Dealing With the Dead, Book 1
Outside of Sin Vegas
Melissa of the Air Clan woke to the sound of the ghostly Charles reciting the ancient playwright yet again. He’d once been a great actor of the Elizabethan stage until a vampire killed him. She often thought it odd even vamps existed long before the evils of the modern world.
“Charles, enough!” Melissa sat up, covering her ears.
“Sorry, Melissa, but one never knows when one will have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience.”
Melissa doubted there was a great call for Shakespearean apparitions but kept her opinion to herself. “Do you know where Doc is?” she asked instead.
“Dr. Roberts is in SE VERS, going over last night’s scans.”
The SERVERS had long ago lost the R as it dropped some time after the compound’s abandonment. Mel saw no reason to replace the unusable letter. Doc began referring to it as the SE VERS, thinking it funny since she and Michael commonly severed heads from some of their prey.
“Good, at least one of us is working.” Melissa shivered at the touch of the cold cement on her feet as she strolled to the closet in search of clothes. She didn’t bother to hide her nakedness.
“Miss Melissa! You need to be more modest. Such brazen disregard for your person is dangerous,” Charles stated. Sometimes the ghost remained trapped in his own time.
“Charles, are you speaking of my sexuality or my vulnerability to things which prey on humans?”
“Both.” He raised his hands in exasperation. “There is simply no reasoning with you, when you are like this. Women should compose themselves in a manner befitting their station…”
Melissa ignored him as he went into a tirade about her atrocious upbringing. He would have known. He’d been there for most of her formative years. It wasn’t her fault she was born in an age when being a woman wasn’t desirable. Being a female might work against the average person when co-existing with vamps, shifters, and zombies. However, she had something most humans didn’t have. Ghosts! Yes, they were indeed the key to survival in the modern day. Some clans relied on magic and some on science. Melissa’s clan embraced both. She considered herself fortunate to have been born a Passage—one of those who spoke with the dead and allowed possession by spirits. She finished dressing in her usual attire of fitted black leather pants, and a pearl tunic top molded against her body like a second skin. Knee-high leather steel-toed boots completed her attire. She tied her strawberry blonde hair back to keep the strands from her and proceeded down the corridor to SE VERS.
Everyone except a small group of scientists had abandoned the cold, gray compound around five hundred years before, following the previous war. Those scientists created the abominations she now hunted. A bio-virus was dropped on the Americas by Antarctica as a test before they targeted Desert Europe. In retaliation, the Desert Europeans launched counter missiles. The radiation fallout, in combination with the bio-virus, created zombies. A zombie’s muscle breakdown gave them a short life, but they suffered from constant hunger due to their increased metabolic rate. The monsters continually ate to survive, and they weren’t terribly fussy. Zombies were virtually unstoppable until they starved to death. If bitten by a flesh eater, any creature would contract the radioactive bio-virus.
Melissa used her pass to activate the lock on the door, and as usual, she found Dr. Gideon Roberts with his head in front of the monitor, scanning the recordings of the SHOP. The SHOP sent out data on the latest sightings, including people, using the old cameras located all over Sin Vegas, perpetually downloading data.
No one actually managed the data anymore; it was simply erased and recorded over. The downside was, unless you were a computer, vamp, or ghost, it was nearly impossible to go through all the data before it was deleted and recycled again. Lucky for her, Doc was a ghost. “Any luck?”
“Actually yes. Michael was at Le Cage.”
“He’s alive,” Melissa gloried briefly in relief. Michael had been missing for nearly a week.
“But it’s not good, Mel.”
“What is it?”
“You’ll need to see the tape.”
Mel sat back and rested her gaze over the monitor, readying herself for the worst. Le Cage was nothing but a meat market. It was where vamps and shifters went to buy people for their own devices, whether it was sex, slavery, or food. She watched the monitor and saw Michael in the audience. He was alive. Thank the elements he was alive. A woman proceeded across the stage. She seemed confident, naively so, most likely paid a lot of money to perform this striptease. Mel knew the Le Cage owners were vamps. They were notorious for granting money up front…they always got it back in the end, as individuals were usually unable to collect. Most locals knew the club for what it was, but heaven help the traveling performers. The naive girl continued to prance up and down the caged runway until the bars started to roll up.
Melissa stayed focused on Michael, as the bars went up. He doubled over in visual pain. When he finally rose, relief and shock assailed her. Michael had turned. A shifter had bitten him sometime during the four days in which he had been gone. Judging by his new features it appeared to be canine. Thanks to genetic manipulation, there were also werecats and other types of shifters. Canines were harder to kill, which was good news for Michael. It was bad news for anyone he bit and passed on his monstrous curse. She continued to watch the tape, thankful Michael was alive, and concerned hunters were now tracking him. As if suddenly realizing her precarious situation, the young woman on the monitor now lacked the confidence to perform. The monitor went blank.
“What happened?” Mel asked, hitting the monitor, her hand bouncing off and going through Doc’s caporal form.
“The SHOP is recycling.” Doc answered.
“No matter, we’re going to Le Cage tonight.”
“Are you crazy? That’s suicide. We don’t even know why Michael was there.”
“But we are going to find out. I’ll go get Charles. He can be the chiller tonight, you need to monitor vitals.” Michael and Mel came up with the term chiller to describe the spirits who possessed a Passage.
Drake leaned against the side of Le Cage. It was miserable tonight. There was not a decent meal left, and he detested draining humans as there were few left, but it was hard to say where his next meal would come from. Drake intended to make last night’s girl his blood slave. The Coyotes interrupted him. They claimed her as one of their marked. A blood sign was tattooed her skin, but she was sold, and Drake therefore assumed no one owned the delectable piece of flesh. He was unwilling to take on an entire pack; Drake let the Coyotes have her. He could not forget the fear lined in her eyes.
“You will be safe,” his whispered lie of safety was bitter on his tongue. It was better she not know their wicked nature.
He watched all the patrons come and go from the shadows. He lifted his head. He caught a whiff of blood on the air. It was a heartbeat, steady and rhythmic. The beat slowed down. Normally the beats sped up…because a human’s heart knew when it was in danger and might never beat again. He retreated further into darkness; he required very little light to see his quarry. She came into his field of vision at the end of the street. God, what a shame he’d have to drain her. She was lovely, with porcelain skin he’d not seen since Queen Elizabeth. Her eyes scanned everything as if she owned the world. The sound of a heartbeat was faint. She was cold like a vampire. He sniffed the air, unable to smell her blood.
She hurried, not stopping, past vamps, shifters and even a couple zombies. They all ignored her. What was she? It was rare all three ignored potential prey. Especially the zombies; they ate anything, even each other. Gods, he hated zombies! Zombies ate vampires when they were most vulnerable, during the day while they slept.
She reached the back door and looked directly at him, as if she could see through the darkness.
“Drake!” The girl spoke with venom.
Immediately her body flooded with heat. Confusion fluttered over her face as she turned and fell backward toward the entrance. It was too late! The werewolves were the first to smell a meal and started toward her. Drake was ready to grab and scale the wall for the first taste. He could drain her and leave the corpse for whatever may want it.
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