Chapter One

The sound of helicopters thundered above us, their engines screaming into the night like angry wasps. We fled the carcasses of the two Vampyrus that had been sent to hunt us. Murphy, Potter, and Luke had needed to feed; the last of Lot 13 had run out two nights ago. Isidor and I kept lookout at the mouth of the alley while the others had killed the hunters. With my eyes now being able to see through the dark, I looked away as they fed. The sound of gnawing and tearing was enough. I looked at Isidor, and he had a hand placed over his nose and mouth as he tried to block out the smell of ripe innards and intestines.

Torchlight arced into the night sky illuminating the sheets of cold October rain that swept in all around Kendal, the small town in the north of England that we had fled to. Above the noise of the helicopter’s rotary blades, I could hear the sounds of police officers yelling frantically out into the night and the crackling of static from their walkie-talkies.

“Over here!” one of the voices shouted.

“This way!” hollered another.

The sound of feet trampling over broken beer bottles, upturned trashcans and litter could be heard. The five of us hid in the shadows of a shop doorway and waited for the sounds of their booted feet to pass and disappear in the direction of the mutilated bodies that my friends had left behind.

Once they had gone, Murphy whispered from within the gloom, “Go now. But keep low and in the shadows.”

“I’m sick of all this sneaking about,” Potter hissed back, and through the darkness I could see a piece of flesh caught between his fang and front tooth.

Why did I have to see so much more now? I wondered as my stomach leapt in disgust.

“Let’s just get out of town,” Luke said back in his usual calm tone. Taking my hand in his, he added, “Things will seem clearer once we’ve rested.”

Stepping from the shadows, we followed Murphy out into the rain, which bounced up off the road and ran down the curb, sloshing into the nearest storm drain. Across the street, there was a children’s park and beyond, a small cluster of trees that lurched back and forth in the wind. Reaching the park, Murphy motioned for us to get down. Crouching, we made ourselves as small as possible against the slide and roundabout. The swings swayed to and fro as if they were being played on by the ghosts of dead children.

“There are cars heading this way,” Isidor said, sniffing at the air like an animal. His pierced eyebrow glinting in the light of the moon that shone through the passing clouds.

“There are no cars coming,” Potter snapped. “Police cars – two of them,” he said, ignoring Potter and looking over his shoulder at me. “I can smell the diesel.” “There’d be lights and sirens…” Potter cut in. “Not if they were coming on silent approach,” Luke told him. “Now why would they want to go and do a thing like that?” Murphy whispered to himself. “So they don’t spook us off,” Isidor whispered. “I’m so glad that we have you here to explain this stuff to us,” Potter said, giving Isidor an unfriendly stare.

“Leave the kid alone,” Murphy told Potter, watching as a marked police car parked on the road about twenty feet away from where we were hiding. Just as Isidor had said, the emergency lights were out.

Peering into the darkness, I watched a police officer climb from the car, and as she pulled the collar of her coat up against the driving rain, I realised again how much I missed being a police officer. I know it sounds crazy, right? Why would I miss going out on patrol on a cold wet night? Because, each time you went out on patrol, you and your partner would never know what lay hidden around the next corner. And I liked the idea of that.

I could see by the silver chevrons on the officer’s shoulders that she was a sergeant. The helicopters that had been circling above like a swarm of angry bees swept away, and I heard Isidor whistle a sigh of relief through his teeth. Now that they had gone, I could hear the police sergeant talking into her radio.

“I’m going to contain the area, but I don’t have enough officers to put in a cordon.”

“Alpha-Zulu-three-seven from control, we do have more officers assigned. They have an ETA of two-zero, that’s two-zero minutes,” a female voice crackled back via her radio.

The police sergeant sighed and pushed her cap to the back of her head, and I understood her frustration. I could remember in training, the nights fighting with the drunks outside the clubs and pubs in Havensfield as I waited for backup.

Hooking her radio back onto her fluorescent coat, she lent against the police car, folding her arms over her chest, as if conditioned to the idea that she would be waiting a while for reinforcements. Then, quicker than I think she’d expected, headlights of approaching vehicles glistened off the rain streaming down the centre of the road.

“Keep down,” Murphy warned us from beneath the darkness of the slide.

I watched the police sergeant step away from her vehicle and shield her eyes against the glare of the oncoming lights. From my hiding place, I couldn’t see the vehicles, but I could hear them slow to a halt. Several car doors were swung open, then slammed shut. The sound of footfalls on wet tarmac came closer, until four more police officers came into view. But their uniforms were different – they looked more like military, and if it hadn’t have been for the luminous ‘POLICE’ logos on the back of their uniforms, I would have thought them to be soldiers. They stopped abruptly in front of the sergeant.

“Who are you?” she asked them. Obviously they weren’t known to her.

They were dressed all in black. They wore padded coveralls, which were tucked into sturdy looking boots. Their hands were covered in thick black gloves, which gripped MP5 machine guns.

“We’re the S.T.U. officers that you requested,” one of the officers said to her.

“S.T.U.?” the sergeant asked bemused.

“Special tactics unit…” he started.

“I know what S.T.U. stands for,” the Sergeant snapped, “But I never requested you!”

“You and your officers can stand down now. We’re taking control of the site from here,” he instructed her.

“Under whose authority?” she demanded to know.

“That’s on a need-to-know basis,” the officer said, while the others stood and stared at her.

“I’m gonna have to check this out with my control room,” the sergeant said, reaching for her radio.

She hadn’t even activated the talk button when the lead police officer gripped her wrist, pulling her hand away from her radio.

“That’s a negative,” he said, his voice low but firm. “This whole area needs to be shut down. We have two mutilated bodies back there, but more importantly, we believe that Hudson is in the area.”

Hearing him say my name, I flinched back into the darkness and Luke squeezed my hand.

“What do they want with me?” I whispered at no one in particular.

“Shh!” Murphy hissed, raising a finger to his mouth and glaring at me.

“Hudson?” the sergeant asked, yanking her arm free of the officer’s grip. “Even if she is here, you won’t catch her. Every police force in the goddamn country has been looking for her for weeks now and no one has even come close. They say she travels with -”

“She’s close by and she’s with Murphy and his crew,” the officer said. “Now why don’t you be a good girl and book off duty and have an early night?”

Hearing this, I glanced at Potter in the darkness and said, “He isn’t a relative of yours by any chance?”

“Cute,” Potter whispered back without even looking at me.

“I don’t know who the hell you think you are,” the sergeant said as she looked at the officers that stood before her, “but I want your names, ranks, and numbers -” but before she had the chance to finish, the lead police officer lunged forward and bit away a lump of flesh from her throat.

It happened so quickly that the sergeant just stood there looking at the police officer who had just removed a large part of her neck. Then, as if she had only just noticed the stringy blood swinging from his chin, she raised one pale-looking hand to her throat, then collapsed against the hood of the police car.

I gasped in horror at what I had just witnessed, and Potter shot forward, placing his hand over my mouth.

“Keep it nice and cool, sweet-cheeks,” he whispered in my ear and his breath felt hot against my face. “We don’t want them to hear us now.”

“She’s okay,” Luke hushed, taking Potter’s hand away from over my mouth.

Looking back at the police car, I watched as the officers sprang onto the hood and began to feed. With arms and legs flapping in the air as if throwing a fit, the sergeant fought desperately under those that fed on her. Jets of black blood squirted up into the night and splashed the windscreen of the car.

Once the sergeant had stopped twitching and jerking, the officers slid backwards off the hood. Wiping their mouths with the backs of their gloves, the leader of the group said, “Hudson and the others couldn’t have gone far. Find them.”

Spreading out along the road, they made their way towards the park.

Chapter Two

Huddled next to my friends, I held my breath. I willed myself to stay still, not to move an inch as I heard them marching towards us in the dark. I’d known for some time that Vampyrus had managed to infiltrate themselves into positions of power in society – Rom, Philips, and Taylor had been proof of that, but nothing could have prepared me for what I’d just witnessed. The shock of seeing a group of so-called police officers kill that sergeant in such a savage way numbed me.

My heart slammed against my chest plate and I could hear the frantic boom-boom of its beating in my ears. I thought of Kayla and guessed that if she’d been next to me, the sound would have been deafening to her.

As the vampire-cops came closer, I heard Isidor release the safety catch on his crossbow. My right arm was pressed against Luke and he felt as hard as stone next to me – unmovable like a statue. I couldn’t hear a sound from Potter or Murphy, not even the sound of them breathing. Both of them sat crouched on all fours as if ready to pounce at any moment.

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