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Till Death Do Us Part

When Paul Hutton’s wife is taken by a vampire gang, he goes after her — with the aid of a fallen-out-of-favor female vampire.

By C. L. NicholsPublished about a month ago 14 min read
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Vampire hunter? Paul Hutton looked mockingly into the rearview mirror. Like you have a lot of experience in that line of work. Experience no, but they’d given him one hell of a reason. A reason to kill them all.

How could you kill something that was already dead? Feeling a little foolish, he’d nevertheless armed himself for the job. Strands of garlic ringed his neck, from which also dangled a crucifix. Heavy and foreign, it’d hung there barely a month. It had taken that long to find them.

He’d gotten lucky.

After long nights cruising lonely streets, he spotted the four heading for shelter. Recklessly, he parked and followed. Keeping a block behind, he tracked them to a crumbling warehouse. Then waited and watched.

Past midnight, three left. By daybreak, they hadn’t returned. Paul sat in his car, wondering where they’d gone. Would he have to begin his search all over?

No. One remained within.

Exhausted by sleepless nights, he nodded off. When he awoke, sweating profusely with the stench of garlic in his nostrils, he knew what he had to do.

He pulled up to the loading dock of the abandoned warehouse, surprised by the lengthening shadows. He’d have to hurry. From the trunk, he selected his tools. After slipping a stoppered flask inside one jacket pocket and a mallet into the other, he gripped the wooden stake in his left fist and climbed the concrete steps. The lock on the door had been broken, and he pushed inside.

Scrawled across peeling layers of paint, bold graffiti testified to the territorial disputes of vandals. Dust motes swam in the dim light like mosquitoes swarming. Paul’s footsteps echoed flatly as he entered deeper into the gloom, searching anxiously for furtive movement.

In the interior space, long shipping crates were lined in a row. Three held only dirt. In the fourth, he found her.

Why was she left behind? Had she become an outcast, shunned by the tribe… pack… clan? Whatever the hell you called a group of vampires.

Paul stared down into the makeshift coffin. She lay still: lovely, cold, and alone.

He had to admit, she was something to behold. Pale blonde hair and long eyelashes. Porcelain skin and a delicate bone structure. She must have been a beauty. Now she was a killer.

Remembering everything that had happened, his lust for vengeance mounted. He must be quick.

A noise like clinking chains made him jerk around, suddenly sure he’d been trapped. Paul stood motionless for several seconds, then exhaled. Rats, he decided. Turning back, he raised the pointed stake above his head, ready to bury it deep into her heart.

The vampire’s eyes opened.

“Stop!” she commanded.

Paul gripped the stake in both hands, raised it higher. He hesitated, staring down into turquoise eyes that locked onto his.

Her lips parted, revealing sharp fangs.

“I can help,” she said.

Arms poised for the fatal plunge that would rid the earth of this vile corruption, Paul froze as a low rumbling grew out of the shadows. It surged louder and nearer. The gloom came alive, formed a dark mass. Bright, piercing teeth emerged from the murk.

“He is Falco, my guardian. Strike me, he will tear out your throat.” She continued to hold his eyes with her own. As if mesmerized, Paul struggled to think.

The coalescing body crept closer, resembling an oversized black rottweiler, ready to pounce. As if longing to appease a deep and constant hunger, the creature dripped saliva from its muzzle.

“Lower the stake,” she said. “Slowly.”

Against his will, the wooden stake lowered.

“Why would you help me?” Paul said, then realized he’d spoken. “You’re one of them.”

“For my revenge, not yours.”

“I’ll kill you all,” he hissed and tried to raise the stake, found he could not.

“Kill me, you’ll never find the others,” she said. “And if you do, it’s you who will die. And of course, there’s Falco.”

Paul looked at the glowing eyes and long canines of the beast.

The stake dropped to his side. As it did, the hellish hound backed into the shadows, vanishing as it went.

When Paul looked back, the vampire stood directly before him.

“We must leave now,” she said.

“I don’t trust you.” He’d stay and wait for them. “But you and the dog can go.”

She laughed, startling him.

“They’ll smell you. And kill you before you know they’re there.”

He watched her cautiously, but she stood still, awaiting his decision. If he refused, would either she or Falco rip out his throat? If the beast came at him, could he stop it? Not likely.

She might make a difference in his hunt. After all, she knew their habits intimately. The undead were a mystery to him.

“So help me,” he said.

#

Within blocks after leaving the warehouse, a fine mist had saturated their clothes. Neither wore a raincoat. Although simply dressed in a denim jumpsuit, she didn’t seem to notice the weather.

Paul had offered to drive them to their destination, but she smiled. “And where would that be?”

“I thought you knew.” Damn this woman. This thing!

She’d laughed softly, exposing sharp teeth, then led the way down the street.

He hurried to keep abreast. “Who are you? What’s your name?”

“I was Karen Wilson. Now I’m Wren.”

“Okay, Wren, where are we going?”

“We’re getting near.”

Paul glanced left across the street. In the crepuscular light of day’s end, the entire block looked bare except for a copse of trees. He realized it was a city park but didn’t recognize it at first. Then he remembered.

“Brewer Park,” he said, turning to her. “The news said a woman was attacked and killed by a dog here last week.” He stopped and faced her accusingly.

“I don’t watch the news.” She walked ahead and Paul hurried to catch up. “Up there.” She pointed toward the right side of the street, which inclined slightly. A large house loomed at the top of the rise. Tall windows were shuttered, and a long front porch with wide winding stairs on either side seemed to watch them. Several heavy upholstered armchairs sat empty on the deck. The old house was built of warped wood, a throwback to an earlier generation.

“How do you know they’re here? Do you smell them or sense them or something?”

“Sometimes, but that’s where we stayed, until that woman died. Jason decided we needed to move.”

“Jason?” He thought of the dark man, the leader of the group that invaded his home.

“Yes, the one who took your wife.”

Paul clenched his hands, fingernails digging into flesh, then unclenched them.

“You’re sure they’re here?” The stake pressed against his hip. He’d slid it through his belt beneath his jacket.

“No, but probably. We had chosen nowhere else.”

“You said, for your revenge. What did you mean?”

“Like you, I lost my lover that night.”

“I can’t let you kill Sara.”

She looked at him strangely. Could she feel pity?

“She’s dead already.”

Paul gagged. He knew it was so, but he’d hoped there would be some way, some miracle. He’d known better. Now, all he had left was his own revenge. Was that enough? Yes, he decided and wiped away a tear.

The old house grew larger as they walked up toward it. Only two stories, it seemed immense.

“Aren’t they afraid someone will notice their presence in an empty house?”

“It isn’t empty. A couple with a teenage daughter and a young son live there.”

“I thought you said…”

“We stayed in the basement. The family never knew.”

Paul stared at her, horror crawling in his belly.

“You were going to slaughter them some night, weren’t you?”

“Like you slaughter cattle?”

“That’s different.”

“Is it?” She shook her head. “You mortals.”

Paul studied the house. Narrow basement windows set horizontally above ground level were black. If anything moved there, he couldn’t tell. The first-floor windows farther up were well-lit. He’d thought they were dark and shuttered. He saw now that from his angle on the street, he hadn’t been able to see through the louvers. A form moved within. The family was home. The curtains were undrawn, so he could probably peek inside if anyone came near the window.

Maybe he should warn the family.

Right. He should just knock on their front door. When they answered, he’d let them know that bogeymen did live in their basement, a nest of bloodsucking vampires who would only want to bite their necks.

They’d slam the door in his face then call the cops.

Actually, that might not be a bad idea. Let the authorities handle it.

What would happen to Sara? Only what needed to happen.

Was the group even here? He turned to face the fair haired vampire.

She lifted her eyebrows, watching him.

“Can you do it?” Wren asked.

He took a breath, exhaled.

“I can sure try.” He turned back to the house. “Do you think they know we’re here?”

She tilted her head.

“No, I don’t think so. I’d feel it.”

“Maybe I should come back in daylight alone. Wouldn’t they be sleeping?”

“They’d set a trap for you. Jas said you’d been following.”

“You knew?” This sucks, Paul thought. She only stared at him. “Are you really with me?” he asked. “I don’t feel that I can trust you.”

“Trust is impossible. We are what we are.” Her lips curved up. “But blood still runs in your veins.”

Paul nodded, conceding the point. And those turquoise eyes were lovely.

“So what’s your plan?” she asked.

“Plan?” With some effort, he broke eye contact.

She laughed. “You’re going to love being one of us.”

“I’ll find a way.” A way to destroy them all, he’d sworn. Would that include this ravishing creature, before he was done?

“Even with my help,” she said, “your odds aren’t good.”

#

The padlock lay on the ground next to a heavy chain.

Paul lifted the heavy door that slanted over the outside entrance down into the basement. He held it half-open and nodded at Wren.

“You go first,” he said.

She smiled knowingly. “Doubt won’t conquer fear.” She stepped onto the concrete steps that led inside.

Paul waited a moment to see if anyone rose up the stairs to greet them. He strained to hold the door then followed Wren, lowering the door behind him.

The Stygian dark was complete. Dank decay corrupted the dense air.

“Wren,” he whispered.

“Right in front of you,” she said softly.

Her fingers touched his leg. He felt their coolness through his jeans. Now, he knew, was her chance. If she’d lied, he’d be an easy victim.

She squeezed then removed her hand.

“I can’t see,” he said.

“I can. Hold on.”

Her hand touched his own, gripped it. He shuddered but didn’t break loose.

Step by step, them moved down the stairs. At the bottom, they paused and listened.

“No one’s here,” Wren said.

As Paul’s eyes slowly adapted to the sepulchral gloom, he faintly distinguished the outlines of stored junk around him. He looked toward another set of stairs that led up into the house. A bright line of light at the top traced an ill-fitting door and bled shadows against the walls. The staircase railing, he realized.

Wren was right. The vampires weren’t here. Would he need to begin his search anew?

There was a distant noise. Paul cocked his head to listen. Faint screams echoed overhead. The evil beings had invaded the house.

“Upstairs,” he said as he released Wren’s hand and strode toward the foot of the stairs. As he climbed, he felt her body against his. At the landing, she patted his back.

“Want me to go first?”

In answer, he turned the knob and shoved. The door opened easily and he stepped inside.

The horrified screams became louder.

“They’re hurting them,” he said.

“Not for long,” she said.

As they hurried through the hallway, Paul pulled the mallet from his jacket pocket.

In the living room, a teen-aged girl clutched the collars of her robe and stared in a strange mix of terror and fascination. A wasted-looking man in the middle of the room shook a squirming boy he held high in the air. A huge grin distorted already-hideous features. Lined and desiccated, the man’s skin resembled crushed paper.

Paul rushed the grotesque figure and brought the hammer down with all his strength. The blow caved in one side of the man’s head, but he still held the boy high and grinned.

“Hello, Mate,” the man said, then he flung the boy against the wall as he turned to confront Paul.

Dazed and disbelieving, the boy landed in a heap and stared up at them.

Paul reached into his pocket, unstoppered the flask, and flung the holy water into the creature’s face.

The man howled in pain, fell to his knees holding his melting cheeks.

Wren stepped from behind Paul, put one booted foot into the man’s chest, and forced him backward, pinning him to the floor.

“Do it now,” she ordered.

Paul drew the stake from his belt, knelt, and with one solid blow from the hammer, drove the sharp-pointed stave deep into the man’s heart.

The vampire’s body jittered, his feet pounded the floor, and his eyes bugged wide open. Then it ceased its death throes and was still. The eyes stared back, but Paul knew they were sightless and dead. Really dead, Paul thought.

He looked at Wren. Her face held disgust, whether at the gruesome death mask at her feet, or at her own participation in it.

“Jason?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “His name was Terry.” The screams sounded again, reached a quick crescendo, then suddenly cut off. Wren nodded down the hallway toward the bedrooms. “Jason.”

And Sara, Paul knew. His wife of seven years. Wife no more.

Paul looked over at the teen-aged girl then at the boy still sitting against the wall. They were gawking at the body of the vampire on the floor. He motioned them to stay put and moved into the hallway, closely followed by Wren.

Someone laughed loudly. The sound came from the last room. Its door was open but the angle prevented him from seeing what was happening.

When he stopped just outside the room, Wren stepped past him and went through the doorway.

“Hello, Jason,” she said.

Paul stepped in behind her and looked over her shoulder at a dark-skinned muscular man with short spiked white hair. He looks younger than me, Paul thought. Then he looked at Sara. Her arms were folded across her breasts, smiling as she looked at the couple in the far corner. Paul stepped next to Wren.

A trembling man with fisted hands held chest high stood in front of a thin woman, probably his wife, who crouched in fear.

Sara turned from the couple to face Paul. He stared, dismayed by the sudden changes in her appearance. Blanched face, hateful eyes, fangs. Until death do us part? That promise had taken on a whole new meaning.

“You should have saved me,” she said, contempt in her voice. She put her hand on Jason’s arm, ownership implicit in the gesture as she grinned at Wren, who glared back.

“You bitch.” Wren scowled at Jason. “You lied to me.”

The alpha vampire shrugged. His thin-lipped smile expressed amusement at the situation. Looking from Wren to Paul, he pulled Sara against his body. She molded herself around him, glanced mockingly at Paul.

The man in the corner charged Jason and Sara. Surprised by the sudden attack, they fell backward. Sara caught her balance, but Jason landed on his back, legs splayed in the air. The man climbed onto Jason’s chest and smashed his fists into the vampire’s mouth.

Sara grabbed the furious man by the collar, spun in a circle, and tossed him against a dresser mirror. It shattered, pieces falling and cutting the man’s face. He stumbled over the dresser chair, collapsed.

The woman in the corner screamed again.

Jason chuckled as he sat up. One of his front fangs had broken off, and the vampire lifted one hand to feel where it had been, then went silent in stunned surprise.

Paul raised his hands to remove the heavy strand of garlic and rushed forward. Using the thick twine as a garrote, he wound the strand around the vampire’s neck and jerked.

Jason screeched as the garlic burned into his neck.

Paul saw the pointed shoe just before it struck his chin. As he fell away from Jason, he looked up to see Sara’s leering grin. She would enjoy destroying him.

The air darkened and became charged. Paul felt hair on his forearms rise.

Without another warning, a huge dog flashed by. Falco. Growling in fury through gnashing teeth, it leapt onto Sara’s chest, began ripping into her flesh.

A blackish fluid splashed over Paul as he watched in shock.

Jason stood, looked down on Paul then over at Wren.

“She’s no more,” the vampire said. “Call it off, and you can come back.”

The gore-covered hellhound turned opaque as it dematerialized.

“No,” Wren said. “But you can continue.”

Paul stared at her. Wren had killed Sara, but now she was letting this monster live? He stood, searching, then bolted toward the dresser, grabbed a long sliver of glass, then turned back to see Jason watching him.

“You want to live, too?” the vampire asked, then shook his head. “No, I can’t allow it.” He stepped toward Paul.

As Jason carelessly approached, Paul swung the thin shard. Jason lifted his arm to stop the assault, but the glass sliced away his fingers.

Paul pressed the sliver against the vampire’s throat, directly over the scar the garlic had left. Then he swung the glass in an arc, sawing into Jason’s neck. A dank gummy fluid gushed out, ran down the vampire’s chest.

Hands cut and bleeding, Paul continued to bear down deeper, severing tendons, windpipe, and arteries in the vampire’s neck.

“Stop!” Wren shouted.

Paul increased the pressure, back and forth, feeling the sharp pain of his own cut hands.

Jason’s head lolled to the side, somehow attached but separate.

The forgotten man on the floor rolled to his knees, crawled toward his wife. Paul looked over as she vomited. At least, he thought, she’d stopped that screaming.

He stood, looked at Wren.

“You killed my wife,” he said.

“Yes,” she said, taking a step toward Paul. “We’re both alone now.”

Paul walked by her and out the bedroom door toward the front of the house. He heard Wren’s following footsteps.

When he got to the front door, she put a hand on his shoulder.

“It doesn’t have to end this way,” she said. “You don’t have to be alone. Join me.”

He turned around, found himself gazing into those turquoise eyes. Without doubt, she was a beauty.

“You mean,” he said, “by becoming like you?”

“Yes,” she said. “We can be together. Forever.”

He smiled, beginning to turn away.

“As long as we both shall live?” He laughed. “Sorry, I made that promise once before.”

thrillerShort StorySci FiHorrorFantasy
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About the Creator

C. L. Nichols

C. L. Nichols retired from a Programmer/Analyst career. A lifelong musician, he writes mostly speculative fiction.

clnichols.medium.com

specstories.substack.com

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