Hunting Season
Chapter 1: Red Sky In The Morning...

Jason Bryant could see that the sky was starting to pale with the coming dawn, as he jogged through the woods. The teenager had stayed out longer than he had intended. Jason would have to hurry if he was to do his chores before going to school. He hoped that his parents wouldn't be too upset over his late (or perhaps, very early) return.

The woods opened up ahead, and Jason vaulted over the rail fence that bounded the Bryants' private road. As he half-ran up the gravel road, the youth noticed that the horizon had taken on a reddish tinge. He was reminded of the old saying

Red sky in the morning shepherd take warning

Jason wasn't sure what it meant, but he figured that there was going to be a spectacular sunrise. As he continued towards home, it took Jason a moment to realize that, since he was returning home from the south, it was the northern horizon turned crimson, not the eastern one. Then, the young man smelled the smoke.

Jason sprang down the road, running full out for home. His track and field talent was going to pay for his college education, and now Jason accessed reserves of speed that no coach or college scout had ever seen. He probably broke a world speed record reaching the crest of the hill that stood between him and the Bryant house. The sight that greeted him stopped the youth as surely as a collision with a stone wall.

The house was fully enveloped in flames. Even the brick portions of the structure seemed consumed by the hungry fire. 'If anyone was inside... '

"Mom! Dad! Sean!" Jason shouted at the top of his lungs as he ran down into the hollow. He heard no answer. The only movement he saw was from the frightened cattle in the pasture nearest the blaze. Jason rushed onward, straight toward the house where he had been born. When he found his family, it wasn't by sight or sound, but by smell. Woven into the smells of combusting wood and gasoline was the sickly sweet stench of burning flesh. Jason fell to his knees and gave wordless voice to his anguish and grief. The young man screamed until he ran out of air. Then he collapsed.

David Truxtun had seen the fire glow and smoke when he went to milk his cows. It was clear to him that at least two large fires were blazing below the western horizon. Mr. Truxtun estimated the nearest one to be on the Bryant farm. Putting thought of his cows aside, Mr. Truxtun rushed back into his house, and called 911 on his kitchen phone.

The Clay County fire department arrived as quickly as was humanly possible, but there was no chance to save the house or its' occupants. A teenaged boy was huddled in fetal position in the tall grass near the fire. He was dark haired, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a flannel shirt. The youth was as pale as a sheet with shock, but he refused the fire fighters' offers of aid.

"Help my family." The young man would say in hopeless anger.

Henry McGill knew Jason Bryant. He and Henry's younger brother were on the track team together. Henry knew that Roseanne Blanchard was the Bryant family doctor (as well as being an old family friend). He asked his captain to call Doctor Blanchard, in the hopes that she could coax Jason out of his state of shock. The captain was already on the radio with the police and asked if a patrol car could be sent to fetch the doctor. When he finished, he turned to McGill.

"What's the boys condition Henry? Any improvement?"

"Not so you could tell sir." Henry answered glumly. The fire captain released a sigh that spoke of frustration, anger and bone tiredness.

"His parents and little brother murdered, it's no wonder he's tore up." The captain shook his head in disgusted disbelief. "Two fires in one night, both arsons, and six people dead."

"Two fires Cap'n? Where was the other one?" Henry was as dismayed as his superior was.

"Just down the road. The Draper place I believe."

"The Drapers?" McGill's eyes widened with renewed terror. "Ted told me that Jason Bryant was dating that Draper girl, Carla!" Henry looked over his shoulder to see if the Bryant boy had overheard what was said. The captain's eyes narrowed and he looked at the Bryant kid in a different light.

The term "wide-eyed innocence" aptly describes the worldview of infants and toddlers. Their fresh, hungry minds greet every new discovery, no matter how minor, with a gleeful desire to understand. Anything, from a colorful wallpaper pattern to an ant scurrying across a leaf, to the leaf itself, was a mystery to examine. Babies are never bored. Most people lose that quality as they grow, but Sean Bryant never did. Little Sean was always looking for the wonder in the commonplace. As a consequence, he often found and shared things that his cool older brother would overlook. Sean could find four leafed clovers with such ease that Jason had taken to calling him "Leprechaun". With his insatiable curiosity, Sean had puzzled out how a prism made colored light when he was four. Much like a rainbow, the little fellow could brighten the dreariest day.

Now, Sean was gone, as were Jason's parents. Jason knew, intellectually, that they were dead, but he couldn't bring himself to believe it. They were too smart, too careful, to be caught in a burning house. The youth was trying to puzzle out how his father's evacuation plan could have failed (and how his family could have let their home catch fire in the first place) when Detectives Brice and Jacobs jarred him out of his deep thought.

"Where were you when this happened son?" Detective Brice had asked. His thin, hawkish face wore an expression of harsh impatience. Jason was vaguely aware that the policeman had already asked that question at least three times. It just hadn't quite registered. Jason felt bad about inadvertently ignoring the detectives, so he didn't mention that he disliked anyone but his parents calling him "son".

"I was out taking a walk." Jason answered.

"At six in the morning?" Brice's tone (and the sneer on his thin lips) said that the ginger haired detective didn't believe Jason.

"Did you go by the Draper house last night or early this morning?" Detective Jacobs asked. The older cop stank of stale cigarettes from his wingtips to his receding salt and pepper buzz cut.

"No sir" Jason answered, puzzled. Why were the police asking about the Drapers? Why were the police there at all? "May I ask why the police are here?"

The young man seemed genuinely shocked and puzzled. Leo Jacobs' instinct told him that the kid was really in shock, but the detective also felt a... wrongness, for lack of a better word, about Jason Bryant.

"You feeling okay Mr. Bryant?" Jacobs asked. The teenager seemed remarkably pale. Grief might account for his appearance, or fear.

"I feel a little numb." Jason answered "May I see Dr. Blanchard?"

"Were you feeling bad when you went to see Dr. Blanchard last night?" Detective Jacobs asked his voice full of caring concern.

"Wha- No, I didn't see Dr. Blanchard last night. What are you talking about? What's goin' on?" Jason was confused and his anger was returning. His family was gone and these detectives had nothing better to do than ask stupid questions.

"What's going on?" Palmer Brice asked with bitter sarcasm. "That is what we would like to know Mr. Bryant. We have two houses burned to the ground. We have seven dead, and we have one person who knew all of the victims who refuses to account for his whereabouts at the time of the crime." The ginger haired detective was in Jason's face. The young man tried to step back, but the police officer continued to advance. Detective Jacobs watched a parade of emotions cross the boys expressive face. He saw confusion, sadness, anger, fear, more sadness, confusion again as he tried to get Brice out of his personal space, and renewed anger when that became impossible.

"Back off Palmer." Jacobs said calmly "give the boy some air. I'm sure he'll tell us where he was last night." The older detective turned towards Jason. "Won't you son?" Leo Jacobs felt his hair stand on end when the youth's blue-gray eyes met his. For a second, Jacobs felt like a mouse being watched by a cat, an angry cat. Then, it was gone, and he was looking at a frightened boy.

Jason swallowed his anger, forcing it down inside. He could still feel it, burning down in his chest, but it was reigned in now. Jason was back in control. He took a deep, cleansing breath. It might have had a more calming effect, if the air hadn't still smelled of smoke and gasoline. Jason had smelled the gas before, but at the time, he hadn't realized its significance.

"Gasoline? You're here because it was arson." Jason said. "My parents were murdered!"

"Not just your family Mr. Bryant. The Drapers were murdered in their sleep as well." Brice said angrily. "Now you are going to answer our questions, and you are going to answer them now!"

The thin detective was in Jason's face again, his breath stinking of coffee and tooth decay, but Jason's anger was not threatening to surface again. The young man fell to his knees poleaxed by the ever-growing tragedy.

Carla Draper was (had been) his best friend. It would have been correct to say that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, but they were more than that. Carla had meant the world to Jason (and he to her). They had been made for each other. Each could finish the other's sentences. Each knew the other better than anyone, even his or her respective family.

Jason felt as if his heart had been crushed in an iron fist. He fought to hold back his tears. Mourning was a private thing, not to be shown to strangers. He wanted to be someplace safe, a place where he could give in to his grief and rage. "Why isn't Dr. Blanchard here?" Jason thought. Suddenly, Jason was aware that the hawk-faced detective was shouting.

"Where were you last night and early this morning?" The detective loomed over Jason. Brice's neck muscles bulged. His face was red, and spit flew with each shouted word. "I don't want to hear about a stroll in the moonlight! I want to know where you were!"

Jason forced himself to his feet. At five feet, eleven inches, he was actually taller than his interrogator. The youth fought to control his emotions just a little longer. He spoke with hard won calm.

"I was out in the woods. I take a long walk at night if I can't sleep." Jason didn't bother to mention that that was every night. His sleep/wake pattern was none of their business. "If you call Dr. Blanchard, she can confirm that I take these walks regularly."

"Do you collect coins Mr. Bryant?" The ginger haired police officer asked abruptly.

Jason was taken aback. For a moment he was speechless. This detective was trying to get at something, but Jason didn't know what it was.

"No, Detective... ?"

"Brice, Palmer Brice." The harsh featured detective answered.

"No, Detective Brice, I do not collect coins."

"Really? 'Cause I thought you might have left some of your collection at Dr. Blanchard's house." Brice produced a clear plastic evidence bag from his jacket pocket. Inside were a number of small, silver coins. "Dr. Blanchard was hanging from the ceiling in her home office when we found her. There was a dollar fifty in Buffalo nickels on the floor under her."

Detective Jacobs was watching the boy carefully as Brice confronted the suspect. Something passed over Bryant's face when the coins were mentioned. It wasn't grief, shock or even anger and the boy hid it as fast as he could. That one moment decided Leo Jacobs. He nodded to Palmer. Brice circled around behind the boy and threw him against the hood of a patrol car.

All of the air whooshed out of Jason's lungs when he slammed into the car. He could feel Brice searching him, and he could hear the older officer speaking.

"Jason Bryant, you are under arrest for the murder of Liam Bryant, Lucinda Bryant, Sean Bryant, Carl Draper, Amanda Draper, Carla Draper, and Roseanne Blanchard. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney. If you can not afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you before questioning. Do you understand each of these rights as I have explained them to you?"

"Yes." Jason said, his voice just a whisper. He now knew who the murderers were but he couldn't tell the police. If he told them, it would mean revealing a secret that would get an awful lot of people killed (Jason included). Jason was also certain that the killers would not be content to let him or his sister escape alive. Gwen had to be warned, Jason had to find a way out of police custody, and then he could worry about the enemy.

Gwen Bryant was just getting out of bed when her phone rang. She hated being forced to deal with people before her morning shower, but she habitually answered her phone whenever it rang.

"This had better be important." She didn't always answer nicely.

"Hello Gwen. It's Jason. "There was a pause. Jason's voice sounded strained. "You better sit down."

"What's wrong? You're scaring me Jason."

"Look Gwen, I... I don't know how to say this."

"Put Mom on the line." Mom always handled crises better than anyone else in the family did. Gwen briefly wondered why she had even let Jason make the call to tell Gwen about whatever emergency had arisen.

"Mom, Dad and little Sean are..." Jason's voice was thick with pain and unshed tears "They've been..." There was the sound of the phone receiver being fumbled with, and then a new voice was on the line.

"Hello Miss Bryant. This is Fred Tucker with the Clay County Sheriff's office. I'm afraid that your brother is under arrest for the murder of seven people, including your parents and youngest brother." Gwen suddenly felt lightheaded.

"No. No, that can't be." Gwen fell into a chair.

"Miss Bryant, your brother needs your help. He needs a lawyer and he just used his one phone call to call you." Deputy Tucker said. His voice was not unkind, but it was firm. Gwen needed to be strong for her brother.

"Please put my brother back on the phone." Gwen said, as calmly as she could. The phone switched hands again.

"Hello?" The tears sounded much closer to the surface now.

"Do not cry in front of the outsiders." Gwen said, switching to the ancient Celtic dialect that she and her brothers had been taught from birth. "Tell me what has happened."

The old language reminded Jason of his responsibilities. Before his own life, and the lives of his family, Jason was duty bound to protect the Talem Er-Yetha.

"The C.R.F. has murdered Father, Mother, Sean, the Drapers, and Dr. Blanchard. I know it was them because they hanged Dr. Blanchard, and placed thirty pieces of silver at her feet."

Such was the death of Judas Iscariot. The Circle of Righteous Fire reserved that manner of death for those they held to be traitors in the war against the forces of evil. They held the Talem Er-Yetha to be their chief enemy on Earth, and had been trying to exterminate that race since the thirteenth century.

"If the enemy knows that we are Yethan, they will come for you sister. You must seek safety."

"I will try to get bail posted for you Jason. You must leave that jail by tomorrow morning even if I can not. I'll see you when you get out of jail. Then we can make plans for how to handle this." They needed a secret place to meet, preferably somewhere far from Clay County. Gwen couldn't think of a place to suggest, but she hoped that Jason could.

"We have to stick together sis." Jason replied a little hope finding its way into his voice. "Just you and me, like that time mom got sick four years ago and she couldn't keep anything on her stomach. We had to watch after her until she got better." There was a moment's pause. "Mom sure was hungry when she got better."

"She sure was." Gwen understood the message. Four years before, the family had gone camping in the Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia. "I'll see you soon."

"Goodbye." Jason said, and then he hung up.

Gwen replaced the phone on the receiver, and quickly dressed. Then, she opened the safe in her linen closet. Gwen removed her stash of emergency money, a Charter Arms Bulldog revolver, and two sets of fake ID. She was packing some clothes and other essentials, when she heard someone walking on the stairs to her apartment.

Palmer Brice was frustrated by his inability to interrogate the Bryant punk. The murdering filth had insisted that he have council present before he would say anything. He had further insisted that his sister be given time to find him a lawyer. They had waited all day and had heard nothing from the girl. Efforts to reach her at her apartment in Charlottesville, Virginia had been fruitless. The sun was setting, taking the last of Brice's patience with it, when Deputy Tucker called.

"Detective Brice?" the deputy had asked.

"Yeah Tucker. Whattaya want."

"Jason says he wants to talk to you." Tucker answered excitedly "He says he'll only talk to you and only alone."

Palmer thought about the offer for a second. If the little bastard wanted to confess, that would make his conviction much easier. If he wanted to try to lie his way out of the hole he had dug, Palmer would let him try. After all, lies tend to trip the liar. If that worthless little shit was jerking Palmer's chain... Well, they would be alone, and the little vermin might try to escape... Palmer Brice smiled as he thought about that last possibility.

"I'm on my way." Brice hung up before the deputy could say anything else. He grabbed his jacket, and was out the door as quick as his impatient legs would carry him.

Detective Brice crossed the Town Square to the Sheriff's office and jail. Deputy Tucker still had the phone in hand as Brice stormed through the front door.

"Bring Mr. Bryant to the interview room, and then clear out." Palmer barked as he walked past. "If I need anything from you, I'll holler." With that, the detective was gone from sight. Fred Tucker didn't have much use for the detective. In his defense, Brice was honest, and he never played favorites. On the other hand, the detective was an abrasive, opinionated, stubborn, vindictive, horse's ass. Brice's negative character traits outweighed his virtues. Nonetheless, Fred obeyed the detective's order.

Palmer Brice was smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of wretched vending machine coffee when Tucker arrived with the prisoner. He was outraged to see that the punk was still dressed in his own clothes (as opposed to the blaze orange jail coveralls), and the prisoner's hands were cuffed in front, not back. "Well," Brice thought, "I'm going to want him uncuffed anyway, in case I need to make it look like he tried to escape."

"Take his cuffs off, and get out." Brice said to the deputy. Brice watched as Tucker did so, then he waited long enough for Fred to get back to the office. While he waited, Palmer noticed how the boy flinched away from his cigarette smoke. With a smile, the detective began purposefully blowing his smoke in Jason's direction. The kid moved back, out of the smoke, and out from under the light. In the shadows, The Bryant kid's eyes shone silver-blue, like a cat's. Palmer felt his mouth go dry. He was about to shout for help. Then, he wondered why he would want to do that. He was detective Palmer Brice. He was in control.

"You wanted to talk Bryant, so talk." Brice spoke harshly. As Palmer spoke, he was unaware that his shaking hand stubbed out the cigarette.

"You want very much to punish the murderer of my family and four other people." Jason spoke as calmly as he could. This was a delicate operation. Jason could inject subsonic vibrations into his spoken words, thanks to his Yethan vocal cords. These vibrations coupled with visual stimulus provided by his strangely colorful irises could induce a light hypnotic state in humans. It was a difficult skill, and one that Jason had had little opportunity to practice. "You must be certain of who the murderer is before he can be punished. I say that the murderer is out there." Jason gestured toward the outer wall. "He waits for his chance to strike again. Take me outside and I will show you."

Brice was sure that the boy was the murderer, but he felt that it couldn't hurt to check out his story. If it were a wild goose chase, being outside would make the "attempted escape" look more real. Palmer stood and tossed his cup into the trashcan.

"Let's get this over with." He said belligerently.

Brice didn't bother with putting the handcuffs back on the suspect. He simply grabbed the punk by the back of the neck, and marched him out of the jail. As they past the front desk, Tucker and Rawlins looked on, surprise evident on their faces. Brice glared at them, as if to dare the deputies to say anything.

Brice was about to ask his prisoner to direct him to the killer, when he noticed a man standing in the green way between the courthouse and the library. The man appeared to be in his forties or fifties, but in good shape. He wore a gray windbreaker, black pants and shirt, and he carried a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Brice had seen the same man, sitting on the park bench next to the war memorial at lunchtime. Another man (dressed the same but younger) was standing in the alley behind Kershaw's Drug Store. Still another man was leaning against a van that was parked in front of the post office.

It was only about seven thirty, and there was still a fair amount of traffic on the street, but these three stood out. They reminded Detective Brice of a gang waiting to mug somebody's grandmother (or a pack of wolves waiting for one of the sheep to show weakness).

Palmer could think of only one reason for them to be there. The boy was telling the truth. They'd killed seven people and they were here for the eighth. The detective wasn't going to stand still for that.

"C'mon kid." Brice said to Jason. "Nice and slow. Back into the jail. Don't give them an excuse."

Brice and Jason began to back toward the jailhouse. The three strangers began to move, like the points of a rapidly shrinking triangle, centered on the policeman and his charge. Palmer knew that he would never make the door before the trio reached him. He went for his revolver, shouting

"Police! Stop where you are!" Passersby on the street would have been surprised and confused by Brice's proclamation if they had been given time. The eruption of gunfire didn't give them that chance.

The gray haired man gripped his bag, and a blast of fire roared from the end that was pointed at the cop and the boy. A portion of the buckshot struck Brice in the right arm. The detective lurched off of the steps and into the shrubs.

The pain was sharp and burning in Palmer's arm. To his shock and surprise, Brice saw that his sleeve really was on fire. The detective shrugged painfully out of his jacket and realized that he had dropped his pistol. He cautiously looked through the hedge to see what was going on.

The man from the van was advancing toward the jail. He held a pump action shotgun with combat grips, sweeping the muzzle to cover his forward quadrant. Brice couldn't see the Bryant boy or the other two perps from his hiding place.

Palmer heard the jailhouse doors slam open, and he looked up to see Rawlins and Tucker come storming out, weapons in hand. The perp fired first. Rawlins went down hard. Tucker returned fire with his Colt autopistol. The man from the van had Tucker in his sights and he continued to fire. The front of the jailhouse sparked with the impact of the assault. As the deputy retreated back into the sheriff's office, one of his.45 caliber slugs found its mark. The van man fell in the street, having been wounded in the leg.

Jason had leapt into the shrubbery on the opposite side of the steps from Detective Brice just as the shooting started. The youth landed on his feet and ran toward the law office across Main Street from Kershaw's Drug Store. Jason saw the gray haired man standing in front of the courthouse/police station. He was facing the main entrance of the building, and didn't see Jason. The third man could be glimpsed through the panicked throng of people. He was rushing through the frightened townsfolk in an effort to intercept his fleeing target. Jason allowed himself a brief grin as his enemy moved past the alley where he had waited earlier.

Half a dozen cats were in the alley, summoned there by Jason as he awaited his chance to get out of the jail. At the youth's unspoken command, the cats sprang onto the killer's back. The villain staggered into the street. He dropped his shotgun in efforts to pull and beat the attacking felines off. With the speed and grace of a hunting cat, Jason charged across the street.

Through his empathic link with felines, Jason warned the cats to abandon their attack. As they sprang to safety, the youth punched the enemy square on the chin. The man's head snapped back and he fell like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

Jason stood over his fallen foe. The air was thick with the smell of blood, the enemy's blood. One of those who had murdered his family (and Carla) was now at Jason's mercy. The boy's rage demanded that he tear this miserable dog apart, but reason said that now was not the time or place for revenge. A struggle ensued within Jason Bryant even as the struggle around him continued.

The man that Tucker had wounded was crawling back towards the van and at least one of the other two killers was busy shooting up the courthouse. The third gunman was probably after the Bryant boy. Palmer reckoned this his best chance to drag Deputy Rawlins out of the line of fire. Brice stood to look on the steps, hoping that he wouldn't get his head shot off for his trouble. One look at Betty Rawlins, her glazed, empty eyes and the blazing ruin that had once been her torso told Palmer that there was no hope. The deputy was dead, but her revolver lay within easy reach. Brice grabbed the pistol and ran around the hedge. His first priority would be the one shooting at the courthouse. Palmer hoped that the Bryant kid would be smart enough to keep his head down until help came.

Palmer Brice spotted the gray-haired perpetrator standing in front of the courthouse. Two or three uniformed bodies cluttered the courthouse steps, blood darkly visible on the white marble steps. The enemy was no longer facing the courthouse, but looking down the street. He dropped his shotgun, empty or jammed, Palmer couldn't tell. The perp was looking at the Bryant kid. The boy didn't see the enemy who was now drawing the biggest pistol Detective Brice had ever seen from under his windbreaker and taking aim.

Through the crimson haze of his rage, Jason sensed that another enemy had taken notice of him. Jason turned to find the largest pistol he had ever seen, pointed at his chest. There was no cover. No where to run, except at the enemy. Jason rushed to meet his foe, determined that if he must die the murderer of his family should join him in death.

The crazy teen was charging, unarmed, at the killer! There was no time for careful aim. Fortunately, the innocents had had time to get clear of the combat zone. Brice pointed the.38 S&W at the gunman and fired three shots as fast as he could. At least one of his bullets struck the killer in the back. Palmer saw him lurch just as he fired his monster pistol at Jason. Unfortunately the perp's shot still struck home.

The assassin's Glaser slug burst inside of Jason's abdomen. It shredded his diaphragm, stomach, and upper intestines. The shock of the attack dropped the teen in his tracks. Jason skidded to a stop less than two feet from his attacker.

The youth had suffered severe tissue damage, enough to kill a human, but he knew that he would heal. Jason realized that he wasn't healing as fast as he should. He suspected the he'd been shot with some sort of special ammunition. He would be practically helpless for a few seconds at least, but he was exceedingly glad that the bullet had missed his heart.

The middle-aged killer showed no sign of dropping from his wounds. Brice suspected that he was wearing body armor. The Bryant kid was writhing weakly on the asphalt. Palmer hoped the boy would make it.

Brice saw the killer pull a huge bowie knife from out of his boot. Before the perpetrator could do more than that, Brice saw him swing to face some police officers that were trying to sneak up on him through the courthouse parking lot. The murderer fired three shots at the officers, forcing them to take cover. Then, he fled up the street, toward the jail. He seemed suddenly more interested in his own escape than in killing the boy.

"Oh hell no." Brice said as he stepped out. The detective braced his left hand with his wounded right arm. "Stop right there you son of a bitch!" Brice shouted. The detective thumbed the hammer back. "Stop or I'll stop ya!"

Palmer Brice heard the squeal of tires on asphalt. He risked a backward glance in time to see the van from earlier coming right at him. Palmer spun and got off one shot before the van knocked him aside like a bowling pin. Brice was vaguely aware that his bullet hadn't punched through the windshield. "More armor." He thought before all went black.

"Go Joshua! Go!" Isaac Remington shouted at his son. Joshua laid down a streak of vulcanized rubber fleeing the downtown area.

"According to the radio scanner, the misguided police have called for reinforcements, but we should be well clear before they can trap us." Joshua spoke without taking his eyes off of the road. "Has the demon we missed last night been destroyed father?"

"No. It still stains the Earth with its existence." Isaac snarled in anger. He continued in a softer tone. "Can you make it to the safe house in Cedarbluff Joshua?"

"I think I can, father. I don't think the bone was hit and the bleeding is not as bad as it was at first."

"Your suffering and Russell's sacrifice will not be in vain. The fiend will flee now, but we will run him to ground. If our team in Charlottesville has done its job they will be able to track his sister's every move."

"Will he risk his existence to contact his sister?" Joshua asked. "He must realize that if we know what he is, then we know that his sister is the same. Surely any familial loyalty he feels for her can't override his kind's cowardly desire for self preservation?"

"These subhuman vermin don't know loyalty or love as we do." Isaac said as he struggled in the confined space to bandage his son's leg. "They are driven by their appetites. He will seek his sister because she is the last female of his pack. Only with those of their own kind can they find true satisfaction of their carnal urges."

"He means to... to commit incest?" Joshua asked, shocked.

"These are Satan's children. They revel in sin, and that will be their undoing."

The first thing that Brice saw upon waking was his partner's face. Then he saw the paramedics.

"Leo? What are you doin' here?" Brice tried to sit up, but Jacobs and one of the paramedics restrained him.

"Stay still Palmer." Jacobs said. "You're pretty busted up."

"I don't feel so bad."

"You're also full of morphine."

Brice thought about that for a few seconds. He had been shot with some sort of incendiary buckshot and run over by a van. He realized that he was lucky to be alive.

"Did we get the perps?"

"No. We have one corpse that was probably with the gunmen. Something struck him in the head hard enough to break his neck." Leo shook his head in anger and disgust. "These fellows waltz into town and kill five cops and we only nail one of them." Jacobs shook his head. "Did they come for Jason Bryant?"

"Yeah, the Bryant kid." Brice wanted to say how he and Jacobs had been wrong about the kid. He had wanted to ask if Jason had survived the bullet he took, but he couldn't find the air to talk. Suddenly, he felt as if someone were crushing his heart in his or her fist. Then, he blacked out.

The EMS team tried to resuscitate Detective Brice all the way to the hospital. The ER staff likewise made heroic efforts to save him, but there was no hope. Leo Jacobs was with his superior and a captain of the Mississippi State Police when the news of Brice's death came. Like Deputy Tucker, the incendiary ammunition had poisoned Brice.

"Well, that makes the death toll thirteen." The lieutenant said glumly. "Nearly half of them police personnel."

"Yes." Jacobs added. "And the rest were his family and friends."

"But who are these men that helped the Bryant boy?" Captain Duvall asked. "The dead one had no identification and his prints haven't turned up a criminal record."

"They may be a cult of some sort." The lieutenant offered. "They clearly went to a lot of trouble to rescue the Bryant kid. He must be their leader, or close to it. We have his name and picture, and pretty soon the whole country will know about Jason Bryant, cop killer and patricide."

Jason would have stayed after the shooting, but he would have had a hard time explaining the gunshot wound and the miraculous healing of the same. The youth had crawled into the alley during the last stage of the gun battle. By the time the surviving murderers where gone from sight, Jason had recovered enough to stagger out of town. His skill at stealth, gift for camouflage, and excellent night vision had enabled the young man to escape detection. It took an hour and a half of cautious sneaking to reach the secret vault that was hidden on his family's land.

Jason was feeling much better, and he quickly spun the three dials through their combinations. When he swung the heavy, steel door open, the first thing to be seen was a black, metal box with a bold, yellow label proclaiming:


Jason ignored this and began to remove the emergency gear and supplies the vault was built to hold and hide. His two changes of clothing, toiletries, extra jacket, and two sets of fake ID were in a navy blue duffle bag. To this, Jason added three oilcloth packets the size and shape of flat throw pillows, the waterproof packet containing financial documents and two thousand dollars, and a deck of playing cards.

Jason tore off the ruined, blood stained shirt and tossed it into the vault. The wound had already closed up, and the blood that hadn't soaked into the shirt had been reabsorbed into the young Yethan's body, leaving no sign of injury on his smooth, unmarred skin. Jason opened the brown duffle bag and took out his father's blue and black striped shirt. Liam Bryant had been a little wider through the shoulders than his eldest son, but Jason didn't mind his shirts a little loose.

The youth slipped the shirt on, but before he buttoned it, Jason took a moment to look at the charm that hung around his neck. It was a gift from Carla, a small, silver tiger. "My Tiger" had been her pet name for Jason. He had given her a similar charm and had taken to calling Carla his "Tigress".

Carla was dead, along with most of the people that Jason loved. His life in Putnam was over. His life as Jason Bryant was over. In such an event, Jason's father had been clear in his instructions. The family (now only Jason) was to destroy anything that would link them to their previous life. ID, pictures, and any objects bearing their names, or otherwise able to be associated with them.

Jason took out his wallet. He removed his driver's license, library card, credit card, and collection of photos. Jason added his key chain to this, and tossed the lot into the vault. He removed the tiger, and drew his arm back, but stopped before he threw it.

The tiny piece of silver in his hand was all he had left of Carla. She had placed the chain around his neck. She had tucked the tiger charm inside his shirt. "Keep your totem as close to your heart as you hold me, my Tiger." Carla had said. Jason put the charm back in place, his vision beginning to blur with tears as he buttoned his shirt.

Jason opened the box labeled generator control. Inside was an automobile style ignition switch and a key was tapped to the lid. What appeared to be a means to illuminate the vault's interior, was a cleverly disguised self-destruct mechanism. Jason turned the key once, and then released it quickly. This activated a five-minute delay to detonation. If someone had turned the key and held it (trying to get the fictitious generator to turn over), or if it was turned more than once, the timer would have been bypassed and the thermite charge would have instantly gone off.

Jason was well clear of the vault when the thermite fused the door permanently and reduced everything within to ashes. The grief that the teen had been forced to control all day was once more demanding to be set free. This time, the young Yethan did not resist.

David Truxtun was working on his tractor when he heard a horrific wail. The sound was like nothing the old farmer had ever heard before. No human could hope to achieve the range of that caterwaul, but Truxtun couldn't believe that any animal could feel the depths of sorrow and rage the wail contained. The old farmer felt his hair stand on end. He fled to his house as fast as he could, praying that he might never hurt or anger whatever made that noise.

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Story tagged with:
Fiction / Vampires /