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by Patrick Welch
Description: Vampire detective novel. When he is wrongly suspected of murdering a co-worker, Addison Thorne soon realizes he must help the police find the real killer even if they don't want his help. But he is also a member of The Kind, a society of vampires who value their secrecy above any other consideration ...including proving his innocence. Thorne soon discovers he is not only in conflict with the police, but with The Kind as well. And they will use any means necessary to force him to obey their commands.
eBook Publisher: Twilight Times Books, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: March 2006
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [311 KB]
Reading time: 207-291 min.
"I really liked this book. Thorne is a complex character and not at all the stereotypical vampire who goes around killing just for bloodlust. He sought justice and showed compassion to those who deserved it. His relationship with Bambi was both funny and poignant. In the end, he protected her and even put his own life on the line for her ... I'd like to see a Thorne II book at some point."--Carol Guy
Addison Thorne stood outside the unimposing apartment building and looked up. Lights were on in the corner apartment on the fourth floor, which meant Carl Foster was home and still awake. Thorne knew Foster was home in any event, but it was better he didn't have to wake the man.
He walked up the short flight of steps and entered the complex. It lacked a security system, which was a minor relief, but not insurmountable even if one existed. If necessary, he could have climbed up the side of the building. No one was in the hallway this late in the evening, although the drone of late night television seeped through several doors as he walked down the hall, then up more stairs. Thorne wasn't concerned about waking curious neighbors, but it was best no one see him arrive and leave.
The halls on the fourth floor were empty as well. Thorne walked to the door at the end on the right, knocked softly and whispered, "Foster."
No one in the neighboring apartments could hear him, but Foster would. He had no choice. Thorne heard the volume from the television dim, then approaching footsteps. "Yes?" Foster asked as he opened the door.
Even though Foster outweighed him by over one hundred pounds, Thorne pushed him back with one finger, then closed and locked the door behind him. "You alone?"
The accountant's eyes grew large as he nodded.
"Good." Thorne began removing his coat as he followed Foster into the other room. Thorne noted with some satisfaction that nothing significant had changed since he had used Foster some eight months previous. A slight layer of dust on the bookcase, several men's magazines strewn on the floor, a jacket tossed over a chair; the accountant clearly still did not enjoy a permanent relationship with a woman. Which, for his purposes, was just as well. He also noted the overflowing ashtray in the table near the television and frowned. "So you're smoking again. I asked you to quit."
Foster tried to smile but then gave up and sat limply on the couch.
"Have you been drinking?" Thorne asked as he began to remove his shirt.
"No. Well, a glass of wine with supper."
Thorne paused at the button on his right cuff. "When?"
"Good." Anything in Foster's system could affect Thorne. It was one reason why he chose his herd so carefully. Thorne removed the shirt and draped it over a nearby chair so he wouldn't get Foster's blood on it, then turned. "Take off your shirt."
Foster's chubby fingers struggled with the buttons. This could take all night, Thorne thought, so, sighing, he knelt in front of Foster and finished the job. In the flickering light from the television, Foster's skin looked unnaturally pale. "You should exercise more," Thorne said, poking him in the stomach with a forefinger.
"Yes," Foster whispered. Already he was leaning back, his eyes closed and head to the side to provide easier access.
"You will remember nothing of this. The wound will be from..." Thorne paused. "You helped a neighbor get her cat out of a tree. The animal jumped on you and bit you before you could grab it. Call in sick tomorrow; you'll need your rest."
Only then did Thorne will his fangs to emerge, then bent forward and bit into Foster's right shoulder. Almost immediately he tasted the sharp tang of the accountant's blood. Foster had told him the truth about the wine, he realized--not that the accountant had any other choice. Only the slightest remnant of alcohol remained. Thorne and his breed were extremely susceptible to drugs, legal or not, if they were in their contributor's bloodstream. And Thorne still had too many things to do this night to be battling the effects of alcohol as well.
Thorne allowed himself to feed for five minutes, then reluctantly stepped back. The blood seeping out was already clotting, but scabs could come loose, causing potential problems, so Thorne went to Foster's small bathroom and returned with sterile gauze and tape. Within minutes he had dressed the wound, then put Foster's shirt back on him. He then stepped back and nodded, satisfied. Foster was asleep and would remain so until morning. He would be weak for several days from the loss of blood, of course, but he would recover naturally and never remember Thorne or his visit ... until the next time Thorne needed him.
Thorne dressed quickly, turned off the television and the lights, then left, locking the front door behind him. Within minutes he was back in his Civic and driving away. He still had to go to work. * * * *
Mark Paar, night manager of the copy center, pointed at his watch. "You're twenty minutes late."
Thorne paused at the time clock, card in hand, then nodded and tried to appear abashed. "Car trouble."
"No excuses. I can't afford to pay overtime so someone can cover your shift. I'm docking you an hour's pay. Now get to work." With that he stalked back to his office.
Thorne merely shrugged as he made his way to the service desk. It was past two in the morning, yet the copy center was still busy. It was located near the university and enjoyed a steady stream of students, faculty and the occasional businessman both day and night.
Susan Myer, the person he was replacing, greeted him with a snarl. "About time, Addie. I still have my finals to study for."
"Sorry," he mumbled. "Car trouble."
"If I get screwed on my biology test, I'm talking it out of your ass."
"Good luck," he said to her retreating back. Then he looked at the stack of orders in the "In Box" and sighed. He didn't need this job, not for the money at least. His assets, amassed over decades, were safely ensconced in anonymous offshore accounts. He could live anywhere he wanted, do about anything he wanted.
But over the centuries The Kind had learned, often painfully, that anonymity was the best defense against their enemies. As a member of the group, Thorne was both obligated and willing to follow their rules. The Kind did not kill indiscriminately. They did not slay their prey. Instead, as he had with Foster, they developed a herd and protected it so they would always have a supply of dependable contributors.
This particular job suited his needs perfectly, working part-time and only at night, earning enough to pay the rent for his room at the boarding house and keeping the IRS happy, or at least not curious. He couldn't feel any anger toward Paar at all for chastising him.
"Hey, old man. Wake up and get to work." And someone rapped loudly on his desk.
Thorne looked up and saw a grinning Bambi Gorman standing in front of him. "What?"
"Need this ASAP." She handed him a stack of papers. "Punched and collated. one hundred copies."
He pointed at his desk. "I have my own work to do."
"Now you have more. And stop staring at my boobs."
"Yeah, right." With that she spun around and flounced away.
Thorne shook his head as she left. She always called him "old man." Which was fair enough, he figured, since he was the only night employee who wasn't a college student. Even the night manager was working on his masters.
The scent of cinnamon from her perfume still lingered from her visit and he sniffed with appreciation. Then he watched though half-closed eyes as she returned to her own area. Her tight blue blouse and short black skirt set off her blond hair nicely. She did have nice legs and a substantial rack, he had to admit. He found her amusing to observe, so proud of her sexuality and eager to flaunt it at every opportunity. Like many of her female co-workers, actually. In another time and another place, he would have quickly proven to her just what an "old man" could do. But that was before he had become one of The Kind. Now she and her flirtations were at best a minor annoyance. Her present, however, was not, and he grimaced as he looked down at the report he now had to finish along with his other work.
He couldn't object to doing Gorman's work, however. She spent the evening doing computer graphics, file formatting and so forth, tasks considered by management more important--and profitable--than his job. Thorne steadfastly refused to learn the computer beyond what was absolutely necessary. Running the copy machine, comb binder and related equipment required little more than loading and punching in numbers. Several times Paar had berated him for not becoming skilled with the other equipment. "Where do you want to go with this job?" he had asked Thorne one night. "You've been here four months. What are your ambitions?" "Just to have a job, he had replied. Paar's own drive to succeed made it impossible for him to understand Thorne's apparent lack of same and finally he had dismissed Thorne with a shake of his head and never raised the subject again.
"One hundred copies," Thorne muttered as he loaded the copier. This promised to be a long, tiring night. * * * *
He walked away, satisfied. This path ran through a small grove of trees to the campus and dorms beyond. The lights from passing cars on the street beyond, or the school itself, barely penetrated the darkness. For three hours he had crouched in the undergrowth as students and the infrequent security person passed unaware and unafraid.
He could have struck tonight and surely succeeded, but this trip had been for reconnaissance only. Later in the week, he promised himself. An overcast night, preferably a rainy night, one that would discourage casual excursions or the more eager security guards.
When he reached the edge of the trees, he paused to remove the plastic bags he wore over his boots. No casual passer-by would notice his gloves, but the bags, worn to disguise his footprints, could arouse curiosity. Then he walked casually to his car, even nodding to a passing security guard on his way. This is going to work, he congratulated himself as he drove away, gratefully pulling on a cigarette as he did so. Soon he would take the first step in his transformation. * * * *
Thorne sighed as he collapsed on his bed. A long night of battling recalcitrant equipment and the computer, which he still had difficulties using, meant he had gotten to the rooming house just before dawn. Not that sunlight would have caused major problems, but he still avoided it whenever possible. It would have been embarrassing at best to explain to his co-workers why he was daubing on sun block in the middle of October.
He heard a door open, then mumbled grunts as one of the other boarders made his way to the bathroom, presumably preparing for his own job. Thorne didn't have to live here; he could easily afford his own apartment or condo. But he had to be light on his feet as he never knew when he would have to leave, either because of The Kind or even his own carelessness. Everyone who lived in this building was as transient as he and more than eager to keep to himself. Thorne had been here five months and knew the names of none of his neighbors, hadn't even seen a few of them. More than one, he was certain, was a drug user or criminal. Even in his room, the faint residue of marijuana lingered, courtesy of the previous boarder.
As he waited for the classical music channel to put him to sleep, he thought about some of the myths about his kind and suppressed a chuckle. Sleeping in a coffin might indeed protect him from sunlight, but heavy curtains pulled tight were adequate, especially since he wasn't that sensitive to the light. Granted, a stake driven through the heart was an effective deterrent against vampires, but, again, it was effective against any living creature. Garlic, mirrors, holy water? Only fables. He often enjoyed reading the fanciful tales about his breed just for the amusing irony. But that was the purpose of The Kind. Do not call attention to yourself or us: that was their main rule. They can't hunt us if they don't know we exist, they had explained to him. That was an argument Thorne was completely willing to accept.
The persistent ringing of his phone roused him from sleep. He frowned as he reached for it. The number was unlisted and only two people knew it. Then he glanced at the clock. It wasn't yet ten, so he had only gotten a few hours of rest. I hope this is from work. "Thorne," he mumbled in the receiver.
"This is Flanagan. Meet me tonight. We've finally found him."
Thorne groaned as he hung up. The call meant he was going to have to kill someone.