Fur Against Fang
Bernard Walker stood with everyone present as the body of Alejandro Ruiz arrived at its final resting place. Detective Alejandro Ruiz had been one of those married-to-his-work kind of guys. He had been the only one able to stand up to Dennis Hooverman's little gang during one of their robberies.
And it cost him his life. Every cop knew it could happen to them. Guy Stephenson and Alejandro Ruiz were no different from any of the other boys at the station. He was just cursed with being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In short, it could happen to anyone of them at anytime.
It was sobering thought considering how boring Bernard Walker's job as a police officer actually was. He had more experience with paperwork than he did with his sidearm. That was the thing Bernard liked the most about hunting. No paperwork. No paper trail of any kind. Just do the business and go.
Still, hunting still had its obligations. Mrs. Goode had drilled him for hours trying to get them to describe every last detail of their encounter with the infamous demon, Nergal. According to her, there were no good-guy demons. She only surrendered because her threat of violence had been a bluff.
Considering that she knew that the demon could read her thoughts, Bernie wondered how she thought she could bluff such beast. When she had learned that someone had gotten the upper hand on Nergal, Mrs. Goode wanted to know all the details of exactly how Dennis Hooverman pulled that off.
It made Bernard sick to his stomach. Dennis Hooverman wasn't a mastermind. He was just some punk undead kid with delusions of humanity. Morrigan, the goddess he had tried to unleash, had spoon-fed him all the information he needed to trap the demon should he make an appearance.
Mrs. Goode was obsessed with getting the true name of the demon Nergal. If she had that, Nergal could even be destroyed. Bernie would love to see that but the true name, wherever it was written, was hidden among the many symbols present at the summoning ritual site. It could be any of them.
It didn't help that a lot of the evidence from the scene had mysteriously vanished. Bernard knew that Victor Chirac was just as desperate to get hold of that name as his own mother-in-law was. That name had tremendous power over Nergal. It could be harnessed even by a weak magician like Dennis.
Bernie pushed these thoughts out of his head and his family focused on honoring the death of a fallen cop. If only his family and friends knew how bravely he had died, pitting his life against an undead monster he had absolutely no hope of defeating. He was a true hero even if they didn't know it.
The rest of Bernard's family had gathered here as well. Being hunters, it was a small miracle they had been to more funerals. Perhaps, it was their lack of fellow hunters that kept the body down to a reasonable number. Whatever the case, this funeral was a new experience for them all. Especially Noah.
Bernard still felt guilty about how they had handled Noah's death. He had died in wolf form and, thus, lacked a human body to bury in a coffin. So what did he do? He covered up Noah's death and buried his wolf body in the backyard with a cinderblock as his tombstone. Hardly a monument to a hunter.
It felt weird attending this funeral when he barely knew Detective Alejandro Ruiz as a person. Indeed, he knew more about his death than he did about his life. Detective Alejandro Ruiz was a cop and, as such, they were brothers after a fashion. Nonetheless, Bernard felt like a rotten funeral crasher.
Officer Mario Lunetti was in attendance as well along with his two brothers, Tomasso and Lorenzo, and his sister, Sabrina. Bernard Walker always respected Mario Lunetti. He seemed to irradiate an aura of moral certainty as if he always knew right from wrong. He would have loved to have that.
Even in a profession dedicated to the extermination of unequivocally evil creatures, there existed a great deal of moral ambiguity. To be like Mario and always have his moral compass pointing true north would be a blessing. Then, Bernie could face the future with a decreased sense of dread and despair.
Bernard Walker stared out at the horizon as the coffin was lowered into its final resting place. It would be night soon and, then, Bernard could put all of this behind him and focus on the hunt. It would be the same as before, only this time, he would carry Alejandro's spirit with him into the battlefield.
Victor Chirac could not have been in a happier mood that night. His dream of rebuilding J'Adore was rapidly approaching fulfillment. By this time next month, the damage that the demon "Nergal" had inflicted upon it would be a bitter memory. All in all, Victor would have his baby back in rare form.
The only thing Victor regretted was the loss of the opportunity to find out Nergal's true name. He had came for the surviving Botero and killed Parker Evans and Ian Rockwell in the process. It was sad loss. Their newest addition had the most potential to go far in this organization. Victor sighed.
Natasha Belova and Piotr Chernov waited patiently as Victor finished debriefing one of the human enforcers. The recent attacks on the Darkside Club made it essential to bring in human help during the night as well. Something out there was targeting them on the streets. Victor had no idea what.
In the past, Victor could have mustered up enough numbers to sweep the streets for all sorts of malefactors. It would have been child's play for a master vampire lord. Now, he remained weary of any lingering Botero spies and preferred to keep his numbers to a manageable size and distribution.
"Come," Victor said as he dismissed the human enforcer lieutenant. "What do you have for me?" Victor didn't mean the question to carry such awful gravity but he had a terrible paranoia now that he hadn't possessed in such great force before. Victor Chirac was always waiting for the sky to fall now.
"Intelligence suggests that we have a werewolf problem in this town." Victor groaned at the sound of that word. Werewolves were disgusting and destructive creatures. He had prided himself on making this city werewolf-free. His temporary loss of a throne had allowed them back into his city.
"Find them." Victor pointed to the door. "Destroy them." Victor gritted his teeth. "I don't care how you do it." Victor bared his fangs. "Just do it and bring me their heads." With that, Piotr and Natasha left. Victor would not have werewolves in this city. Not as long as he was in charge of things.
Then, he heard it. Though these walls were not soundproof like the more secluded rooms. The material should have stopped just about any noise a relatively active night club was capable of making. Victor listened carefully. It was a growl. A long persistent tearing through the walls of this room.
Victor produced a long black case from within the drywall of his throne room. He had been wise not to store this thing in the J'Adore. He had kept it in a secret place. When Nergal turned him human and sent him into retreat, he had the case and its rare contents embedded in these walls for safekeeping.
Victor Chirac entered in a combination of numbers and unlocked the particularly well-hidden case. Inside was the silver lance of Olyndicus. It was the Excalibur of killing shifters. Victor had waited ages for a reason to wield this weapon in battle again. The long growl got closer and closer to his room.
Now, he could hear other noises mingling with the one. He could hear enforcers emptying their lungs in tortured screams as the growled ripped into them, He could hear vampires making slushing noises as their bodies were ripped to shred. It was a werewolf. It had to be. Nothing else was this tough.
At last, the beast broke down his door and entered the room. A big one for his species, the werewolf sauntered in, unaware of the lance's material and acting with a smug self-confidence of a gladiator about to do battle with a mouse. The werewolf raced at him. Victor punched the lance into his chest.
At that moment, when the silvered scar of his chest burned in reaction to their making, the werewolf seemed to know it had lost. "You're a smart one, aren't you?" Victor asked as he silently cursed himself for wasting his one chance to kill this creature. "You know better than to walk into this lance."
Victor smirked as the human enforcers and vampire allies gathered outside the room. "Too bad." Victor circled the beast, his lance drawn. "I would have liked very much to kill you and find out just who I am dealing with." With a moment's notice, the werewolf made a door in drywall and fled away.
Mario Lunetti sighed as he looked Tomasso over with a washcloth and threading needle. "You are lucky to be alive," Mario reminded him as he sowed the wound shut and doused it with peroxide. Tommy winced as the bacteria-killing fluid washed over his body. "Vampires and werewolves don't mix."
Tomasso smiled as he jumped down from the kitchen table. "That is why I was there," Tommy retorted as he limped to his seat at the living room. "We all know Victor Chirac's policy on werewolves." Tommy sat down. "If he ever discovers where we have been hiding all these years, he will kill us all."
As usual, Tommy had skipped the thinking phase of his plan. "So you thought it wise to charge his primary stronghold the night before the full moon when your power would have peaked, alone and without telling any of us?" Mario shrugged. "I'm late for work and I think even you are smarter than this."
Tommy grimaced as he walked out the door. Being a werewolf was hard enough without coming from a family of werewolves. Their parents had been killed by vampires. It was only natural that one of them would harbor a grudge against their species but Tomasso was declaring war on these vampires.
Mario Lunetti had squared their parents' deaths years ago. He had ripped into the throats of the ones who claimed Mom and Dad. He had beheaded them and thought that he had insured satisfaction for his two brothers and one sister as well. Instead, it only made them hungry for the blood of vampires.
Tomorrow would be the full moon. No werewolf in existence could resist the call of the full moon. Tommy would have his backup then. If he still wished to turn these vampires into headless corpses, his family would back his play one hundred and ten percent. Hopefully, he'd change his mind.
What happens when you die? It was a question as old as Death itself. Noah Walker didn't know what happened to other people when they died. He only sort of knew what happened to him when he had died. Noah Walker had gone to Hell. That much he knew. What else had happened was a mystery.
Grandma Laurie was an old hand when it came to solving mysteries. Monsters were a paranoid lot. Eating people or drinking their blood carried an enormous social stigma. If anyone caught onto their presence, it was high time to pull up stakes and set up shop somewhere far, far away from there.
Grandma Laurie knew all the tricks of their trade. She could locate even the craftiest monsters in the most clever of disguises. She had a sixth sense for it. Noah could only hope that Grandma's talent with seeking out monsters would help unravel the mystery of what had happened to Noah Down There.
"Please, Grandma," Noah pleaded after she had heard what he intended for her to do. "I need to know." Grandma shook her head. Noah knew what he was asking from her was unfair. A breach of everything a grandparent would ever think to do to her grandson. "Something very wrong happened there."
Grandma Laurie smirked. "Of course, something wrong happened there. It's Hell. It would be a miracle if anything right took place in its confines." Grandma sipped at her warm tea. "Those memories you don't have are a blessing. Hell is awful place and God knows what they did to you down there."
Noah gritted his teeth. "Exactly, God knows. I don't." Noah handed Grandma a bunch of articles he had printed off the Internet. "Some people who had been near-death have had experiences like mine." Noah placed a copy over her warm tea. "It doesn't mean they are bad people. It means something else."
Grandma Laurie looked askance at Noah. This was a subject she had only a cursory knowledge of. "What if I was never supposed to stay dead?" Noah placed the article in front of Grandma's face. "What if I was sent back for a reason? You know, to mend my broken ways or something like that?"
A deft swipe of an elderly hand sent the papers scattering to the floor. "You are forgetting one thing." Grandma continued sipping her tea. "If that were true, these memories would not need to be restored. If it was your destiny to mend your broken ways, those memories would still be intact but they are not."
Noah sighed. It was his best effort to coerce her cooperation. This didn't change anything. As soon as Grandma Laurie fell asleep, a quick trip to her medicine cabinet would provide him with the ingredients he needed for a high-velocity trip down Memory Lane. Grandma seemed to know that too.
"Alright," Grandma relented after a long sigh. "It is better you do this under my guidance instead of have you mucking about with ingredients that could easily kill you in the wrong proportions." Grandma shook her head. "I would tell that you have your father's stubborness but you would only take that as a compliment, now wouldn't you?" Noah nodded in agreement. Dad was a hard man but his persistance to lost causes was an admirable trait.
"The powdered flowers from a penghou. When enchanted by a Chinese incantation, it can retrieve memories from even the darkest of places." Grandma chanted in Chinese as she produced a small jade box with a pile of pink dust inside. In minutes, Grandma Laurie had sprinkled it into the warm tea.
"I will not try to stop you but, if you have any second thoughts about this, I urge you to listen to them." Noah could barely hear his grandmother over the beating of his own heart. This was the moment of truth. When he finally learned if he had the guts to learn the whole truth about his resurrection.
"Down the hatch." With that, Noah imbibed the mysterious infusion of tea and arcane ingredients. Expecting a sudden surge of memories stolen from the depths of Hell, Noah checked his wristwatch. Five minutes passed without anything more severe than an awareness of how cold the tea really was.
Grandma Laurie smiled. "I might have forgotten to mention that the penghou could take days, even weeks, to have its full effect on you." Grandma gathered up her things. "You are lucky that you have that time to be yourself for a while." Grandma Laurie sighed. "Forbidden knowledge has a way of changing who you are." With that somber note, Grandma Laurie wondered off to her room as Noah began to question just what he had done to himself.
Victor Chirac appeared next to Bernard Walker's patrol car. Tonight, he was without a partner, an unusual turn of events he had not questioned thoroughly until now. "We need to talk." Bernard put the car in park. This was going to take a while. He could feel it. "I need someone taken care of."
Bernard shook his head. "I'm not your hit man." Bernard laughed. "I'm not your anything." Bernard lifted the steering column and stepped out of the vehicle. "You and I were done the moment my family was safe." Bernard locked eyes with Victor. "Will you make threats to coerce my cooperation?"
Victor Chirac waved his hands as if the victim of a childish misunderstanding. "No, of course not." Victor looked up and down the street. "The one I need taken care of is a werewolf." Bernard's blood froze when he heard that word. He noticed that Victor was covered in blood. "He attacked me."
Victor sighed. "I will pay you for your services." A grimace crept across his face. "Although, if you would prefer to stay out of my pocket, I am sure we can arrange a more equitable arrangement." Bernard went back into his patrol car. "Please give this matter more thought. The city needs me, its master."
Like that, Victor Chirac vanished into the shadows. Bernard knew he had spoken the truth. If anything happened to Victor Chirac, this city would go to seed in matter of weeks. Bernard would be the inhabitant of a city overrun with monsters, not just vampires but inhuman beings of every description.
As much as he hated to concede to a bloodsucking parasite, Victor Chirac had made his point. If a werewolf had the balls to attack a master vampire, it would only be a matter of time before others were caught in the crossfire. Bernard stared down at the gilden crucifix around his neck. "Damn suck."
"What's going on?" Noah Walker asked as a police officer stopped him on the way to a psychiatric ward of the hospital. Police tape surrounded the room where his friend, Jason Newton would be. He caught a glimpse of what was inside and crumbled to the floor in tears. "Oh God, no. No, no, no."
Noah Walker with a time bomb primed to go off in his brain had thought to visit Jason Newton one last time. If Grandma Laurie was right, he was going to join the ranks of the mentally disabled quite soon. He might as well get to know how the other half lived. Noah stared at blood everywhere.
On the walls were these words: Master Vampire. Victor Chirac was a careful monster. He knew better to write his name in blood on the walls. This was a private message meant only for him. Noah growled like a wolf as he stared at the words. The cop blocking his path put a hand on his sidearm.
This was what happened when hunters threw their hats in with the monster they were supposed to hunt. Victor Chirac was testing him, seeing if he would take his revenge for what he had done. Noah stared at the sun high in the sky. Victor Chirac hadn't killed Jason himself. This was a paid hit.
That tiny fact would not save Victor Chirac from his wraith. He obviously wanted to play games with Noah Walker. In the space of an hour, Noah would be armed to the teeth and ready to face off against Victor Chirac. He would not even wait for nightfall. Noah would take his revenge now.
Noah breathed in deeply as he positioned himself outside the Darkside Club. There was no reason to think Victor Chirac would be here. Noah didn't care. If Victor was home, he would die. If not, someone would die in his steed. Noah stared at the human enforcers guarding the outside of the club.
Their presence was reassuring to Noah. It meant that his train of thought was pulling into the station. Victor Chirac was here. He had to be. He would not have placed some much security on his new palace if he wasn't right. Noah disabled the three guards with a groin strikes and a few kneecappings.
Dad had rules against killing people. Noah had them too. But against those who aided monsters, his blows were anything but cute. These bastards deserved to die. If he had no right to kill them, the least he could do was leave them in an extraordinary amount of pain. Noah walked over the guards.
A strange owl-headed vampire lunged out from behind. Noah countered by throwing a blessed throwing knife through his skull. The owl vampire smiled as he yanked the blade out from between his eyes. "I can't remember the last time someone wounded me in a fight. You are quite good against decoys." A shadow flitted behind Noah. "But how are you in a decent ambush." Noah turned around and stabbed a catsuit woman in the lungs. "Bravo."
The lady pulled the blade from her chest and smiled an identical smiled. The owl vampire spoke. "We are Piotr and Natasha. What business do you have with my master?" Piotr circled around Noah to Natasha and licked the wound on her chest shut. Natasha did the same for the wound on his head.
Wasting no words, Noah Walker unsheathed two more throwing knives. "Your master has done wrong by me." Noah walked towards them. "He has killed a dear friend of mine and I'll make sure his death is paid for in blood." Noah smirked. "And I will kill anyone or anything that stands in my way."
"Those are big words, child." Piotr circled around Noah with Natasha at his side. "I've heard that more times you would believe. From arrogant hunters who couldn't see how complex and dangerous our kind can be." Just as Piotr stepped closer, Noah turned around and bashed a vial of holy water open.
The contents of the shattered vial splashed against Natasha's feet as she tried to step. "You stupid monsters," Noah observed as he reached for another breakable vial of holy water. "I think just because I don't have your amazing gift for stealth that I can't recognize an ambush when I see one. Pathetic."
Noah smirked. "Here's the deal." Noah began to circle the two vampire bodyguards. "I could kill both of you and let Victor Chirac appear once your corpses have finished congealing." Noah drawn the consecrated short sword. "Or you two could take me to him and save me the trouble of all that."
As the two vampire guards seemed prepared to guard their master to their deaths, a voice rang out over the fray. "Stop." The voice had a booming elderly quality to it. This was the voice of the man Noah had gone to see. The one responsible for the death of his best friend, Jason Newton. "Come."
Victor Chirac stepped out of the shadows. The daytime was the perfect time to kill a vampire. Their nocturnal powers such as shadow merging didn't exist until the sun dipped below the horizon. Some vampires were smart enough to conserve their energies lest a fracas break out during the day. Others were too damn arrogant to ever consider the possibility of being attacked in their own crypt during sun-up.
Noah didn't know which Victor Chirac was. Whichever brand of idiot or braggard Victor turned out to be, the fact that he, a master vampire, didn't plan for this attack told him something about his character. Either he honestly didn't expect Noah to attack him until after sundown or he was cool and confidence in his odds of defeating a Benandanti armed with a few blessed items such as swords, vials and throwing knives.
Victor Chirac and Noah Walker strolled down the length of the Darkside Club. It wasn't the happening vampire strip club it was at night. This was a place where the normally nocturnal went to spend their money and sleep off their hangovers. In essence, a perfect crypt for a vampire master.
In seconds, the two arrived in a well-lit conference room. It was hardly the setting for a major throwdown between a monster and his hunter. Victor Chirac had something else in mind. Victor Chirac wanted to talk. "Perhaps, before we attend to the business at hand, we should have a friendly chat."
Noah shook his head. "Jason Newton was found in his room in a psychiatric ward with his throat slashed from ear to ear." Victor's left eyebrow arched, pretending he had just heard the name of the person he had ordered to be killed. "The killer wrote MASTER VAMPIRE on the walls in Jason's blood."
Victor shook his head. "I've never heard of your friend Jason Newton. Nor would I send someone to kill anybody I didn't take the time to, at least, know." Victor bared his fangs. "To you, I am a mindless killer but you don't get to be this old by killing indiscriminately." Victor's fangs slid down into their gums. "Tell me. What would I gain by killing a boy I never met who was also a friend of a man I do business. I would only accomplish idiocy."
Victor paced around Noah. "Indeed, the only purpose for such a killing would be make you angry enough to come after me." Victor rolled his eyes. "Dear God, you can't be this stupid. You can't be so easily manipulated that you cannot see how your little puppeteer strings are being pulled about."
Noah chuckled. "You think I am here just because you killed my best friend?" Victor's left eyebrow arched again. "You sir are the one who can't be that stupid. I know you killed my friend. Your smug self-assurance that you are above suspicion tells me that much. But I am also here to avenge my father." Victor shook his head in disbelief. "My cop didn't die bodily at your hands but having to throw his lot with you killed a tiny piece of his soul."
Noah Walker paced around Victor Chirac. "Somewhere along the line, you vampires managed to convince people like my father that you do a better job at policing yourselves than we ever could of policing you." Noah sighed. "Jason Newton is dead because of that stupid lie. Now, it is your turn."
Victor shrugged. "You are brave young boy." Victor bared his fangs. "And that is what you will be for the rest of your days." Victor charged at Noah. In a split second, Noah produced a syringe and plunged it into one of his veins. In the next split second, he emptied the contents into Victor's carotid artery. Victor roared. "Clever, child," he applauded, all the while struggling to stand upright. "Shifter blood to poison your quarry. Very very clever."
Noah lunged as Victor with his short sword. Victor caught it in his hands, his flesh hissing from the burning light of holiness cutting through him. "But it will not be enough to defeat me." Victor snapped the short sword in half and tossed his half of the broken sword into a nearby wall. "Die."
A window greeted Noah out of the corner of his eye. "You first." Noah tossed his broken half of the short sword through the window, breaking the glass. Vampires should know better that to have windows in rooms with an eastern or western exposure. In seconds, Victor Chirac burst into flames.
According to Dad, vampires didn't usually burn this quickly or this badly. Perhaps, some combination of shifter blood poisoning and diminished power levels had accelerated the rate that which Victor Chirac writhed in the fire. Whatever the case was, Victor Chirac was a cinder in a matter of minutes.
"You did what?" Bernard Walker couldn't believe what his only son Noah was saying to him. "Do you have any idea of what you have done?" Noah smiled as if he had just saved the city from Godzilla. It never occurred to him that he had doomed them all. "Please tell me that you are kidding, Noah."
Noah shook his head in defiance. "I am not. Victor Chirac is dead." Noah plopped down onto the sofa. "You should be happy. No more backdoor deals with their kind. You are free." Bernard was free in the same way a hobo was free from owning a house. This was a freedom Bernie truly didn't want.
"I am your father. Who I do business with and why is none of your concern. Vampires are very difficult to police. In turn, they are quite good at keeping other breeds of monsters in line. Now, the vampire are once again disorganized. Without a master vampire, this city will be ripped apart."
Noah got up to walk out of the room. "Dad, I know hunting has its moral ambiguities but I don't think teaming with vampires and demons is within the rules." Noah grabbed Bernie's silvered hunting knife off the coffee table. "We are hunters. They are the hunted. It is time we remember that distinction."
As his defiant sixteen-year-old sauntered out of the room, Bernie actually considered the weight of his words. Perhaps, his son was right. Vampires were the enemies. Being in cahoots with their kind only confused the fundamental issues of being hunters. Bernie sighed as he turned off the lights.
Besides, what harm could killing Victor Chirac really accomplish? Another master vampire would just rise up to replace him. The system was self-correcting. Noah Walker had avenged his best friend's death and his father's humiliation. It seemed harmless enough. Bernie decided to go to bed.
In that moment before deciding to go to bed and moving his feet, a chill crept up from the bottom of his spine. Something told him that wasn't done yet. Something told him that Victor Chirac's death would fall heavy on the Walkers and perhaps the entire world. Bernard Walker shook off the feeling.
Ian Rockwell stood by as Nergal looked over Tomasso Lunetti. It would be weeks until he relived his werewolf curse. "You have done an excellent job." Nergal smiled. "By attacking Victor Chirac, you forced him into lockdown. But by killing the boy, you enticed another boy to lethal violence."
Tomasso Lunetti gritted his teeth. "There was a promise of payment." Nergal nodded and opened the heavy vault door to the prison cell. Tomasso took a moment to process what he was seeing. He soon realized that his payment would be a very hungry cellmate. "You have betrayed me," he screamed.
Nergal rose Tomasso two feet into the air and flung him into the cell, closing the door behind him when he did. At this point, Nergal patted Ian on the shoulder. "It has all been foretold," Nergal said as the were-spider ripped into Tomasso Lunetti. "The twice-born shall kill the twice-dead in the name of blood."
Ian still didn't know what that phrase meant. Nergal had been saying it for days now. It sounded like some cryptic nursery rhythm. Whatever it was, it gave Ian the creeps. "What must we do now?" Nergal smiled at the question and grabbed a hold of his shoulders. The two appeared somewhere else.
Ian looked ahead of him to a pimped-out throne room. "What must we do now? We must do nothing." Nergal gestured to the throne. "You are the master vampire now. You are young." Nergal stared at the vampires coming to destroy them. "But you are well protected." They burst into flames.
Nergal did a curtsy as Ian sat upon the throne. "This city is yours and all of its secret places belong to you." Nergal smiled. "In exchange, I ask only a small favor to be paid at the hour of my choosing." Nergal smirked. "Do we have a deal?" Ian nodded. "Good. Enjoy your reign, master vampire."