As I went to stand in front of the human, her eyes widened. I suspected that the red tinge to my irises was glowing.

“What are you?” she asked shakily.

I tsked. “I ask the questions. First, I want to know who it is you work for.” If Jude was right and vampires had bought her baby, this was a situation that I needed to take care of – and fast.

“There’s really no point in denying anything,” said Sam. “Although…it wouldn’t be so bad if you did, because then I could whip you silly.”

I winced, offering the human a sympathetic look. “I don’t envy you right now. I’ve been on the receiving end of that whip a few times – and not in a good way.”

The human shook her head madly. “No, this isn’t real.”

Sam cocked her head. “Frankly, I find it harder to believe there are people out there evil enough to steal children than that vampires exist. But maybe that’s just me.”

“Vampires?” the human echoed, releasing a nervous laugh.

Jude huffed. “What, you didn’t realise you’ve been working for supposedly mythological creatures?”

“What makes you think your baby was sold to vampires?” I asked Jude.

“Because vampires are running the operation,” replied Jude. “Stealing human babies, and then selling them to vampire couples.”

“Why would vampires do that?”

“How else are they going to have children unless it’s to steal them?”

The human was shaking her head incredulously. “You’re all crazy.”

Sam sighed. “Admittedly, I am. So for every time you fail to answer our questions, I will crack this whip at you. This can be over quickly, or it can be prolonged. Totally your choice, though the latter sounds more appealing to me. It’s part of the ‘crazy, homicidal bitch’ thing.”

“But me…I’d rather skip the cliché ‘I don’t know anything’ game.” I seized her gaze with mine. “Who do you work for?”

When she said nothing, Sam cracked the whip, catching the human’s earlobe. She cried out, flinching.

“Hurts like a son of a bitch, doesn’t it?” It truly did; Sam was merciless with that thing. “We’ll try this again. Who do you work for?”

The human spoke to Jude. “You aren’t even a little concerned that there are people here claiming to be vampires?”

Jude tilted her head. “As I’m also one…No.”

The woman cursed as Sam’s whip slashed along her jaw.

“I believe you were asked a question.” Sam’s voice became even raspier whenever she was pissed. It sent a shudder through me every time.

Jude tutted. “I’d answer their questions if I were you. The worst I can do is kill you, but these guys…I have a feeling they have powers that will shock the shit out of you.”

“Powers,” the woman whispered.

I turned to Sam. “Show her.”

Sam let her whip fade away, sucked more energy into her palms, and released it as a blast of air that had debris whooshing around and the tree branches swaying. Taking more energy, she directed a flame of fire at the human, which stopped just short of her body. The human, sniffling and sobbing, then watched open-mouthed as Sam shaped the energy into a silvery-blue energy ball, which she bounced from hand to hand.

“Amazing, isn’t she,” I said to the human. “I remember the first day I met her, she kicked my ass using that gift – taunted me the entire time, even called me a pretty girl. Now, if you haven’t yet figured out that it’s in your best interests to tell us what we want to know—”

“I didn’t steal any babies!”

“Yes, we overheard you admitting that your role ends at drugging the mothers. So the question is…what happens next? It’s more than obvious that the woman who offered to give Jude a ride to the hospital was involved. So where do we find her?” The human’s attention had drifted to Sam – most likely because she had her energy whip back in hand. “I said, where do we find her?”

“I don’t know—” She yelped at the feel of Sam’s whip on her cheek.

“Wrong answer.” If she had been anyone else, the scent of her blood in the air would have made my mouth water. But I couldn’t think of anything more disgusting than feeding from someone as callous as this woman in front of me. “Come on, you must have a name at the very least.”

“I’ve never met or spoken to her, I swear! I saw her from afar a few times when she drove away with a pregnant woman, sure, but that’s all.”

“What does she look like?” I knew that I could get this information from Jude, but I wanted to find out if the human was lying.

“Her hair was light blonde, but you could tell it wasn’t her natural hair colour, because her roots were very dark. She had to be in her forties. She wore glasses.”

I looked at Jude, who nodded.

“I swear that’s all I know. Leon tells me when and where to go Scouting. When I find someone, I drug them and call him. As far as I know, he then contacts the Deliverer and she takes it from there. He’s only ever referred to her as that, but he might know her name, I don’t know.”

“The Deliverer?”

“That’s what they call her and the other women who do that job. They take a kid with them on purpose to try to seem non-threatening and trustworthy.”

“This is a big operation if there’s more than just one Deliverer.” And didn’t that just worry the crap out of me.

“Yes, but I don’t know how big, and I don’t know more than what I’ve told you. I’m too low down in the chain to be trusted with details.”

“She’ll be telling the truth about that,” interrupted Chico. “In big crime organisations, they don’t tell their employees any more than they have to know. They’re going to be extremely careful if, on top of that, they have the huge secret of being vampires to keep.”

I had to agree with that theory. “Then it’s safe to say that the person we need to speak to next…is her partner.” I turned to Butch, whose eyes were boring into the human. “Check her purse for some I.D.”

After some rummaging around, Butch pulled out the human’s driver’s licence. “Janine Peterson. Her address is right here.”

“Good. I guess…you’re no longer of any use to us, Janine.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires