Sometimes the truth can be hidden for years.
The thunderblade whistled through the air and with a satisfying thunk severed the head of the test dummy. Perfect aim. Perfect thrust.
My heart floated in my chest with exhilaration as I heard my father chuckle. "Great throw Chad. But you know it would be a more reliable kill if thrown vertically. There's a much greater target area head-to-torso than the neck alone."
"I know, but it is so much more gratifying to see the head fall to the ground while the body is still standing. And definitely more lethal."
"Don't get cocky. Vamp hunting is serious business, and one missed throw will alert the vampire. They're quick, strong, and extremely dangerous. Training with dummies is much different than facing a real vamp with adrenaline pumping through your body and apprehension clouding your judgement."
My dad, or General Savage to the troops, shook his head and smiled. "You're only sixteen Chad. You have the skills for sure, but you're untested in the field. Trust your skills, but don't become overconfident."
"Every soldier must be field-tested at some point. Do you think you're ready?"
My heart thudded in my chest, and I wondered if it was from excitement or apprehension. "Yes sir. Absolutely."
He smiled at my eagerness. "Well there's a report of a suspected coven at the Kensington Estate a few miles out of town. It's been condemned by the city as structurally unsound so no one is supposed to be there. I'd like you and Hank to check it out. Investigate and report only. No engagement. Do you understand?"
My nerves tingling like I'd touched a live electric wire, I nodded."Yes sir. I understand."
I've been in training for six years physically...mentally since birth. Unlike training in the military, ours is secret. And more stringent in hand-to-hand combat, stealth, and weaponry. Guns are useful if the bullets are smeared with vervain, the only poison vampires are vulnerable to. But my favorite is the thunderblade. Remove the head and it's all over.
The majority of humans think vampires are fictitious characters in movies and books intended to scare and delight. We know better. They have no morality. Evil in its purest form. In their human appearance they are hard to identify, so they prey on the innocent as serial killers do. No remorse for those they kill.
At ten p.m. we parked a half-mile from the estate on a game trail hidden from sight of the road. Hank, a veteran hunter trusted by my father, smiled at my nervousness like he could hear the thumping of my heart.
"Okay, rookie, you take the primary position and cover the front of the house. I'll sneak around to the back. Don't be seen. We're looking for any suspicious activity. Observe only. We'll meet back here in one hour. No later."
I nodded, afraid my voice would confirm my nervousness.
It took ten minutes to find a good observation nest. Open sight of the entire front of the estate yet close enough to view movement. The binoculars would help me identify the faces. And yes, there were faces to be identified. A party was going on inside. Loud music thundered through the house, and shadows paraded through the windows of several rooms. Was it just a teenage bash, or was this a vampire gathering? Only bloodletting would tell.
Ten minutes later I was pretty certain. There were teenagers for sure, but there were also adults ranging in age from mid-twenties to over eighty. Not a teenage bash. One couple stepped out on the second floor balcony and embraced while swaying to the music. The woman lowered her head to the man's neck then moments later raised her head for a kiss. I saw blood dripping from his neck.
"Don't move an inch. There's a rifle pointed at your head. Place your hands behind your back."
The calm gravelly voice caused the blood in my body to turn cold. I tried to come up with something plausible for my being here. "I... was just..."
"We know what you were doing. Hands!"
One man secured my wrists while another retrieved my thunderblade, stun gun, and binoculars. Then a strong hand lifted me into the air and set me on my feet.
With the hand still gripping my collar we marched into the big mansion with the toes of my boots touching ground every third step or so. The music vibrated through my feet when I was placed firmly on the floor in front of an old woman. Movement stopped in the room while all eyes focused on me. I recognized a few of the kids who attended school with me.
The old woman glared. "What have we here?"
The man still holding my collar said, "A hunter's my guess from the looks of the weapons he possessed."
The other one presented the thunderblade for all to see. "This thing's strange. Kinda looks like a frisbee."
The thunderblade is rather deceptive to the eye. Just a convex surface on both sides like two hubcaps together face out. But when thrown it pops open and six sharp curved blades extend and lock into position.
Through the guilt and embarrassment the burn of anger finally unfroze my tongue. "Yeah, it's kind of interesting. Untie me and let me show you what it does."
The woman smiled, but everyone else looked shocked.
"What's your name young man? You may call me Jocasta. "
I clenched my jaw refusing to answer.
"That's Chad Savage. I know him from school." Someone said from the crowd.
"Chad Savage," she repeated. "Any relation to the leader of the Hunter Force?"
I just glared at her.
"You must be his son. The resemblance is clear, but I think you got your courage from your mother. She was a real headstrong young woman."
A burning sensation spread from my chest to my head, and I knew my face was red. "Don't talk about my mother. You know nothing about her."
In fact she very likely knew her better than I do. My mother was killed when I was a few months old, and all I know about her are from stories my dad told me and a few pictures he keeps around the house.
"Oh, I knew her. I thought I knew her very well. We were as close as any mother and daughter could be until she fell in love. She loved your father so much that she refused to bring him into the fold. She wanted him to freely choose how he would live. Human or vampire."
Jocasta bowed her head shaking it sadly, and I knew I would not like the memory she was about to reveal.
"Not all my kind could accept a vampire rejecting our ways. One day two of them confronted your mother and father in their home. They called her vulgar names, and your father fought them. But he lacked the strength of a vampire. They threw him on a coffee table and it broke apart. Your mother jumped into the fray, and though she had the strength, it was two against one. They flung her aside and she landed on one of the broken legs of the table. It pierced her heart."
Tears were in her eyes as she looked up at me again. "My daughter was dead, and she left a grandson that I never met. Until now. And you have been raised to hate us with a fury your father has instilled in you from a flaming hatred in his heart."
It had to be a lie. I struggled against the arm holding me until I was lifted flailing as my legs no longer held purchase on the ground. Angry words and shouts escaped my lips, but I don't remember what I said.
After what seemed like hours I quit struggling. Tears were now in my eyes as well. Hanging by my collar, I never felt so utterly helpless and confused.
"Your motherÃ¢?"my daughterÃ¢?"loved you."
My voice cracked as I asked, "Am I a vampire?"
Her answer was soft and slow. "We may never know. Until..."
She never finished the sentence. There was a thunderous explosion of breaking windows and doors. Shouting and screams from all around thudded against my ear drums.
Suddenly the arm holding me in the air slammed against my back as it was severed from the guard's body. I fell limply to the floor.
The battle lasted only minutes as the vampires were taken completely by surprise. The full might of the Hunter Force overwhelmed them. Someone tried to remove the hand gripping my coat, but when he couldn't he untied my hands and helped me remove it tearing away the collar of my shirt as well.
There was laughing and cheering, but all I saw was pools of blood from dismembered men women and children covering the floor. And a deep sadness filled my heart.
Late that night after the celebration ended my father came to my room to check on me. Cheerfulness faded from his face as he saw my demeanor.
"Are you all alright Chad?"
"Was mother a vampire?" My words were but a whisper.
Father's face clouded over, and for the first time in my life he slapped me.
"Never... never say that about her!"
He turned back to the door, and in anger I jumped on his back and sunk my teeth into his neck.
And I knew.