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by James M. Thompson
Description: For two hundred years, Roger Niemann never had to know the end that mortals face. But eternal existence comes with a price he cannot accept ... consuming human blood. Hiding in New Orleans under an assumed identity, he desperately searches for a way to cure his vampirism. Stalking the streets of New Orleans, a vicious serial killer dubbed "The Ripper" leaves his victims drained of blood. For Houston physician Matthew Carter, it is an all-too-familiar pattern--one that sends him racing to find Niemann. But he is not alone in his hunt.... There are those intent on using the powers of a vampire for their own evil ends--a vampire sick with disease and driven into a crazed killing frenzy that will not stop until his taken everyone he can--including the woman Matt loves.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: March 2003
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [375 KB]
Reading time: 250-350 min.
The body drifted deeper into the inky black waters of the Houston Ship Channel, arms and legs moving slowly in the sluggish current as if in a macabre underwater dance of death. Lights from searching ships passed close but never touched it as the grotesque shape settled slowly into the foul chemical-tainted mud of the channel's floor.
The skin and tissues on the edges of the nearly severed neck, pushed together by the body's position on the channel floor, slowly began to knit together. Microscopic cells, under the direction of the DNA-controlling plasmids coursing through the blood, began to migrate and reattach themselves while capillaries and blood vessels reformed and established new blood paths to supply the new tissue with life-giving sustenance.
As blood flowed into the brain, which had shut down under the onslaught of dozens of 9mm bullets, neural cells began to fire and discharge. Murky thoughts were generated, bringing to consciousness memories of the preceding few hours. Elijah Pike, born in the early 1800s, began to wake. Flashes of barely remembered scenes flickered into being, like images from an old kinescope film being played back.
Pike dimly remembered a group of men, dressed in black SWAT-team uniforms, daring to invade his lair in the dead of night, drifting through the full moon's shadows like ghosts as they boarded his ship.
His body jerked under the water at the recalled fury of this invasion, and his teeth gritted and gnashed at images of him slashing the interlopers with his claws and fangs, killing them and flinging their lifeless bodies aside like empty husks.
Dank water caressed his bloodless lips; they curled in a grin of satisfaction at the memory of the black man who was their leader and how his face contorted in agony and surprise when Pike ran him through with his katana, the Japanese long sword he'd had for over a hundred years.
Pike remembered standing over the last of the invaders, his blade pointed down at the man's heart, when he heard the voice of a friend scream, "No-o-o!"
As he slowly drifted toward the surface of the frigid water, Pike recalled hesitating and glancing at his friend and colleague, Matt Carter, who was walking through the rain toward him, arms outstretched.
"Roger, how much is your life worth?" Matt had shouted. "Just how much carnage can you endure just to go on living?"
Pike had lowered his sword and turned to lean on the rail of his ship, wondering the same thing. How much would I give to let go, let them kill me, and perhaps become human again, even if only in death? he'd thought.
The last thing he remembered was the sound of an automatic weapon as streams of bullets stitched across his back and neck, almost severing his head from his body before he tumbled over the rail and into the ship channel.
Pike came fully awake in the water, his body screaming for oxygen, his arms flailing and his legs kicking to drive him upward. As his face broke the surface, he gasped and grabbed a stanchion on the pier. Unmindful of the razor-sharp barnacles piercing his arms, he hung there in the water, rain still coursing down from darkened skies as he let his body finish its healing.
He floated, swaying on the current, immobile for four hours until the process was complete. The rain was lessening and the ships that had been searching for his body had long since given up and gone back to shore.
Elijah Pike, now fully alive, grabbed hold of the rotting, barnacle-encrusted timbers on the wharf and laboriously climbed to the top of the dock. The creature recalled that he was known as Roger Niemann, doctor of medicine, and was a member of the Vampyre race. He rolled onto his back on the damp concrete, coughed and choked as he inhaled dank, sulfurous air drifting inland from over the channel, and wondered not for the first time in his two hundred years if he should be glad to still be alive.
Niemann slowly looked around, checking to see if the area was clear of the numerous policemen who'd tried to kill him scant hours before.
The area seemed completely deserted, so, with a grunt of exertion and pain, Niemann rolled over onto his hands and knees, his head hanging down, still too fatigued from his ordeal to get to his feet.
He gingerly felt the still-ragged edges of his neck wound, his mind filled once again with wonder at the recuperative abilities of his Vampyre body.
After he caught his breath, still unable to stand, he scrabbled on hands and knees across the wharf until he was in the shadows of the warehouses across the street.
Keeping his back to the wall, ever watchful for guards or policemen who might have remained on the scene, he moved toward his own warehouse fifty yards away.
As he inched his way through the darkness, he glanced back across the street. His converted freighter, the Night Runner, was still moored there, seemingly deserted, festooned with yellow crimescene tape as if decorated for some obscene celebration.
When he got to the door of his warehouse, he found it heavily bolted and chained, with more of the yellow tape stretched across it. Thankfully, the police must have thought him dead, for there was no guard left to prevent his access.
Grunting, he grabbed the padlock in his right hand and twisted. The tortured metal screamed as it parted under the force of his grip, and he sucked in his breath, worried the sound might bring unwanted visitors to his former lair.
The night remained silent except for the throaty gurgle of the ship channel, the creaking and groaning of his nearby ship as it shifted slightly on the current, and the mournful cry of a distant foghorn.
Niemann opened the door and slipped inside, his eyes seeing clearly in the almost total darkness of what had once been his only refuge.
He moved silently down the corridor, stopping once to look at the chalked outlines of the bodies he'd left behind during the final assault on his domain by the police.
He felt a momentary disgust at what he'd done, but it soon passed as he did a quick inventory and found that most of his precious possessions, acquired over two centuries of living as a Vampyre, remained untouched.
Weak from his rejuvenation, he needed to feed, but there was no time. Moving as quickly as he could manage, he gathered as many of his things as he could and began to move them across the street onto his ship.
Dawn was only a couple of hours away and he planned to be at sea before the sun came up. He needed to put as much distance as he could between Houston and himself before the authorities discovered that his ship and possessions were gone.
He chuckled to himself as he carried another load up the gangplank. "The fools will never believe I survived," he whispered aloud, a habit he'd acquired after many years of solitary existence. "They'll just put it down to common thievery along the docks, a not unusual occurrence in this area of high crime."
Soon he had everything he needed, including his hoard of gold and jewels and cash he would need to set up a new life somewhere else, where the Normals still didn't believe in the existence of his race. After disengaging the Night Runner from the dock, he stood at the helm as he eased it down the channel toward the Gulf of Mexico and freedom. Once on the open sea, he would paint over the name and change it to something else to avoid detection by the Coast Guard once the alarm was raised.
He took a deep breath of the salty sea breeze and smiled at the cloud-covered moon, wondering what new adventures awaited him on his journey.
Copyright © 2002 by James M. Thompson