a special barrier around the estate grounds. For some reason, our Hunters can’t get through it to take out the Elderidge Clan. They sent me in to see if I could bring it down,” she replied.

“Really? How so?” he asked enthusiastically.

“I have a unique ability to create barriers and deconstruct them. The organization thought my ability would come in handy on this case. However, they were wrong.” As much as Kate hated to admit defeat even this case had her stumped.

“That’s why I’m here. I amplify the abilities of Hunters around me,” he stated.

“How do you do that?” Kate asked, intrigued.

The waitress came back over with the food Kate had ordered. Before she could set all the plates down on the table, Kate already had her fork and knife in hand, slicing through the sausage and eggs. Logan sat back and watched as Kate piled the food into her mouth, savoring the taste upon her tongue. She swallowed the food as if it were her last meal.

“It has to do with the aura around a person. I can manipulate the aura to either suppress or amplify the flow of energy through their auric channels. The boss think that by having me present, we may be able to solve this issue together,” he concluded.

Wiping her face with a napkin, Kate lowered her utensils. “Do you really think that’s all it’s going to take?”

“By itself? No. I think we’re missing something here. Magic is a fickle thing and I don’t think our abilities, even combined, will bring down that barrier,” Logan admitted.

“So we’re going to play detective. Well, detective, do you have any leads?” Kate asked, mocking him.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Logan put his empty coffee cup down on the table and leaned over to pull a wallet out of his back pocket. Placing the bills on the table, he stood up from his seat and motioned for her to follow.

Grabbing her purse, she followed his lead back to the car. Logan was silent as he started the car and headed down the street before parking alongside the road. Kate peered down the narrow alley at the iron gate at the end.

“Have you ever heard of Kalfou?” he asked her suddenly, breaking her gaze.

“No. What’s that?” she asked.

“Well, first, it’s a little shop that is hidden at the end of that alley. Secondly, it’s a spirit that watches the crossroads between this life and the next. I spoke to a man on the street the other night. He told me of a vampire that came to this shop and spoke to a woman named Mama Eshe. This vampire wanted to take down the barrier. The Elderidge Clan have no idea what they’re messing with,” Logan explained.

“What do you mean? It makes sense that if magic created the barrier then magic can take it down. Let’s just let them do the work for us,” Kate pointed out.

“Do you know what the true mission of Hunters are?” Logan asked, deviating from the conversation. Kate looked at him in confusion. “There are many sects of Hunters, not just the ones who go after vampires. Some of us go after other dark creatures and entities that try to cross over into our world.”

“Logan, I’m not here for a history lesson,” Kate rushed.

“Kalfou is a spiritual aspect connected to Papa Legba of the Loa. While Papa Legba controls the passage of innocent spirits between the realms, Kalfou is his polar opposite. Kalfou only knows of misfortune and evil. We have to take down that barrier before that vampire figures it out, now more than ever,” Logan explained.

“What happens if we don’t?” Kate asked, a feeling of doom wafting over her senses.

Logan hesitated in his answer. “Then we’ll be facing something a lot worse than a few vampires.”

“Does this Mama Eshe know what she’s done?” Kate inquired as they stepped out of the vehicle and headed down the alley towards the shop.

“That’s what we’re about to find out,” Logan answered. Pushing open the shop door, they walked inside. Sunlight filtered in through the small window by the door illuminating the inside.

“It appears I’ve been quite popular around here,” Mama Eshe commented as she closed the book she was reading on her counter. “What do you want?”

“We have a few questions. A vampire entered your establishment a few nights ago and we want to know why,” Logan took the lead.

“Vampire? I don’t know any vampires around here,” Mama Eshe remarked.

Logan was in front of Mama Eshe in one bound and pulled her towards him by the neck of her blouse. Kate stepped forward and grabbed Logan’s arm ready to break it if he hurt the woman. She didn’t know his game but she wasn’t about to let him hurt an innocent person just to get a few answers.

“Let her go. I’ll take it from here,” Kate growled under her breath at Logan. He released his hold on Mama Eshe and backed away slowly, standing a few inches behind Kate.

Kate leaned in towards the woman as she caught her breath, fear reaching her eyes. “We’re doing some important work here and I suggest us taking the easier route. I’ll ask the questions and you answer. Do we have a deal?” Kate inquired.

“Only if you keep your dog off of me,” Mama Eshe said as she eyed Logan. “I don’t want your kind setting foot in my store again after today.”

“Tell us all we need to know and you’ve got a deal,” Kate smiled. “Now please, tell us about this vampire of yours. Friend?”

“No. I had never seen her until a few days ago when Zane brought her in off the street. She said her name was Victoria Elder-something,” Mama Eshe replied.

“Great. That’s good. What did she want?” Kate asked.

“She needed help with the Ashfords. Their souls are disembodied, wandering the grounds of the estate. She was wanting help to bring down their curse upon the estate and return them to their bodies. I told her it wouldn’t be an easy task,” Mama Eshe answered. Kate could tell she was getting nervous.

“What did you tell her? Did you tell her how to bring down the barrier?” Logan wanted to know.

Mama Eshe was silent for a moment. Kate took a step back as Logan stepped forward. If they were going to play good cop, bad cop, then that’s what they were going to do.

“Okay!” Mama Eshe exclaimed as Logan eased closer to her. She was pressing herself into the shelving behind her, cowering from his presence. “I gave her a book.”

“What book?” Kate asked forcefully.

“It was a book of conjuring. The only way to bring down that barrier is to go to the source of why it’s there in the first place, to Kalfou. He’s the only one who can undo what’s been done—”

“But not without a price. Did you tell her that before she left here?” Logan asked, anger flooding his face.

“No!” she exclaimed as she turned her face away from him. “I just wanted her out of my shop!”

Logan paced the floor. “Why would you do that? Have you realized what you’ve done?”

“Of course she knows,” a voice from the doorway leading into the back room said. “She works for me after all.”

A tall, slender man stepped out of the shadows and through the beaded doorway. Kate watched him closely, realizing that something was extremely off about him. His eyes glowed an icy blue in stark contrast to his dark complexion. Taking his hat off, he held it over his heart and nodded his head in Logan and Kate’s direction.

“Who are you?” Kate whispered as she backed away slowly. Mama Eshe relaxed a little as the man entered the room. Kate couldn’t help but notice how thin he looked as if his body was eating himself.

“I heard my name and here I am,” he said with a grin. “Thank you, Mama, for serving me so well.”

Mama Eshe bowed towards him. “It was my pleasure, Kalfou.”

“You see, I’ve been riding around too long in this human here. He’s starting to waste away,” Kalfou declared, spreading his arms out. “I need a more permanent solution and that old Victoria is going to give it to me.”

Logan leapt forward towards the counter grabbing a pen and quickly threw it at Kalfou. The pen embedded into his chest and a laugh erupted from his throat.

“I’m immortal, sir. You really think stabbing me with a pen is going to kill me? It won’t be good for Zane’s body but he’ll be dead soon either way,” Kalfou laughed as he pulled the pen out of his chest.

“We need to get out of here,” Kate said as she inched closer to the door.

“Now where do you think you’re going?” Kalfou said as he raised his hand, locking the door to the shop. Bookshelves fell in front of the door blocking it.

“Kate!” Logan yelled as candles tipped over causing drapes and books to catch on fire around them. Mama Eshe was no longer enjoying the reveal of Kalfou and tried to extinguish the flames.

“My shop!” she screamed as the flames mounted higher around them.

“Sorry, Mama. It’s all part of the deal,” Kalfou laughed as he disappeared within the flames.

Mama Eshe ran towards Kate and Logan who were trying to break the window by the door. The glass wouldn’t budge, a tactic that Kalfou no doubt covered before leaving.

Mama Eshe took Kate by the hand. “This way! There’s a back door.”

Grabbing Logan, she used her ability to create a barrier between them and the fire. The fire burned around her bubble of protection, licking at the wispy walls around their bodies. Mama Eshe led them through the back of her shop and opened a bookcase that led out to the street on the other side.

Once they were safe on the sidewalk, they stood to catch their breath as Logan made the call to have the fire put out. Mama Eshe watched as the flames started to crawl towards the buildings connected to hers.

“I hope that insurance I got covers this,” she muttered.

“You willingly helped a demon?” Kate shouted, coughing on the smoke she had inhaled. “What is wrong with you?”

“Willingly? You, honestly, think I wanted my shop to be burned down?” Mama Eshe sassed back. “That’s the problem with you people. Always thinking that people are evil and have no hope of redemption.”

“What do you know about Hunters?” Kate snapped back. “Not all of us grew up thinking we would be hunting down and killing these types of creatures.”

“Just stop, the both of you!” Logan yelled. “You’re coming with us, Mama.”

“To hell I am—”

Logan took a taser out of his pocket and held it to her neck. “If you don’t come with me, so help me God.”

Mama Eshe held up her arms and started to walk down the street with them to their car. Logan pushed her down into the back seat and slammed the door.

“This is a shit show,” Logan declared.

“What are we going to do with her? We don’t have time to babysit,” Kate pointed out. “Kalfou is out there trying to become immortal so he doesn’t have to keep stealing human bodies that can’t contain his essence.”

“I’m taking her back to the hotel. Arlo can watch her until we figure out what to do next,” Logan said as he walked around the car to the driver side.

“What body do you think Kalfou is trying to conjure?” Kate asked.

Logan sighed. “God only knows.”

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