*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.
I stood outside the blood bar for over an hour, but it felt closer to three. My hatred for Hlin grew by the minute, because I knew she was to blame for my new court date. To pass the time, I fantasized about tossing every person in front of me over the velvet rope. I couldn’t risk more legal problems; otherwise, I might’ve at least shoved my way to the front.
To say Song felt stiff in my arms was an understatement. She stared straight ahead, unblinking, as the ocean breeze toyed with her hair. A person might’ve mistaken her for one of those Greek statues. You know, the ones with the missing limbs.
Wow, that wasn’t cool. I suck.
Song fisted her remaining hand in my hoodie, her arm tight around my neck. Every vampire that passed got an evil look, with flickers of disdain for any humans with them.
The club door opened behind the bouncers, and a heavy bassline thudded through the air. “I can’t do this,” Song said. It was the first time she’d spoken since our arrival. “Take me back to the Sanctuary.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” I stepped forward as a human couple two places in front of us entered the bar.
Song’s ivory brow furrowed. “Everyone is staring at me,” she said in a low voice.
“Uh-huh…” I wasn’t paying attention. A young woman with long dark hair had stepped out of the bar. Her back was to me as she spoke to the largest of the three bouncers, a barrel-chested black vampire. He was a giant of a man, dressed in a tailored suit and mirror sunglasses. I couldn’t smell the girl over the traffic exhaust, piss, and human stench, but the sight of her made my chest tighten. She turned to reenter the club, and I growled under my breath when I confirmed it wasn’t Karen.
Song had no idea how close she’d come to getting dropped on her ass. “I stand out like a sore thumb,” she said. “Not to mention…Of course, everyone is looking at me.”
“Why would anyone be looking at you? It’s not like you’re naked. With that long dress on, it’s not obvious you’re missing a limb.”
“Three limbs,” she said in a dark tone.
“Whatever. Who cares?”
Song shook her head as she whispered, “I can’t be here. This place goes against everything I’ve trained my entire life to be. We’re supposed to blend in.” By ‘we’, I assumed she meant the Watchers. She and I weren’t equals. “We keep our heads down. We observe, but we don’t interact unless it’s to protect someone. Once upon a time, a place like this would’ve been a target.” Song flinched when the lead bouncer’s gaze shifted to her. “They’re going to take one look at me and know what I am.”
“Yes. They’re going to take one look at you and know that you’re a hungry vampire. Because that’s all you are now.”
Song looked at me as though I’d just punted a newborn puppy into traffic. “Why did you bring me here?”
“Because you already know the situation and what Karen looks like.”
“So, you trust me?” Song sounded surprised.
I laughed without humor. “No. I brought you because it would take too long to explain everything to someone else.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“No.” There was no point in lying to her. Song would see right through me. “Remember the napkin Khalid used to dry his face? From it, I could tell that he lives on the north side of town.”
Song tilted her head with genuine curiosity. “How?”
I shrugged as I struggled to put it into words. “He smells healthy and clean, but the human scent is almost too strong. That means he eats well, even though he has a lot of neighbors. On the north side of town, the nightclubs and restaurants all use fresh ingredients. A diet without a bunch of processed foods and preservatives gives human blood a cleaner, healthier scent. Yuppies and their spawn live right on top of each other here, but the sanitation department is on top of their game.”
Song nodded as she understood. “Clean, healthy, strong human scent. Makes sense to me.”
I leaned my head back to take in our surroundings. “I can see why a de—fuck. I can see why a skinriding Infernal would live around here. The greed is so thick that it taints everything. Anyway, on the north side, there’s only one place that needs a necromancer on the payroll. That way, they’ll be able to control their vampire clients without killing them. I need you to get me in there.”
“Why me? I’ll just slow you down. Why not go by yourself?”
I felt my expression sour. “You’ll see.”
Song chose not to press the issue. “Okay. So, you expect to find Karen working at this blood bar. If she is in there, the demon’s in there, too. Things could get hairy. If that happens, I must reiterate, I’ll just be in your way.”
Interesting fact about me; false modesty pisses me off. “Save it. If there’s one thing you’ve shown everyone tonight, it’s that you’re anything but helpless.” A group of drunk humans stumbled out of the bar, accompanied by two vampires. This brought us to the front of the line. “Just follow my lead.”
The neon lights above the bar’s entrance gleamed off the huge bouncer’s bald head. He looked us over with a frown, checked something off a clipboard, then handed it to one of his minions. The vampire stepped forward to stand in front of me, his hands clasped in front of him. I could tell from his scent that he was Pure.
“Do you have a reservation?” he said. His voice was like a freight train rumbling through a stone tunnel.
“No,” I said as I jerked my head toward Song. “I’m here for her. She’s a first-timer.”
Green Mile bent at the waist to look Song in the eye. “A virgin, huh?” he said, and I saw his face soften behind his sunglasses. Luck was with us, in that this monster appeared to have a soft spot for Newborns. Song’s neck was stiff as he took her chin in his massive hand. “She’s lovely. Are you her progenitor?”
“Liar,” he said without missing a beat. Green Mile rubbed his hand over Song’s stumps through her dress. This was so forward that Song’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. “You poor darling. How old are you?”
When Song didn’t reply, I said, “About seven months.”
“And you’re just now bringing her in for a decent meal? Shame on you.” Green Mile untangled Song’s reluctant hand from my hoodie. He removed her from my arms then turned toward the entrance. “You can’t come in.”
Shit. I’d been afraid of this. I took a step after Song but Green Mile’s underlings moved to block my path. “I’m just here to carry her,” I called after them. “I’ve got your cover charge.” I held up a crumpled wad of bills that represented all the money I had.
“Keep it,” Green Mile said. “This little lady is covered and you aren’t allowed in here.”
My teeth ground together. “Did the owner warn you about me?”
At the door, Green Mile looked back at me with contempt. “I own this establishment, and I know very well who you are. Shaving your head has got to be the most pathetic disguise I’ve ever seen. I have an obligation to protect my clientele, especially the humans. No one would come here if they knew you’d be allowed to bite them.” He looked down at Song, and his expression turned affectionate. “Come with me, sweetheart. You can trust me to take care of you.”
Song looked back at me like a deer caught in headlights. “Toby?”
I held up my hand in a weak gesture of reassurance. “It’s okay. You’ll be okay. This is a really nice place. He’s right, he’ll take good care of you.” Green Mile nodded once then pushed through the door to take Song inside. “Hey, if you see Karen, can you tell her that I said hello? Oh, and have her call me. I’ll wait for you right here.”
“Come back closer to sunrise,” Green Mile said as the door closed.
I was left standing there like an asshole. I had expected as much, but it still annoyed me. I’d have to find another way in.
Of course, the back entrance and both side entrances were guarded by the club’s vampire employees. I somehow made my way to the roof access door without getting noticed, only to find it barred and locked from the inside. I threw my shoulder into it a couple of times, but all I got was a bruise.
Before I could let loose a stream of curses that would burn out a thousand suns, I was interrupted by a deep growl.
The hellhound stood a few yards away. Its eyes gleamed in the moonlight, as did its teeth, and its hackles stood on end. I turned toward the creature, and it snapped at me once in warning.
I didn’t have time for demon bullshit. “What the fuck do you want?”
The hellhound darted to the opposite side of the roof then looked back at me. I took a step after it, then the wolf jumped onto the fire escape of the neighboring building. It waited until it was sure I was following, then it ran up to the roof.
Traveling by rooftop is the best way to get around this city, and I’ve been doing it since my arrival. Even at top speed, I could barely keep up with the hellhound. In less than a minute, we’d put several blocks between us and the blood bar. It became obvious that the creature was leading me toward a massive, old-world style church.
I had to stop a second to take it all in. Maybe its stone face was white once, but time and mold had stained it grey. The towers were so tall and thin that it was a miracle they’d survived the city’s annual hurricane season. Every pointed arch window had stained glass, and the metal roof was too steep to climb. The church was dwarfed on all sides by the skyscrapers that surrounded it. Its neighbors pressed in close, leaving no surrounding grounds. The wooden sign over the gateway proclaimed the building to be Kingdom Come Methodist Church.
The wolf led me around to the rear service way, then waited next to a dumpster until I caught up. Once I did, it performed a ten-foot vertical leap onto the fire escape. I sighed as I followed, hoping we were close to the final destination. The hellhound climbed to the fifth story landing, then nosed at a windowsill. I heard a dull click echo through the alley, the sound of the window latch disengaging.
The hellhound seemed to remember then that I was its enemy, and it whipped around with a snarl. I stopped, my hands raised in surrender, as the wolf leapt over the railing. Once again, the creature split into three large ravens before it squawked away into the night.
I tested the window and it swung open without hesitation. I was able to poke my head in without even the slightest resistance, which was a nice surprise. Not all public places had vampire wards, but most did.
I found myself in a long, dim hallway that was a lot fancier than I would’ve expected. Judging from the neighborhood, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the thick red carpet, recessed lighting, or silk wallpaper. Or should I? I haven’t been in many churches. Oil paintings in gilded frames hung on the walls. Bouquets of fresh roses in crystal vases sat on polished wooden tables. There was a candelabra standing in each corner, as well as a hundred other expensive touches.
But there wasn’t a single crucifix. Interesting.
I crept toward the nearest room, where I could hear two voices behind the closed door. I began to press my ear against it, but then I noticed a small panel about eye level. Careful not to make a sound, I opened the peep hatch then looked into the room.
If I thought the hallway was extravagant, it was nothing compared to the chamber beyond. A starched businessman handed a gorgeous female vampire a stack of cash. She smiled, and I saw her fangs grow as she let her satin robe drop to the ground. Naked and glowing in the candlelight, her body was fucking ridiculous.
I understood at last where I was, and why there had been no vampire wards. I always thought I knew this city, especially the underbelly, but I’d had no idea this whorehouse existed. That meant it had to be crazy exclusive.
I made my way down the hall, and ecstatic noises filtered through every door I passed. Knowing I could be discovered any second, I picked up my pace. I prayed to whatever god or gods might be listening that I wouldn’t find Karen’s scent. She had to be there, though. Why else would the hellhound have brought me to this place?
I decided to find an empty room then hide until sunrise. Once I was sure the whores were asleep for the day, I’d begin my search. I’d tear this place apart brick by brick if I had to. The “church” was large enough that my search could take over a week, but there were plenty of married men to feed on.
It was a solid plan. I was proud of it, except I walked around the corner to find Khalid waiting for me. He was flanked by two tall, well-dressed men that radiated malice. They brought to mind 1930s-style gangsters. Their cheeks and foreheads were lumpy, like eons of scowling had swollen their facial muscles. One of the men snarled and I caught a glimpse of shark-like teeth. Their skin tone was a slight-bluish grey, because the blood that coursed through their veins was as black as crude oil. Their eyes were yellow, like mine, but their pupils burned like coalbeds. If I had been fully human, I wouldn’t have been able to see them at all.
“Tobias,” Khalid said in a neutral tone. “I should’ve guessed you would come.”