I actually managed a nap. You sleep when you have to sometimes.
I tried to eat. That didn’t go so well—half of a half of a sandwich. I checked my phone. Nothing from Rachel. Sundown in an hour. I’d slept longer than I expected.
Dudovich called me. “I’ll pick you up in 25 minutes. If you have to pee, do it now.”
I left a message with Clifton Page. Then I set my phone to vibrate and went to the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later I was in front of my building as Dudovich pulled up in an unmarked car.
“We’re on for six hours.” She was wearing a thick Kevlar vest. “The park’s closed. There are three other cars. Ever use night-vision goggles?”
“You’re turning out the lights too?” I sniffed. The car smelled of cigarettes and stale hamburgers.
“No, but they might. Got a cross and a stake? I’ve got an extra handgun.”
“Yes, yes, and no thanks.” I’d never fired a pistol in my life. I’d have better luck throwing the silver bullets at any vampires that came my way.
“Have it your way.”
Fifteen minutes we were parked on one side of the park about a hundred years from the field house as the sun went down. “It’s just like watching a cheating husband at a motel.” Dudovich unsnapped her seat belt. “Except with more chance of getting killed.”
I thought of one cheating husband case where I’d almost gotten killed. “Yeah. Right.”
“You need to wear this.” She reached over into the back seat and hauled up a Kevlar vest just like hers, with the word POLICE on the back and front.
I struggled into it. “Vampires don’t usually shoot.”
“But cops do. And bullets go everywhere. Do you need me to help you?”
“Got it.” I struggled with the Velcro straps until I could barely breathe.
The first hour passed relatively quickly. We didn’t talk much. Saw no movement. The gate was locked to keep civilians out. The radio reported a vampire attack on the south side. Then time slowed down as darkness crept across the grass. I almost jumped when my phone shook.
Hoping for a text from Rachel, I yanked it from my pocket. But it was Clifton Page, a single word: “Yes.”
That meant he had information. But I’d have to wait until the shift was over. I texted “THX” and put the phone away.
I couldn’t restrain a sigh. “We’re on a break.”
She blinked in the dark. “Sorry.”
I shrugged. “It happens.”
Dudovich looked out her window. After a moment she said, “My husband’s out of town.”
Husband? Wait, what? “Uhh, I’ve got my eye on this girl at the copy shop. But thanks.”
She snorted. “Calm down. I just meant we could have coffee afterward. Or catch a drink. If you need to talk. You’re no good to us if you’re depressed about your girlfriend.”
“Sorry. Let’s see what happens.”
After another moment she said, “He’s been out of town for three months.”
What the hell? I had a hard time picturing the tough cop I’d known for years sitting down to dinner at home with an adoring husband.
And I had a much more difficult time realizing that Elena Dudovich might actually want to hook up with me.
So I said the first thing that popped into my confused head: “I didn’t know you were married.”
“Yeah.” She hit a button to roll down her window. “I’m not sure I am right now. Three months. Being a cop is tough on a marriage. Half the cops I know are divorced, and the rest are cheating. Forget it.”
I was about to check my phone, hoping for a message from Rachel, when all the lights around the park went dark.
“Shit.” Dudovich grabbed for her night vision goggles and handed a pair to me.
The dashboard radio blared with comments from the cops around us. Hughes wasn’t at the park; Hawkins was in charge. He ordered everyone to stay put and watch.
The clock in the car said 9:27. “Seems early.” I fumbled with the goggles.
“Maybe he’s got an important staff meeting. Shut up and look around.”
Everything looked green through the goggles, just like in the movies. I swung my eyes around, looking for movement. I could smell grass and flowers outside. Also dog poop.
I could only see the front door from an angle. It looked motionless and solid. Then—
The window on the side facing us shifted. A bird or a bat? Maybe. I tried to zoom in. “Check that window closest to us.”
“Hang on, hang on ...” As we watched, the window clearly opened out from the top. “Got movement on the north window. Repeat, the north window.”
“Hold positions.” Hawkins’ voice was steady. “Wait for it to come out.”
I was happy to wait.
Three seconds passed. Four. Five ...
Then the screen burst out from the window frame and a body dived through the opening like Batman.
“Move in.” Somehow Hawkins sounded calm, while I was glad I hadn’t had anything to drink for four hours. “Take him. Be careful. In that order.”
We popped our doors. Dudovich unsnapped her holster and went for the fence. She could probably climb over it in two seconds, but I was pretty sure I’d end up trapped on top, so I ran for the front gate, my stake and my cross in my windbreaker.
I met Dmitry and Sharpe as the swung the gate back—they had a key—and stayed well behind them as they charged forward. Dudovich was over the fence, on the ground, her weapon in both hands as she approached the shadowy figure on the grass.
He stood motionless, arms at his sides. Waiting.
Flashlights illuminated his body. Asmodeus had a long face and a nose like a hawk. He wore a tight leather jacket and bloodstained jeans.
Dudovich stood right in front of him, pointing her weapon at his chest.
“Freeze, vamp!” Hawkins’ voice thundered across the grass, shaking the swings on the playground. “Dudovich, take him out!”
The vampire king lifted a hand. “Wait.”
His voice was loud. But it was suddenly overwhelmed by a howl around the playground.
Dudovich backed away, her pistol shaking. Asmodeus stayed planted on the grass. He smiled, his fangs bright and sharp.
I looked over my shoulder. Oh no.
Outside the fence stood a horde of vampires. Their eyes glowed in the night. Dozens of them. Maybe hundreds.
“Trap!” I spun around on the grass. “They’re here! It’s a trap—”
The vampires surged forward, through the gate, over the fence, laughing and roaring with glee. The cops backed up, coming together in a tight line, and started firing their weapons.
Some vamps fell, silver bullets in their chests. One cop was too slow. His Kevlar vest got ripped apart, even as the rest of the cops showered the vampires with bullets.
I was behind the line. My feet shaking. Oh god, oh god, I was going to die and I couldn’t even call Rachel. Who was going to tell her? What would they say?
Then the vampire king’s voice rose above the shouting and the gunshots. “STOP!”
And all the vampires halted.
Their fangs still glimmered in the darkness, but they dropped their arms, panting. And waiting.
The cops used the pause to press fresh clips into their weapons. Hawkins pointed his pistol straight at Asmodeus.
The vampire king smiled. “Look at them. Waiting. Do you really want to kill me?”
The park was silent. Except for my pounding heart, which I was sure everyone in ten miles could hear.
I glanced at Dudovich. She held her handgun high. Straight at the vampire king’s heart.
Hawkins kept a finger on his trigger guard. “We can’t let this go on. You know that.”
“They obey me.” Asmodeus pointed at the vampire throng. “Without me to give orders, they’ll run rampant over your city. You need me to keep them under control. Unless you want chaos.”
Hawkins seemed to hesitate. So I watched Dudovich. I trusted her instincts. If she backed down—
Then a blast of light from the sky illuminated the playground, and a wave of wind pushed me to my knees on the grass. I saw Dudovich struggle to keep her legs straight.
A loudspeaker blared: “Chicago Police! On the ground! Everyone!”
A helicopter hovered twenty feet overhead, the wind from its blades flattening the grass.
Asmodeus leaned back, staring up into the sky. His legs were firm, like a statue mounted in the ground. He lifted his arms.
Screams of fury rose from the throng of vampires. Then they charged forward, plunging through the gate, climbing over the fence, howling with bloodlust in their throats.
Bullets from the chopper above slammed into the dirt. I dropped flat and wrapped my arms over my head. Get them, get them ... just don’t shoot me ...
I heard Asmodeus laughing. I risked a look up.
The vampire king stood tall. The rest of the playground looked like the floor of a slaughterhouse. Not that I’ve ever seen an actual slaughterhouse. But blood suddenly drenched the grass.
Bodies lay flat on the ground—most of them cops, trying to evade the gunfire from the sky.
The vamps screamed in rage, whirling around, looking for humans to kill. I saw one of them pounce down on a cop, fangs flashing. The cop rolled, fumbling for his pistol. He managed to push it up into the vampire’s chest and yank the trigger—but not before the vamp ripped his throat with its fangs.
They slumped over, both of them dying. Damn it. What the hell—
Then more gunfire burst from outside the fence. I rolled over, gasping for breath.
A SWAT team burst through the gate, with big assault weapons perched on every shoulder. “Everyone down!” That came through a bullhorn. “Everyone down!”
I lay flat on my back, looking up at the stars. A trap. A double trap. Hughes. That bastard. Why wouldn’t he—
Gunfire spattered around me. I rolled over again, trying to stay low. Bullets seemed to be flying everywhere. Even if they weren’t made of silver, bullets from an assault rifle could still knock a vampire over. But did the SWAT team carry wooden stakes?
Over my shoulder I still heard laughter. Goddamn it, did that mean ...
I peered over my arms. Asmodeus, the vampire king, stood in the center of the carnage. Bullets nicked his arms and shoulders, but none of them seemed to do any damage.
Then I saw Dudovich. She was on one knee, her handgun high. “Over here, asshole!”
Asmodeus swung around. “You cunt. You can’t—”
Dudovich hit the trigger and shot her entire clip at the vampire king.
“Bitch!” Asmodeus staggered, but he didn’t go down, even with more than dozen bullets in his chest. “You have no idea, do you?”
Dudovich stumbled back, ejecting her clip and fumbling for a fresh one. “Come and get me, you big dick. If you think you can.”
Asmodeus lunged. He covered the ten feet between them in less time than I took to grab my stake from my windbreaker.
Then he was on top of Dudovich, snarling like a rabid dog.
Dudovich hammered the butt of her Glock at his head. She kicked, swearing. Asmodeus laughed as he clutched her neck.
He leaned down, jaws wide, and clamped his fangs around her throat. Blood spurted across her chest.
Dudovich shrieked—the first time I’d ever heard her scared. Then Asmodeus leaned down to suck her blood like a thirsty, greedy hound. “Yes … yes … I will drink your blood, every sweet drop. I’m going to drink you up ... mmm … oh, your blood tastes so good—”
Dudovich squirmed, trying to fight. “F-fuck … fuck … fuck you …”
“Yes, you like it, don’t you?” Asmodeus licked at her throat. “It’ll be over soon. And your blood will live in me—”
“Hey, Asmodeus!” I was right behind him, my arm shaking. “Or whoever you are. Take this, you bastard.”
I slammed my stake into his back.
Asmodeus lurched back, screaming. I pushed as hard as I could, and then I jumped away.
He whirled around. “You! You ...” He reached out, his hand a claw.
I had my cross. Would it stop him? I held it up. “Stay back, asshole! The power of Christ—”
“You, you can’t ...” He stumbled. “You can’t ... I can’t ...”
Asmodeus dropped to the ground. “Oh … ohhh … you’re going to … all going to … to …”
Then he was gone. A pile of putrid dust on the ground. Right next to Dudovich.
”Officer down!” I crouched next to Dudovich. “Officer down!” I pressed my hands on the wound in her neck. But the blood kept flowing, all over my fingers, down into the grass. Her face was pale. Her arms shuddered.
Dudovich’s eyes stared up into the sky. Her lips curled in a smile, or maybe a snarl. She gasped once, and tried to look at me.
Then her head drooped over and sagged on the grass,
Two cops pulled me off her. I leaned over on the blood-soaked grass and tried not to puke.
I failed. But I did manage to cry.
Daylight streamed in through the window behind my dining room table. I stared at my coffee.
My phone buzzed. Now what? Hughes or Hawkins calling me downtown? I wasn’t ready for that now.
But it was Rachel. So I picked up. “Uh, hi. You okay?”
“I’m at a McDonalds. First place I could get a decent cup of coffee and decent wi-fi. And I’m checking out the news sites, and there’s all this stuff about a police shootout and ...” She took a deep breath. She might have sipping her coffee. “I just wanted to make sure you’re all right.”
“I’m fine.” That was something. “But Dudovich is dead.”
Silence. Then: “Shit. I’m so sorry. I mean, I didn’t exactly like her, but ... shit. Never mind. Shit! I always say the wrong thing.”
“It’s okay.” Hearing her voice was good. “She, uh ... she killed the vampire king.”
“Oh god, Tom.” I listened to a gulp. “I’m coming home. I can be there in—”
“No!” My arms trembled. “Stay away. Stay out of the city. The king is dead, but ... I don’t know what’s coming.”
A text came in from Clifton Page. Urgent. I ignored it. Talking to Rachel was more important.
“So, are you still with that squad?”
My arms shook. “I don’t know. Dudovich ... She was the only one I trusted.” Oh, hell, what if I met her husband at the funeral? But I couldn’t even think about that right now.
“So what happens now?”
“I don’t know. You were right. I’m not one of them.”
Rachel sighed. “Look, I have to go. LeAnn’s going to wonder if I’m ever coming back.”
Me too. “Take care.”
She cut the call. I stared at her photo on the phone. Then I sipped my coffee.
The phone buzzed again. I picked it up.
Hawkins. “Jurgen? It’s me. Are you still in?”
“What’s going on?”
“We’ve got new intel. Get on down here.”
Was I really still part of the Silent Force? I wasn’t sure. But I finished my coffee and stood up.
I couldn’t quit now.