Rag & Bones: Trapped

The Rag & Bones Vampire Series

Chapter 1

"You have to help me. Please."

The woman thumping her fist on the window had long, auburn hair, plastered against her skin by the pounding rain, and her gingerbread eyes were filled with fear, but she was still one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen. He might even have said that, on physical appearance alone, she was his ideal woman. No mascara making a Goth-like trail down her cheek. No blood red lips. He much preferred natural beauty. Not that the simple fact of her good looks meant he was going to help her out of whatever predicament she'd found herself in. He was much savvier than that. She was going to have to provide him with more than a simple plea for help for him to even consider getting involved. Midbury wasn't a place where you took on trust that someone was in danger just because they said so. He'd been caught out by that little ruse before.

Rag opened the window a couple of inches. Enough to talk, but not enough to be grabbed by the throat. Her fingers clutched onto the edge of the glass. He could see her knuckles shining white against the black beyond. He could hear the panic in her breathing. Drops of water dripped from the tips of her shaking fingers onto his black, leather jacket. He flicked them away, irritated, but said nothing. He waited.

"They're trying to kill me."

Her voice had a West Country lilt. A local, at least, but he still needed proof of this so-called danger if he was going to dirty his boots and take on a fist fight – or any kind of fight for that matter. He strained to see what she was so afraid of, but he couldn't make out anything beyond a few feet away in the heavy downpour and he wasn't going to step outside unless he had to. He did have an image to maintain.

"Who's trying to kill you, exactly?"

There was no answer from her lips, apart from a scream loud enough to wake even the heaviest sleeper.

He saw the hands grab her wrists from behind and drag her away from the car. He couldn't see what, or who, it was and he still wasn't sure he wanted to get involved, even though the scream of a woman in distress had always been a potent motivator for him. The sight, a few seconds later, of inch-long fangs glinting in the street lights was an even stronger one and all he needed to push him into action. He clicked off the locks and stepped out of the car.

There were three of them – the one holding the beautiful and mysterious, screaming woman and two less confident looking specimens a few feet behind. He observed them closely. If his own keen senses weren't playing tricks on him, and they rarely did, this lot were new to the game. All very young – sixteen, or maybe a year either side. Too young to sensibly cope with what their bodies, and their minds, were going through. They were at that first joyous, and at the same time terrifying, stage where they were testing themselves and seeing just how bad they could be. Everyone went through it. He most certainly had made the most of it. Some coped better than others. Every step was an adventure to be had and every solitary mortal walking home late at night, a potential victim. He remembered it well. He could almost smell the delicious moment of pure fear at that first ritualistic kill, his own fear, not the victim's, and feel the tang of the first drop of warm, fresh blood as it tingled against his taste buds. He tried to forget the first pangs of regret at taking someone's life.

Those never did anyone any good.

Rag stepped towards the fledgling creatures. He called them creatures, because he hated the V word. The V word wasn't him. The V word was a stereotype as ridiculous as anything in a TV drama. He wasn't a stereotype and he had no desire to conform. He was his own creature. Creatures had personalities of their own. They had wishes and desires. They had hates and their very own brand of depression. They even had their favourite food. You could no more treat them all in the same way as you could different breeds of dog. Okay, yes, he had film hero good looks, he couldn't go out in sunlight, garlic was like the worst hangover ever and he had the running speed of a bullet, but he was no stereotype.

He glanced back at the car. Bones had his large, black nose pressed up against the window, drawing random patterns in the steam from his breath. He could stay there for now.

The lads didn't seem to be the most communicative of creatures. He was going to have to make the first attempt at a dialogue. He didn't want to have to kill them. He would give them a chance.

"Now, guys, I don't want to alarm you too much, but you've got a problem here. And, I'm afraid, it's a serious problem. You see, you can't just go up to a woman like that and grab her. It really isn't the done thing."

The creature holding the woman looked back at his companions. The smirk on his face was full of youthful bravado. It was the kind of bravado that came from not knowing who you were dealing with. "I just did," he said. Then, predictably, he bared his teeth in an act of intimidation.

Rag didn't budge. He studied the face before him. This creature's newly enhanced features had not been kind to his general appearance – the facial distortion had given his mouth a grotesque, clown-like upturn. It was a sad fact that not everyone had enough room in their mouth for an extra set of rather large fangs, even his had played havoc with his wisdom teeth.

"Yeah. Okay. Technically, you did, but guys, I have to tell you that it's not a professional approach, especially in a place like this. You see, we've got rules around here. You do know where you are? Don't you?"

"Some sleepy village in the middle of nowhere."

"Sleepy village? For a start, Midbury is a town. Did you get that? T-O-W-N. And secondly, it most certainly isn't sleepy. Look at me. It's gone midnight and I'm still up."

They all laughed at that. It seemed to Rag that they thought he was joking. This was further underlined by the next gem that came from the gang leader's mouth.

"We don't go by no rules."

Rag tipped his head back. He resisted the urge to correct the lad on his appalling grammar error and decided only to apprise him of the facts of his precarious situation. "Now that is funny," he casually stretched out his arms, "Yeah. Funny." He stepped forward, a little more menacingly this time. The tone of his voice deepened. His eyes locked with his opponent. "You really don't know where you are, do you?"

One of the guys at the back stepped up to take a turn, breaking the spell of Rag's gaze with the ringleader. He wasn't sure why this one had suddenly gained so much confidence, given his previous reluctance to step up to the plate, but he let him have his say.

"No, we don't know where we's at. We been running for hours. We was hungry, that's all."

"Hungry. Hmm. Yeah, well, you see, I've got a problem with that, because you might well be hungry, but I don't think she's willing to let you feed." He looked at the woman. "Are you willing?" She shook her head as best she could with an arm gripped tightly around her neck. "Didn't think so. And if she's not willing, that makes me a little mad, and when I get mad … "

It was the right moment.

Rag's usually soft, grey eyes flashed jet black and he broke a smile to reveal his own fangs. Before the ringleader could blink, Rag was in his face, eyeball to eyeball.

It was surprising how little it took. For a few moments the young creatures were like rabbits in the headlights and then they found their feet and tried to run, stumbling over kerbs and uneven paving slabs along their way. They clearly hadn't got the hang of their ridiculously fast reactions yet, if they even knew about them. The woman, freed, collapsed down onto the ground. Rag knelt down beside her.

"Are you okay?" Her nod was weak and her breath short, but it was enough for him to know he could leave her for a minute or two to sort things out properly.

He could've let her assailants disappear into the dark, but then they would've only have taken someone else. Maybe not that night, but the next. Or the one after that. It was better that they didn't live. Kinder on everyone. He opened the car door and a streak of black joined him in the chase.

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