Halfway to the Grave

Page 9

"Come to think of it, pet, you are a liar, possessor of false identification, and a murderer."

"Your point?" I snapped.

"Not to mention a tease," he continued as if I hadn't spoken. "Foulmouthed, as well. Yep, you and I will get along famously."

"Bollocks," I said succinctly.

He grinned back at me. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But back to the subject. You said your mum carried you for, what, four months? Five?"

"Five. Why?" I was more than a little curious as to his reasoning. What did that have to do with how old, or how undead, my father was?

He leaned forward. "See, it's like this. When you're changed, it takes a few days for some of the human functions to cease completely. Oh, the heartbeat stops right off and the breathing as well, but some of the other things take longer. Tear ducts still work normally for the first day or so before you cry only pink due to the blood-to-water ratio in our bodies. You might even piss once or twice to get it out of your system. But the main point is that he still had swimmers in his sacks."

"Excuse me?"

"You know, luv. Sperm, if you want to be all technical about it. He still had living sperm in his juice. Now, that's something which would only be possible if he'd been newly changed. Within a week at most. Right off, then, you can pinpoint almost exactly how old he is, in vampire years. Add that to any recent deaths around that time and place matching his description, and bingo! There's your dad."

I was stunned. Just as promised, in a few seconds he'd given me more information than my mother had known all of my life. Maybe, just maybe, I'd stumbled onto a gold mine. If through him I could learn more about my father and killing vampires, and all he wanted in return was to pick the targets...well, then, I could stomach it. If I lived long enough.

"Why do you want to help me find my father? In fact, why do you kill other vampires? They're your own kind, after all."

Bones stared at me for a moment before replying. "I'll help you find your father because I reckon you hate him more than you do me, so it'll keep you motivated to do what I say. As for why I hunt vampires...you don't need to bother about that now. You have more than enough to concern yourself with. Suffice it to say some people just need killing, and that goes for vampires as well as humans."

I still didn't know why he wanted me to work with him in the first place. Then again, maybe it was all a lie and he was biding his time, intending to rip my throat out when I least suspected it. I didn't trust this creature, not for a moment, but right now I had no choice but to play along. Find out where this led to. If I was still alive in a week, I'd be amazed.

"Back to the subject at hand, luv. Guns don't work on us, either. There are only two exceptions to that rule. One, if the bloke is lucky enough to shoot our necks in two and our heads topple off. Decapitation does work; not many things can live without a head, and a head is the only part on a vampire that won't grow back if you cut it off. Two, if the gun has silver bullets and enough are fired into the heart to destroy it. Now, that's not as easy as it sounds. No vampire will stand still and pose for you. Likely he'll be on you and the gun shoved up your arse before any real damage is done. But those silver bullets hurt, so you can use them to slow a vamp down and then stake him. And you'd better be quick with that silver, because you'll have one very brassed-off vampire on your hands. Strangulation, drowning, none of that does anything. We only breathe about once an hour for preference, and we can go indefinitely without oxygen. Just a breath now and then to put a dab of oxygen in the blood and we're sound as a pound. Our version of hyperventilating is to breathe once every few minutes. That's one way to tell a vamp is tiring. He'll start to breathe a bit to perk up. Electrocution, poisonous gas, ingestible poisons, drugs...none of those work. Got it? Now you know our weaknesses."

"Are you sure we can't test some of those theories?"

He wagged a finger at me reprovingly. "None of that, now. You and I are partners, remember? If you start to forget that, maybe you'd best remember the things I just mentioned would work really well on you."

"It was a joke," I lied.

He just gave me a look that said he knew better. "The bottom line is that we are very hard to put down. How you've managed to plant sixteen of us in the ground is beyond me, but then the world never lacks for fools."

"Hey." Piqued, I defended my skills. "I would have had you in pieces if you hadn't made me drive and then sucker-punched me when I wasn't looking."

He laughed again. It transformed his face into something I just realized was very beautiful. I looked away, not wanting to see him as anything but a monster. A dangerous monster.

"Kitten, why do you think I made you drive? I had you pegged five seconds after speaking with you. You were a novice, green to the gills and, once off your routine, helpless as a babe. Of course I sucker-punched you. There is only one way to fight, and that's dirty. Clean, gentlemanly fighting will get you nowhere but dead, and fast. Take every cheap shot, every low blow, absolutely kick people when they're down, and then maybe you'll be the one who walks away. Remember that. You're in a fight to the death. This isn't a boxing match. You can't win by scoring the most points."

"I get it." Grimly enough, I did. In this he was correct. It was a death match every time I confronted a vampire. Including this one.

"But now we're off topic. We've covered our weaknesses. On to our strengths, and we have many. Speed, vision, hearing, smell, physical strength-all are superior to a human's. We can scent you long before we see you, and we can hear your heartbeat a mile away. In addition to that, all of us have some form of mind control over humans. A vampire can suck a pint of your blood and seconds later you won't even remember seeing one. It's in our fangs, a little bitty drop of hallucinogen that, when combined with our power, makes you susceptible to suggestion. Like, for example, someone didn't just suck on your neck but you met a bloke and had a chat and now you're sleepy. That's how most of us feed. A little dab here and a little dab there, and none the wiser for it. If every vampire killed to eat, we'd have been outed from our closet centuries ago."

"You can control my mind?" The thought horrified me.

His brown eyes suddenly bled to green and his gaze drilled into mine.

"Come to me," he whispered, yet the words seemed to resound in my head.

"No f**king way," I said, chilled at the sudden urge I had to do it.

Abruptly, his eyes were brown again and he threw a cheery grin my way.

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