Mike tensed at his name slipping from Maximian’s mouth as if a snap of a leash on a rambunctious dog. He glanced at Crandall whose study of his footwear had now started boring through the floor, and then the two vampires flanking the door. He sat down and piled his fists in his lap, his dark gaze locking on the blond waiting with apparent patience for him to reel in his fury.
“This is his own request. He is, as Crandall stated, tired. He is ready to move on.”
“The sun doesn’t work?”
“It does, but it is a mortal sin to take one’s own life.”
“Then you do it,” Crandall said with a roll of his eyes as he abruptly rejoined the conversation.
“I cannot. He is bound to protect himself, no matter how much he’d like to pass on. He would destroy me for trying.”
Mike snorted. “You can’t, but you think we can?”
“That was sarcasm,” Crandall said. “I miss it sometimes, but yeah, it was.”
“More importantly,” Max continued unflustered. “He believes you can.”
“Not doing it.” Mike stood again, but under Max’s patient, unwavering gaze, he returned to his seat.
“There’s more to this,” Crandall said. “Tell us the whole story if you want us to consider your proposal.”
“First of all, it’s not a proposal. I’m telling you about an opportunity most vampire hunters wouldn’t dare try to resist. Second of all, you wouldn’t believe the whole story. You only need to believe there is a vampire in the city who would appreciate some hard work. His guard is down as much as he can permit, so with careful planning and flawless execution, you could rid the world of one you deem evil.”
“Go ahead,” Crandall muttered. “Tell me drinking blood and living forever isn’t evil.”
Max laughed. “You’re close, youngling. Living forever – avoiding the cycle of life, death, and salvation – that is considered evil, a sin, but that is neither here nor there. I wish to draw your attention to one soul who both needs to and is willing to return to his creator.”
“I didn’t expect Fangs to be religious.” Crandall lifted his head, studying Max through a sidewise glance of narrowed eyes.
“Again, not important.”
“The whole story,” Crandall said.
“No, we’re not getting in the middle of this,” Mike said.
“Very well.” Max leaned back and crossed an ankle over a knee. “The one who wishes your skill is the original betrayer and accidental creator of our race. He believes he has fulfilled his penance and is ready to be returned for Judgment, but he cannot make that decision. It is only available at death – true death and not a suicide or undefended murder.”
“Original betrayer?” Mike echoed, denying the assumption his mind already made.
The door swung open as Max answered. A tall man with a gaunt face, hollow eyes, and a shock of dark hair glided into the room without stirring the air around him. Following, Jackson pushed a struggling, but not escaping, young hunter. “Judas Iscariot,” Max said with a reverential nod.
Mike and Crandall leapt to their feet, their eyes not on Judas, but on his prize, Ashland Keating.
Judas’s face showed no age, but his eyes threatened experience that could shatter a mortal mind should any dare meet his gaze too long. When he spoke, his voice cracked, not with age, but disinterest. “Shall I send for your fourth?” Judas asked. “Or do we have an understanding now?”
“I don’t know what you think we can do,” Mike snapped.
“I don’t think you can do much of anything.” He turned toward Jackson and Ash. “It has been written that four elements will join to destroy the betrayer once his time has been served.”
Jackson released Ash’s arms. The hunter stumbled and then stood up, straightening his shirt, and combing his fingers through his hair. With head held up and shoulders rolled back, Ash met Judas’s gaze and said, “Ash Keating, vampire hunter.” He did not offer his hand but did emphasize the word hunter. “Do you care to explain why we’re standing around talking when we’d rather destroy each other?”
Up Next: No Escape
Note from the Author: The characters, Max and Judas, are nearly as old as my desire to write fiction. Today’s scene has me fondly remembering the first time I watched Dracula 2000. I was shocked that my idea for Judas as a vampire was there on the big screen. Of course, it wasn’t my idea, Hollywood writers didn’t steal it, and I wasn’t so naive to think no one else had thought what might have happened to the Original Betrayer, but that moment, and this scene, will always remind me that there is more than one way to skin a cat, stake a vampire, or find the path to Happily Ever After.