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Book Three in the Rag & Bones Vampire Series
Story Sample


RAG SWUNG around fast. It was the merest whisper of a sound – as quiet as a leaf falling to the ground to a mortal – but it wasn’t a leaf. The sound he had heard was a taunt. It was designed to arouse his suspicion, and his suspicion obliged.

His eyes focussed on the buildings in front of him, scanning. Shop fronts with recessed doors that were deep in shadow could hold much more than a tramp bedding down for the night, a beggar with their hand outstretched, or two young lovers stealing a private kiss. Narrow alleyways, littered with bins and crates, were the hiding place for many more creatures than a black cat, or the rat it was silently stalking.

Was he being stalked?

He waited. He listened some more.

A slab of freshly butchered meat whizzed through the air like an errant Frisbee and thunked down onto the surface of the road in front of him. In the fraction of a second that he rested his eyes upon it, he saw that it was a chicken breast. Skinned. Perfectly trimmed. It was an expertly tailored message and its significance was immediately understood.

Rag smiled, not because he was happy, but because he recognised the handiwork laid out on the ground before him. Anyone else from his past would have used something far more gruesome than a professionally prepared cut from a butcher’s shop window if they’d wanted to warn him of bad things to come. Rag nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Show yourself,” he shouted, “Don’t be shy.” He paused. “Don’t be a coward.”

The words he chose were designed to have the maximum level of impact on his adversary. Arthur Wainwright would not like to be called a coward. Even back then, before he’d been removed from the living, he’d have faced up to any man given the slightest provocation. He’d always claimed he was a man of honour and that he was being true to his values – more like a man of dishonour, in Rag’s opinion.

The trunk of a tree split in two lengthways a short distance away from where Rag stood. The meat cleaver that had caused the damage was thrown away into the bushes. A figure stepped through the newly made opening. Rag wondered how the locals would explain that away in the morning, when there had been no storm during the night.

Arthur Wainwright had always been a stout man, the cause being over-consumption of his own produce rather than the legacy of his genetic code. A steak on your plate every day would eventually take effect. Stout was often used to describe short men, but not so with Arthur. He wasn’t a giant, by any means, but his height and bulk were impressive to anyone who saw him. Not that his size had ever slowed him down that much in his creature form. Rag knew that much from experience.

They’d had many a fight in the past, but Rag believed they’d reached the point of an impasse. Neither was able to best the other if they went one against one. Clearly, he was wrong.

The reason they’d fought for so many years was partly because Arthur hadn’t particularly liked his new form back then and if there was anyone to blame for your supernatural life, it was always your Sire. Yes, Rag had sired this creature, but he knew deep down that it was more than that that had caused their continued battles.

It had seemed like such a good idea to him at the time, and logical. As soon as you become a creature, you go round to everyone you have a grudge against and get your revenge. Wasn’t that what everyone who’d been turned did? If they didn’t, they were missing one helluva big trick. Rag had held a lot of grudges back then, but Arthur Wainwright was his biggest. He was the man who had inappropriately run his hand along his mother’s thigh when she went into his shop, and winked at her knowingly when she couldn’t afford to pay for the meat. It wasn’t her fault. She’d needed to feed her child and with her lover, Rag’s father, dead, she felt she had little choice. Arthur was also the one who had later called her a whore for what he’d done to her and Rag a filthy little bastard because his mother and father had never married. Oh, yes. He had a grudge all right. He had a whole rack of grudges stacked up against each other when it came to Arthur Wainwright. That was why he’d done it.

When it came to it, Rag had cut the Sire strings much earlier than was usually thought prudent, although that was not entirely his idea, but after he’d got his revenge, and boy had he got it, there hadn’t been much point in hanging onto someone who would take every opportunity to slip a stake into your heart. He could’ve killed him, of course, but that would’ve ended Arthur’s punishment and the best ones were always the ones that lingered in the mind.

“It’s taken me a long time to find you. Never thought you’d be one to leave the bright lights for somewhere like this.” Arthur flicked his glance from side to side and sneered his disdain at the small town scene around him. His thick Bristolian accent hung heavy in the air.

“Well, my lover, you’ve found me now. So what next?” Rag meant to give offence with his reply. He knew Arthur was proud of his roots.

As they continued to speak they moved as one, circling an unmarked ring of land between them, keeping their distance just far enough apart that there would be no surprises.

“Don’t you mock me. You were born of the same stock as I was. Just ‘cause you made yourself all fancy and proper, doesn’t make you better than me.”

That was the point at which Rag’s anger took over. He was better than Arthur. The creature didn’t deserve the time of day, let alone respect. He was riled enough now. It was time for him to take control of the situation.

“No? But this does.”

In less time than it took to blink, Rag shot forward and ploughed the entire weight of his body into Arthur’s stomach, toppling him backwards like a skittle. They both landed on the concrete paving stones with a crunch. Arthur didn’t even wince at the pain of a couple of broken ribs. In fact, you’d have thought his body could bounce considering the speed with which he returned to a standing position, throwing Rag off to the side. A heavy, booted foot landed in Rag’s stomach. He screamed out, more from the frustration of being bested, than the pain he experienced. He’d forgotten quite how lithe Arthur was for his size. He rolled his body at speed, holding on tightly to the older man’s foot. Arthur’s ankle cracked and, once again, he was solidly on his back on the ground.

This time, they both ended up back on their feet at the same time. If Arthur’s ankle had broken, which Rag was pretty sure it had, he was hiding the pain better than most. They began to circle again.

“You should’ve said, hello, earlier,” said Rag, “We could’ve gone for a beer and reminisced about old times. Or wasn’t that what you had in mind?”

“And given you warning of what was to come? Not likely.”

“But you’ve been watching me for a while now. I know you have.”

Everything was becoming clear in Rag’s mind. All the strange events of the past few weeks were slotting into place.

“’Course I have. I’m not so stupid as to jump in headfirst, although you seem to like that approach.” Arthur patted his ribs and grinned.

As he paced, Rag tried to work out what the butcher’s intentions were, but the butcher was giving nothing away, either from the way he acted, or from his thoughts. Rag had to move things along or they’d still be there at daylight, and that wouldn’t do either of them any good.

“So, what was with the old man? What did he do to you?” Rag nodded his head towards the pavement on the other side of the road where they’d found the bloodstain a few weeks earlier. He quickly realised he shouldn’t have done that. His eyes weren’t on Arthur for less than a second, but it was long enough for him to grab Rag’s arms and secure them behind his back. Rag kicked out behind with his feet, but couldn’t manage to unbalance his opponent again. He tried to roll him over his head, but the man’s bulk didn’t even leave the ground. Arthur had become stronger, or maybe he’d become weaker. Too little to practise on in the country.

“Take this as an aperitif, Rag. A taster of what’s to come. The time that’s passed hasn’t made me weaker. It’s made me stronger and I will get my revenge for what you did to me. I can hide in the shadows with the best of them. I will get to the ones you love when you least expect it. I’ll keep them hidden in darkness and in fear until I have them all and then I’ll make you do to them what I had to do to mine. You will dispose of your cosy little family in the strict order of my choosing. Don’t ever underestimate me. Not ever. I’ve always believed in an eye for an eye and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”

The force that threw Rag down onto the ground was enough to crack his jaw and by the time he’d rolled over, Arthur was gone. He had no idea in which direction. He pushed himself up and pulled out his mobile. He dialled Ellie, but when he tried to speak, he couldn’t. The words sounded like baby babble. He hung up and sent her a text instead. A quick fire discussion ensued.

^ CAN’T SPEAK. STAY INSIDE. DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR TO ANYONE.

^ WHAT’S GOING ON?

^ TELL YOU LATER. GOING TO COLLECT FLYNN.

He looked at his watch. It was half nine and time Flynn was on her way home. He knew Bones was waiting outside for her, but he alone wasn’t enough protection for Flynn now. The house was safe, Ellie wouldn’t let Arthur in, but Flynn definitely wasn’t safe.

He ran as fast as his legs would carry him to Lori’s house, holding his hand to his jaw to ease the pain. He didn’t care if anyone saw him. From now on, no-one could go out alone at night, or during the day for that matter. Not until Arthur was dead. No-one.

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