What follows are the first ten pages of the third (and for now final) book in my Blood Calling series. It'll be available soon. In the meantime, you can pick up the first two books on
or nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/joshua-grover-david-patterson
Please note: This slice of book three will spoil some surprises in book 1 and 2. You might want to go read those first...
My dad was a full-on science fiction and fantasy geek.
Or rather, he still is. He’s still alive, after all.
Which is in direct contrast to me. I might be walking, and talking, and running away from mortal danger nearly all the time these days, but I’m still technically dead.
When I was a kid, my father constantly was trying to turn me into his little geeklet. As soon as he figured I was old enough, he started handing me books with rockets and unicorns tinkling on trees on the covers. He began pulling out DVDs and VHS tapes of so-called classic sci-fi, which featured modern (when they were made, anyway) moral dilemmas moved to the distant future.
There’s probably some fifty-cent word for it, when you take radical ideas and put them in spacesuits for pop-culture consumption. Who knows?
When it came to movies, a lot of the time all I could see were the painfully outdated special effects, or the zipper on the monster’s back. In the case of the books, the technology that seemed so far out when the books were written had, by the time I read them, been left in the dust.
Not long ago I read a story that took place in a dystopian future where people are burning all the books. The only problem was, as I sat there turning the pages, I could see my mom reading a book on her smartphone.
But at their best, the flaws fell away and the stories would suck me in.
As my companions and I trudged through the New York City snow in the direction Alex’s phone’s GPS was pointing us, I thought of the situation we had left behind a little over 24 hours ago.
We had run away from a burning house, while a handful of vigilante vampires called the Enforcers slaughtered more than 100 innocent people. And possibly, a not-so-innocent vampire.
And Emma’s friend, a vampire named Bets.
For some reason, a line from one of my dad’s favorite movies kept returning to me as we walked: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
I knew why that line in particular kept echoing in my brain. Many, many people were dead, and I felt responsible.
Granted, I could see, from a logical standpoint, why it wasn’t really my fault. I had not asked to become a vampire. Wash, my now-kind-of-boyfriend of less than an hour, had sired me when he thought I was about to die of blood loss, after I encountered John Smith, one of the world’s oldest and most dangerous vampires.
Not long after that, I fought Smith and defeated him in hand-to-hand combat. And by defeated, I mean I used sunlight to set fire to his head, and then watched his body turn to ash.
Before we managed to stop him, he had killed several homeless people in my city.
Then Emma took me and Wash to Pittsburgh to repay her friend Bets for multiple favors he had granted her (it’s a vampire thing) and we ended up ticking off a glam-rock-wannabe vampire named Nathan. We went to Nathan’s house to rescue Bets’ girlfriend, Charisma.
That fiasco ended with the Enforcer attack. They burned Nathan’s giant mansion to the ground. They killed the policemen who came to remove the intruders (namely, us) from the house. And they killed Nathan’s army, which was made up of down-on-their-luck men with too many tattoos and too little in the way of job offers.
As far as I know, Nathan only killed one person directly: Charisma.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, Bets had force-fed some of his blood to Charisma a few hours earlier. So when she died, she came back as a vampire.
Speeding along the highway from Pittsburgh to New York City, Emma had gotten a phone call from David, who I gathered was one of the higher-ups in the Enforcer corps. Or gang. Or whatever they were. Corps works. Since they’re dead, they’re technically a corps of corpses. And who doesn’t love a little wordplay at a time like this?
Emma had smashed her phone, my phone, and Wash’s phone, since there was a chance that the Enforcers could use them to locate us, and we had driven the rest of the way to New York City. Now, we were headed to a place Emma knew, where we could get new IDs. And phones. And whatever else we would need to get out of the city before the Enforcers could locate and kill us.
We had other problems as well.
My parents still thought I was alive, for one, and they had no idea I had both become a vampire and was now traveling with a group of them.
A video of Emma cracking open Nathan’s skull, and Nathan healing and getting up had gone viral, and ended up on the news in Pittsburgh. Wash, Charisma, and I had cameos.
And the Enforcers, in addition to burning down Nathan’s house, had torched a goth bar called The Pitt in Pittsburgh, and the homeless shelter Wash had been running in my hometown.
Oh yeah. And I almost got caught helping a homeless man die in Denver, Colorado. We had averted that by running away from a policeman named Officer Garcia.
When we had left our hotel, our strange tale hadn’t yet penetrated the New York City news, or the national news.
That was about to change. Big time.
Emma held up a hand, and we all stopped. We were standing in front of a decrepit apartment building, one of those kinds with a set of buttons and a little microphone/speaker outside so you can press one and tell your friend inside to buzz you up.
Emma pressed one of the buttons, but the microphone/speaker combo didn’t offer up the crackle that indicates a live connection. She pressed it a few more times, the way you push an elevator button over and over in hopes that it realizes that you need it right now, no, not in a minute, now.
Finally, she held the button down and said, “Zuki? It’s Emma. Buzz me up. I need your help.”
There was no answer. Emma pressed the button a few more times, apparently hoping she could will it back to life.
She turned to Alex. “I need to borrow your phone for a minute.” Alex handed it over, and Emma stared at the screen, eyebrows crinkled. I guess when you’ve been around since before phones were invented, it’s probably harder to remember everyone’s number.
After some thought, she tapped in a number and held the cell phone to her ear. Since being a vampire comes with super-hearing as one of the perks, I let myself hone in on the sound of the ringing.
I heard a lightly accented voice on the other end. “Who is this?”
“Zuki? It’s Emma.”
“You aren’t a safe individual to be around. You need to leave.”
As one, my traveling group looked around, as if to ask, “Did you hear that?” Except for Alex, who didn’t have super-hearing, and was going to have to wait to find out just how much trouble we were in.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Emma.
“Don’t be coy. I saw the videos on YouTube. Judging by the number of hits, I’m guessing everyone in the world has seen the videos on YouTube.”
“Then you know why I need your help.”
“I know that if I buzz you in, you could get me killed.”
“And I know that if you don’t buzz me in, when the Enforcers catch up to me, the first thing I’m going to tell them is that I came to see you, and that you were living with a human.”
Charisma and I exchanged glances that mostly read, “Whoa.” Alex’s face read, “What’s going on?” Wash's visage remained neutral.
“You wouldn’t,” said Zuki.
“I would,” said Emma. “It’s not just me out here, Zuki. I’ve got four people with me who also don’t deserve to die for the horrible crime of doing the right thing.”
There was silence for what felt like forever. The wind had kicked up, and the snow along with it. We weren’t going to freeze to death any time soon, but if we didn’t start walking, someone was going to come along and question why a bunch of people were standing on a dark street in the middle of the night.
Finally, I heard Zuki’s voice again. “Wash is with you?” It curled like a question, but the firmness of her tone indicated she knew he was here.
“Yes,” said Emma.
I heard a pop that indicated that Zuki had hung up. A second later, the door buzzed. We walked inside.
We took the stairs to the fourth floor, and Emma knocked on a door that used to have a number nailed to it. Now the number was gone, and only the lighter spot on the door where the number used to be indicated which apartment we were about to enter.
Emma knocked twice, lightly, and the door swung open.
Zuki stepped into the entrance.
Alex blinked. “Interesting. In the same week I’ve learned that both vampires and anime characters exist in real life.”
I could see his point. Zuki was a petite Japanese girl, dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit consisting of a dark skirt, white shirt and a blue tie. Her hair was straight and long, and held up with barrettes with some kind of Japanese characters on them.
Her face started as neutral, but Alex’s comment twitched it towards bemused. “It’s a costume,” she said.
Wash cleared his throat. “Were you in the middle of something?”
Zuki smiled. “No. There’s a school two blocks down. I wear the outfit, and people assume I’m a student. It helps me blend in around here.” Her nose twitched. “Wait a minute. You’re human?”
Alex dropped and raised his head in a type of short bow. “Correct.”
Zuki looked at each one of us in turn, before settling on Emma. “This is like a bad joke. ‘A 2000-year-old Jewish girl, a bi-racial ex-slave, a baby vampire, a newborn vampire pin-up model and a human go to a Catholic schoolgirl ID-forging vampire.’”
I looked around at my companions, realizing for perhaps the first time what a motley bunch we were. “Amusing, but it has no rhythm. Work on the wording and we’ll talk. Can we come in now?”
Zuki backed out of the doorway and we walked into her apartment. There wasn’t much to see there. A couple of cheap, worn couches, a couple of easy chairs, a TV and a stereo were in the living room. The kitchen was visible, and I was surprised to see a plate and some utensils on the kitchen table.
Then I remembered. “You have a human here?”
Zuki nodded. “My boyfriend. Hank.”
Emma smiled. “He’s still around?”
“I’m still around,” said a gravel-filled voice behind us. We all turned. The 60-something face of Hank greeted us. “Retired, and getting old, but still around.”