“You got her in your sights?” Richie whispered.
“I could get a clean hit if she’d stop bloody moving,” Clive responded. “You’re sure it’ll have the same effect as you hitting her?”
“Sure,” Richie said, holding one hand on Clive’s rifle, the white nimbus that emanated from his body surrounding it. “S’long as my aura’s affecting the weapon, it’s still enchanted. Still deadly to vamps. At least as much as it would be to humans without having to worry about all the damn vampire rules. Now take the shot already and make it count.”
“She keeps flyin’ round in circles. What’s she doin’ anyway?”
“It’s an estrie, right?” Aaron said.
They all glanced at him. “How’d you know that?” Marcy said.
“What?” He reached into a pocket and popped a saltine into his mouth. “I’ve been reading up about this stuff on the Hunter site. Richie suggested it when we took out the soucouyants.”
“I didn’t actually expect you to take me up on it.”
“Well I did. At least I skimmed a few descriptions. Estries: female breed, shapeshifters, plus Clark Kent style flight, obviously, unique for having no weakness to holy items or holy ground, but can be weakened by tying their hair back, preferred prey is Jewish men, generally solitary, have some weird requirements for healing that I forget.”
“Quit showin’ off,” Clive said.
“But I mean, what if this one isn’t?”
“Solitary. You wondered what it was doing floating around. Maybe it’s scouting for a companion inside the synagogue.”
“Good thinking,” Marcy said. “Another estrie?”
“Can’t be sure,” Clive said. “Normally I’d think so, but given the diversity of Aaron’s pals…”
“No, I think it’s another one,” Aaron said. “Even Gregor doesn’t like going near religious sites. Look at the graveyard we’re in. That synagogue is at least decades old. Anything that can stand to be in there has to have the estrie’s resistance to its effects.”
“Or it’s just really old and powerful,” Richie said.
“All the more reason for me to take this thing out now,” Clive said. “If I could just get a clear shot.”
“Hold on,” Marcy said. “Let Aaron do it.”
The three of them looked at her and said “What?”
“I’ve been wanting to show you this since I started training him but I haven’t gotten the opportunity. Give him the gun.”
After a moment Clive shrugged and crawled away from the gravestone the rifle was resting on to let Aaron get in position. Aaron crawled behind it.
“Watch that aura of yours,” he said to Richie.
“You’ll be fine,” he sneered.
Aaron looked through the scope of the rifle. He searched around a bit before finding his target. Hanging in the air, a slender brunette woman zig-zagged across the night sky. Her long hair bobbed and floated as if underwater, and she was dressed like a young Hasidic Jewish woman. Aaron followed her in his scope.
“Okay,” he heard Clive whisper to him. “Keep her in your sights. Account for her––”
Aaron fired, feeling the gun lurch back in his grip and seeing his target jolt back and twist in the air, hearing a distant screech as he watched her fall.
“Damn,” Aaron said. “Only got her in the shoulder.” He stood up from the gun to finish the job when he noticed the others were staring at him. “What?”
“Ye got her in the shoulder?” Clive said.
“Yeah. Which is why we have to stake her now before she crawls off to warn her ally.”
“The moving target,” Richie said, “way up in the distance, in the dark, which Clive, a very experienced shooter, could barely get a lock on?”
“Told you he had a gift,” Marcy said.
“Are we gonna sit around praising me, or are we gonna go kill the estrie?” Aaron said. “Because honestly I’m good with either.”
“You heard him, men,” Marcy said, standing and running in the direction of where the estrie would have landed, her overkill, the machine gun/crossbow hybrid she invented in hand. Aaron followed after her, with Clive and Richie behind them.
They each came to the area where the estrie should have fallen to earth with their weapons up. Marcy had her overkill, Clive the rifle, Richie a pistol, and Aaron a dual crossbow, mostly because the pistol they also gave him was easier to tuck into his pants. The estrie was nowhere in sight.
“We sure this is where she would have landed?” Aaron said.
“It came down here,” Richie said, pointing to a tombstone covered in Hebrew writing that was standing slightly crooked. “Stumbled off that way,” he swept his hand over her path leading towards the back entrance of the synagogue.
“That a dhampir power,” Aaron said, “or are you just part native american?”
Before Richie could respond, Clive silenced them both with a gesture and led them up to the synagogue. The door stood open, the heavy lock broken. After a glance Clive went in with his shotgun out, silently stepping through the hall, checking every door they passed. After a minute he looked back at Richie.
“Looks like she headed toward the nave,” Richie whispered.
“I think it’s called a main sanctuary in a synagogue,” Aaron corrected him.
“Yeah, cause the terminology’s really the important thing in this situation.”
“Would you two shut up?” Marcy said.
Clive headed for the appropriate door and cracked it open slightly. Faintly, they could hear voices coming from inside.
“––don’t know what happened,” a pained female voice said. “I was flying around keeping guard like you said––”
“Obviously not very well,” said another female voice.
“And all of a sudden I get this pain in my shoulder and I fall out of the sky!”
“Let me see that.” A moan that didn’t match either voice could be heard. “You shut up. And you…”
“You’ve only been shot. Suck it up. What doesn’t kill you and all that shit.”
“But it hu-urts!”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes it do-oes!”
“Hey, I didn’t turn you so you could whine about paper cuts. Once we’re done with this coot we’ll track down whoever hit you, then you can drink him and you’ll heal right up. Or, you know, we could not do that and you could stop being a pussy and let it heal.”
“But it hu––”
The moan could be heard again.
“I’ve been shot before, Thelma, it didn’t hurt like this that time.”
“You’re imagining things. How low were you flying that you could get shot anyways?”
“I was up higher than the temple, just like you told me!”
“Wait, really? That’s a good shot. I figured some passing thug saw you and panicked, but at that height someone would have to have been looking––”
In a flash Clive made a motion to the others and burst in through the door. “Hostage, get down!”
Inside was the brunette estrie they had shot along with a similarly slender blonde one, standing beside an old rabbi tied to a chair, bleeding, cut and beaten. In a fraction of a second Clive took aim and fired at the second estrie, but not fast enough. As the first one flew away to some corner of the synagogue, the second suddenly took the form of a bird, a small owl, easily evading Clive’s shot and flying at them with incredible speed. Clive dodged but the estrie hadn’t been aiming for him. In flight it bypassed Clive and Aaron and went for Richie, scratching at his face with its claws and pecking at his eyes with its beak. Richie screamed and dropped his pistol. As fast as he could react, Aaron willed fire onto the estrie, setting the bird hideously ablaze. It shrieked a noise that could not have come from a normal owl and launched off of Richie, flying after its apostle into another part of the synagogue.
“Get to the Rabbi,” Clive said. Guns out they stalked over to the injured old man. Clive, Marcy, and Aaron surrounded him looking outwards while Richie came up slightly behind them, holding his pistol in one hand and covering his eye with the other, cursing under his breath. “Ye alright?” Clive asked him.
“No,” Richie snarled.
Clive nodded slightly. “Cover me.” Richie limply took his place in the circle as Clive went to check on the Rabbi’s wounds and untie him from the chair. “Are you alright, sir? Are you awake? Good. Now can ye follow my finger with your eyes? Okay, you may have a concussion. Did they hit ye over the head?” The Rabbi nodded. “Okay. Did they bite you?” Nod. “They did? Okay, it may be hard, but I need you to drink this,” he held out a flask. “It’s not alcohol, it’s just a precaution.”
With some difficulty the Rabbi took a swig from the flask. He coughed a bit and in a raspy voice said, “Is that water and ash?”
“Don’t ask. Do you think you can walk?”
“I’m a bit woozy but I think I can manage.”
“Good. Richie, let me see your eye.” He turned to Richie and made him slowly lift his hand off his injured eye. Trickles of blood traced their ways down his arm and cheek. “You’ll need stitches but you’ll live. And keep your depth perception, I think. Let’s get the two of ye out of here.” He helped the Rabbi up.
“What about Thomas?” the old man rasped.
“Who?” Clive said.
“Thomas. A boy. I was helping him with his Hebrew studies when those––things came in at dusk.”
“Bugger,” Clive spat. He turned to Richie. “Think ye can drive the two of ye to the hospital?”
“With one good eye and one free hand?” Richie said. “‘Bout as well as Aaron does normally, I recon.”
“Really?” said Aaron. “Is this the best time?”
“We’ll cover ye to the door,” Clive said as he handed Richie the keys to the RV.
“I’m not gonna leave you guys without a car.”
“The Rabbi’s beedin’ to death. Ye don’t have much choice. We can take two estries.”
“Estries?” said the Rabbi. “Those are just old world superstition.”
“Ya see? He’s delirious. Go.”
They escorted Richie and the Rabbi to the same door they came in. “The estries went for the stairwell,” Clive said, “did any of ye see whether they went up or down?”
“Haven’t the faintest.”
“Too busy gettin’ my eye clawed out.”
“Damn.” Clive turned to the Rabbi, “How many floors in this place?”
“A basement, sub-basement, and an attic.”
“Perfect. I’ll take the sub-basement, Marcy the basement, Aaron the attic.”
Aaron glanced at the very high ceiling of the main floor. “Why do I get the attic?”
“Because if you set this place on fire I figure it’ll give the rest of us more time to get out.”
“…Yeah that’s probably a good idea.”
“Rabbi, don’t worry, we’re gonna get you and Thomas out of here safe and sound.”
“Thank you. Thank you people so much. If there’s anything I can do…”
“We can talk about that later, for now, get to the hospital.”
Richie and the Rabbi shuffled out the door and the other three of them turned back into the building. In the dark their footsteps on the hardwood rang out like bells.
“Were you suggesting making him a coroner?” Aaron asked.
“Big graveyard out there, plenty of room for an extra body now and them. New England’s pretty heavy on all things monstrous.”
“You don’t think he might object to that for religious reasons?”
“Can’t hurt to ask. The important thing here is that we saved a man’s life, and if we stop standing around here yakkin’ we can save a young boy’s too.”
Aaron ate another saltine from the plastic bag in his pocket.
“Oh, bloody–– Why’d you bring those?”
“I don’t know, I saw them before we left the RV and suddenly I was hungry and they looked good to me.”
“Well could you maybe have brought a louder food? How ‘bout a bag of chips? Packet of popcorn and a microwave maybe?”
“Guys!” Marcy snapped. “Shut up!” She indicated the stairwell. They went through the door, weapons drawn, prepared in case they were still in the stairwell itself. Empty. Also dark. Marcy and Clive pulled small, bright flashlights out of their pockets. Marcy offered one to Aaron.
“Got my own, thanks,” he said and willed a candle-sized flame to life in front of him. Or rather, tried to. It started out as an ember, but grew to the size he intended with a moment’s more mental prodding. It may have ruined the drama a bit.
“What did I say not two minutes ago?” Clive said.
Aaron snuffed out the flame and grabbed the flashlight from Marcy. “You never let me show off.”
“Anyone finds them,” Clive said, “the gunshots going off should be pretty obvious to the others.”
He and Marcy ran down the stairs while Aaron went up. He ran at first but eventually found that to be a waste of energy and slowed down when he started panting. Dehydrating himself with saltines seemed very stupid now. Slowly, catching his breath, he walked up the stairs. The beam of his flashlight shifted between keeping an eye on the steps and watching the dark space above him for movement. Back and forth, round and round he walked like tracing the groove of a screw. He tried to place each step softly, gently, barely putting his weight on it before it was already on the next step, but the hollow sound of his speaker against the stair, the rustle of his jeans, the air rushing in and out of his nostrils, seemed to clap out and echo through the stairwell. He suddenly became distinctly aware that he was alone, in the dark, with anyone who could help several stories below him.
He stopped. He needed to get a hold of himself. He reached for another saltine but flinched back at the crinkling noise made by the package. Why the hell did he bring those? He took a deep, quiet breath. He could be smarter about this. Goddammit he’d made this same mistake before.
He closed his eyes, and let his soul slip from his body.
In the resulting shock he almost fell down the stairs. It felt as though he’d walked into a wall. No. It felt as though he’d ran into a wall sprinting for the gold medal and the wall somehow impacted his entire body, inside and out, all at once, from all directions and none. He gripped the handrail, doubled over, his crossbow hanging limply from his fingers. “Synagogue,” he mumbled. “I’m in a house of worship, of course my fucking vampire powers don’t work as well. Come to think of it I’m surprised I could walk in the door without having to ask permission or bursting into flames or something. Remember not do do that again.”
He started back up the stairs. A couple flights later he came to the door to the attic. His back against it he held up his crossbow and flashlight. After the initial shock had passed he still felt the effects of trying to astral project. His soul hurt. The exact feeling could be described as somewhere between mental exhaustion, heartbreak, and existential dread. Kind of like finals in high school.
He burst through the door. The narrow hallway behind it was empty. The doors that lined either side of it were all closed. “Okay good, I’ve always wanted to take part in a ridiculous Scooby Doo chase sequence. Hopefully there’s a canoe somewhere here.” He looked around at his empty surroundings. “I gotta learn to safe my effort on these things for when there are actually people around to appreciate it.”
Suddenly he felt the influence of Gregor, summoning his astral self elsewhere. “Not a good time, Greg.” He respected the leader of his vampiric cohorts, but not enough to try astral projecting in here again, and definitely not while actively seeking out monsters who would kill him. Whatever Gregor wanted could wait.
He gently pushed open the first door on his right. With a creak it revealed a small room with an angled ceiling full of filing cabinets and stacks of paper. He glanced around it breifly before deciding there was nothing sinister to find. The room across from it was filled with cleaning supplies and also nothing evil or bloodsucking. He felt Gregor’s mind calling out to him again. Again he rebuffed the summons. The next several rooms he checked were similarly uninteresting. As he wrapped his hand around the knob of the last door in the hall he wondered why, if the estries weren’t here, neither Clive nor Marcy hadn’t found them in the basements yet and fired on them. He was about to turn the knob.
His soul was pulled from his body. Reeled in like a fish from water he traveled instantly across miles and found himself in the dark, foreboding kitchen of an Applebee’s somewhere it was raining. Gregor, his three apostles Max, Ellen, and Dick, as well as Marigold and Frank stood around him.
“Well, that is good,” Gregor said. He was holding a small metal bowl in which herbs were slowly burning. “I was momentarily distressed.”
“How–– How’d you get me out of there?” Aaron asked.
“You were not responding to my repeated summons, so I used a more potent summoning.” He indicated the smoking herbs.
“Yeah, I was resisting you purposefully. For a reason. Look I know you’re old, but these days no means no.”
Ellen snorted a laugh. Aaron was glad someone did.
“Why were you resisting me?” Gregor said.
“Because I already tried astral projecting while inside that synagogue and it didn’t go well that time.”
“Ah,” Gregor said. “Well, that is unfortunate. Leaving the building is naturally easy, it is anathema to your spirit. Returning will be the difficult part.”
“Good to know.”
“Now, on to business. We are helping to negotiate a treaty between two rival groups. One consists of generally very young individuals and I was hoping to learn your perspective. I asked Dick and Ellen, however their ideas strike me as…wait. What ever were you doing in a synagogue in the first place?”
“Nothing notable. Some estries the hunters have to t––“
Gregor was on him faster than he could blink. “What did you say?” he snarled, holding Aaron’s astral self by his shirt.
“It’s just a couple of estries.”
He stared. For what he thought may have been the first time, Aaron thought he saw a glimmer genuine fear in Gregor’s eyes. “No,” he whispered. “No, this cannot be allowed to transpire.”
“Wha the hell is wrong with you?”
“The estries, what did they look like?”
“Uh…the both thin, looked to be in their late twenties, dressed like Hasidic Jewish women, the older one was blonde, her apostle brunette. Why?”
“Aaron listen to me. Listen very carefully. You cannot allow those hunters to kill the estries. This is precisely what your purpose is as a double agent. Those estries must survive.”
“What the hell is so important about a couple of flying psycho bitches?”
“The beings your compatriots are hunting may well be the only surviving estries in North America. They are one of our earliest and most notable allies. They do not agree with all our ideals but they are coming around and they had agreed to stand with us specifically in exchange for added security. We originally used a small patrol of vampires, but they were eventually replaced by a lieutenant from Leonardo’s organization of striges, who was killed recently out of her own sloppiness. We were still negotiating for a new bodyguard, and should the estries be killed now, it would prove…exceedingly embarrassing for us. Anyone we spoke to would know that we cannot keep our promises, that we cannot protect our own allies, even when protection is what they specifically requested. I will not have that, Aaron. I need you to protect them.”
“How the hell do I do that while keeping my cover with the hunters? I can’t let them see me just let them go.”
“Figure something out. We are a versatile kind.”
“They’ve taken a kid, Gregor.”
“So protect the lot of them. Go.”
He felt his soul pushed in much the same way he had felt it tugged on before, and in a moment he was back in his own body. And he had crashed through the wall from earlier. Evidently his body had frozen in place when he’d been pulled away and as he doubled over in the shock he pushed open the last door in the hall.
The estries were behind it. They noticed him at the same time he noticed them. Before they could attack him, in almost a single instinctive action he held up his crossbow and said “I’m with Gregor.”
The estries faltered. The two of them looked at each other, wondering what they should do.
“Gregor sent me,” Aaron repeated, pained. “Those hun–– scavengers are after you, but I’m here––”
Suddenly something dropped down on him. Fine points dug into his scalp and neck and he heard a violent hissing. The blonde estrie cried out, “Stupid girl!”
She pulled a tawny cat off the back of Aaron’s neck by the scruff of its. Abruptly the cat was no longer a cat but rather a very thin young woman in a cocktail dress with curly red hair, being held by it by her superior estrie. The redhead hissed, “He smells different. Not like the humans. Like he needs to Die!” She tried to lunge but the blonde held her by her hair.
“No! Didn’t you hear him? Gregor is the one who agreed to protect us.”
“I thought you said only girls could be changed!”
“You just turned her,” Aaron realized aloud.
“The other night,” the blonde confirmed. “We were going to show her the ropes.”
“You’re June Goldstein,” he said to the redhead. “Your disappearance is what brought the scavengers here in the first place, what tipped them off to your location.”
“Toldja,” said the brunette from across the room.
The blonde sighed. “We figured as much. But we’d always been a trinity until May died last year, and when we met Juney she just seemed perfect. It was right there in her name. Coming after May.”
“And you decided to do this in the one week that you didn’t have a bodyguard?” Aaron said.
“None of them ever let us have any fun,” said the brunette. “Said ‘You wanted us to keep you safe, well that includes from yourselves.’” She blew a raspberry.
“Really?” Aaron said. “You guys are Gregor’s treasured allies?”
“She’s not always like this,” said the blonde.
“Sure. Where’s the kid you took?”
“We weren’t interested in him, we wanted June to get a taste for the old man’s blood. When we shoed up he ran and hid in the basement.”
“Good. Okay, here’s the thing. I need to keep my cover with the scavengers. But I’ve also been told to get you out safe. Thing is, the scavengers won’t just leave you alone, they’ll come after you unless they see you dead or they’re already on their way out of town. We do have one advantage, though. They don’t know about June. Can you fly?” June nodded. “Are you strong enough to carry both of them in flight?” After a confused glance from all three of them they silently agreed that yes, she could. Aaron took a deep breath and shook off the last of his shock from returning to his body. “Good.”
With his left hand, his right still holding the double crossbow, Aaron pulled the pistol out of the back of his pants. He fired it at the other side of the room, missing all of the estires but creating a loud bang that could no doubt be heard throughout the building. “What the hell was that?” said the blonde. “Now the scavengers will head straight––” She was standing closer to him. He put an arrow through her heart first. Before the brunette could react and scream he shifted his stance and shot her too. The crossbow was empty so he dropped it. June nearly lunged at him but he pointed the gun at her. She still didn’t get that it couldn’t really hurt her, and held still. The other two estries limply slumped over onto their sides.
“They’re not dead,” Aaron said right away. “Not permanently. The arrows haven’t been grounded, if they had we’d both have seen their auras flash. Once the arrows are removed, they’ll wake up on the next sunset good as new.”
“No. They won’t heal. Not quickly. They explained that much to me. They could die of those wounds. Unless they have your blood!”
“Upupupupup!” Aaron snapped, holding the gun forward. “You’ll have to figure something else out. My blood isn’t even nutritious to you guys, so that might not even work. I’m the Motetz Dam equivalent of junk food.”
“Well unless you have some bread and salt on you, I’ll just have to see, won’t I?”
“That would heal them?”
“If it’s yours.”
Aaron stared for a moment. Slowly, he pulled the bag of saltines out of his pocket and looked at them. He mumbled to himself, “How did I know to…” He threw the bag to June. “Will these work?”
She looked over the saltines. “Um, I think. Why did you––”
“Don’t ask. Now the other are gonna be up here any second. Go hide in that room and don’t make a sound. Do not, and I mean do not come out until the scavengers and I are well outside the building, then stay inside. A crew will be arriving shortly to get rid of their bodies, don’t leave until they’d be able to see you leaving. For all our sakes it needs to look like you showed up after they were killed. By then those scavengers will be two states over and you’ll have plenty of time to get as far away from here as you can. And from now on, the three of you lay low. Wait for your new bodyguard from Gregor, and don’t feed in public anymore. Don’t even feed lethally. And definitely no turning anyone else. Got it?”
She nodded and moved past him toward the other room. He grabbed her arm. “Hey. Waiting for the coroners to show up is important. If they get here and the bodies are just gone it looks suspicious. They need an obvious answer. Don’t even leave that room until you hear them pulling up, got it?”
After a pause she made a very faint nod. He let her go to the room and closed the door behind her. He grabbed onto his shirt and pulled on it, making the collar tear slightly.
After a moment of waiting Clive and Marcy came in through the door to the stairwell. “Boy that’s a lot a’ steps,” Clive panted. “We heard a shot.”
Aaron wasn’t used to lying plainly to the hunters. “Gun fell out of my pants when the blonde one grabbed me. Ended up getting them both with arrows. Already grounded them. The kid’s not here, though.”
“I found him,” Marcy said. “He was hiding in the basement. I was sending him out the door when I heard the shot. He knows his way home, should be fine. They’re both down?”
“That’s what I said.”
“We sure they were the only two?”
“That was the last room I checked, so unless either of you guys found anything, the building’s clear. We ready to go?”
“Yea,” Clive said. “It’s gonna be a walk to get to the hospital Richie went to, so we might as well get started.”
The three of them tuned and walked, slowly, their job complete, back to the stairs. Clive was in the lead, Marcy behind him her overkill hanging off one shoulder by a strap, and Aaron in the back. Hearing only the very faintest of noises, Aaron glanced back.
June was leaving the room and creeping toward the bodies. The moment seemed like an age. An age to think. Stupid girl. The hunters are paranoid. They even think they hear a squeaky floorboard or a creaking door, both of which stand between June and the other estries, they will look back. They will see her. They’ll kill her. Minor issue. The bigger problem is that I told them I searched all the rooms. They’ll think I’m either an idiot, or that I hid her from them. Gregor apparently needs at least the two semi-dead ones alive, and would be pissed if I couldn’t save them. And anyways, if she tries to go off with them now, the hunters’ll see, and we’ll have to go after them. But I’m still not sure the hunters won’t kill me if they suspect that I betrayed them. So if I may look like an idiot or a traitor…my best option is to definitely be an idiot. Well. Sorry June.
“Look out!’ he cried. He grabbed the overkill off Marcy’s shoulder. As the other two whipped around to see, June looked at him with shock and betrayal and fury. It narrowed down to just shock when the arrow went through her stomach. Limply, she fell over, leaning against the wall behind her, under a window into the starless night growing orange with the still far off coming of the dawn. “Dammit.” Aaron snarled a bit too forcefully the first time. “Goddammit.” He walked over and, with the heel of his shoe, pushed the arrow further into her stomach until he point hit the wooden molding, grounding the vampire and making a wave of red energy visible only to him burst out from her starting at her wound..
“Is that June Goldstein?” Clive said.
Aaron made a point of looking her over. “Looks like. That explains where she went. Would you two mind searching the other rooms, because apparently I’m an idiot?”
Clive and Marcy nodded and began going through the other rooms in the hall. Swiftly, Aaron entered the last one. He looked over the two bodies. Both pale, slender, with an arrow sticking between their ribs. The coroner team would come, take them away, destroy the bodies before they even had a chance to revive. Unless Gregor happened to have an inside man in the local coroners, too, which Aaron highly doubted. No, the two of them were as good as dead already.
Briefly checking that no one was behind him he reached out telekinetically. He felt his will snaking out of him like a pair of invisible tentacles. It was more difficult that usual inside the synagogue, but he didn’t need to do much. With a gesture from Aaron’s hands the two arrows impaling the bodies were pushed further in to them, driving into the floor, grounding out the energies in the bodies and sending the same red death flashes of aura dancing across their bodies. No more estries.
Marcy came to the door behind him. “What’re you doing in here?”
“Oh, just making sure neither of them actually just had the arrow caught under their arm or something.”
That got a snicker out of Marcy. Honestly, Aaron didn’t think it was his best work. “The other rooms are all clear,” Marcy said. “You didn’t miss anything else.”
“Good to know. Coroners already on the way?”
“Clive was texting the dispatcher while we were walking out. The local guy should be here in a few minutes.”
“We have a coroner dispatcher?”
“You expect us hunters to keep track of every body man in the country? We’re the kind of people who loose a vampire in a temple.” She smiled at him. “Don’t beat yourself up about it, it was an easy mistake. She was probably shapeshifted into something small and unnoticeable in a place where she couldn’t be seen. We’ve all done worse.”
“I guess. Still feels like a pretty stupid mistake.”
“You’ll make stupider, believe me. Though I will warn you, Richie’s gonna have a field day with this.”
“Yep. I don’t know what clever nickname he’ll come up with for you, but I look forward to finding out.”
“I don’t like that you’re enjoying this.”
“Oh, you’re the one always telling jokes, have a sense of humor about yourself for once.” She took hold of his hand to lead him back out to the hall. “Let’s get out of here.” She kept holding his hand as they walked back out of the old temple. Aaron smiled. Glanced back at the room where the estries lay dead, and thought about betrayal.