“I’ve had plenty of experience with Luther’s unclear visions. They always seem like simple situations and turn out to be anything but.” That was another reason why going on this assignment pissed me off.
Antonio nodded in agreement with me. “I’d recommend that you take at least three of the squad with you.”
“Where will we find the two women?” I asked Luther. He handed me a sheet of paper with coordinates written on it.
“I believe it would be best if you left as soon as possible.”
So that was exactly what we did. It turned out that the place from Luther’s vision was actually a redwood forest north of San Francisco.
After hours of searching, I halted, sighing. “I can’t hear or smell anyone nearby.”
Sam stopped beside me. “Neither can I.”
“This is the only area of the woods that we haven’t covered,” said Butch, his eerily dark eyes taking in everything around us.
“Maybe we missed them.” David shrugged as he nervously ran a hand through his coppery hair. “Maybe we were too late.”
“Or too early,” suggested Chico. He said something else, but it didn’t register as my hearing had locked onto a distant moaning sound. Did you all hear that? I asked Sam and the guys. They each nodded. Be as quiet as you can – we don’t want the vampire hearing us approach. The guys stealthily followed Sam and I as we wound through the trees.
Finally, my vampire enhanced vision picked up the source of the sound in the far distance. Just as Luther had described, there was a pregnant human sitting against a thin, tall tree with her hands bound behind it. The plan had been to make the job quick – disable the vampire, save the human, and decide if either of them should be taken to The Hollow. Instead, I held up my hand, signalling for Sam and the guys to remain in position. I wasn’t sure why, but every single cell in my body told me to wait, told me to listen. Sam arched her brow questioningly. I mouthed, ‘Trust me’, glad when she shrugged and focused her attention on the spectacle ahead.
The moaning had now stopped and the human was waking. Her forehead was creased in a way that hinted at pain – probably a headache. It was a few seconds before she realised that she was in fact tied to the tree. She struggled, but it seemed that the knot was very secure. That was when sheer and utter panic took over her face.
“You can shout for help if you want,” began a voice, “but even if someone came, I wouldn’t let them help you.” A tall brunette stepped out of the shadows and stood directly before the human. Malice literally gleamed from her eyes. I could see even from here that her irises weren’t glowing. If she was that pissed off but her irises weren’t glinting red or amber, she had to be a Sventé like Sam.
“Who are you?” the human asked, her lips quivering. When the vampire didn’t answer, she rambled, “Look, whatever Leon owes you, I can get it. But if you’re mistakenly thinking – like others have before you – that if you call him he’ll rush here like lightning to save me, you’re going to be very disappointed. He’s out of town, and he hasn’t got the money to give you anyway. He spends what he steals before he even steals it, trust me.”
“So you’re the breadwinner?”
“I have to be, or we’d have nothing.”
“For someone who’s financially struggling, you’re dressed very smartly, aren’t you?” The vampire was right; the woman was clothed in a black maternity suit – jacket, pencil skirt, and a white blouse. “What’s your name?”
The human seemed taken aback by the question. “What’s yours?” she returned cockily.
The vampire’s mouth curved into a smile. “Jude. My name’s Jude.”
“If I were you, Jude, I’d let me go. I’ve told you, I can get you your money.”
“I don’t want money.”
“Well whatever you want, I can get it. But hurting me would be a really stupid thing to do on your part. You’d be upsetting my employers, for a start. You don’t know who I—”
“Yes I do.” Jude squatted down in front of her. “Maybe I don’t know your name, but I know something about you…something I doubt that many other people know…You’re a Scout.” The human’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You really don’t remember me, do you?”
When the human didn’t respond, Jude explained, “We met in a supermarket. We both reached for a velour baby sleep-suit at the same time. You told me that you were so sorry, massaging your pregnant belly. You said you had eight weeks left before your due date, that you were having a boy. I told you that I had four weeks left to go, that I was having a girl. Any of this jogging your memory?”
The human still didn’t speak, so Jude continued. “Just as I was walking away, I felt a sharp prick in my arm that made me flinch, but I never thought anything of it. Why would I? A few minutes later, I was suddenly dizzy. Uncoordinated. My eyelids felt like they had lead weights hanging from them. With blurred vision and shaky legs, I stumbled outside. I just kept thinking that I needed to get to my car and go to a hospital. To any non-dizzy person, driving would have seemed nothing short of suicidal. But for me, the equation had been a little different: something was wrong and my baby might be at risk, therefore I had to hurry to get to a hospital.
“Then a car pulled up and the window lowered. A woman asked me if I was okay, if I needed a ride to the hospital. I said no, but she kept insisting that I couldn’t drive in my state. I would have said no again, but then I saw a toddler in a babyseat in the back of the vehicle, clapping his hands and grinning. It made me relax, made me think I could trust this perfect stranger. So I hopped inside the car. Seconds later, I passed out.
“When I woke up, two men and a woman, all wearing scrubs, were looking down at me. I thought I must be at a hospital…And then there was the most amazing sound. Crying, my baby was crying. I tried to lift my head and see, but my body wasn’t cooperating. The only thing I saw was a mop of black curls. Then, just before I blacked out again, I heard a harsh voice order, ‘Get rid of her quickly’.”
I truly would never have anticipated that the conversation would swing in this direction. I mean, seriously…what the f**k?
“When I came round, I was in a wooded area, just like this one. It felt like warm water had been thrown over my stomach. I reached down and realised my baby bump was gone. My baby was gone. When I brought my hand up, I saw that it wasn’t water, it was blood. I don’t know how long I lay there crying before I got up. I staggered about aimlessly, fuelled mostly by shock. But I was bleeding so badly. I was dying, and I knew it. I don’t think I got far before I fell again. But, unbelievably, someone found me. I begged them to help me, and they did; they made sure I lived. They said that if anyone had the right to live and get revenge, it was me.”