So for the last day of the blog hop I've written a short story for you all. Since I raved about vampires so much I thought it should be a vampire story. This one actually turned out quite differently than I expected, but I'm rather pleased with it anyway.
I must warn for mentions of rape and the brief mention of child abuse because I know those trigger some people. The story is suitable for teen audiences and up. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy it.
Hunting the Hunter
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
The bar was a dive; not really the place to be wearing an Armani suit, but Gregory had only had to deck one patron with a quick display of mixed martial arts for all of the others to leave him alone. He had learned long ago that if anyone remembered him they would remember the suit, not his face. He made sure to change it up a little each time he ventured out and he always affected a different persona to make sure he was never connected back. That was part of the game.
This time he was the tired businessman drinking himself into a stupor. He knew for a fact at least two of the patrons were waiting for him to collapse so they could steal his wallet, but they were going to be sorely disappointed. He'd already seen the man he was after.
His mark was 6'2'', dark haired and well turned out compared to most of the crowd in the place, which wasn't saying much. It was clear the man carried with him a mantel of fear as even those drinking with him were not as relaxed as they pretended. Gregory could see it all in the way they sat, showing bravado, but making minute movements every time their alpha dog so much as shifted his eyes. Gregory could read them like a book and all he was doing was looking at them; he was not impressed.
He hoped his mark would be leaving soon; the bar was distasteful and the liquor was worse. Four drinks in of the hard stuff, everyone not out of their skulls themselves was watching him, waiting for him to fall victim to the effects. Of course they had no idea his constitution didn't even allow him to become drunk. It was a fact that had annoyed him many times over the years. Every now and then a man needed to be able to drink his troubles away and Gregory had to resort to some very unorthodox methods to do that these days.
Eventually his mark stood up with some derogatory comment about needing a bitch to scratch an itch, to which all his buddies laughed. Gregory waited a minute or so then threw a hundred onto the bar where he was sitting.
"For the trouble ... earlier," he said as the barman looked at it.
He had also learned that well paid people were less likely to talk to anyone who might be searching, just in case you came back and were inclined to be generous again. The very large tip almost earned him a smile, but he was pretty sure the bar tender hadn't smiled in about twenty years, so it was more of a twitch of lips. Gesture acknowledged, he made his way to the door, giving a show of being vaguely drunk, but not drunk enough to be a viable target.
Once outside he sniffed the air, ignoring all the scents of the city and concentrating on the particular mix of sweat and cheap cologne that was his mark. He shook off the persona of the business man and focused on the man he was after, becoming the hunter he really was as the mark became the prey. He felt a little shiver of excitement in his belly and smiled to himself as he embraced the chase. Turning right, he followed the trail, spreading his senses to keep track of the thug and waiting for what he knew was coming. It did not take very long, no more than twenty minutes of following his prey's path through the city streets before events took the turn he expected.
Gregory was on a street corner when he heard a woman scream and he pushed himself into overdrive. He ran two blocks, following the scent trail, and turned into an alley just in time to see his prey push a struggling woman to the ground. She was petite and wearing a business suit; no match for the burly thug who must have dragged her into the alley. It was the final proof Gregory needed and he moved in on the man before the brute could descend on the woman.
Grabbing the man by the back of his old leather jacket, Gregory span the attacker around, let go and threw him against a wall. Moving in, he placed a hand over the man's throat, holding him there effortlessly as the thug struggled. There was pure terror written in the man's features as Gregory stared at the man with vampire eyes, letting his prey suffer the fear.
"Enough," he said when he decided the lesson had been learned.
He caught the man's gaze and allowed his powers to flow between them. It was no effort to dominate such a primitive mind and the man instantly stopped his attempts to escape.
"Stay," he instructed and then let go.
His prey remained exactly where he had put him, staring blankly at the opposite alley wall. It really was ridiculously easy, but satisfying, nonetheless. That done, he turned to the man's victim. She was now crouched against the wall staring at him in disbelief, confusion and fear.
"Please do not be afraid," he said, holding out his hand, but leaving his less than human traits on the surface so she could see them. "I mean you no harm."
Once upon a time he would have hidden the reality, knowing that human minds often could not cope with what he was, but these days simply showing the truth seemed to work better. He thought it was probably to do with television and film.
"Are you hurt?" he asked in a benevolent tone.
The woman's blonde hair was all over the place and she had a bruise on her face, but she shook her head. He gave her his very best charming smile and slowly she reached out to take his hand without him having to influence her at all. It took very little of his considerable strength to gently pull her to her feet and the smell of her perfume flowed over him as she stood. It was a light scent; it suited her, but it could not mask the smell of her fear. Part of him was excited by that, but he kept it well in check.
"What are you going to do?" she asked, glancing at the motionless thug and then back to him.
"Give him what he deserves," Gregory replied; he only ever lied when he was playing a role.
"Are you going to kill him?" she asked, voice quiet and shaking.
"If that is what he deserves, then yes," he told her with complete honesty, "but I do not know yet."
The woman didn't seem sure how to react to that statement, but he didn't give her much chance to adjust, snaring her gaze just as he had done her attacker's. This time he did not simply use brute force, but slipped his power into her mind much more gently. He did not wish to injure her in any way; it would be unforgivable to harm a victim.
"A man grabbed you and dragged you into this alley, but you fought free," he told her. "You will hurry home and call the police and tell them all about him."
"Hurry home," she repeated, voice empty of her earlier fear.
He smiled at her even though she was very unlikely to comprehend it.
"You will tell the police he boasted that he was the Westside rapist and you will give them a full description; you will remember his face clearly," he added.
So far three women had been beaten and raped over a two week period which was the news story that had brought Gregory to the area. All had been attacked in dark alleys and none had seen their attacker's face in enough detail to describe it. It had taken him two days to track the perpetrator to the bar, but now he had him and the man would pay. If there was one thing Gregory hated, had always hated for his whole one hundred and forty seven years, it was those who preyed on people weaker than themselves. He had once been a circus tumbler, small and slight and so many men, bigger than he was, had thought it fun to persecute him for his job and stature. Not until a vampire had taken him away from that life and given him everything he had never had, had he turned that around.
With a gentle push he sent the woman towards the entrance of the alley. The further away from him she walked, the faster her steps became and by the end she was almost running. He was sure she would make it to her home safely.
"Come with me," he said, as soon as the woman was gone and the rapist followed him as he walked out the other end of the alley.
The police would arrive soon and he did not wish to be disturbed. He always prepared very carefully and took the man to his rental car and drove them both to the cheap motel he had procured earlier. Keeping his other nature in check was harder now with the prey so close, but he maintained his air of being nobody. No one so much as looked at them twice as he led the rapist to his room.
"Sit," he instructed as he carefully began to remove his suit.
The man did as he was told; sitting on the plastic sheet Gregory had placed over the bed. Feeding was not usually too messy, but he always made very sure not to leave anything of himself behind. Over the years he had become very precise in his hunts and he enjoyed the meticulous preparation almost as much as the blood.
Gregory stripped to his underwear, placing the clothing in his suitcase and closing it with a click. Then he turned and looked at his prey.
The man was blank eyed, mind completely dominated by Gregory's supernatural power. It was almost so pathetic that he had second thoughts, but only almost. This man was a brute; the only question that remained was if he was enough of a monster to deserve death, or should his punishment be less severe. The one thing that was clear, however, was the man's smell was offensive. Gregory had a very sensitive nose and in such close quarters he had no wish to smell the rancid stink of stale sweat.
"Go into the bathroom," he instructed; "take a shower and make sure you are clean; then put on these."
He held out a pair of white pyjama pants and the rapist stood, took them and walked into the next room.
"Be quick," he added and sat down in the one armchair in the room to wait.
It did not take much concentration to keep one human mind under his control, so he picked up the book he had brought with him and began to read. When his maker had taken him in he hadn't been able to read and he still appreciated the gift for what it was. He enjoyed fiction and history and just about anything to do with the written word and he lost himself in the pages for a while. A noise from the bathroom doorway eventually made him look up.
His prey was standing there clean in the pyjama pants, just as instructed, but the man was dripping all over the carpet. Clearly the brute was denser than most.
"Did it not occur to you to dry yourself?" Gregory asked, just a little exasperated.
Of course the man did not reply.
"Sit on the bed," he instructed, "in the centre of this end, with your feet on the floor, facing the wall."
He decided to be very specific, clearly this prey needed it.
The man sat down with a wet squeak Gregory decided to ignore.
Sometimes his prey were interesting; they fought his influence or were half aware even though they could not disobey him, but this one was about as entertaining as a block of wood. At least the brute smelt better now.
Walking into the bathroom, he picked up a towel before returning and climbing onto the bed behind his prey. He placed the towel over the man's back so he would not have to get wet as well and surveyed his prize. Licking his lips, he gazed at the side of the man's neck, allowing his anticipation to build. He was a bloodsucker at heart and the thirst drove him to every action if he let it. This was his reward and he leaned in, drawing a deep breath and taking in the scent of his prey. He could so easily have killed this pathetic human, but he had never been an indiscriminate killer. It was in his nature to have mercy if that mercy was deserved.
He placed his hands on his prey's shoulders and forced his full power to the surface. His gums ached for a moment as his fangs grew to their full length and his senses of smell, hearing and sight sharpened even more. Now he could hear his prey's steady heartbeat and smell the blood in the man's veins and it was intoxicating. Without any thought of holding back, he bit.
The blood was sweet and delicious, with just a tang of the alcohol the man had been drinking earlier. It filled Gregory's senses with pleasure and he drank deeply. This was what he lived for and he let the heady rush take him like the climax of good sex. His prey moaned, a sound filled with contained pain and Gregory revelled in it; the man deserved at least that.
Of course, it could not go on forever.
Eventually he drew back, sealing the wound with a swipe of his tongue as his prey sagged against him. Blood had run down the side of the man's neck and over his chest, staining the white pants, but nothing more and the two neat little holes would be gone in less than an hour. Gregory put his head back, breathing through his mouth and savouring the taste on his tongue. He remembered each one, every mortal he had ever tasted and he consigned this one to memory with meticulous care. No two humans tasted exactly alike and he liked to recall the differences, however, now it was time to decide what to do.
There was a blood link between himself and his prey now and he forced it open, stepping into the man's mind proper. This was the part that took real control as he rifled through his prey's consciousness. He found the rapes and examined them, looking at them from the rapist's point of view and he quickly realised it was all about power, not sexual gratification. The first one had been almost an accident, but his prey had enjoyed it so much that he had gone back for more. Nothing was planned, just a need fulfilled by chance and it was sickening.
Then Gregory pushed further back. There was always a reason somewhere; he had been doing this long enough to know that. Sometimes it was a reason others might understand, sometimes it was a reason no sane mind could grasp, but it was always there. The mental links were never hard to follow. In this case he traced them to a memory and he knew he was looking through the eyes of a small boy. The boy was in bed and the door to his room creaked open.
"Artie," said a husky male voice, "your mum's gone to work and I've come to play a game."
Gregory didn't need to see much more; he had seen this scenario before and he pulled out of Artie's mind. It did not excuse what the man had done in his life, but it went some way to explaining it. That and the fact he had found no darker crimes meant this was one human who would not die by his hand.
"Go into the bathroom and wash again," he instructed, "then dry and dress."
His prey moved to obey without question and he quickly folded the plastic, put it into a small bag and dressed in the jeans and shirt he had left out on the dresser before making sure the room was clear of his belongings. By the time he was finished his prey was once again standing in the room.
"When I leave you will go about a normal evening as if you took the room," he said, standing in front of his prey and looking the man in the eyes. "You will order pizza, watch TV and then sleep. When the police eventually catch you and ask you if you are the Westside rapist you will break down and confess the truth; if they do not catch you before you feel the urge to rape again you will surrender yourself at the nearest station and confess on your own. Every time you consider hurting another human being you will feel the terror you first felt when you saw my true face in the alley. The only cure for this terror is to help those you wish to hurt. Do you understand?"
"Yes," was the toneless reply.
"Sit on the bed," he instructed, "and wait ten minutes before you do anything."
With that he turned his back on his prey, picked up his bags and headed for the door. He was sated and a rapist would never hurt another woman again; he was pleased with himself.
Traditional wisdom would have called him the monster, but as he walked out of the motel room, shutting the door behind him, he knew he was leaving the monster on the bed. Too often the creature that lurked in the dark was very much human.
"Hello, Pumpkin," Michael greeted him as soon as he walked in to their palatial home, "did you have fun?"
Gregory smiled at his maker as he placed his suitcase on the floor.
"Yes," he replied, "it was invigorating."
"Good," Michael said and came down the stairs to give him a peck on the cheek. "Now, no offence, Darling, but you stink, go and take a shower."
That made him grin; Michael was his diametric opposite at the moment. Where he loved the human world, Michael went out into it as rarely as possible. Where he revelled in the sights and scents, Michael preferred the cleanliness and calm of their home. Although, it hadn't always been that way; Michael had found him in a gutter after a particularly nasty fight and taken him home out of sheer curiosity. His maker insisted they were fickle creatures, prone to growing in and out of eccentricities over the centuries. Gregory enjoyed his hunts and Michael never forbade him anything, so, frankly, he was looking forward to finding out what he might become as he grew older.
"Oh course, My Dear," he said with a fond smile.
Eternity was such fun.
Thank you to the organisers of the hop, it has been so much fun: Annie Walls, Emma from Little Gothic Horrors, and Ked from Something Wicked This Way Comes. And thank you to everyone who has been taking part, it has been so great to meet you.