The Girl Who Cried Vampire - Chapter Three
I FIRED TWO quick shots, one from each gun, and the slugs found their target, center mass on the big bull. But a minotaur’s skin is thick like a Kevlar vest and the bullets did no real harm. I’d known this as I fired, so the moment after I’d squeezed the triggers I turned to Maggie.
“Run!” I said.
And we ran.
A minotaur is not something I like to tussle with unless I have no other option. The bullet proof skin is one reason.
Suddenly, the stone altar dropped out of the air and slammed into the ground in front of us, smashing through the concrete floor and missing us by inches. We were forced to slide to a stop or run into it. The altar was another reason to avoid going up against something like Mike head on. Minotaur’s are strong. Scary strong. Mike was no exception. So again, we ran.
I’ve always made it a rule in my life to avoid coming in contact with a minotaur unless people were in danger. Luckily, there ain’t that many left alive. I know of one in California, I’ve been told that a set of twins live in South Dakota, there are rumors of a family of them in Main, then of course there’s that village in Greece . . . and then there’s Mike.
I’ve never had any trouble before from Mike, so I found this encounter a mite strange. He’d been living under Kansas City for as long as I can remember—which is a good long time—and so far as I know he’s never so less as hurt anyone. Mike’s always been one of those monsters that liked to be left alone. As a matter of fact, just based on the one run in I’ve had with him, I don’t really like using the word ‘monster’ to describe him, though technically that’s what he is.
Maggie and I reached the doors on the other side of the warehouse and found them chained shut. In the movies or on television, the hero would just shoot the chain off the door, but I’m no idiot. If I shot at that chain, there’s a good chance that the bullet could ricochet and come back to hit Maggie, and that would be what we private investigators refer to as a ‘bad thing’.
“You’re trapped, foolish human,” a voice said from behind.
“What’s going on here, Mike?” I said, trying a different tactic. “This ain’t like you.”
Running was out of the question and fighting would more than likely lead to Maggie’s grizzly demise, so against my better judgment I figured I’d try talking.
“Give us the woman,” Mike said.
“I can’t do that, Mike,” I said. “Besides, since when do you sacrifice people, huh?” There was something off in Mike’s voice. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But before I could give it much thought . . .
“It is not for you to question the actions of the great Asterion,” one of the robed men said, stepping forward. A faint light pulsed from within his hood, outlining his face.
“Oh yeah, who are you?” I said.
“We are the Minotaur Master Men,” the man said.
“Really?” I said. “I’ve never heard of you.”
“You will, after this night, you will hear all about us,” the man said.
“Of course I will, genius,” I said. “I just did.”
“We are worshipers in the Church of Minos,” he said, ignoring me.
“Yeah?” I said. “Never heard of that either, I must be getting old.”
“I am Cleon, the High Priest of the Church of Minos,” he threw his hood back. He was bald, freshly shaved, with tattoos covering every inch of skin I could see. The tattoos were glowing, which was where the light from under the hood had been coming from.
“Well howdy, Cleon,” I said, holstering my right pistol and holding out my hand. “I’m Norman, pleased to meetcha.”
Cleon was smarter than he looked. He gave my hand a disgusted look, but did not take the bait.
In general I tend to pin a lot of hope upon the stupidity of others, and it seems to work most of the time. Had Cleon given me his hand, he may never have gotten it back, and I could have taken this whole thing one step closer to the end. I’ve often found that the High Priests make the best hostages.
“Look, Cleon,” I said as Maggie clung to my back. I could feel the tremors as her body shook. “I ain’t letting you have this lady so how about we end all this before someone gets hurt, and it sure ain’t gonna be me.”
Cleon just smirked and turned to Mike.
“Great Asterion,” Cleon said. “We pray that you will bring aid to us, your devoted, so that we may show you our love through the sacrifice of female flesh, bone, and blood.”
“Why does he keep calling you Asterion, Mike?” I said.
But Mike didn’t respond. He just stood there, looking at me . . . no, looking through me, his bull nostrils flaring with each breath.
“Great Asterion,” Cleon continued. “We call upon you to demonstrate the full breadth of your power and dispatch this foolish interloper.”
Mike flexed, clenched fists the size of my head, and took a step forward.
“Come on Mike,” I said, taking a step back. Maggie moved with me.
“I will destroy the foolish interloper,” Mike said, taking another step toward me, raising his hands as if he meant to squeeze my bones into dust . . . and I believed that he could.
“Cleon is controlling him,” Maggie whispered.
“What?” I said.
“Cleon, look at his tattoos.”
Mike took another step toward us, it was almost robotic. Beyond that, I could see that the glow from Cleon’s tattoos had grown more intense as Mike moved. Maggie was right, and it gave me an idea, something I’m prone to now and again.
“Whatever happens next,” I said to Maggie over my shoulder. “Just hang in there. I have a plan.”
My plan was simple and hinged on the hope that Cleon had never heard of me. Step one, let Mike grab me up.
Maggie screamed as Mike wrapped his tree trunk arms around me, lifting me from the ground and squeezing me to his chest like I was his one true love. The air was forced from my lungs and I panicked. That will happen when you think you’re dying, your body ignores the signals sent down from your brain to chill out, that this was all part of the plan, and tries its best to survive.
So I kicked and trashed, fighting against the thick steel cables that were Mike’s arms, until the Black found me and the world around me—the warehouse, Mike, Cleon, and Maggie—faded out.
I waited patiently in the Black, floating in the void, knowing that I wouldn’t be away long. See, I have this special ability.
Some people can sit down at a piano for the first time and just play. Some folks can take a bite from a cookie and know exactly which ingredients were involved in its making. Even others can move stuff around and bend spoons with their brain.
Well, I can’t die.
At least I’m about ninety, ninety-five percent sure I can’t die. I heal quickly. Cuts seal in seconds and bones mend in minutes.
Something that would kill anyone else, like being crushed in the arms of a minotaur, sends me to the Black, where I wait. I don’t like the Black. There’s something in there that urges me to go deeper, to give myself to the void. But I can’t do that.
I’m afraid that if I do, I may never come back, and I’m not ready to give up on life just yet, despite the hundred or so odd years I’ve spent kicking around.
So I fight whatever it is in the void that pulls me further in and I waited for the light that is the doorway back. I don’t know how long I waited, time is meaningless in the Black, but eventually a light appeared and I swam toward it and slid through.
When I come out of the Black, I’m lying on my back. I can hear Maggie screaming somewhere close. I take a chance and open an eye for a quick reconnoiter.
The idiots in the robes had their backs to me. Mike must have fetched the altar because it had been placed back where it had been when I first entered the warehouse. Maggie was strapped to it once more.
“Great Asterion,” Cleon said, standing before Maggie with hands held high. “Please accept this sacrifice of flesh, bone, and blood in your name. We pray that you will find us worthy and bestow upon us the gift of everlasting life—”
I rose and brushed myself off. The floor in this place was filthy.
“—and the power to change the world in our image.” Cleon continued, walking around to the other side of the altar.
He reached into his robes and pulled out a knife with a wickedly curved foot long blade.
“We, the Minotaur Master Men, the Church of Minos, your loyal acolytes, pray in your name, great Asterion,” Cleon said. He now stood opposite me and raised the knife, clutching the hilt in both hands above his head.
That’s when he noticed me and his eyes went wide. He opened his mouth to speak, or yell, or toss out a spell. I don’t know; I never gave him the chance.
I cleared leather and put a round through his head. I don’t like to kill needlessly, but death was the only option if I was going to get this whole thing resolved.
The ensuing silence that fell following the echoing sound of the shot was short lived. The other members of the Church of Minos let loose with howls of rage and loss. And, almost as one, they drew knives from beneath their robes and charged at me. But, like the silence, that too was short lived as a roar cut through everything, shaking dust from the ceiling. The Minotaur Master Men froze.
“What is this!?” Mike yelled. He shook his head as if he was trying to clear away the cobwebs. “What is the meaning of this!?”
“Boys,” I said. “Y’all might want to run.”
The robed men broke and scattered.
Mike was free of Cleon’s spell.