WitD3: Chapter 17

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<Start from the beginning

Chapter 17

This is the way it is; nothing matters. Nothing at all.

Most people don’t want to believe it. If they did, what would the point to anything be? Whether or not a person believes it is irrelevant, though. It’s the biggest, ugliest, most vicious truth in the universe. Birth, death, sickness and health; it’s all irrelevant in the end.

There’s an old saying about fate. Something about throwing a stone in the water, then the small ripples spread outward. Or maybe it has something to do with butterfly wings and hurricanes?

Whatever, it’s bullshit. Small things don’t make a difference. Big things don’t make a difference. Entire species die out on this planet every single day and no one notices. A giant comet could wipe all of us out again, and our solar system would just keep rocketing though the galaxy as though nothing had happened.

There might be other life out there, but we’ll never see it. There may be some divine force that created everything, but it doesn’t care about us.

Happiness fades. Love is a chemical imbalance. Sooner or later, everyone you’re closest to will let you down.

I know, we’re not supposed to focus on the bad, bleak, or pointless. It’s the little things—the small joys, no matter how brief—that make life worthwhile.

That’s bullshit, too. Those brief moments of joy pass and then they’re gone forever. Worse than that, every memory is corrupt.

The oldest known vampire lived to be six thousand years old. In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a significant amount of time. If the entire history of everything from the big bang to this moment was compressed into one year, we all came into being in the last minute of the last day. In another minute, we’ll all be gone.

All of these things are as clear as a shard of crystal being stabbed into my brain. Without the haze of hope, love, or joy, the only thing that exists is pain. So, why stay?

I’ll never see you again, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll never read this. You’ll never know where I’ve gone or what happened to me, but that’s okay, too. It doesn’t matter what happens to me.

There is no justice anywhere in the world, but at least I’ll be getting what I deserve.

Goodbye, Karen.

<<<Chapter 16

Chapter 18>>>

WitD3: Chapter 16

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<Start from the beginning

The first rays of dawn sliced through the gloom, marking the end of what had to be the longest night of my life. It was yet another night without sleep, and my head hadn’t stopped hurting for even a second. My senses had been wide open for hours, yet I sensed nothing except the dank graveyard and the radiant song of the city.

Since before my release, Michael had been insisting that a revenant must return to its grave every sunrise, or else lose its powers. This seemed to be the only point the ancient texts could agree on. I’d argued that if a revenant was lurking around the vampire cemetery every day, someone would’ve noticed. Whatever. I followed the lead, if only to shut him up, but of course it was bullshit. History is written by humans, and humans only catch about half of what’s going on around them.

I climbed out of Justine’s coffin then replaced the lid. Once it was secure, I took the crumpled city map out of my back pocket, then flattened it against the glass. The location where I’d seen Karen’s neighbor reanimate was marked by a red X. No less than two dozen similar marks were spread out around the map, one for every obituary Michael had in his office. Each mark represented a person that had died of the same disease that had nearly killed Karen, the disease Justine was spreading.

And it was my fault. I might as well have drained those people myself. At least I would have gotten a hot meal out of it.

This was the last, and least, thing I could do for Michael. By the time the morning was over, I would really, really owe him.

I stared at the red marks for a long time. There was no obvious rhyme or reason to them. The locations were as random as Justine’s choice of victims. Businessmen uptown, suburbanites downtown, several homeless in the warehouse district, as well as a couple by the shipyard. One seventy-year-old woman died her bed, but she had been in perfect health three days earlier.

In movies or television shows, a detective will study a chart or map like the one spread out before me, then suddenly his brain will connect the dots and tie everything together. All at once, it will make sense. Not only has he figured out the killer’s motives, he knows exactly where they’ll strike next.

This wasn’t one of those times. I wasn’t a detective. I wasn’t that smart, and god help me, I had nothing invested in stopping Justine. Even so, I would pass the map along to Michael. He’d probably take one look at it then know exactly where to find my ex. More power to him.

I took the time to fold the map then returned it to my back pocket. I would shove it under Michael’s door when I was sure he was asleep, then go fulfill my destiny at the Sanctuary.

The five-gallon gas cans sloshed as I moved them from the corner of the tomb to right outside the door. I took a deep, cleansing breath through my nose, the overgrown cemetery a welcome change from the greasy stench of gasoline. I squinted up at the hulking silhouette of the Sanctuary and the butterflies in my stomach grew bat wings.

I couldn’t tell if it was I was anxious or wet-my-pants-excited. It was a combination of both. I’ve never been very good at identifying my feelings. I really should’ve paid more attention when Michael talked in group.

Whatever.

My thoughts were interrupted by a deep growl near the stone wall to my left. I turned to discover the man-eating black wolf lurking in the shadows between two trees. I might not have noticed it at all if the hellhound hadn’t alerted me to its presence. Goddamn demons and their lack of scent.

Its eyes were its most striking feature, so much so that I could see why lore had focused on that aspect of the beast. The parts of its eyes that were supposed to be white were bottomless black, while the parts of its eyes that were supposed to have color were as red as blood and burned like lava. A voice in the back on my head pointed out that I wasn’t supposed to meet a hellhound’s gaze more than twice or I would surely die, but that seemed to be a moot point.

The hellhound watched me with its head lowered and its hackles up. In some ways, it reminded me of a skittish stray dog, only a thousand times more unnerving.

“Hey,” I said. Really? ‘Hey’? Holy shit, I’m dumb. “Did you decide to take me up on my offer?”

In response, the hellhound darted toward the cemetery gate. On the sidewalk, it whipped to the right as though its spine was made of rubber then vanished.

I sprinted after it, afraid the hellhound would outpace me, but found it waiting for me at the street corner.

“What, do you want me to follow you to Karen?” I called as I jogged toward the wolf. “Do you work for someone else? Look, I don’t give a shit. My offer stands. I’ll do anything.”

The hellhound whimpered as I got closer, ready to run. It waited until I was a couple yards away before it started to paw at a nearby manhole.

I stopped with a frown. “What?”

The hellhound continued to dig at the steel cover for a few seconds, then it leapt onto the high Sanctuary wall. I had only a moment to be impressed before it turned on its back feet to leap again. Its body split into three parts in midair, then a trio of huge black ravens squawked into the sky.

I felt my features harden into a glare. “Fucking shape-shifters,” I muttered as I turned my attention back to the manhole cover. Only an idiot would fail to know what the hellhound wanted, but going into the sewer was an extremely bad idea. Demons have no love for vampires, and the feeling is extremely mutual. The entire setup reeked of a trap.

Still…fuck it.

I pulled the heavy cover off the sewer entrance. The stench that vomited out was so rotten that it was like being punched in my sense of smell. I turned my head in disgust, cursing between dry heaves until I ran out of breath. I didn’t dare inhale again as I forced myself to look down at the olive green river churning beneath my feet. Swollen by the previous afternoon’s rain, it almost overflowed the concrete canal.

I didn’t see anyone when I poked my head into the open manhole, but that didn’t mean there was no one there. I weighed my options. The water wasn’t fresh by any stretch of the imagination. There was virtually no chance a nixie was waiting for one of my kind to get close enough to yank into that river, but I wasn’t reassured.

I sighed. “Whatever,” I said as I dropped down into the hole.

I found myself standing on a narrow, railed ledge. To my right, the passage was blocked by steel bars designed to catch debris. I turned to the left.

My journey would have been a hell of a lot more interesting if there had been anything to see. There were no albino alligators or half-mad nosferatu, hunched and bald from their diet of rats. There was just the river of shit. My footsteps echoed in the tunnel as the stench coated my nostrils like tar. The dank shaft went on for about a hundred feet to yet another set of bars, where the path branched to the left and right.

I went left again, because why not?

This tunnel was all but pitch black. If I didn’t have vampiric eyesight, I would’ve been blind. The ceiling dropped by nearly a foot, but the passageway dead-ended after twenty feet.

There was no sign of Karen, but I didn’t sense any sort of trap, either. There was no squat, ugly troll that grinned bright gold teeth, waiting in the shadows to offer me a deal. There was nothing at all.

Stupid hellhound.

“Hello?” I said, annoyed beyond words. “Is anyone there? Was there a point to this or were you just yanking my dick?” There was no reply beyond the resonance of flowing water. “No? Awesome. Well, thanks for wasting my time and fuck you very much.”

I turned to leave, but then I noticed a service door tucked into a shadowy alcove at the end of the dark tunnel. I could see the very faint glint of several padlocks.

I hesitated. Investigating further would mean I’d have to cross running water, and only an idiot vampire would cross running water. Half-vampire tastes just as good as regular vampire to a nixie; well, I assume. Hell, it’s probably better, because I’m involved. If I wanted to play it safe, I needed to backtrack and find a bridge.

I’ve never played it safe. I jumped the distance, and no monstrosity with shark teeth, gills, and a child’s face jumped out of the water like an orca at SeaWorld. Still, my heart pounded as I ducked into the alcove.

It looked like the entrance to some sort of maintenance room. I pressed my ear against the door but heard only a very soft hum, almost electrical but not quite. The locks crumbled in my hands like old cheese, then I ripped away the dingy tape that crisscrossed the door. The wood was swollen from the humidity and stuck, but two shoulder-slams fixed that.

The door swung open, and I found myself struck mute and paralyzed. Several minutes passed before I could fully wrap my mind around what I was seeing.

The first thing to assault me was the smell. Oh, god, even not breathing in didn’t stop the rancid stink from sludging down my throat. The river of sewage was a clean mountain stream in comparison.

The hum I’d heard became a roaring hiss as thousands upon thousands of black flies took to the air. They swarmed around me, bouncing off my face like tiny pebbles until they finally dispersed into the tunnel. When they were gone, there was nothing left to conceal their feast.

The floor inside the ten-by-ten-foot room was carpeted with squirming maggots. Bodies were piled on top of each other, heaped into the corners like so much garbage. Some of the corpses were so decomposed they were nothing but blackened skeletons. Others were fresher, their bones red and glistening.

The world tilted and I put my hand on the doorjamb to steady myself. I guess I must have taken a step forward, because the toe of my boot nudged a decapitated head. It rolled lazily, its features so swollen that it was impossible to tell if the face was male or female. The bloated, purple tongue bulged from its swollen lips.

On top of the nearest mound lay the corpse of a Hispanic child, a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old, her sleek black hair plaited into two braids. Her sundress was bright yellow, and a grimy teddy bear was tucked into her right arm. She appeared to be asleep, except her torso was an empty ribcage, and all of the flesh had been stripped from her thighs. I felt a wave of sorrow crash over me, but it was cut short when the child opened her eyes then turned her head. Her chalk-white lips parted and she began to make a gurgling sound.

Frost spread across every inch of my body. Michael was right; Justine did return to her grave after all, and with definite regularity. If I waited until she dragged her next victim back to her lair, I could finish her off once and for all.

I took a step back, closed the door, then left the sewer the same way I’d come.

Back on the street, the sun was up, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I pulled up my hood, then closed my eyes. The image of Justine’s feeding chamber was branded into my mind, but I tried to purge it by refocusing on what needed to be done at the Sanctuary.

The dark fantasy lurked just below the surface, all too eager to distract me. I would start with David, the teenage vampire. I hated that little prick. I felt my sickened horror evaporate as a smile returned to my face. Even my migraine faded to a dull, background ache.

I began to step through the cemetery gate but was almost immediately pushed back by an unseen force. What the hell? I tried to go through again, only to meet the same invisible wall.

Before I could question what was going on, Michael stepped out of Justine’s shrine. His hands were in his pockets and his expression was grim. I’d seen that look on his face before, so I knew what was coming before he opened his mouth.

“I knew when you came back from prison that it hadn’t been a good experience for you. I knew that for you, such a punishment would be more than your psyche could handle, because you, Toby, took for granted a freedom the rest of us can only imagine.”

“Michael…,” I said, as though I had the foggiest idea how I would finish that sentence.

“But this?” Michael help up my last letter to Karen. It was crinkled from having been crumpled into a ball then thrown in the trash, but it was still readable. “I never would’ve imagined something like this from you, not in a million years. Hell, I still might not have believed it if I hadn’t found the gas cans.”

“I didn’t mean it.” It was a lie so obvious that it was obscene. “I was just blowing off steam.”

Michael shook his head. “Don’t insult my intelligence, Tobias. We both know that every vampire in the Sanctuary would be dead now if I hadn’t found this.” He held up the letter again. “I know that this isn’t you, but I can’t help you. And I can’t let you back in here. I wish you the best of luck. I’ll give you until I get back to my office before I call the police.”

I watched him walk away until Michael disappeared through the Sanctuary’s double doors. My disappointment was so sharp that it howled inside of me.

<<Chapter 15

Chapter 17>>

WitD3: Chapter 15

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<Start from the beginning

Dear Karen,

It occurred to me today that you might not even be alive. It’s hard to believe that you would turn your back on everyone that ever cared about you. Part of me can’t believe it. I feel like I know you better than that. Therefore, you must be dead, or you’re being held prisoner somewhere.

Maybe I’m wrong, and you’re just as selfish as the rest of the world. I hope so, because that would mean that you’re alive, and wherever you are, you might be happy.

Soon, none of it will matter, though. You’re going to hear a lot of bad things about me. For the rest of forever, my legacy is going to be that of a monster.

That’s alright. I am a monster, but I want you, at least, to understand what was going through my mind when I did what I did. The part of me that’s still capable of caring about anything doesn’t want to disappoint you.

It can’t be helped, though. I know that you’ll blame yourself for what’s about to happen, because you’re the one that unleashed me on the world. You really should’ve left me in that hole with a stake through my heart, but I am sorry for the pain I’m about to cause you.

The Sanctuary is unnatural. Being a human, I don’t expect you to understand, but trust me when I say that this place is an abomination. No population in the world can sustain this many Disavowed vampires, because the Disavowed are not meant to survive.

Humans like to believe that the Pure turn them as part of some grand reward for service. The ugly truth is that ninety-percent of newborn vampires are turned as punishment. The only choices the Disavowed have are to watch everyone they know grow old and die, or kill themselves.

Without the Watchers to keep their population in check, the number of Disavowed has spiraled out of control. Justine’s vision was cute, but she would’ve done a lot more good trying to end world hunger.

Nature is a mean bitch, Karen, and a certain percentage of every species is just born to die.

That’s why I’ve decided to kill them all, and then myself. I’ve always written my mother off as a piece of shit for what she did to her family, but now I understand her. There is some evil in the world that can’t be allowed to continue. Sometimes, the only way to get rid of cancer is to burn it to ash.

I’m doing them all a favor. The vampires in the Sanctuary miss their human lives, especially their families. It’s better to help them die now than to make them suffer for centuries. Eventually, they forget their spouses and parents, hell, even their children’s names.

I won’t pretend that this isn’t mostly selfish. I can’t stand the idea of spending the next fifty years in prison. After I’veS serve my time, will my debt really be repaid? Will Ellie stop being crippled? Will Justine come back to life?

I know that you would stop me if you were still around, but you’re not, are you? Take comfort in the knowledge that we all have to die, someday, and that the Disavowed won’t suffer. After Michael goes to bed, I’ll take them out one by one. When they’re all at peace, I’ll burn the Sanctuary to the ground, with me inside. There is one more thing that I have to do, but once that’s finished, so is the Sanctuary.

I hope someday you’ll stop hating me and find it in your heart to forgive me. I would tell you that I’m sorry, but would you believe me? I wouldn’t if I were you.

Goodbye and have a good life,

Toby

<<Chapter 14

Chapter 16 >>

 

WitD3: Chapter 14

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

Chapter 14

 

Karen’s house was dark and her mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway. This wasn’t strange, in and of itself, but the energy of the house felt different. The darkness went beyond not being able to pay the light bill again; the house felt empty, even dead inside.

I clung to denial as I peeked through the uncurtained windows, but my feeble hopes were crushed like a beetle under a steel-toed boot. The walls were bare, and dozens of cardboard boxes were stacked in the middle of the living room.

I spat every curse word I knew, though I wasn’t really surprised by this turn of events. It had always been a matter of time before Karen’s mother lost the house, and I’d given that doppelganger slut three days’ notice I was coming. Consequently, Karen’s mother and brother were about to move and take Bad Karen with them. I would never, ever know where they’d gone.

A flash of rage sent my fist through the window. The sound of breaking glass was satisfying, but did nothing to relieve my frustration. I sat down hard on the sidewalk, at a loss, as I watched the slice across my knuckles knit back together.

What now?

There was a very faint rustle above my head. I looked up to see a piece of paper drifting toward me like an autumn leaf on the breeze. I caught it, then turned it over to see flowery cursive scrawled in blood-red ink. It took a moment to decipher, but my claws dug into the fleshy part of my hands when the words finally registered.

Out me now, bloodsucker.

I crumpled the paper then tossed it away. The note vanished in a puff of blue smoke in midair and I shook my head. Fucking glamour. Fucking demons. Fuck every last inch of this.

I got to my feet, at a loss where to go from there, then a wet, hacking cough from somewhere nearby captured my attention. My vampire side was stoked by the opportunity to pick off the sick and the lame, while the human part of me had nothing better to do. I made my way across Karen’s overgrown back yard, and the gradual downhill slope led to a crumbling concrete wall.

I crouched next to a blighted chestnut tree, then opened my senses to make sure the coast was clear. There was no one close enough to make a credible witness, so I peeked over the divider.

It was like staring into another world. The house was Victorian, like Karen’s, but the owner could afford to keep it up. More than that, they took a lot of pride in their home. Every inch of the yard was manicured, from the willow trees to the rose bushes. The grass was so green, it looked like it had been spray-painted.

A young girl, roughly eleven or twelve years old and dressed entirely in white, sat at the base of a nearby tree with her back to me. She hacked into her hands as though she couldn’t catch her breath. Furthermore, she wasn’t a stranger. Well, we hadn’t exactly met, but Karen had spoken of her often. Karen had babysat for the girl until she was old enough to take care of herself, and the two of them were still friendly. Her name was…Cammie? Cassidy? Imogine? Shit, I don’t know.

The girl had a small, white dog in her lap. It was one of those yappy, purse-puppy breeds I couldn’t name. It trembled and bounced as it pawed at her in whimpering concern.

The girl was in trouble, that much was obvious, but my first impulse was to do nothing and watch. Luckily, my voice still had a mind of its own, and it had taken custody of my conscience. “Hey, are you okay?” I said.

The girl turned her platinum-blonde head to look at me, her eyes wide and glassy with fever. Her blood smelled revolting, but it was nothing compared to her face. Her skin was dead white, and covered by a rash of pus-filled blisters. Flecks of blood had turned her lips ruby red.

My initial shock turned to irritation, and I rolled my eyes. “Great,” I said. Michael would definitely want to hear about this. He’d been wringing his hands about exactly this sort of thing happening ever since I’d told him Justine was a revenant.

I pulled the phone from my pocket, wondering if this was a sign that Justine was nearby. I began to dial Michael, then stopped. I really should call for an ambulance first, right? The girl vomited a stream of blood and I felt like a jackass. Yes, of course, I should call for an ambulance first. Dipshit.

I pressed nine then a huge, furry black body rammed into my shoulder from behind, knocking the phone from my hand. An enormous canine, wolf-like in appearance but more than twice as large, landed next to the girl without making a sound. She slumped over as the wolf gave a throaty growl, then clamped its jaws onto the smaller dog like a bear trap. The puppy squeaked as the wolf gave its head a violent shake, and I winced inwardly at the crunch of tiny bones.

The wolf lifted its head to glare at me. The smaller dog fell limp to the ground as the beast snarled, then the wolf’s eyes began to glow an unholy red. It smelled of nothing at all, confirming the animal was in fact a demon. I’d never seen one before, but I felt safe in assuming that this was a hellhound.

The wolf huffed in dismissal then began to rip at the dead girl’s stomach with its paws. “Hey!” I said. The girl’s sweater turned red as bloody yarn tangled around the hellhound’s claws. “Hey, knock it off!”

The beast responded with a bark that shook my bone marrow. It thrust its snout into the hole it had torn in the girl’s stomach, then ripped out a chunk of dripping kidney. It scarfed the organ in one gulp, never breaking eye contact with me.

For a moment, the situation took on a very surreal quality. The hellhound and I stared at each other, and I found that I couldn’t blink. “Who are you?” I said, the words forming on their own.

The hellhound made a disgusted sound then continued eating, breaking the spell.

I jumped over the dividing wall. The hellhound leaped back as though ready to run but was reluctant to abandon its meal. I raised my hands to demonstrate I meant no harm as I took a step closer.

“Look, I don’t know if you can understand, but…who am I kidding? Of course, you understand. I need help.”

The wolf never stopped growling as it very deliberately licked the blood from its muzzle.

“Take this message to someone in charge, someone that can get shit done. I have to find someone, and I’ll do anything. I’ll pay any price, just name it.”

The hellhound stood up straighter, cocking its head in wonder.

Internally, I cursed my big mouth, but there was no turning back. “I need to find a woman. You’ll definitely know her if you see her. There’s no one else like her in the city. Hell, probably the entire world. She’s got long, dark hair, dark eyes, and she’s…beautiful. Like I said, I’ll do anything to find her. Her name is Karen Harris—”

The hellhound barreled into my chest, knocking me to the ground. I turned onto my stomach in time to see the creature vanish over the concrete wall. My ribs ached, and I groaned as I got to my feet, just as a huge black bird took to the sky from the same spot I’d seen the hellhound disappear.

It took some effort to draw a breath. “Fucking demons,” I rasped.

I wondered how long it would take to find out if any of the demons in the city had responded to my offer. I hoped not long; it wasn’t like I had a lot of time left.

My mood soured like roadkill in the summer sun. Who was I kidding? No demon in the city would agree to help a vampire, even a half-vampire, for any price. I’d just wasted my time.

I heard a thump behind me then I turned, wondering who had managed to sneak up on me this time. My eyes widened when I saw the dead girl struggling to push herself to her feet. She moaned as she stood, her last breath creaking out of her lungs as her intestines slipped through the tears in her abdomen. They tangled around her feet as the ghoul staggered toward the open gate, out into the unsuspecting suburb.

I sucked my front teeth, deep in thought, then leaped over the dividing wall to be on my way.

<<Start from the beginning

<<Chapter 13

Chapter 15>>

WitD3: Chapter 13

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

Chapter 13

To the woman that ruined my life;

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, and I’ve completely given up on getting any sleep today.

As it turns out, I have to write. There’s no choice in the matter. My bones try to worm their way through my skin whenever I don’t purge these fucked up thoughts. I didn’t realize how much I needed that blog until those bastards took it away from me.

I have no idea what I’ll do with this letter when I’m done. It’s not like anyone will ever read it. But, this is better than lying in bed, feeling every single second tick by like Chinese water torture.

It could be that my subconscious knows this is the last taste of freedom I’m going to have for a while. Even when I lay down and try to force the issue, I’m still aware of everything going on around me.

Worse, I’m beginning to see and hear shit. Like, right now, there’s this weird aura around my computer screen. Shadows keep moving out of the corners of my eyes. I sometimes catch a whiff of smoke or perfume, but there’s never anything there when I go investigate. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.

I’ve messed everything up. I thought I knew what I needed to do to make things right, but now…I don’t know what I know, or what I’m doing.

When I do sleep, or what passes for it, I have weird dreams. They feel like they’re really happening, but I’m also still aware of the Sanctuary. It’s as though I’m in both places at the same time. I know that doesn’t make sense, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

Justine still haunts me. She’s there every time I close my eyes. I can see her, her hair limp and her eyes bottomless as she stares into the bathroom mirror. She doesn’t even flinch as she sews the gaping holes in her neck closed. The wide, ragged wounds are ugly red chasms in her gray skin. She looks as though she was attacked by a wild animal, because she was.

I can hear her thoughts, like she’s whispering the words directly into my ear. Keep it hidden…I can keep it hidden…with scarves…with turtlenecks…keep them focused on Ellie…my baby, so sweet…she needs me and I can’t even get close to her…just a few more days…just a few more days to settle affairs…so hungry…

Sometimes, my dreams try to be nice. Justine is alive and we are together again. Those dreams are so much worse than the nightmares. I can’t see her, but I know she’s close enough to touch, if only I would give myself permission to do so.

I can’t smell her, but that’s okay. I remember what she smelled like. Justine was a rich blend of vanilla and sandalwood, honey and musky oils. The greatest peace I have ever known resided in that scent.

In my dreams, we are secure in our warm little cocoon. We are all that exists. We are all that matters.

“Well, if I really had to pick…” Justine’s voice was serene, as though we’d spent the night in each other’s arms, and were too comfortable to get out of bed. “I’d have to say giving birth to Ellie was the worst pain of my life.”

I don’t remember what I asked to prompt that response, but I don’t care. I just wanted to hear her talk.

“Eighteen hours of labor, and most of that was in my back. I refused the epidural when they offered it because I was determined to do everything naturally. Then it came time to push, and I immediately regretted it.” She laughed at the memory, and I felt myself smile. “I was sure I was going to die. I was only seventeen, so what did I know? The pressure in my pelvis felt like my bones were splitting. My body stretched and stretched until it couldn’t possibly stretch anymore, and then it did. There was so much blood and gushing fluids, and terrible smells. Also, there were people telling me to keep going, keep going, I was doing great. Goddamn liars. I was an exhausted blubbering mess.”

I wish I could’ve been there with her. I wouldn’t have been able to take her pain away, but at least she wouldn’t have suffered alone.

“Then, finally—finally—she was here. My little angel. She was so small, so unbelievably small, considering how enormous she felt when she was coming out of me. But she was perfect.”

I could feel her stroking the back of my hand, and her fingertips felt like satin.

“I let her father do most of the feeding and changing for the first few weeks. I wanted to give them as much time together as possible. We knew he didn’t have much time left, but her birth breathed new life into him. Besides, right from the start, Ellie was such a daddy’s girl. So much so, that when he died, she wanted nothing to do with me. She didn’t like me until she was about two years old.”

Justine hesitated and I felt my stomach muscles tighten. I knew what she was about to ask and it filled me with dread.

“Promise you’ll take care of her for me?”

“I can’t.” Even if I had been able to see her, I wouldn’t have been able to look at her. I squeezed my eyes shut and turned my face away.

“Please, Toby. I need you to look out for her. There’s no one else in the world that I trust.”

It cut me open, knowing that I would have to disappoint her. I shook my head. “You shouldn’t trust me. You should’ve never trusted me. I hurt everyone that gets too close to me. Everything I touch turns to shit.”

I felt her shift closer. “That’s not true. I love you, and you love me. We are part of each other, forever. No matter where you are, I am with you.”

“But, you’re not with me.” The words were smoke and poison, choking me as they came out. “You’re gone, and it’s all my fault.”

“I’m here,” she insisted gently.

“I can’t see you. Goddamn it, I can’t even look for you. I’m all alone.”

I felt her heart ache for me, even if I didn’t deserve it. She leaned in, and the instant before her lips touched mine, I woke up. At once, the inner darkness came crashing down on me. My contentment was swept away, leaving behind nothing but black hate and a festering anger that I don’t know how to contain.

I don’t want to go back to prison. I still need to be punished, but I’ll go insane if I have to spend the next fifty years in that place. It would be better to die.

Maybe I’ll find a place full of terrible people—which isn’t that hard to do in this city—then I’ll feast. I’ll go out in a hail of bullets. Wouldn’t justice be served then?

Goddamn it, Karen, where are you?

<<Start from the beginning

<<Chapter 12

Chapter 14>>

WitD3: Chapter 12

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

Chapter 12

By the time I came down from the tower, the sun had broiled most of the skin from my face. My flesh stung like the bites of a thousand fire ants. Broken blisters seeped into my eyes, which were blinded by the dawn. I have nothing to say for myself, except that the pain was kind of a relief.

So, great. What was next on my growing list of personality defects? Was I about to start cutting myself?

I kept my right hand on the wall for guidance as I stumbled toward my room. I didn’t recognize the shadowy figure that came to stand before me until the stench of Michael’s cologne assaulted my senses.

“The baron gave me this business card to pass along to you,” he said, then his voice sharpened with alarm. “Jesus Christ, Tobias, what the hell happened to you?”

I managed to snatch the card from Michael on the third swipe. “Anything else?” I said as I ripped it into tiny pieces.

“Yes. He asked what sort of priestly training I’ve received. When I told him, he informed me that I’m useless then walked out.”

Michael’s silhouette was broken by jagged flashes of light, but he was beginning to gel into focus. “That sounds like my father,” I said. “Don’t let him get to you. I’m going to bed.” I didn’t hold out hope that I’d actually sleep, but my aching body demanded that I try again.

“Hold on. Dr. Walters faxed this over for you this morning. She said you were asking her about it last night?” Michael thrust a thin stack of copy paper in my direction. There was shit written on it, but the words were a grey haze. “I thought you’d gone out, or I would’ve brought it by sooner.”

My head felt strange, like an unholy cross between being sick and being drunk. I didn’t have much experience with either sensation, so I wanted to lay down with my eyes closed until it passed. I pinched the bridge of my nose as I said, “It must be Justine’s coroner report. Awesome.” I was honestly glad to have it, yet my tone was flat and disinterested. “Can you read it to me? I can barely see. Besides, I doubt I’ll understand all the technical medical stuff anyway.”

I felt Michael look me over. “Sure,” he said, a frown in his voice. He took me by the elbow to guide me, and the touch of his hand irked me to the bone.

The overhead lights in Michael’s office were dim, but I could make out the outline of a wheelchair next to the tinted windows. Song stared at the Sanctuary’s eastern wall, as stiff and still as a wooden statue. Her hair had finally grown back, and someone had brushed it as smooth as her newborn vampire skin. Her bathrobe was thick and pulled tight around her body, but only the profoundly unobservant would fail to notice she had only one arm and half a leg.

A growl rumbled up from my chest as I flopped onto the couch. “Don’t you ever fucking sleep?” Like I had room to talk.

Song said nothing, not that I expected her to speak. If she wasn’t hysterical, she was catatonic. In truth, I was grateful she was being quiet, for a change.

I heard Michael’s desk chair squeak as he sat down, then a click as he turned on the lamp. “Are you looking for anything in particular?”

 “Just read it,” I said, wishing I had a cold compress for my eyes.

“Yes, your highness.” The papers rustled as Michael picked up the fax then tapped it against his desk. “Wow. I guess terrible handwriting must be a graduation requirement in medical school. Anyway. Name, Justine Anne Walters. Race, Caucasian. Sex, female. Age, twenty-five. Home address, blah-blah-blah. Marital status, single. Occupation, unemployed. Notified by police department, investigated by police depart—Toby, what are we looking for, here?”

“Keep reading and I’ll let you know when you get there.”

“Fine. Synopsis; manner of death ruled suicide, specifically self-mutilation of both wrists resulting in exsanguination.”

He stopped. No one told him to stop. “Was there anything else?” I said.

“Like what?”

“I mean her neck. Does the report say if anything was wrong with her neck?”

“No,” Michael said with care, “and I don’t know why that is. You said you remembered killing her. Right?”

Apparently, the same thought that occurred to me had occurred to Michael. My stomach twisted with a growing energy I couldn’t name. “I don’t know what I remember. Maybe I didn’t kill her. Maybe I just…knocked her out.”

“There would still be bite marks on her—”

“But, there wouldn’t be. Justine ‘killed herself’ about a week after Ellie was admitted to the hospital, right? My bite would’ve been nothing but a couple ugly, yellow bruises by then. Hell, Justine was tough, they might’ve healed altogether. So, that means, Justine did actually kill herself. She was never a ghoul, and all that incorruptibility crap actually happened. She was a saint, and that bitch Gretchen turned her into a revenant, not me.”

Michael turned his attention back to the report. “Well, I’m not seeing anything about any sort of damage to her neck. Eyes, brown. Hair, brown. Height. Weight. Internal temperature, seventy-two-point-six degrees—”

For some reason, this snapped Song out of her trance. “What?”

We were both stunned that she’d actually spoken. “Excuse me?” Michael said.

Song turned in her chair to face us. “What was her internal temperature?”

“Seventy-two-point-six degrees,” Michael said. “Why?”

Song waved what remained of her only hand, as though it should have been obvious. “Well, there’s your proof right there.”

I felt my hackles stand at attention. “What do you mean, there’s my proof? Proof of what?”

Song rolled her eyes, amazed and disgusted by the need to explain. “Whenever an average, healthy human dies, their core body temperature will be around ninety-eight-point-six degrees. If left undisturbed, the corpse will cool at a rate of one to one-and-a-half degrees per hour until it reaches the ambient temperature of its surroundings. At that point, the temperature will remain constant. Therefore, your little girlfriend had been dead for at least twenty-six hours before her body was found.”

“According to the police report, Justine called 911 at ten-forty-five AM,” Michael said, leaping onto the bandwagon so he could…I don’t know. Be a dick? “The paramedics arrived on scene less than twenty minutes later, where Justine was found not breathing and unresponsive. CPR was attempted at the scene, and in the ambulance en route, without success. She was declared legally dead at the hospital at eleven-thirty-seven.”

Song held out her hand. “Can I take a look at that?”

I rolled my eyes as Michael handed it over.

The former Watcher studied the report for less than five seconds before her lips pursed in contempt. “Yeah, this is a fake.”

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a know-it-all. “Why do you say that?” It was apparent from my tone that I didn’t appreciate her input.

Song gave me a snide look. “I’ve actively hunted bloodsuckers for the majority of my life. If there’s one thing I know how to spot, it’s a falsified autopsy report.”

I felt my face sour. “Fine. How do you know it’s fake?”

Song rolled her chair closer to me then thrust the papers into my hands. “Okay. First of all, you can see where the coroner made marks on the human diagram. They do that to illustrate where the wounds are on the body, right?” I nodded that I understood. “Even though this is a copy, you can see the smudges where the ME indicated there was a wound of some sort on the victim’s neck, but those marks have been erased.”

I could feel my spirits sinking. Still, I said, “That doesn’t mean anything.”

Song’s eyebrows nearly arched off of her face. “Really? And here, where someone also erased the check in the box that indicated the death was a result of ‘suspicious, unusual or unnatural circumstances’? I guess that doesn’t mean anything? Oh, and here, where someone with completely different handwriting filled out the synopsis of death. That doesn’t mean anything, either?”

I stared at the inconsistencies, and wished that I was still blind.

“Then who did fill it out?” I said, as though Song would know.

It was Michael who answered. “Justine. Justine filled it out. Then she signed the coroner’s name.”

“Why would she do that?” I said, more harshly than I had intended.

“Because, she knew that if they sealed her in a coffin then buried her under six feet of dirt and clay that she would eventually starve to death, long before the hunger for living flesh got the better of her.”

Song made a disgusted sound. “Odin’s lost eye, drama much? If that was the case, why not just tell the authorities, ‘hey, by the way, I was actually killed by a vampire, and now I need someone to jiggle my brains for me’? That would’ve been a thousand times faster and easier.”

“Unless she wanted to punish herself for what she did to Tobias?” It was like Michael had punched me in the gut. “Even if staking him was the only option she had to save her daughter’s life, the guilt of it must have been agonizing.”

Song shrugged. “I don’t know. If I were you, I’d find the coroner that performed her examination and ask a few questions.”

I shook my head as I wadded the report into a ball then tossed it into the trash. “No.” I started toward the door. The room was suffocating.

“Toby, let’s talk about this,” Michael said.

“I can’t.” The instant the words left my mouth, I wished I’d said literally anything else. “I’ve got to get some sleep.”

“Alright. Before you go, don’t you think you should thank Song?”

I was offended by the very idea “For what?”

“Her expertise just proved invaluable.” Condescending prick. “Now, you should thank her.”

“You want me to thank her?” I said. “Fine, I’ll thank her.” I turned Song’s chair to face me then waved the single digit salute right in her face.

Michael scowled, as I knew he would. “Tobias, that was uncalled for.”

I ignored him. “Notice anything?”

Song met my gaze without blinking. “You mean the way your hands are small and dainty, like a woman’s?”

I had to hand it to her, the bitch was quick. Under different circumstances, I might’ve liked her. “Do you see how the skin below my second knuckle is just a little bit darker than the rest of my finger?”

Song’s eyes flickered toward my hand then back to my face. “No,” she said coldly.

“Notice the scar right above the knuckle that goes all the way around?”

“You don’t have a scar,” she said, managing to emphasize every word.

“Exactly. When I was nine, an elder vampire caught me feeding off a teenage hooker in his territory. Spankings don’t exactly work on vampire kids, so to teach me a lesson, he bit off these three fingers.” I indicated the pinky, ring, and middle fingers of my right hand.

Song’s eyes narrowed in distrust. “What are you saying, they grew back?”

“Yes.”

Song took a sharp breath that caught in her throat, her eyes widening.

“I’m surprised you’re not an expert on that too, but not a lot of people know that about vampires. Hell, I’m only half, but two years later, I didn’t even have a scar anymore.”

Song’s expression was pained. “Two years?”

“You won’t take that long to heal, but you are tore up all to hell. You might take…I don’t know. Six months? Maybe eight, to get back on your feet. What are you bitching for? You’re a vampire now. Stop thinking like a human, you big baby. Oh, and the longer you refuse to feed, the longer you’ll take to heal.”

I turned to leave as Song blinked away tears. Michael smiled then gave me a nod of approval that made me hate them both.

<<Start from the beginning

<<Chapter 11

Chapter 13>>

WitD3: Chapter 11

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

Chapter 11

The view from the Sanctuary bell tower was beyond amazing. It was one of the few things I’d actually missed, the ability to look out over the city in every direction.

At that moment, though, I was focused on Justine’s empty shrine. I didn’t expect her to suddenly appear—I’m not a fucking retard—but it wasn’t as though I had any other leads.

More than anything, I was enjoying the silence. The sky to the east was gray with the coming dawn, and the city below was just beginning to stir. A few stragglers among the Disavowed drunk-stumbled up the cobblestones, cutting it very close, but that wasn’t my problem or concern.

For the first time in weeks, my skull wasn’t threatening to split open. My head felt heavy and too full, but no longer as though railroad spikes were being driven into my temples. The daybreak was quiet, as though the city was holding its breath. This was the closest I’d felt to actual peace since…I didn’t know when.

Then, of course, I caught the scent of insufferable prick and all of my good feelings went away.

Without looking and in the shittiest tone I could possibly manage, I said, “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t need an excuse to come here. I go wherever I please.”

This was the peak of arrogance from most vampires; it was a simple statement of fact from my father. I shook my head in irritation as I said, “I’ll be sure to have Michael make up a bed for you. He’ll be so honored, he might just shit himself.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sebastian lean against a support post. His designer shirt was open at the collar, and his sleeves were rolled to the elbows. God, what a douche. “I need no host, Tobias. This is my territory.” He said this so casually he may as well have been commenting on the weather.

I looked at him at him at last. “When did that happen?”

“Today.” Sebastian’s slight smile betrayed him; the entitled dick was pleased with himself. “Mother finalized the legalities of the takeover this afternoon, and now this city is officially part of my territory. In the future, all tributes shall be paid forward to me.” When I failed to react, he said, “Mother sent me to share the good news with you.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Tell Hlin I said that it seems like an awful lot of money to spend just to keep me under her thumb.”

Sebastian gave me a stern look that was ruined by his baby face. “Any fortune is worthwhile if it keeps you from doing anything else to embarrass your family.”

I turned my attention back to the eastern horizon. “I don’t have family,” I said. “Only relatives.”

Sebastian was quiet, and I could feel his yellow stare crawl over me like a snake. “The sun will be up soon,” he said with forced nonchalance.

“You’d better go then.”

I heard the frown in his voice. “I know it won’t kill you, but you do burn, yes?”

I kept my eyes on the horizon. “That’s the idea.”

This was followed by yet another uncomfortable silence. “Your trial is in ten days.”

This caused my temper to flare. “The fuck, Sebastian. Did you think I forgot?”

Just as I had inherited his eyes, Sebastian had inherited Hlin’s ability to cut someone in half with a glance. “Your attorney is confident that he will get you acquitted.”

“Yeah, he seems like a good one. That’s why I’m going to do what I’d planned to do all along and fire him so I can change my plea back to guilty.”

“You’ll sit in your chair and do nothing.”

The vampire side of me responded at once to the attempted authority in his voice. “Is that so? And how do you plan on making me, old man?”

Sebastian’s posture remained statue-like, but I caught the very slight shift in his gaze that broke eye contact. “Hlin also said to tell you that although we as a family will admit no wrongdoing in Justine Walter’s death—”

“It was my fault.”

He went on as though I hadn’t spoken. “—we are prepared to offer Justine’s survivor a very generous settlement. Out of court, naturally. Would that pacify your guilty conscience?”

An unexpected surge of hostility swept up from the seemly bottomless pit of emptiness within. “You stay away from Elaina. She’s terrified of vampires. You’ll only scare her.”

Sebastian gave me a look that questioned my intelligence. It was the only way he knew how to look at me. “We weren’t going to meet with her directly. We’ll send a human representative, which is how these things are done.” He smirked as he shook his head. “You sound like her father.”

“And how the hell would you know what a father sounds like?”

Sebastian said nothing. We’d had this argument a thousand times before, and neither of us had the energy to do it again.

I turned my attention back to the dawn. “You need to leave. For good. It’s too late for me. I wish you and Hlin would just…go away and forget about me altogether.”

Again, Sebastian was silent. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I looked to find he was already gone.

<<Start from the beginning

<<Chapter 10

Chapter 12>>