Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(30)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(30)
Author: L.A. Banks

Carlos began pacing. "Humans. All right."

"But the guy was trying to help me," Berkfield said fast. "He also told me about a faction of scientists who disagreed with this madness. They said everything you just said, and gave me a number to punch into the door opener. They said they would send a squad to put my wife and kids in hiding. But he also said that I was in some sort of danger, something about my aura and your mark, a buncha stuff I still don't understand."

"Yeah," Carlos said. "Neither do I and I don't like it." Carlos studied Berkfield and rubbed his jaw. "It was a smart move to get your family under Father Pat's wing, but the thing that troubles me is, why would they come to you?"

Both men stared at each other.

"If I'm supposed to find this key for you, man, you oughta know it is sacred blood."

"I know. Humans extracted it from the Shroud of Turin; it was dried in powder form and always kept on hallowed ground. There was a problem with the guy watching it this century. The situation went down in Boston."

Berkfield staggered over to the workbench where Carlos had been and leaned against it. "Well... Thanks, man, for the heads-up... and for watching my back, for taking care of my family I owe you."

"We're even, if you bring me info that can help me find the key." Carlos spit on the ground and looked up. "You call me if you get yourself in a predicament. My advice is that you follow your family and stay with Father Pat's crew. If you can make some inquiries using your cop resources by day, get a bead on those scientists and where they hang. The master working with them can be traced, if he's marked a human helper."

"But I don't understand how you'd be working with and helping clerics."

"Long story. Like they say, politics and business make for strange bedfellows. Just like you and me ain't exactly a matched pair, but wound up on the same side."

Carlos began walking away into the shadows, Damali's torturous screams making it difficult for him to think.

"Hey!" Berkfield yelled. "Two questions. How am I supposed to find out who has this blood key now, and how in the hell do I call you?"

Carlos didn't turn around as he dematerialized into wind. "Work with the cool scientist and learn as much as you can about the black ops boys who are building weapons. And, as for calling me, I'll pick you up on the bat channel," he said, laughing. "If your ass gets in a sling and you start screaming, I'll hear you."

It felt like they were peeling her skin from her bones as they dunked her in the putrid white bath. Garlic fumes singed the insides of her nostrils, and the second round of holy water in the tub ate at the first- and second-degree burns on her entire surface. Vomiting and screaming, and twisting against the torture, she could feel her gums rip as Big Mike and Shabazz forced her head back from their arms.

"What the hell is happening?" Rider grunted over her screams, struggling with one of Damali's slippery legs.

"She's rejecting the cure," Father Patrick said, dangling a long crucifix over the water, while Marlene pushed Damali's torso under it and poured more bath water over her face and head.

Damali arched and wailed in pain.

"But she made it through the other tests," Jose said, clutching his weapon, on guard at the door. "The sight of the blood nauseated her, and she took the fruit and kept it down!"

"The baptismal ritual is the more arduous test, and will either shock her system back... or..." Father Patrick's words trailed off as another wave of screeches and curses came from Damali's twisted mouth.

Monk Lin, Imam Asula, and Father Lopez keep a trinity of loud chants going over the commotion, while Dan assisted J.L. in monitoring possible incoming from Carlos.

"Dude must really be gone," Dan muttered. "Big Mike's ears are bleeding. If he doesn't come for her through this..."

J.L. shook his head. "Marlene's new prayer line with the Covenant is blocking him. But look alive, stay alive, young brother, and man your post."

On the third dunk, Damali could feel her skin bubble up and begin to peel away, dissolving into the acidic bath. Totally submerged, she went into a convulsion, and the water went red around her until she could no longer see the faces beyond the surface.


"Jesus, Lord," Marlene croaked. "I can feel her skin coming off in my hands, Father! Drive the Isis in her heart, man! This is no way to kill her!"

"Stay steady, Mar," Shabazz ordered. "Let the man work. She's not struggling in our hold. Bring her up slow."

A collective gasp passed through the Guardian team as they brought Damali's limp form up from beneath the water's edge. Her once beautiful bronze skin was festered and split; huge boils and blisters covered it. Where she'd been touched by religious symbols, the blacked images were branded.

"Mike, take her out and put her on her bed in the center of the garlic ring," Marlene whispered.

Big Mike dabbed the corners of his eyes on his wet T-shirt with a shrug, and followed Marlene's command. Marlene stooped beneath Damali's form as Big Mike stood with care, checking the Sankofa tattoo.

"It's burned off," Marlene said, tears dropping off her nose as her voice broke.

"Put her down slow, Mike," Shabazz said, while he, Rider, and Jose flanked him with weapons.

"We did the best we could," Father Patrick murmured. "Bring the lights, J.L.."

"No, guys. Enough," Rider said, choked. "Enough."

"But, we can't give up on her," Jose said, panicked, "We have to keep trying!"

"Bring the lights, J.L.," Marlene repeated in a far-off tone. "If that doesn't work, then I'll plant the Isis in my baby girl."

Carlos watched with disinterest as the two hounds snapped at each other, snarling over the two limp vamp bodies at his feet. Yonnie had routed out two territory sniffers and delivered them, just as Carlos had requested. But they held no information; therefore, they were as useless as dog food.

One creature had one leg of a body, the other had an arm, and they were ripping it apart, pulling in opposite directions, each trying to get more than their fair share of the gruesome remains.

Suddenly he looked down at his arms and saw how the skin went raw, then immediately healed. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath as the slurping, cracking sound of the dogs eating became a faraway echo in his mind. The foul stench of garlic and incense attacked the back of his throat, and Carlos hawked and spit. The dogs stopped feeding for a moment, monitoring the new scent and growled, dragging the carcasses away from the offending smell. Carlos couldn't hear Damali screaming anymore.

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