Patterson stretched in the back of the black van, their eyes never leaving the monitors showing feeds of the front and back of the house.
Shia yawned and slumped further down in her chair, I. Am. So. Bored!”
Patterson shrugged, “Sometimes that’s the job. You want be a Lawkeeper, you have to take the fun with the…less fun.”
“Sitting in a van, drinking coffee-laced blood, staring at screens where nothing is happening. Definitely the less fun.”
Patterson leaned back in their chair, “My first long stakeout was watching the entrance to a cave lair – there were more of those back then, houses were still the place where humans lived, only the fanciest of extranaturals dared join the natural world. We’d been tipped off that this was where a particularly nasty creature was taking young men from nearby towns. We didn’t know what creature it was, so we had to watch and find out. Anyway, me and my mentor, Xulien, sat for three days, in a hastily constructed tree blind, waiting for something to happen. Eventually, it came out to get its next meal. Turned out to be a rather large and especially ugly Manticore.”
“Look it up in the library later, but they’re hybrids of various creatures. This one was a mix of bat, mantis, and beetle, and it had a very nasty poison which it could seep from its pores – so we couldn’t fight it close up, we had to stay at range. And of course we didn’t have such useful weapons, back then, all we had were crossbows and some gunpowder. We wound up trapping the treeline near us in case of a fight, and waited, getting ready to confront it and request entry to its cave to look for proof. But when it came back with a young lad tied up and struggling to escape, that was all the proof we needed! We hopped down to arrest it and free the lad – even a Manticore deserves the chance to come quietly, after all. But, the tying just dropped the lad and attacked. So, we shot it and lured it into the traps. Fortunately the lad had the brains to run away as soon as we freed him, and by the time he’d brought half his village up with torches and pitchforks, we were cleaned up and long gone.”
“Torches and pitchforks. Really.” Shia huffed dryly as she took a swig from her thermos.
“Well, maybe not all pitchforks, but you get the idea,” Patterson gave her one of their rare smiles.
“So, did you, like, exercise your right as a vampire Lawkeeper to drink the blood of a vanquished Lawbreaker, blah blah.”
Patterson grimaced, “I did. Xulien told me I’d earned the first drink, because the traps had been my idea – always go in hoping for a peaceful resolution, but prepared for a fight, and all. It was so disgusting I was vomiting for an hour. And Xulien nearly made himself sick laughing.”
Shia frowned. “Charming.”
“Anyway, that reminds me – I thought a lot on what you said the other day about me not having a sense of humour.”
“I said that?”
“You said that.”
“Then I stand by it. Why?”
“Will you tell me a joke? I’ve been reading up on how to find humour in things.”
Shia laughed, “Only you would try to read a book on how to find things funny. Alright, fiiiine.”
Patterson sat up straighter, cleared their throat, and loosened their neck, “Ahem. OK. I’m ready.”
Shia shook her head in despair, “Alright, let’s start with a simple, classic style joke.”
On the screen showing the back of the house, something moved.
Patterson smiled, they knew this one, “Who’s there? Ow!” Patterson’s hand flew to their jaw and they looked at Shia, hurt in their eyes, “Why did you punch me in the face?”
“There’s something happening, look,” she pointed to the screen where a figure was walking towards the back of the house, strolling across the untidy garden.
“OK, but, why did you hit me?”
“I needed your attention, and it…seemed like a good idea at the time.” Shia looked sheepish, “Sorry, I guess I panicked a bit.”
“It’s fine, we’ll work on your instinctual reactions later. At least you’re too weak to actually hurt me.”
Shia gave them a side eye, “Was that a joke?”
“I was trying for sarcasm. Did it work?”
Shia nodded, “It did, well done. So now what? With the stakeout, I mean, not your terrible sense of humour.”
Patterson leaned in, studying the screen, “I don’t think that’s our woman. Look. Too short, too broad in the shoulders. I’m reluctant to enter without her there, if she gets scared off we might not find her for years. I’ll give it another couple of hours, then we can’t wait any longer, we need something to show the boss or he’ll pull us off this and onto another case.”
Shia nodded, checking her watch. She could wait another couple of hours. As long as Patterson didn’t keep insisting on displaying their ability to find things funny.
Patterson had proven far too busy staring at the screen and muttering to themselves to continue showing off their research. When two hours had passed, they shoved their chair back from the desk and turned to the kit hanging on the other side of the van, pulling out various bits of hardware for themselves and Shia.
Between them, they carried several magazines of hollow point bullets, loaded with a poison specifically created to destroy the central nervous system of a human, leaving them temporarily paralysed but able to speak. They didn’t know who or what the other figure had been, but this should put them down as well as the witch they hunted, should she be there or show up. For safety, they also carried a magazine of silver and hardwood bullets, plus a set of tranquiliser darts with a lightweight dartgun, containing enough to put down any humanoid creatures they might encounter. On top of this, they carried knives made of mixed alloys, including silver and iron. Over their clothes, they slid on and tightened specially made kevlar vests, with high collars and face masks.
Fully kitted out, they checked their own, and then each other’s, getup, and exited the van.
They were parked around a corner, a street down from the house they had been watching. Silently, keeping to the shadows Patterson pulled in and swirled around them, they made their way to the house.
Pausing at the front, Shia closed her eyes and concentrated. The air over the front door and windows hummed and shimmered gently, before settling back.
“That’ll hold for about 20 minutes,” Shia said, panting slightly and wiping sweat from her face.
“Good job,” Patterson nodded, and they moved off, down the side of the house and to the back door.
Opening it quietly, the two vampires slid inside, the only sound the buzzing of the lock being sealed by Patterson. That plus the forcefield at the front would keep anyone inside contained for a while.
The kitchen felt cold and empty, as if unused for months, if not years. Nothing sat on the counters, and the only thing in the sink was a caked-on water line.
They moved around the rickety table in the centre – no chairs sat waiting for occupants, just a lopsided surface with a layer of dust – and to the door beyond, which led to the living room.
Peering through the door, Patterson saw another disused room. Two plump sofas, losing stuffing, and a coffee table with its glass surface missing. An old-style CRT TV sat on an ugly metal stand, a dvd/vcr machine on a shelf below. Video tapes filled a set of shelves on the wall, dust floating in the dim moonlight coming through a crack in the mismatched curtains. The mantelpiece was empty, save for a single, long dead, flower of indeterminate species.
A murmur reached their ears, coming from above, and they moved, making no more than a whisper of a sound, through to the open doorway leading to the front door, and the stairs.
The stairs were bare wood, chipped and splintering. There was no way that walking up them could be done silently. Patterson guessed it was meant to act as a warning system for whoever was up there. But they hadn’t counted on them.
Teeth glinting in the night, Patterson reached out and pulled Shia close.
Responding to her confusion, they raised a finger and pointed upwards.
Patterson held Shia firmly around the waist, and slowly their feet left the ground, levitating silently up the stairs.
Shia’s eyes grew wide, this was a Power she didn’t know Patterson possessed.
Setting them down gently outside the one closed door upstairs, they each took up a position, one on either side.
Some form of magic was muffling the sounds within, they could be heard but not clearly enough to understand. One of the Powers the witch possessed. At least they now knew for sure she was here.
Counting down on their fingers, Patterson reached zero and booted the door off its hinges, gun raised in one hand, knife held blade-down in the other.
“Stay exactly where you are, you’re both under arrest.”
The room contained only two facing armchairs, on which sat the witch, and the person they had seen entering earlier.
As they shouted, the witch rolled her eyes, flickered, and vanished.
Patterson swore and turned their attention to the other person.
The actually present person sighed, “Vampires?”
Shia nodded and bared her teeth.
“You can’t drink me if I come quiet!”
Shia visibly sighed and Patterson shrugged at their new captive.
“She’s eager. Shia, please cuff the gentleman. Looks like Justinia is more cautious than we thought, and I wasn’t aware that was a Power she had. Still, I’m sure our new friend here will have something to tell us.”
Shia pulled a strip of paper from her pocket, reciting a string of words under her breath as she had been taught. Once finished, the paper grew, stretched, and flew over to hogtie the target, who had sat back in defeat once cornered.
Patterson made a call and they both stood guard until a team of mixed extranaturals showed up to take custody of their prisoner.
“Thanks folks. Keep him in lockdown until tomorrow, one of the cells with a decent bed and a privacy screen for the toilet. Food and drink is fine for now, too, he’s not yet pissed me off,” Patterson turned to the prisoner, “And if you continue to be good by giving me information, I’ll have a deal to offer you when we’re done. Piss me off though, and I’ll be less generous.”
Shia followed Patterson back to their van, where they removed their kit, and Patterson buckled themselves into the passenger seat, indicating that she could drive.
“We’ll get her, boss,” Shia assured them.
“We will,” Patterson’s face grew pale, their eye teeth growing, eyes glowing red at their core, “And when we do…no questions. No prison. I’m having an execution order drawn up in the morning.”
She nodded. Patterson hadn’t exactly been forthcoming about their history with Justinia, but it was clear there was something bad there. Something that ate away at them. She hoped they would feel ready to tell her soon, but she could hold her peace until then.
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