The Crown of Thorns


TWO
We were trapped in a dark building turned nest with three homicidal vampires.
I pulled the trigger and the vampire went in a spray of blood and mattress foam before the creature fell back with a gurgle. A moment after that, before the noise had died away, she went up in a surge of orange sparks and black soot. The sparks werenít anything to worry about. They couldnít set anything alight, but did give a nasty shock if you got one on you.
The vampire was barely soot when gunshots rang out across the floor. Plaster cracked on a wall in a line. A bullet went straight through the door and into the wall opposite. Those gunshots were echoed by others in the building, a little further away. Then the screaming began. Shit, Buddy. I kicked the door out of the way, jacking the empty shell out of my shotgun and came out in time to see Buddy go crashing to the rickety floor, a man-shaped thing on him Blue flames were licking away at clothing and that told me we had found vampire number two. Buddyís gun lay on the floor out of reach and possibly out of bullets. The vampire had itís back to me and I had a perfect shot, only if I did use it, Iíd kill Buddy too. Canít go round killing the help. I slung the shotgun over my back and took out the machete, hefting that in a two handed grip. I swung like a golf club and got the creature in the side just as there was this sickening tearing sound from the young police officer. The vampire came off Buddy with the force of the blow, but not before I saw blood and the burning cross. The machete blade got stuck on spine and I wrenched it free, yanking the vampire toward me. It was a man in grimy, bloodstained clothing with blood smeared across his mouth as he snarled at me. I got the blade free and went for another swing, aiming for below the ribs. The blade with in like a charm and got stuck in the wall. The vampire was effectively pinned in place. The wound on the ribs was healing rapidly. I shoved my hand into the quickly healing wound, my fingers digging through the tissue as it tried to knit together. Bone was trying to mend together too, it pressed on my hand as I shoved deeper, coming to the heart. The muscle pumped furiously as I took hold out it, twisted and pulled, wrenching my hand and the heart free like a gross fruit. The vampire ceased snarling and yowling and hung there limply before his skin began to shrivel. The heart beat furiously in my hand but it too was shrivelling and turning black. Blood ceased to be thick and red and became black goo. I was liberally being covered in blood, goo and soot. The vampire suddenly incinerated, quickly followed by the heart. I wrenched my machete free and slipped it back into the belt before I made my way over to Officer Buddy. He was conscious, but barely. A huge flap of skin was torn away from his throat. Blood was pooling under his head and round his shoulders.
"Tell you what, Buddy boy, you live and Iíll buy you that beer," I told him with a small smile as I took his radio and used my hunting knife to cut off part of his shirt. To that he smiled weakly. I tied up the wound as best I could and left him. There was a hole in a nearby wall and I disappeared into that room, slipping under the hole. If I looked up, I could see the young police officer laying in his own blood, gasping for breath. That was a too good a meal ticket for a rogue. Why go after two intact ones when there was one on the ground letting all that good red stuff go to waste?
"Officer down," I hissed into the radio and kept switching frequencies, repeating the message.
"Say again, Liz?" Ripleyís voice cut through the static loud and clear. I switched the radio volume down as far as I could.
"Donít talk," I hissed. "Buddyís hurt, send in the EMTís when I okay it."
Then I switched off the radio and took the gun from my back, slowly getting out of my crouch to put the barrel over the edge of the hole. Buddy was beginning to gurgle, his breaths watery and shallow. Come on, come on, dinner served, and getting cold fast. The attack came from the left. Only not on Buddy.
On me.
Something struck my right shoulder and set me stumbling back. Then I was tackled to the floor hard, a grimy and blood stained face with straggly hair and crazed eyes in my face as something went burning through my left thigh. The floor cracked beneath me. Teeth snapped at my neck only to find that cuff. I was pinned with the shotgun between us, no way to fire it. So I let go and reached for my right thigh, my fingers finding the hilt to my hunting knife. Teeth sank into my left shoulder, grating on bone as my collarbone snapped. I screamed in pain and wrenched my knife free, driving it into the vampireís side. It reared up, howling in pain, twisting the knife in itís guts a little more and spat my own blood on me.
That was when the floor decided to give way.
I had no actual sensation of falling, just the impact. I hit the next floor down hard and lay winded for a few moments, trying to stop my lungs, shoulders and thigh from burning. Above me a pair of legs flailed as the vampire tried to scramble back up to the next floor. A perfect shot. I brought the gun up and took aim in the centre off the back.
I was just pulling the trigger as light sliced painfully though my vision. The gun went off and I started back, snarling. "Fucking asshole! I said no fucking lights!"
"Shit, Liz," that was Ripleyís voice and I felt hands on me, a pair of fingers trying to dig at my neck, possibly to take a pulse. I was covered in so much gore, it would be hard to tell if any of it was mine. I slowly opened my eyes to make the outline of Ripley stooped over me, radio in hand. "We need a medic up here fast,"
"Good, Buddy wonít last too much longer," I said through clenched teeth as I set down the shotgun and looked at myself. My collarbone was broken, bone sticking out through my pale flesh. There was a knife hilt sticking out of my other shoulder and my thigh. My hunting knife was on the floor, covered in blood.
"I meant for you," Ripley said as I scrambled back enough to sit.
"Iím fine." I told him and took hold of the knife in my leg with my left hand. The broken bones werenít appreciating the movement as they tried to knit together.
"Liz, you are not fine." he said firmly.
"Iím fine," I said as I wrenched the knife free of my thigh. I saw Llewellyn nearby, flashlight in hand, staring at me, his face awfully pale in the dim light. "What are you staring at?" I demanded, pulling the other knife free. He didnít reply but kept staring at me as I rotated my shoulder, hearing a few sick popping and crunching sounds. I slowly got to my feet, both shoulders and my leg burning. I shoved my knife back in itís sheath before unbuckling the belt, looking up at the hole in the ceiling. "Ripley, gimme a boost."
"What are you planning? No, Iím not giving you a boost, Iím giving you over to the EMTís," he argued.
"Thereís one psycho killer monster on the loose, a lot of people around, give me a goddamned boost or you pay for the funerals." I snapped. He sighed angrily and bent over, interlacing his fingers. I held onto his shoulders and stepped up a moment before I was shoved quickly up through the hole. I got hold of the jagged, rotting mouth and one hand slipped, rotting wood falling below. I got another shove. This one put my head and shoulders over the edge and I could scramble up without too much trouble, though my shoulders and thigh were complaining with a throbbing, burning ache. Okay, the vampire had one heck of a wound. It was caused by something with a high silver content so it would be a bitch to heal. That meant it was bleeding. On the floor near my nose was a big olí smear of blood. Another was over by the broken window. A window that led to a fire escape. I climbed out onto the rusty landing and looked around, trying to get my bearings on the critter. Down wasnít it. There was a little blood on a railing just about eye level. Shit, it had headed for the roof. I scrambled up as fast as my injured limbs would let me, just in time to see a flickering shadow head for the other side of the roof. Right about then, a thousand and one curses went through my head and I uttered most of them as I got onto the roof and sprinted forward, gritting my teeth against the pain in my body. It was going to jump. Not bad considering that it was a good ten feet to the next roof. A human would have a hard time if it were fit. The vampire being injured would be hard pressed to make it.
So would I.
It leapt and went crashing onto the next roof, scrambling over the peaks of iron. I got to the edge of the building and leapt. For a moment I was sailing through the air. I barely had time to brace myself for impact. I hit the iron and rolled, using the momentum to get to my feet and keep running. I got to the top of a peak just in time to see the fleeing vampire go over the next one. Then I lost sight as I went down into the valley of the roof. I pushed myself hard and when I got to the apex of this peak in the roof, I leapt. The vampire was scaling the next peak as I took it in a flying tackle, sending us both careening down into the valley between peaks. We separated from out little hug and I came to a grinding halt, managing to get to one knee as a knife came streaking at me. Jesus, how many of these things did it have?
The blade sliced open my cheek before I grabbed a hold of the wrist and twisted hard enough to break bone. The vampire howled and stumbled back, dropping the knife. I was tired, hurt and severely pissed off. No more Ms Nice Hunter.
It threw another knife at me and started forward and I knocked the blade away, sending it skittering over the edge of the roof, not caring if I hit anyone below. I got out my hunting knife just as the creature lunged with a growl. The growl turned into a gurgle as all nine inches of high silver content blade slid through undead flesh and under ribs. I twisted and wrenched the knife free, plunging my free hand into the wound, fingerís searching for the heart. I was getting a nice covering of blood and goo on me, what was a little more? I found the heart and dug my fingers into the furiously pumping muscle, tearing it out of the torso. The vampire drew in a wheezing breath before it went up in soot and sparks. I threw the heart away as it incinerated before sitting on the roof, too bone weary to do anything else.


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