Deirdre Avery: Vampire dater and CIA Ghost who kills them.
I have been a Ghost for seventeen years. I was lucky, both in that I had long surpassed the average three-year life span for a Ghost and that I didn’t look a day over twenty-five. Both were probably attributed to the fact that I had been hitting the blood bottle every three days since I joined up.
Groaning, I pulled my sore body out of my bed and planted my bare feet on the chilled wood floor of my bedroom. I briefly mulled over my anniversary before my thoughts went to when I would receive my next assignment.
I was heavily reliant on my immediate superior, which was part and parcel to the secrecy that surrounded my chosen profession. I only knew of three other Ghosts, people I occasionally saw on large assignments, only once have we been all together. And only one of them did I know personally. My C.O. changed over the years, or by assignment, but He always controlled the pulse of information I got about the field I was apart of. Check in was once every three months and it was then that I got the litany of who was still around. Sometimes I was informed that my team had been modified after someone was killed. There was a chance that within the three months an agent may have been killed and replaced only to have his replacement die soon after.
I mean, people like us don’t just die in our sleep.
With a grunt, I shoved myself out of my bed and stood in the stale air that permeated throughout my entire apartment. We Ghosts weren’t paid, but we got some really nifty toys to play with for our assignments. So the apartment and the small stipend I lived off of, all government funded, was my so-called paycheck.
And, of course, I didn’t exist.
Similar to the Ghosts of lore, men in camouflage pants that executed sinfully wealthy men who plotted evil against our great country, I had been given a new identity and whisked away from the ledgers of life. Contrary to popular media, we were not able to cultivate normal, human relationships. Mostly that came from the short lived nature of our kind but also from the comic book philosophy of heroes. A spouse could be held hostage and tortured. A friend could let slip the location of your safe house.
With all that, the job collected a certain type of person.
While most of us are declared sociopaths, some of us are more or less normal with nothing to lose. I had been college educated but I was orphaned at a relatively late age and shuffled through foster homes as a child. I did not grow friendships as I was usually too busy trying to keep up in my studies. I had gone unnoticed and so I was not missed when I suddenly disappeared. I had been given a new identity, one so well worn that I couldn’t remember my old name. It was as though there had always been only Deirdre Avery.
I stomped purposefully over to the scarred desk that bowed under my computer and sat down in the office chair standing before it. I shook my mouse and watched as my screen crackled to life. This was just another computer that sat in one of many safe houses that my team had access to. It was always on, since getting into the room was difficult enough. I typed the password to access my account and was instantly alerted that I had email. While we were not inconspicuous enough to get one of the major email supporters, the government had ways to give us the luxuries we so obviously wanted.
Scanning the single email I had received I noted that my teammate, a lithe young man I had known as Bravery, had been killed. While we had a public identity, within our groups we were known by our code names, usually a title that dealt with an attribute.
At my hand, something buzzed and I looked down. My cell phone jangled, the front plate illuminated with a familiar name. I picked it up and answered, switching to my other hand so I could still navigate my email.
“Hey.” I greeted, reading the email now from the beginning.
“Good afternoon Deirdre.” A smooth voice broke over the receiver. For some reason, I had always expected a Vampire to sound strange when using a phone, especially when one had been Turned before their invention.
“How the hell did you know I was awake?” I asked and yawned loudly.
“I always know when you’re awake.” He retorted. I grunted and clicked down the page. Sufficed to say, my job made it impossible for me to date normally, but a girl got lonely. Having a Vampire boyfriend definitely had its perks but bonding with one was a death sentence in my line of work. He’s what kept me so young and virile all these years through a series of mutual donations, whether or not we were together.
“So what’s going on Valery?” I questioned. Of course I ended up with the strapping male Vampire named Valery. He assured me that where he was from, French-Canada, and when he was born, 1765, that Valery was typically a boy’s name. I still thought it was a little ridiculous. Then he told me that his eldest brother was named Renée.
“Celina knew it was your check in day and wanted to know how she was doing.” Valery replied. With the obituaries, the C.O. also released a list of names that made up the Watched list. They were either the names of highly dangerous or suspect Vampires, or the names of known Kisses that have been doing things they shouldn’t.
Celina, the Master Vampire of the state and of a local Kiss, loathed me but put up with my existence and dalliance with one of her subordinates for a warning from the FBPI, the Federal Bureau of Paranormal Investigation, of which I was employed.
I scrolled down the page, confirming what I already knew.
“She’s safe.” I answered and clicked out of my email. Just logging in was our check in, they didn’t really care for how we were doing, and I would be getting my stipend within the hour.
“Would you like to go to lunch?” Valery asked. I yawned again, for some reason I was the most tired right after waking, and stretched my arms over my head.
“Sure, why the hell not?” I quipped. When I had first been recruited, I was shocked to find out that Vampires existed, as did most of the others that were hired. Vampires, though common knowledge within certain sects of the government, did not officially exist in the public, which allowed our killings to go unnoticed and untried in the realm of “Human” rights. So with this new knowledge, all of us had to go through an extensive, though short, learning program. The first thing that I had learned in training was that all the most recent theories about Vampires were bunk. Save for a few romance series that touched close, what was known about the living dead was still seeped in superstition and dressed up in our culture’s morbidly perverse lust. Vampires were technically undead, but they had been infected by a parasite that can only attach itself to dead humans. Their very DNA was changed to facilitate blood absorption, what the parasites ran off of, and made it impossible for Vampires to copulate with humans. They could still eat and drink though the parasites thrived on blood. They could even go out into the sun, though the accelerated sun damage weakened them.
Turning a human into a Vampire required a dead body and just enough Vampire blood to pass a Queen to infect and alter the DNA, some Drones to reboot the host, and blood for raw material. A Vampire with a high number of blank, or un-imprinted, Queens was called Fertile. One with a low count was Sterile.
The second thing we learned was that a living host could drink Vampire blood and be enhanced by it. The parasite, in both Queens and Drones, could exist outside of the host’s body for three days. If a human were to drink a Vampire’s blood, they would have a slight boost thanks to the Drones, and if they didn’t die during those three days, would have no fear in becoming a Vampire.
Valery was, of course, a Fertile Vamp. His blood kept me from aging but held the high risk that if I died, I would most likely become a Vampire and immediately hunted by the FBPI. An enemy with FBPI training was a severe threat and defection meant death. Still, it was worth it to be on this side of immortal in my job.
“Shall I come pick you up?” He inquired.
“Nah. I’m not at home.” I stated.
“Then I will meet you there.” Valery went on smoothly. I pulled out the drawer to the desk and ripped off a piece of paper while foraging for a pen. Just as I had one uncapped, Valery’s silky voice tossed out an address. I didn’t recognize it but didn’t question him, he was obviously taking me somewhere that I was needed. A rogue thought crossed my mind.
“I’m not going to be seeing anyone from your Kiss correct?” I asked.
“Aloysius will be there.” He replied. I cursed, loudly and for a good length of time. Aloysius Jung was Celina’s consort and a right bastard. He had been killed on the Nazi side of World War deux and had been Turned by an especially irate Polish Vampire. After a few years of torture, his sire made a gift of him, to the first Polish Master Vampire to take a state in the US of A. Unfortunately, his gift backfired as Celina found Aloysius charming and promptly killed his sire.
Frankly, the bitter Vampire with the ear of a Master Vampire and the looks of a Nazi poster boy made me nervous. And nervous made me agitated.
What made me feel better was the fact that Valery was older, a Master Vampire himself, and had been adopted into her Kiss only a few decades ago. It also helped that he was the favorite of the Queen of Vampires. Lucky, lucky me.
“Why?” I demanded, slamming the drawer shut.
“There has been a great movement of our kind recently, and the Ducesa has sent him with information to share to keep suspicions down.” Valery said very carefully. The heads of the FBPI had noticed the strange, seemingly erratic migration of Vampires. Never was a whole Kiss moved, which would have meant a deeper investigation, but enough for my superiors to sit up and take notice.
“When?” I sighed, giving up. I had become some sort of surrogate liaison of the local Vamps into my work, and I was also seen as a bit of a shield for those of who had allied themselves with me, like Celina’s Kiss. Ironically, many of the missions I was sent on were not reconnaissance, but executions. I was known, also ironically, as Death’s Bite in the Vampish circles.
“Half an hour? I know you’ll refuse to shower beforehand anyway.” Valery quipped and I chuckled.
“Give me an hour and maybe I’ll smell nice.” I retorted.
“If I give you an hour you’ll fall back asleep.” He snapped back.
“Bite me.” I growled and hung up on him. Still, I smiled as I made my way to the tiny bathroom.
From time to time, even if I wasn’t on assignment, I liked staying at one of the safe houses. In my apartment, I had everything necessary to prove that a normal human being was living there, just with the sociopathic neatness and lack of personal touches, in case I ever had a drop in of someone that didn’t know who I really was. In the safe houses, there were no mirrors, and I liked that very, very much.
I started the shower to warm and stripped off my clothes, feeling chilled standing on the cracked and grimy tile. I ran a hand through my hair, scowling as I felt that it was indeed greasy and dirty. It wasn’t that I had an aversion to showering, just that I liked sleep, and I loathed touching myself.
Stepping into the steaming water, I lifted my face into the spray. The water had a tang to it, as the building was old and the pipes were surely rusted. I bathed myself quickly, using the splintering bar of soap even in my hair. I pushed the lather around my body, my fingers rising and falling to match the topography of my body. Although I had the additional boost of Vampire’s blood, my own immune system sometimes got in the way, identifying the helpful parasites as parasites nonetheless. This led to very angry scarring, smaller than the original wound, but there regardless. The worst one was when a target had tried to claw my throat out. He escaped but had left me for dead. He was very surprised to see me again a few nights later.
Rushing out of the shower, I pulled a sour towel off a rung on the wall and dried myself off. I gathered my clothes but walked back out into the bedroom naked. Grabbing my duffel bag from under the bed, I shoved in my used clothes while I pulled out my spare outfit. No matter what I wore, I knew I’d be under dressed for meeting with Aloysius, but then again, we were probably going to a Vampire hole in the wall and my reputation would keep me apart. I dressed quickly and gathered my meager belongings, making a mental note to chew a piece of gum when I was driving over.
As I left the apartment, I smiled softly to myself, I had a feeling this was going to be more fun than I had originally thought.
Stepping in the bright afternoon light, I felt my lip twitch as I fought the urge to snarl. Even though I wore my darkest shades, the light bothered me. I hated bright light, the Vampire boost giving me a slight taste of the discomfort Vamps faced every day, or night, or whatever. My pupils, not matching the cat-like ones my genetically altered peers had, had a hard time pulling back into shape when faced with sudden light changes. I also gained a sensitivity to silver, instead of the full blown allergic reaction Vampires had.
I did, however, groan aloud when I saw the building I was supposed to be meeting Valery and Aloysius at.
Love Bite was a theme bar that attracted out-of-towners to the center of our small suburban town. It was only open at night and was filled with young adults dressed in Stoker’s vision with a splash of Nosferatu. Mostly it was inhabited by teenagers with fake IDs and too much eye makeup. However, it was owned by a real live Vampire and was opened for lunch for a very select clientele.
I knocked on the door and smiled coldly at the woman who opened it. Being wholly different creatures, some Vampires took their genetic differences as superiority. Some Vampires were quick to enforce this mentality over us, lesser life forms.
“Ivanna.” I greeted and began to shoulder my way past her. I felt her resist for the briefest of moments, but like with all these enhanced creatures, a hesitation of any kind was voluntary and usually meant that something was unwelcome.
Well, no one ever willingly opened their door for the more permanent form of death.
“You are armed.” Ivanna said, her thick Russian accent making her sound like a sultry Bond villain. I didn’t even turn to answer her.
“Of course I’m armed. You leeches don’t leave your fangs at home do you?” I hissed. I heard Ivanna snort and shut the door, but let me pass. I was, of course, armed to the teeth. My reflexes were faster when I took my dose of blood and my gun use was amazing. That, with the addition of bullets with liquid silver nitrate, made me very deadly.
“Deirdre.” I took off my sunglasses and gave a genuine smile to the Vampire that greeted me. He rose from the table and stood with his fingertips resting lightly on the tabletop. His black hair was long, a typical fashion with the older Vampires, and pulled back. He kept some bangs though, and a few strands feel into his face, making dark cuts against the light blue of his eyes. He was pale, came with the territory, but the undertones of his skin were light. His family had descended from the colder parts of France and held none of the earthy Gaelic heritage. This was Valery Morrell, my on-again boyfriend.
“Valery.” I replied as I walked up to him. He gently put his hands on my upper arms and kissed me fully on the mouth. As we had not bonded, there were other ways that he marked me as his.
“Ms. Avery.” I looked down at the Vampire that had remained seated. He had short cropped blonde hair and his blue eyes were almond shaped, which made them look sharper. His face was youthful, as he had been Turned on the cusp of adulthood, but defined, most likely by his time in the military. He looked very serious with a touch of disgust.
“Aloysius, always a pleasure.” I said with a smirk. He was a true German Vampire, proud and polite, with the Vampiric predilection to viewing undesirables as unworthy.
“The Ducesa sends her regards.” Valery said as he took his seat at the table, across from Aloysius. I perched in the chair next to him, taking a second to adjust my guns before sitting back. I also had a knife strapped to my thigh and that required adjustment.
“Is the Ducesa joining us?” I asked, keeping my tone curious and not terrified. A Master Vampire was always a fearsome foe, and when one was a target, required the entirety of a team to take one out. Valery was easily forgotten to be a Master since he seemed so, modern. Celina Kaminski was a formidable woman, and we only had the barest of truces.
“No, Celina has other business to attend to.” Aloysius answered stoically. I relaxed only marginally, since Valery had gone out of his way to point out the Ducesa’s interest in whatever they wanted me involved in.
Three humans walked up to our table, depositing a wine glass and covered plate before each of us. The wine was a rich red color and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. I detested wine and thought it was tacky when Vampires drank it. Before the waiters, or donors for all I knew, walked off, they lifted the highly polished aluminum covers and bowed. It was steak tartar, a popular dish among the iron starved Vampires, and something that appealed to the borrowed parasites in my body.
“So what’s going on with the random holidays you people are taking?” I questioned as I watched the men begin to cut into their meat.
“I would first like to start this conversation by asking you what you know of Vampiric genetics.” Aloysius prompted. I snorted and chewed silently on a piece of steak.
“I know that you’re a bunch of leeches because of the parasites in your bodies.” I quipped, looking pointedly at Aloysius.
“Indeed, that is all a mere human would think of us.” Aloysius replied in his usual snarky, arrogant manner. I chewed over my piece of rare meat trying to hold my tongue, as it was never wise to upset a Consort too much. At my silence, Valery and Aloysius exchanged a look before setting into their own plates.
“I am aware,” I began suddenly and wiped my mouth. “That the parasites a Japanese Vampire named Toshio Ayoto deemed the Blood Tick, invades a deceased host and secures itself into the spinal column. From there it uses the materials at hand, so to speak, to quickly replicate enough Drones to make minor repairs to the host and to awaken it to feed. The process takes around three days in which the host has no memory if their first feeding and of the genetic override the Blood Tick Queen performs to alter the host’s physical form.” Aloysius sat back as I spoke, taking small drinks from his wine. Valery seemed to ignore us and continued to eat.
“Indeed.” Was all Aloysius said in response and looked again at Valery.
“Vampires also can enter a stasis where we can go into a coma state. Usually this is only done either in extreme cases of injury when we need the time to heal or by much older Vampires that want to sleep for a few hundred years and wake up in a time that is newer.” Valery started off.
“During that time, the Blood Ticks will get behind the wheel, so to say, they take over the host body. They will ‘awaken’ the host and feed enough to sustain themselves and then return the host, if it has travelled, back to their original position and reenter the coma state.
“The feeding time must happen within the window of four hours or the Blood Ticks will enter a starvation state, permanently taking over the host until it feels it has been satisfied. The Blood Ticks then only do the most necessary repairs to keep the body moving to feed and when they do, they do not discriminate between flesh and blood.” Aloysius explained.
“How long does it take for the Parasites to become, as you say, satisfied?” I questioned.
“As far as we have been able to figure, the Blood Ticks have never reverted back to the non-starvation state.” Valery stated.
“So what, are we talking about a few extra bloodthirsty Vampires?” I inquired.
“In modern terms, what we are talking about Ms Avery, is a few thousand super-human Zombies.” Aloysius clarified.
“Zombies?” I sputtered.
“Deirdre,” I turned to Valery as he spoke up. “Normally a Vampire will tell either its Kiss or a close friend when and where they are going into what we call the Death Sleep, and when that Vampire rises for its feeding, someone will have either a donor or other food source waiting for them. At first, accidents would happen and the Vampire would be forgotten or not reached in time, which is how we first noted the existence of this phenomenon. Then during territory wars, it was used as torture and for hostage situations.
“Recently, there has been a sharp increase of Zombies and we think someone is intentionally creating them for some purpose.”
“I find it very hard to believe that the FBPI doesn’t know about this.” I said.
“Why? You are human, you are ignorant of most of the world.” Aloysius retorted with a laugh.
“We found about Vampires without one of you biting us on our ass.” I snarled. In fact, the first Vampire had been found out when a bizarre string of serial killings had started in a small city in Utah. What ended up becoming the founders of the FBPI were the men and women who tracked and captured the Vampiric murderer.
“I would like to remind you that it took your government over two hundred years to figure that out.” Aloysius said.
“Enough.” Valery said sharply and I immediately shut my mouth over my retort. Sometimes Valery reminded others of his superior standing, and it shocked me every time.
“The Ducesa would like the FBPI out of this matter for as long as possible.” Valery said as Aloysius sat back to glower at us both.
“I can understand that. It would only turn into an extermination-fest,” I sighed. “But what does she want with me?”
“The Ducesa would like you to investigate this matter as best as you can to determine who is creating these Zombies and why.” Valery answered. I groaned and took a large gulp of my wine.
“And, not wanting to play into Aloysius’ little prejudice, but how does she expect me to discern these things when, I am assuming, a Vampire has not?” I questioned. Aloysius lightened up at this admission and chuckled.
“Every Vampire who has been sent on this mission was taken and was torn apart and eaten.” Valery stated.
“What the Hell?” I exclaimed. “And how am I expected to hold up better than a Vamp against what you’ve said is essentially a Vampire on crack?”
“The Ducesa believes that you will not be seen as a threat and will be allowed to get closer than our brethren have.” Valery remarked darkly.
“And what’s the real reason? That I’m dispensable because I’m human but because of my training I could prove to be of some use?” I snarled as I rose sharply from my seat, sending the chair flying out behind me. Valery stood as I dug my fingers into the wood and heard the wood protesting. Aloysius just looked up at me, clear blue eyes calm.
“The Ducesa does not need to explain herself to you.” Aloysius replied coolly.
“Like Hell she doesn’t.” I screamed. I could hear Ivanna in the background approach, but I hedged my bets that my anger-fueled adrenaline rush would make me faster.
“One word from me and Celina jumps past the Watched list and onto the Execute list. And you think I won’t rejoice in killing you and her?” I hissed. Aloysius roared just as Valery pulled me back from the table.
“Is that a threat human?” Aloysius demanded.
“If I die, your entire Kiss gets wiped out.” I threw back. In seconds, Valery had me out of the restaurant and into the blinding sunlight. The change in light dazed me, as did the sudden withdrawal of endorphins, so I didn’t notice him hurrying me around the corner to where his car was parked. I was compliant as he opened the door to the older sedan and pushed me in. As the door shut, I finally got my bearings, though most of my anger had dissipated.
“What the hell was that?” I barked as Valery slid into the driver seat. It had only dissipated, not disappeared.
“Celina will not be pleased.” Valery sighed as he turned over the engine and pulled his car smoothly out of the space.
“Celina can suck on my cross and rot.” I retorted, pulling on the iron chain around my neck for emphasis. “She’ll get over it. She knows I’m going to take the job.”
“Oh?” Valery responded, keeping his eyes on the flow of traffic as he waited to leave the parking lot.
“Don’t oh me. You know I’m going to take it. I have to. Once the FBPI gets wind of this, they’ll send people, and I’d rather be so deep into it, they’ll leave it to me.” I said and sighed. I could only imagine the damage a bunch of gung-ho Vampire killers would wreck on the various Kisses in the area.
“Being protective are we?” Valery asked, keeping his voice free of any tone that would irritate me, which only irritated me more.
“I don’t love you.” I muttered. Finally Valery looked over at me and smiled.
“Of course not ma petit ami.” He replied and turned his attention back to traffic. We got a break and he pulled into the lane, heading south toward my apartment.
“It would still preferable that you stay alive though. Most Vamps wouldn’t like to be a donor to a woman who could be contracted to kill them.” I muttered.
“Could you kill me Deirdre, if I was on the Execute list?” Valery asked idly.
“If I had to, yes. I’d considerably like it more to be me than someone else.” I answered. I didn’t quite know how I felt about that fact, similar to the fact that I wasn’t very sure how I felt about Valery. Vampires creeped me out to my core, just the whole altered genetics and being dead thing. I hated most of them, but Valery had been a true companion to me over the past seventeen years. However, if he had been human, I still didn’t know the answer to how I felt about him.
But if I was told to kill him, I would. I had no ideas of escaping with him and trying to fight off members of my old team, romantically hiding and scraping a life together just to be killed in a gruesome execution. I had complete faith in the FBPI getting their target, because I never failed.
“I would not kill you if Celina asked me to.” Valery said suddenly. I snorted and he glanced over at me.
“You’re another Master, you don’t have to. And it’s how you put it, she would ask you to. If she outright told one of her own Vampires to kill me, Aloysius for example, how quickly do you think he would be at my throat?” I asked. Valery smiled and I rolled my eyes. He sometimes used subjects that I would get indignant about to get me out of one of my moods.
“I don’t love you Valery.” I repeated and this time Valery gave out a little chuckle.
“It’s funny. You never try to dispute that there may be the small chance that I love you my dear.” He said.
“What’s not to love?” I replied sarcastically. It was true, the only time love was used in either of our vocabularies was when I mentioned that I didn’t love him. A Shakespeare quote floated through my head, one I didn’t know completely but basically said that I must love him if I was causing this much of a fuss, which was what Valery was trying to say. I flushed and turned my face to the window.
“I find it very amusing that Death’s Bite actually still blushes.” Valery noted. Against my sheer force of will, I felt my face grow hotter and I sank into the seat.
With the nickname, I almost felt like I was donning a superhero’s costume. But there was no alter ego, I was the same obnoxious, angry individual I was off of missions. I figured I fell into the ironic category of the CIA codenames, being called Serenity and all. In fact, I was only human, no matter how many gallons of Vampire blood I drank and I still carried the same emotional baggage as everyone else. Still, I somehow expected to be changed by my time in the field, but nothing ever seemed to change.
“I’m not a superhero you know. When I’m pissed off, I’m pissed off.” I sighed. Valery chuckled and pulled off into another parking lot. We were at my apartment.
“Is she going to send anyone after me?” I asked casually.
“No.” Valery replied. I nodded and looked up at my building.
“I know the ride in the afternoon sun probably took a lot out of you,” I said and turned to face him. “Do you want to come up?”