Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Thirteenth Lord - Chapter 1

In the past month, I have received many emails, comments, and messages asking about book 3 of my Villainous series.  I am both surprised and touched that so many of you actually care about what happens next for my anti-heroic vampire/werewolf duo and their dysfunctional family. I am still eyeballs deep in editing, but you all deserve better. Therefore, I present to you the entire first chapter of The Thirteenth Lord.  Thank you all for your continued interest and patience.

The Thirteenth Lord
M.T. Murphy
Copyright - 2015

CHAPTER ONE – What’s in the box?

Manny and Carl stood at the dead man’s feet.

“He looks like hobo Elvis,” Manny said.

The sun was directly overhead, keeping their shadows from touching the corpse. Hobo Elvis’s hair stopped just short of his shoulders, but his sideburns threatened to take over his jaw. He wore only jeans and boots, with a dress shirt tucked into the side pocket of his jeans.

“Don’t you think he looks like Elvis? Maybe if the King fell on hard times right after the ’68 comeback special. You remember that?” Manny lit a cigarette, not really interested in Carl’s reply.

“I wasn’t even born in that decade, gramps.”

“Of course you weren’t. Rub it in.” Manny knelt down to get a better look at Hobo Elvis. “That was a damn fine shot. Right in the heart.”

“I’ve been practicing.” Carl stroked his chest-length beard while twirling his 9mm pistol old west shooting show style. Then he dropped the gun into the dry Mexico sand.

“Keep practicing,” Manny said. He kicked the body just to be sure. “What the hell was he pulling?”

Carl shrugged. “Looks like one of those old timey wooden coffins you see in the movies.”

Manny walked around the corpse and tapped on the top of the coffin. “It’s wood but it feels like there’s iron underneath.” He picked up the thick chain Hobo Elvis had been pulling and gave it a tug. “Jesus. That thing weighs a ton. Give me a hand.”

Carl took hold of the chain. They both planted their feet in the sand and pulled. After much straining and profanity, the coffin had moved less than a foot.

Manny slammed the chain onto the coffin. “You saw what I saw, right? Elvis was dragging this thing like it was nothing.”

“Yeah,” Carl replied. “He just kept walking like he was in a trance or something. I told him to stop unless he wanted a bullet in the chest. Bastard winked at me. So, I shot him.” He tried to pull open the lid, but it would not budge. “It’s locked up tight. Seems like it’s sealed from the inside. How did they manage that?”

“Look,” Manny pointed into the distance. A four foot wide trench stretched across the desert and into the horizon behind the corpse.

“Elvis must have been on a whole cocktail of drugs or serious steroids.”

“Don’t matter now. ‘Roids didn’t stop the bullet. That box must have valuable cargo to be wrapped up so tight. Let’s pull the truck around and hook it up. We’ll drag it to town and open it there.”

They headed toward their truck.

“What do you think is in there?” Carl asked.

“Lucy,” a raspy voice replied.

Manny grabbed Carl’s arm. “What did you say?”

Carl held his pistol up. “I didn’t say that.”

They looked down at the corpse. The eyes were still closed, but his chest rose and fell with shallow breaths.

“Lucy’s in the box,” he whispered.

Manny slapped Carl on the back of the head. Then he let out a relieved sigh. “That scared the crap out of me. Shoot him again.”

Carl nodded and took careful aim, firing off two more shots into the stranger’s chest.

The man groaned and clutched his chest. “Cut that out, you arse,” he growled.

“Keep shooting till he’s dead,” Manny said.

Carl held up his empty gun. “I’m out. Practice takes bullets, man. We never see nobody out here. How was I to know I’d need more than three?”

“Fine,” Manny said, taking out the foot-long bowie knife that had earned him the nickname of “Manny the Blade.”  “If I get blood on my boots, you’re buying me a new pair.”

Manny knelt down by the writhing stranger. Either the damage to his organs would kill him or he would bleed out in less than a minute. Manny waited, but the man kept breathing. With a resigned sigh, he stepped around and knelt down behind the man’s head, thrusting the knife toward his throat.

A hand shot up and engulfed the blade, stopping it an inch from its target.

Manny was no novice to fighting and killing, but the speed of the man’s movement startled him. He tried to pull the knife away, but the stranger tightened his grip, digging the blade deep into his own palm until it scraped bone.   

The shaggy-haired man stopped groaning and clutching his gunshot wounds. He sat up and turned to face Manny. “I tried to be nice,” the man snarled with more than a hint of an Irish brogue.
Manny punched him in the face as hard as he could.

The man recoiled with the blow, then spoke as though he hadn’t even felt it. “I let ZZ Top over there shoot me once. That was a freebee. Then, he shot me two more Goddamn times. I still might have let you live. I would have let you drag the coffin for a bit if you were going the right direction and then taken it from you later. But you,” he pointed a sharp nailed finger at Manny, “were going to slit my throat.” He shook his head in disgust. “That’s sloppy and unprofessional.”

Manny let go of the knife and sprinted for the old pickup truck. Carl joined in, racing for the passenger side.

Manny grabbed the door handle. At that instant, the knife flew, end-over-end, impaling Manny’s hand into the rusty metal body of the truck. He screamed and pulled on the handle but the blade wouldn’t move.

Carl tried to run but the shaggy-haired man moved faster than a human being should have been able to move and blocked his path.

“That’s a lovely beard you’ve got there,” the stranger said, “but it ain’t going to save you.”
Carl pulled his own knife and held it up in front of the stranger’s face. “Back off” he said.

“No,” the stranger replied.

Carl stabbed the man, pushing the knife’s blade into the side of his chest just below his heart.
The stranger did not flinch. Ignoring the knife, he reached out and grabbed Carl’s head with both hands and twisted it, breaking his neck with a sickening pop.

Manny fought back nausea and pulled on the knife with all his might. He heard Carl’s body hit the sand. Then he heard the stranger’s footsteps drawing closer.

The blade broke free from the truck. Manny groaned as it cut his flesh upon removal. He spun to face the stranger.

The man calmly pulled Carl’s knife out of the side of his chest and dropped it.

Manny brandished his knife again, pointing it at the stranger’s eye. “What the hell are you?” he asked.

The stranger raised a hand and pointed his index finger to the sky. An already jagged fingernail grew into an inch-long talon.

The stranger’s lips pulled back into a smile, displaying massive canine fangs. He peered at Manny with eyes of glowing crimson. “What am I? Nothing special,” he replied. “Just a werewolf.”

“Well, you are crazy, I’ll give you that,” Manny said.

The stranger chuckled.

Manny slashed at the stranger’s throat.

The shaggy-haired man waved his finger toward Manny at the same time. The talon on his finger ripped through Manny’s throat, cutting short his swing.

Manny fell to his knees as his life drained down his chest. As darkness overtook his vision, he watched the shaggy-haired man lick the blood from his nail, pick up the heavy chain, and resume his trek to the east.

Manny died, silently cursing himself for not tripping Carl and escaping in the truck when he had the chance.  

* * * * *
Moments before sundown, the shaggy-haired man arrived at his destination with the coffin in tow. A palatial mansion sat atop a plateau in the middle of Mexico’s Chihuahua Desert. A fifteen foot tall electrified fence separated the mansion grounds from the rest of the desert.

He sat down next to the coffin and gently patted the lid.

“Here we are, Lucy. One compound in the middle of fucking nowhere, just as you requested. It would be nice to know why the hell we’re doing this.”

The coffin was as silent as it had been during the rest of the fifty mile journey from El Infierno. She would awaken soon. He longed for the moment almost as much as he dreaded it.

The waxing gibbous moon taunted him, making its presence known in the eastern sky long before true sunset.

His attackers had helped stave off the craving. The urge to hunt and kill was less intense, but that wouldn’t last. When the moon was high that night, he knew the beast would want worthy prey. It had little interest in weaklings.

That was the problem. The vampire in the box was one of the most feared on the planet. The beast wanted very much to fight and kill her.  What a glorious battle it would be. The beast did not care that this vampire had kept it from going insane over the centuries like most other packless werewolves. 

“No,” he said aloud. “There is no ‘me and the beast.’ I am the beast. And I am in control.” He said it in a forceful tone as if to convince someone, but the only ears around were his own.

The sun fell lower against the horizon. Night was about to arrive.

“Lucy,” he said. “It’s getting worse. I can’t control meself during a half moon. What will happen when she’s full?”

Only a sliver of the fiery sun remained visible. The man ran his fingers through dark, shaggy hair and kept his eyes closed. He did not want to see the end of the light that kept his shining tormentor in check.

The sun disappeared and his brief respite of lucidity slipped away.

The coffin opened with a soft click. An alabaster hand grasped the edge from the inside. A pale form poured out of the box and rose next to the trembling werewolf. She wore her black hair pulled up so it cascaded around her face much as it had in her human life in ancient Rome. The dress was pure modern day Hollywood: a tight, black, sleeveless affair with a slit that began at the middle of her left thigh. Her form was too athletic to be mistaken for Hollywood starlet, but she was far too beautiful to care.

Lucifera Romana, the nineteen century old master vampire of Los Angeles, arrived in the waning twilight the same way she arrived anywhere else: like she was the queen of all she surveyed.

Her beauty stirred up memories in the werewolf. For two and a half centuries they existed as the most feared pair of monsters on the planet, due as much to their own power as their forbidden pairing of werewolf and vampire. Two months earlier, a rival stole most of her power. She prevailed, but her newfound weakness revealed the flaw in their pairing. Their happiness had been based on her lust for his blood and vampire ability to suppress the natural deterioration of his mind from man to beast. She could no longer heal his mind.

From over her shoulder, her companion glimpsed the shining moon. Memories washed away, leaving him consumed by the desire to hunt and kill. The prey no longer mattered. The vampiress before him was as good a choice as any.

“Did you say something, wolf?” she asked.

Her melodious voice strengthened his resolve just enough to keep the beast caged.

“No,” he growled. Then, he pointed toward the mansion. “Let’s go. We’re here to kill vampires, ain’t we?”

She smiled and reached out for his face. He turned away. In the corner of his eye, he saw her smile fade.

“If any oppose us, we kill them, but we are not here for ordinary vampires,” she said. “We are here for a vampire lord.”