Pool of Crimson
Author:Suzanne M. Sabol

Epilogue



December

“I know that this flappy paddle gearbox is supposed to be a great thing and all,” I snapped at Jade as she clung to the passenger seat for dear life. “But I’ve skipped from fourth to sixth gear every fucking time. This is driving me crazy. I can’t believe your father paid that much money for this car,” I said, pushing the accelerator to the floor as the car soared over 125 miles per hour on I-270. Amazingly, I hadn’t seen a single police or state highway patrol car the entire time. Maybe I was just going so fast that they couldn’t see me.

Riiiight.

I liked to think that a car this expensive had an invisibility button or something. That would be nice.

We were also lucky that it was mid December and hadn’t snowed yet, otherwise we would’ve been in real trouble. I was pretty sure the Maserati GranTurismo S wasn’t good on slick surfaces.

“Dahlia,” Jade cautioned. Her voice quaked in fear. She was scared. Hell, so was I. It wasn’t every day that I hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour but I couldn’t let this guy get away. “Maybe we should slow down. I think this car will crumble in an impact when we’re going this fast.”

“If I slow down, I’ll lose him.” I said flatly. I pushed the car harder and faster than even I knew was safe. This guy had taken a shot at me and he’d taken a shot at Patrick–in public.

It seemed that Patrick’s rise to power wasn’t sitting well with some of the vamps around the country. Not only was I marked as a hunter by Patrick’s enemies, but I was also protected by the most powerful vampire in town, hell in the state. That put a much larger target on my back, one I couldn’t quite shake.

The vampire we chased turned off onto 71 South back toward Downtown. He was going to cause a lot of collateral damage if I didn’t do something about it now. I had to push him off the road, now. The highway on the North end was basically empty at 2 a.m. and there was no time like the present.

I forced the car into sixth gear and hit 142 miles per hour to overtake him. I caught the Ford Mustang and drove alongside him for a moment before I gently edged him off the road. His expression was horrified as he looked across Jade’s terrified face. He probably thought I was crazy, maybe even had a death wish. Maybe he was right.

On the third try, I managed to force his car off the road and onto the shoulder. The vampire lost control when his tires hit the wet, slick grass beyond the shoulder and rolled into the ditch that ran parallel to the highway. I hit the brakes and threw the car in a hook turn of screeching tires and the faint scent of burning rubber.

Jaded breathed a heavy sigh of relief as we pulled up alongside the smoking wreckage and I put the car in ‘park’. I knew I’d scared her but my adrenaline was running too strong to feel the fear. I’d feel it later when there was time and I was alone.

The mangled heap of a Ford Mustang smoked along the side of the road, looking like it’d been through a meat grinder. I left the Maserati running and pulled my new Smith and Wesson 1911 from my shoulder holster as I stepped out. The S&W had a nickel finish with a stainless steel frame. More importantly, it had an extended magazine. The gun had been an early Christmas present from Jade. She thought the gun was safer–for me, not the undead.

I screwed in the specially made silencer that Patrick had had customized just for me as I approached the car. The vampire assassin was trying desperately to get out. His muffled curses and the crunch of metal filled the empty highway as he tried to push his way out. I stepped up next to the open window. He stared up at me with dead empty eyes, looking at me like I was scum on his shoes. He spit on my boots. I rubbed the smooth surface of my boot against his exposed shoulder and wiped the slime off of my shoe onto his jacket. I hated being spit on.

“That was rude,” I said flatly. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to take a shot and run?” I said, pointing my gun down at his head.

“I ate my mother,” he spat, still trying to squirm his way out. His legs were trapped somewhere in the crunched metal that used to be the driver’s seat. He struggled but the way he was confined made it hard for him to maneuver, to get leverage, and use his strength to pry the car from his legs. He smirked up at me.

“Lovely,” I said with a disgusted grimace. I hope he didn’t think his truculent attitude was going to faze me. If that was all he had, he was in much deeper than he thought. I was made of tougher stuff. The last several months had proven that. I had survived a beating by a werewolf, another beating by a demon, a Master vampire, and dating both the new Master Vampire and the local werewolf Pack Beta. This little dickweed’s remark was nothing compared to my life lately. I rolled my eyes and placed my foot on the side of his throat. “Why did you take the shot?” I asked.

“Does it matter? Finish it!” he shouted. I didn’t particularly like being ordered around and I was going to get the information I needed whether he liked it or not.

“Jade!” I shouted. “Bring me my knife.” I didn’t take my eyes from my would-be assassin as I spoke. Even trapped, he was still just a bit too dangerous for my liking. Jade opened the door of her car and jogged over to me through the cold, frost-tipped grass. “We can do this the easy way, or the fun way. You choose,” I said as I smiled down at him with my most heartless and frigid smile. The smile that made grown men shudder and never quite reached my eyes. Jade slid the knife into my open hand silently. I closed my fingers around the familiar handle and sighed in contentment.

Just like coming home.

I handed my new gun to her for safe keeping, then crouched down beside him. “I’ll start with the fingers and move up until you give me the information I want. I’m not a bit squeamish,” I said softly, a menacing and mischievous laughing tone to my voice.

I pinned the vamp’s hand and arm to the ground with my foot. He smirked at me. I was going to have to prove my point. I raised my bowie knife above my head, clutched in both hands and took a hard chop through the middle of his hand, cutting off all his fingers and half of his thumb. Blood poured out of his severed fingers as the detached digits twitched on the ground beside the rest of his hand.

He refused to scream. As he bit his lower lip, blood poured from his mouth where his teeth had punctured his skin. So much to keep from screaming, but he can bleed all he likes, that other voice growled in my mind.

“Are you going to answer my questions now?” I asked politely. He shook his head, refusing my gift of mercy. I took his other hand off at the wrist in a quick slice. The blade didn’t even slow as it severed the bone.

“BITCH!! If I don’t kill you, someone else will!” he screamed as he spit the blood from his mouth. “I hope they rip you limb from FUCKING limb.” He banged his forehead on the ground as he spoke.

“Who’s coming?” I cooed softly into his ear. He shook his head. I took the tip of the blade and dug it into his bicep. I waited for the smoke to filter up into the air from his skin before I dragged it down his arm, leaving a gash of open flesh and muscle. He screamed out again. “Who is coming?” I repeated in a singsong voice that was diabolical even for me.

“I don’t know,” he screamed.

“Who sent you?” I repeated calm and controlled. I had seen too much gore to go completely unscathed. I had started to frighten myself.

“I was contacted through anonymous channels. I never got a name. I didn’t ask,” he followed in a whisper, shaking his head frantically. I stood, removing the blade from his forearm. I looked down at him. He was spent. He’d given me all the information he had.

I held out my hand for the gun. Jade handed it to me and turned toward the car without a look back. The car door closed with a sharp thud behind me. I was thankful for a moment that she was gone. She still thought I was good, something that hadn’t been tainted by blood and death. I wasn’t so sure anymore.

I pointed the gun at the assassin. Someone had sent him to kill me and to kill Patrick. I didn’t feel guilty for killing a vampire assassin. I didn’t even feel guilty for chopping him into bits. I felt guilty that Jade had seen it. I couldn’t worry about that now-that was a problem for later.

I fired a single shot into the back of his neck, severing his spinal cord and lodging a silver bullet in the base of his skull. His body faded away into dust before my eyes, blowing away with the cold December breeze.

I tugged out my cell phone and dialed the familiar number. The phone barely rang once when he picked it up.

“Are you all right?” Patrick asked.

I smiled to myself at the concern in his voice. It was nice to be wanted. If I had let myself pay the slightest bit of attention to the empathic connection that we shared when I ran from Patrick’s new club, Damsel, I would’ve known that he didn’t want me to follow the assassin. I ignored it as I ignored most of the things that he and Danny thought were for my own good. I had gotten particularly good at shutting down that emotional connection when it didn’t serve my purposes. I’d had to learn very quickly so that I wouldn’t become consumed by it entirely.

“I’m fine,” I said softly. I was happy and even I could hear it in my voice.

“Are you sure?” he asked, but the relief in his voice was plain.

“Yes,” I said. “He’s dead.” The finality of my statement rang in my tone.

“Good,” he said simply.

“Listen, we have a problem.” I cleared my throat and stated clearly. He was silent and listening intently now. He knew me well enough now to understand that business was business.

Somehow, I had become his second-in-command. In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined that I’d be working with a vampire, not to mention sleeping with one. I just shoved all the guilt from that little tidbit in my little black box and moved on.

“I didn’t get any information out of him other than he wouldn’t be the last.” Patrick was silent on the other end of the line. That made me nervous. “What’s going on here?” I asked, slightly agitated.

“I don’t know,” he said softly, almost inaudible. He was quiet for a long time. I started to think that maybe I’d lost signal when suddenly he spoke. “I’ll look into this. Go home and rest,” he said to soothe me and strip my concern. Well shucks, like that was going to happen. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Fine,” I said. I was pouting a little and I knew it. It was the easiest way to bring a smile to his face. He chuckled on the other end of the line.

“I opened my mail after you left and received a very nice letter from the Columbus Catholic Dioceses, thanking me for my generous donation,” he said, annoyance shining through his laughter. He wasn’t annoyed. It was a put on. He’d given me the blank check.

“You had a giant pentagram etched in the basement and tried to raise a demon, there was some serious bad mojo to get rid of in that house. Trust me, Father Christopher earned every stinking penny,” I said with confidence. Not only had he blessed the ground and technically consecrated the basement of the mansion, ha ha, but got rid of the other problem, too. I still hadn’t told Patrick about the sheer number of spirits that had manifested in that house. It had taken Father Christopher the better part of the day to put all the souls to rest. There was one in particular that didn’t want to go. I had the sense as I sat on the stairs and watched her fight him that she wanted to help. I’d smiled at her and thanked her for the help she’d already given. She’d given me a reassuring smile as the old woman with long white hair finally let go.

“So he did. Perhaps I should send him a thank you note.”

“Perhaps you should,” I quipped back. The line was quiet for a long moment before either of us spoke.

“Please be careful,” he whispered.

“I will,” I conceded. I was going home. I needed a shower and some sleep. I closed the phone and stood for a moment next to the carnage that still lingered on the side of the road. Somehow, my life had moved from neat and clean to mangled and messy just like the assassin’s Mustang. I wasn’t sure how that had happened but I wasn’t unhappy with it, either. I’d give it a go.

I turned to Jade, who sat stiffly in the passenger seat of her car. If she was angry about this, then she wasn’t going to be happy for a while. I had a feeling that there were much worse things on the horizon, and coming our way.