Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(5)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(5)
Author: L.A. Banks

Berkfield walked the perimeter of his suburban home one last time before he set his top-of-the-line security system. His wife thought his job was making him paranoid; it was better that she and his teenage son and daughter believed that. They didn't need to know that his floodlights were special UV halogens, nor did they need to know that the lawn and garden sprinkler systems contained holy water.

If his family knew he believed in monsters, they'd have him committed. Then what would happen to them? Who would take the special precautions that had become a neurotic routine?

He scanned the short hedges and peered into his neighbor's yard. All seemed well. It was still light out, nearly dusk, and people were about, messing with yard equipment, calling children in for dinner, and washing their SUVs and minivans after work.

Maybe he was crazy, but he'd witnessed his partner's shot mysteriously turn on him when he'd tried to shoot a guy with fangs. Carlos Rivera had dropped a gold mine of info on the local drug lords in his lap. Then Rivera had disappeared and he'd come up empty on all his searching into Rivera's territories. There was something very serious going on... Then again, maybe he was just crazy.

Berkfield's shoulders sagged resignation as he slowly walked toward the garage.

A bee sting on his calf made him wince. He hated yard work and he hated bugs. He grunted with exertion as he leaned on the workbench to pick up the garage-door opener that had fallen梐nd froze when he saw a shiny pair of military-issue black shoes on the other side of his minivan. Then everything went dark.

Groggy, Berkfield woke with a start, his gaze darting around. He was in a van. A gaunt, older, Caucasian male with dark sunglasses and a shock of unruly white hair leaned in close and shined a pen-light in his eyes, causing him to squint.

"You'll be a little disoriented for a moment," the man with the light said, "but it will wear off. Our apologies for the way we had to collect you."

"Who are you?" he said, his voice tense and angry. "What do you want? Where's my family?" He let his mouth snap shut. What if his captors didn't know that he had a beautiful wife, daughter, and son? Damn it! Whatever they'd given him had made him sloppy.

"That's why we have taken you," the strange man said.

Berkfield studied his abductor intently. He had a wild rush of silver hair all over his head, piercing gray eyes, and a seeking expression. He looked like someone's professor. His accent was foreign, but hard to place. His demeanor was calm, almost too calm.

"What do you want?" Berkfield noted the four heavily armed men on either side of the professor.

"We're trying to protect you," the man said.

"Protect me?" Berkfield's eyes narrowed. "What branch of government are you from?"

The man offered a patient smile. "What's about to happen is an international issue. Not just an American issue. But you, my friend, are at risk."

Berkfield ran his sweaty palm over his bald scalp. His objective was singular - get home to ensure that these nuts hadn't harmed his family. "I'm just a cop on a local force - not worth much to anybody," he hedged.

The man's face became stern and the polite smile vanished from his face. "Let's stop playing games, Detective Berkfield - or is it Captain now? You are lucky to have so narrowly escaped death at the hands of your partner. And even more lucky to be placed under the protective seal of the master vampire in this territory, Carlos Rivera."

Stunned, Berkfield leaned forward. "You've seen him? What do you know?" His voice escalated. Someone else, somebody in authority, knew there was such a thing as vampires! Berkfield grabbed his captor's arms. The henchmen bristled, but the man before him remained calm. He nodded reassuringly.

Gently extricating himself from Berkfield's hold, the man sat back and removed his sunglasses. "They are the most fascinating creatures we have yet to study," he said. "They have abilities that we could never fathom. Until we found out about your situation, we thought that they didn't have anything resembling a conscience梩hat their capacity to discern emotions, like empathy, was impossible. But they can, which means there may be hope."

Total confusion kept Berkfield riveted, but there were so many questions that he needed to ask that he couldn't contain himself.

"You actually know there are such things as vampires? You guys study them? You've seen the vampires? You know about Carlos? When did he become one? How? We'd just seen him taking a stroll by day, then, bam, just like that, he's a creature of the night桝nd the girl. Is she one? I'm not bitten, am I? You guys work for the feds, black ops? CIA? You said my family is at risk. Why? Some-fucking-body talk to me!"

"Take a deep breath, Mr. Berkfield," the man ordered. "Yes, to all of the above, except we don't work for the feds. Every government has been searching for its next weapon of mass destruction. They've each set up very small, well-funded, independent science teams to research these areas. But a few years ago, several of us broke away from our countries and banded together under an international umbrella. Once the governments saw that they'd lose their top scientists and that their threats had minimal effect on men who'd lived their entire lives on a quest of knowledge, they begrudgingly funded our group. Currently, we're made up of all the global superpowers. Recently we began to follow up on some old German research."

The man's eyes contained pain, and his voice became weary. "Our directive, when attached to our respective countries, was simple. Find a way to harness the paranormal, if it existed, and give it to the highest bidder within our respective military units. Phase one was to determine if there was such a thing as a paranormal plane. We succeeded with those tests. But as we gained further insights, it became apparent that the dark energy was limitless and stratified - almost like finding out there's an entire universe within a universe... space exploration is nothing compared to what we've uncovered. Yet, it's all linked; the esoteric sciences are just as real as hard quantum physics."

He gazed at Berkfield, his beady, gray eyes shining. "We also found out that there was another side - a side we hadn't considered. If there's a Hell, there's a Heaven," he whispered. "You cannot even begin to quantify the energy of that realm. Since we couldn't capture it, they wanted us to abandon that as a potential source for weaponry and to focus on dark matter. That's when the group fractured... Several good scientists died or, better stated, were murdered or driven mad. Those of us who survived now pretend to go along with the demands of our governments."

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