Shadow Born (Shadows of Salem #1)(15)

by Jasmine Walt, Rebecca Hamilton

Except the man was gone.

“Ma’am, I really do need to get back to the front desk now.” Jenkins’s voice snapped me out of the vision, and I saw him leaning against the doorjamb.

“Yeah, sure.” I let out a shaky breath, then pushed myself off the radiator. I wasn’t sure what I’d seen just now. I needed some time alone to process it. “I’ve got what I need.”

I let Jenkins usher me out of the room, then returned to my Jeep without complaint. As I sat in the driver’s seat, leaning my head against the headrest, one thing became certain to me: whoever had tried to wipe that room clean hadn’t wanted me to see the man in the trench coat.

But now that I’d seen him, I was going to figure out who he was and what he’d really done with Tom.

CHAPTER 9

By the time my shift was over, I was in a foul mood. My trip to the motel had given me more questions than answers, and Detective Baxter and I had been stuck dealing with whiny perps all afternoon. We’d finished off the day booking a dumb-ass teenager for driving straight into a picket fence after downing a six pack of Bud Light, something that rubbed me the wrong way on so many levels.

I mean, DUI is bad enough. I’d seen so many families broken from drunk-driving accidents it made my stomach sick if I thought too much about the needless tragedy. But to add insult to injury, the little shit had gotten drunk on Bud-fucking-Light. Seriously. That was like getting drunk on water, and the fact that he’d gotten behind the wheel when he couldn’t even hold beer-flavored water was enough to make me want to drop-kick him all the way into the Boston Harbor.

I need a punching bag, I thought as I left the precinct. But since one wasn’t handy, I opted to walk home. The exercise would help burn off some of this pent up energy and frustration and maybe clear my head enough so I could think.

The brisk walk did me some good—the cold wind on my face cleared some of the simmering resentment from my head, and the beautiful sunset lightened my heart a little.

But just as I was crossing the street, a lean, hooded figure on the opposite sidewalk caught my attention. His shoulders were hunched against the cold, hands shoved into the pockets of his hoodie, and because the sun was almost gone, it was hard to see his face. But there was something strange about him, and when he stopped at the corner and turned to face me, I caught a flash of glowing purple eyes with vertical pupils.

We both froze, and time seemed suspended as I tried to figure out what the hell I was looking at. Aside from the vertical pupils, the figure’s eyes were remarkably similar to mine. But before I could think any more about it, he darted around the corner.

“Hey, wait!” I dashed after him, curiosity burning in my chest. I knew the thing I was following couldn’t be a vampire, because vampire eyes were red, but it definitely wasn’t human. Aside from the eyes, it was so fucking fast that I could barely keep it in sight as it led me on a chase through dark back alleys. I twisted around corners at breakneck speed and slipped on too-slick pavement that was still damp from this afternoon’s rainstorm.

My breath came fast and hard as I turned another corner, then skidded to a stop as I realized I’d come upon a dead end.

Standing at the edge of the alleyway, I aimed my weapon and peered into the darkness, trying to figure out if he was hiding in the shadows. The moon shone plenty of light from above, though, and I couldn’t see any place for him to hide.

A flicker of movement caught my eye, and I turned to my left just in time to see the figure jump out of a shadow that was way too small for him to hide in. A pale, clawed hand knocked the gun from my grip before I could squeeze off a shot, and it clattered to the ground.

I ducked a right hook, then made a grab for my gun, but the figure kicked me in the stomach. Breath whooshed out of me as I skidded backwards, falling on my side, and it was only through sheer force of will that I got my legs under me before he could strike me again. I caught his booted foot on my way up and yanked it to me, and a vision of a cold, dark cavern with strange symbols painted on the damp walls assailed me.

Unable to afford the distraction, I pushed it aside, then back-fisted him in the face with all my strength.

There was a loud crack as his head snapped sideways, and the hood slid off. Not that it made much of a difference—my assailant’s skin was nearly as pitch black as his hair, and even with the light of the moon I could barely make out his features. But he did bare long, pearly-white fangs at me, and that was the last straw.

“Fuck this,” I snarled, pulling my vampire gun from beneath my blazer. It was time to end this thing.

But before I could fire a shot, the creature recovered and knocked the weapon from my hand. I cursed at the thing’s inhuman speed—this never would have happened with a human.

Swings came in quick succession, and I had to eat a couple of them to avoid the more dangerous blows. I managed to turn my body into the last one, though, and my momentum threw my assailant off balance. Before he could recover, I kicked him back, lifted my gun, and buried two shots in his chest.

For a moment, I thought I had him. The creature stumbled backward, head bowed as he clutched at the holes in his chest. But instead of turning to ash, he simply stood there for a moment, then lifted his head and gave me a feral grin.

“Uh-oh.” If two wooden stake bullets to the heart didn’t kill this guy, then I was in big trouble.

The creature charged me again, and I dodged, heart-pounding as I tried to figure out how to get to my other gun before he killed me. I doubted that lead bullets would be any more effective than the wooden ones, but maybe if I shot him enough times, I could slow him down.

As the figure turned toward me, I braced myself, but before he could charge me again, a shot rang out.

His body shuddered, and something glistened on his lips that might have been blood. He dropped to his knees, but instead of falling forward or turning to ash, he melted into a puddle of darkness that oozed away, assimilating with the rest of the shadows clinging to the walls.

“Vampire bullets?” Detective Baxter asked.

Shocked, I whirled around to see him standing behind me. But instead of his button-up and slacks, he was dressed in a priest’s robes, and the smoking gun in his hand was definitely not police issue.

This definitely isn’t Detective Baxter.

“Y-yeah,” I stammered, still a little shaken. “I’m guessing you’re Guy Baxter’s brother?”