Thursday, September 15, 2016
Something from the Files
I really do plan to get back to the serial story at some point. I've been caught up in other stuff lately. Here's something I'm kind of fiddling around with, with a possible series in mind.
For the fifth time in twice as many minutes, Ashford Colt checked his weapons—the pistol in its holster with its load of silver bullets, the machete strapped to his back, and the stake in his belt. He patted his pocket one more time. The flask of holy water rode there as firmly as it had two minutes ago.
He frowned at the horizon, his eyes narrowed against the glare of the setting sun. Dusk was only minutes away, and they hadn’t found the vampire yet.
And where the hell was Dusty anyway?
He turned to the right to study the barn. When they’d questioned him, the rancher had admitted he’d lost a couple cattle, but he put that down to mountain lions. Ash had examined two of the most recent kills. Pretty well mutilated, all right. Also exsanguinated. The work of a really sloppy vampire, maybe one freshly turned. Or a desperate one.
Oddly, none of the human residents reported being or even feeling threatened, even though the rancher had three daughters, two of them in their teens. His wife seemed more upset over the wild pigs that had been rooting up her garden than any possible preternatural threat. A sloppy, desperate, freshly-turned gay vampire? That’d be a new one, though Ash had heard of stranger.
Dusty’d given a thorough sniffing to the range where the cattle had died. He’d picked up the scent of undead flesh and cow blood almost at once, but without finding a den or any clear trail. In fact, the scent was far stronger here, at the house. Maybe the vamp was working himself up to an attack on the people? Livestock might be an easier target, but vampires always went for humans in the end. It was in their nature.
The sun slipped out of sight and tucked itself in for the evening. Ash muttered a curse at the growing gloom and headed back toward the ranch house. He spared a passing glance for the decimated garden before he circled the barn.
No vampires here. Just a pair of coyotes humping like mad out in the scrub. The big male wore a blue bandanna around its neck.
Shit. “For Christ’s sake, Dusty,” Ash said. “Do you mind? We’re on a job here.”
The canine couple grinned at him without a hitch in their frenetic activity. At last they parted, and shifted. A naked man and woman lolled in the dirt, panting with their tongues hanging out, still grinning. “Let me guess,” the man said. “No sign of bats. Not even guano.”
“It’s a false alarm, bra. Lou here says this whole area’s been vampire-free for months.” He nodded toward his recent paramour. The woman shook blonde hair out of her face and giggled. “So I figured what the hell, we came out all this way, might as well get a payout. Just so the trip wouldn’t be a total loss.”
The woman looked Ash up and down and ran her tongue over her lower lip. “Join us?”
“We’ll even stay in human shape for you,” Dusty added.
“For starters,” the woman amended, with another giggle.
“No thanks.” Ash didn’t mind working with shifters. Hell, he trusted Dusty more than he did most humans, even other slayers. But sleep with a shifter? Forget it. “If it isn’t vampires, what ripped up the cattle?”
The woman’s giggle dried up. “Chupacabra,” she said solemnly.
“Oh, please.” Dusty made a face. “It’s never Chupacabra. That’s all fake. Bigfoot’s real, but Chupacabra’s a myth. My guess would be Satanists. Or aliens. Or kids pretending to be vampires.”
“You said you smelled the undead.”
“Yeah,” Dusty admitted. “Yeah, there’s that. Recent, too. But not human. That’s what’s got my hackles up. Even the old bats, the ones with centuries behind them, still have whispers of human scent on ‘em. Rancid, but human. It doesn’t go away. I didn’t get that on the cattle. It was more … ”
Ash frowned. “Kevin Bacon’s killing cattle?”
“No, you dumb ape. The smell was undead, but it wasn’t human. That’s all I know for sure.” He shrugged. “Maybe it was a mountain lion. Those bodies were ripped up enough.”
“Torn up,” Ash agreed. “Not carved. No knives. That leaves out playacting humans. And not bitten, either,” he realized, recalling the depth and angles of the cuts. The lack of fang punctures on the neck. “More like … gored.”
“Rival bull?” Dusty said. “Some rogue taking out the competition, trying to get to the cows?”
“Think lower down,” Ash said. “Most of the wounds were in the belly. And where’d all the blood go?”
“Could be—” Dusty’s jaw snapped shut. He thrust his nose up, sniffing the air. “Company. Headed our way. The uninvited kind.”
The woman also tasted the breeze. Her pale face stood out in the dimming light. “Chupacabra!” she cried. She leaped up, snatched up a rumpled dress from the ground nearby, and fled into the scrub.
Ash pulled out his pistol. Dusty hastily knotted his bandanna over his dangly bits. “Borrow your machete?” he asked. “I’m not sure where I threw my gear. Lou came up on me kind’a sudden-like.”
Ash unbuckled his scabbard and tossed the blade to Dusty. He himself couldn’t smell anything, but he heard something heavy coming toward them. Something … grunting. “Still no human smell?” he asked Dusty.
“I’m getting blood,” the shifter said. “Definite undead.” Sudden he leaned forward and squinted into the gloom, beyond Ash. “For Chaos’ sake. You gotta be kidding me.”
Ash turned around …
To be Continued...