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       Vampire Mafia: Santa Cruz, p.1

           Jackson Stein
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Vampire Mafia: Santa Cruz
* * * * *

   

  VAMPIRE MAFIA: SANTA CRUZ

   

  by

   

  JACKSON STEIN

   

   

  * * * * *

   

   

  Vampire Mafia: Santa Cruz

  Copyright 2013 Jackson Stein

  www.JacksonSteinBooks.com

   

   

  Copyright © (2013) by (Jackson Stein)

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright

  reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored

  in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form,

  or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or

  otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright

  owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media,

  and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or

  are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status

  and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of

  fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use

  of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored

  by the trademark owners.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook

  may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to

  share this book with another person, please purchase an additional

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  Thank you for respecting the author's work.

  Books by Jackson Stein

  VAMPIRE MAFIA:  SANTA CRUZ

  DRACULA RISING

  DRACULA REIGNS

   I, DRACULA

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  EXCERPT FROM DRACULA RISING

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

   

  Dedication: For my three wise guys, Nicky the Enforcer, Fat Tommy and Zacky Two Cheeks. Love ya, you knuckleheads.

  Acknowledgements: Thank you Gemma Halliday for all of your support in the process of writing this book.

  Thank you Linda Style and Arran McNicol for your insightful contributions along the way.

  CHAPTER ONE

   

   

  It was just before midnight when Sarah Little decided to knock-off for the night. She strode through the tall glass doors of her law firm’s office building and plunged into a wall of hazy white mist rolling across the parking lot. The moon emerged from beneath the broiling clouds, its glowing top edge slicing through layers of rippling thunderheads like a shark’s fin patrolling the murky skies.

  Sarah wrapped her long blond hair deep into her fluffy down jacket, zipped it all the way up and shivered back at the frosty evening. She hurried across the foggy lot, still lost in the details of the trial she was working on.

  Sarah Little was a Santa Cruz local. She loved her small town by the sea but was also eager to get her life started in a new city… any new city. People always told her she was bright and quite mature for twenty…and it was true. She’d already decided she was going to be a successful trial lawyer. 

  But, while she dreamed of someday attending a top law school, she knew her parents weren’t going to be able to pay for everything and was thrilled when Bremen & Stratford offered her a paid internship position. The experience would look awesome on her law school application and it may even mean the difference between acceptance and denial. 

  Sarah’s mind was racing with excitement. She’d been working nights in the downtown law office during one of the biggest cases of the decade. A pharmaceutical company, Oracle Pharmaceuticals and Medical Supplies, had been accused of knowingly suppressing critical research data just before the global release and distribution of their new miracle drug called Viatoxil.

  People were getting sick…very sick. Many were dying…and the people who had taken the drug and their families were mad as hell.

  And if the firm won the Viatoxil case, in some small way, she would have her name attached to the victory forever. It just might be her ticket into Stanford. No, she was sure of it. 

  Everyone in the law office had been scrambling lately on the Viatoxil case and tonight was no exception. Another caffeine-saturated marathon evening at the office. But that’s what it would take to be good. What surprised her was how fast the nights flew by. The old adage, time flies when you’re having fun, was all too true. She truly loved every minute of it.

  Sarah ran through her plan again. She would graduate from community college in the spring and work hard for the next several years to complete law school as early as possible. Her plan had become an obsession with all the other small but important details of her exciting future. It consumed her thoughts on a day-to-day basis and she found it hard to care about little else. She did her best to assist the attorneys as they formulated new strategies and researched possible precedents of helpful past decisions, and she always left wishing she could have done more to help her colleagues prepare.

  But she had school early in the morning and was already going to catch hell from her parents. Normally she wouldn’t have thought twice about walking toward the back of the well-lit parking lot, but tonight something was different. Halfway across the lot, she paused…noticed the end row of usually bright halogen street lamps above where she’d parked had gone dark, transforming her destination into a sea of shadows that had swallowed up her car.

  Just let your eyes adjust, Sarah…

  Good logic, but even so, her heart began to pound as she searched for her keys, ransacking the oversized purse slung across her shoulder. Finally locating them, she stepped into the black abyss.

   As she did, she turned with a quick jerk and saw a long shadow slide across the lighted area of pavement. Prickly goose bumps gripped her body as the darkness enveloped her and alarm bells started ringing in the back of her mind.

  She shook it off. Don’t be silly. It’s just the clouds moving over the moon, she decided, then squared her shoulders and drew in a deep breath. Holding a single car key out in front of her like a tiny sword, she inched her way forward.

  Hearing faint footsteps running somewhere in the distance, she turned to look behind her…to the right…and the left. But it was too dark. Her heart hammered, each heavy beat expanding and contracting in her chest, thudding like a base drum. She heard footsteps again, only louder this time…and closer. About to make a quick dash toward the safety of her car, she smelled the sweet scent of cologne…felt a sudden, undeniable wave of body heat behind her.

  And froze.

  Just as she opened her mouth to scream, strong arms pulled her to the ground with a powerful jolt and c
overed her mouth and nose with a moist, acrid-smelling cloth. Struggling for each breath…she flailed her arms, fought to get away, only she was getting dizzy…suffocating. Another pair of hands…grabbing her arms, tying her arms behind her back…wrapping a thick silky blindfold over her eyes… 

   

  CHAPTER TWO

   

   

  “Brilliant little bugger…”

  Tommy Valentine spoke to himself as he admired the highly sophisticated piece of FBI surveillance equipment in the palm of his hand. He drew in a long breath and then exhaled slowly, trying his best to calm his ratchet-tight nerves. A drop of perspiration rolled off of the end of his nose and landed on the inside of his wrist, barely missing the high-tech gadget.

  Valentine had a tight, edgy feeling in the pit of his stomach and a bothersome little voice in the back of his mind that whispered....

  You’re missing something.

  He reminded himself there were always doubts about the safety of a mission and nothing had gone terribly wrong so far. Still, both hands were damp with sweat and trembling as he inspected the recording device. It was a tiny spy camera that looked similar to, and replaced, one of the buttons of his pressed, white dress shirt. The data was then wirelessly recorded in a receiver located inside of his belt buckle.

  Another deep breath.

  “Looking smart there, Thomas,” he said, attempting to spike his courage as he checked his appearance in the reflection of a small, dimly lit bathroom mirror. Then he noticed the beads of sweat on his forehead and thought back to the fundamentals of his FBI training, refocusing on the mission with a series of mental exercises.

  He drew in a large breath and centered his mind. Then he slowly exhaled and concentrated on the first hurdle to overcome. He drew another deep breath and crystallized the vision…one of flawless execution, then exhaled and repeated the exercises until he had run through each element of his plan.

  No room for mistakes…

  Valentine thought back to how this undercover mission had begun and how simple his assignment seemed then. And now how complicated everything had become. The Stelino family was a more formidable opponent than the Bureau had expected because no one would dare testify against them. The assignment had already gone on longer than originally planned, and every day seemed more dangerous than the last. It was only a matter of time before he’d get made…his cover would get blown…and he’d be a dead man.

  And yet…they just keep sending me back in there…

  But he was close, and if he was successful tonight, it would be the last time. Then he could get on with another job, preferably not so deep undercover. He just needed to gather a bit more solid evidence before they could charge and eventually convict the organized-crime boss Vincenzo Stelino of racketeering, extortion or at the very least, tax evasion.

  The FBI would likely offer a promotion plus a huge pay raise. This was his career moment. He had to pull it off…

  Still looking in the mirror, he adjusted his shirt, shrugging off the negative thoughts.

  Piece of cake Thomas. Just get the evidence and get out.

  He was still trying to stay calm as he drove his polished BMW Z4 roadster up to the security gate of the Stelino compound, located in an industrial neighborhood on the north end of Santa Cruz County. The compound was large enough to span an entire city block…a far cry from the tiny apartment the FBI had rented for him near the coastline, close to the city’s popular downtown area.

  The little voice resurfaced…pulling at his thoughts. An uncomfortable shiver crawled across his skin as he thought about the evil men he knew were inside the compound’s high, fortress-like walls. It wasn’t the loan sharking, gambling or drug dealing that made him wary. There was something more about these eerie men, something unnatural.

  Something unthinkable…

  Vincenzo Stelino was the boss, number one in command, and his three sons, Constantino, Nicoli, and Dominic were made men. Vincenzo also had a beautiful daughter, Anna, but she was unlike the rest of the family and didn’t seem to play any role in the crime syndicate’s illegal activities. He’d made a connection with Anna, but…his gut twisted up at the thought…how she would hate him if she learned the truth. He sighed. He couldn’t think about that now. He had a job to do.

  Get in and get out. Not a problem.

  The guards knew him well by now and were relaxed and friendly as they closed the gates behind him. Valentine put on a casual air as he shook hands and made small talk. He passed through the first security post with an easy smile pasted on his face, attempting to read their expressions and body language for the “tells” that would expose any malicious intent. He scanned for any general uneasiness or tension in their eyes. The FBI had trained him well to spot anything out of the ordinary and abort if necessary. Any suspicion whatsoever and he would simply turn around and terminate tonight’s mission. If he noticed even the smallest hint of doubt, he would recite his well-rehearsed exit line: Well then, mates, I just remembered I forgot the one very important document Vincenzo requested…and it’s just back in my car. Vincenzo will be mad as hell if I don’t have what he wants, when he wants it. You know how he is… Be right back then. It sounded believable as he went over it again. It would be just enough of a distraction to buy him a few seconds.

  But everything was fine. The men were calm and easy going and seemed to barely care or even notice as they nodded him through the compound’s military-like entry points.

  Renzo, the head of security at the Stelino compound, stepped into Valentine’s path. He was a huge man with a broad chest and rounded stomach, but due to his youthful, boyish facial features he had acquired the nickname Babyface. His expression usually remained a blank slate, and today was no different.

  “Ciao Tommy, how ya doin, eh?” the hulking Italian asked as he searched Valentine with his eyes.

  “Quite well, thank you Renzo, and you?” Valentine flashed the best smile he could muster.

  “Not too bad. I’m gett’n by. Know what I mean, eh? You’re good, go on through.” Renzo nodded his admittance.

  The tension eased from Valentine’s limbs, allowing him to relax a bit.

  Don’t let the paranoia get to you, Thomas…

  Valentine composed himself as he entered the military-like building inside the compound and then walked toward the long hallway that led to Vincenzo’s office. The architecture of the building’s interior was stunning, nothing like its lackluster dingy gray exterior. He marveled at the enormous pavilion-like chamber in the center of the building. Twenty-foot-high ceilings held up by six huge marble columns formed a circle around the majestic looking room.

  The hard heels of his dress shoes announced his presence against the marble floor and echoed down the cathedral-like archway in front of him. The round ceilings above him were painted with different Biblical looking scenes. One of them depicted a huge dragon, its dagger-like teeth sinking into a maiden’s throat, claws clutching a spear that impaled a man from groin to mouth. The frescoes that now surrounded him were as horrible as they were intricate, and seemed to serve as a grisly warning to all those who entered. Though he’d seen the frescoes before, a sudden icy fear clawed its way deep into his mind.

  As he approached the staircase that led up to Vincenzo’s office, he took another full breath and mentally cataloged the different pieces of evidence he’d already been able to extract…most of it right under the Stelino family’s noses. The list was long and detailed. He smiled at the thought of the successful work he’d done to obtain it.

  No. They won’t have any idea what hit ’em.

  He paused in front of the opulent marble staircase. The railing was hand carved into what looked like a huge snake rising from its coils, ready to strike. An obvious strategy to strike fear into the heart of whoever dared to enter, and although he knew the psychology behind it, his palms were sweating anyway. He clenched his jaw…reached out…and placed one damp hand on the snake’s cold head.
r />    

  ***

   

  “Hey-ah Valentine.” The voice of Constantino Stelino emanated from the shadows on his left. “Can you-ah come in here per un momento, eh? I’d like to speak to you…”

  Constantino was the one man Valentine needed to avoid. “Sorry, mate, I’ll be there in just a quick minute. Vincenzo told me to come see him straight-away.  Said it was urgent,” Valentine replied over his shoulder as he placed a shaky foot on the first smooth white step of the stone staircase. Valentine looked toward the top of the stairs and saw Constantino wasn’t alone. The two hired henchmen, Luiggi and Giuseppi, stood at the top of the staircase in front of Vincenzo’s office.

  He froze. Those thugs only came over from Italy when work needed to be done.

  A tremor of fear gripped him at his core and any composure he’d summoned vanished. His mouth turned sticky, his throat sand-paper dry and it seemed as if his heart somehow already knew his fate, suddenly foregoing the need to continue beating.

  Think…do something…anything.

  He glanced left to right, his thoughts scrambling for a way out. But all he heard was that little voice in the back of his mind.

  Valentine backed down the steps, turned and walked into Constantino’s office that was just to the left of the stairs. “What can I do for you this evening, mate?” Valentine asked, calling on his best Brit bravado to conceal his fears. Luiggi and Giuseppi followed him inside.

  Constantino sat behind a large mahogany desk, eyes glowing with wild anticipation, a twisted grimace of a smile contorting his face…until it became something almost inhuman. Valentine’s mouth dropped open as he saw the grimace grow wider, exposing a sharp row of rotting yellow teeth just under Constantino’s thin black moustache.

  At that moment, Valentine realized in the three years he had known Constantino, he had never—not once—seen him smile. 

  The two men behind Valentine closed and locked the doors with a nauseating click-click, sealing his fate. The only question that remained now…was how.

  A loud crack exploded inside his head. The pain traveled like electricity to his neck, down his back, blasting out of the soles of his feet.

  Losing consciousness as he fell to the ground, Valentine heard Constantino spit on him in disgust, then mutter, “Vaffonculo…ah, forgettaboutit.”

   

  ***

 
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