A full moon lay hidden behind clouds racing like chariots across the sky, draping the field below in an army of shadows in motion. Ricky ran his hands through his marine-cut black hair and eyed the full moon balefully; resenting the tricks the shadows were playing on his mind. He felt the skin on his neck prickle, as if he were being watched. Scrunching down in the bed of his truck, he surreptitiously looked over his shoulder. Of course, there was nothing there. To steady his nerves, Ricky pulled out a nic stick and lit it. Bianca glowered at him. Ricky couldn’t help but admire her black leather jacket and how it hugged her curves. Too bad she was so high maintenance. “Ugh. Why do I always have to get stuck with you?” Bianca eyed the cigarette disgustedly. “You know Chris would go ballistic if he knew you were doing that,” she hissed, waving the smoke out of her face. “Chill the fuck out. I know he thinks he knows it all, but he doesn’t know shit more than us. Your bitching is a bigger tell than this sweet baby. Shit, if they can smell this, then they can probably hear you breathing.” “Fuck you!” Bianca growled then sat absolutely still, eyes wide, every muscle taught as a bow. Ricky suspected she was holding her breath in fear of what he had just said. He sucked hard, enjoying the burn of the cigarette smoke and then exhaled languidly. It really was the simple pleasures in life. Glancing past her out the window, he saw Chris sitting with Terah on the hood of the car next to them. Despite his shit talk, Ricky knew he really did rely on Chris’s weird knowledge. To think that a freak, the type of person he had harassed in high school, would be keeping him alive. The world was a crazy place. Chris could only vaguely hear the exchange between Bianca and Ricky, but he groaned inwardly. They really just didn’t get it. Part of him was ready to call it quits for the night, grateful they were still alive. This team was clearly not as ready as he had hoped. The other part was incredibly disappointed. Once again, he was just watching. What he wanted was to be hunting and killing, not waiting to be killed. He glanced over at Terah. At least she was taking this seriously. Her attention was locked on the far end of the field. She barely moved, her mouth set in a firm line. He would definitely have to take her along the next time he tried for a hunting trip. She took this seriously. Chris sighed. It was sad that the two youngest on the team were more serious than the so-called adults. Chris broke from his reverie and froze. Ricky was bored, after sitting out here most of the night. It was cool for October, one of those rare crazy breaks in the usually temperate weather of South Carolina, which made him feel drowsy. He flicked his cigarette away and leaned his head back on the toolbox, glancing toward Chris. The kid was stiff like a pointer hound catching a scent. Excitement flooded Ricky, waking him right up. “What is it?” Ricky hissed. Chris didn’t answer, instead cupping his hand to his ear. Terah froze, intently trying to hear whatever had made Chris so wary. After a moment she looked at Chris blankly. “I don’t hear anything,” she whispered. “Exactly,” Chris murmured. It dawned on her that the clearing only moments ago had sounded quiet, but had been full of the subtle sounds of night; crickets, owls and other critters scurrying about. Now it was silent as a tomb. Chris gestured to the others and slowly crawled off the hood of the car. Terah scrambled to join him, desperate to not be left alone. She stumbled on the uneven ground and fell. Moments later Bianca was beside her, offering a hand. “Thanks Bianca,” she mouthed. Bianca nodded and they all crouched down next to Chris in the shadows. Another few agonizing moments were spent with all four straining to see or hear anything in the darkness. “False alarm?” Ricky questioned. “I don’t think so,” Chris shook his head. Terah could feel herself shutting down. What was wrong with her! She wanted this. Revenge. But the dark, the interminable waiting was filling her with terror. It was too much like the night she had been attacked. She could practically feel a vamp behind her, even though she knew it could not be so. Silent tears seeped from her eyes, gliding down her cheeks. The sense of impending doom would not lift. “Let’s get out of here,” she begged. “I have a really bad feeling!” She was trembling uncontrollably. Chris held up a hand to silence her. Bianca patted her hand reassuringly then crept forward to Chris’s side. She leaned in close to his ear and breathed, “We should go. She’s cracking up. We’re too vulnerable.” “Too late,” Chris admonished, pointed across the clearing. Bianca could see nothing as she peered through shadow on shadow. The moon peaked out for a brief moment revealing what Chris was indicating. To their left, only about halfway across the field something big was moving. Bianca’s heart filled with terror, but a cold center of her being squashed the terror down. She analyzed the thing, trying to comprehend what she was seeing. It moved in a jerky pattern, stumbling, crashing, then moving again. At one point it was almost as if a part of the shadow had tried to separate itself from the rest, then re-merged. A scream of agony and fear echoed across the field. That sound clarified for Bianca what her brain could not interpret. A woman was out in the field being attacked by vampires. She was half-crawling, dragging a wounded leg, and the vampires were playing with her. Darting in and out, each nip a new wound, weakening and slowing their already defenseless prey. A cold fury built in Bianca’s chest as she watched this cruelty. The attack halted in the middle of the field. The sound of the girl’s moans, the tearing of clothing, the growling and hissing of the vamps fighting over the girl; all echoed in the otherwise silent field.“Now!” Chris hissed, “While they’re distracted on their feeding.” He bolted low across the field. The others followed him, everyone except for Terah. With that shriek from the woman in the field, Terah had been mentally thrown back into her own horrible attack, and found herself frozen with the fear that the vampire who had raped and bled her was out there in that field. She tried to move, but her muscles refused to respond. Wanting desperately to be with the group, she tried again, but a smell struck her. Glancing over her shoulder, she looked into the eyes of her worst nightmare.Chris was halfway across the field when he felt a tingling in his spine, as if someone had just tap-danced across his grave. He paused and an instant later was driven into new action. From behind them a gurgling wail ripped through the night. Without even looking, he knew what had happened. Terah had been attacked. “Ambush!” he yelled, immediately veering to his left, moving in a zig-zag pattern. He could hear the other two following behind. More screams erupted from their fallen comrade and he was blinded with rage. “Scatter!” He shouted the order and immediately turned back the way they had come. If he was going to die tonight, he was going to kill at least one of these bastards! The moon peeked out again and the scene before him became grotesquely animated. Terah’s body was pinned on the truck, her entire chest ripped wide open. He knew she was dead, but his body refused to stop this course of action. His mind exploded with wrathful vengeance as he watched the creature rip Terah’s heart out of her chest.It held the heart up, the blood pouring into the awaiting mouth and splashing over its face. Chris pulled a gun from his left hip and a dagger from his right. As his blade embedded to the hilt in the monster’s back, he hoped that Bianca and Ricky were getting the fuck out of here. Maybe his distraction would save their lives. The monster arched back trying to reach behind and dislodge Chris and the knife. Black blood oozed from its wound. It was obviously an older vampire. It struggled to turn, but the knife had hit the spine. Surprised that the other vampires weren’t upon him yet, Chris aimed the revolver into the creature’s face and pulled the trigger.At that same moment two other shots rang out in the clearing. Chris pulled his dagger free and leaped away from the body. He turned, preparing for the attack that should have already been upon him. Looking out in the field, he saw Ricky stand up about center point and fire at a vampire that was headed straight toward Chris. “Run!” Ricky screamed. Chris barely managed to turn before the vampire sacked him from behind. The knife in his hand went skittering across the ground. He was pinned on his stomach and a hand clamped down on his own hand holding the gun, preventing him from bringing it up and firing. He struggled, trying to squirm free.“Hello Chris, so good to see you again,” a familiar voice murmured in his ear. Chris realized it was his art teacher, Mrs. Frost. “Wish I… could say… the same.” Chris groaned, trying to push her away.“Come, come Chris, you always were such a difficult student.”“Gifted was the term you used back then.”“You know you want me,” she laughed evilly, leaning in for a bite.Chris could feel blind panic rising, but tried to tamp it down. “Of course,” he grunted, slamming his head back into the side of hers. She pulled back in surprise, but it was not enough for him to break free. He used the extra space to slam her harder in the face. Bone cracked and she hissed in surprise, releasing his arm to wipe away the blood pouring from her nose. Chris couldn’t squiggle free, but managed to turn his body halfway around. “I want you dead!” Chris growled. He pulled the gun up and her eyes went wide in shock. Pulling the trigger he waited for her face to explode, but the gun had jammed. Shit! She began to smile. In a frenzy for some defense, Chris snatched the crucifix from his neck and jabbed it into Mrs. Frost’s throat. Blood began pouring forth and she gaped in shock. She began trying to physically force the blood back in, simply widening the wound. Still Chris could not pull free. Suddenly her skull was obliterated before his eyes.Bianca stood there holding a small-caliber gun. Chris quickly shoved the body away and Bianca pulled him to his feet, yelping when the body burst into flames. Chris looked around the field for Ricky. He was running like a bat out of hell in the opposite direction with two vamps on his tail. “Bianca the car!” Chris yelled, tossing her the keys. She tossed him her gun and he took off running after Ricky, hoping to get there in time. Chris didn’t dare shoot at them, for fear of hitting Ricky. Directly ahead of Ricky two figures rushed into the clearing. Ricky stopped short, frozen like a rabbit unsure where to go, then quickly made a ninety degree turn. In the moment he was clear of the two vampires, Chris popped off two shots, hitting one Vampire. It went down, but Chris didn’t believe it was dead. The other continued to hurtle after Ricky. Just as Chris had lined up the next shot he felt a gust of wind and smelled death. Whipping around he found himself face-to-face with another creature. He pulled the trigger and the creature’s shoulder exploded. The vampire grabbed him around the throat, laughing a high-pitched maniacal laugh.“So you are the one making all the trouble. Well, no more!” Lifting Chris clean off the ground, the vampire squeezed hard.“Who the fuck are you?” Chris gasped, struggling against the grip. He clung to the vampire’s forearms in an effort to reduce the pressure on his neck. His feet flailed about helplessly, trying to find a foothold, maybe gain some leverage.“One who is older and stronger than the others you’ve disposed of here. I will be your executioner!” Chris clawed at the monsters hands. He didn’t have the upper body strength to hold on much longer. Knocking his feet together, he tried to release the switchblade he had embedded in his boot. First click, it didn’t work. Damn. He should have tested them in a more realistic combat situation! The world was starting to go grey as Chris tried again to trigger the mechanism on his boot. Yes! He felt the release mechanism whoosh and with a last desperate surge of force, kicked out hard. The blade embedded itself in the vampire’s stomach. The monster roared and threw him on the ground like a used-up rag doll. He tried to crawl away and it flung itself forward, clawing at him in rage with its long nails. Searing pain tore through his back and shoulders. This was it. He was going to die.Ricky was running as hard as he could, but his strength was quickly waning. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end! He was about ready to give up when he saw the headlights of the car come barreling toward him from the right. Bianca leaned out the front window, and Ricky saw the muzzle flashes exploding in the night as she fired. He veered toward her, hoping she wasn’t too late.He risked a glance back. There were only two pursuing him, the third had turned back. Ricky realized that he couldn’t see Chris. Turning forward, he breathed a sigh of relief as he realized that Bianca was closer. But Ricky couldn’t keep up his speed. He didn’t think he would have time to get in before they would be on him. In which case, he’d be risking Bianca’s life too, and he couldn’t do that!A howl erupted from behind him and he glanced back. The scene stopped him in his tracks. The figure nearest was frozen in place with flames coming out of its chest. A powerful voice bellowed, “Get down!”He dove to the ground. A moment later a shock wave hit him. Rocks, sand and debris scorched his skin. As soon as it passed he leaped back to his feet. The other figure was just rising as well. Where the vampire had stood was a burned-out hole. Ricky prepared to dive back down, but realized that the other figure wasn’t interested in him. It had turned and faced the other figures across the field. There were two running ahead of a third. Ricky was pretty sure that the one in the lead was Chris and he seemed to be injured, stumbling only a little ahead of the vamp closest to him.The one in the rear pulled up what looked like a bow and shot a flaming arrow at the creature that was almost on top of Chris. The creature pulled up short, turned and fled. Ricky leaped in shock as Bianca pulled up in front of him and yelled at him, “Get in! Chris needs our help!”Ricky was shaking. What the hell was going on? His brain couldn’t process everything it had just seen. He dove in the back of the car and Bianca revved the engines, pulling around and heading toward Chris. Bianca slammed on the brakes and Ricky started to get out and go to Chris.“Get back in the car!” a woman’s voice shouted. Before he could even react, the woman was shoving him back in. The other rear door opened and a man shoved Chris in, getting in behind him. The woman opened the front driver’s door and Bianca scrambled to the passenger side. Something slammed into the roof of the car, denting it.“Shit!” Ricky jumped. The man fired a gun into the roof. The thunderous sound deafened Ricky. As the car spun out, a body flew off the roof of the car. Ricky’s ears were ringing and his head was spinning. The woman shouted something, but he couldn’t understand. The man next to him was leaning over Chris. Ricky sat back numb. What the fuck was going on?!The car hurtled out of the woods and spun out onto the highway. The woman driving was clearly in control even though the car was careening at break neck speeds.“Is he alright?” she called to her partner in the back seat. Their eyes met in the rearview mirror and he nodded once tersely. Her blazing blue eyes burned into Bianca before passing on and looking out the window.“Are you injured?” the woman asked. There was no warmth or concern, merely evaluation. Bianca hesitated before responding. “I… I don’t think so. Ricky?” She looked back at Ricky. He was staring out the window dazedly. “Ricky!” He turned and stared at her dumbly. “Are you ok?” Bianca demanded. He finally seemed to focus looking at her, then at the woman driving, and finally at the man in the back seat. “I’m not hurt,” he finally responded. “What are you doing to Chris?” he challenged the man.The woman answered from the front seat. “Your friend is badly hurt. He is healing him. Now, be quiet and watch the sky.” She was doing just that, constantly glancing out the windows, then back at the road to keep the car on it. The speedometer crept past 85 mph and the engine began to whine. “Chris said he thought they could fly,” Bianca whispered.The woman looked at her in surprise. Once again she and the man in the back exchanged glances in the mirror.“You know what they were?” she asked hesitantly.Ricky exploded in anger. He had time to process part of what had happened and the realization he’d come to infuriated him. “We were fucking ambushed!” he yelled.“How could they have known we were coming?” Bianca asked wide-eyed.The woman’s eyes continued to roam, but she took yet another glance at Bianca and Ricky, seeming to size them up.“You were hunting them?” she asked. Ricky had come to another conclusion. He held the gun up to the woman’s head. She did not flinch, but the man next to him did. He did not stop whatever he was doing to Chris, though. “Who the fuck are you two and where in the hell did you come from?!” Ricky demanded.Bianca turned and saw the gun. “Ricky, stop it! They saved our lives!” she yelled at him.“Why? How!? What the fuck are you!!!”The woman replied frostily, “We’re hunters. We didn’t realize you… were… also.”“For God sakes, Ricky, put the gun down!” Bianca snapped.Suddenly the man next to Ricky spoke. “He is healed.” He pulled Chris to a sitting position. Chris began gasping for breath, which sent him into a coughing fit and the man thumped his back.Ricky hesitated, the gun wavering.“Fuck!” Chris gasped, holding his hand up to the man. “I thought for sure that was the end. How?” He looked at the man sitting next to him, then at the woman driving.Ricky let his gun fall into his lap feeling hopelessly lost. Chris held his breath at the tension in the car. The woman was pushing the car as fast as it would go. She barely slowed as she took curves, and the wheels squealed in protest. After a few more minutes she let the car slow to about fifty.“I think we’re clear of trackers.”“Trackers?” Bianca asked.“There does not appear to be anything following us,” the man concurred, speaking past the three in the car. The strange duo seemed intent on ignoring them.“Thank you for healing me,” Chris finally said.The man simply nodded. “I don’t know how you did it, but thanks. You saved us out there.” Chris waited, but the woman didn’t react to his statement at all. “So, you guys are hunters too?” he asked casually, while looking them over carefully. They were both tall and muscularly built, wearing tight black tank tops, cargos, and combat boots. Both wore matching silver pendants shaped like a dagger. The hilt had an amber liquid encased in a small vial. They both had long black hair braided down their back. “So, you’ve come to get rid of the vampires?” Chris tried again. There was another exchange in the mirror. Finally there was a subtle nod from the man and the woman sighed. “We came for one, but I suppose we’ll have to clean up his mess before we leave.”Chris tried to quell his excitement. “That’s great! With all of us fighting, there is no way they stand a chance, especially if you can teach us…”“Woah!” The woman held up one hand. “ Havoc and I work alone.”Chris was numb with the sudden refusal. “But… we could help you.” “Nothing personal, kid,” she said matter-of-factly “but you guys would be more of a hindrance than a help. You should just lay low for a couple of days. We’ll take care of the problem for you.”Ricky burst out in derisive laughter. An icy glare from the woman stopped him short. “Sorry, but how do you expect to kill… what was the last estimate, Chris? Fifty?”“Those are conservative estimates. We know of thirty for sure… sorry, twenty nine after tonight. We have fifty others that are suspect.”The woman seemed to mull this over a moment. “What is the population around here?”“Around 15,000,” Ricky answered quickly.“That is an awfully high vamp count for such a small population,” Havoc mused. Another meaningful exchange in the mirror occurred.“When did you realize there were vamps among you?” The woman looked to Chris for an answer.“About a year ago,” Chris responded.The woman looked at him closely, gauging his response. His whole body itched at the scrutiny, but he didn’t dare squirm. She was measuring him up. He would not be found wanting, if he could help it.Seemingly satisfied, the woman continued her interrogation. “How long have you been hunting them?”“As a group?” Chris shrugged. “About six months, but that’s because it took some work convincing the others that this was really happening.”“How many others?”“Nine all together.”“Eight after tonight,” Bianca mumbled. Chris blushed. He’d forgotten about their fallen comrade. Poor Terah. The monsters hadn’t even tried to turn her, they’d simply butchered her. “How many have you killed?” the woman continued. Chris looked to the others, but both seemed to avoid his eye contact. This interrogation was exhausting him. “Five,” he muttered. The woman arched an eyebrow at him. He knew five wasn’t impressive, but it was better than none at all. “That’s beside the point. We’ve learned a lot and are ready to learn more. We can show you which ones are vamps. It’ll save you a lot of time.”“We have our own methods of determining accurately who is a vamp and who is not.” The woman seemed to dismiss the conversation.Chris refused to back down. “Listen, this is our town…”“Oh, by all means, then we’ll leave you to it!” the woman scoffed. “As I have already said, Havoc and I work alone. End of discussion.” She whipped the car into a motel on the highway.“What are we doing here?” Ricky asked, snapping out of his silence. “Parting ways.” The woman jumped out of the car, moving lithely towards the nearest door. She withdrew a hotel key card from her hip pocket. Chris scrambled out of the car and rushed to catch up with her long strides.“At least come back and meet the rest of our team before you write us off,” Chris pleaded. He sensed Havoc right behind him. The man moved swiftly and silently. Chris couldn’t help but think that he would hate to meet either of these two in a dark alley. Here in the empty motel parking lot, he could sense that they were primal predators. “We aren’t just going to stop what we’ve been doing just because you’re here. At least we should coordinate our moves. We’ve got a system set up already.”“What, kill a few a year ‘til you’re all dead?” The woman responded flippantly. “Look, just stay out of our way. We know how to handle these beasts. Go home and pretend this was all a bad dream. In a week you’ll wake up and it will be almost as if it had never happened. Then you can go back to your normal life.” There was something in the way she said it that made Chris pause. All his life he’d never wanted to be normal. He wanted to be just like these people. Yet, here this woman was practically pleading him to have a normal life. She reached out to open the door.As the door opened a shadow crossed the lamplight. Chris heard the woman gasp and as she slumped forward Chris got a glimpse of blood-shot eyes and a pale face. Suddenly her arm came up in an arc, a blade glinting in her hand, and the head of the ambusher rolled over her shoulder landing right between Chris’s feet. He recoiled in horror recognizing the face of his newspaper carrier, Mr. Dodson. Fuck, he’d never have thought of him!He stared numbly and was unable to react as Havoc shoved him aside to grab the woman before she fell. “Move,” Havoc growled. “Move, get back in the car!” He shoved Chris toward the car.Even though he was carrying the woman, Havoc moved fast. Chris heard the sizzle and pop as the vampire’s body began to burn. Only then was it becoming clear to him what had just happened. He jumped in the front seat and could only shake his head to Bianca’s unspoken question. Havoc was already setting the woman down in the back.“Fury? Fury!” Havoc whispered hoarsely. There was no response.“Is she dead?” Chris asked, turning in the seat. She hadn’t even made a sound.“What the hell is going on?!” Ricky snapped.“Watch out the windows. They may attack again at any moment,” Havoc ordered. Chris was already on it. Every shadow seemed alive, yet when he looked closely it was only his imagination.“Can’t you heal her like you healed me?” Chris spared a glance and realized Havoc was already trying. Two crystals were reflecting an ethereal blue light off the woman’s dark shirt. In that instant Chris realized that she was badly hurt. There was a gaping hole in her stomach and blood was pouring from it. His preservation instinct kicked into overdrive.“We have got to get out of here. We’re sitting ducks.” Chris started the engine.Havoc seemed to hesitate, uncertain what to do. “I need to get something.” He leaped out of the car and headed back toward the hotel room. Bianca pointed to the room. “It’s burning,” she whispered. “What happened?” “Watch the window!” Chris snapped.“Dude, this is seriously stupid!” Ricky mumbled. “What a stupid fucking move. What is so important that he’s gotta go back in there?” Ricky pointed towards Havoc as he flitted through the burning doorway. “What the fuck happened?!” Ricky yelled. He had just looked at Fury, really looked at her.“A vamp attacked just as she opened the door. It… it must have stabbed her and then she lopped its head off… Is she alive?”“Fuck if I can tell.” After a beat, he added, “She looks dead to me.”“We gotta get out of here!” Bianca whispered. She was trembling from head to toe. At that moment Havoc backed out of the door and sprinted back to the car, throwing himself in the back. “Go!”“Where?” Chris asked hesitantly.Havoc looked up. He was clearly lost without the woman’s guidance.“We’ll go back to our place,” Chris stated.“Is it safe?” Havoc asked uncertainly.“Heluva lot safer than sittin’ out here,” Ricky muttered.Chris peeled out of the parking lot and spun gravel as he pulled back onto the highway. Although he considered himself a pretty good wheel man, it took all his focus to maneuver the car at the speed he was climbing to. He jerked a hard left sending everyone sliding into one another and was now on dark winding back roadsBianca turned, holding onto the headrest of the seat, planting a hand on the dashboard, and bracing her back against the door to keep from being flung about the car. She looked at the woman.“Is she going to be alright?” she asked nervously.“For now,” Havoc responded tensely. “Why isn’t she better like Chris got better?” Bianca asked, after quickly repositioning herself from a particularly sharp curve.Havoc looked at them carefully, a guarded look in his eyes as he seemed to debate his response. He finally shrugged. “The crystals are drained. I can’t heal her any more until I cleanse and recharge them. Her wounds are…more severe than his wounds were.”“So, she might still die?” Chris queried.Havoc nodded solemnly.“Bianca, call Lucas, fill him in, and tell him to get Doc there,” Chris ordered. He looked back again and saw Havoc leaning over the woman…Fury…. His eyes were closed as he leaned over her and his lips moved silently, fervently. Was he praying? Chris groaned and fervently whispered “Please don’t let her die.” He couldn’t lose two people in one night. Lucas was going to kill him!