*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.
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.
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.