Home > Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock #11)

Cold Reign (Jane Yellowrock #11)
Author: Faith Hunter

CHAPTER 1

Holy Necrophilia, Batman

I slid across the slick gym floor in the lightweight boots, a fourteen-inch, silver-plated vamp-killer in one hand, the other hand back in a fist. I slammed the fist into the vamp’s head, deflecting the fang-strike away from the boy’s throat. Caught the collar of the fanghead’s jacket and spun him after me. Around me. His rotting jacket ripped. I stuck out my boot. Shoved him across my foot.

He crashed to the floor. As he fell, I raised the pommel of the blade and brought it down onto the top of his head. It connected with a satisfying bonk. The vamp’s eyes rolled back, yellowed sclera exposed.

I stomped his chest to make sure he was staying down. Brought the vamp-killer across his throat and took off his head except for an inch of spine and a few stringy tendons. The stink of sweat and fear and blood hit me when I took a breath, my first good one in the last ten minutes. I registered the screams of the teenagers and adults in the gym but discounted them as panic, and the stink in their sweat as terror. There was no smell of death, so the rev hadn’t gotten to them. I took another breath. And a couple more to restore the oxygen levels and throw off some carbon dioxide from my full-out sprint.

Eli Younger stepped close, weapons pointed at the floor, his matte-black fighting leathers a faint gleam in the overheads. He wasn’t even breathing hard. “Silver didn’t stop him,” he said. “Six shots.”

“Maybe you missed,” I said.

Eli snorted. He flipped the vamp’s jacket open with the barrel of his weapon. I counted the holes in the vamp’s chest, all but one centered or slightly to the left. The last shot was placed slightly to the right of the chest. Not that my business partner had missed. Eli had aimed there in case the vamp’s heart was on the wrong side of the body. It’s a rare medical phenomenon but it happens. My partner was nothing if not thorough and efficient.

The fingers of the dead vamp’s left hand twitched. Twitched again. The tendons on his neck regrew right before my eyes. His jaws snapped. Eyes opened and glared at me.

I raised the vamp-killer over my head. Eli leaped back, out of the way. The vamp-killer swished through the air as I brought it down with every bit of my skinwalker strength, the steel edge and silver-plated flat of the blade flashing with the overhead gymnasium lights. A clean downward cut severed the bloodsucker’s head from his cervical spine. The blade thunked into the floor. The head rolled. The fingers quit twitching. In my peripheral vision, I saw a man hit the floor.

I toed the body. It was dead. He was dead. Again. Davide Berkins had died the first time in 1512. The second time in 1825. And the third time, today. Or tonight. At the moment his head was gone, so maybe he’d stay down. Revenants were vamps who died a second time and came back again, usually on the third day after they were buried, and usually because they hadn’t been properly interred. They were mindless, hungry killing machines and hard as heck to put down.

There were a lot of questions, but most important was, how had he come back after almost two hundred years in the grave? How had he clawed his way out of his grave in St. Louis Cemetery Number One—in clear view of half a dozen partying Tulane frat brothers—while escaping, and managed to drain and eat three sailors before vanishing two nights past? Why hadn’t silver worked against him? And last, how did I keep something similar from happening again?

Leo Pellissier, the Master of the City of New Orleans and surrounding territories, had sent me to the neighborhood of Belle Chasse to deal with a rash of rogue-vampire sightings and the deaths of three U.S. sailors in port. It wasn’t an old-fashioned NOLA Navy Week, when U.S. warships from everywhere docked and the sailors took leave in the streets, but there were three military ships from the 4th Fleet in port in advance of a multinational maritime exercise operation in the Caribbean. Or that was the scuttlebutt. By the end of the week there would be multinational cruisers, frigates, and supply ships as part of the seagoing maneuvers and war games. Not that they called it that anymore. It was now referred to as a “cooperative effort,” and this one involved Brazil, Peru, and three other South American nations, and the U.S. Navy boats—ships?—had gotten into port only three days past.

The Navy personnel had been granted twelve-hour liberty, and three sailors hadn’t made it back by midnight the first night. NCIS-NOLA had discovered the bodies twenty-four hours later, drained and dead, in the woods just off Yorktown Street. I hadn’t seen the bodies, but I’d read the reports. One kid was eighteen and so green he still didn’t shave. Davide Berkins was the cause. Davide was dead. I’d give myself a back-pat, except that it had taken me twenty-four hours and an attack in a school gym to track him. The rev had been active for well over forty-eight hours. I had to believe that we’d find more bodies.

Taking down the old rogue wasn’t technically part of my job as the Enforcer of the MOC, but as the nation’s foremost expert on rogue vamps—vampires who went nutso and started killing their dinners—I had agreed to go, at speed. The younger Younger, my other business partner, was still negotiating my contract for the hunt, and though I’d never have told Alex this, I’d have done the job for free. Suckheads who kill humans go down. Period. Suckheads who kill kids, like the kid sailor, go down with extreme prejudice.

“Leo will be pissed,” Eli said, about me killing the rogue.

I showed teeth. It wasn’t exactly a smile. Leo had wanted the vamp alive, to question, claiming his own blood was strong enough to bring the rev’s brain back online. Leo wanted a lot of stuff and it was my greatest—okay, second-greatest—pleasure in life to frustrate him.

From the site where the sailors’ bodies had been found, I’d tracked the rogue through neighborhoods to his daytime lair, and from there to the Belle Chasse high school. This guy had been a killer, pedophile, and Naturaleza bloodsucker in his vampire life, and so I hadn’t given him a chance despite Leo’s demands. The six chest shots and the beheading had seen to that.

Oddly, there wasn’t a lot of blood, which was peculiar for a vamp who had drained three young men two nights before, though I wasn’t complaining. But . . . I leaned over and took a sniff. The blood smelled wrong. Though what the blood of a thrice-dead vamp should smell like I didn’t know. I remembered his eyes. The pupils had been wide and black, but the sclera hadn’t been scarlet with blood, but yellowed and sick-looking. Also odd.

I wiped my vamp-killer on the dead guy’s clothes and looked around the gym. The teenagers had been screaming at the top of their lungs when I dashed inside. They had fallen strangely silent when I whacked off the vamp’s head. There was a scent of shock and horror in the air, not surprising since a bloodsucker had walked into high school basketball and cheerleading practice and attacked. I looked around at the floor. Three humans down, counting the teenager Eli was helping to sit. The boy was nursing a badly broken right arm and was sweating and pale with shock, but his throat was intact. Eli checked the pulse of the male adult wearing street clothes, probably a parent. He was out like a light, but the nod Eli gave me assured that he had only fainted. The man in a high school polo shirt was also alive, though bleeding from the nose and mouth, unconscious. Probably a concussion. We’d gotten here before the rogue did more than break the kid’s arm and knock out the assistant coach who tried to intervene.

“You kids okay?” I asked the gymnasium at large.

“You’re Jane Yellowrock,” a scrawny boy in shorts and practice jersey said.

“Yeah.”

“You killed him,” a girl in a short skirt and cross-training sport shoes said.

“More or less. Yeah.”

“Thank you,” a tall, balding man said. He was weaving carefully through the players and I took him to be the head coach. He might have played B-ball himself once, before the years gave him a paunch and limpworthy bad knees. He stopped just beyond the body. “I’ve called police and an ambulance, but what do we do about”—he gestured to the trickle of blood and body—“the mess?”

“I’ll take the body and the head. The mess is yours.”

“Call a cleanup service,” the teenager suggested. “The kind that does crime scene cleaning. I saw it on a CSI rerun last night. It was cool!”

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