“We got some runners!”
“Take ‘em down, soldier!” Hartigan yelled against the roar of the jeep’s engine.
The staccato sound of gunfire filled the air for a second and then was quickly replaced by silence.
“Collect the bodies, apply the contaminant then let’s get moving, we’ve got to clear this street before nightfall.”
The soldier nodded.
* * * * *
“Frank died yesterday.”
“Jesus, what happened?”
“The contaminant. It just ate him up, he couldn’t hold it off any longer.”
“Damn it. And we couldn’t do anything? If we had known you could have put him on the Sheffield project.”
“We did, and we asked. He said he didn’t want to die like a terrorist.”
“This isn’t terrorism, this is war! We’re fighting for our lives here, if our own men can’t get that, than what the hell are we doing?”
“Calm down Keith, calm down.”
Jane took her thick, broad brush and pasted another wanted poster onto the alley wall. Keith Edwards, £50,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest. She sighed, why couldn’t everyone just stop fighting. This was only temporary, wasn’t it? The government said that the vamps would die out in time, it’d already been five years since the vamps came out and three years of that since the contaminant had become mandatory. She didn’t believe the Detox propaganda that said the government didn’t know how long it would be till the vamps died out, or that they didn’t even have a cure for the contaminant. That wouldn’t make any sense, infecting people with an incurable, hereditary disease, that would be insane. Now, more likely was that this Detox group were vamps, or vamp sympathisers and just wanted more ‘food’. Then again, maybe she was wrong, what did she know, she was just a poor student pasting posters up around town to pay for her nursing studies. They’d already got her working on probation at the local hospital, the contaminant had some very nasty side-effects and ever since the mandatory infections took place the hospitals had been swamped, they needed everyone they could get. Well, at least she was guaranteed a job.
“Hello little girl.”
Jane dropped her brush with a start and span around to see a tall, gaunt man behind her, his pasty complexion made yellow by the street lights.
“You stay away from me! I’m infected! He-” she tried to scream for help but was cut off as a hand slid across her mouth, the vampire moving so fast she could barely register it.
“Shhhhhh.” he whispered in her ear. “I have no intention of eating you. No, I’m here to give you a warning. In three days your hospital will become an abattoir. It will be my brethren that will make this come to pass, but they will be no brothers of mine. Some of us think rounding you up like cattle was a mistake, I’m one of those people. Others however feel an example needs to be made and if they can’t eat you, you have no use whatsoever and should be slaughtered. You’ll find my card in your pocket, I suggest you not show it to anyone lest you want to be thought a traitor. Do what you wish with this information but remember it was one of us that tried to warn you when the blood flows.”
With that she was suddenly alone and she collapsed to the floor sobbing with fear and relief. Her hand crept into her pocket and felt the unfamiliar edges of a business card. Trembling, she picked up her bucket of paste and her roll of posters and ran home as fast as she could. She had a phone call to make.
Hartigan slumped into his chair and watched the steam curl up from the cup of tea on the table next to him. They’d ‘eliminated’, the word curling his lip with distaste, fifteen ‘traitors’ today, most of them pregnant woman that didn’t want to risk their unborn children to the side-effects of the contaminants. It made him sick, but it was the right thing to do.
As many people had said before him, sacrifices had to be made. For every person uncontaminated there would be another vampire with one more food source to keep them strong. They were traitors because they put their own selfish wishes before that of their entire species. And yet as much as Hartigan ran through the same speeches and arguments over and over again in his head, he ended up in this fugue.
He shook his head and took a quick sip of tea. The scalding hot liquid burnt his lip and he dropped the cup, spilling hot tea down his leg.
“Awwww… god damn it!” He yelled, leaping up from his chair.
“Richard!” His wife asked, concerned. “Are you okay?”
“No of course it’s not okay you stupid woman! I’ve nearly gone and scalded my bloody leg!”
His wife looked like he had slapped her and her expression quickly sobered him out of his anger.
“I’m.. I’m sorry Martha, it’s just been, hard. A hard day. I shouldn’t have yelled at you it’s not your fault.” He winced as he pulled off his trousers and looked at the bright red burn on his leg. “Could you run me a cold bath. Please.”
Martha swallowed, nodded silently and disappeared up the stairs. Stood there in his underpants, his leg beginning to itch from the burn, Hartigan prayed.
“We’ve just had a tip off sir, from a Miss Jane Simpson. Apparently the hospital she works at is in danger. Says there will be a vampire attack in three days.”
“Bring her in for questioning, see what she knows. Did she happen to mention where she came about this information.”
“Well, we’ll find out soon enough.”
Marcus Antonius Cordus was pleased, they’d taken the bait. His man on the inside reported that the army was taking the warning seriously. They were stretched thin though and didn’t have the resources to just throw men at a possible threat, no, they would need proof, which means they’d start investigating. Then they would find the information he’d left them and reach the conclusions they were meant to reach. He could sympathise with the instigators of the Cattle program sometimes, though perhaps they should have called it the Flock program, humans were so often sheep.
For a vampire as old as Marcus, it was hard to think down to mortals levels, hard to see through the tiny window through which they perceived the world. He couldn’t help but think in decades, centuries even. Time didn’t mean the same thing to him any more. At least he had a reasonable place to wait.
He was staying as a human in one of most expensive hotels in London, hiding in plain sight. He’d had plenty of practice blending in and knew they signs they looked for. He wore makeup for his complexion, full-body, and contact lenses for his eyes (shades only attracted mistrust). Even in this paranoid age, he found it easy to be one of them, he’d lived through worse already.
Idly, he pulled a knife, a letter opener, from the elaborately carved mahogany desk at which he was sat and cut his arm, peeling back the skin and flesh with an almost clinical detachment. He didn’t even bleed any more and his flesh, if it could be called that now, was like spidery white filaments, like gossamer threads of a fungus. Cutting his arm was like cutting into a sponge, his very body lived to drink, was made for it. He folded the flap of arm back into place and watched it heal with a sigh. He may think in ages, but in waiting for even a moment, he was bored.
There was a knock at the door and he tensed. Two fainter rappings followed and then shortly after a slightly heavier knock than the first. He opened the door and retreated to his chair in one fluid movement. A woman stepped into the room.
“Hello Mac.” She said with an Irish lilt, using the name with a deep sense of familiarity, though a frown rested on her face.
“Why if it isn’t my dear Connie! You look like a sour puss indeed. Bad news I take it?”
She smiled. “I never did have a good poker face. I see you’ve been in one of your moods again.” She nodded towards the fading scar on his arm.
“Just a little introspection to pass the time.”
“Typically looking within oneself isn’t meant to be taken so literally.” She grinned as Marcus rolled his eyes. “Anyway, to business. You’re right Mac, it’s bad news indeed.”
“Well get on with it.”
“There’s trouble at the farm.”