Jeanine O'Loughlin

Fantasy, Science Fiction & Historical Fiction Author, Blogger, and Geek

Category: Hunters

Acolyte Trials – Part 4

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Without hesitation Mathers made for the vampire with precision and speed, putting the vampire immediately on the defensive. Adrian jumped in beside him, and together they pushed the vampire back, but his superior speed and strength didn’t give the Hunters a chance for decisive victory. They had the vampire cornered, but a wild animal who feels trapped is even more dangerous. The vampire struck out with another of his insanely quick punches and caught Adrian across the jaw, and he fell back dazed for a moment. Mathers didn’t let up and kept the vampire from advancing.

“Get Liz out of here!” Mathers called out to Adrian. He glanced at Lizzie and felt torn between saving her, leaving Mathers here to handle the vampire on his own, or to bring this monster down. He knew his training said to follow Mather’s orders, but he couldn’t leave him here alone. He thought of what Lizzie would want and charged in, landing a kick to the vampire’s body that knocked him back into the wall.

The vampire recovered and in an unexpected move tackled Mathers, sending them both to the floor. The vampire came out on top of Mathers and was pummeling him. Adrian ran over to them and with all the strength he had, pulled the vampire from Mathers. Mathers was back on his feet and squaring off with the vampire again, his face covered in cuts and blood. This is all wrong, Adrian thought. Lizzie and he were supposed to come in, spar with a Hunter and then celebrate with milkshakes and fries. Instead his best friend was bloody and unconscious on the floor behind him , and Mathers and he were fighting for their lives.

When the vampire gave a wide swing towards Mathers, Adrian knelt down and delivered a punch to his ribcage, which actually winded the vampire some. Adrian was tiring, this had to be their chance. Mathers moved in but the vamp grabbed Mathers and threw him into the wall. Mathers dropped hard next to Lizzie. Adrian pushed forward, keeping the strikes coming, not allowing the vampire a moment to go on the offensive again. Then the bloodsucker suddenly stopped and stood there grunting in pain. Adrian looked around for another Hunter, when he saw Lizzie still slumped on the floor behind him, with a taser gun in her hands, pressed against the leg of the vampire.

Adrian swept the vampire’s feet out from under him and he crashed down almost on top of Lizzie. Adrian jumped on top of him, and it took all of the recruit’s strength to keep the vampire pinned. “Liz…” was all Adrian could get out. Lizzie dragged herself up somehow, in spite of the pain, and pulled a large pocket knife from her waistband. Then plunged it into the vamp’s jugular, ripping it across his pale skin. The ragged flesh was consumed by the dark red, almost black blood surging from the gash.  Adrian felt the vampire’s body relax and he let go.

Adrian sat there and felt cold as the vampire bled out in front of him. It wasn’t the monster whose face haunted his nightmares. This vampire wasn’t a pureblood, if he was, they’d all be dead. The vampire’s legs started to twitch as his undead life drained out of him like one of his victims. Mathers started to stir as they heard the tramping of boots running down the hall and Adrian stood ready to fight. Winston came through the door and Adrian’s body gave way all at once, sending him onto his knees in relief.

“Adrian…” Winston knelt before him, checking for injuries. Then Winston saw Lizzie laying on the floor beside him. It was as if time stood still, Winston’s face was frozen first in shock and then horror. It was only a few moments before the medics came in and took Adrian aside, assessing his injuries while others attended to Mathers and Lizzie. Winston paced while Lizzie was prepped for transportation to one of the Hunter infirmaries. Even more Hunters  arrived, posing as authorities to keep the prying public away and start spinning the web of lies that keep the dark horrors of their lives hidden from the world.

“She’s going to be all right,” Adrian whispered to Winston. Winston looked at Adrian, his eyes a mix of despair and concern, then he looked back at Lizzie. Two medics were shifting her onto a backboard and another was bringing in a gurney. Half of her face was already turning purple and there were small cuts where she’d hit the chair. One eye swollen shut a fat lip and puffed up cheeks. Those were just the injuries on the outside. It made him cold to think about what else could be wrong.

Adrian started to feel his chest tighten as he watched them take her out of the room. Lizzie had always been there when he needed her. Who was going to be his family representative at his initiation? He started after her and the medics, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He turned to see Mathers standing behind him. “You can’t do anything for her now. She’s too stubborn to give up now,” he said with a warm smile. Adrian looked out towards the door, hearing the medics calling for the crowd to disperse. Lizzie was strong, he reminded himself. She never let anything stop her, and this would be no exception. With that reassurance he followed Mathers to debrief with Captain George.

*                                                                *                                                       *

A few days had gone by since she woke from the fight. Lizzie and Adrian were sitting in their living room, watching her favorite kung fu movie. He still had a black eye and his split lip was nearly healed, but she looked like she had been hit by a truck from either side. Her face was still half covered in multi-colored bruises, her left arm in a sling with a hairline fracture and a sprained rotator cuff. Her broken ribs were wrapped and sitting up hurt, plus she had a random smattering of other minor injuries. Winston intended to stay home and hover over her like a hen. She had to beg her Aunt Jill to make him leave, and he finally agreed once Adrian volunteered to play nursemaid, not that she felt she needed one.

No one had spoken much about that night since she came home. She thought they all blamed her for bursting in instead of waiting for Mathers. In a way they were right, but she wasn’t going to apologize. We saved her, that girl, she told herself. They were all still alive, and she had a part in that. That’s what Hunting was about. Aunt Jill said they had no reports of a vampire in the area prior to her and Adrian’s discovery. Their best guess from their interview with the girl was that he had arrived just the day before. No one would tell them anything more, they were only recruits after all. The Hunters at the infirmary assured her they had both passed, but that didn’t really seem to matter anymore. All Lizzie cared about was that everyone was safe, and the vampire was gone.

She heard her father come in from the garage and he walked into the room and looked at her, then the TV. “Glad to see Adrian got you to take it easy.” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

“Here, this is for you,” he handed Adrian an envelope and threw his coat on the back of one of the couches before heading into the kitchen. Adrian slipped a finger under the flap and pulled out a folded letter.

“Is it your assignment?” she asked excitedly, trying to crane her neck to see it, then she winced at the pain in her ribs and sat back.

“Yeah… I’m in Chicago,” Adrian said, surprised. It was rare that an Acolyte was assigned to a Hunter from their home district. He continued reading to the bottom of the letter, “I’m assigned to Mathers.” He looked up at her and a smile crept over both their faces.

“Dad?” she called out.

“Yes, hon? What do you want for dinner, pizza or spaghetti?” he asked holding a jar of sauce.

“Uh… pizza. Hey, did they give you my assignment yet?” she was hoping for some place with a beach. She had never seen the ocean.

“No, they didn’t,” he said curtly and walked back into the kitchen.

“What was that about?” she asked. Adrian shrugged.

She moved to get up and Adrian stood to help her, but she waved him away. She shuffled her way into the kitchen where her father was digging through the mail looking for pizza coupons. “Dad, is something wrong?” she sat at a counter stool. Her head started to throb a little, her concussion would still affect her for a while, the doctor had said.

“You should be lying down! You need to rest.” Her father moved to usher her back into the living room but she pushed him off.

“Dad! I’m a little banged up, that’s all. I’m not crippled. Leave it.” She couldn’t handle his over protective act right now.

“Lizzie you almost died!” he said raising his voice at her.

“That’s ridiculous! A few cracked ribs and a banged up shoulder is far from dying. I’m going to be all right. Now what’s going on?” She gave him a stern look. Winston wasn’t good at lying to his daughter.

“You didn’t get an Acolyte assignment,” he said, then went back to digging for coupons as if he hadn’t just delivered the most crushing news of her life.

“What?! They said I passed! Why not? What did they say? Is it because I got beat up? That vampire wasn’t even supposed to be there!” She was furious. How could they fail me?! she thought. She had put her life on the line, ripped open his throat herself. This was a kill on her record at sixteen years old. She could feel her blood boiling and she wanted desperately to hit something.

“He’s trying to pull you out,” Adrian said from behind her, leaning casually against the pocket door frame.

“What?! You can’t do that!” she screamed and turned back to her father. He wouldn’t meet her eyes and then she knew it was true. “Why?” she asked in confusion rather than anger. He took a pair of scissors to a page, ignoring her. She took a deep breath trying both to calm herself and handle the pain her outburst had caused her body. No one said anything.

Adrian cleared his throat, “He’s scared.”

“Scared?! Why the hell is he scared?” She knew her father wanted peace but she also knew that what the Hunters did was important. Until he could get the vamps to the table, Hunters had to continue the fight. He was doing his part, she needed to do hers.

“I thought I’d lost you,” her father gave her a look that managed to be determined and sad at the same time.

She felt the rage deflate out of her, “Dad, this is my choice.”

“So you’re just going to throw your life away for glory?” he asked in a harsh voice.

“You think that’s what this is about? When I was little I heard all the stories about you and the other Hunters. Courage, righteousness, adventures and heroism – it all sounded so amazing, but I’m not some wide-eyed five-year old anymore. I know what going on the Hunt means. I want this because it’s right, and I can save lives. Last night a woman was almost killed… made into someone’s meal for nothing other than being pretty. We saved her. She is alive because of us. That’s why I want to do this. Not for some childish sense of notoriety. I thought you knew me better than that.” She stared at her father in disbelief. She couldn’t stand to look at him anymore and hobbled away to her room.

*                                                               *                                                       *

“I’m sorry,” Winston said after Lizzie stormed off. “You shouldn’t have had to see that,” he folded up the coupons absent-mindedly and gave a deep sigh.

“It’s not the first or last time I’ll see you two fight,” Adrian said, taking a seat. “I should have protected her. She was my partner and, I let her get hurt like that.” Adrian let his head rest in his hands, the image of Lizzie laying on the floor, bloody and bruised filled his mind.

“Adrian, you did everything you could. You got her home alive, and that’s more than I could have asked of anyone in that situation. You two were recruits, ill prepared to deal with a vampire.” Winston put a hand on his shoulder.

“Lizzie, just… isn’t meant to follow this path. She’s headstrong and brave, but it’ll get her killed,” Winston gave a sigh of disappointment. “I know it hurts her to hear this, but it’s for her own good.”

“No,” Adrian said. Winston pulled back from Adrian’s uncharacteristic defiance. “Lizzie is strong, stronger than you give her credit for. She’s smart, and intuitive, and yes she’s quick to act at times, but she can be trained out of that. She understands what we do this for better than anyone. She inspires people and has the ability to lead,” Adrian swallowed before saying his next words. “She’s the kind of person who could help you bring the peace you’re after.”

“You’ve never believed in a peace with the vampires,” Winston said skeptically.

“No. But I believe in Lizzie, and she believes in you and your misguided ideals. You have to let her follow that path in her own way, or you’ll lose her. I’m not saying this as her friend. I’m saying this as someone who has put my life in her hands and trusted her to do the right thing, and she hasn’t let me down yet.” Adrian turned and went back to the living room, having nothing more to say.

*                                                               *                                                       *

Lizzie slept a lot the next day and woke up late in the afternoon. She rolled to her good side and hobbled her way to the door. As she pulled it open she saw an envelope on the floor with her name typed on it. It was folded and crumpled like it had been sitting in a back pocket for a while. She gingerly picked it up and sat down at her desk. Inside was a letter with a long smear of old ribbon ink at the bottom.

Dear Miss Elizabeth Diane Reilly,

The Council is pleased to inform you of your promotion to the rank of Acolyte. Please report on Monday, September 4th at 7:30AM for assignment. You are permitted one small suitcase and one personal bag for your flight. Hunter Branch will meet you upon your arrival in Boston.

Congratulations,

Councilman Franklin

Acolyte Trials – Part 3

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“Are they on foot?” he asked trying to get an idea of what they were looking for.

“I don’t know. It was loud in there, I never heard anything they said. If they were walking she couldn’t have gotten far in those shoes,” she said with a grumble. He could tell she was beating herself up about something. He wasn’t sure if it was losing sight of the target or losing out on a first date.

“Look!” Lizzie yelled suddenly a few minutes later and gestured to two figures in the far distance.

“Is that them?” he moved into the turn lane and slowly made his way onto the street.

“It’s got to be,” Lizzie said with hope in her voice.

He kept the car at a crawl, well below the streets posted twenty-five mile speed limit, but at a distance that wouldn’t look suspicious. The pair stopped in front of an old brick apartment building, and as the car passed by, the target was digging in his pocket while the couple stood in front of a heavy metal security screen.

“What a dump,” Lizzie said as she tucked something into her jacket pocket he couldn’t see. It was probably a practice baton which they weren’t supposed to take from the gym, but Lizzie wasn’t good with following rules. He turned into a small parking lot of another apartment building.

“We need to call Mathers,” he said pulling out his cell phone.

“Yeah tell him to bring a pizza, I’m hungry,” she joked.

The phone rang until a standard voicemail message picked up. “He’s not picking up,” Adrian said, worried. He looked across the street where the couple had been standing, left a quick voice message then followed with a text message.

“Well, we can’t just sit here waiting for him to call back. We have to get in there before it’s too late and we lose points,” Lizzie said, irritated.

“Let me try calling again, maybe he’s asleep?” Adrian dialed the number again. The default voicemail picked up again and Lizzie swore under her breath as she heard the muffled voice.

“Come on,” Lizzie said opening the car door to get out.

“Lizzie, we’re supposed to wait for the go ahead,” he said getting out of the car with her.

“Do we wait until we get docked points for losing a human life, or do we go in and kick some ass… then get yelled at for a technicality? Which do you think will be worse?” Lizzie asked with her hands on her hips.

“Fine,” he said, knowing she was right in a way. They walked over to the building, and kept an eye out for witnesses. When they got to the door, Lizzie pulled lockpicks from her jeans pocket. It only took a few seconds before she had the screen open and then the door behind it. They entered a small lobby that had a hallway leading to doors marked ‘Manager’ and ‘Maintenance,’ on the other side was a wall full of small mailboxes and a set of old wooden stairs leading to the next floor.

“How do we know which one they’re in?” he asked in a whisper.

Lizzie was scanning the mailboxes with tenant names on them and pointed to one marked 4L, the corner of several advertisements stuck out from the bottom edge of the small compartment.  “It’s full, no one’s picked it up in a while.”” she said and stalked up the stairs.

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They quietly tiptoed their way up the six flights of switchback stairs to the fourth floor. Along the way they heard a couple having a fight, a mother with a crying baby, and the loud intimate goings-on between a couple. Lizzie spared a glance at Adrian and saw that his face was as red as hers felt and they both hurried on down the hall. When they arrived at 4L, Lizzie put a hand up for Adrian to hold his position while she leaned an ear up to the door. She heard a woman laughing and a muffled deep male voice. She guessed he was at the other end of the apartment, while the girl was nearer to the door. That was good, one of them could usher her out of danger while the other engaged the target.

“So, where else have you traveled to? I just love travel,” the girl said. Lizzie rolled her eyes, and then held her breath as she heard the deep thump of heavy footsteps coming closer.

“I spent much of my youth in Europe and Asia. There are so many unique cultures in the orient.” Mathers had probably tipped off the acting Hunters that Adrian and Lizzie were close by if they’re still keeping this up thorough an act. Lizzie gestured for Adrian to go for the door and on three, he kicked it in, sending some of the frame with it.

The girl screamed and backed up against a corner of the sparse living room, Lizzie thought, for a Hunter, the girl was playing up the part well. Adrian engaged first, striking with a well placed right hook, but it was blocked. Lizzie left the girl in the corner and landed a hard kick to the back of the knee, but the Hunter playing the target vampire didn’t even flinch. She shot Adrian a confused look but he was busy blocking a particularly brutal round-house and actually stumbled back a step.

“Hey!” she said when she realized their fake vampire wasn’t adhering to sparring rules. He sent a backfist flying towards her face, and she felt the breeze of the blow go by her cheek as she threw herself backwards to avoid it. Again she looked at Adrian who showed the same confusion. The Hunter sent a clumsy uppercut towards Adrian and she saw Adrian’s eyes suddenly go wide. That was sloppy; he’s not a very good fighter, she thought circling around to flank their target.

“Liz, he’s really a…” Adrian was cut off as he dodged another wild swing. Lizzie placed a hard jump kick between the target’s shoulders when he turned his back to her and he stumbled forward, but didn’t fall as she had hoped. Adrian moved to her side and the target spun towards them. The Hunter let out a cry of frustration as he lunged, keeping them on the defensive. Then she saw it, fangs protruded where his canines should be. Those weren’t the costume caps Hunters used, they were real teeth, and Lizzie’s whole world changed in an instant.

That pause was her undoing when the vampire backhanded her. The force of the blow sent her flying into a small wooden chair that shattered beneath her. Her ears started to ring and all she saw were bright spots over shadows. She tried to pick herself up from the floor, blinking until her sight started to clear. Her head throbbed like it was being beaten like a drum. She barely made out the girl, still cowering in the corner. She saw Adrian still defending himself from the vampire. He had a split lip and was slightly favoring one leg.

When she felt stable on her feet she threw herself back into the fray. She planted a solid kick to his side that put the vampire off-balance enough to give Adrian an opening for a hard back kick to the stomach that sent him back a few steps.  She pushed forward, and landed a jab to his jaw followed by a second. The vampire caught her second-hand and lifted her body into the air with almost no effort. Then he slammed her into the ground. She felt as if an elephant had stomped on her chest and gasped for air while the pain in her head intensified. The metallic taste of blood entered her mouth, she had bit through her cheek in the fall.

Lizzie rolled to her side and felt air enter her body at last. There was also a sharp pain from her left shoulder and grunted against the pain. She looked over to find Adrian, still holding the vampire off; barely keeping him from landing any significant blows. She got up and, again, rushed into the fight. She was still dizzy and her reflexes weren’t fast enough. The vampire kicked out and hit her in the ribs and she could tell when she landed on the floor that he’d broken something. She tried to get up again, but her body wouldn’t respond with anything but incredible pain. She could see Adrian saying something but she couldn’t hear him through the ringing that had returned to her ears. Then he faded away behind the blotchy lights dancing in front of her eyes.

She crawled to where the girl had been, using the wall as her guide to the girl. I can’t give up; this is my first real fight. I can’t let this be the end. She heard a crash, even through her stifled hearing and someone tripped over her legs and slammed into the wall. She wasn’t sure who it was, but they were back up quickly. Lizzie kept crawling and told herself not to give up. Then she felt her hand touch the smooth surface of what she deciphered as a patent leather shoe. She grabbed the bare ankle attached and yelled for the girl to run. She couldn’t tell if she heard her, and pushed at the girl to move. She felt the feet move away and just had to hope that the shadow she saw moving towards the door was the girl’s. Lizzie collapsed against the floor and the world went black around her.

*                                                                *                                                    *

Adrian dodged a wild punch and spun to get around the vampire. Lizzie was on the floor again and this time he didn’t think she was getting up. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold the vampire off, and knew the best he could hope for was to take him down long enough to get out with their lives. Adrian was trying to make his way to her when another figure came running into the room. Both combatants turned to face the new foe, and Adrian was surprised to see it was Mathers.

To Be Continued…

Acolyte Trials – Part 2

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At the store Lizzie picked up eyeliner, mascara, dark red lipstick, and big hoop earrings and a cheap green button up shirt for Adrian. She put her hair in a high ponytail then changed into a red tank top with her leather jacket, dark jeans, and old boots. She thought she made a passable young adult. She met Adrian at the car, and she thought he looked good with his short-cropped black hair combed for once. The shirt fit his slim build well and the green brought out the jade in his eyes. If he could stop brooding for five minutes she might even call him attractive. Lizzie put her seatbelt on and waited for him to start the car, but he just stared at her for a minute.

“What? Did I smear my lipstick already? Damn it!” she jolted up to look at the rear view mirror and check her makeup.

“It’s fine. You look like a girl for once,” he said. Lizzie curled her hands into fists and glared at the glove box. She was trying to hold back her anger, but wasn’t doing a very good job. Adrian put an apologetic hand on her arm.

“I just meant that you usually don’t get dressed up, ya know like girls do sometimes.”

“Whatever. Come on, let’s just get going.” she pulled her head high and tried to focus on something else.

Adrian dropped Lizzie off around the corner from one of the bars. Her palms were clammy and gross, she’d never tried to get into a bar before. Don’t screw this up, she warned herself as she walked to the door. The bouncer asked for her ID and she handed it to him with what she hoped was a charming smile. She held her breath tight while he checked it over.

“Left hand please,” He asked as he handed her back the ID.

“Huh?”

“You need a stamp.” He held up a small self-inking stamp of a star.

“Oh right.” She raised her left hand. He put the blue ink on her skin and gestured her inside. It was still a little early and the bar was fairly empty. A few people sat in the intimate booths along the wall, a beer or cocktail in front of them. It took her eyes a while to adjust to the dim red lights. There was an empty stage with a DJ platform and two giant speakers standing like watchmen on either side. It was already warm inside, and she was tempted to take off her jacket, but opted to deal with it. The bar was a long wooden affair with shelves of liquor bottles prominently displayed on the back wall like trophies. Bright white strips of light illuminated the floor and workspace for the three bartenders. She took a seat at the far end with a good view of the main entrance. Hunters aren’t allowed to drink, but when the perky blonde took her order, what she wanted was champagne, but like a good little girl she told the bartender that she was driving and asked for a pop.

She took in all the exits and burned them into her mind as she was taught, then settled in for an evening of people watching. By ten o’clock the bar was packed and she was thankful for access to a chair, even if it was putting her butt to sleep. Her phone chimed and she looked down to see an update from Adrian.

Just more annoying music, and some girl who keeps asking me if I was a model.

She stifled a laugh and replied back. Was she cute? Too bad she’d end up in jail if you took her home.

He responded quickly with a Ha ha and an annoyed looking smiley-face. She looked back up at the room and did a survey for any new faces, but she was losing track with so many. The sentry speakers were booming some trendy dance song that throbbed in her ears. She ordered another pop and leaned a cheek against her hand.

“Don’t like the music?” a voice beside her asked. She looked over and saw a man in his early twenties with dirty blonde hair that had enough styling gel to updo Bigfoot. He had hazel eyes and a very easy smile. He was clean-cut and well dressed in a button up and casual slacks. She looked around to see if he was actually talking to her.

“What?”

“I said, you don’t like the music?” he repeated.

“Oh. No, not really,” she smiled and took a drink of her pop.

“I’m Kyle,” he said offering her his hand.

“Mary,” she said without hesitation. She had made a number of fake backgrounds for these kinds of assignments, it was like being in a James Bond movie, except they had to use forgettable boring names. He smiled then jerked forward as two girls, who were several drinks in already, were apologizing as they sloppily maneuvered their way back to their table of friends.

“Sorry about that,” Kyle said with another one of his charming smiles, but she noticed he didn’t move back much.

“It’s okay,” she maneuvered herself more comfortably on her chair and took a drink to give her hands something to do.

“Can I get you another one?” Kyle asked gesturing towards her drink.

“Oh, I’m good. I’m driving later,” she said maintaining her excuse to avoid alcohol.

“So, since you’re not here for the music or a drink why are you hiding out in a bar all by yourself?” Kyle leaned against the bar with one elbow.

I guess he means to stay, she thought irritated. “I’m waiting for a friend.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Ah, she running late?”

“Something like that.” Her phone chimed with a text message and she looked at the message from Adrian.

Are we sure we’re looking for a guy? There are a lot of women here. Adrian asked.

What are the chances of it being a girl? Slim… but if you think you’ve found it I can come by. I’ve got some random guy talking to me.

She looked back over at Kyle, “Sorry, my friend. He got lost on his way here.”

“Oh, he? You have a boyfriend?” he asked looking disappointed.

She laughed, “No, he’s not my boyfriend. We’ve known each other since we were kids,” she kept laughing to herself thinking of Adrian and she as a couple.

“Oh, so you’re single?”

“Uh yeah,” she said distractedly waiting for Adrian’s response. Weird question… she thought until she remembered that she was in a bar. Here was an interested cute boy right in her face and she hadn’t even noticed. She felt her cheeks warm in a blush, and suddenly forgot how to speak full sentences.

“So, what kind of music do you like?” Kyle asked.

Her mind was blank. Music? Do I like music? she tried to think about what she was listening to earlier today. “Rock music, I think,” she stuttered out.

“You think? Do you not like music?” Kyle asked confused.

“No… I mean I like music, rock music,” she said, trying to recover her composure.

Kyle smiled at her warmly and started to talk about different artists he liked and the conversation became infinitely easier. Some time later she heard her phone chime again and looked down, realizing that she’d missed a couple of messages.

Nothing yet. What guy? Are you okay?

Lizzie, is someone harassing you? Do you need me?

I’ll be right there.

“You’re friend again?” Kyle asked with a concerned look on his face.

“Yeah, giving him directions. He’s hopeless with things like that,” she said with a smile.

“Let me buy you another pop, while you wait,” he said taking a chair that had been abandoned next to them.

“Sure,” she said enjoying the attention. Kyle ordered them both drinks from the blonde bartender then excused himself to the restroom after ordering her pop. Lizzie took that moment to look over the crowd. She noticed a couple sitting at the other end of the bar, a young woman in her early twenties with a pop star thin figure and dirty blonde hair pulled up into a clip. She was wearing a corseted style blue top that Lizzie admired. The woman stood and headed towards the back restrooms giving her male companion a telling smile. Lizzie felt her face warm again as she understood the meaning behind the look. As Lizzie watched her leave she saw the girl was wearing incredibly tall heels that she couldn’t help but be impressed by the balance required to stay upright in them.

The woman’s date pulled out a bill fold from his shirt pocket. He was very well dressed in a deep burgundy button up tucked into black slacks. He was older than the woman, thirty at least, but very handsome with a strong jaw, a build that must take hours every day to maintain, and deep dark eyes that drew your gaze to him. Lizzie watched him a moment more as he walked towards the coat check window. He walked with an unearthly grace, almost floating amongst the increasingly wild crowd. Then a waitress tripped and nearly dumped her tray full of stacked glasses on him, but he caught it, and her, with a speed that perked Lizzie’s attention. As he handed the waitress back her tray and gave her a smile, the edges of his teeth just showing, she saw it. The exaggerated canine teeth that would just look odd to any normal human.

“Gotcha,” she whispered, and jumped off her chair.

*                                                                *                                                    *

Adrian parked in a no parking zone in the back alley behind the bar Lizzie was in, and jumped out running towards the front door. Lizzie almost ran right into the line of people waiting to have their IDs checked, when he spotted her. “What’s wrong?”

“They left, that’s what’s wrong,” she said in a hushed voice. “I lost sight of them for just a few seconds and then they were gone. We have to find them Adrian.” Lizzie went to the street looking up and down the road. He followed her.

“Hey!” he heard someone call to them from behind. He turned expecting a bouncer, but instead found a guy shorter than he was, walking towards Lizzie and the blonde young man put a hand on her arm. He was clearly too old for Lizzie. Adrian took a step closer to her.

“Hey, Mary.” The boy gave Adrian a quick curious glance. Lizzie turned towards him ramped up from losing her quarry.

“What?” she snapped then her face softened a little, and she blushed.

“You left, is everything okay?” the guy gave Adrian another look and turned back to her.

“Yeah, I just.. have to go. Something came up,” she said apologetically. Adrian saw the disappointment in both their faces. He felt annoyed by it but didn’t really know why.

“Well, can I call you? I’d love to finish our conversation,” he said pulling a cell phone out of his pocket.

“Sure,” she said and typed in a number when he handed it to her. He gave her a smile and promised to call her tomorrow before heading back inside the bar.

“What was that all about?” he asked with his eyebrows raised. Lizzie’s blush deepened and she turned away looking down the street again.

“Nothing, come on we have hunting to do,” she said heading down the street.

He gestured her towards where he had the car parked. As they were pulling out onto the street he said, “You realize that you can’t actually date him right, Mary? He’s too old and you’ll probably be leaving the state in a few days.”

“I know!” she said in anger. “I gave him a fake number anyway,” she turned to look out the window with that pouty expression she got when she didn’t get what she wanted. He tried to hold back a smile and turned down the street.

To Be Continued…

Acolyte Trials – Part 1

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Today was the most important day of their lives so far, and Adrian was sitting on the floor digging through his closet. “Lizzie, where’s my duffle bag?” Adrian yelled as he popped his head out into the hallway.

“How should I know?!” Lizzie replied as she put her own bag on her bed. Adrian noticed she had a stuffed purple elephant in her other hand. He raised an eyebrow at her with a mocking smirk.

She glared at him then kicked her bedroom door closed. Adrian couldn’t help but chuckle as he went back to searching. The Acolyte Trials were today; a test for recruits applying for Acolyte placement. Acolytes are apprentice Vampire Hunters in their secret order. Hunter children are trained as recruits from the age of twelve, and at sixteen can volunteer for Acolyte testing or decide to pursue other roles within the order. Lizzie and Adrian decided together to volunteer when they first entered into training. Their guardian, Lizzie’s adopted father, Colonel John Winston, had encouraged them to seek other avenues of service, but neither relented in their decision. The Hunter law was clear, this was their choice, and Winston was powerless to stop it.

After they had packed for the night ahead, Adrian went out to the garage, throwing his bag in the backseat of the little black sedan they shared. “Do you think they’ll give us fake IDs?” asked a smiling Lizzie as she walked in carrying her red duffle bag.

“If we need them they’ll give them to us.” Adrian grabbed a few water bottles from a case on the shelves near the door and threw them into the back.

“Are we missing anything?” Lizzie took a quick look through her bag.

“We’re good. Let’s get going.” Adrian pushed the button that opened the garage door and sat in the driver’s seat.

“Right.” Lizzie put her duffle in the back with his. She looked around the garage and had to pull the passenger door handle twice before she could open it. She sat down and fumbled with the seatbelt, Adrian watched her with a curious look.

“You okay?” Adrian asked as he pulled the car out of the garage.

“Yeah,” she said with a quick smile. Adrian gave her a small smile of his own and headed across town to orientation.

The shared house for the recruits was a madhouse; the boys were arguing loudly over equipment and tactics and which radio channel they wanted.

“Remind me to thank Dad for letting us live at home.” Lizzie commented and flopped onto an oversized chair in the living room.

“Like he would have let you move out, even if you wanted to,” Adrian chuckled.

“Yes, my virtue and honor wouldn’t allow it,” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

“No, he’d just miss you too much. He knows no one here would touch you.”

“No one wants to date such a tomboy. ‘She’s too butch, smells like sweat, and can’t cook.’ Who’d want that?!” Lizzie snapped at him bitterly. She had a short temper, but this surprised even Adrian.

“That’s not what I meant! Geez, Lizzie.” Adrian turned away from her and sat on the couch. It annoyed him when she was so sensitive.

“Sure you didn’t,” she said sarcastically.

Adrian let out an exasperated sigh, and knew he should just ignore the obvious bait but instead tried to reason with her. “I just meant because of who your dad is. Who’s going to get handsy with the Colonel’s daughter? He’d send them packing off to Siberia if they tried anything with you.”

She didn’t respond but kept glaring at him all the same. Dating wasn’t a part of their lives. As potential Acolytes, they spent all their time training. They were still teenagers though, and the subject came up now and again. Lizzie was the only girl Acolyte recruit in the entire Chicago area, but no one ever talked about Lizzie in that way. She was pretty with her strong lean build that made her look like an olympic gymnast, fair skin, an oval face and those big brown eyes that were so expressive it felt like you were looking right into her mind. It was surprising amongst Hunter culture that she kept her brownish red hair long when applying for Acolyte training, it fell just past her shoulder blades in loose thick waves. She also got along well with the other recruits and was always good for a laugh or prank.

With her father’s intimidating position and the fact that she never showed any particular interest in any of the boys, Lizzie didn’t really come up when the guys were thinking about girls. More often than not it was Lizzie who had to remind them that she wasn’t a guy when they got particularly rowdy or crass. Adrian knew that while they accepted her, Lizzie always felt a little apart from the rest, except for maybe him whom she’d grown up with the past five years. Adrian tried to make her feel included, but it didn’t help.

Captain George called the recruits to order in the living room for orientation. The nervous excitement built to a thick fog in the room. On average only half of the recruits would make Acolyte, but the instructors had high hopes for this group of excellent fighters. Once the room was quiet, Captain George started running over the instructions they already knew. Recruits would be put into pairs and given a patrol area. A Hunter posing as a vampire would be there along with any potential Hunter ‘victims’ based upon a predetermined scenario. The pair must identify the target, isolate him, and once cleared by their instructor, take him out. The Captain also reminded them that during combat, sparring rules applied, and being detained by civilian authorities for any reason, would result in an automatic failure.

The academic studies instructor, Miss Timbers, walked around the room with an old Crown Royal bag filled with small wooden circles inside. Each was painted on one side with a color. Recruits started to compare them. When Lizzie and Adrian looked at theirs, both had blue.

“Well that’s lucky,” Harris, a tall blonde recruit, and one of Adrian’s good friends said with a sarcastic sneer.

“Jealous much?” Lizzie gave a triumphant smile. It had long been thought that Adrian was the best of the bunch, and getting partnered with him was a sure win.

Captain George called out instructor assignments to each team. Lizzie and Adrian were assigned Joshua Mathers; their instructor on covert operations and basic intelligence gathering. He was a great Hunter, but after losing his Acolyte in some kind of accident nearly a decade ago he refused to mentor, but still volunteered as a recruit instructor sometimes.

He handed the pair two fake IDs, showing both as twenty-one year old college seniors. Neither recruit could pass for twenty-one on their own, but Hunter forgeries were impeccable, and would dissuade any authorities. He also gave them a street map with an area outlined in red marker, indicating their patrol. “College district,” Adrian said.

“Cool. I’m driving,” Lizzie said grabbing the lanyard attached to the car keys that were hanging from Adrian’s pocket.

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They had spent the last of the daylight hours casing the area, paying special attention to possible hideouts, before they stopped for an early dinner to discuss their next steps. “Well, we can’t just wander around all night hoping he just falls into our laps.” Lizzie swiped a french fry off Adrian’s plate. Now that her stomach stopped growling she felt she could think out a plan. The college district was prime hunting ground for vampires, but it was a large area and Lizzie knew that if they were going to find their target they needed to narrow their search.

“Most likely one of the bars,” Adrian suggested.

“Right, it’s Friday night and drunk people are easy,” Lizzie gave a little giggle then added, “Easy prey.” She pulled out a tablet computer, and checked a listing of bars in the area. Needs to be popular for a crowd, young pretty things, multiple exits. “What does divey mean?” Lizzie looked up from the listing at Adrian.

“Uh… seedy I think,” he said without much confidence.

Lizzie gave a shrug and pulled up two bars from the list. She handed the tablet to Adrian who looked it over then gave a nod of approval. “Our best bet is to split up and each take a bar. He’ll probably try during peak hours when he’s less likely to raise suspicions,” Lizzie suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to split up. What if he leaves and we lose him because we’re waiting for each other?” Adrian’s brow was pinched in a deep crease.

“We just check in by phone every hour, besides they’re not too far from each other.” Lizzie pointed to the bars on the map.

“We’re not really dressed to blend in at a bar,” Adrian said pulling at his worn out t-shirt.

“We’ll be fine!” Lizzie didn’t have any female friends, but she felt she had watched enough bad television that she could pull something together.

“I don’t like this idea, let’s run it by Mathers first,” Adrian insisted.

“Fine, we’ll talk to Mathers,” Lizzie said with a huff. “We need to check-in anyway I guess.” She took out her cell phone and dialed Mathers’ number.

“Hello?” he answered casually.

“Hey! It’s us. We haven’t found anything yet, but we think we’ve narrowed it down to two places and we’re each going to stop by one and see what we can find out.” Lizzie did her best to keep her communication over the open line cryptic.

“So divide and conquer? Do you think that’s best?” Mathers responded. Lizzie knew they needed to show confidence as well as good tactics. Lizzie didn’t want him to sense any misgivings either of them had.

“I do sir,” Lizzie said without hesitation. Adrian tried to grab the phone away from her but she stood and took a step away from the table, pulling it out of his reach.

“Lizzie, let me talk to him!” Adrian whispered angrily.

“Borzini agrees with the plan?” Mathers asked, a hint of suspicion in his tone.

“Yes sir,” Lizzie lied. Adrian was always too cautious, a little risk was worth earning a good Acolyte assignment.

“All right then, you have a go.”

“Thank you sir.”

“Reilly, keep your head on a swivel,” he told her sternly.

“Yes sir, we will.” The phone clicked off.

“Well?” Adrian asked.

“The plan’s a go.”

“What?! Is he insane? Partners are supposed to stick together.”

“Hey! We have our orders. Now, we don’t have a lot of time and I need to get to that drug store on Palm.” Lizzie set some money on the table and headed to the car, Adrian squawked at her the whole way.

To Be Continued…

A Name Worth Dying For – Part 4

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“Adrian, I’m sorry,” he said and put his arms around me. I pushed him back in anger.

“Sorry? Where’s my sister?! You said she was safe! Where is she?!” I was screaming at him even though he was still over a head taller than me.

“I’m sorry. The vampires….” his voice caught in his throat and tears started to appear in his eyes. It was then that I realized tears were already running down my own face at this point.

“What?!” I yelled again my voice cracked.

“The vampire he…we….” he paused for a long moment. “Darren had her but they were cut off by one of the vampires and he fought hard, but the vampire was too much for him and Gail. They died protecting her, but… He… killed Maddie shortly after. I’m so sorry,” Mr. Winston was physically shaking when he put his arms back around me.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Why Maddie? This was impossible. Who could kill Maddie? She was sweet and innocent; never hurt anyone. I felt my legs collapse under me. Winston caught me and dragged me to a couch.


I have very little memory of the next couple of days. There were a lot of people around. Some of them I knew, some I didn’t. They were talking to me, but their words all muddled together. It was all some kind of hazy dream, a nightmare. All I could think of was Maddie’s face giggling at me as we set the table for dinner, my mother’s warm kisses that I pretended to hate as she said goodnight. They were my only family, my whole life. Back then I never thought I’d feel anything again.

At some point Mr. Winston told me we were going home. “Home?” I asked. Winston smiled at me.

“Yes, we’re going home. You’ll get to meet Lizzie my daughter. She’s about your age.”

I thought of home, our kitchen, and my room with the crayon drawings Maddie used to make for me hidden in a desk drawer. I didn’t want to go back to that place. It was nothing but blood and death.

We pulled into the driveway of a brick house that was larger than mine. This isn’t home. Where am I? Winston got out and I followed him to the trunk of his car. He opened it and picked up one of the two large cardboard boxes from it.  I grabbed the other and followed him. Winston closed the trunk then headed to the door.

As we approached the door a girl with short red-brown hair and deep brown eyes came bursting through it. “Daddy you’re home early!” She awkwardly hugged him from his side to maneuver around the box.

“Yes, I thought I’d surprise you,” Winston’s face lit up in a huge smile. “Now, can you let us inside so Adrian and I can put these boxes in his room?”

“Oh!” she said seeing me for the first time. We walked into a room that had a small twin size bed, dresser, desk, and standard closet. The bare white walls and gray bedding made everything look dull and lifeless. Winston dropped his box on the desk and I did the same.

“Well Adrian what do you think?” he asked me. I didn’t respond, still confused.

Then a small warm hand took mine and shook it. It was Lizzie, her eyes bright and excited. “I’m Lizzie. You’re staying with us for a while. My room is right there,” she pointed across the hall to a closed door. It had a lavender door sign with big letters spelling LIZZIE on it. I didn’t respond. “Do you like bikes? There are lots of places to go riding, but I’m not allowed to go by myself. We could go together if you want,” she spoke so fast and was dragging me down the hallway towards another door before I knew what was going on.

She was like Maddie, energetic and sweet. That irritated me for some reason. I decided that I wouldn’t like this girl. We entered the garage and stood in front of a purple mountain bike she was showing off. Then she stopped suddenly when she had turned to look at me.

“Wha… what’s wrong?” she took her hand and wiped it across my cheek removing tears I once again hadn’t noticed were there.

“Nothing,” I said with a sniff, then wiped my own face.

“Daddy said we get your own bike tomorrow if you want,” she assured me.

“Whatever,” I said and walked back inside.

“Hey!” Lizzie shouted. She grabbed my elbow and pulled me around to her. I pulled my arm away and stomped back into my room slammed the door and threw myself on the bed just staring at the blank wall next to it. There were a few quiet moments, then Lizzie barged right in.

“I was talking to you!” she said in an angry tone.

“Go away little girl,” I said flatly.

“Hey! I’m eleven ya know, and I’m not little either,” She stomped over to my bed and sat down at the foot just glaring at me for a while.

“Lizzie?!” I heard Winston calling from the other end of the house.

“Your dad’s calling you,” I muttered.

She shrugged then crawled up next to me sitting with her legs crossed between me and the wall. I rolled over to look away but she just moved in front of me again.

“What?!” I asked in anger.

“If you’re sad you can cry. I won’t tell anyone,” she whispered. Then in at a normal volume continued with, “Next year I start Hunter training. We can go in together if you want… like police partners. Daddy says people are stronger when they face things together.” She took my hand in hers and smiled. The tears came and I tried to fight them, but they were too strong.

I don’t know when I fell  asleep, but when I woke up I found a blanket over me, my shoes on the floor and a glass of water on the desk next to me. It was dark out my window, a crescent moon shining in the distance. That darkness scared me, but knowing I didn’t have to face it alone made me feel just a little stronger. I pulled the blanket up tighter and went back to sleep.

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