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December 05, 2022

Further into the Darkness 25

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Twenty-Five

A dark chuckle burst from the unidentified creature beneath the black leather mask. I seriously thought about zapping it utterly unconscious, but Harry caught my unspoken thought and said, "Bethany, not yet please."

Another deeper chuckle from the caged creature. Lovely -- I amused it? Hell, I really need to tear someone into little bits and this ass seemed bent on nominating itself for the honor. Harry knew I was starting to seriously think about harming the pet despite his vaguely worded 'not yet;' he hadn't said, 'not at all' or even 'never.' So that line was getting very thin -- nearly breakable thin.

Funny thing about leather types of masks -- when bloody and damp and if you are wearing, say, gloves -- they are really hard to remove much less look remotely cool doing so.

The black leather mask finally popped free from the man's face. I now could see a slight five o'clock shadow on the gray, unhealthy, dusky-appearing skin. The shadow from the blood was more apparent than the soft layer of stubble covering his sharp jawline. His complexion beneath it all was really looking unhealthy, the kind that I would say was that of a nearly dead man's pallor. There was blood all over his face from the action of rolling the mask upwards off -- an awkward motion at the least. Dark black hair was glued to his head, a short haircut coupled with his sweating and bleeding. The mask was tossed away from his body towards the back wall in the cell. He wasn't voluntarily giving us his blood. He knew that we'd get too much information from his blood immediately and understood that would put us that much closer to killing him.

He was the leader of his group for sure. I had no fucking clue who the hell he was but now could feel that he'd been magically enhanced for the attack. That's why he hadn't read as pure human, but there was something else. Death danced all over his body. I heard a guttural sound from behind me on the couch, without moving I knew it to be Jasmine. As a death speaker she saw something on this human also. That sounded to be bad. I didn't want to risk a glance back to the couch, but if I had I knew instinctively that I would've seen Miguel pushing to be free and in charge of the witch. This human fascinated both the witch and her dead companion. It was a horrible thought. I could hear Morgan trying to bring his lover back into focus and to leave the dead behind her. Not likely from what I'd seen in Jasmine. She'd crossed too many Dark Arts lines, and by absorbing Miguel, willingly or not, she wasn't going to be rescued by her lover's intense gaze or petting.

Harry stood tall looking down on the captured man inside the cell. I wasn't quite as confident as Harry, but was far more pissed off for sure. The vial and spell that the human had cast inside the cage and the potential to have harmed any one of us had he been outside when he used it -- that was only one thing that concerned me. How many other nasty tricks did this dangerously enhanced human have literally up his sleeves? Harry didn't need me to tell him my growing concerns -- he knew my thoughts without opening up our vampiric mind speak.

"Hey, Caleb, do me a favor and go into the closet in the library and grab out the duffle bag with the giant silver duct tape X on the outside. Thanks." Harry asked while staring into the cage and the darkly ringed eyes of the man. Neither vampire nor human spoke aloud while Caleb clattered quickly upstairs at Harry's request. I found it interesting that Caleb hadn't even thrown me a questioning glance. I was beginning to think that Caleb was becoming another one of Harry's devotees. I bit back a deep sigh -- it was typical of Harry whenever he took charge so easily. Humans and supernaturals responded to his charisma automatically and usually from what I had seen over time, unquestioningly. Most readily followed him throughout the ages I'd long discovered. It was part of the reason I got myself clear from his influence centuries ago. Yet another reason that I steered clear also from any and all vampires. Harry had this hypnotic quality that was ingrained in the older vampires. It tended to be extremely overwhelming even for one as old as me. I wasn't looking for another Master even if I liked Harry for the most part. The vamp bonds weren't something to be easily severed without losing one's head if not their sanity. I always thought that my surviving my Master's true death was more than a miracle.

Caleb didn't take long to return -- not that any of us had moved or spoken; everyone was waiting to see what Harry had in his specially marked bag. Silly me -- I admit to hoping for a machete or sharply edged sword or three but then I did tend to be a bit bloodthirsty after a human tried to harm me -- go figure, huh?

Caleb handed off the duffle bag, and then it was that he looked at me -- his eyes were wide as it had obviously dawned on him that he'd failed to check with me first for any sort of permissions. I had also noticed that he'd left his own backpack on the ground next to the couch. He rarely let his bag out of sight -- especially when he had a loaded gun inside, not to mention whatever current drug he was using. From earlier I'd noticed a slight aroma of pot wafting off him so I figured he'd either had a vape pen loaded with pot or some other current arrangement for smoking. He was also known to partake in pot laden cookies, brownies, and gummies. Whatever edibles that the local shops had on hand. Even though California laws had changed fairly recently -- leastways in vampire time frame -- Caleb was still cautious. Hell, I remembered not so long ago when humans got prescriptions from their family doctors for laudanum or straight out heroin not to mention cocaine was in soft drinks and wormwood laced liquors readily available. The current legalities aside -- Caleb never left his backpack -- Harry really had done a number on one of my humans. Again. I bit back another sigh and waited to what it was Harry had planned.

"Thank you, Caleb. Please keep an eye on the outside while we quiz these folks," Harry made it sound like they all weren't going to be true dead by the end of our questioning. I thought it quaint but then he wasn't really speaking to his people, but it was for the benefit of the as of yet unnamed human.

Caleb knelt next to the coffee table in front of the couch where he'd put both laptops that he'd brought down from the library. They were open and still running the programs tied into the various cameras and drones surrounding us. They were facing Morgan and Jasmine and at Harry's bidding he spun one of them to his eyes. He checked out the various cameras and adjust the angles as he'd been told then announced, "All clear. And like lots of the wild animals have left. A few stray coyotes are fighting with feral dogs over a few of the larger femur bones and an odd skull or two, but nearly everything is gone."

You could've heard a pin drop inside the cell as it started to dawn on the human that Harry and his crew had been far more prepared than they'd been told. The man stood a just a few feet inside the cell and was watching Harry from his darkly sunken eyes. They seemed to be even further shadowed in the past few moments. At one time he'd probably been a rather handsome man but not now. His body was tightly wound -- his muscles were etched into his frame from decades of hard core life. I figured that he'd been in some special forces sort of branch of the military either recently or still -- the bearing and arrogance were unmistakable marks of such a background. But as I'd noticed when he'd peeled off his face mask -- he wasn't quite right. Yeah, sure, there was an enhancement from magics that had been cast on him. But it looked like he was half dead -- either a life-ending illness or he was being siphoned off by another unknown supernatural spell or being. Only his answers or his blood could reveal which path he was journeying. But as I looked into his hollowed eyes, they were alive with anger, yet I could see flat dead behind -- I thought it perhaps was both -- a dying man being used as a weaponized puppet.

Harry casually unzipped the duffle bag and he pulled out a set of ubiquitous sky blue hospital scrubs -- the kind that had no metal parts all soft cotton blend and draw string bottoms. Holding the clothing in his left hand he said, "Now you must strip and throw everything outside the bars. That would be including your discarded mask."

"Hell, no!" The man positively growled his answer. Bzzz ... wrong answer.

Laughing I clapped my hands and said, "Oh, goody! So, is it my turn now, Harry?"

The glee filled joy in my voice penetrated the man's defiance. I wasn't worried in the least about using my illegal magic because I knew none of these prisoners would live to tattle on me. As a witch born and blood filled human made into a strong vampire, I was utterly illegal according to the Vampire Council and considered an abomination by the witch Covens and all reputable supernaturals. Any wonder why I didn't play well with others?

For some reason my obvious glee coupled with my unanswered query to Harry spurred something inside the human. He began to shuck his clothes with a speed rarely seen outside the bedroom. I mean his fingers flew to undress. He tossed his clothing just outside the bars and I noticed still within his reach, but he was also following Harry's instructions, barely as it were. The bloody mask, naturally, had been tossed out first, thus buried by his combat attire. He also tossed the boots a bit further than the clothing to us, if he was able to reach through the bars, he'd grab his footwear easily.

Once the man stood bare except for sleek black briefs he stopped and looked defiantly at Harry and me. His body was a vivid history to his violent life and obvious near-death experiences. Scars were nearly uncountable. I saw faded white lines crossed with more recent angry red lines from stitches and staples. He'd lived a hard pain-filled life. Probably he was a decorated soldier in that life but with the magic still visible to me on his skin I wasn't sure how Harry wanted to handle it.

While still holding the scrubs Harry asked, "Bethany, you have a hose to wash out the cells down here, right?"

Knowing very well how he'd been all up in my business with his crews of unseen "helpers" and well-placed spy cameras all over my property and most of the neighborhood for heaven only knew how long, I was positive he already was well aware of my various cleaning options. A lovely flame thrower popped into mind, but I kept my lips sealed on that toy. The question wasn't really aimed at me. No, it was for our human. Also, there was the concern for the remainder of his team -- that being Whitney the werecat and Marie Rose, the not so pretty crone. He stood firm and raised a casual eyebrow, naturally with a scar etched across leaving him with a rugged bad boy look, at us as if daring us to do our worst.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-11-29
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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