The Cactus Killer – The St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Ahh, St. Patrick’s day… a day full of pinching the unsuspecting fools who forgot to wear their green and beer.  Now I know there is more to the holiday than that, but that’s the part we all celebrate.  Anyway, if you’ve been reading The Cactus Killer (you have been reading, right?), you’ll know the main character Victor comes from an Irish family.  I don’t know about you, but I bet Irish werewolves throw a massive party.

So in honor of Vic, you got a double dose of chapters to read.  So grab a green beer, pull up a chair and enjoy…

The_Cactus_Killer

Chapter 16

 When I woke up, I felt awful. Felix was sitting beside me in my room, which was odd because I was at home. He was playing his portable video game when he looked up and shouted.

“Everyone! Vic’s awake!”

“Do you need to scream that loud?”

Laughing, he ran out of the room and no time later, mom, dad, and Liz filed in. Judging by the looks on their faces, they hadn’t slept much.

“Son, did I raise you to be an idiot? For all rights, you should be dead!”

Dad was upset and for good reason. Both mom and Liz looked like they had been crying recently. “I’m sorry guys, though I doubt that will be enough.”

“Liz told us what happened. I know your personal experiences have made it seem like we aren’t much different than humans, but we are. You’re beloved grandfather even made mistakes.”

“What’re you talking about, dad?”

“When he first became Alpha, your grandpa waged a war with the Native Americans. He wanted this land for himself and so he wiped out a good number of them until they decided to leave. As he got older, he came to regret doing that.”

Great, more of my world was shattered. “Does anyone have any unicorns that need killing while we are at this?”

“Victor, it is time to see the world for what it really is. Did you consider your grandfather a bad person? Or Elizabeth here?”

“Well no I didn’t…”

“Their past has made them who they are. Before you judge a person, you should walk in their shoes. Your grandfather did what he had to as to ensure the Reds would have an unmolested placed to call home. And maybe if you weren’t such a gom, you would have a listen to Elizabeth’s story before you go judging her!”

When dad got this hot his Irish side showed through. “Yes sir.”

“Don’t you yes sir me! She saved your life, you should be thanking her!”

“Callum, I think maybe we should go downstairs for a bit. Let’s give them some time to talk.” Mom got up and put her arm through dad’s and pulled him out. Even in the hallway I could hear my dad make snarky remarks about my abilities to think, well, lack thereof.

“Thank you for coming back for me. I didn’t deserve that from you.”

She looked at me, her eyes still red. “Reno told me to tell you that you’re an ass. But you are our ass and no one gets to kill you but one of us.”

I didn’t know if she was joking or not, but I nervously laughed anyway. “Why am I at home and not in the hospital? I’m sure I was in pretty bad shape.”

“You were, in fact you would never have survived the trip back to the hospital.”

“I don’t understand?”

“You were dying, Victor! You were bleeding out and I am pretty sure you punctured your lung with a broken rib.” She started crying again. “I had your dad on the phone; we decided it was for the best.”

“What did you guys do?”

“Reno found some syringes in an unused medical closet. I injected some of my blood into you. For a few hours it was touch and go, but finally you stabilized. We brought you here and your parents and I have watched over you ever since.”

“Can I turn into a bat now?”

The moping finally broke and she laughed at my stupidity. “No, but you might want to invest in some SPF fifty. I doubt you will keep your golden tan.”

I couldn’t help but laugh too. Even after I had been a total jerk she never gave up on me. The least I could do is give her the chance to explain herself. “If you still want, I’m willing to listen to you now.”

“Thank you, that is all I wanted. Let me take you back, the year was 1611…”

**Elizabeth**

“My lady, we have found another villager who is willing to give for compensation.”

I was honestly quite surprised how well received the blood for gold coins idea went over with the villagers. Instead of fearing me, now they all wanted to donate for the chance of getting some coin in their pocket. Many of my fellows looked down on this, saying we were apex predators and the hunt was half the fun. When I first came to this little village, I tried to enjoy a little gamesmanship amongst the people, but it ended with the loss of two lives. I had gotten carried away with myself.

Harmon brought in the young man to my audience chamber and this one was quite different than the rest. He was easily the tallest man I had yet see and also was completely bald. There was anger in his eyes. Maybe his family put him up to this, but alas, those who donated were compensated.

“Have you come of your own free will?”

He just grumbled and grunted for a moment, I took that as a no.

“Are you hungry? Would you care to eat first?”

His voice was low, a deep rumble. “No monster, get this over with so I may support my family.”

“Monster? Why would you address me in such a crude manor?”

“You killed my father and brother many years ago. Others may forgive you for your coin, but I will not. How irony smiles on me that now I must let you feed off of me so I may be able to feed my mother and sister.”

This was unexpected, family of the men I killed in my hastiness. “Are you here to avenge them or are you truly here for payment?”

“I know you cannot be slain daemon. But know this, I have chronicled everything that has occurred and sent it to the Holy Catholic Church. Now feed off of me and pay me so I may leave.”

I became furious at his insolence. “How dare you, peasant! Get out of my sight before I do something we both regret.”

He laughed at me. “Enjoy your freedom, monster. Soon the knights of the church will be here to burn you to the ground. May they ever be successful!” He spat on the ground in front of me.

I lost control and attacked. Before I could stop myself I had nearly drained him. I felt sick; I had let my emotions get the better of me! I really was a monster. I released myself from his neck and looked into his eyes.

“When I die, you will have proven my point.” He coughed and he was turning ice cold. “You have no redeemable qualities.”

He was right. I had urges and let his words upset me to the point that I took another life. No, I could not let that happen. There was still a chance to save this man. I decided to do what I had to do; I would prove them all wrong.

**Vic**

“What did you do to him?”

“I do not know how much you know about our ways, but there are only two ways to join our ranks.”

I had no idea how that happened. I knew for werewolves the only way was by birth. Being bitten hurt like hell but it didn’t turn anyone into one of us. “Can’t say that I know how that process works.”

“Some, like me were born vampires. It does not happen often and only those born can reproduce. My parents were both very old pureborns when they had me. They lost their lives in the Crusades.”

My first instinct was to ask what year she was born in, but I stopped and went with another question instead. “I’m guessing vampires can be made too?”

“Yes, we can create them. The process is much more difficult than most people expect. If you drain too much blood or add too much of the donor blood, death is instant. But if done correctly, a vampire can sire another. I turned him into one of us.”

“I take it this guy wasn’t happy about being sired?”

“Oh no, in fact we feuded for years. He led the knights from Rome to my castle and stormed the gate. To this day, everyone believes Elizabeth Bathory died on that day in 1614.”

“Obviously, you are still alive. Is he also among the living?”

“Oh yes, he survived as well. In fact at some point in the 1800’s we finally called a truce and forgave each other.”

Well there goes my next question. “So he isn’t the guy behind all of this?”

“No, he is not the one we seek. Though I have a bad feeling that his original documents he sent to the Vatican have found their way to Warren Tucker.”

“So who is this guy? What was his name?”

“Oh I never mentioned it did I? His name is Phillip von Ruud. Though I think you can still just call him Phil.”

My head started hurting again. “I don’t even want to know how that happened do I?”

“Save yourself an unnecessary headache. But the moral of the story is yes I made mistakes, but it was never my intent to kill anyone. I had tried my best to live in peace with the village. Phil has forgiven me and I hope you can too.”

“Well since you did save my life, I guess it would only be fair too.”

We both started laughing and I am pretty sure she called me a jerk again. Fair enough, I deserved that. 

 

 

Chapter 17

 The rest of the day wasn’t that eventful. The mayor and Chaz both stopped in to see how I was doing, and Argent tried to reason with me to take my post back. He said that dad was a bit behind the times and that the people needed me for morale. I politely told him that for the time being I was perfectly happy to act as an independent contractor. He said he would consider such an arrangement and get back to me.

Mom and dad finally left too, satisfied I wasn’t going to die. Mom had made dinner for me and put it in the refrigerator, a platter of steak enchiladas, so I was looking forward to that. That afternoon, Liz and I took the opportunity to sit down and talk to each other some more. I wanted to hear more about her life, both the good and the bad, and also share some of my life stories. It was only fair after all.

“What do you remember about your parents? You said they died in the Crusades.”

“Well, I was born in Rome in late 989 AD to Lady Izabella and Lord Drakel. Rome at the time was the central hub for the vampire community and my parents were council members to the late Archduke Cesar Alexis. My parents were well over fifteen hundred years old at that time, the oldest pair of vampires to ever conceive a child.”

“I’m going to be confused during this story, aren’t I?

She laughed, “Most definitely cowboy. I will try to keep it as simple as I can.”

“I most definitely appreciate simple.”

“Back to my tale, Archduke Cesar and my parents wanted the world to know of our existence and enslave the humans. They felt they were the superior beings and should be recognized as much.”

“Did all vampires feel that way?”

“No, most in fact preferred the safety of the shadows. If the humans found out about us, there was a strong chance with their vast numbers that they would wipe us out completely.”

“I’m guessing there was a power struggle then?”

“Yes there was. On one side were the old world vampires who wanted to come out and the other side, led by an old sired vampire Roderick, were the younger vampires. They had the progressive mindset that we could live in harmony with humans, from the shadows.”

That sounded like a recipe for disaster. “What happened?”

“While the Crusades against the Holy Land were waged by humans in the later Twelfth century, a similar war was being waged amongst the vampires. To save you a lot of boring political intrigue, the final blow came when my parents were assassinated along with Cesar Alexis. By this time, I had thrown my lot in the with other side.”

“You were fighting a war against your own parents?”

“Fighting for a way of life, Vic, something I strongly believed in. If you think that is bad, I hate to see your reaction to the fact I killed them myself.”

“You did what?”

“Well, I had help. Jonathan, my younger brother, set them up and I executed the plan.”

“I think I need a little more detail than that, Liz.”

“It is a story I do not really feel like sharing, but suffice to say that it was both heartbreaking and a relief knowing I was able to end such a bloody time in vampire history.”

“Where did your brother fit in? It’s hard to imagine your parents having another child if they were already old when they had you.”

“Jonathan was turned, not born, by my mother as to provide someone to care for me. A vampire does not reach maturity until about the age of two hundred. When I was around seventy-five, my mother grew tired of having to care for me and so Jonathan was brought in. He was only nineteen at the time, so that is why I refer to him as my younger brother.”

“I bet family picnics are a nightmare with you.”

“You hush up. You werewolves have litters of cubs, how in the world is anyone supposed to keep track of who belongs to who?”

She had me there. I had so many cousins and what not that I just lost track of who was who. “The only good thing is most of them have moved off to other settlements in the state. Staying here in the heart of the action isn’t for everyone.”

“The mere fact you consider this backwater little town action packed just shows the differences in philosophies between werewolves and vampires.”

“We just like to keep to ourselves. Wasn’t that the point of your little insurrection anyway to keep it to yourselves?”

“That point was to not be noticed. I, for one, enjoy walking around big cities and no one knowing or caring who or what I am. That is what we fought for.”

Just when I was about to do some more pro-wolf arguing, Liz’s phone rang. She looked at the caller ID and briskly got up off the couch and went to the back deck. While I waited for her return, I went and grabbed a few cold ones from the fridge. When I returned to the family room, Phil Ruud was sitting on the couch. I looked at my clock and it was only five pm.

“A little early for you to be up and about, eh?”

He ignored me and continued, “I wanted to talk to you about last evening, Victor.”

“You’re a bit late, Liz already told me about everything, including your history together.”

He just looked at me, almost no emotion on his face. “I assumed as much. I just want you to know that I would not work for her unless I felt she truly changed.”

“I understand now she was not the monster that Tucker wanted me to believe she was.”

“Do not get me wrong, we are monsters, Victor, but even monsters get to pick their beliefs. If we choose to be avengers of good, then that is a personal choice. It does not change what we are.”

“Do you think Tucker is right in what he does?”

He didn’t answer right away, just sat there thinking. Finally, “No, he is not right. The fact he is using the information I wrote so long ago ruins the intent of my words. I wanted the knights to put down a creature I felt was out of control, not commit genocide.”

“It’s funny how simple words can be so grossly misinterpreted.” I handed him a beer and enjoyed the silence for a little. Liz was still on the desk talking to whoever, pacing back and forth. “So what do you and Reno do for her?”

“We put down vampires that go rogue.” He offered nothing else, just sitting there drinking his beer. A few minutes later, Reno joined us. After politely asking me to pull the shades down, he kindly reminded me over and over if I ever pulled a stunt like that again, he’d be the one to put me down.

“You know Vic, you’re a smart guy. I can’t believe you would let this clown get in your head so bad. Haven’t the three of us been good partners to have around?”

“You certainly keep my beer supply low, but other than that, I can’t think of any reason to get rid of you now.”

“Vic, would you join me on the deck for a moment.” I looked over and Liz head stuck her head back in. Not one to keep anyone waiting, I got up and went out. Once outside, she closed the door. “Alright sir, I have him here.” She handed me the phone.

“Umm, hello?”

“Is this Victor Inglewood?”

“Yes, yes it is. Whom do I have the pleasure of talking to?”

“Victor, my name is Cristof Rollins and I am the chairman of the council of vampires for North America.”

Holy shit, this was the big wig. “I am honored sir, I hope I did not disrespect you.”

I am pretty sure he laughed. “Elizabeth said you were old soul and I like that. Victor, I asked to talk to you so I could request a favor from you. I am flying into Santa Fe tomorrow and I want you and Elizabeth to act as my personal escort back to Full Moon. Times are dangerous right now and I need people I can trust. Would you do this for me?”

“Sir, I’m no longer sheriff of this town.”

“I do not care about that Victor, Elizabeth has her full trust in you and your actions from her reports prove to me you know what the hell you are doing.”

“Very well sir, if you can send over an email with your itinerary on it, I will get up the protection detail for you.”

“Excellent, then I shall see you tomorrow. Now before I go, I have one piece of advice. Say yes to the question Elizabeth is about to ask you.” And with that the line went dead.

I handed her back her phone. “You’re going to ask me some sort of question?”

“I know giving up the post of sheriff was something that you did with a heavy heart. You are too good at what you do to not be in a position like that.”

“I let Jacobs down, her death is on me and that won’t change until I put this guy in the ground. That is not something I can do as sheriff.”

“It is something you can do as the chief inspector of the southwest, however.”

I scratched me head, vampires were good at one thing and that was confusing me. “What is this nonsense you are spewing? What is a chief inspector?”

“As head of a territory it is within my rights to assign a person to what would essentially be the law enforcement of the entire territory. We call it the chief inspector and it has been vacant since the last one transferred to the northwest. I want to know if you would be up for the job.”

“I smell a catch here…”

“There is one detail you might not be too comfortable with, but I hope that the other perks of the job cover that.”

“We can get to the perks anytime. What is the catch?”

“You would have to move to Arizona. Your office would be right beside mine.”

-Jeremy

You can find all my work, including “The Cactus Killer,” @ www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston

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About Jeremy Croston

I'm a comic loving, soccer playing, devoted husband who has a writing addiction. I can be found at Orlando Solar Bear hockey games, at the local sports bar cheering on my teams from Philly (go Flyers!), and being led astray by my schnauzer, JJ. Check out my Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston to see my collections. Feel free to friend me on Facebook too at www.facebook.com/jcroston2 (there is another one of me out there apparently). Outside of writing, I work in business development and am considered an expert in all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to talking to you soon!
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