Chapter 1: Bite, anyone?
“Vampires don’t lose their souls after turning. That folklore is easy to disprove without
venturing into religious debate. In the days of medieval medicine, doctors wouldn’t have
known how to find or identify the vampiric parasite.”
Journal Entry, Mark McDougal: April 3, 2005
I stalked a woman through side streets and dimly lit alleyways. Her name wasn’t important. I
preferred not to know what to call the victims just like I don’t want to know a rabid dog’s name. It’s easier
to stay unattached that way. Easier to do my job.
Keeping up with the vampire in the making wasn’t hard. She meandered. The problem was the
heat wave and the black trench coat I wore. Noticing it, a few people shook their heads as I passed. They
probably thought I was a little crazy, but harmless. Without it, people would call the cops when they
spotted my gear.
A bead of sweat slid from my hairline behind my ear, tickling my skin and irritating me. I
brushed it away, my fingers momentarily tangled in my frizzy locks, the strands I was chewing on yanked
out of my mouth. Once again, I considered shaving the mop I called hair. It wasn’t the lovely auburn
tresses that men fantasize about. Mom used to call the orange-red jarring. I’d been told that my hair made
me too memorable. Maybe that was so, but it took attention away from the scar that ran from my top lip
to my temple. Besides, if I hacked it all away, I wouldn’t have anything handy to gnaw on. I snagged a
new small curl and pulled it to my mouth. Mom used to bat my hand away. Now, there was no one to stop
Half a block behind the woman, she set the meandering pace. Normally, I’d keep more distance
between us. I’d be concerned about the still air making me into an olfactory billboard. I could almost
hear Uncle Mark’s voice in my head. “Kassy, the new ones can smell you even if they don’t know what
they’re smelling. Keep your distance.” Tonight, this woman was blinded by her hunger. I could have hung
back farther, but I didn’t see the point.
Around a corner, garbage cans lined the street. Good for hiding behind; bad for breathing. The
muggy weather made the smells more pungent. Who was I to complain? The odor would mask my scent.
The sound of a group of people chatting and laughing echoed down the street. We’d passed a club
two blocks back with bass so loud my chest vibrated. By the group’s outfits, I guessed they were heading
there to dance. The woman I followed turned her head as they strode by. Her right hand reached over and
unconsciously rubbed her left shoulder. The shoulder some psycho had bitten three weeks before. It had
healed quickly. Miraculously fast according to doctors.
One of the guys stumbled over a trashcan, knocking my prey against the side of a brick building.
She inhaled deeply as he apologized. He and his companions watched their step to avoid the trail of refuse
he’d strewn. No one noticed her wrapping her arms around herself, her steps following them, or her
abrupt turn into the alleyway. No one but me.
Wisps of steam from storm drain vents filled the narrow passage with an eerie aura. The dim
lights reflected off the suspended water, creating a halo around the vampire’s head. The irony wasn’t lost
on me. One could argue that she retained her innocence – for now.
I slipped behind a commercial dumpster filled with decaying Italian food and spotted a large box
farther on that would be my next hiding spot. Before I moved, she stopped in the middle of the alleyway
about thirty feet away. She squeezed her head between her hands. I sucked in a quick lung full of rancid
air and waited. She paced, kicking bottles, cans and other debris in her path. She walked over to a wall,
rested her head against it, and then hit a few times with her palms. I could almost see the cracks forming
in her self-control.
She stopped, sniffing the air.
Busted. The billy club strapped to my right thigh reassured me and I brushed my fingers along
its length to find the handle. Muscles taut, I waited for her to draw near. I still had the element of surprise
and she had no clue what she could do.
How could she? It’s not like someone had handed her a pamphlet that said, “You’ve been
infected: 10 ways to survive turning into a monster.” She didn’t know what her cravings were. She didn’t
know why the pickle jar lid popped off so easily. She couldn’t understand why she healed quickly. The
guy who had bitten her hadn’t whispered in her ear the secrets to avoiding a guard like me.
She stumbled more than walked to a pile of boxes against the wall across the alley. A drunk or
homeless person was trying to sleep there. With her attention averted, I crept closer. The timing had to
be just right. I couldn’t let her bite her prey, but she needed the chance to resist the siren call of blood
coursing through the body in front of her. Uncle Mark insisted. “Kassy Lassy, they’re still human. Just
infected. We have to find one who can survive without human blood. It’s humanity’s only hope.” It was
his last request, so I honor it.
He would have tried to take this woman in. Tried to save her. How many people had he tried to
help over the years he cared for me? Twenty? Fifty? He’d failed every time. The parasite always ravaged
the host body without human blood. I couldn’t stand the sight of the emaciated remains. I figured that a
quick death was less cruel. I didn’t kill the newly infected right away, just in case the magical immune
savior would appear, but mostly I grant them death. An escape from the monster they will become.
The woman dropped to her knees, sobs echoing through the alley. Legs stuck out of an old
dishwasher box before her. The odor of piss and alcohol gagged me. Maybe the stench is what helped the
Maybe, but not for long. The sobs stopped and I moved closer.
No one ever made a sound before their first kill. None of them ever thought to bring a knife the
first time either. She knew what she wanted. I could almost see her thought process written out like a
thought cloud in a comic book. How do I get a taste? How do I get to the blood?
I pulled the billy club out of its holster. We hovered at the point of no return. My silent steps
drew me closer as she lowered herself down. Brown roots showed against her dyed blonde hair. My
heart thumped. Another human, lost to the parasite. One quick crack to the skull and I could drag her off
somewhere secluded then finish disposing of her body in peace. One breath, then strike.
“Hey!” someone shouted from the end of the alley.
It startled me. Threw off my rhythm. She looked up. Crap. There went my element of surprise. I
swung down, but she ducked out of the way. Adrenalin surged through my body. She needed to go down
fast. I put too much into the swing, and stumbled off balance. She leapt at me, her face set in a determined
grimace. I matched it with one of my own. Did she have any clue what she could do? I raised my billy
club and deflected her to the side. She spun and lunged again. She was fast, but that time, I was ready. I
smacked her in the head while stepping to the side. She fell hard and didn’t get back up. I hefted the billy
club again to crack open her skull.
A body crashed into mine from behind and hammered me to the ground. I tried to counter with
ground fighting tactics, but my lungs were screaming for my attention. All I could do was suck air in. For
some reason, my body was stuck and refused to exhale. I’d never felt that sensation before. Normally, I’d
tell myself to take deep breaths to calm down. That was worthless advice when you can’t breathe out.
A masculine voice shouted in my ear. “Leave her alone!” This guy was a special kind of stupid.
Trying to play the hero. Probably saw a pretty blonde and hoped to score her phone number.
I squirmed under his weight and managed to flip myself onto my back and gasp for air. He
grabbed both of my hands and held them above my head. That made breathing even harder.
“Police are on their way. Stop fighting me.” His face was close to mine, a hint of alcohol drifting
by. Just what I needed, an inebriated do-gooder poking his nose where it didn’t belong.
My wind wouldn’t come back, so I couldn’t yell at him. The air would only go one way. I needed
him off. The idiot was in danger, and I was flopping on the sidewalk like a fish – as helpless as when
Uncle Mark died. I stared into his black eyes and wished I could communicate telepathically. He wouldn’t
like what I would say, but maybe we’d both survive the night.
The blonde’s face came into view over his shoulder. Fear stilled my struggling against the man.
I’d had a feeling she wouldn’t be out for long since the vampire parasite caused elevated adrenalin levels.
A smile crept up at the corners of her lips. Crap. The look in her eyes. She figured out a little of what she
could do. She was committed to biting, and the fool on top of me would be her first meal if I don’t do
The guy looked over his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re okay miss. I have her pinned. The police are
on their way. Can you go flag them down at the end of the alley?”
There was no fighting him even while his attention was diverted. Sure, he was strong, but it was
the effort to breathe that crippled me. He turned back, and I shook my head, eyes wide, trying to choke
The monster behind him put her finger to her lips in a silent gesture for me to be quiet. She tip
toed up behind him. I fought the man, trying to get him to pay attention.
He thought I was the bad guy. If I could have, I would have laughed.
She leapt on his back. Her eyes gleamed in the dim light, face contorted in a wild expression of
glee. My stomach churned. Let me go and pay attention to her!
He tried to shrug her off and hold me at the same time. The ineffectual move appeared to delight
“What the hell are you doing?” The timbre in his voice belied his wavering confidence. Finally,
this guy was getting a clue that the blonde was not all she seemed.
She giggled in reply then bit his shoulder near his neck. He bellowed in agony, but her sucking
noises were louder. Now, she had his attention. He let go of me and pried at her head. Her death grip
wasn’t loosening, so he punched her in the face. At the third blow, she fell back. Blood sprayed from her
mouth onto my jacket and the ground. She crouched, a grin on her face, scarlet rivulets running down her
chin. She ran her finger along her cheek and lips, wiping the blood into her mouth. “You are delicious,”
she said with a satisfied moan. She had watched too many vampire movies. I hated the ones who thought
they had to fit the stereotypes.
I scooted back, finally exhaling. Although my heart raced, I forced myself to take even breaths,
changing from desperate gasps to a quick, adrenaline-driven pace. The woman loomed over the man,
whose hand was clamped over his wound. I grabbed my billy club, hoping she was too blood-crazed to
notice me. The iron scent of the man’s blood filled my nostrils. I’d have to go past him to reach her, but
he made a good distraction.
When she lunged again, I aimed my billy club at her forehead. With a satisfying crack, the blow
landed. She fell. I was pretty sure she would be out for a while, but I wasn’t taking chances. I smacked
her on the top of the head again. It wasn’t a death blow, but if I let her live, she would probably have
“What is she on?” The man’s voice shook as much as his hands. After a few deep breaths,
he looked as though he might be okay again. Most people would have been on the ground crying. He
warranted a second glance.
He was taller than my five-foot, ten-inch frame, muscular and dressed as if to pick up women at
a bar. He had almond-shaped eyes, dark hair and a slight yellow hue to his skin. His rugged good looks
convinced me he would have been successful picking up a woman had he not seen the altercation and
come to investigate. Now, he was infected with the parasite. He was another vampire in the making. I
would have to kill him, too.
I pushed my hair from my face, wiping the perspiration away –trying to drag my ugly reality with
it. My fingers wrapped around a lock and pulled it to my mouth. The chewing helped me relax. Would
gum have the same effect? I wished I had money for a luxury like that. I felt stupid with hair in my mouth
in front of him. A glance revealed he wasn’t even paying attention to me. He was staring at the blonde.
What was going through his mind? I don’t remember my thoughts from the first time I’d
witnessed a vampire succumb to the blood lust. Probably best I didn’t. I doubted that people stayed sane
if they lingered in that moment. I stuffed those memories back and focused on the matter at hand.
Time to get out of here. I grabbed the woman’s arms and start dragging her down the alley.
“Where are you going?” he demanded, following.
Not only does he mess up a clean vamp hunt, he has to ask questions. I ignored him. It was
easiest to do what I did when I didn’t talk to them. When I knew a victim, it made it harder to remember
that they were turning into vicious killers. The last thing I needed to know was if he had a family or even
his name. When they had names, it was harder to put them down. I dragged the woman another ten feet.
“You can’t leave. The police will be here any minute!” He shouted as if the police could fix the
situation. Poor fool.
We stood about three quarters of the way down the alley. I knew the guy had been traumatized,
but he didn’t know what he walked into. It was better for me to leave with the vampire and let the
authorities spin this however they might. The headlines would probably say something like a drug crazed
female attacked him. The real story would never come out. The government wouldn’t let that happen.
He grabbed my arm, putting his face in mine. “Stop, now!” My muscles tensed. I forced myself to
relax. He was obviously used to being obeyed. His grip was strong, and I could tell through my jacket that
his hands weren’t soft and manicured. This guy worked hard and gave orders. Military maybe? Possibly a
boss at a construction company?
I had a spark of admiration for him that I immediately tried to stomp out. I couldn’t respect him.
He was going to become a killer. I’d be back to stalk him after I finished dealing with her.
Right then, if he made much more noise, there would be more spectators. Ones that weren’t hurt.
Ones without alcohol on their breath. The authorities who weren’t in the know could write off this guy as
in shock and a poor witness. Any more people telling the same story and I’d have a harder time evading
I dropped the vampire’s hands and faced him. He had a look in his eyes like he was thinking
“finally, she’s come to her senses!” The guy’s shoulder wound was bad. His hand was firmly clasped over
it, but the blood seeped past his fingers. When I reached for it, he jerked his shoulder back like I would
hurt him more.
He sneered. “You think?”
“You need to apply pressure.” I reached into my Sash purse hung underneath my leather jacket
and found the medical pads and tape I kept there. He snatched them out of my hand and slapped them on
the wound. “You were going to drag her away and not give these to me?”
With a shrug I said, “You look big enough to handle yourself. I didn’t realize you would be an
idiot and follow me while bleeding everywhere.”
A glare was his only reply. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to kill him after all.
Retrieving the woman’s hands, I dragged her further away from him.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Man, he irritated me. “Walk away. You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.” We were
almost to the end of the alley. There was a sewer access by my foot, but I couldn’t go there with him
watching. He’d rat me out.
He grabbed my arm again. “She attacked me. She needs to be arrested. I don’t know what the
heck you were doing in this alley.” He pointed his finger in my face. “But you tried to attack her. You
should probably be in jail as well.”
Obviously, he wasn’t good at convincing people to turn themselves in. I stared at his bandages.
His efficient wraps told me he probably had field medical training or something. However, blood was
still seeping through. I pointed to his shoulder. His glance was the amount of time necessary to catch him
flat-footed. I used my billy club to pop him with a brachial stun, and he went down with a groan. The
strike had been careful since I wasn’t ready to kill him, yet. He wasn’t unconscious, but I was sure he was
seeing stars. Too disoriented to notice where I was going. I only needed a minute to disappear.
I didn’t like to attack people when they were still in control of themselves, but time was running
out. Police response wasn’t fast in this neighborhood, but we’d been dallying about 15 minutes. I needed
I flipped my jacket back and grabbed the pry bar hanging from my belt. A quick jab and tug
later, I had my escape route. I shoved the woman’s limb body through the hole. She slid over the lip and
crunched onto the cement below. If she wasn’t dead before, she was now. Her body lay in a crumpled
mess below. The dry spell in the city helped me with my job. No slogging through cesspool tides and a
quick way to end things. One bright side to my dark task.
The next tool I pulled from under my coat was a whiskbroom. Sweeping back and forth, I
obscured the drag marks starting ten feet from the manhole and moving towards my escape. I went around
the vet. As he struggled to recover, he’d conceal everything beneath him. When I reached the hole, I
scrambled half way down the ladder. The lid was heavy and awkward as I dragged it back to the opening
while balancing precariously.
I heard the guy moan again. He rolled a bit as though he was trying to regain his feet. Luckily, he
rolled away from me. He didn’t see as I nestled the lid back into place.
The thought of returning to pick up his trail caused my stomach to drop. If my life had been
normal, maybe we would have gone to the same club. I’d have spotted him and tried to catch his eye.
Probably would have danced too close and drunk too much, then woke up at his place in the morning.
Now he was another prey to stalk and kill when he succumbed to the parasite.