Blood on the Water
Picking up immediately after the conclusion of Burton’s exciting novel Blood Justice, Blood on the Water opens as Justine, vampire Simone Gireaux and their mortal friend Teresa Diaz bring long-delayed vengeance to the man who murdered Justine’s own mother more than twenty years earlier. Now they have one more mystery to solve: the whereabouts of Teresa’s abducted daughter, Antonia. Their Nemesis in Blood Justice, Stephan Sinakov, had told them that Antonia was “sold”–but to whom, and for what purpose, they can only speculate.
Confident that Antonia isn’t dead, the three women seek help from old contacts of Simone’s in Massachusetts. They are plunged into a world of magic and sorcery, where powerful witches struggle for control of an underground network. This battle involves plenty of fighting with mundane weapons and high-tech gadgetry as well as spells and psychic power. Helping Teresa, Justine and Simone in their quest proves to have a very high cost for their friends. But in the course of their adventures, Teresa learns that she herself is heir to a gift of magic power she had never before suspected. As the three follow clues that take them down the Eastern seaboard, Teresa struggles to learn how to control and use her abilities in a trial by fire.
Ultimately, Antonia is traced to a yacht owned by a mysterious and unimaginably wealthy vampire. Meanwhile, both allies and old foes from Blood Justice are pursuing the three women from California. But the truth about Antonia’s abduction may shatter Teresa’s determination to reclaim her daughter.
BILL SERVICE'S HOUSE & Chapter One
Blood on the Water
BILL SERVICE’S HOUSE
Justine Kroft sat cross-legged on the floor, staring at the naked man bound and gagged on a straight back chair in the middle of his living room. At sixty-two he kept in good shape-rode a bicycle to work when the weather turned nice, ran a couple miles once a week though he didn’t like running much. He played a mean game of tennis with his wife or friends several times a month. “Mean” being the operative word as he was known to be a gracious winner, but a bad loser.
Bill Service was losing big time at the moment, and he was not happy about it.
Justine savored his anger. She almost hoped he would free himself and attack her. Clear provocation. Self-defense, she could tell herself after she sliced off his head with the slightly curved, two foot long sword resting across her knees.
Absently, she ran a finger along the smooth, razor sharp blade; thin, but with some heft to it, it was fashioned to cut through bone as well as flesh—a neck for instance. Simone carried its twin. She had given Justine the blade when they left California after the trouble there. For reasons she didn’t need to explain, she thought Justine might have a use for it. Justine did.
Standing by thick carpeted steps rising to the second floor, Simone Gireaux cocked her head, listening. “Justine.” A whisper barely heard by mortal ears.
Justine glanced over her shoulder. Simone shrugged.Get on with it.
Service knew what that slight movement meant. Yet, his redoubled efforts to free himself proved futile.
With no discernible effort, Justine rose to her feet. As she walked around him like a matador taking his time sizing up a bull, her sword tip left a thin red line around his neck. She raised his head with the blade under his chin and made him look into her eyes.
She didn’t want self-defense; she wanted justice.
“Do you know who I am yet?”
Narrowed eyes studied her face.
She leaned over him. “If I remove the gag, do not cry out. Unless you want your wife to watch you die from the top of the stairs. I promise you, it is a good vantage point.”
Wide eyes showed he understood very well who she was.
Justine ripped the tape off his mouth.
“You know why I’m here, don’t you?”
“Yes.” A slight catch revealed fear hidden under a thin veil of contempt.
“Twenty years of extra life, Mr. Service. You should thank me for that.”
“You don’t have the guts to do it. Your mother would have, not you.”
Justine grinned. “Then I’ll start small and work up.” She placed the sword tip against his crotch.
He jerked his hips back against the chair.
“Like I said, start small.” She lifted the sword straight up, jammed it down.
Service hissed, but refused to cry out.
Justine jabbed her blade down in quick little motions—Jabjabjab. Service cried out. She clamped a hand over his mouth.
“Not something your wife, or daughter, should see, right?” She flicked his severed member off the chair. It landed with a liquid plop on the hardwood floor. “You won’t need that anymore.”
She yanked his head back, exposing his neck. In a barely audible whisper she asked Simone, “Do you want to feed on him?”
“He is your kill.”
“I think his blood will be too bitter for me.”
“Finish it then. We must go.”
Justine let Service’s head fall forward. A low moan escaped his lips. He struggled to hold his head up.
Avoiding the growing pool of blood, Justine stood in front of the man who had raped and murdered her mother twenty years earlier. Blade held with two hands she pressed the edge against his neck, lifting his head.
“Mr. Service.” Justine made sure she held his attention. “I’m sorry.” Was that a glimmer of hope in his eyes? “I’m sorry your death will not be as long and painful as I’d like it to be. If there is a Hell, I trust your torment will be appropriate.”
With her eyes and mind she held his focus while pressing the blade against his flesh, one hand on the tip, one on the grip. Despite her strength she felt some resistance from the windpipe. It gave with a slight pop and a whoosh of air, cutting off his last attempt to cry out. Slowly, the blade cut through: windpipe, muscles, tendons, veins, carotid arteries, stopping against his spine.
As the blade sliced through Service’s head fell forward, attempting to seal the cut. Blood sprayed to the side in unison with the last beats of his heart—PFFFT, Pfft, pfft. His body jerked once, twice, and relaxed into death.
Justine slid the sword out to the side and let the head settle back into place. She stepped back from the blood. Eyes closed, she let her sensitive ears listen to the blood drip from chair to floor like a hammer driving nails into a coffin. She smiled. Finally. Justice. Blood justice.
Silently, Simone appeared beside Justine. She gripped Justine’s sword hand and raised up the bloody blade.
“You made the kill, you must taste. No matter the bitterness.”
Justine eyed the blade, resisting the urge to slash the body into ribbons of flesh suitable only for rats and cockroaches. She might have done it if the man would have felt the least bit of pain she had felt at twelve as she witnessed her mother’s murder and her father’s slow decline to suicide. But Bill Service was past physical pain, past who knew what youthful psychic trauma, and past any ability to feel another person’s emotional pain. It was done. She looked into her maker’s eyes. Simone did not hold with unnecessary killing. To taste the blood was her symbolic way of acknowledging that you deliberately killed, like Native Americans who thank the rabbit or deer for providing food.
Though flush from visiting vengeance a week earlier on her daughter’s killer, and now on her mother’s killer, Justine was still a Young Blood. Despite Simone’s casual demeanor, her 350 years of experience imbued her with an aura of strength which brooked no defiance should she choose to insist. Which she would.
Revenge is sweet, Justine told herself and ran her tongue along one side of the blade. The warm, thick liquid rolled into her mouth like a healing soup, mending, as best they could be, the years of loss. Though her head insisted it was bitter blood, her body responded with a shudder of delight. One crimson trail escaped from the corner of her generous lips.
“Is it bitter as you thought?” Simone asked, close now, eyes bright, voice soft.
“Taste for yourself.”
Simone pressed closer. Her mouth captured the blood from Justine’s chin, and lips, and tongue.
ON THE ROAD
On the road half an hour later, crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois, Teresa Diaz’s sleepy voice came from the back seat of their full size SUV. She still carried a slight Hispanic accent from her childhood in Mexico. “What time is it?”
After a long expectant pause, Simone said from the driver’s seat, “Almost midnight.”
“How far to Boston?”
“About twelve hundred miles. You should sleep now.”
Another long silence. “Did you…do it? Es terminado?”
Justine stared out the passenger seat window. “Yes.”
“I will pray for him.”
“Please don’t. It’s too late for him.”
“Then I will pray for you.”
“Too late for me, too.”
“You’re my friend. I’ll pray anyway.”
Justine reached her hand back through the gap between the front seats. Teresa took it.
“Thank you,” Justine said. They held hands for a few minutes until Teresa drifted into sleep.
The three women cruised into Boston around eight at night under a clear, moonless sky. Justine drove, Simone navigated.
Teresa stretched in the back seat. “Are we there yet, amigas?”
“Boston, dead ahead,” Justine said.
“No more dead because we’re here, I hope.”
“Moi aussi,” Simone agreed, while perusing a city map.
“I thought you knew where we’re going?”
“It has been forty years since I was last here,” Simone said. “And I did not have much time to study the city then.”
“Is there a crumbly arrest warrant waiting at the bottom of a drawer for you?” Teresa asked.
Simone turned a wounded expression to the back seat.
“Teresa, my mortal friend, you know I am as you say, one of the ‘Good guys.'”
Teresa flashed her a scrunched up smile and patted into place her dark hair pulled back into a short chignon. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I know you are.”
Simone took Teresa’s hand and held it against her thin lips.
Just for an instant, Teresa attempted to jerk her hand away from the vampire’s gentle vise-like grip. “Sorry.”
“I understand you still do not trust me,” Simone said. “But I swear to you, Teresa, that I will never take your blood without your permission. Ça va?”
“I know that, too.”
Simone kissed her mortal friend’s hand and turned back to her map. “Exit here. Head for Cambridge.”
Justine finally found a parking space a block down from Kendall Square. Only half joking Justine complained, “Couldn’t we have pushed some of these cars together and made a space?”
“This is MIT. We’d return and find the vehicle in pieces,” Simone said.
The three women exited and stretched in the glow of a streetlight.
Teresa twisted her solid mortal body. “Couldn’t you have turned into bats and flown here while I flew first class?”
A rare chuckle came from Justine. “I wish.” She rubbed Teresa’s shoulders.
“Oh, that feels so good. I take back everything bad I ever said about your change.”
“I hope you never have to take back your take back.” Justine kissed her friend on the cheek and turned to Simone. Expression serious, she said, “Lead on.”
Trees lined the street. Ivy covered much of the two and three story brick student apartment buildings. Justine and Simone wore long coats, loose trousers, and boots. With dark caps pulled low, one didn’t need to know what they were to know they were dangerous. Teresa, the taller of the three, carried a few extra pounds. In sneakers and jeans, hands jammed into the pocket of a worn Cargill coat, she might be described as intimidating, but nothing more.
More than one person negotiating the nighttime streets glanced over their shoulders as the three strode down the sidewalk.
All four corners of the intersection consisted of small store fronts—Laundromat, 7-11, used records and CDs, printing, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Around the corner, across the street was Kazza’s Psychic Store.
Crossing the street, Simone whispered to the others, “Kazza is a friend. Her brother, Treen, and I did not part on good terms.” She caught Justine’s eye. “He has a temper.” Justine nodded, and made sure the short sword hidden by her coat was loose in its scabbard. To Teresa, “It might be dang-.”
“It’s my daughter we’re looking for. I’m going in.” She squared her shoulders. “I won’t stake anybody without your permission.”
Simone shook her head, reaching for the door. “Stay alert.”