Knight Moves

Knight Moves

John G. Hartness

December 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-1986

Book 3 of The Black Knight Chronicles: Lots of Vampires. No Sparkles. Serious Snark.

 
Our PriceUS$14.95
Code978-1-61194-1986
 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover

Et tu, Vampire?

In the third installment of The Black Knight Chronicles, vampire private investigators Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood discover they may be tied to a string of serial killings at the college and that they suddenly aren’t the only vampire game in town.

The vampire count in Charlotte is at least three. Or more. As far as the unhappy boys are concerned, anything more than two is a crowd not to be tolerated.

While tracking down the killer and the competition, they encounter coeds, booby traps (not related to the coeds), and a hirsute bounty hunter with a moon fetish and a bad attitude. To catch the killer, Jimmy will have to survive a dive headfirst into the great unwashed horde of Dorkdom (game night at the local comic shop).

What’s a red-blood drinking vampire to do? His job.Again.


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Excerpt

Chapter 1

I narrowed my focus, giving all my attention to my unmoving target. He stood there, a little more than sixty feet away, almost mocking me in how little fear he showed. My heightened senses took in everything around me, the flickering fluorescent lights overhead, the smell of stale beer and garlic from the fat man just a few feet to my left, the touch of lavender shampoo on the woman behind me, the squeak of feet on hardwood, the crash of wood on wood all around me.

Vampire speed and strength were no good to me now. This situation demanded all my concentration and probably more grace than I had at my disposal. I drew back, took careful aim, stepped forward and released.

"Gutter ball!” Detective Sabrina Law raised her hands in victory as my last chance to pick up the spare and redeem my god-awful bowling game plummeted into the gutter and left the seven pin standing without so much as a wobble. It mocked me with its lacquered maple arrogance.

"You win,” I said, collapsing into one of the spinning plastic chairs as Sabrina recorded our final scores.

She beat me solidly, but I made a good rally in that final game and was within one spare of a tie.

"Nice try, Black, but you can’t be expected to compete with a woman who bowls for the Police Championship League every year.” Sabrina sipped her beer with a smile. "The sweet taste of victory.”

"Ringer,” I grumbled, reaching into my pocket for a twenty to cover the beer and slices we’d consumed while playing. Well, the slices she’d consumed. I’d been on a liquid diet ever since dying in the late ’90s, so it was just beer for me. That little detail also explained my choice of bowling at Charlotte’s only twenty-four-hour bowling alley.

I returned to our lane and started taking off my rented shoes. The disinfectant spray couldn’t hide all the assorted smells from my heightened senses, so I drank more beer to keep from thinking about all the feet that had been in those shoes before me.

"So... Jimmy,” Sabrina said after a minute or two of silence.

"Yeah?”

"Why here?”

"Well, look, we’ve been working together for a while now, and hanging out, so I thought it would be nice to commemorate the date with a visit back to the place where we first met.”

"That’s sweet. You mean the first place I ever handcuffed you to a plastic chair, don’t you?” She pointed to a broken seat at a nearby table. Six months had passed, and they still hadn’t replaced the chair. That case ended up with us battling an Archduke of Hell and saving a bunch of kidnapped children. Sabrina had been a fairly regular fixture in my life since then.

"Yeah, that’s what I meant.” I raised my cup of domestic beer, and she clunked hers to it. "Cheers.”

We sat in silence for a minute, drinking our beer and changing into street shoes.

"So—” I said.

At the same time Sabrina leaned forward and said, "Well—”

"You first,” I said.

"No, you go ahead.” She pointed back at me.

"It’s getting late, and I’m kinda done with bowling. You wanna get out of here?” I asked.

She gave me a teasing grin. "What did you have in mind?”

She was going to force me into making the first move, and I didn’t know which moves were going to get me shot, and which moves might lead to something much better. Sabrina and I had been dancing around each other for months, ever since coming home from Faerieland, and I was still as clueless as ever. If given the choice between facing another Archduke of Hell or trying to figure out a woman’s mind, I’d take the cage match in Hades every single time.

A new voice from behind me butted in. "Why don’t we try solving a murder?”

I had never been so grateful and furious at my partner as in that moment. I turned around, and there was Greg Knightwood, the other half of Black Knight Investigations. He held my cell phone in one hand and my duster in the other.

"You forgot something when you went out tonight,” he said, thrusting the phone at me.

I stood, took the phone, and put on my coat. "No I didn’t. I left it at home. That doesn’t mean I forgot it. Why didn’t you call Sabrina?”

"I did. Apparently she left her phone somewhere as well.”

I glanced over at Sabrina, who was very studiously not looking my partner in the eye. Well, maybe my night had been going to be better than I thought. Until now, of course.

My duster felt heavy, and I checked the pockets. Greg had loaded my Glock 17 into one pocket, and my Ruger LCP backup gun into another. I had loops and sheaths sewn into the lining that held a couple of knives and four stakes, and they were all full, too. I raised an eyebrow at him, but he shook his head.

"Well, let’s roll, then.” I slipped my phone into my jeans pocket and held my hand out to Sabrina.

She stood without my help, and pulled her phone out of her purse. "Crap. Five missed calls,” she muttered.

"Three of those are from me,” Greg said.

"That means two are from my Lieutenant. Lovely. Well, Jimmy, I guess the date’s over. Sorry about that. Let me check messages and see where we’re headed.”

"The university. Construction site for the new football field. There was a body found a couple hours ago. Coed, twentyish, blonde. Body seems completely drained of blood,” Greg said.

I froze in the act of clearing the cups off the table. "Did I hear you right?” I said very quietly.

"Preliminary examinations are showing that the body was completely drained of blood. So yes, you heard me right.” All the teasing was gone from Greg’s voice now. He knew what a big deal this could be.

"Time of death?” I asked.

"Site closed at 5 P.M., it’s now five in the morning. So at most twelve hours ago.”

"No, not that long. Sunset was at 7:30, so figure time of death for eightish at the earliest. That’s still eight or nine hours. We gotta move.” I might have shoved a couple of people out of the way in my rush, but I don’t think any of them fell too hard.

Greg and Sabrina hurried to catch up. We got to the parking lot, and I looked at Sabrina. "Do you have any kind of portable LED flasher that I can put on my car?”

"Yeah, in my purse.” She started to reach for it, but I was already moving down the aisle of cars to where I’d left my Honda.

"Greg, follow me tight with your flashers on,” I said, counting on his vamp-hearing to save me from shouting.

He was moving fast toward his car, but I knew he’d heard me. Sabrina was almost running to keep up with my fastest walk, but I didn’t slow down.

I got to the car and flung the door open. I slid behind the wheel and pulled out into the aisle. Sabrina slid into the passenger seat, rolled down the window and put a small square box on the dash. She pressed a button, and flashing blue lights strobed out. I jammed the car into gear and peeled rubber in the Concord Mills parking lot.

"I didn’t know you could burn rubber in a Civic,” Sabrina said.

"We don’t have a lot of time. Can you call ahead and get us added to the case. Tell them Greg’s an exsanguination expert or something. But we have to get to that body before it’s moved.” I took a left out of the parking lot, taking the back way to campus from the big mall.

"Why?” Sabrina asked.

"Because I only know of one thing that drains the body completely of blood, and that’s a vampire. And what happens when a vampire completely drains a victim?” I didn’t take my eyes off the road. We took a curve at eighty, and I managed to keep all four wheels on the ground. Barely.

Realization flashed across Sabrina’s face. "Oh, shit.”

"Yep, if we don’t chop off the victim’s head in time, there’s going to be a new vampire in town.”


 

 

Chapter 2

We pulled into the crime/construction scene just as our friend Bobby, the assistant coroner, was loading the body into an ambulance. I pulled the car over and sprinted toward the police line, only to come up short as a skinny young cop too new to even have creases in his uniform held up one hand and put another on the butt of his gun.

"Stop right there, sir.”

I was impressed. His voice barely shook. I stopped, and was about to drop the mojo on him when I heard Sabrina’s boots on the gravel behind me.

She held up her badge and said, "It’s okay, Officer, he’s with me.”

"Lieutenant McDaniel said no one but CMPD personnel inside, Detective. I’m sorry, but your friend will have to stay out—”

"These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along,” I said, locking eyes with the young officer. "You don’t see me or the fat guy behind me. Detective Law came on the scene alone. And you hate the taste of doughnuts.”

"Good luck down there, Detective. It’s pretty bad,” the young cop said, ignoring me completely as he lifted the yellow crime scene tape for Sabrina to duck under. I threw one long leg over the tape and moved to intercept Bobby, but the guard dog with a badge had slowed me up too much, and Bobby was already pulling away.

I looked over at Greg and waved him down toward the crime scene. "Go see what you can find out down there. I’ll meet you back at our place after I take care of this.”

He nodded and started down the hill.

I tossed my keys to Sabrina. "You drive. Let’s roll.”

"Where are we going?”

"We’re going to chase down an ambulance and cut the head off a dead girl,” I said in as casual a tone as I could muster as we ran back up the hill to my car, trying to keep another vampire from being born in Charlotte.

Bobby didn’t have much of a lead on us, so we were able to catch up to the ambulance right before he pulled onto the interstate.

"How do you want to do this?” I asked, as we pulled up tight behind the emergency vehicle. As with the norm for dead passengers, Bobby ran with his lights on, but no siren, and obeyed the speed limit. After all, his cargo wasn’t in any hurry for anything. At least as far as he knew.

"I thought I’d pull them over, and you’d mojo him into oblivion, then we’d figure out what to do about the girl.”

I already knew what we had to do about the girl, but Sabrina obviously wasn’t quite ready to talk openly about it.

"Well, it sounds like as much of a plan as we ever have. Let’s do this.”

She nodded and pulled around the ambulance, the little blue dashboard light glaring bright in the darkness. She waved the ambulance driver over to the side of the road, and we both got out.

Bobby rolled down his window but didn’t get out. "What’s going on?”

"Turn off the vehicle. We need to talk to you,” Sabrina yelled over the noise of the engines. Bobby complied and joined us behind Sabrina’s car.

"Oh,” he said, as he caught sight of me. "It’s you.” His tone was flat, a little angry.

"What’s with the attitude, Bobby?” I asked.

"I saw what happened to that girl. I know what you are. And I’m not stupid. I put two and two together, and I got you killing this chick. And that ain’t right, man.”

I tried to interrupt, but he was obviously on a roll. Bobby went right on talking over me, and that doesn’t happen often. "Regardless of our business arrangement, and the fact that I might feel a little betrayed to think you’re dissing the service I provide and taking your meals on the hoof these days, I don’t hold with killing. Especially not with killing cute chicks.”

Sabrina arched an eyebrow. "But it’s okay to kill ugly girls?”

"There’s a surplus of ugly in the world, Detective, but a finite number of hotties. It doesn’t do to be taking them out of circulation.”

I jumped in before things went from absurd to downright bloody. "Okay, Bobby, I get your point. But we’ve got two problems here. One, I didn’t kill that girl. So get off your high horse. That means there’s another vampire in town that none of us knew about before tonight.”

At my mention of another vampire, Bobby suddenly looked a lot less sure of himself. "What’s the second problem?”

"Your cargo was drained completely. That means she’s going to wake up a vampire. A very hungry vampire. I don’t think you want to be the first thing she lays eyes on when that happens.”

"Oh, crap.”

"Oh, crap is right. Now get in the car with Sabrina. And find some way to bloody your nose.”

"Huh? Why?”

"Because I’m going to take care of this, and that means you need to get hijacked. This is just more guessing on my part, but I don’t think you want me punching you in the face any more than you want to be Blood-Bank-Barbie’s first meal.” And of course, I heard it—the unmistakable sound of an industrial-strength zipper opening inside the ambulance.

"Bobby?”

"Yeah?”

"You want to be running now.” I grabbed his arm and spun him toward Sabrina. She shot me a startled look, but I just growled, "Get out of here. I can’t deal with her and keep you safe.”

Sabrina and Bobby ran for her car just as the ambulance’s rear door flew open from the inside.

Bobby was right. The girl had been beautiful in life. She was blonde, looked to be about twenty, and built to break hearts. She wore a bloodstained UNCC 49ers sweatshirt and strategically torn blue jeans, with a pair of boots that should have been registered as lethal weapons.

She dragged pieces of the body bag behind her as she came out of the ambulance, and her face showed nothing more than hunger and insanity. It had been a long time since I’d seen a newly awakened vampire, and while she was cuter than Greg at his coming-out party, she was no less raving. Her fangs were fully extended, and her eyes rolled in their sockets, as if they wouldn’t focus. Then, suddenly, they did. She locked her eyes onto me like a pit bull on a sirloin and leapt out of the ambulance.

If I’d still been alive, I would have died. Since I’d been dead a lot longer than she had, and had taken a few judo classes, I was able to roll with her and throw her to the pavement. I glanced up to see Sabrina’s taillights peeling back into traffic and caught a fist right on the chin for my trouble.

"Ow!” I yelled. "Cut that out!”

The newly dead vamp didn’t answer, just jumped at me again, jaws snapping on air as I spun out of her path. I had a flashback to Greg’s first morning as a vampire, and that memory didn’t help me focus on the fight. Not to mention, the chick was super-fast. Like faster than me fast, and I was no slouch in the speed department. She must have been in really good shape when she was alive or something.

Fortunately for me she was completely, animal-growling, bite-the-dirt insane, or I would have been toast. Since she couldn’t focus on anything for more than a couple of seconds, I was able to come up with a plan that seemed only somewhat ridiculous. The next time she lunged, I grabbed her arm and flung her back into the ambulance. As she crashed into the meat wagon, I reached to the side to slam the door shut on her.

Except... she bent the door beyond repair when she kicked it open. I still held the half-closed door when the new vampire launched herself out of the back of the ambulance once more, taking me down and latching her teeth onto my shoulder. Between banging my head on the asphalt and getting holes in my favorite Spider Jerusalem T-shirt, it was not shaping up to be a very good night.

I grabbed her by the hair and tried to pull her off me, but she was stuck tighter than a tick in July. I lurched to my feet, but she just wrapped her legs around my middle and kept drinking. Was this what the folks in Alien felt when the face-huggers got them? I felt my strength start to fade. The more she drank, the stronger she got. The stronger she got, the weaker I got. I was really starting to hate the merry-go-round.

I knew I had to do something fast, so I rammed her into the back bumper of the ambulance. I heard ribs crack, and she opened her mouth to scream. The second her teeth pulled out of my flesh, I shoved my left arm under her chin to keep those teeth at bay while I punched her in the side of the head with my right fist. After three or four solid shots to the temple, her legs relaxed from around my waist, and she slumped to the ground. I sagged down to sit on the bumper and drew my Glock, leveling it at her forehead.

The Glock was loaded with hollow points, so I was pretty sure I could decapitate her, or at least do enough damage to keep her dead, but something froze me before I pulled the trigger. I thought back to Greg on his first night as a vampire, how out of control he had been. This kid was just like that, probably just like I had been when I attacked my best friend and accidentally turned him. My finger tightened on the trigger again, but I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t my fault she had been turned, but it wasn’t my place to kill her, either. As of this moment, she was innocent. She hadn’t hurt anyone, at least not anyone alive, and she didn’t deserve to die because of what had been done to her. If I ever found out who turned her, that would be a different story. I put the Glock back in my shoulder holster and reached out to touch her shoulder.

She shook her head and growled as her eyes came into focus. "Who the hell are you?” she asked, wiping my blood off her lips with the back of one hand. "And where am I?”

"I think you’re going to have a lot more questions in about an hour, but, for now, let me give you the basics. My name is Jimmy Black, and I’m a private investigator. I work with the police on some... special cases. You’re on the side of North Tryon Street at almost six in the morning. You’ve been turned into a vampire. I’m one, too, and we have about half an hour to get inside before we both end up like my last attempt at a Thanksgiving turkey. And trust me, that wasn’t pretty.”

"Are you high or something?”

"Or something. For now, like they say in the movies, ‘come with me if you want to live.’” I limped around to the front of the ambulance, got in and started the engine.

The girl sat on the pavement looking confused. And bloody. And cute. Which made for a terrible combination, especially since it was my blood.

I rolled down the passenger window. "You coming? Or dying?”

"Why should I believe you? What if you’re a nutjob serial killer?” She reached into her pocket, where she probably carried pepper spray before the world and a hungry vamp made sure she’d never need pepper spray again.

"I haven’t killed you yet, have I? And I’m the one with the gun. If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead.” A little stretch on my part, because she was already dead, and I hadn’t wanted it. I hadn’t really wanted her to wake up, either. But I couldn’t change that, so I had to be responsible for her. Greg was going to love this. He’d wanted a puppy for years, and I kept saying no. Now I was going to bring home a pet vampire.

She stared at me distrustfully.

I looked at the brightening horizon, and said, "Look, Pumpkin, time’s a-wasting. You can either come with me and maybe die, or stay here and definitely die. But I’m leaving. Now.”

She stared at me for a second or two longer, then got up in a ridiculously fluid motion and was at the passenger door in less time than it took me to blink twice. She got in and buckled up, and I headed off into the sunrise, trying the whole way to figure out where I was going to park an ambulance in our cemetery.

Yeah, Greg was gonna love this.

 


 

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