Jamaica Blue Magic: Chapter One

Kansas, 1980:

It was early evening when they arrived home from the hunt. Dylan tossed his blood-covered clothing in the garage trashcan and washed up quickly with the hose before entering the house. Fortunately, his parents were still at church, so he and Bridget were able to sneak baths. Dylan kept his gear in the chest on the back of the truck but helped Bridget carry hers into her closet.

Still troubled, the eighteen-year-old refused to discuss their encounter in the ghost town, Le Hunt, and set to studying, despite Bridget’s concerned prodding. It was just a hunt, and it was going to be their last. He didn’t want his sister to worry.

Their parents arrived shortly, and Bridget spun a yarn about camping with some of her schoolmates. Their mother looked convinced, but Dad didn’t. He commented on Dylan’s silence with a suspicious tone in his voice, but Dylan convinced Dad that he was concerned about the upcoming test and was too exhausted to study.

Dyl let his father lecture him on the sins of partying on the weekends and maintaining grades and how Dylan’s exhaustion was a consequence. Dylan reluctantly agreed with everything Dad said, and went, with a deliberately sulky face, off to study. Dylan’s lies turned out to have been true in one respect, though; he ended up nodding off at his desk.

The phone’s ring drew his mind out of dark dreams of Le Hunt’s cement underground tunnels and back to the safety of his room. Dylan cracked open an eye. His cheek lay on his math textbook, pencil in hand, with his notebook hanging precariously over the edge of his desk. The lamp blazed yellow light on his face and brightened the dim bedroom.

In the distance, he heard his mother talking to a voice he didn’t recognize. Strange; Mom wasn’t answering. She always answered the phone.

“Shit.”

He hadn’t even wiped the sand out of his eyes. Yawning, Dylan fumbled for the receiver next to his lamp, dragged it off the hook and got it to his ear.

“Yeah. Dyl here.”

That wasn’t the proper way to answer the phone, but that was all his tired mind could muster as he drew himself up into a sitting position and rubbed his aching neck.

“Dyl?” It was Jackson. The older boy’s voice sounded urgent. “Is everything ok?”

“Yeah, peachy. I just passed out at my desk studying algebra. Jack, what’s up? You know, you just woke me up from a beautiful dream with a gorgeous redhead.”

Holding the receiver between his shoulder and ear, Dylan stretched. The clock on his bed stand read 8:30 PM.

The voices outside were continuing their low-key discussion. Dylan recognized his father’s voice now; he didn’t sound happy. Dad was on edge, and there wasn’t much that did that. The young hunter tensed.

“Dyl, you need to get out of there! All of you! Remember my grandma’s photos? Meet me at the theater she was standing in front of.”

Puzzled, Dylan shook the sleep from his brain and held the phone closer.

“Whoa, what in hell are you talking about? We’re fine, dude.”

“Men in Black, Dylan! The MIBs came after Doctor Blavatsky. They have everything, and they’re after us. I’m not fucking around here, Dyl. I can’t reach my parents. Something is wrong. Get the fuck out of there.” Jackson’s normally calm voice was frightened. “You wanted attention, well, now we’ve got it.”

Oh, shit. The shock of realizing just how bad the situation was had Dylan standing before he knew it, the chair screeching backwards on the bare wood. His notebook flopped to the floor.

My grandma’s photos…  Jackson didn’t even feel safe telling him which photo of his grandmother Rosy. But there were so many pictures on her wall, memories of her long and sometimes checkered past… wait. Dylan snapped his fingers; he knew which one. It had to be the one with Rosy and Anna, Rosy dark as brown topaz, Anna white as snow. They were dancers at a ballroom with a big glittery mirror ball; he thought it was somewhere in Harlem. Since scant few clubs had hired both black and white dancers in the twenties it would be easy to research. “I’ll keep an eye on the papers and news. Are you going home?”

“Yeah, but I have a bad feeling,” Jackson said. “Okay, gotta run.”

“Wait, what about Paul?”

“They have him, dude. I couldn’t do anything about it but run like hell. Gotta go.”

Before he could say anything, there was a dial tone and Dylan was left staring at the phone. His gut tightened as he hung up the receiver. The MIBs had arrested Doctor Paul Blavatsky and were after Jackson, who couldn’t reach his family. It didn’t feel real. Yet he knew it had to be, even if he didn’t want to believe it. Jackson wouldn’t lie. Dylan let his fingers trace over the math book. What was that about a normal life?

How did the MIBs know what he was up to? The vampires couldn’t be that omniscient… could they? He knew his father believed they were watching, but Dylan found it difficult to believe they watched everything.

The young man walked to his door and opened it. Looking out, he saw his father standing in the hall. By the sound of her voice, his mother was in the living room with an older man who was just in Dylan’s field of view. He was dressed in an outdated black suit with a crossed white collar. On his lap was a flat-topped, wide brimmed hat. He didn’t recall Mother announcing company that day, but he recognized the man: Reverend… Becker? No, Beckmann, that was it. He was relatively new, associated with some kind of school. A school that Bridget might be sent to.

Dylan swiftly entered Bridget’s room and went into her closet. Her backpack was still in the car, but her duffle bag of emergency gear was hidden behind a box of Teenbeats. Without pause, he grabbed it and carried it down the hall. The young man padded down softly, stocking feet silently tiptoeing so not to alert his mother downstairs.

As he drew closer, he saw his mother in the living room beyond the stairwell. She sat on the couch with the oddly dressed, cadaverous man. The Reverend had a head of pale gray hair. His face was tight and thin with wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. A smile split his thin features as he listened, and his dark eyes reminded Dyl of a snake’s. Dylan stopped in mid-step, inches from his father. The Reverend made his gut tighten. Something about him was wrong. He wasn’t a vampire, or a ghoul, but Dylan was sure he was something. If he were to put money on it, he’d bet on a renfield. He wondered if the Reverend was one of the beings watching them.

Bridget sat across from his mother in an armchair. Her face was pale, as if she was nauseous.

“It’s a wonderful school, Bridget, and Reverend Beckmann will help you adjust,” Jenny reassured her daughter. There was something about her voice that sounded off, someone repeating something she had memorized, and her gaze was blank, as if under a spell. “It’s so much better than the public school!”

“But I like the school I’m in, Mom!”

Damn, he had never gotten around to doing the background check on the Reverend, and his mother was still trying to drag Bridget into some kind of Christian school program. Well, none of it mattered now. They had to leave Kansas and take out the good old reverend too.

“Dad, gotta talk to you.”

His father glanced over, the same uneasy feeling written all over his face. This was the first time he had met the Reverend. Damn again! They both should have kept a better eye on his mother. Dylan just assumed she was okay because she was involved in church activities. We never thought they could hide in a church like this!

“We gotta get out of here, Dad. Something bad is going down. I’ll explain later, but we gotta leave now.” Dylan’s fingers tightened around his father’s shoulder. “I should have listened when you said they were watching.”

He kept his voice low so his mother and the Reverend didn’t hear, yet the old man looked in his direction, and his thin smile grew.

“And this must be the boy. Dylan, is it?” The Reverend slowly stood up and waved to him. “Please, come in. Your mother was just telling me all about you and your lovely sister. You’ve both been accepted in my school; did she tell you?”

“Accepted? With my grades, sir? She didn’t tell you I was a dropout?”

He couldn’t help himself; no school with any worth would accept him. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box and had to work his ass off to get anywhere in his studies. If this school had accepted Dylan, the Reverend obviously wanted him for something other than academics.

Dylan felt his father’s fingers touch his arm, and the older man’s gaze narrowed. The teenager recognized animosity brewing there, the same kind of anger he saw when his dad made a kill during a particularly difficult hunt. Dad understood; he wasn’t pleased, but he understood the urgency of the situation. Dylan’s father gestured for them to go downstairs, gaze focusing on the couch and what Dylan knew was hidden under it.

“Go and speak to the Reverend, Dyl. I’ll go fetch us some drinks. What would you like, Reverend? Wife makes an excellent lemonade.”

As his father spoke, Dylan trotted down the stairs, quickly assessing the room. Bridget sat on the edge of the leather chair. The curtains to the picture window were shut. A lamp sat on the end table next to the couch, and the hassock lay near the leather chair. The only useful weapon in the room would be the wooden coat stand near the door; if he dug into Bridget’s bag it would take too much precious time. No, his father wanted them to run.

“That would be very kind of you, Brody, but unnecessary. Now that you’re all together, I think my friend should be arriving.”

“Friend?” Dylan glanced to his mother, who looked just as surprised as he was.

“Reverend, I wasn’t aware you invited someone to our home.” Jenny, his mother, frowned and rubbed her eyes, as if becoming aware of something very wrong.

“Oh, you didn’t, my dear; your beautiful children did, and your husband by default as the man of the house, since he didn’t discipline them properly.”

Faster than Dylan was able to follow, Brody O’Brian leapt from the stairs and bolted across the room in an instant, hand reaching down under the couch, stretching, finding what Dylan had expected. Brody whipped the shotgun up and aimed it at the Reverend.

“You son of a bitch, you serve them, don’t you?!”

Stunned, Jenny started to her feet with a gasp.

“Brody! What are you doing?”

“Saving our family! Get to the car! Now!!”

Dylan reached over to pull her toward the kitchen just as the door opened. The temperature in the room dropped as if an arctic storm hovered over the horizon, and something that made his flesh spring out in goose pimples walked in.

“Now, how un-neighborly, Captain O’Brian. Here I thought we were just going to have a pleasant chat about your children’s schooling.”

A man in a white and gray suit with a short-cropped gray beard entered the house, followed by four heavies in black suits, with pale skin and cold, hard gazes. By the lumps under their expensive suit jackets, each thug was packing, a pistol in a shoulder holster. “Now put that toy down, and let’s discuss this little matter like men.”

Dylan’s heart lurched as he pushed his mother behind him. Blackwell! What in God’s name had brought Blackwell to their home?

Brody swung the gun so it covered the Reverend and the newcomers. His gaze was now frantic. “Dyl, leave NOW!” He looked back towards Blackwell. “I will not discuss handing my children over to you, or any of your kind!”

At those words, Dylan pulled his mother and dashed across to the kitchen, with Bridget fast on his heels. He had no intention of abandoning his father, but he had to get to the car. Behind him there was a gun blast, followed by a scuffle. The vampires moved fast; they’d be lucky if Dad bought them enough time to get to the garage door. Skidding into the kitchen, Dylan raced to the door, but before he closed his fingers around the latch, a heavy body slammed into him.

The bag on his shoulder jerked down and the weight smacked him headfirst into the door. The force cracked the thin wood and drove him to the floor. A veil of black and neon spots assailed his vision as Dylan struggled to stay conscious. Distantly, he heard his sister scream his name and the impact of wood against muscle.

The young man struggled to roll over, blurry gaze barely focused on his sister as she backed up, hips pressing into the drawers next to the sink. In front of her was one of the vampires from the living room. The remains of a broken chair fell to the floor as he turned on the girl.

“Lively one, aren’t you? Well, someone needs to teach you some manners!”

It bared its pointed teeth and lunged.

Jenny O’Brian ripped a knife from the knife block and plunged the blade into the vampire’s back. “Bridget! Get your brother and get the hell out of here!”

The vampire turned its gaze to their mother, a cold laugh drumming dread into Dylan’s heart. It painfully ripped the knife from its own back and dropped it, useless, to the floor.

“You guys are a real laugh.”

The thug backhanded her, slamming the human woman against the wall effortlessly.

“Leave my mother alone!” Driven by adrenalin, Dylan sprang, fist connecting with the vampire’s cheek. But the monster didn’t budge at all under the impact; it felt like hitting a wall. With barely an effort, the vampire grabbed him by his arm and flung him into the stove. Dylan felt splintering pain rip through his side, the feel of ribs cracking as he slammed into the range.

Damn, these vampires were strong. Even as he fell, Dylan stretched out his arms, ignoring the pain and scrambling for the bag near the door. But he felt fingers grabbing his long hair, driving his head against the door again. The room swirled and blackened; he lost his senses for scant seconds. It was a battle to force himself back to consciousness through the throbbing of his skull.

But even as he forced his vision to clear, the familiar cha-CLACK! of a pump action shotgun froze him. For one crazy moment, Dylan thought it was his father, but the form stepping into sight was one of Blackwell’s toughs. He was broad, with dark hair and a square jaw, more a bruiser than a gunman. “All of you, into the living room. The little game is over.”

Shaking, Jenny went to help Dylan to stand, but the thug grabbed her arm and pushed her in front of him. “Go.”

Wiping the blood from his brow, Dylan steadied himself and stood. His vision dimmed again, and he staggered, only to be caught by Bridget. She let him lean on her shoulder. “You okay, Dyl?”

He rubbed the front of his head; it was already swelling, and he could feel more blood as it oozed from a wound in his brow. His head hurt so much that he barely noticed the ache from his ribs. “Woozy, that’s all; head’s clearing. Took a hell of a crack.”

“Hey, my brother is hurt, let me get the first aid kit!” Bridget grabbed the jacket of Mr. Bruiser.

Bruiser brushed her away and with the gun waved the two of them on after their mother passed into the living room.

“It’s okay, Bridge, need to see if Dad’s okay,” Dylan said, as they walked into the room. With every step he made, his head cleared a little. It still hurt like a son of a bitch, but at least he didn’t feel like he was going to pass out. His side, on the other hand, was starting to throb, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before the adrenalin wore off and every breath began to hurt like a knife.

Blackwell sat in the brown leather chair, legs crossed as he carefully watched Brody. One of the two thugs held the vet’s arms from behind. There was a swelling bruise over his eye, and blood oozing from a wound across his cheek.

The Reverend stood beside Blackwell, holding his hat in both hands as though he were far too polite to wear it in the house. The smug smile from earlier remained on his face as the three of them were ushered to the couch and seated.

“Well, well, it’s about time you boys corralled them. You’re slipping, Joe; two does and a young buck shouldn’t be much to handle, you know,” Blackwell said with disappointment, and Bruiser Joe winced. Blackwell returned his gaze to Dylan’s father. “No offense, Captain; I’m sure you raised them to be formidable. But the fact is that compared to our kind, you’re pathetically limited and fragile.” He gestured to Dylan’s brow. “You break easily.”

“Just gave him a little shove,” Joe said quickly. “He’ll live.”

“You were to be careful. How am I to instruct them if they’re damaged?” The Reverend looked hungrily at Bridget, then at Dylan. “Children need to be handled with care.”

“No one’s gonna touch my kids!” Brody twisted against his captor, who jerked him back.

“I… I don’t understand,” Jenny looked at Beckmann. “I thought I found you. I thought you were a minister.”

The thin lips smiled. “But I am, Mrs. O’Brian. You just never really listened to what I was saying. Most people don’t, really, they want someone to blame for their problems and a nice, clear-cut solution; they don’t care if that solution means condemning others. They just want simple rules to save their own souls. They want to make their own money and keep it. They want to believe they’re not breaking the rules of their own professed faith by seeing the poor and others as thieves,” the Reverend said quietly. “And I did say there was a way of fighting the evil, didn’t I? I just didn’t explain what I was calling evil.”

The woman leaned into Dylan and shivered, ashamed. “I’m so sorry, Dyl, Bridget, what have I done? I brought them to us.”

Dylan slipped an arm around her. She had no reason to blame herself; he was the one who had brought them down on his family. “It’s okay, Ma. If Dad was right, they were always there. If it wasn’t Beckmann, it would have been someone else. Am I right, Colonel Sanders? You guys were always watching because you’re the government, right?”

Blackwell’s smile flickered for a moment. “Kansas and Missouri are my… territories, Dylan. I make sure things are in order here. The government is its own entity, separate from us, but we’ve been known to work together frequently to better our financial status. In this case, I was asked to allow your family to hunt in my territory as … well, call it pest control. And I have done so. I’ve been nothing but supportive, including assisting your father’s carpentry business. And this is how you repay me?” He turned his attention to Brody. “You should have taken their offer, Captain; it would have been better for your family. This would have never happened.”

“Become a monster and let them make my children monsters?” Brody spat.

“You’re already a monster, Brody; you know what will happen to you when you die; Charlie infected you back in Vietnam with his special troops. Uncle Sam only let you go back because they hoped you and the missus would produce more beautiful children. Pity things fell out between you and Uncle Sam. Still, you did teach them rather well, even if the doe is troublesome.”

Blackwell stood and strolled over to Bridget. With undisguised contempt, he scrutinized her as if she were a bug under glass.

“The Reverend will shape you up in no time, though, just a little shove in the right direction. No more experimenting with high school girlfriends, no more delusions about college. You’ll have yourself a nice little family with whoever I choose.”

His glare slid to Dylan. “The same goes for the buck, of course.” He then looked with sanctimonious reassurance at Jenny. “Just like you want, a nice normal family.”

“Normal? You call slaves to monsters normal?” Jenny said with a mother’s barely contained fury. “Why in God’s name are you here now? They left you alone, my husband didn’t break any of the rules, he did exactly what he was supposed to! He even stopped hunting! We’ve done nothing!”

Brody lifted his head, and swallowed, defeat written across his face. He glanced at his son.

“What did you do, Dylan?” he finally asked.

Dylan’s gut clenched and he pressed his palm into the side of his aching head. “We went on a hunt.”

The look of hurt on his parents’ faces etched in his mind. Both of them were disappointed. He had lied to them. Dylan clutched his hands into fists. “It was the last one, I swear, I was going to stop after today. I did it to help all of us.”

“Which I am eternally grateful for.” Blackwell opened his hands as if making an offer. “In return, I’ve decided to go lenient on you.” He placed his hands behind his back and stepped back, smug. “Your resourceful little boy set up a hunt with that n—-r militia friend of his. They went to Le Hunt and cleared out a nest. Now, granted, the vampires there only preyed on a few vagrants and occasional fools who entered their woods, but they would have eventually become a problem. The child was an unfortunate error of my overzealous nephew who has a liking for young blood. Couldn’t have her getting out, could I? Family doesn’t need that kind of scandal, especially in the vampire community.”

“You sick son of a bitch!” Dylan bolted to his feet, but pain in his head made the room tilt. Bridget pulled him gently back.

“It wasn’t me who made her, boy, but it was necessary. We couldn’t have the cement factory have a comeback. That little experiment failed with the depression. It was the best way to discourage people: killing their children. Maria was an immigrant, not fit for a proper burial. They buried her outside of the graveyard,” Blackwell explained cheerfully. “Nonetheless, Dylan did a fine job cleaning out the nest. My only objection was that he sent his friend and a TV psychic away with a film and a corpse, with instructions to expose us on national television. It was an unpleasant inconvenience for all parties involved.”

“If you hurt my friends, I’m gonna personally shove my fist up your tight ass!” Dylan growled. If it wasn’t for Bridget’s hand on his shoulder, he would have decked Blackwell … or tried to, and likely fallen on his face.

“Someone has to take the fall, Dylan. How else are you going to learn consequences?” the Reverend said with another thin smile. “Think of being under my care as a blessing.”

Jackson and his family were taking the fall. He had dragged his friend into this and now it was going to be his friend paying the price for all of them. Dylan leaned his head into the couch and closed his eyes against tears. “Doctor Blavatsky?”

“A true psychic of his caliber won’t be wasted. On the other hand, if I don’t get full cooperation, we might have to cull your numbers.”

“I’m not good with this ‘do as Colonel Sanders says’.” Bridget glared at Blackwell. “I’m gonna pluck and fry your ass.”

The Reverend’s head snapped up, and his cold, serpent-like gaze held Bridget’s. “On the contrary, young lady, you will do exactly as I tell you. Or your mother will die and burn in eternal damnation!”

The big vampire holding the pump action gun turned it on Jenny.

Blackwell spoke of them as if they were cattle, and he wasn’t giving Bridget or him any choice in what happened.

“What will happen to us?”

“Dylan, don’t even consider what he has to say.”

Brody’s voice rose as he fixed Blackwell with a stare. Dylan saw a glint. Had his father come up with a plan? If only he could get to the bag in the back or take the shotgun back.

“No, I wanna hear it. I wanna know what they want us for? Making babies? You want people with the Sight. That’s why you let my daddy live, even though he’s been a hunter.”

“Bright boy. The gifted make exceptionally powerful vampires. It’s in your blood. We just breed it into our family lines to keep them pure and in the family, so to speak,” Blackwell explained. “As for your daddy, we were curious. He’s a ma cà rồng. Blood fillers saved him, but he’ll undoubtedly raise as one, even if it now lies dormant in his blood. The question was whether it showed in his new children. Pity, he never seemed able to have any more, and certainly no more now that the cow is too old.”

“Brody?” Jenny looked at him, gaze filled with understanding and grief. “Is that why? I thought it was me. Why didn’t you say?”

The older man drew in a breath, loss filling his cornflower-blue eyes.

“I’m sorry, Jen.”

“My mom’s not a cow, freak!” Bridget stood, and Dylan caught a hint of the butt of a gun tucked in her waist, just below her baggy Indiana Jones T-shirt. “You’ll take that back! It’s Dyl and me you want, and we’re not going to do anything if you hurt our parents!”

“Girl’s right.” Dylan unsteadily joined her. “They’re left alone, or nothing doing.”

“And in exchange, you’ll take my blood? Both of you?” Blackwell leaned on the cane he carried. It was a carved ivory head of a cougar, with a shiny black shaft. “Bind yourselves, and I’ll consider their release.”

The two youngsters exchanged glances. By the haunted horror in Bridget’s hazel eyes, Dylan knew it wasn’t the response she had planned. He stole a quick peek at his father, who was now motionless, and breathing deeply, as if concentrating.

“I’m giving you one warning, Blackwell. Leave this house peacefully. If not, I’ll kill you and all your men.”

Dylan had never heard his father use that tone before, not with anyone. It was cold, filled with venom.

Dylan knew why. Blackwell planned on killing their parents regardless of their decision. Dylan felt it in his gut. The vampire wouldn’t keep his end of the bargain, and his father sensed it.

Blackwell chuckled. “Threats? In your position?”

Before Dylan could say anything—before anyone else could react—his father suddenly twisted, knocking the vampire holding him into the lamp near the couch. The light sparked and the vampire let go with a curse.

Adrenalin was a beautiful thing; Dylan grappled for the shotgun, pulled it up, away from his mother, giving her space to run. The monster held it like a vise and Dylan’s still-aching body was not helping him wrench the weapon away.

Bridget whipped out the pistol and fired at the thug Brody had just knocked aside. Two shots rang out so closely together they were almost one, and the creature fell, head a red ruin. Their father sprinted at Blackwell. There was a flash of movement, and Blackwell’s bodyguards were holding automatic pistols.

The vampire grappling with him jerked the gun to the side, and Dylan found himself nearly slammed into the TV set.

His mother and Bridget were hoofing it to the kitchen, when Blackwell himself appeared out of nowhere.

“Mom! Look out!” Dylan screamed out, just as Blackwell grabbed Jennifer and gave her head one swift jerk, breaking her neck in an instant. Jenny O’Brian fell to the floor like a broken doll.

Fast, too damn fast. Dylan’s heart wrenched painfully; it was as if he could feel her life fading away into nothing. He closed his eyes against tears. He had thought he was saving his mother, but the vampires were stronger than he had imagined. They were awake: awake and organized. How could Dylan and his family expect to win?

Bridget screamed in fury, and turned her gun on Blackwell, who grabbed her hand and snatched the weapon away before she could pull the trigger.

Driven by his sister’s cry, Dylan slammed his vampire in the crotch with one knee. The thing’s grip faltered; the Texan yanked the gun away and fired on Blackwell.

Blackwell was forced to dodge, giving Bridget the breath to sprint into the kitchen, but Dylan was frozen between his mother’s body, glassy eyes staring at nothing, and his father, fighting alone, against two monsters, using nothing but his fists and brute force to give him a chance.

Gunshots swiveled his attention to his father, just in time to see the vet, bloody holes exploding from his side and shoulder collide into one of the vampires. The blow knocked the creature off his feet. The other thug swung his weapon on the man, only to have it round kicked out of his hands.

“Dylan! Get your sister out of here!”

Dylan hesitated; he couldn’t leave his family. So he did the next best thing, he pumped two shots at one of the vampires fighting his father, sending it to the ground convulsing in anguish. He spun towards the reverend, but Beckmann was gone.

Then he heard the furious curses from the kitchen.

Dylan charged, aware that Blackwell had now turned to his father.

“Bridget!”

The Reverend held her up against the wall, his bony fingers digging into the girl’s neck. She gasped and writhed, kicking at the unmovable monster.

“Shame about your dear mother; if you had just listened, girl, there was no need for her to die. There is no one that can protect you now.”

“I beg to differ, Chuckles.”

The blast of his shotgun tore a hole straight through the renfield’s head, splattering his brains on the wall next to the door. The creature fell, taking Bridget with it. Dylan quickly yanked her to her feet. “Get to the truck, start it up. Go, go, go, now!”

Wide eyed, the girl nodded, tears streaming down her face. “Yeah; but no, we’ve gotta get Dad outta here, Dyl.” Her voice shook. “They killed Mama.”

Removing a capped grenade, Dylan refused to meet her gaze. “Take the bag and MOVE!”

Swiftly he shoved the bag into her hand and forced himself to keep going, ignoring the spreading weakness. Dots of color and black danced at the edges of his vision, and every movement ached. He guessed he had a moderate concussion on top of broken ribs. He was moving on sheer determination.

Bridget wrenched the door open and dashed into the garage. He hoped and prayed Blackwell hadn’t brought anyone else with him, or they’d never escape. The boy raced to the edge of the kitchen.

What he saw made his heart sink. Three of the vampires they had taken down were already standing, and two new thugs, likely drawn in from the outside, cornered his father, who was battered and bleeding from multiple bullet wounds, and smeared with blood. He sank to his knees, attention on the body of his wife. Slowly Blackwell approached Brody, his smile growing.

“The place is surrounded; they’ll never escape, Brody, even if they’ve made it past my renfield. I’m impressed. You are strong; pity you never allowed us to teach you how to use the blood in your veins.” He knelt down and pulled Brody’s head up. “Time to die, my friend, but I just thought you should know: your family line will continue. You should be proud.”

“Dad!” He tossed the grenade. With it, his father could use it to bargain his way out—or take a better way to heaven. To Blackwell’s shock, Brody caught it and slipped his finger around the ring.

As much as he detested it, Dylan hadn’t much choice. His job was to get Bridget out. Clenching his teeth and swallowing his grief, the boy turned and bolted for the garage door. He was diving out of the kitchen when he heard Blackwell shout, and he tossed himself into the back of the humming truck as the world around him blasted red fire. “GO!”

The truck’s wheels squealed, and the vehicle hurtled forward, into and through the garage door. The wood buckled and shattered from the impact and the solid steel Toyota Hilux streaked down the driveway. Behind them the house erupted in flames as the heat ignited Brody O’Brian’s explosive collection.

Clinging to the floor in the back, his adrenalin spent, Dylan’s world faded into one of a throbbing blackness and aching flesh. Before consciousness completely faded, one thought occurred to him. With the Walker family hunted, and his parents dead, Bridget and Dylan had only one place to go: New York, and hopefully their friend Jackson.

If they havent got him too…