Part V: And I Might Just Tear You Apart
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
And here we are again. It's spooky season and I meant to write more but, well, *gestures to everything*. Despite that, I did want to get at least one chapter out for you before the end of October. Last chapter was a lot of feelings but I promised we'd get to the real pulpy stuff soon and we finally get there in this chapter.
Things are about to go very badly for our vampire cowboys.
Thank you so much for reading. Please let me know if you enjoy this chapter. I appreciate all feedback and it's good to hear that people are still reading it and having fun.
And I Might Just Tear You Apart
Leon left Jack to his mourning and walked around the mission a little. It didn’t take him long to confirm what he had slowly begun to suspect. No one else lived in the mission except Father Lazarus. It had all the appearances of once being a more bustling place but perhaps the years had worn too long and it had slowly been abandoned. He was so used to full-to-bursting churches back home, ant hives of activity crawling with all manner of priest and nun and cardinal. The quiet here was weighty, like a physical presence that lurked in the halls and loitered outside. He swung by the modest stable to check on the horses before heading back in, looking for the lonesome priest.
He found the man doing what were probably his daily chores, the sleeves of his robes folded up over his forearms. He nodded at Leon as he walked over, giving him a small smile.
“Let me guess, he was his usual warmth and charm.” the priest said. Leon sighed.
“He’s in some mood. Don’t rightly know why I care, if I’m honest. He sort of murdered me.”
Lazarus laughed a little. Not unkindly, more taken aback by Leon’s unbothered phrasing. “I am sorry he did that. It is a strange complication, being what you are. I don’t think he knows why he does these things. Jack is a being of pure action. Shoots first, asks questions later. Well, in his case, I should say “bites first”, I suppose.”
“Ain’t it the truth.” Leon said. “Say, Father, can you point me to the kitchen? My throat is screaming for a glass of water.”
“Oh.” the priest said, expression nothing but professional pity. “I’m sorry, Leon. It’s not water that you need. Your body is changing because of what Jack did. If you tried to drink water now it would just make you sick. Your body is craving… something else and that pain is just going to get worse until you… do something about it.”
Leon stared at the priest for a moment as his words sank home like knives. He swallowed hard, feeling the shattered glass feeling in his throat that could drive a thirsty man crazy in the desert. It was beginning to become all he could focus on, the desire for relief becoming an itch he couldn’t ignore.
“Seven days to make a vampire,” Leon said, a little hollow, a little worried. “If I make it, it doesn’t stick.”
“I’m sure you know better than I. You’re a vampire hunter. My studies were never in that… domain. The bones of my knowledge lay elsewhere. What I do know, though, is that you have chosen to walk a very difficult, maybe impossible road.” He patted Leon’s arm gently. “Here, follow me. I know a place you can rest and reflect. Sometimes it can help.”
Leon nodded glumly and followed the priest through the quiet hall.
The Mission’s chapel was small but lovely. It smelled of comforting incense and felt cozy somehow. It was narrow, with two short rows of hand carved pews of pale, gray wood and big windows on the right wall that probably brought in a beautiful amount of light during the day. There was a modest altar at one end of the room, a wooden cross hung on the wall behind it, starting to crack from the dry air. Who knew how old it was. Despite the solitary nature of the mission there wasn’t a speck of dust on anything. Leon could tell the priest made sure to keep it tidy even without regular parishioners.
At the front of the room, near a small fount of holy water made of some kind of red clay, was a large wooden statue of the Virgin Mary in her form as the Lady of Seven Sorrows. The sainted namesake of the mission. Her face had been carved with loving care, full of beatific pain. Her hands gently touched her chest where seven blades had been carved around a heart crowned with holy flame. Everything was painted, though the sacred blues of her robes and the delicate blush on her face had faded from sunlight and age. The artist who had carved her had been a fine hand at it, she was beautiful and sorrowful in perfect measures.
Leon looked at her in amazement, partly glad he hadn’t burst into flames upon walking into the room and stunned by how well crafted she was. Father Lazarus said nothing. He grabbed Leon’s hand when it tried to reflexively dip into the holy water and moved the fount aside. Leon, feeling chagrined at his forgetfulness, nodded his thanks but didn’t speak either. Perhaps it was to preserve the silent sanctity of the space. Words felt unnecessary.
The vampire hunter walked down the aisle and went on one knee before the altar, like a knight before his liege. He crossed himself before sliding into the nearby pew. Each motion had been drilled into him since childhood and he did them without thought. Hands clasped together, head bowed, he recited prayers under his breath. Their familiar cadence was calming, a meditation to help ease his jumped nerves and thoughts.
Father Lazarus watched the vampire pray, the sight so unique he couldn’t tear his own eyes away. He sent up a prayer in his own thoughts to a God he hoped was merciful and the retinue of tried and true saints who might give his hope some extra attention.
Let this one find peace, he prayed. Let him live and survive. Watch over him, o lord, and watch over the fiend Jack Stryker. They know not what they do.
Jack slinked back into the mission like a stray cat. He had spent the night walking the nearby desert, deep in thoughts he refused to continue thinking once he crossed the threshold. Regrets never did anyone any good and he refused to dwell on them for too long. Before he went inside he paid his respects to a fresher grave in the cemetery, wincing at the date on the small marker. The poor soul had gotten barely any time together with the priest. Sometimes life was just that unfair. He should know, after all.
There was still time before daylight crested the horizon, though not much, and he knew he’d have to bring the hunter into the windowless room Lazarus had provided for them. He poked around the mission, wondering where the two of them had gone to. He tried every door, skipping one that seemed no different than the others but he knew to avoid. He gave it a wide berth before trying the last one. He should have known they’d be in the damned chapel.
“Ugh, really? Come on, this is a bit much.” he said as he walked in, giving the statue of Mary a once over before rolling his eyes. Leon turned in his pew, glaring at the vampire.
“Be good.” Lazarus said below his breath, seated nearby at the very last row of pews. He had a rosary out in his hands.
“Fuck no. Never once in my life, Padre. Gives me indigestion.” he answered back with a grin. Father Lazarus sighed at him like a disappointed parent.
“Language.” the priest scolded.
Jack snickered to himself and dropped unceremoniously into the pews across from the priest, slouching and putting his feet up on the back of the pews in front of him. Lazarus frowned pointedly at him but Jack didn’t remove his boots off the holy furniture.
Leon turned back around and studiously ignored Jack’s presence, staring ahead at the cross on the wall. He could feel exhaustion starting to pull at his limbs, making him feel leaden and cold. A strange thought drifted through his mind, saying the sun would be up soon. He shook his head, casting the foreign knowledge aside, and focused on praying for strength and salvation.
A bright, white light flashed into the windows, like lightning without a storm. A crash shook the entire building, dust snowing down from the ceiling. There was a loud boom but it was nothing like thunder. It was far too loud and all three men cried out at it. Jack scrambled to his feet, swearing a blue streak and hustling to the windows. Lazarus and Leon were a moment after him.
Outside stood a woman besides an exhausted looking horse, it’s neck dripping with froth. She was a petite creature, with delicate cupid bow lips and a demure nose. She was pretty as a porcelain doll but the effect was interrupted by long scars on one side of her face, as if she had been swiped by the claws of some huge creature. It had taken her eye, now covered with a patch. Her other eye was icicle blue and narrowed in anger. A thick plait of auburn hair hung down her back, capped with a twist of silver.
“Oh fuck,” Leon swore, forgetting where he was for a moment.
“I know you’re in there, Leon Carpenter.” the woman said, her voice amplified somehow. She stood just outside the perimeter of the mission, as if something had stopped her from waltzing in as she had clearly planned. Her voice was accented French by way of Louisiana and she looked delighted and furious in equal measure.
“Is that her?” Jack asked, stunned. “The hunter who hunts hunters?”
“Excuse me, WHAT?” the priest yelped, turning to look at them. “You didn’t tell me about this!”
“That’s her alright,” Leon said, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. “Aurélie Boucher, the Butcher of Baton-Rouge.”
“Well, fuck.” Jack said. What else was there to say?
“How did she find us?” Leon asked. “You said you did a thing! I saw you do a thing to stop her from tracking us!”
“I did! No way she could have bypassed that! She didn’t have anything of ours to track us by!”
Both vampires looked back outside when they heard someone yell in pain. Boucher had pushed a man to his knees before her. His hands were bound behind him with rope and he looked horrible, as if he had been beaten then forced to walk for miles. There was blood on his mouth and down his chin, vomit on his checked shirt. His hair was plastered to his skull with sweat. Jack stared in shock.
“Is that… Jack, isn’t that the man you were biting in that alley back in town…?” Leon asked slowly, unable to believe his eyes.
“Motherfucker!” Jack slammed his fist against the window frame. “You have got to be kidding me! How did she figure out I had been with that whore!”
“What of yours did he have?” Leon asked, confused. Jack frowned at him and shared a look with a decidedly unamused Father Lazarus.
“I’ll tell you when you’re older.” he said.
“I know you are in there,” Boucher said again. “Hiding, perhaps? Cowering like a baby? Perhaps saying your final prayers?” She flicked her hand through the air, as if brushing away a bothersome insect, causing another crash to ripple through the mission. The walls shook and there was the distant sound of breaking glass and things falling off walls and shelves.
“She is going to tear my mission apart!” Father Lazarus yelled.
“Perhaps you don’t think I mean business, Carpenter? I can prove to you I very much do. I know you are watching me.” She unholstered a pistol and shot the man kneeling before her in the back of the head. He collapsed forward, blood and brains soaking into the dry desert earth. All three men inside the chapel made various shocked noises. Leon shut his eyes, feeling ill. Lazarus had gone white knuckled around the rosary still clutched in his hands. Jack looked angry.
She kicked the body away from her and slid the pistol back home against her hip. “That will be you next, Carpenter! If you do not come out, I will come in.”
“The wards?” Jack asked.
“I check them regularly, they should hold. Besides, she is just one woman, she can’t get through alone.” Father Lazarus answered.
Boucher sighed dramatically and put her hands on her hips, tilting them at a girlish angle more suited for gossiping at a garden party instead of murder in the middle of the night. “Oh well, I guess we are doing this the hard way. My favorite.”
Reaching into her blouse she pulled out a slim silver whistle on a chain around her neck. She blew into it for a long moment. Jack and Leon yelped and covered their ears while Lazarus looked at them, confused. He hadn’t heard a thing.
An unholy, hair-raising howl rose around them. A banshee wail from animal jaws. In the gloom of the night eyes began to appear, an astonishing and unnatural purple ringed with pure white. The shadows shifted and coalescence into terrifying creatures that charitably resembled coyotes. They were thin and covered in ash-gray fur, with limbs elongated in unnatural, sinister symmetries. Their jaws snapped the air, flashing jagged, sharp teeth. Boucher smiled and reached over to pet one on it’s sharp, bony head. It came up to her elbow and allowed the attention, it’s pack standing around her. Watching. Waiting.
“Fuck.” Father Lazarus said.