Her head was back, so that her eyes were staring at the far wall of the small but expensive-looking kitchen. Her hair was brown and must have been at least to her waist. I'd become pretty good at judging hair length when people were lying down. The hair was real, not a wig, so it wasn't our missing stripper. This was indeed someone else. How many people had they kidnapped tonight?
Either Mendez or Derry had used flex cuffs on her wrists. It was standard op on intact bodies. Officers had been killed by "dead" bodies. Better safe than sorry.
Mendez squatted down. He was peering under the table. "What is that?"
I squatted, because I was closer to the ground. Derry kept an eye on the room, gun sort of at the ready, but careful to not point out toward us. It was nice to work with professionals.
There was a long cylindrical object under the table. It was black with dried blood on it. It was so caked with blood that for a second I couldn't tell what it was, then it was like one of those abstract pictures that suddenly snap into place, and you know. I swallowed hard, against the burn of nausea. I took a slow breath through my nose and let it out easy through my mouth. My voice sounded odd even to me, when I said, "Bottle, wine bottle."
Mendez said, "God." He must have hit his button by accident, because Hudson heard him.
"What is it, Mendez?" Hudson asked over the headsets.
"Sorry, sir, just, Jesus, this was a bad way to die."
"That didn't kill her," I said, and stood up.
Mendez moved with me. His eyes flashed white through his mask and gear.
I pointed with one hand at her neck, her breast, her arms. "They bled her to death."
"Before?" he asked, sort of hopefully. Never a good sign when the police are asking you to please make this not as horrible as it looks.
I shook my head. "But multiple bites means she's dead, she can't be a vampire. The body is checked out, guys. Can I join you, or am I on permanent baby-sit duty?"
Derry moved for the door of the kitchen. Oh, goody, I wasn't the only one who wanted out of here. I followed Derry, and Mendez brought up the rear. I'd have moved to the back of the line, but no one complained, so I stayed where I was. The sound of gunfire and yelling and screaming was ahead. I wanted to run, but Derry moved at a jog. If his body was tight with adrenaline, and his pulse thundering, it didn't show. Mendez followed Derry's lead, and so did I.
A woman's scream came high and shrill, from deeper into the apartment. Her screams were accompanied by sounds that were more animal than human. Thick, wet, sucking sounds. The vampires were feeding, and Dawn Morgan was still alive. We did the only thing we could. We rushed into the hallway. We rushed off to save her. We jogged into the trap, because the bait was screaming.
The only light was the sweep of flashlights ahead and behind. Because I didn't have a light, it ruined my night vision, but didn't really help me. Derry jumped over something, and I glanced down to find that there were bodies in the hallway. The glance down made me stumble over the third body. I only had time to register that one was our guy, and the rest weren't. There was too much blood, too much damage. I couldn't tell who one of them was. He was pinned to the wall by a sword. He looked like a shelled turtle, all that careful body armor ripped away, showing the red ruin of his upper body. The big metal shield was crushed just past the body. Was that Baldwin back there? There were legs sticking out of one of the doors. Derry went past it, trusting that the officers ahead of him hadn't left anything dangerous or alive behind them. It was a level of trust that I had trouble with, but I kept going. I stayed with Derry and Mendez, like I'd been told.
There was a vamp near the end of the hallway with most of the top of his head missing. His mouth was wide, showing fangs in the flash of someone's light. Derry hit the doorway and hugged the wall to the left. I followed him. Mendez went right. Only when Mendez didn't follow me, did I realize that I should have peeled off to the other wall with him. Hell, there were too many rules. I stayed with Derry, because there wasn't time to correct the mistake, if it was a mistake. If we lived, I'd ask someone.
The holy objects had blazed to life, so bright, white and blue like captive stars. They were ruining everyone's night vision. Made it hard to shoot. My cross was safely tucked away, for just that reason. By the thin flashlight beams and the incandescent flare of holy fire I saw what there was to see.
If I'd been there from the beginning, my mind would have been slow and taking it all in with that artificial sense that you have more time to do things, decide things, than you actually do. But sometimes when you step into the middle of it, you see things in strobe effect, an image here, there, but never the large picture, as if to see it all at once would overwhelm you. Hudson yelling, MP5 to his shoulder. Bodies on the ground between him and the big bed. A glimpse of pale, na**d flesh on the bed--female. Two other vampires riding two of the men. One rode him to the floor, so he had to be lost to sight from Hudson and Killian's position. The other man was trapped against the wall, still firing his gun into the chest of the vamp, while the body bucked and wouldn't die. The vamp was pressed tight to the white glow of something that looked like a luminous rosary.
Mendez with his rifle, trying to find a shot in the mess. Stepping around giving his back to the bed, so he could pin the gunbarrel against the back of the vamp's head. The vamp never lifted from Jung's neck. The gunshot, like all the others, was loud, but not nearly as loud as it could have been.
It was wrong, all wrong. No vamp, except the most powerful, could stand up to holy objects like this. Only revenants, mindless newbies would feed while you pushed a gun to their head and blew their brains out. You can't be ancient and a newbie, which meant, we were missing someone, someone that was standing right f**king here.
I dropped my shields, and I looked not toward the fighting, but away from it. Either he was better than I was, and he was invisible, which meant he was farther into the room, or he was hiding somewhere that the team hadn't gotten to yet, or both.
I found the energy of him in the far corner in plain sight. Even knowing he was there, I couldn't see him. Which meant either I was wrong, or he was good enough that he could stand wrapped in shadows and darkness and be invisible. The only other vamp I'd ever known that was that good had never been human. I think I could have stripped him of it using my necromancy, or Jean-Claude's marks, but I had the Mossberg in my hands. Why waste magic, when you've got technology?
I tightened my brace of the butt against my shoulder, sighted down the barrel, and pulled the trigger. The shot didn't kill him, but it brought him stumbling away from the wall. Suddenly everyone could see him. His hands were holding his stomach where I'd shot him. He looked surprised. Tall bastard, I'd been aiming for his chest.
I hit him again, and there was an echo, two echoes. His body slammed back against the wall. I yelled into the mike, "I want to see the wall through his chest."
No one argued. Derry had moved over to help Mendez. I was betting that Hudson had sent him, while I was concentrating on vampire stuff. Hudson, Killian, and I shot the master vampire, until there was a pale smear of wall through his chest. He slid down the wall like a broken puppet, painting the wall dark with blood. Hudson and Killian stopped firing, but I didn't. I put a shot into the head, and had a second shot in before they joined me, but they did join me. With three of us, it didn't take long to explode most of his head like a melon thrown against a wall. When most of his head was gone from his shoulders, I lowered my gun enough to look around and see how everyone else was doing.
Now that the master was dead, the newbie vamps were cringing away from the holy objects, just like they're supposed to. Well, the one vamp that was still alive cringed. She pressed her bloody face against the corner behind the bed, her small hands held out as if to ward it off. At first it looked like she was wearing red gloves, then the lights shone in the blood, and you knew it wasn't opera-length gloves, it was blood all the way to her elbows. Even knowing that, even having Melbourne motionless on the floor in front of her, still Mendez didn't shoot her. Jung was leaning against the wall, like he'd fall down if he didn't concentrate. His neck was torn up, but the blood wasn't gushing out. She'd missed the jugular. Let's hear it for inexperience.
I said, "Shoot her."
The vampire made mewling sounds, like a frightened child. Her voice came high and piteous, "Please, please, don't hurt me, don't hurt me. He made me. He made me."