I am releasing my novel, Dawn of Endless Night, here on my blog. I will release a chapter each week. If you enjoy the story, and/or you’d like to give your support and encouragement, please let me know in the comments.
Dawn of Endless Night
Chapter 3: Hunters Hunted
Marcus lowered himself to the barstool with a sigh. It was getting late, nearly eleven, and he was tired. He smoothed his mustache with one hand. His short, dark hair had traces of gray in it, but he wasn’t planning on giving in to age anytime soon. He’d have to get used to long nights, he knew that, but his years in the service had set a pattern of early rising that he’d maintained in the nearly two decades since his discharge. His long-time habit of “early to bed, early to rise” would have to go.
His life had changed. He’d changed. Those changes, though, had not been his choice—a cruel twist of fate had turned his world upside down, but he’d decided to embrace that which he’d become. The world had to be accepted as it was, not as you wished it to be. Marcus had learned that lesson in the army. Above all, he was a practical man. What must be endured, could be. Somehow.
“What’ll you have, Sarge?” Kevin asked. Marcus didn’t know much about him, but when you frequented a pub as much as he did this one, you tended to get to know a few things about the man who was pouring your drinks. He knew he was single, which they had in common, and that Kevin loved classic rock.
“The usual,” Marcus replied. Kevin nodded and poured him a shot of the bar’s best bourbon—Woodford Reserve. Marcus knew he should really buy the cheap stuff, but there were few pleasures left to him in life, and he’d be damned if he’d give up the ones he could still afford to enjoy.
“Those are some nice threads,” Kevin said, nodding at Marcus’ sport jacket. “You meeting your lady friend again tonight?” He winked, smiling.
Marcus harrumphed, and threw back the bourbon, taking it in one swallow.
“Another,” he said, slamming the glass down on the bar. Kevin obliged him, looking at him expectantly. “It’s not what you think, Kev. We’re meeting for business.”
“Business?” Kevin said, his eyes widening, as he pushed the corked cap back into the bourbon bottle. “At eleven o’clock at night? Yeah right!” He held up his hands when Marcus glared at him. “Alright, alright, whatever you say, buddy. But I’ll tell you one thing,” he pointed at Marcus, “if I had a woman who looked like that meeting me for ‘business’ at this hour, I’d be looking to buy her more than a drink!”
“That’s probably why I don’t see any ladies coming in here to see you tonight,” Marcus said with a smile to take the sting from his words. “Maybe you should buy her a drink.”
“Oh no,” Kevin said with a chuckle. “I know my limits, and that girl is way beyond them. Not to mention too young for me!”
“Tell me about it. She’s almost young enough to be my daughter.” Marcus sipped the second shot of bourbon with a grimace, the words bringing up painful memories about his family. Kevin nodded thoughtfully, and moved to a couple who’d just sat down on the other end of the bar. He knew Marcus’ story, knew enough not to ask questions about his family. Kevin was a good man, and a good bartender. He was also a good listener, and he knew when to keep his mouth shut.
Marcus set the empty glass on the bar. He would have to slow down; he wanted to keep his wits about him. He checked his watch. Quarter till. Adriana would be right on time; she always was.
He stood up and moved to a table in a back corner of the pub. The small, dimly lit room was littered with mismatched tables. There was no room for pool tables, although there was a single dart board on the back wall. As he sat down, he wondered again who this woman was. He didn’t know much about her beyond her name and what he could see with his eyes. She looked to be in her early thirties. She was petite, with dark hair and dark eyes, and she reminded him of one of those Brazilian models he saw on the covers of the women’s magazines at the checkout line of the grocery store. Marcus wasn’t one to read magazines, especially fashion magazines, but he did admire the beautiful women on the covers while waiting to pay for his eggs and milk.
Whatever her heritage, though, she was American as far as he could tell, with no trace of an accent. She always dressed in elegant, beautiful clothes that transformed her from a lovely gem people might overlook to a sparkling jewel one could not help but notice. And that was all he knew of her. He’d tried asking her about herself, but she seemed reluctant to answer personal questions, which wasn’t surprising considering their business together. Well, he would find out what he needed to by his own means. He had no choice. The information she had promised him was of the most dangerous kind, and he was not about to get caught with his pants down. He had to know her sources; he had to know if he could trust her.
Marcus glanced casually across the pub. Derek was sitting at a table near the front door, nursing a beer. They’d entered separately, and hadn’t made eye contact once. When Adriana left he would follow her and learn what he could. Marcus felt a little guilty resorting to such subterfuge, but he had learned long ago not to take chances, and he wasn’t about to start now, no matter how much Adriana’s smile warmed the cold emptiness inside him.
Despite his many reservations, Marcus was excited. Two years of work and planning were finally coming to fruition. Two years since he’d come home to find his wife and children murdered. Two years since he’d learned of the monsters that stalked the streets of Chicago at night.
He thanked God that in those first few days after the murders he’d had the sense to keep what he’d seen to himself. If he hadn’t, he’d likely be in the mental hospital now. Sane people wouldn’t believe in the things he’d seen with his own two eyes. Everyone would’ve thought the tragedy had unhinged his mind, had he told them. He’d learned from the war that it was better to keep things that bothered him to himself than to have to deal with the sympathy and worry of people who just didn’t get it. Likely if other men had seen what he’d seen upon returning home that night, they would’ve gone crazy. At the very least they would’ve become victims. Not Marcus. He’d seen a lot of horrific shit in his life. He wasn’t about to curl up and live in fear. He was going to fight back.
But what was it he’d seen? A vampire? It sounded ridiculous, but what else could he make of a man he found sucking the blood from his wife’s savaged throat? Marcus had taken a few shots with the .44 he still carried—he knew he’d hit the bastard—but it hadn’t even fazed him. The man, the thing, had moved with inhuman speed. It had dashed past Marcus, sending him flying with a casual backhand, jumped through his patio window, and disappeared into the night. Marcus wasn’t so naïve as to think vampires were anything like what was portrayed in the movies, but he had reasoned out a few likely ways to dispatch one. Surely one of them would prove effective. Or all of them.
Marcus had put together a team of his closest comrades from the war. He was thankful for the trust he’d built with them through the years, for they might never have bought his story without hard evidence otherwise.
Unfortunately, he’d had no luck tracking down the trash who’d murdered his family, or any vampires for that matter. After trying all the contacts he had, he placed an ad on Craigslist and other places under an assumed name, stating he was looking for information on murders and other crimes that might have a supernatural element. It had seemed crazy and desperate at the time, but it had worked. Adriana had responded to one of those ads.
She said she’d had a sister who was murdered in an alley. Her sister had gone into the alley to throw up during a night of exuberant bar hopping. Adriana had waited in the mouth of the alley to give her privacy, but ran to her when she’d heard her choked screams. She’d come upon a scene which was hauntingly familiar to what Marcus had experienced—a man drinking blood from her sister’s neck. He’d fled at the sight of Adriana, but it had been too late. Her sister was dead.
Marcus had met Adriana the first time in this very bar. He’d checked her story and had found the records of her sister’s murder easily. Her story tugged at his heart. They’d met a couple times, exchanging information. Adriana claimed to have connections. She hadn’t told him who they were, but she’d said they were reliable. Marcus figured time would tell.
Kevin came to Marcus’ table, and he ordered another bourbon and some water. Kevin looked like he might stay and chat for a minute, but Marcus glanced at his watch, and Kevin got the drift. Good man.
Five more minutes. Adriana had called him and said she’d found information on her sister’s killer. She claimed to know where he was. Marcus had no idea how the hell she’d managed that, if it were true, but he was more than willing to follow the lead. He’d discovered nothing useful himself, and he was growing more than a little impatient. If this panned out he’d have to try to find out who her contacts were. He wasn’t going to trust her blindly, which was why Derek was there tonight. He needed more information about this woman before he risked his life, and the lives of his men, on what she told him.
She entered the bar at eleven o’clock bundled up in a full-length black cotton coat of exquisite cut, the shape of the coat hinting at the womanly curves it concealed. Heads turned as she made her way to his table, her high heels clicking on the hardwood floor. Marcus felt his breath catch and his pulse quicken, just like every other man in the bar, he imagined. Her long, dark, silky hair caressed her shoulders.
Marcus stood when she reached his table, took her coat, and then pulled out a chair for her. She was carrying a black messenger bag, which she set on the floor beside her chair. He took a deep breath as he hung her coat on the nearby coat rack. She was wearing a short black dress that left her shoulders bare. He did his best to calm himself, to focus on the business at hand.
He smiled what he hoped was a reassuring smile as he sat down across from her at the small round table.
“I hope you didn’t have any trouble getting here,” he said.
“No, no trouble, Marcus,” she said with a smile. His name on her lips sent a thrill through him.
Kevin appeared at their table. He gave Adriana a hospitable smile.
“Can I get you something miss?”
“I’ll take a glass of your best merlot,” she said.
Kevin nodded, looking to Marcus.
“I’ll take a refill.”
“Coming right up.” Kevin gave Marcus a sly wink from behind Adriana before moving back to the bar. Marcus ignored him.
He cleared his throat gruffly, suddenly nervous and at a loss of what to say. Adriana smiled again at him briefly, then looked around the bar, seemingly observing the other patrons. Marcus realized his silent awkwardness was making her uncomfortable as well. Best to get past how the smell of her perfume drove the dull ache of his loneliness to a gnawing agony and get down to business.
Kevin returned with Adriana’s wine. He placed the glass before her and refilled Marcus’ water from the pitcher in his other hand. Marcus waited for him to leave.
“You said you have some information for me,” he said in a low voice.
Adriana took a small sip of her wine, then nodded.
“Yes, I do.” Her eyes shone with excitement. She reached over and clasped his hand for a moment on the table, her eyes penetrating his. Her hand was warm and soft. “I’ve found him, Marcus. I’ve found my sister’s killer!”
“How?” the word escaped Marcus in a gasp. Inside he kicked himself. He’d told himself he wouldn’t ask her that, that he’d at least try to show her some trust. She’d done so much already to help him. But the soldier and the cop in him couldn’t let it lie.
Adriana shook her head, her hand returning to tap the stem of her wine glass.
“It’s a long story, Marcus. Suffice it to say that I’ve had to deal with some…unsavory people to get this information. Do you want it or not?” Anger flashed across her face.
“Yeah, yeah, of course I do,” Marcus said quickly. “I’m sorry. I was just curious.”
Adriana nodded and reached down for the messenger bag beside her chair. She pulled out a manila envelope and slid it across the table. Marcus took it and slipped it into his coat as she lowered her voice still further.
“His name is Carlos Perez,” she said with a small smile. “That file contains everything I could find on him. Most importantly, I found where he lives.”
Marcus nodded thoughtfully, smiling a bit himself. Carlos Perez was practically the Hispanic version of John Smith. It could be the guy’s real name, but most likely it wasn’t. If the rest of Adriana’s information was accurate, it wouldn’t matter.
“Thank you,” Marcus said.
Adriana took another slow sip of her wine.
“You can thank me by making sure he never does what he did to my sister again. Are you ready to take him on?” Her eyes searched his face.
“We’re ready,” Marcus said. “I’ve been planning for this for almost two years. I won’t lie to you. I’ve never done this before. But if there is a way to… deal with this guy, I promise I’ll find it.”
“Good,” Adriana said. “I’m sorry, but this will have to be good-bye for now. I don’t want anyone connecting me to you. I’ll be in touch.”
Marcus stood and helped her into her coat, then watched her leave before resuming his seat. Derek slipped out behind her. He hoped Derek was on his toes. He felt guilty having him follow her, but he couldn’t be too careful. He finished his bourbon. Adriana’s glass was still half full.
He left not long after, and he didn’t open the envelope until he was safe in his apartment. The information was extremely thorough. Marcus flipped through the papers. Not only was the man’s address there, but also a floor plan of the building and a map of the neighborhood.
Marcus grabbed one of his prepaid cell phones and began making calls. It was time to get the team together and plan their next move. Finally, he was going to get his revenge.