A small town cop with an unexpected gift
A shadowy government agency on the side of justice
A call no good man could turn away
When vampires attack David White’s small town, only luck, firepower, and the intervention of an elite government task force save his life. The aftermath of the attack leaves him in the middle of the world’s biggest secret: the existence of government agencies that regulate the supernatural.
They insist that David’s “luck” is actually a supernatural gift, and he’s immediately recruited into ONSET, the most shadowy part of America’s thin blue line of police protectors.
Questioning both his gifts and the agency he now serves, David is drawn into an escalating battle that threatens all of humanity. If he isn’t what ONSET thinks he is, the entire world may pay the price.
The police cruiser radio crackling unexpectedly to life shocked David, resulting in boiling hot coffee spilling across his uniformed legs. The rookie in the seat next to him started to pass him Kleenex, freezing as Dispatch’s words sank in.
“All units, all channels. Armed robbery at three six five Center Street, witnesses report at least four entering the building, shots fired, at least one staff down. All units respond immediately. Repeat, armed robbery at three six five Center Street, multiple offenders, at least one down. All units respond immediately.”
Ignoring the burning sensation dripping down his legs, the dark-haired police officer grabbed the radio. They were only a few blocks away, and he threw the cruiser into gear as he thumbed the transmitter on.
“This is Lieutenant White,” he radioed quickly. “En route from five six zero Center.”
He slammed on the gas as he spoke, the old cruiser’s engine whining as it shot off down the street, siren blazing to life as it moved through the night. Dispatch’s lack of response was a silent editorial on the night shift’s commanding officer being on the street at all—let alone responding to calls!
As the cruiser approached the store, David clicked the safety off on the massive .45 automatic he carried. He was one of the few people in Charlesville’s police force able to handle the hand cannon, but he was far from alone in carrying a personal firearm on duty. Their issue firearms had been purchased from a council member’s cousin and were the single most unreliable firearm he’d ever heard of.
He offered the slender young officer in the other seat of the car what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Aaron Keller was the Charlesville Police Department’s newest, rawest recruit, barely six days out of the state’s training academy. This was his first night patrol, so the Lieutenant had decided to take him out himself and keep an eye on him.
It was turning out more exciting than expected.
The tires screeched as he spun the cruiser around to a stop just outside the door of the 7-Eleven at 365 Center Street. A massive glass front in the old brick building announced Sodas. Ice Cream. Slushies. Several streetlights illuminated the entire area in stark white light.
“Watch the back door,” David told Keller. With the front door blocked by the police car, the lieutenant threw his door open and lunged out, hoping that Keller would be able to get around back on his own.
The stockily built Lieutenant charged through the half-open door, turning to face the counter while he covered the room with his gun. A moment later, he had the weapon trained on the figure standing over a body slumped against the counter. A second body in a staff uniform sprawled across a collapsed set of potato chip racking mere feet away from the perp.
“Police! Freeze!” he barked.
The figure blurred around to face David and snarled, exposing a pair of elongated, fang-like canines that contrasted sharply with his torn black jeans and shirt.
“Holy shit,” David breathed, and the scene seemed to freeze for a moment. A single drop of blood fell off one fang to plink onto the floor, the youth’s bloody mouth causing the officer’s brain to completely freeze.
Then the punk moved, leaping over the rack of shelves and charged for David. Reflex and training took over, and the crack-crack of the heavy automatic double-tapping rang through the small store.
Two holes, easily large as a man’s fist, blossomed in the perp’s chest and he crumpled backward, sending a candy bar rack crashing to the ground in a clatter of metal and plastic. David stepped forward, desperate to check on the boy sprawled across the racking.
Before he made it another step, however, the punk rose, suddenly—impossibly—back on his feet and charging forward. His fangs glistened with blood, and his fingers reached out like claws.
David barely had time to think before he opened fire. He kept firing as the monster—he couldn’t call it a person anymore—stumbled but kept coming. Desperately, he kept firing until he’d emptied the magazine into the thing and it collapsed to the linoleum floor and lay still, the body now little more than gobbets of flesh held together with lengths of skin.
Swallowing back bile with an effort, David stepped over to the fallen clerk, his hands half-unconsciously reloading the heavy pistol as he went. The young girl on the floor amidst the wreckage of the store’s shelving’s flesh showed multiple wounds—fang wounds. The mess of blood where her throat should have been confirmed his fear. She was dead.
Fearing the worst, he turned to check over the boy. More fang wounds marked his arms and neck, but David found a pulse amongst the blood. The boy was alive.
“Dispatch, this is Lieutenant White,” he reported into his radio, then paused to spit out the sick taste in his mouth. It didn’t help. “Need an ambulance ASAP,” he ordered, his voice calm for a moment before breaking as he continued. “I’ve got an injured boy here, one of the staff. Perp and a customer, both dead. He bit the poor girl. My god,” he said, his voice pitching higher with panic, “he just wouldn’t go down. He took a full mag from the Eagle before he…came apart.”
“We have an ambulance en route,” the dispatcher confirmed, and paused for a moment. “Are you okay, boss?” He paused again, but David said nothing. “The guy was probably wired on steroids or some shit—they can take a lot of damage if they are.”
“I’m okay,” David said slowly as he nodded and swallowed, then jerked his head up at the sound of an engine behind the building—where he’d told Keller to watch!
He charged through the back door of the convenience store, into the loading area behind the building. A group of youths scattered away from the door as he flung it open, leaving Officer Aaron Keller’s corpse abandoned in the middle of the shadow. The young policeman was very clearly dead, half of his throat missing and a rapidly expanding pool of blood surrounding him.
The six youths, clad in torn black clothing similar to the perp in the store, ran out the alley toward the street. One of them laughed as he ran, and the light reflected off two shiny and far-too-long canines.
The laugher looked back at David and flipped him the bird as he leapt into the back of a car parked on the brand-new cobblestone-style surface of the main street. Even as David realized that the car’s window had been smashed in, the massive blue Oldsmobile, overburdened with the six punks, took off.
“Officer down, I repeat, officer down. Keller is dead,” David said into his radio in a calm voice he barely recognized as his own. “I have six apparent perps taking off in a stolen car,” he continued as he bolted for his car. “I am pursuing.”
Other ears than the dispatcher’s were listening to David’s panicked transmission. Like most other transmissions made in the public service, it was recorded in a database for future review. At the same moment the call was being recorded into that database, a quiet program no one at Charlesville’s police station knew about streamed it across a dedicated line onto the internet, to an automated site no human could visit.
Moments later, it was downloaded to a server that officially didn’t exist, and a data-matching program analyzed it. Ten thousand such transmissions hit its filters every minute, but most passed by and were deleted without raising a flag.
Lieutenant David White’s description of the man he’d killed, however, raised flags. A lot of flags. Nothing living in the world could take a full magazine from a .45 automatic to kill. At least, nothing mundane could.
It took sixty seconds for an analyst from the Office of Supernatural Policing and Investigation to see the flag. Thirty seconds more for him to realize just what he was seeing and grab David’s next transmission.
Two minutes after David told his dispatcher he was in pursuit, that analyst was radioing someone else.
The first thought through Michael O’Brien’s head as the radio in the chopper’s cockpit suddenly started paging him was that this was only supposed to be a transport flight.
With a grunt, the massive, bear-like team Commander flicked the radio on.
“This is ONSET Nine Actual,” he answered calmly.
“Commander O’Brien, this is Analyst McGill at OSPI,” the radio blurted out. “We have a confirmed Omicron One incident in Charlesville, Maine. We have definite confirmation on one dead civilian and one dead police officer, as well as a possible vampire kill by local law enforcement. The surviving officer is pursuing six individuals that are associates of the possible.”
“Where the fuck is Charlesville?” O’Brien responded genially. Over the years, he’d ended up protecting innocents in some of the weirdest corners of the mainland United States, but he had no idea where this Charlesville was. Or, perhaps more accurately, which Charlesville it was.
“I’ve already transferred the coordinates to the chopper’s computer,” McGill responded, and a quick glance confirmed it. A nav point icon now blinked on the chopper’s HUD. “I’m also linking you to the GPS transceiver in the pursuing cruiser.”
The analyst paused. “Do a thermal sweep before you go in hot,” he suggested. “It’s possible they’re not vamps, in which case, leave it to local law enforcement.”
“And if they’re vamps?” O’Brien asked.
“Then the poor bastard chasing them probably won’t be a survivor for very long.”
The engine of David’s poor old police cruiser whined in his ears as he slammed the car into high gear. Old and tired as the cruiser was, it leapt forward as if possessed with a desire for revenge as David spun it around to follow the stolen Oldsmobile down Center Street.
The moment was almost surreal, with only the brand-new gas-lamp-imitation streetlights shining onto the deserted streets as the two cars tore across the expensively cobblestone-styled pavement of Charlesville’s touristy downtown, their engines and David’s sirens ripping apart the peaceful night.
“Dispatch, this is Lieutenant White,” David said, hitting the radio with a single finger, his hands white on the steering wheel. “Have whoever is in position move to blockade the south end of Center Street; we’re maybe two minutes out.”
“Bairns and McClaren are pretty much there,” Dispatch told him. “They’ll be ready.”
The night shift Commander took a deep breath and said the words he’d never expected to say in his life.
“Make it clear,” he said quietly, “that they are to shoot to kill. These guys have already killed one cop tonight.”
It was almost as if the punks were listening in on his radio. Moments after he ordered the blockade, the Oldsmobile swerved in a wide arc around a chunk of road construction onto a side street.
David made up precious seconds going around the corner after them, his smaller and older—but better maintained—car making the turn in a smaller arc. He quickly reacquired the stolen car as it blazed toward the industrial park.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the police cruiser gained ground on the heavier and more loaded car. As the pair swung into the deserted industrial park with its brand-new warehouses and factories, David’s anger over Keller’s murder caused him to risk taking his full attention off the wheel for a moment. He leaned out the window and aimed the .45 at the Oldsmobile’s tires.
The recoil of the pistol firing threw him off, dragging his whole body sideways and throwing the steering wheel over. For a few seconds, the cruiser pointed straight at the wall of one of those shining new warehouses. His heart pounding, David grabbed the wheel, yanking it over to bring the car back in line with the road.
His shot appeared to have had no effect whatsoever, and he looked up just in time to watch the stolen car scream into a turn behind another brick-and-steel warehouse. With a desperate jerk, he spun the wheel of the cruiser and followed them around.
The stolen car carrying Keller’s murderers had disappeared. The road they’d turned onto continued out of the industrial park across the railroad tracks, but there was no sign of the Oldsmobile.
David slowed down, looking around to see where they would have gone. There couldn’t have been more than five seconds between them turning the corner and him following them around. They couldn’t have made it far.
Charlesville’s industrial park was very young, all built within the last twenty years. Where the rest of the town was either picturesque old stone and wood construction or intentional imitations thereof, the industrial park was modern to a fault. A very different esthetic had ruled its construction—one of efficiency and chrome, not postcards and stones.
That chrome caught a flicker of light in one of the alleys between warehouses—a flicker like a car’s lights turning on as a door opened, and David stopped the cruiser next to the road. There wouldn’t be any other cars here halfway through the night.
He grabbed his radio and thumbed it on. “Dispatch, this is Lieutenant White,” he reported. “Stolen vehicle appears to have stopped between 14 and 18 Warehouse Boulevard. Suspects may be proceeding on foot or into the warehouses. I’m following them in. Send backup,” he ordered.
Unfortunately, Charlesville only had a part-time tactical team. As the town’s third most senior officer, David led the team—and he was the only member on duty tonight. Any backup would be a long time coming—time in which Keller’s murderers could get away.
With a long, deep breath, David picked up his flashlight and stepped out of his car, his gun once more in his hand.
He walked softly into the alley between the two multi-story-tall warehouses, scanning from side to side with his heavy flashlight, looking for any sign of the punks he’d followed in. A nerve twinged in the back of his head, and everything seemed just a little sharper than usual. All the sights, sounds and smells of the dimly lit industrial park were clear.
As expected, David found the stolen blue car empty. Both front side windows were shattered, and blood slowly dripped from the jagged remnants of the glass. He realized that the original thief must have punched through the window with a bare hand. Somehow, after the events of the night, that didn’t even faze the cop. It all fit together; it was just that it fit together in a way that terrified him almost as much as Keller’s death had enraged him.
The only light other than his was the streetlights’ reflection from the car, and David slowly surveyed it in the silence. No motion showed in the alley. For a moment, it seemed as if the six people crammed into the Oldsmobile had just disappeared.
Then a quiet noise caught his attention and he turned to shine his light on a side entrance into one of the warehouses. A breeze had caught the open door and pulled it out before allowing it to thump back against the wall. This late at night, no door on an industrial building should have been unlocked, let alone open.
David quietly crossed over to the door, keeping the heavy semiautomatic pointed at it. Drawing closer, it became clear that someone—or something—had ripped the entire security lock assembly clean out of the door by brute force. The door swung loose because nothing held it shut.
With a deep breath, the police officer kicked the door open and swung around to point the flashlight and pistol in through it.
Only silence and the deep darkness of the warehouse’s entrance answered him, and he smiled mirthlessly. Whoever these idiots were, they were obviously intending to play games. A back portion of his brain gibbered in fear of the idea of intentionally wading into a fight with a lethal weapon, but his training and the memory of the junior officer, brand-new, utterly earnest, and now viciously torn apart in an alley his first week on the job, drove him forward.
He stepped forward into the dark of the warehouse, sweeping from left to right with the flashlight and pistol as he slowly moved through the small security checkpoint inside the door. No guard occupied the bulletproof glass booth, and shadows obscured its insides. The single security camera in the corner glinted, its tiny light marking the only life in the room.
The only way into the warehouse was through a metal detector between the two concrete half-walls splitting the room. The detector was off, a silent metal archway leading deeper into the dark building.
Passing through the silent metal detector, David realized that the door into the warehouse proper had been torn from its hinges. His quarry had given up subtlety by the time they’d made it there.
The main floor of the warehouse seemed silent and infinitely large as he entered, the beam from his flashlight picking out scattered details of the rows of skids and boxes, and the metal stairs that led up to the offices. The only sound was the thump of his feet on the concrete floor as he walked into the vast concrete cavern, the flashlight beam questing along the aisles.
The attack came unnaturally silently and scarily fast. Two of the black-clad and silver-studded punks seemed to materialize out of the shadows and lunged toward him. They charged toward him like enraged wolves.
Somehow, David got his gun between him and the monsters. The doubled report of its firing echoed in the warehouse, and one of the things went down in a heap in front of the cop, two slugs through the upper chest. Then the second creature leapt on him.
The kid ripped the pistol out of his hand in the first second and threw it across the warehouse to clatter to the ground somewhere. The next, David’s arm twisted aside in one of the youth’s hands while the other hand rained a series of impossibly fast, unimaginably strong blows into David’s chest.
David White was a short but heavily built man. He took his duties as a police officer seriously and worked out religiously. No weedy teenager who looked like he was made out of twigs and black duct tape should have been able to outmuscle him. That, however, was exactly what this skinny, unhealthy-looking youth did.
For all his training, David could not seem to stop any of the blows. Each time he tried to block, he was too slow. One of his ribs cracked, and then, as fear and pain filled him, he was fast enough, his hand snapping into place to stop the next blow, almost as if he could see it coming. Without thinking, he blocked the next blow, and then the next series of blows, his free hand matching the vampire—for his mind had finally accepted that label for what had killed Keller—motion for motion.
Then the first vampire—the one he’d shot and hadn’t seen get back up—joined the fray. Somehow, David bent out of the path of his new opponent’s first blow, allowing it to slam into the other vampire. Both the vampires were stunned for a moment, and David tore his arm from the first one’s grip, stepping back to buy space.
No sooner had he done so, however, then a third vampire arrived out of shadows and swung at his head. Now the liquid-lightning speed of their motions and strikes were so slow. He caught each of the third vampire’s blows easily, his training moving him smoothly from block to block. Finally, he shifted from defense to offense. The vampires’ motions were sluggish, and David calmly, easily evaded his target’s blocks to throw the black-and-silver-clad punk backward into a stack of crates.
Footsteps echoed behind him, and he dodged as the first two vampires lunged at him again as though stuck in molasses. White easily grabbed one of each of their arms and spun the pair forward, using their own sickening strength to propel them into the same pile of crates as the third.
For a moment, calm reigned in the dark room; the only motion the twitching of the three stunned vampires, half-lit by the flickering light of the flashlight on the floor. David took a deep breath, and the world seemed to slowly speed up, as if everything around him had been in slow motion.
Then motion at the top of the stairs caught David’s eye. He saw the girl there—saw her jump off the balcony fifteen feet up and thirty feet away from him and almost fly across the room to hit David in the chest.
In any other circumstance, the tight leather bodysuit the girl was wearing would have been highly distracting, especially with her sitting on his chest. But the impact drove any notice of her gender from his mind, as did the fangs she drove toward his neck with blinding speed.
He managed to get up his hands and fend off her teeth despite his shock, but then two more vampires showed up. Shockingly swift kicks shattered both of his forearms, and then sickeningly strong hands pinned him to the floor. He had just enough time to understand how they’d killed Keller so quickly before the vampire on top of him sank her fangs into his neck.
For a moment, all he could perceive was pain. The next moment, he thought the pain was making him hallucinate as the roof vanished. Not collapsed, not exploded—vanished.
Figures dropped down from a helicopter hovering above the missing roof. The first let go of the rope halfway down and turned into a giant wolf as he dropped down. Another spun on the rope, showing an athletic female figure he was sure he shouldn’t have been noticing at a time like this, and launched tiny darts of fire from her fingers into the just-recovering heap of vampires he’d originally fought.
The world around him blurred, and he heard rushing footsteps before a massive paw swung across his vision, massive claws smashing into the vampire at his neck. He felt the fangs jerk out of his neck as the crashing sound of gunfire began to echo through the starlit warehouse.
David barely comprehended the sound before finally, mercifully blacking out.
The hacker would never remember what she’d been looking for in the warehouse’s computer system. She hadn’t even been in the surveillance feed intentionally—she’d been trying to get into the inventory files or something like that. But she had been in the security camera feeds when the first bunch of psychos burst in and ripped the door off its hinges in a casual manner.
She’d spent the next twenty minutes fixated on the feeds, flipping from camera to camera to follow the ensuing fight. It was like something from a bad action movie—vampires and a supposedly normal cop fighting like they were on wires and the tape had been sped up.
Then the Men—and Woman—in Black had shown up through—dropping through the roof as if it weren’t even there. The vampires had been quickly and efficiently annihilated and they’d loaded the cop up on a stretcher. Then one of them headed toward the warehouse’s server, and the hacker realized they were going to wipe the tapes.
It was the work of only moments to copy the video files from the surveillance system for the entire time frame. Moments more erased the hacker’s presence as her programs retracted into the rest of cyberspace, their owner wondering just what the hell she’d stumbled across.