*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.
The short, skinny Asian woman on Michael’s porch jumped when I threw open his front door. Dressed in pajamas and a long hooded sweater, her hand was raised to knock again. Her almond eyes widening, she held her black doctor’s bag in front of her as she took a step back.
“Father Cooper called and said that he needed my help,” she said. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in jail.”
She’d never been comfortable around me, and I was okay with that. “It took you fucking long enough to get here.”
She blinked at my rudeness. “Dude, the sun just went down.”
“An hour and a half ago.”
“I got here as fast as I could.”
“Did you walk here from Canada?”
“I live on campus, which is over forty-five minutes away. I got Father Cooper’s message as soon as I woke up then I came. What more do you want from me?”
I raised my voice to speak over her, which sent jagged pains through my not-yet-fully-healed skull. “I see you had time to put your makeup on first.”
Her jaw tightened and I think she would’ve blushed, if vampires did that. “Okay, you know what? I don’t have to take this. I’m missing class to be here.”
I stood to the side with a sarcastic bow. “Then, by all means, come in.”
She glared at me as she took a step forward, but rebounded off the invisible wall created by Michael’s wards. Her fangs grew a bit in annoyance. “You know the owner of the house has to be the one to invite me in. Is Father Cooper even here?”
“I’m here,” Michael called from the living room, his voice strained. “Please, Tamryn. You can come in.”
She walked past me with a huff, her eyes narrowed and her nose in the air. The short entryway opened into the living room, and she gasped in overdramatized horror when she saw Michael laid out on the couch.
“Oh, my god, Father Cooper.” She rushed over, dropping to her knees beside him. She laid her head on his bare chest and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “Are you okay? What happened?”
His face grey and drenched with sweat, Michael kissed the top of her head. “Thank you for coming.”
“Of course, I came for you.” There was an emotional crack in her voice. “After everything you’ve done for me, how could I not come?”
Michael finally remembered that I was there. “Tobias, I don’t know if you remember Tamryn Sagasuki. She—”
“I remember her,” I said as I leaned against the wall then crossed my arms. Born American, she’d been studying medicine in China, or maybe Japan, when her progenitor boyfriend had gotten killed. It was some territorial dispute, I think. Anyway, she made her way back to the states, only to be turned away by her human family. The other Disavowed called her Dr. S.
“He remembers me?” Dr. S said as though she and Michael shared a private joke. “Should I be flattered?” She carefully removed the dishtowel over Michael’s wound, but the makeshift bandage stuck to his raw skin. Her eyes widened when she realized the bite went all the way to the bone. “Holy shit, who did this to you?” Without a trace of subtlety, she jerked her head in my direction then arched an eyebrow.
Michael shook his head with a tight smile. “It was no one you know. My fingers are burning,” he said as he clenched then unclenched his fist.
“That’s because whoever put that bandage on you tied it too tight. It cut off the circulation to the rest of your arm.”
“You’re welcome, by the way,” I said under my breath. I’d also made an ice pack for his swollen shoulder, but she didn’t see fit to mention that.
Dr. S closed her eyes and leaned forward. She took a deep breath through her nose as she sat back on her heels, then released it as a sigh. “Your shoulder is dislocated, and most of the connective tissue is torn. Your blood count is low, and you’re already running a fever.” She gave him a reassuring smile as she began to remove supplies from her doctor bag. “Nothing a little blood-mugging can’t fix.”
I watched her work with a frown. “So, are you really a doctor?”
She gave me a resentful look as she cleaned her hands with alcohol swabs. “I was forth year when Aiko-san turned me. I was all set to resume classes in Beijing before he died, but none of those credits transferred when I came home. It took eighteen months to get into night school, and I have to start completely over, but I remember everything.” She acted like I’d called her an idiot. “Father Cooper, I’ve got to pop that shoulder back in place before we get started, and it’s going to hurt like hell.”
I heard the jingle of a tiny bell, then a white kitten that didn’t look old enough to leave its mother pranced into the room. It trotted over to the couch then climbed it like a tree to reach Michael.
Despite his obvious agony, Michael reached over with his good arm to scratch its tiny head. “Hey, Snowball. Don’t worry, I’m okay.”
The kitten mewled in response, it’s voice a tiny squeak. The feline wrapped its front legs around Michael’s brow, purring as it groomed his eyelid. Dr. S made that sound women make whenever they’re confronted with an adorable baby. I could tell she wanted to cuddle it, but couldn’t risk contaminating her hands.
I, however, was unmoved. “Since when do you have a cat?” I said.
“I found her wandering around the cemetery last week. I think someone dumped her, because she walked right up to me. I gave her a little bit of my turkey sandwich and she’s been following me around ever since.”
Dr. S gingerly picked up Michael’s injured arm. She eased it to a ninety-degree angle from his body then bent his elbow. “Now, I know this hurts, but I need you to try to relax as much as possible.”
“I don’t smell a litter box,” I said, if only to distract him.
“She goes outside.” Michael’s teeth ground together as Dr. S began to pull on his arm. “She goes over to the door and scratches like a dog so…I’m pretty sure she’s a genius.” There was a pop then Michael’s entire body went limp with relief. “Thank you. Thank you, Jesus my god, for ending it quickly.”
“Okay, the worst part is over,” Dr. S said with annoying cheer as she removed her sweater. She rolled up her sleeve then tied a tourniquet around her arm like an expert heroin addict.
Michael placed the purring kitten on his chest, and it immediately curled into a ball of furry contentment. “Toby, we have to find Karen. We can’t take Justine on without her.”
“Karen?” Dr. S said with a frown. She slid an IV needle into the vein on the back of Michael’s hand. “Oh, you mean that little girl his majesty was always hanging around with? Where is she?”
I ignored her. Karen’s necromancy was on a need-to-know basis, but mostly I didn’t appreciate the ‘his majesty’ remark. “That’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t know where she is and I don’t know where to begin looking. Not to mention Karen hates me.”
“Karen doesn’t hate you,” Michael said. “She’s just hurt and angry. She came to help when you needed her, didn’t she?”
I shook my head. “According to the demon that—” A large clump of my hair and the remaining claws on my right hand dropped to the floor. Son of a bitch. “According to the one that’s forcing me to hunt down Justine, Karen didn’t come to help me. She had to be tricked into coming, otherwise she wouldn’t have.”
“You just need to talk to her to work things out, I promise.” Michael sounded sleepy, and I worried he was going into shock. Not a moment too soon, Dr. S. connected the IV tubing that ran from her veins to his. “Besides, if you tell Karen what’s going on, she’ll help regardless of how she feels about you. Karen’s a responsible person. She’ll do the right thing.”
I took a step forward as I said, “I know she would, but that goddamn demon…” There was a popping sensation in my sock, as though I’d stepped on an acorn. Cursing under my breath, I began to slide off my boot. I’d never noticed how often I said that word. “The ‘woman’ I’m working for said she would think about taking a message to Karen, but only after I got rid of the revenant.”
I pulled off my sock, then my big toe rolled out onto the floor. The ball of my foot where it had been attached was raw and tender, but not bleeding. It was as though it had rotted off, but without the decay.
Dr. S stared at me, Michael’s right wrist poised at her lips. “Dude, do you have leprosy?”
“No,” I said with a sigh. “Just a really big mouth.”
“Look, this woman has to see reason,” Michael said. He barely flinched as Dr. S’s fangs sank into his flesh. “We can’t get rid of the revenant without Karen, so she has to tell us how to contact her.”
“She won’t see reason, Michael. They’re the most irrational people…things on the planet. There is no reasoning with her kind.”
It was then that I noticed Michael had a rash. I took a step closer to get a better look, but only succeeded in confirming my worst fear. His skin was warm and pink, and tiny white blisters were beginning to form. The ugly hives crawled up Michael’s arm from the bite wound, and were already beginning to spread across his chest. Just to drive the point home, Michael barked a wet, hacking cough.
Another knock shook me from my thoughts. I looked at Michael, who shrugged, so I braced myself as I answered the door.
One of the teenage vampires from the Sanctuary stood on the porch. He carried a vinyl garment bag, a long envelope, and a card. He blinked in surprise when he saw me. “Oh, you’re here. Cool. Here you go.” He placed the items in my arms then turned away.
I laid the bag over Michael’s easy chair, as though it would explode. I unzipped it just enough to see that it contained a very expensive suit. Annoyance crept over me as I ripped open the card. The note was brief, but looked as though it had been written by a professional calligrapher.
Wear this when you stand trial.
I tossed the card onto the seat cushion. The letter turned out to be a notification from my lawyer, informing me that my trial date had been moved up. It would take place that Friday.
Three days. I had three days to find Karen and kill Justine, with no idea how to do either.
I left without a word. I wondered how things could possibly get worse, but didn’t say as much out loud. The universe loves a challenge. I made my way across the grounds, then through the archway into the vampire cemetery.
Once I was relatively sure I was out of earshot, I said, “Gwen, listen to me. I can’t do what you need me to do, not in three days. Bring me Karen, otherwise you’ll have to deal with the revenant by yourself.”
A moment later, there was a flash above my head. I looked up to see a piece of paper floating toward me. Apparently, this was a popular form of communication with demons. I snatched the note out of the air then turned it over.
That’s not an option.
I wadded up the paper then threw it away. It vanished in a puff of blue flames the instant it left my hand.
“Fine, bitch. That’s how you want to play? I can play, too.”
So, I could die fighting an undead much stronger than me, or go to prison with a demon hex eating me alive. Meanwhile, the city would spiral into an episode of the Walking Dead.
I never thought I’d miss the fucking Watchers.