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Blood Oranges

Kathleen Tierney - Author

Caitlin R. Kiernan - Author

ePub eBook | $12.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781101594858 | 288 pages | 05 Feb 2013 | Roc | 18 - AND UP
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Summary of Blood Oranges Summary of Blood Oranges Reviews for Blood Oranges An Excerpt from Blood Oranges

Chapter One

The Mattress

First off, taking out monsters absolutely doesn’t come with a how–to manual. Fuck that shit you see on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The only “watchers” I’ve ever had are the cops and such, people who might wonder what the hell I’m up to in the middle of the night, wandering about in various unsavory places. People who might ask inconvenient questions, or see shit they’re not supposed to see. So, yeah. No helpful mentor. What I’ve learned, I taught myself. It’s all trial and error in the trenches. And another thing, I’ve never met anyone else who does this. Not even one. If there’s some worldwide network of girls and guys who off demons, they’ve never bothered to contact me. Near as I know, I’m it. The one and only. Likely, that’s not true. Surely other people are crazy enough to do this. Surely other people have idiotic, suicidal vendettas of their own. But I figure none of us lives very long, once we set to work. I sure as hell didn’t.

Then again, I’m probably not a model of excellence. That is, if I were going to imagine the ideal monster hunter, she wouldn’t have dropped out of school and run away from home at age twelve, and she sure as hell wouldn’t be a junky. Yes, I’m a junky. Well, I was. Heroin. I like to tell myself I only started shooting up because of the monsters and the insanity and all, but I’m pretty good at lying to myself, and that’s probably just another lie. The truth is, junk feels good. Way better than sex. You hear that, but it’s not just hyperbole from the drug dealers. That’s the god’s honest fuck–you sideways truth. Never yet had an orgasm that could compare to a fix. Want to know about junkies without going to the trouble to become one yourself? Just read William Burroughs, because that shit’s gospel.

Okay, so you know I kill monsters, and I’m an addict, and I figure that sets things up for the story of how my life went from being screwed up to being royally fucking fucked up in the space of a few hours. Well, to be truthful, in the space of about five minutes, though it did get worse as the night wore on (as you’ll see).

If there were a how–to book, Demon Slaying for Dummies, or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vampire Hunting, or a Wikipedia entry, or whatever, I think Rule No. 1 would be something like: Do not, under any circumstances, stop in the woods on the night of a full fucking moon and shoot up, when you know the rogue werewolf you’ve been tracking for a week is probably pretty close by.

That’s another thing, okay? In monster movies, people do dumb things, and oftentimes, those dumb things get them killed. Or worse. And I’ve heard people bitch about it. “Hey, nobody’s that stupid. He wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t do that. I don’t buy it.” But all those naysayers are wrong, and they’re wrong with a big ol’ capital W. Wrong. Let’s forget my little indiscretion I mentioned above. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve seen die at the hands of the nasties because they did something that was just plain stupid. The sort of shit we all like to tell ourselves we’re too smart to do. But we ain’t. Not you, not me, not anyone. The nasties bank on that, and it pays off.

Some dude hears a thud on the roof of his parked car? He doesn’t drive like hell without once looking back. No. He gets out to see what made the thud. Some chick hears the proverbial thump in the night from a dark room? Nine times out of ten, she doesn’t go straight to the phone and call 911. Nine times out of ten, she reaches into the room, switches on the light, and gets the last surprise of her life. Or (and this one always gets me) she stands at the threshold and calls out, “Anyone there?” Or . . . let’s say you got a couple of inebriated young assholes from Tau Kappa Epsilon out on a dark road, hoping to get some something–something from a couple of drunken little sisters. Let’s say they’re pulled into a boneyard, because college boys, they have this notion cemeteries make girls all snuggly and easy. So, here they are, copping a feel, sporting hard–ons, and thinking they’re about to get lucky when the air starts stinking of rotten meat. And I don’t mean just a whiff. I mean stinking of the flesh of the dead. So, what do they do? They roll up the windows and get back to business.

You don’t believe me?

I don’t care.

Point is, the way you think folks behave, and the way they really do, those two things frequently have very little in common with one another. The prey has a tendency to imagine itself smart enough to outwit the predators. No. Strike that. The prey rarely even bothers to believe there are predators. Also, I’m not talking about rapists, murderers, and thieves. I’m talking about predators. I’m talking about the creatures lurking around out there with appetites most human beings can’t begin to imagine, the ghoulies intent on making a meal of you and yours, or, hell, just intent on torturing someone until they grow bored enough to contrive some especially messy way to finish the job. Ever seen a cat play with a mouse? That’s what I mean, only not with cats and not with mice. What I mean makes cats look pretty damn merciful.

Anyway, let’s set aside for now how and why it was I started in killing monsters (and continue to do so). There will be plenty of time for that later. Let’s get back to that warm night two Augusts ago, stalking that werewolf in the woods off the Hartford Pike, just a few miles outside Providence. Just back from the Scituate Reservoir. There’s a turnoff for a dirt road, and that’s where I cut the engine and left the car. A few days earlier, there’d been a murder about two hundred yards back from the highway. Was in all the local papers and on Channel 6, everywhere. The corpse was discovered nine feet up a white pine, gutted, decapitated, and tucked neatly into the limbs. The cops were on beyond clueless (I have someone on the inside, but that’s another story, which gets back to me being a junky), though there was talk of animal tracks at the scene of the murder, and talk of bears, because, you know, Rhode Island is crawling with nine–foot–tall man–eating bears. Everyone knows that, right? But I digress.

It had been a good summer. I had a couple of pretty spectacular takedowns under my belt from June and July alone. Which means I was getting cocky, and sloppy, and, besides, I was either high or strung out about half the time. These are the unfortunate combinations that make for wicked outrageous calamity. The stuff that can turn the hunter into the hunted in the blink of an eye. Blink. You’re a hundred and twenty pounds of fucking hamburger. So, there I was, the moon so bright you could have read a newspaper by it. The farther I walked, the harder it was to hear the cars out on Hartford Pike. Now, I’d planned to shoot up when I was done for the night. That’s usually how it went back then. I liked to think of it as my just reward for fighting the good fight, etc. and etc. But my rig and a dime bag of China White was right there in my army–surplus shoulder bag, buried under the various grisly tools of my trade.

And I stood there a moment, not far from where they’d found the dead woman. There were strips of yellow crime–scene tape lying on the road, and I figured the wind had ripped them loose from somewhere else. There was a sort of hot breeze, and the yellow tape fluttered. I listened to the woods for, I don’t know, five or ten minutes, and made one of those stupid scary–movie decisions no one likes to think real people make. I didn’t smell a dog (though the kill had all that trademark werewolf style), and, believe me, the bastards stink. I told myself the perpetrator was probably miles away, and that night I wouldn’t be settling any scores, full moon or no full moon. Possibly I was upwind. Whatever. I left the dirt road, went maybe twenty feet into the underbrush, crouched down behind a big oak, and fixed. Simple as that. I was just feeling the rush and untying the rubber hose from around my left bicep when I heard it coming for me through the trees. Coming at me fast and hard, and I knew exactly what I was hearing. Nothing else in the woods of New England makes that sort of noise. That much noise. Oh, and, belatedly, I smelled it. And I knew I was absolutely and utterly fucked.

Now, up on the big screen, this is the moment when Our Plucky Young Heroine would do something amazing. She’d grab her crossbow (loaded with silver–tipped bolts, blessed by Father O’Malley), pull off some kung fu moves so slick they’d make Jackie Chan wet himself, and drop the Big Bad Wolf in that very last second before the beast can rip out her throat. Then she’d say something witty.

Yeah, right.

Me, I blinked a couple of times, squinting through the haze of junk muddying my head. The werewolf was rushing towards me on all fours, quadrupedal–like—you know, one thing I always wondered about, ever since I set eyes on my first werewolf, is why the hell they’re called werewolves. Because, trust me, they look about as much like a wolf as Benjamin Franklin looked like Paris Hilton.

Anyway . . . where was I?

Yeah, right. Big silverback werewolf rushing at me and the dope rushing through me. That moment was, indeed, a dizzying mixture of opiate joy and sheer fucking terror. All I really remember is, in this order, dropping the syringe, stumbling back against the oak, tangling my feet in the shoulder strap of my bag, and managing to scream just once before it was on top of me. That’s an awful lot, really, all things considered. Thinking back on it, I don’t know what astounds me more, that I remember those details, or that I did anything at all but scream.

Just my douche bag luck, this wasn’t one of the scrawny mutts. Lots of them are, the weres, all ribs and mange and that dazzled cast to their eyes that comes from too much moonlight and empty bellies. This was one of the huge sons of bitches, maybe three hundred pounds of slobbering lycanthropic sinew and shiny white teeth barreling nonstop boogie towards me through the trees. Truth is, even if I’d not been high, and even if I’d had a couple minutes warning, and even if, say, I’d been holding, say, a Remington 870 12–gauge pump–action mounted on an M16 assault rifle with that sweet under–barrel configuration, even if I’d had that much firepower right there in my hands, all loaded, safety off, and my finger on the trigger, my ass would still have been grass. Sometimes, there’s just no sidestepping your well–earned impending doom.

I remember its breath. Pretty much ripe summer roadkill, crossed with whatever you’d find in the Dumpster out behind a Korean restaurant. Then I remember the pain when it tore into me, pain like the holy hand of God grabbing hold, hanging on tight, and sinking “His” grimy, omnipotent fingernails straight into (of all places) my ass.

And then I remember the hissing thing dropping out of the tree onto the werewolf’s back and dragging it off me.

After that, the events of that unfortunate August evening by the Scituate Reservoir get more than just a little fuzzy. I don’t know whether it was the blinding pain, the very excellent heroin, or acute stress reaction (what you laypersons call “shock”)—probably it was the combination of all three—but I fainted. First time ever in my whole life, I fainted dead away.

Okay, not dead away, because I do have a scant few hazy memories of being carried from somewhere to somewhere else, and of being in the backseat of an automobile that had that new–car upholstery fragrance. I remember music, too. Roy Orbison singing “Only the Lonely,” like maybe when I’d fallen by that oak I’d landed in the second reel of a David Lynch film. After that, nothing, nada, niente, until I woke up on a filthy mattress in the corner of a filthy basement. I was lying facedown in a cooling puddle of my own drool, and the air around me was dank and smelled just about as bad as a steamy face full of werewolf breath. Not quite exactly, but very almost. More eau de mold, less roadkill, but still. It was plenty enough to make me gag a couple of times. I tried to sit up, but that didn’t work out so well, at which point I groaned and lay right back down again. In that same cold pool of my own saliva. At least it wasn’t puke. If I had a muscle that didn’t hurt, I was unaware of its existence. Cramps, runny nose, sweating buckets, the chills straight to my bones—so it didn’t take me long to figure I’d been out six, twelve, maybe as long as twenty–four hours, long enough since my last fix for withdrawal to set in. Oh, and my butt was burning like I’d taken a double barrel of rock salt down there.

“You’re awake,” someone said. The voice was unmistakably female, but only just barely. Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense, unmistakably and only just barely; you had to be there. The voice was, in fact, only just barely even human. It came from the other end of the mattress, down past my Chucks, and a bit off to my right. With shaking hands, I fumbled for the coffin–handled Bowie knife I kept strapped to my belt pretty much anytime I was wearing pants, but it wasn’t there. Big damn surprise. I know.

“If I were you,” said that voice, “I’d worry more about saving my strength. You’re going to need it.”


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