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Chapter 8

Sarah sat up as they approached the area of Gravesville. She hadnít felt the strong tug of sleep that she normally felt each time she came here and was grateful that the spell seemed to be working. Harlan pulled into the Briar Patch parking lot and shut off the engine. Wayne gave him an annoyed look and Harlan turned the key, then reversed and back into another spot. He left the motor running.

Sarah and Wayne both exited the car. She looked at him as he positioned himself by the door. The moon was high and the old man was nowhere to be found.

"Iíll just be a moment," she said reassuringly. She had lost none of the peaceful glow she gained almost two nights ago.

She walked into the store and the attractive girl behind the counter greeted her cheerily. Sarah acted quickly, leaping to the girl before she had a chance to trip the silent alarm. She slammed her, face down, across the counter. She then nodded for Wayne to come in.

He entered, nonchalantly, and walked over to the counter. Sarah looked at him and said, "Silent alarm."

He leaned over and began to trace the wires. Finally he found their origin, a box just outside of the store that tapped directly into the phone line. While Sarah duct taped the girl, Wayne and Harlan set about setting up a tag to find where the silent alarm went. Once their equipment was set up and the Hummer well hidden, Sarah and Harlan inspected the coolers while Wayne kept a close watch on the road from the store. He had given the girl a shot of sodium amytol and waited for it to take effect.

Sarah and Harlan brought in two huge mechanicís lights and used these to illuminate the walls. They looked the same, only now Sarah could tell what color they actually were.

"Blood," Harlan said as a slight shiver ran down his spine. "Theyíre stained black from blood."

"Smells vampiric," she added and took a deeper breath, "and werewolf. Very little human blood."

"Yeah." Harlan pulled out his flashlight and shined it on the floor. "Looks like after you left they sealed the floor."

"Not a good sign," she said as she used a rake handle to tap on the floor. "Itís solid. That means they have a leaning curve."

"We could always try to find the caves," he offered.

She shook her head. "I donít know where they are from here."

He jerked his head to the side. "Iíll bet she does."

"Well," Sarah said as gathered up the lights. "Weíll ask her, but first we need to get rid of the three big ones. The others will be confused without their leadership and might be easier to defeat."

"Might be?" Harlan asked as he drew up the cords.

"There are no absolutes in life, Harlan." Sarah headed back out front.

Wayne stood motionless behind the counter. His full attention was directed outside, however, he could easily watch the girl out of the corner of his eye. He shifted slightly when they joined him.

Sarah pulled three vials of blood from her pocket. She handed each man one. They looked at her confused. She smiled and said, "Elijah gave me these. Itís werewolf blood. His. He thought we might need a jolt of strength."

The three friends looked at each other and raised the vials in a toast. "Hereís to me, hereís to you, fuck the rest." They said in unison then downed the sweet liquid.

"Harlan, make the call," she said flatly as the blood took effect, "Wayne, youíre with me."

They sat on the Hummer and waited. Presently the old truck with the rusted grill slowly approached the parking lot. It hesitated, for a moment, at the entrance, as if rethinking its action. Then it lulled forward and eased into a spot two places down from where Sarah and Wayne sat.

As the three hillbillies jumped out of the car, Sarah and Wayne nodded to each other and slid off the hood. Harlan came out from inside the store with the girl flung over a shoulder. Sarah and Wayne engaged the hillbillies in conversation while Harlan loaded the girl into the back and slid into the driverís seat. He pulled the Hummer forward and out of the lot. He pulled across the street and waited with the engine running.

The three hillbillies were confused by this action. One moved to intercept Harlan until Sarah picked him up and threw him into the back of the truck. Rust particles danced along the ground at the moment of impact. She then looked at the largest of the three and said, in disgust, "You should really take better care of a vehicle. Especially when the ownerís coming back for it."

He smiled his menacing, toothless grin and was about to reply when Sarah punched him full force in the face. Wayne knee-capped the other and, with a raised eyebrow to Sarah, both ran into the store. The three predators readily followed their prey into the trap. As they entered, the leader was struck in the chest with the sharpened end of the rake handle. Unfortunately it missed his heart by a quarter of an inch.

Sarah narrowly dodged the butcherís knife. Suddenly she was overcome with anger as she realized he was trying to stab her with her old bowie knife. She plowed into him head-on and tackled him into the backroom.

Wayne, on the other hand, was exchanging blows with the leader while he tried avoiding the claws of the impaled vampire. Finally he caught hold of the rake handle and swung the speared bloodsucker out the window. Harlan had walked across the road to see how the fight was going. He saw the fiend staggering around and went up to a pump and took the hose off the rest. He flipped the switch and pressed the trigger. Nothing happened.

Suddenly he remembered the main valve was inside. As he fired a few defending shots at the monster, he yelled, "Wayne, if you got a minute."

Wayne heard the annoying beeping come on as he was catapulted behind the counter. He looked up and tried to discern which light was flashing. He reached up to flip it when rough hands grabbed him and raised him to his feet. He reached around, grabbed the arms they were attached to, and flipped the leader onto the service pump panel. All of the valves were flipped opened.

Suddenly the hose in Harlanís hand sprang to life. He directed the fluid onto the oncoming vampire, then backed off quickly, making sure to set the hose back on the rest. Harlan then lured the hulking brute a safe distance away from the pumps before lighting a match and throwing it onto his chest. The vampire went up like a rocket, flames spreading wildly and quickly all over his body. In a matter of seconds, after flailing this way and that, he was reduced to a pile of dust.

Wayne dragged the leader off the panel and slammed him through the meat case. The leader head butted Wayne in the nose, but he only tightened his grip, yanked his foe up and slammed him down even harder. He then drew the leader to his feet, lined him up with some wire racks holding various hygiene products and ran him through.

The leader twitched a few times and became ashen pale, but showed no signs of being destroyed. After watching this for a minute, Wayne pulled out his pistol and fired one of Sarahís special rounds into the fiendís head. The effect was instantaneous. The leaderís brains were spattered over the back wall for a second then turned in that famous spaghetti-dust effect. The body crumbled just after.

Wayne put a cigarette in his lips and lit it as he walked over and shut off the pumps. Harlan was already back in the Hummer. A little pile of dust under the streetlight marked his handy work. Wayne pulled a small dustbuster out of his saddlebags and vacuumed up the remains of his foe. He placed them in a baggie.

Sarah never gave the butcher a chance to make contact. He repeatedly swung at her and, repeatedly sheíd dodge, get in one good blow, then move out of the way. Finally she just stood in place and waited to be charged. He obliged, but, at the last minute, she moved and he dove headfirst into the sink. For a moment he just wondered why there was water in the sink. Then it started to burn. He tried to jerk his head out of the water, but it was too late. She held his head under the surface as his skin, tissue, and, finally, bone, bubbled and peeled away. As she stood there, waiting for him to expire, she said, "You didnít expect this did you? For us to attack you like hunters instead of vampires. Well, thatís why we did it."

"Whatís that?" She leaned in as if he were actually saying something as he decayed to dust in her hands. "Why isnít the holy water bothering me? Silly, I believe in God and that renders me unaffected by the holy water since I am using it against you as a weapon. Well, it wouldnít work anyway. See, I didnít know about that particular myth before I was turned. Apparently you did."

Wayne opened the door to the back room when he was sure all of the thrashing was done. She looked up at him as she finished blessing the ashes and asked, "Got a dustbuster?"

Once she collected his remains, they headed out, careful not to leave any equipment behind. They stopped to collect the dust Harlan had left under the streetlight and, when all of them were comfortably seated, Harlan looked at her and said, "Now?"

She nodded and with great joy he pulled out his detonation box and hit the switch. Then he peeled down the road. Behind them the store went up like a Roman candle. They sped down the road toward Gravesville. Harlan had had a talk with the girl and now knew the definite location of the entrance of the mines.

They stood at the entrance of the mines and played rock-paper-scissors. Wayne lost. Sarah looked at him sympathetically. "I know you wanted to go in, but I promise you can take out the stragglers any way you want to."

Wayne shook his head and took up his post. Sarah and Harlan each took hold of the girl and entered the mine. Harlan uncapped a can of glow in the dark paint and began spraying it on the walls. As he ran out, he dropped the empty and fluidly pulled out a fresh one. They were three cans in when they came across three of the goons sleeping.

Sarah walked on ahead and scoped out the area. There was a little niche off to the side of the main tunnel. She nodded to Harlan, who drew out a machete and hacked off the goonsí heads. While each reacted in sleep, none woke. They had not fed in days.

Outside, Wayne heard footsteps approach. He slipped into the shadows and watched two goons approach. One of them carried a small cub with him. Wayne took out a crossbow and loaded it with a silver tipped bolt. He took careful aim and nailed the goon on the right. He dropped the cub as he dusted.

Wayne decided to stake the other goon up close and personal. He walked through the shadows and stepped out just in front of the goon. To his surprise, she swiped at him and made contact, ripping through his kevlar duster and hitting flesh. Wayne reeled. The wound fizzled and festered instantly. He brought up the silver stake and slammed it into her chest. With a final blow, she sent him skyward and onto the ground some fifteen feet away. It was not until Wayne recounted the encounter to Sarah that he recalled seeing fresh blood stained around the goonís lips. He held his arm tightly, as the skin burned shut.

Harlan finished his work, careful not to leave a speck of dust behind. Sarah walked up and took the machete from him. She produced another vial from her pocket. Harlan looked at her in amazement and asked, "Just how many of those things did Elijah give you?"

"This isnít from Elijah," she stated pointedly, "this is my blood. I had the monk bless it specially."

"What on earth for?" Harlan asked.

"In case one of use was hurt," Sarah explained. "I canít tell you how I know, but Wayneís been clawed. Much like a human bit by a snake, these things carry poison in them. The poison will cause him to turn if we donít act quickly. Go back up and give this to him. Iíll follow you shortly. I have another piece of business to attend to."

"The old man," Harlan said.

"Yes," she responded, "Now go."

"How will you get . . . "

"Go!"

At this last barked order, Harlan ran. As he burst through the mine entrance he found Wayne writhing on the ground. Spit foamed from his mouth and Harlan wondered if he was too late. He opened the vial and after a vicious tug-of-war in which he sustained a sprained wrist, Harlan managed to force the blood down Wayneís throat. Slowly, Wayne calmed down and presently went back to his normal, charming self. Harlan smiled.

Then Wayne drew his gun and, momentarily, Harlan thought the blood had had no effect. A shot rang out and Harlan heard something behind him drop to the ground. It was the girl. She followed him to the surface and tried to stake him in the back.

Harlan looked down at Wayne and said, "Thanks."

"Youíre welcome," he looked around. "Whereís Sarah?"

"Off to kill the old man."

Sarah rounded a corner and noticed a small alcove lit up with candles. As she got closer, she realized it was a little sanctuary. A simple wooden cross hung on the wall and there was a small altar covered with a wreath of flowers. The old man knelt before it. He spoke first.

"Iíve been waiting for you to come back for close to fifty years." He moved his head slightly so he could see her.

"I know." This was the only answer she could give him.

"It was my idea to go to that village." He responded. "My idea about attacking those people."

He looked at the cross. "You see, I never intended for them to eat those people. They just seemed so set against stealing. Like somehow killing for your food was more honorable. I was hopiní that, put into perspective, stealing wouldnít be so bad. I was so wrong."

"I have come to do my duty," Sarah said gently.

He nodded and turned to her. "I am prepared."

"Do you want last rites?"

"Not Catholic."

He knelt before her and waited for the fatal blow. She hesitated. He looked up and said, "I donít want to go on like this any more."

She smiled a small, sad smile of understanding and raised the machete. He bowed his head again and with a single swipe she decapitated him. She looked at his head and prayed, "May God have mercy on your soul."

(Copyright 2002 Gina M. Wood - Random Quote Productions)

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