A Better Family

Part 2 of Night's Longing

A man kneels on a stone floor, coughing blood. His face is a battleground of despair versus anger, and he clenches his fists in a futile gesture of resistance.

“If it helps, I’m sorry in my own way. I’d hoped to let you live, but I cannot do that if you will not play your role in this story.” A figure, cloaked in darkness, circles the dying man like a vulture.

“Damn you, Alucard. I should have known it was you. I see now it was always you. The count—” Another coughing fit interrupts him. “I won’t let you get away with this.”

“You are not in much of a position at all to ‘let’ me do anything, Morris.”

“I can still… curse with the best of them. Enough blood here for it, at least.” The man puts a red, dripping hand to his forehead and breathes a prayer. “By the bloodline of the Boltman clan, I curse you. We will wipe your progeny from the world. When you die, it will be at our hands. On my life, I swear it. In the name of my family I do hereby vow. We will be your end, Dracula.

In a flash of light, the man collapses. Somewhere far away, a child wakes up from a nightmare of his father dying, his face wet with tears.

I, on the other hand, wake up with a smile on my face. Get wrecked, old man. If I have to suffer your curse, at least I have the consolation prize of playing dream witness to your embarrassing last moments on your knees again and again. It’s a damn shame, I think, that one of my ancestors apparently was successful at killing Dracula at some point. Wasn’t enough to end the curse on my family, though. I guess we are supposed to kill every last vampire to fulfill the prophecy.

That won’t happen if I have any say in it. I am determined to be the last of my line.

“Wait, she’s awake again already?”

“What did I tell you? This girl is the best.”

I open my eyes, blinking through the haze and trying to reorient myself. It’s still night, and I’m lying across the laps of two beautiful women in a dimly lit booth. I only recognize one of them. “Hey, Vicky. Who’s your friend?”

“Not totally with it yet,” the stranger observes.

“Come on. You met Liz already, remember? My sister.”

“Right, the hot sister.” That rings a bell. I sit upright with Vicky’s aid and position myself comfortably between the two vampires. I’m still feeling a bit dizzy, and my limp neck struggles to prevent my head from lolling to the side. “Gonna have to get some calories and iron in me if you want to go again before morning.”

“Already got a big steak coming your way, Hanna. Extra rare, just how you like it.”

I can’t believe there’s a nightclub in this city that serves steak of all things. This place rules.

“Ooh, she does have good taste. Twice over, even.” Liz rewards my quality opinions with a kiss on the lips and a lustful squeeze of my boob. While she continues occupying my mouth, Vicky runs her hand up my thigh and takes a long, lingering lick from my collarbone to my jaw. The way they treat me like a premium cut of meat makes me shiver in anticipation of what’s to come later tonight.

I’m too distracted to notice when my own meal arrives until the smell reminds my stomach that I’m starving.

“Oops, looks like they thought that was for one of us,” Liz says.

No sides on the plate, just a fat fucking slab of barely seared beef swimming in blood—is that human blood?—in a presentation clearly intended for vampire clientele rather than a living human. This place must be damn fancy by vampire standards. Or maybe it’s just that full moon excess at work.

I’m drooling, too hungry to fret about the details. If Liz thinks a little blood is going to put me off my appetite, I’m happy to prove her wrong. I demolish the whole thing in record time, ripping chunks of flesh apart with my teeth and happily sipping the mixture of blood and beef juices until I clean the plate and give Liz a little wink in response to her shocked expression.

“And here I thought a place like this would have an aversion to stakes.

Vicky laughs uproariously. It’s a universal truth that no vampire can resist puns about themselves.

“I’ve never been so turned on in my life,” Liz says. “You’re telling me she’s really a—”

Vicky hisses an interruption. “Not here. Don’t yell at me about taking a stupid risk and then turn around and talk about it in public!”

I’ve inferred that if a certain someone in a position of authority were to learn about me being a vampire hunter in their midst, I’d be in real danger. I’m durable, but I’m not invincible, and besides, the last thing I want to do is to have to kill a bunch of vampires who think they’re just protecting themselves.

There must be a way to earn some measure of trust from the clan, show them that I’m not a danger, that I’m not like my hateful family.

“What if I found a way to prove myself?” I ask. “Make some big show of loyalty that can’t be ignored. It’s all well and good for me to repeatedly give myself to a couple of the hottest women I’ve ever met, but I don’t think anyone’s gonna believe that’s an act of altruism, per se.

Vicky nods, stroking my cheek with affection. “You’re a freak for sure, but that’s not quite enough on its own.”

“You could wipe out one of, uh… your kind’s cells,” Liz suggests. “One that’s been directly a problem for us. That would go a long way.”

My heart skips a beat at the suggestion. Wipe out. She means doing some straight-up murder. There’d be no coming back from that, but that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s what makes it a perfect test of loyalty. If I really want to make a difference, do some real good for the world, and spit on my family’s name in the process, here’s the perfect mission.

I lean back in the booth, turning my body to the side to face her directly. “Do you know of any specific one that would fit the bill?”

“It’s my job to know these things, my dear. Though I want to enjoy your company in full before I send you out on an obvious suicide mission. The cell I’m thinking of is run by a Boltman, which is a name that should strike fear into even your heart.” She squeezes my knee. “Of course, I wouldn’t blame you for changing your mind after hearing that.”

Vicky didn’t tell her, then. Or maybe she didn’t recognize the specific family affiliation identified by my tattoo. Not sure how to bring that up myself, so maybe I won’t just yet. Still, the name doesn’t change anything, really. It only helps me solidify my own feelings. I feel my face settling into an serious expression just shy of a scowl. “Quite the opposite.” My hand clenches into a fist. “I’m eager to take that family down most of all.”

There’s a difference between knowing of a hunter cell and knowing where to find it, of course, but I do have some advantages the vampires lack. I’m trained in several different hunter codes, naturally including the Boltman family’s.

Graffiti marks the location of safehouses, with special markings and modifications signaling how recently it was still believed to be uncompromised and whether other hunters are welcome. Some markings warn of nearby vampire dens with an estimated population count and risk level. Others hint at stashes nearby.

I meander the streets until I spot the first such sign: a stash. A false brick in an alleyway conceals some frozen sunlight and a silver chain. Smash one, pocket the other to pawn later, then keep looking. Where there’s one sign, more will be around the area.

The first safehouse I spot is unoccupied. Not too much of a surprise there; we keep plenty of redundant ones in case someone gets followed. Lucky break, though, someone has used it recently, and decoding the log book gives me clues about where to check next.

It takes only a few days to close in on the cell’s current location, and then no time at all to convince the guard to let me in. I know all the right words, and I flash them the tattoo that marks me as one of theirs. They have no reason to doubt me.

“Hey, Carlo!” The woman who lets me in shouts louder than I think reasonable. “This a cousin of yours or something?”

A shirtless man taking swings at the punching bag in another room stops what he’s doing, wipes the sweat off his face with a nearby towel, and approaches the two of us. He looks me up and down for a moment before responding.

“Not one I’ve met before.” He extends a hand. “Carlo Boltman.”

“Hanna.” I shake his hand. “Boltman too, that is.” I lift my shirt to show him my tattoo, a perfect match for his. I’m also dressed for the occasion in my hunter’s garb: strategically armored, belt full of essentials, and with knives and stakes strapped to me in easy to reach places. The leather gorget at my neck bears the seal of Clan Boltman, one repeated on my bracers and embossed on the back of my silver pendant.

“Hanna? Just like…?” Carlo turns and shouts toward another room. “Hey, Uncle Dan, come out here.”

Does everybody here feel the need to shout instead of walking over to—

“Well, well, well, the prodigal daughter returns to the fold. And here I thought you were content to steal from me and fuck off to a life of leisure.”

“Daniel. How good to see you well.” I keep my voice measured and composed, if icy, while addressing my father. I will not show him weakness. “I was unaware you considered it stealing to take the weapons and armor that were crafted for my measurements and with which I had grown accustomed during my training. I mistakenly assumed my father would bless his daughter with the tools she needs to strike out on her own and practice the family trade.”

He laughs. “Well, if you really have taken up the family trade in this godforsaken city, I may be willing to look past your transgressions. Tell me, how many vampires have you successfully hunted so far?”

“Five,” I reply without hesitation. “Two at once just a few days ago, in fact.” The smile of satisfaction I give him is even honest.

“Hmm.” He grunts. “Inadequate, but I do believe that’s within your capabilities. Be glad you didn’t try to lie to me.”

I almost pity Carlo, eyes darting back and forth at the two of us in our chilly confrontation. While it’s clear my father must have mentioned me before, it seems he wasn’t prepared for the truth of our strained relationship.

“I thought Carlo here would be the leader of this outfit, but I know you better than to assume you’d allow anyone else to call the shots when you’re around. So why don’t you tell me what you’re planning so that I can lend you my aid and we can part ways again?”

Daniel smirks. “No, this is my dear nephew’s mission. While I have graciously volunteered some input, I would never undermine the judgment of a fully trained and independent vampire hunter of our clan.”

We glare at each other for several silent seconds before I turn my gaze to my cousin. With a rueful grin, I say to Carlo, “I’m sorry about all this. You don’t deserve to be caught up in this kind of bickering. Would you brief me on what your group has planned?”

Carlo looks back toward my father, who gives a stern nod. “Well, first you need to know that we caught word Clan Sarthe is planning something big. ‘Resurrection of Dracula’ big, in fact.”

“You can’t ‘resurrect’ a vampire.”

My father snorts his disapproval with me. “Dracula is no run-of-the-mill vampire, girl. He’s the damn source of it all! And if you don’t want your job to get a whole lot harder, you won’t rest on your laurels hoping whatever ritual those bloodsuckers are planing is a dud.”

“Right,” Carlo continues. “We don’t want to take any chances. Which is why I called in a real veteran,” he gestures at Daniel, “and why we’re gearing up to hit the main hive.”

Leading me across the room, he unfurls an old-fashioned paper map of the city. That’s certainly my father’s influence; he is convinced all the tech companies are in the pocket of Big Vampire. I recognize a good number of the circled points on the map: several major dens I’m familiar with, including the Carmine. The circle he jabs at, however, is new to me.

“Warehouse district?”

“Right. The entrance is an unmarked building. We believe it leads to a network of tunnels that sprawls… well, we don’t know how far they go, but we’re pretty sure we can expose a lot of vamps to some surprise daylight with strategically placed explosives in the area.”

The plan is vile. The more he describes it, the gladder I become that I’m here to put a stop to this before they hurt any more innocents. I’m not even sure it would work, but a lot of vampires would die either way.

I nod thoughtfully and play my role, offering suggestions as though I intend to let them attempt this cruel scheme. I introduce myself to the other members of the cell, mostly ordinary people rather than true hunters. I don’t bother learning their names. The more time I spend around people like this, the more my own humanity disgusts me, the more apart I feel from all of them.

These people are not my real family. I know where I belong.

At night, most everyone falls asleep. The one exception, aside from me, is the guy keeping watch, just starting his night shift. The man doesn’t watch his back at all, and I quietly slip behind him and slit his throat.

It’s a nice safehouse, with enough rooms for everyone to have their own place to sleep even with six of us here. Better still, the walls are thick enough to muffle any brief struggle someone might offer, but I won’t need to rely on that as long as I hit them quickly and effectively. Fortunately, I am well trained in where and how to stab someone to prevent them from raising an alert.

Inside the first bedroom is the sweet girl who let me in. She sleeps on her back. I crush her windpipe, and in the same fluid motion I stab her through the heart. Her blood soaks the sheets without so much as a squeak of distress.

The second bedroom is where things go wrong. Carlo is awake, with someone going down on him. He’s too distracted to notice my entrance right away, but I don’t get far before he starts to yell.

My knife sails in a graceful arc from my hand into his eye socket. I dive forward, drawing another to stab through the sheets into the back of the nobody fellating my cousin. Carlo scrambles, losing blood, clearly in a panic, and I drive my second knife up through his diaphragm. Soon he too collapses.

That shout. There’s no way it didn’t wake Daniel up. After weighing my options, I choose to dash from the room yelling, “we’ve got company!”

Perhaps my father really is a sentimental old fool to the end. He bursts from his own room, armed with the famous family blade, and as I watch him scan the hallways holding that sword of his aloft, he shows no suspicion whatsoever toward me.

“How many, Hanna?”

“Two, I think. No idea how they got in.”

He swears under his breath, moving past me to peek into Carlo’s room, trusting me to watch his back. “Shit, Hanna. At least I’ve got you here. I never told you this, but—”

It’s all the opportunity I need to drive my dagger into his neck. I lever it back and forth to really shred his carotid artery and send his blood spraying like a fountain. Fuck that feels good. Oh, that really feels good.

On an impulse, I lean forward and catch the spray of blood in my mouth. It’s not like I draw strength from it like a proper vampire, but I’ve learned to love that salty, metallic flavor in my own way, and today it tastes like my freedom from this damn family of mine.

“Fuck you, dad.” I smear crimson victory across my face and laugh with sheer, manic joy. “I’d tell you to go to hell, but you always said that’s where all vampires go when they die for good.” I slice deeper, all but severing his head, then follow up by stabbing him again and again in each vital organ. Can never be too sure with a vampire hunter. “I’m sure, whenever I end up dying, that’s where I’m going too. And I’d rather not have you around while I’m spending my afterlife with everyone I ever loved.” I spit on his body. “If hell is my fate, then you can go to heaven or go to oblivion, but wherever the fuck you end up, go there without me.”

I grab my phone and text my family to let them know that there are some rapidly cooling bodies for them to enjoy if they’re feeling peckish. Also, I’ll appreciate their help taking some photos and videos to document my beautiful sins.