Chasing daybreak, p.30
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       Chasing Daybreak, p.30

           Ranae Glass

  I blinked. My first thought was, Hey the lights are back on, which just goes to show how hard I’d been hit. I shook my head to try to clear away the mental cobwebs. Bad idea. My ears rang like I had a cymbal player losing control in my brain. My arms ached, my back itched, and my legs were numb.

  My mouth had been duct taped shut, my arms were taped behind my back at an awkward angle, and my legs were taped to my wheeled office chair, which explained the aching, itching, and numbness. Looking around as my senses slowly returned, I discovered I was in my kitchen. And I wasn’t alone.

  Why do I always wake up duct taped to something?

  Sitting at my small table, flipping through an old photo album, was David Pierce, Pastor Marlowe’s faithful lap dog.

  He looked more like an IRS agent on a three-day bender than a serial killer. His hair was sandy colored and slicked back. His suit was clean but wrinkled, and his dark blue tie was askew. He wore black-framed glasses and a watch that either cost what I made in a year or was a really good knockoff. I rubbed my face on my shoulder, trying to pry up a corner of the tape. I knew if I could get the corner up and get it to stick to my shirt, I might be able to maneuver it at least partially off my mouth.

  Hey, it wasn’t my first rodeo.

  He turned to me, his eyes drawn by the movement.

  “Ah, good, you’re awake. You know, you were a very pretty little girl, all smiles and curls.” He stroked the photograph under his fingers.

  I mumbled, “Keep your hands off my stuff,” but what came out was, “Mmmmhmhmhm!”

  The idea of this freak ogling my ‘naked baby in the bathtub’ pictures just pissed me off. I struggled against the tape holding me to the chair.

  He smiled. “All right. I’ll take the tape off, but you have to promise to be a good girl and not scream, okay?”

  I nodded, blinking angry tears out of my eyes. He walked over and with one sharp tug, tore the tape off my face. It felt like he took my lips with it. Hey, at least I could skip the waxing this week.

  I gasped from the pain, but also to fill my lungs for the scream I was working up. Before I made the sound, he had a butcher knife in his hand, the tip pressed just under my chin. I exhaled hard, but quietly.

  I figured I’d try to put him at ease with a little small talk. “So, I admit, this is a surprise. I thought for sure it was your boss who was behind all this.”

  “See? I knew the first time we met that you were a smart girl. Not much gets past you, does it? No, it’s just me. For now, anyway.”

  I glanced toward the front door, and he followed my gaze.

  “You’re waiting for your partner to come save you. So am I. See, tonight, you’re just the bait. I’m fishing for a bigger catch.”

  I bit down on my lip so hard that tears welled up in my eyes again. It was one thing for me to risk my own life, but the idea of this lunatic hurting Shane was almost more than I could stand. I took a deep breath, trying to focus as David continued talking.

  “Don’t look so distraught. You’re important, too. So beautiful and smart. I’m going to save you, you know. Pastor and I, we’re going to save everyone.”

  “From the vampires?” I asked, my voice cracking.

  “Yes. And then, when everyone is safe, we can be together, you and me.”

  “You… you killed those people and left them on my door.” It wasn’t a question, but I was trying to process the situation, find a weakness.

  “Yes, did you like them? They were gifts, you know,” he added proudly. “I wanted you to feel safe. I read about that arsonist trying to kill you. And then he was out, a free man. I couldn’t let him hurt you again.”

  I licked my lips. “And Trudi?”

  “The bimbo? Yes. She was at the prayer meeting the other night. When you didn’t show up, Pastor asked everyone to say a special prayer for you. She didn’t like that at all. You should have heard the things she was saying afterward. Not very Christian.”

  “You were just protecting me,” I said softly, trying to both stall him and maybe convince him to release me.

  “Did you know they were from me?” he asked, his eyes swimming with hope.

  “Yes. I mean, I knew they were gifts. I knew they must be from someone… special.”

  He stepped back, smiling. My mind was reeling. I tested the restraints on my wrists, but the tape held tight. I started picking at it with my fingernails. I knew if I could just get a tear started, I could probably work myself free. But I had to buy myself some more time.

  “Can you tell me about Lisa? Was she special too?” I asked.

  “Lisa? No, she was a nobody. She had a chance to help the cause, but she refused. Can you believe that? Turned on her own kind. But even then, Pastor saw that she had a higher purpose to serve.”

  “Bringing down the vampires?” I asked. “Making people think they killed her?”

  “They did kill her. They killed her soul, making her do those terrible things. Don’t worry. She repented in the end. She was my first sacrificial lamb.”

  “And who is the last?”

  He turned, frowning, but before he could answer, Shane blew into the house, his voice tight with bloodlust.


  David looked down at me, but I shook my head. His smile fell once he realized I would not call Shane into that room. I’d chosen sides, and I wasn’t on his.

  He moved quickly, too quickly, inhumanly quickly, and delivered one sharp backhand across my face. I felt the dull ache, and then the blood running down from my nose into my mouth. Closing my eyes, I spat, but the sour, coppery taste filled my mouth. When I opened my eyes, David was gone, but Shane knelt in front of me.

  “Izzy, are you all right? Where did he—?”

  A gun fired from behind him. Shane stood and turned. Reaching behind himself, he withdrew a small dart from his lower back. He had a minute to look at it quizzically before his face slackened.

  I didn’t have to wonder what it was. This time, I knew. Whatever article David had read about the incident with Billy Young must have included a tidbit about Shane being taken down with a dose of Ketamine. Silently, I swore to track down the author of the article and thoroughly kick his ass.

  Shane dropped to the floor with a thud, unconscious. I screamed and flailed, trying to scoot the chair backwards to get to the drawers behind me, but with no luck. In a heartbeat, David was back. He leaned forward, kissing my forehead, before drawing back to hit me again.

  When I woke up, I wasn’t in a burning house, which was a minor improvement over the last time. I glanced around, taking in my surroundings. It was some kind of hospital, or at least it looked like the inside of a large hospital room. The walls were all heavy, white curtains on chains hanging from a slim track affixed to the tiled ceiling. The floor was generic beige linoleum with flecks of colored confetti inside. The only thing that was off was the smell. It didn’t have the sterile, astringent odor of a hospital. It smelled musty and wet, like day-old laundry left in a washing machine.

  I was taped to a metal folding chair, but I wasn’t gagged, which was a small improvement. My legs were still numb, probably a side effect of having been taped so tightly to the chair legs, but aside from that and the throbbing pain in the side of my face, I was all right. Shane was another story.

  He was chained to a gurney across the room, an IV dripping clear liquid into one arm while another IV drained blood from his other arm into a donation bag.

  “Shane,” I whispered. “Christ, Shane, wake up. Can you hear me?”

  The white curtain pulled back, revealing Charles Marlowe in a set of green scrubs. “No, he can’t hear you. He’s heavily sedated.”

  “What do you want with us?” I struggled to keep my temper in check and my voice even.

  It was one of those situations where having a chick tantrum might get me shot or at least gagged. Which was a shame because a tantrum might have felt really good right then.

  “David, cut her loose, will you?”
  From behind him, David obliged, using the butcher knife from my own kitchen to sever the tape holding me. I stared at it in his hand. Man, I was going to have to buy a new knife set now. No way was I slicing veggies with that again, ever. I wondered, a bit hysterically, if I could write that off as a business expense.

  Immediately, blood rushed back into my legs, needling them with pain. It hurt like the devil, but it made me focus and pushed back the spiraling craziness that was leaking into my brain.

  David took me by the arm and stood me up.

  “Come here, I want to show you something,” Marlowe said, leaving the room.

  David pulled me along behind Marlowe. I glanced back over my shoulder at Shane, who lay deathly still. The sight might have frightened me more, but it was pretty much how he looked whenever he was sleeping. The only difference was the bright red tube lying against the pale flesh of his inner arm.

  As it turned out, my sniffer was on the money. We weren’t in a hospital at all; we were in some kind of converted basement that was sectioned off into clean rooms full of medical equipment.

  “Does your flock know this is where their donations are going?” I snipped as we walked past a dirty room. The bed linens were balled up on the makeshift cot. The mattress and the sheets were stained dark brown with old blood. The smell caught me in the back of my throat and made me gag.

  Marlowe turned to look at me and smiled before continuing forward, leading us into another room. He pulled the curtain back with a flourish, as if there was some sort of prize behind it. This room was much brighter, lit with beautiful standing lamps rather than overhead tubes. There was a table with a few vases of brightly colored flowers, daisies mostly, and framed photos. On the bed, tucked into frilly pink sheets, was a little girl, a bag of blood being fed intravenously into her small body. Her soft ringlets of hair spilled across the pillow like sea foam, her delicate mouth in a soft heart shape. Only her skin was pale, too pale, reminding me of Shane in the other room.

  Marlowe rounded the bed, stroking the girl’s white-blonde hair. “My daughter, Melanie. Isn’t she beautiful?”

  “I thought your daughter had Cystic Fibrosis,” I stammered, stunned at the sight.

  “She did, nearly died too. I had her brought here. You see, the Lord never closes a door without opening a window. Scientists have been using human stem cells to find a cure for these kinds of diseases, but that’s barbaric, killing human embryos to use for science. But then, God gave us the answer. The vampires. They are monsters, yet their blood has amazing healing qualities. Just a few transfusions and she was breathing on her own, her paralysis cured, her brain damage reversed. A few more and she’ll be awake again, walking around, a normal, healthy child. It’s beautiful, God’s plan.”

  I stared at him, slack jawed. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll turn her?”

  “No, the first donor confided in me that the process for creation must be done a specific way to turn someone. And I have been quite careful, spacing out the transfusions, using different donors. You’ll see. This will be the breakthrough science and medicine have been waiting for.”

  I actually felt my mouth drop open at his sincerity. He honestly thought this was the right thing to do.

  “And you just took his word for it? I mean, I’m no expert on where baby vamps come from, but I sure as shit wouldn’t pump myself full of their blood and just hope for the best.”

  He snaps his fingers in my face. “The Lord will bless me for my efforts. He gave us this plague, and at first, I admit I didn’t understand why. But then I saw it—the wisdom and glory in his plan! How could you disbelieve?”

  “So we, what? Harvest the vampires like cattle? Won’t that be hard? You know, ‘cause of the fangs and all? Oh, plus, it’s illegal.”

  “That’s why they must not be allowed to become citizens. As animals, we can do with them as we please.”

  “They’re no better than animals anyway,” David chimed in.

  I pulled away gently, pretending to be dizzy, and backed up against the counter in the rear of the room. For effect, I held one hand out in front of me. “Hold on, just hold on. I’m still… fuzzy in my head.”

  I made a show of taking deep breaths over and over even as I reached behind me to the countertop. In moments, I had carefully tucked a scalpel into my back pocket.

  Straightening, I took a step forward. I had my ticket out of that madhouse, but first, I was going to get some answers. “What about Lisa Welch?”

  “Poor Lisa. She was corrupted by those demons. I asked her to help me procure a new blood donor after the first one expired. This was in the early stages of my research, before I realized that a vampire could only lose so much blood before the decay process began, and she refused. She said the vampires had been kind to her, looked after her. Can you believe that? After she whored for them like that.”

  “She was whoring with you though, right? I mean, I found her client list. She saw you a dozen times in the last year of her life. So were you upset that she refused to help you, or were you upset that she wouldn’t fuck you anymore once they let her out of her contract?” I demanded.

  David glanced from me to Marlowe, looking for some sort of denial. All he got was an arrogant look of indignation from his devout leader.

  Marlowe shrugged. “I didn’t know the vampires ran the service until she admitted it to me. I called her to come over late one night, but she said that she’d paid her debt and the vampires were letting her go. I begged her to stay, but she refused. Said the only reason she ever let me touch her was so they wouldn’t kill her husband. She called me evil, me! When all the while she was a harlot for the demons.”

  “So you had David take care of her.” I looked Marlowe straight in the eye. “David was just trying to protect you, to look after you, and you lied to him and used him to get revenge on Lisa.” Not that I bought that for a second, but if I could get David believing it, get him riled up, then maybe…

  “I saw an opportunity for her to be useful, so I took it. David was my angel of vengeance.”

  I cringed at the depraved sincerity in his voice, turning my attention to David. “So David, does Pastor know about your dirty little secret?”

  Marlowe glared at David. “What secret?”

  “Oh come on, you must have noticed some of your blood supplies vanishing a little too quickly?” I made a ‘glug, glug’ gesture and pointed to David.

  “That’s ridiculous,” David said, his expression taut.

  “Really? Then how can you be so fast?” I folded my arms across my chest. “You dropped a dead body on my doorstep while I was at home, with a vampire bloodhound not five yards away from the porch, and managed to do it without getting caught. Pretty fast for a human, right?”

  “Dead bodies? What is she talking about, David?”

  David pointed to himself with his thumb. “I did it for her, to protect her. They were evil people. They deserved to die. And I wanted her to know that I could protect her, that she didn’t need the vampire. She had me.”

  Marlowe moved forward and lashed out to slap David in the face. But in a blur of speed, David stepped backward out of range before the blow landed.

  “It’s true!” Marlowe bellowed.

  “Liar!” David accused, lunging forward.

  The men grappled with each other as I quickly slipped out of the door, booking it back to Shane’s room.

  Rushing to his bedside, I grabbed the IV of sedatives. With no time to be gentle, I tore the needle out of his arm, tape and all, and then leaned across his body to rip out the other needle. A spray of blood arced across the room. I used its tube to pull the donor bag up from the side of the bed where it hung, tossing it to the floor behind me. The bed’s metal handrails then served as leverage for me to slide under the gurney in search of the lock holding Shane’s chains together.

  I cursed. It was a padlock. And I didn’t have the key.

  When a pair of men’s shoes came into sight in the door
way, I froze under the gurney. Breath held, I wiggled forward on my back, trying to determine who’d won the fight. The shoes moved to the edge of the bed, and then turned away. I exhaled, sure whoever he was, he’d leave. An arm shot under the gurney and grabbed me by my hair, pulling me out. I screamed. No matter how tough you were, hair pulling was just painful.

  Suddenly, I was face to face with David. His eyes were brown, but rimmed in red, the way a vampire’s eyes looked when they were in the thrall of bloodlust. But it wasn’t me he was looking at; it was the pool of blood beneath the IV bag I’d chucked onto the floor. It was slowly leaking a black-red puddle. My shoe had slid through the mess when David pulled me out, making a squeak that drew his attention downwards.

  With one powerful push, he launched me across the room into the solid wall behind the curtains. I slammed into it at full force, my breath instantly pushed from my lungs, bouncing off to fall in a crumpled heap on the floor. Rolling onto my stomach, I looked over. David Pierce was on all fours, licking at the crimson puddle like a cat lapping up cream.

  My stomach rolled at the grotesque sight. I’d seen junkies act the same way when they were whacked out on crystal, doing anything for another hit. And I knew that as soon as he wasn’t distracted with that anymore, he’d turn on me and I’d be the puddle on the floor.

  Reaching into my back pocket, I steeled my nerves. Shane might wake up soon, or he might not. Who knew how many or what kind of drugs they’d pumped into his system? Add that to the blood loss and he could be out for hours. I had to take my shot now, while David was distracted.

  It was one of those moments where rational thought turned off and you were running on pure instinct. The adrenaline shot through my system like a comet, making everything clearer. Everything moved in slow motion, as if I were standing outside myself, watching events unfold but unable to control anything.

  Gripping the scalpel tightly, I lunged, jumping onto David’s back. He bucked wildly, but I held on with a tight chokehold. In a frightened haze, I drew the blade across his neck just under my arm, pushing the scalpel as deep and fast as I could. I clutched the now-slippery tool as I fell backwards off him, crab walking until I was a few paces away. Then I rolled into a crouch, readying myself to fight if he turned round.

  But he didn’t. Gasping for breath, David lurched, finally dropping face-first onto the floor, eyes open and glassy, the color in his irises fading from red back to brown.

  With a sigh, I fell onto my butt, dropping the scalpel. It made a soft clink, but I hardly noticed due to the vomit crawling up my throat. I flipped over onto my hands and knees, retching all over the cool floor until nothing else would come up.

  By the time I was done, the shaking had begun, tremors ripping their way up my spine and through my body. I tried to keep still, my muscles clenching around each quake, and I fought off the chill ravaging my body as shock began to settle in.

  I heard footsteps thundering from somewhere seemingly far away, and within seconds, a small army of vampires, Xavier at the lead, were in the room with me, all looking ready for a fight.

  I fell back onto my butt and laughed hysterically, my arms wrapped tightly around my middle. “You guys give new meaning to the phrase ‘a day late and a dollar short,’ you know that?”

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