The Carpathian Mountains, Northern Romania
It was getting dark when Alex Bishop emerged from the path that cut through the woods and spotted the old tumbledown house across the clearing. She just hoped that her informant had been right. Lives were on the line.
She quickly checked the equipment she was carrying on her belt and unsnapped the retaining strap on the holster. The steps on the porch were rotten and she stepped over them, treading carefully. The peeling front door swung open with a creak and she could smell the stench of rot and fungus.
Inside, the house was all in shadow. Alex stepped in, peering into the darkness. The door creaked shut behind her. The red-orange glow of the sinking sun was receding fast across the cobwebbed window panes.
Her sharp ears caught something. Was that a thump from somewhere below her feet? She stiffened. Something was moving around down there. She followed the sound through the front hall towards a doorway. A rat, startled by her approach, darted into the deepening shadows.
A muffled yell from behind the door. Then another. Shrill, scared, all hell breaking loose.
Someone had got here before her.
She kicked the door open with a brittle cracking and splintering, and found herself at the top of a flight of stone steps leading down to the cellar. She wasn’t alone.
From her hidden vantage point at the top of the stairs, Alex took in the situation at a glance. Three young guys in their twenties. One lay writhing in a spreading, dark pool of blood. Two were still on their feet, one clutching a wooden cross, the other holding a mallet in one hand and a stake in the other. Both howling in panic, wild, demented, as the cellar’s other occupant rose up from their friend’s body and took a step towards them. His mouth opened to show the extended fangs.
The guy holding the cross rushed forward with a yell and thrust it in the vampire’s face. It was a brave thing to do – textbook horror movie heroics – but foolish. If he’d been expecting the vampire to cover its face and hiss and shrink away, he was in for a shock.
The vampire didn’t blink an eye. Alex had known he wouldn’t. Instead, he reached out and jerked his attacker brutally off his feet. Pulled him in and bit deep into his shoulder. The young guy fell twitching to the ground, blood jetting from his ripped throat.
There was nowhere for the remaining guy to run as the vampire turned his attention to him and backed him towards the corner of the cellar. The young man had dropped his mallet and stake and cowered against the rough wall, pleading for his life.
The vampire stepped closer to him. Then stopped and turned as Alex walked calmly down the cellar steps. He stared at her, and his bloodstained mouth fell open. Recognition in his eyes.
‘Surprise,’ she said. She reached down and drew the Desert Eagle from its holster.
The vampire snarled. ‘Federation scum. Your time is over.’
‘Not before yours,’ she said.
And fired. The explosion was deafening in the room. Even in Alex’s strong grip, the large-calibre pistol recoiled hard.
The vampire screamed. Not because of the bullet that had ripped a fist-sized hole in his chest, but because of the instant devastating effect of the Nosferol on his system – the lethal anti-vampire poison developed by the Federation’s chemists and issued under strict control to VIA field agents like Alex Bishop.
The vampire collapsed to the cellar floor, writhing in agony, staring at his hands as the blood vessels began to bulge out of the skin. His face swelled grotesquely, eyes popping out of their sockets. Then blood burst out of his mouth, and his hideously distended veins exploded in a violent spatter of red that coated the floor and the stone wall behind him. Alex turned away from the spray. The vampire continued to twitch for a second, his body peeled apart, turned almost inside out, blood still spurting out from everywhere; then he lay still.
Alex holstered the gun and walked over to the young guy in the corner, grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet.
He gaped at her. ‘How did you—’
She could see that he had wet himself with fear. These amateurs had no idea what they were into.
‘It takes a vampire to destroy a vampire properly,’ she said as she unzipped the pouch on her belt. Before he could react to the meaning of her words, she’d taken out the syringe of Vambloc and jabbed it into the vein under his ear. He let out a wheezing gasp and then lost consciousness. By the time he came around, his short-term memory of what had just happened would be completely erased.
Alex replaced the Vambloc syringe and took out the one that was loaded with Nosferol. Leaving the young guy where he lay, she stepped over to his two dead friends and injected each of them with ten millilitres of the clear liquid. Standard procedure, to ensure they stayed dead. She carefully recapped the needle with a cork and put the syringe back into its pouch.
Two minutes later she was heading back out into the evening with the unconscious body over her shoulder. As she strode out of the house she tossed a miniature incendiary device into the doorway behind her. She was halfway to the trees before the whole place went up in a roar of flame, bathing the murky woods in an orange glow.
Hiding the traces of another day’s work.
‘Rest in peace,’ she muttered. She took out her phone, keyed in Rumble’s number at the London HQ.
‘Harry. You were right. It’s happening.’