Friday, January 1, 2016

City Limits

Chapter 7

She was hidden in the shadows when she first spied the pair. Unlike the graceful vampire she'd seen at the club, these two were hunched over and lumbered across the street toward the park. One of them snarled, bearing his fangs, at a passing cab causing the driver to speed away in fright. In response, the other lunged toward his partner and they scuffled in the middle of the road for a few seconds before stopping abruptly. They straightened up and sniffed at the air before grinning maniacally at each other. Like the other nights, they'd caught the scent of their prey and shifted immediately into the hunt.

Lex could only pray it wasn't her scent.

To her surprise, they didn't come her way. In fact, they let a half dozen people walk past them without so much as a growl. And yet their eyes roamed the city park constantly. They WERE hunting, only tonight they were looking for someone in particular. They straightened up as he entered the park; his suit was slightly rumbled and his hair stuck up in a few areas like he'd dragged his fingers through it by way of a comb. As if knowing better, any other wayward pedestrians disappeared – choosing other paths home than the park tonight – but the rumpled man was too distracted to pick up the hint of danger. The pair of vampires closed in on their unsuspecting target, following him for only a moment before letting out a guttural snarl.

The suit jumped, his eyes wide, and spun around toward the sound. He stumbled backwards, trying to flee, but they were too quick – supernaturally so. The white haired vamp circled him, bearing his fangs twice just to see his dinner jump around. Though Lex could see the suit's lips moving, she couldn't make out his words. She eased out of the shadows, hoping they wouldn't spot her, and began inching forward toward the trio.

She was still twenty feet away when the attack began in earnest and she had no weapon and no plan. Still, she couldn't stand by and watch the man get killed by them. She lunged forward, sprinting into the fray and throwing herself between the fangs and their victim. “Leave him alone!” she shouted, sparing the suit a brief glance as he stumbled backwards and fell to the ground. He had a bloody wound on his neck – courtesy of their teeth no doubt.

“Back off missy,” Dreads growled, crouching into an attack stance. “You don't want no part of this,” he warned.

“No part,” Whitey parroted, a twisted grin on his face. “Don't want no part.”

“Maybe I don't, but here I am,” Lex said, steeling her nerves as her hands started to tremble. What the hell was she doing? “And I said, leave him alone!”

Dreads narrowed his eyes and sniffed the air, “what are you? You ain't our kind...”

“Ain't our kind, no no...” Whitey said, shaking his head repeatedly. Behind her, the man in the suit groaned and Whitey licked his lips again, still anticipating dinner.

“You're right about that,” Lex said, her lip curling in disgust. “I don't want trouble but I've seen what your kind does and you're not doing it to this man.”

Dreads threw back his head and laughed, “and you're gonna stop us? I don't think so. See, we got orders – that man there has been marked.”

“Marked,” Whitey said, giggling as if he'd heard a joke. “Can't we just kill 'er and be done? I'm hungry,” the vampire whined to his companion.

Dreads seemed ready to agree, his whole body tensing for the assault, but at the last minute he jerked up and looked away from them. Whitey's eyes glazed over as well. Lex took a slow step back, not taking her eyes from the vampires for a second. After a moment, they twisted away in rage and raced out of the park. “What the...?” Eyes glued to their blurred forms, she moved backwards toward where the suit had fallen. Only when she was beside him did she look away from where the vampires had been a minute before.

One of his hands was covered in his own blood – probably from clutching his own wound – but it had fallen away from the bite marks as unconsciousness had taken him. She could see his chest rising and falling, a good sign, and let out a sigh of relief. “Okay what?” she muttered, looking around the barren park for an ally. She ripped a strip of cloth from his blood stained shirt, apologizing as she did so and tied it as tight as she dared around his neck.

It took three fruitless attempts before she got a cabbie to pull over for her and it took all the money in her wallet and the victim's to convince the driver to help. “Now, you drive him to Saint Aegis's,” she instructed, closing the door carefully after situating his feet.

“No, no – you come too,” the driver insisted in stilted English, pointing adamantly toward the doors. “In! In!”

Lex shook her head and backed away from the cab quickly. “I can't,” she insisted. “I have to wait for the police,” she lied. It would take hours for emergency services to respond to any call in this part of the city (or more since she hadn't called them) and she had no intention of being around if or when they showed up. “Go! He's going to bleed to death!” Reluctantly, the cabbie pulled away from the curb and disappeared around the corner.

Lex went the other way – putting as much distance as she could between herself and the park. She was violently rubbing at the dried blood on her palms as the elevator slowly rose toward her apartment a dozen blocks away.


His eyes shifted toward her as she entered the apartment. Hidden in the darkness, she didn't observe him, even as she passed within a few feet of him. He caught a whiff of the blood and snarled. He felt the change tingling in his fingers and slipped further back into the shadows as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom.

By the time she descended, the beast inside him was salivating for a taste and his whole body was on edge, ready to strike. Unable the wait any longer, he sprang from his hiding place and released a guttural growl.

Lex spun around, immediately raising her arms in defense as she did so. “Who are you?” she demanded, slowly backing away from him. His face began contorting in front of her eyes! The bones beneath the flesh seemed to shift as he stalked closer, his glowing eyes tracking her minute movements. “Wh- What are you?' she asked, stumbling back a few steps. As fur grew from every visible part of his body, Lex looked toward the doors – plotting an exit. She didn't have the time to execute one before a full grown, angry looking wolf stood in her apartment. “Oh you have got to kidding me!” Lex shouted. Mere feet away from her, the wolf cocked his head to the side in confusion. In spite of the looming threat, Lex barked out a laugh before scrambling backwards toward the front door.

The wolf sprang forward, dragging her toward the ground with his claws. As the claws pierced through her clothes and dug into her skin, Lex cried out and attempted to twist away from her attacker. For every centimeter she gained, he yanked her back several more until she was pinned down in the middle of her living room far from the door. His muzzle came closer, saliva dripping down as he loomed over her. For a second, a dangerously long second, Lex was mesmerized by the wolf’s rich golden eyes.

She didn’t hear the door open or the approach of the stranger but the wolf did. He twisted toward the sound and snarled at the newcomer. Lex silently prayed for both for salvation and that none of her poor human neighbors had stumbled into their deaths. Without warning, the wolf leapt off of her, his sharp claws tearing at her flesh as he sprang away and rounded on the man standing at the door leading to the balcony. Even as she attempted the drag herself away, she wondered how he’d gotten in.

Propping herself against the couch, Lex took a moment to survey her wounds. Her thin, cotton lounge pants had done little to protect her against the claws and were shredded at the thighs. She ripped the remnants of the legs free and wrapped them around the punctures left in her legs. She didn’t take the time to consider cleaning the wounds or even examine the severity before binding them to stem the blood flow. She almost managed to block out the ensuing battle between the wolf and her rescuer until they careened into her TV, bringing it down with a loud crash.

Lex looked up in time to see the man slice into the wolf’s abdomen with a sharp, curved blade. The animal let out a guttural howl and stumbled backward several steps. Blood seeped from the wound, pooling on her living room rug. With a growl, the wolf bolted out the back door and circled the balcony twice before jumping the railing. Lex stared, in horror, at the edge of the balcony as if expecting the wolf to return. When he didn’t, she swung her attention toward the stranger. “What the hell?”

“Hell’s got nothing to do with it,” he muttered, leaning heavily against the wall as he caught his breath. “Name’s Hunter by the way.”

“Hunter?” Lex smirked, “that what your parents named you or did you take a name to mirror your work?”

He raised his eyebrows but made no response. “Can you walk?” he asked, motioning toward her legs with his bloody knife. “I’ve been tracking that thing for weeks – he’s been on your trail specifically and he’ll be back.”

“Back?!” Lex used the couch to get to her feet and slowly let go. Pain coursed through her legs as she stood without support but she didn’t fall. She limped onto the balcony and peered over the railing incredulously. "I'm on the thirteenth floor – how the hell could he come back?!”

Hunter followed her onto the balcony and lifted his nose to the sky, inhaling deeply. After several breaths, he turned toward the docks and peered into the darkness. A few blocks away, a man clutched his side and staggered east. “He’ll be back,” Hunter repeated. “You should get away from here. I’ll try to track him down while he’s healing, give you time to get away…” Lex stared at him, struggling to process his words. “You’re still here,” Hunter said simply, turning his gaze on Lex. “Werewolves don’t give up their prey easily, he’s hunting you for whatever reason.”

“Werewolves. Hunting….” Lex wanted to be shocked by this new revelation but it didn’t surprise her. After all, if vampires existed, why shouldn’t there be werewolves too? Without another word, Lex leaned over the railing and retched. For a moment, she felt sorry for the people below her but it passed quickly. She stumbled away, limping back into her apartment. When she turned back toward the balcony, Hunter had vanished.

It took her several minutes to climb the stairs to her bedroom, pulling herself up via the railing. In the bathroom, she carefully washed the wounds on her legs and dug out her first aid kit. On closer inspection, the wounds weren’t as bad as she’d been expecting. In fact, the shallower ones almost appeared to be healing already – which was crazy of course! After drying her legs, she dabbed antibiotic ointment on each spot before covering them with gauze. She used up almost all the bigger pads and shoved the rest of the kit, mostly small band-aids and creams, into her duffle bag. Though she worried about the jeans rubbing against the claw marks as she ran, she couldn’t flee in tattered pajama pants.

Bandaged and packed, Lex dug to the back of her nightstand drawer and pulled out the hunting knife Alan had given her when she turned sixteen. Fingering the blade, she felt it prick at her skin and then sheathed the knife. She glanced around the room, gnawing on her lip as she considering what else she needed. She sighed and pulled out her cell phone, it was late – after one in the morning – but she punched in Link’s number anyway and waited through five rings before it went to voicemail. “Hey, this is Link. I can’t answer the phone right now obviously, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

“Hey Link, it’s Lex… look, I’m getting out of town for a few days. I’ll check in when I get back. Tell Alan… Dad…. That I should be back for his birthday,” Lex said. “On that note – I’ll pitch in for the party or whatever. Just let me know my portion. Love to you and Jenny.”

End Chapter

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