Okay, folks. Lotus, Daughter of Darkness, has been loaded into Amazon and Smashwords and will be up on your reading devices soon!! In the meantime, here are the first two chapters! Happy reading!!
The boarded up warehouse smelled like shit. I’m not using that in a figurative sense, it literally smelled like shit. Like a group of squatters had hunkered down here and had taken up residence. Sucking another deep inhale of air through my mouth and not my nose – and holding it before my partner figured out what I was doing, I stroked a finger under my nose and pretended to be rubbing some Vic’s Vapo-Rub under there – a little ‘trick’ my partner had suggested to me when dealing with the horrific smell of dead, decaying bodies.
Of course I couldn’t tell him I was half vampire and that my sense of smell was stronger than most, and that ol’ Vic’s would probably do more harm than good on my sensitive nose. So I just smiled in mock sheepishness and turned my head forward as I surveyed a body that had once been human but now resembled more of a zombie. Its mouth hung open like it was trying to catch flies, but the eyes were milky white – and open. If I could have gagged, I would have.
Which didn’t stop my human partner, Stephan Waters, from gagging himself. I bit back a laugh.
“Nasty,” he murmured.
“You can say that again,” I replied under my breath, moving toward the corpse.
Its pallid, shriveled body sat propped in the corner of the warehouse, the filthy rags he’d once called clothes hanging on his emaciated frame like a hanger displayed in a gory shop window.
I approached the body with trepidation as I always did in these situations. Stephan beside me had no problem marching straight up to the corpse, but being as old as I was, I had learned the hard way that things weren’t always as they seemed – especially when it came to dead bodies.
“Why is he so thin…?” Stephan asked.
“Duh, he’s homeless,” I replied in annoyance, pointing at the rags he wore.
The truth was, I could see the poor dead dude had been most likely drained of every pint of his blood and we had yet another serial killing on our hands. A serial killer with a lust for drinking blood who seemed to have no qualms about leaving dried-out bodies that were nearly husks in odd locations for me to find.
I knew we had a vampire serial killer on our hands – just like in the 1800s when Jack the Ripper was on the loose in London and nobody could explain it – we now had another. Could I tell Stephan or anyone else at the Denver P.D. Local 318 Precinct of my suspicion? Nah, I’d get fired from the job I loved so much and then committed to a funny farm.
Nope, I’d solve these murders on my own, just like I always did. I knew they’d been committed by a vampire, one not too dissimilar to my biological father, and once I found the sadistic bastard, I’d kill him slowly.
And I speak of both this undead serial killer and my biological father.
After all, I was Lotus Arden Smith – fifty percent faery, fifty percent vampire, and one-hundred percent bad-ass.
Crouching down near the body, I pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of my gray slacks and shoved it over my nose as I examined the body closely, all the while trying to remain businesslike, when really, all I wanted to do was dry-heave. Not that I’d ever dry-heaved. I’d just read about it in books and saw Stephan do it a couple times at the other crime scenes.
The body was the same ol’ song and dance. A poor schmuck homeless guy who’d fallen victim to some vampire who was on the loose on the streets of Lo-Do – Lower Downtown Denver. And I was gonna catch him – oh yes him. The bastard always left his manly cologne scent behind. I could always smell it, even if nobody else could.
The body was decaying, and therefore, beginning to wrinkle and prune, but that did not stop me from seeing the two faded puncture wounds in the victim’s neck. They’d never had the chance to heal since the dumbass vampire killed his victims immediately after feeding. If he was smart, he’d let them live for a few minutes, hypnotize them into forgetting about it, let their body heal – and then kill them. Then the puncture wounds would be gone. But no, this jackass was either very new or very, very stupid. My guess was a combination of both.
“What do you see?” Stephan asked me, staring at me intently, hoping I had some sort of magical answer. Little did he know I did hold some magical power, but telling him the truth about this victim’s puncture wounds wasn’t going to be anything I’d divulge to him today. Or ever.
Lifting a shoulder and letting it fall, I pulled the gum from my mouth and tossed it into a trash can nearby that looked as though it had had fires burning in it recently. “No idea. Let the M.E. figure it out.”
“This is the fifth body we’ve found like this. Obviously, someone is murdering the homeless of this city,” Stephan replied, his arms crossed over his narrow chest, his brown eyes regarding me suspiciously.
I eyed the blonde hair flopping over his head to one side and his shirt and pants that had clearly not seen an iron in a while. I swallowed down a grin. I definitely wasn’t telling this guy my vampire secrets, so I was gonna have to play as dumb as he was looking right about now. “No clue, Waters.”
We left the scene once the medical examiner and the crime scene unit showed up. My partner wanted to stay but I didn’t need to hear any of their theories. I had my own clues to chase down and I didn’t need human babble and speculations messing with the cop-vampire mojo I had going on right now.
As we walked back outside the warehouse, I pulled the collar of my coat up around my neck to fight off the biting cold. Getting into the passenger seat of the boring police-issued sedan, I closed the door and reached over to crank up the heat on the dash. Stephan put the car in drive and headed back toward the precinct.
We soundlessly made our way through the cold and into the station. I went straight to my desk, and before sitting down, I pulled off my wool coat and hung it on a hook on the wall near my desk. It was only late October, but that just meant the snow would come in the next couple weeks and we were definitely deep within the fall season.
Sitting down at my desk, I shook the mouse to rouse the sleepy computer and waited as it flickered to life. I looked down at the lotus flower tattoos that decorated my right arm and smiled. I’d gotten them to remind me to just be me. I’d grown up in foster care with no real parents and the first set had given me the name Lotus. I don’t know why and probably never will, but I gathered from a young age that I would only have myself to rely on and nobody else. The tattoos reminded me to stay strong and keep blooming, even when the days were dark and cold.
I had always wished that I’d known my mother but made peace with that a long time ago. I’m 104 years old and I’m sure my poor, faery mother was long dead. I just hoped she had lived a happy life. My father, on the other hand, was a vampire, and a very evil one, of that I was sure. I was also sure he was alive somewhere. I just had no clue where he was. I had been told once that his name was Vlad, but had laughed that off at the time.
The only reason I knew that my mother was a faery was because I’d gone and visited a psychic once about fifty years ago when I was living in New York City. The minute I’d walked through the door, a wide-eyed woman had come bursting through the thick, red velvet curtains that blocked the doorway to her shop and had ignored all the customers in the waiting area. I hadn’t even called or even spoken to her receptionist yet when I’d come face to face with the strange woman.
She plopped me down in a chair opposite to her desk and didn’t even bother going back behind it to sit down in it. She had sat in the gold velvet wooden-legged chair beside me and stared intently at me, grasping my hand in hers while she stared at me.
“Another faery,” she had breathed at me, green eyes unblinking as she studied my face.
“Faery?” I stared at her in horror. She had freaked me out so I got up to leave but she pushed me back down in the chair with a smile. “No, stay. You’re here for answers. I can give them to you.”
That got my attention. I sat back down and stared at the strange witch.
“You are faery but I can sense you are something else, too.”
“Vampire, probably,” I said dryly. “I drink blood, and I like it.”
Her eyes got wide. “That’s why I can’t get a full read on you. Vampires are dead. Faeries are full of life. What a curse you’ve been given to be half. Where is your faery mother now?” she asked excitedly.
I smiled slightly at her. “How do you know my mother wasn’t the vampire?”
Her face darkened at my question. “Female vampires cannot bear children, only males, and only very old ones, if the legends are correct. Female faeries are very fertile, so your mother was most likely the faery, while your father was most likely the vampire. He probably tricked her into bed, too.”
I made a face at her bluntness. “That’s disgusting.”
“It’s true,” she said, still staring into my eyes. “You also bear the glowing green eyes of the fae. You are definitely part faery.”
“Can you help me find my real mother?”
“How old are you, Lotus?”
“How did you know my name?” I blinked at her disbelief.
She smiled. “I’m Maggie-Mae and I really am psychic. Truth be told, it’s simply my faery gift, but those people don’t need to know that.” She jabbed a thumb behind her toward the waiting area.
“Faery gift?” I asked, now completely enraptured by this woman.
She got up but her eyes never left mine, except for a few brief seconds as she pulled a large, brown, leather-bound book from the gigantic bookshelf behind her. She set it down and flipped through the pages while still looking at me. It was starting to freak me out again, but I was too enthralled to leave.
Maggie-Mae’s green eyes briefly flicked down to the book, then back to me. She flipped the book around and slid it across her desk to me. She tapped a purple fingernail at a diagram on the middle of the page:
There were four strange and almost frightening hand-drawn pictures. They were titled “Gifts”, and the first depicted a person – as I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman – with their hand to their ragged head, and next to it was printed “Mind and thought gifts.”
Mind-reader, like this lady, I thought.
The next one depicted a full-length drawing of a woman in a white dress, and next to it was the woman again, but just silhouette of her, and by it was written, “Invisibility gifts.”
What! People can make themselves invisible?
The third picture was of a woman – a faery – who had her hands on the belly of a man lying on what looked like a slab of stone. He appeared to be in pain. The drawing next to it was the man lying peacefully. Written by it was “Healing gifts.”
Wow, that is so cool! I thought.
The fourth and final drawing was what looked like a woman with wings protruding from her back. Beside it showed the same woman flying through the clouds. Written by it was: “Gifts of flight.”
My head went dizzy and I had to grip the armrests of the chair I was sitting in. I never told Maggie-Mae this, but from the time I hit puberty, I had found out the very, very hard way that I could fly.
Although I looked absolutely nothing like the beautiful drawing I saw in front of me when I did fly. And I most certainly didn’t have wings.
“Interesting, right?” Maggie-Mae asked, breaking me out of my shock.
“Which one do you possess?” she asked excitedly.
I hesitated. I didn’t even know this woman, yet she seemed to know me. She did say she was psychic, too. So I responded, “I bet you already know.”
She smirked. “Not really. I know your name but I can’t get a read on your gifts.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s the flying one. But I sure don’t soar through the air like that.” I pointed at the book.
“Oh my,” she breathed. “I bet that was a hard one to master with nobody to show you how.”
I sighed. “You have no idea. Not to mention, it’s more like an acrobatic ability rather than flying. Jumping out of windows, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, that sort of thing.” I grinned at her.
She came around and sat next to me and grabbed my hand, locking eyes with me. She paused as she stared at me, and it began to make me uncomfortable so I looked away. Then she closed her eyes and I relaxed a little. After a minute or two, she opened her eyes again and they were glowing iridescent green. She looked a little alarmed. “I think I know who your father might be.”
I gasped and stared right back at her, and could tell that my eyes, too, were now glowing. “Who?”
“Does the name Vlad Montour mean anything to you?”
I laughed, totally broken by the spell she’d had me under. “Seriously? The monster from folklore and myth?”
She let go of my hand. “Sweetheart, he’s no myth. He’s real, he’s dangerous, and I’m almost positive he’s the one who fathered you.”
I went to speak – to argue – but she cut me off again.
“And if that is true, I wouldn’t look too hard for your mother. There’s no way she survived if she got involved with him in any way.”
I didn’t want to hear any more. I got up and ran out of her shop.
I wearily slid the key into the lock of my apartment door and slogged inside. I threw my keys and purse onto the dining room table and went into my bedroom to strip off my clothes. The day had been long, and seeing and being around dead bodies always wore me out. You would think after being a cop for 40 years I’d not bat an eye at it, but I still did. After my visit with the psychic – the “seeing faery” – all those years ago, I had decided right then and there that I was gonna help people. If I had to live an extraordinarily long life, and if I possessed this so-called gift, I was going to use it to my advantage.
I’d learned early on that I could heal very quickly. As a child on the playground at school, if I was on the monkey bars and fell off, the cuts and scrapes would be healed and gone by the time I got home from school. My parents –whomever they happened to be at the time – never believed me when I’d tell them I had had an accident at school, or when some bully would punch or hit me. It was always the boys who picked on me, too. I’d developed a reputation as a freak at every school I’d gone to and I guess that scared them. I was and still am sort of clumsy, so when the kids would see my cuts and bruises be gone by the next day, and I couldn’t explain it, they began to distance themselves from me. I began wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts to school, no matter what the weather.
Shaking the memory from my brain, I concentrated on the here and now. I always wore a fully concealed body strap gun holster under my jacket – ironically named a “Lotus” – and removing it, I tossed it with the gun still tucked safely inside the holster onto my dresser. I stripped off my long-sleeved T-shirt and then reached down to remove the small .22 pistol from my ankle holster and set it on the dresser next to the other. No, it wasn’t police-issued, and no, I wasn’t supposed to have it, but ya know what? Some idiot takes my gun, I have a backup. So fuck the Denver PD and their stupid rules. They can fire me, but at least I’ll still be alive to collect the pink slip.
Not that I was that easy to kill, but still.
As I was about to start the water to the shower, I heard a screeching noise outside my bedroom window. Since I was apparently a “faery of the air” and could fly (if you want to call it that), I had a third-floor apartment in case I needed to make a hasty exit – so hearing a noise outside my window was very alarming. With lightning speed, I snatched a gun from my dresser and walked methodically to the light switch in my bedroom and flipped it off. Then, completely naked, I made my way to the window, stopping my breathing as I pressed my bare back against the wall that was flush to the window. It was cold but I paid it no mind.
The screeching sound came again. With my breath still trapped in my lungs, and with my pistol gripped tightly in my fist, I released the breath, and at supernatural speed, shoved the blinds to the side and pointed my gun at my own reflection in the window. Using my enhanced sight, I could see there was someone – something – flying past my window. A man, a very good-looking creature who was clearly not human – falling fast to the ground. He smirked at me and then waved as he passed, dropping like a stone.
I flung open the window, perched myself on the windowsill, then jumped down three stories, channeling my imaginary wings, and landed on my feet, just like a cat. I ran out into the night and saw the figure running through the woods that backed up to my apartment complex.
Why, oh why did I rent an apartment that backed up to woods?
Cursing under my breath, I went darting after my prey, trudging over leaves as fast as my feet would take me. My mind was twirling with a million thoughts on why this guy had been outside my window, or perhaps creeping around the ledges outside my window. I could barely make out his fleeing outline as he used vampire speed to dart through the trees.
An agonizing pain in the bottom of my foot reminded me that I was an idiot. Naked and obviously barefoot, a huge chunk of green glass was now embedded in the bottom of my right foot. Cursing, I reached down and plucked out the glass and chucked it away. My magic had subsided, along with my adrenaline, and now, judging by the small crowd gathered outside my apartment who were gawking at me, I realized what a stupid move that was. One woman even had her hand over her teen boy’s eyes, her mouth open in shock. Thankfully, I spotted a flattened cardboard box near a dumpster and opened it up, stepped into it so it was covering all the good parts, and tried to muster up the last of my dignity by walking very quickly with my head down into my building. I sprinted up the stairs, holding the box over me. After all, it wasn’t as if I could have jumped back up to my window. That would have garnered more looks and points than my nakedness had.
Exiting the door to my floor, I flung it open and looked both ways down the hallway. Determining the coast was clear, I softly padded down the carpeted hallway to my apartment. As I was about to open my door, grateful but cursing myself for not locking it, the door next to mine opened. I hastened my need to open my door when I heard a chuckle, followed by a soft, throaty, “Rough night?”
Pausing in pure mortification, I turned and saw my neighbor, Drew, bending down to pick up his paper from his front stoop. As he stood back up, he regarded me with amusement all over his ridiculously perfect face. He was in nothing but a pair of athletic shorts and his black hair looked a bit damp. I barely knew him, we had exchanged pleasantries at the mailbox in the lobby a few times, and he offered me a hello when we’d meet in the hallway like this.
“Something like that,” I mumbled shoving open my door and darting inside, slamming in closed, but not before I heard more throaty chuckles coming from his direction. Jerk. Stupid, cute jerk with the dimples and blue eyes. I’m never gonna be able to look at him straight in the eye again.
Damn, what had I been thinking? I hadn’t been, and that was the problem. I jumped first and asked questions later. The problem was, I had heard that screeching sound before a few of times in the past couple weeks, and this was the closest I’d ever gotten to actually confirming my biggest fear – there was another vampire watching me – and I had no idea why.
I hadn’t slept well last night, so today was sucking badly. Straight black coffee that resembled black tar heroin was keeping me company today. But my motivation to find the vampire serial killer kept me awake and alert too.
My stomach rumbled and I looked at the clock on my computer – 12:05 p.m. As I was about to get up and head for the fridge to get the salad I’d brought, I heard my boss calling.
“Smith, Waters, in my office, pronto!”
I sighed and flicked my eyes toward Stephan’s cubicle. His eyes met mine and I lifted a shoulder in a shrug, standing up and jerking my head toward our boss’s office.
“Close the door,” the captain barked, pointing at the door. Captain John Ehrens was a 50-something guy with a bad blonde comb-over and even tackier suits. Once we were both seated and waiting for instructions, he leaned forward in his chair and looked down at his yellow lined legal pad. “We got another corpse at West Fifth and Bryant, same M.O., another homeless one.” He ripped the yellow sheet from the pad and handed it to Stephan, looking only at him. “Both of you get on it.”
I gave my boss the most courteous nod I could muster and walked out behind Waters and to the sedan. I let him drive since I didn’t feel like it anyway and let my brain wander to the killer.
In no time, we had arrived at yet another warehouse, this one more recently abandoned and a bit cleaner than the previous ones. It appeared to have been some kind of parts manufacturer at some point and the machines looked like they were in various arrays of being dismantled, as if the previous owners were breaking them apart and selling them for parts. The floors were still relatively clean but there were no signs of life, not even any rats or cockroaches.
The body had been reported by the previous tenants when they had come in to retrieve more of their belongings. The body, again, was in the corner but it was not propped up, it was lying flat. This time, a female. A very young-looking one at that. I did not detect any strong scents of decay, and as I got closer, I could see she had very recently been killed. I pulled on a pair of rubber gloves from my pocket and laid a hand on her face. It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t frozen or even stiff. With my enhanced hearing, I did not detect a heartbeat, and judging by her still-open terrified blue eyes, I could tell she was gone. She didn’t look older than nineteen and I had to swallow down a pinch of sadness at seeing someone so young not only homeless, but now dead. Such a horrible statistic.
“Damn, she’s young,” Stephan said, crouching beside me, saying what I was thinking.
I nodded. “I know. Very sad.”
“What’s that?” my partner asked, leaning his head in closer to the body and examining her neck.
Pulling him back, I leaned in for a look. Two very obvious puncture wounds – not even an attempt to hide or try to heal them at all. A vampire’s saliva could be used to heal wounds on humans if applied right away. I used my closeness to inhale deeply. I smelled that same musky, manly cologne I’d smelled on the other bodies, but this time, it was much, much stronger since the body was so fresh. This excited me on so many levels. I inhaled again to commit the scent to memory and then backed off.
“Looks like some kind of snake bite or something,” I mumbled to my partner.
I chanced a glance at him and he was looking at me like I suddenly had a dick growing out of my forehead.
“What?” I asked casually, biting back a smile at the look on his face.
His eyebrows were up near his hairline. “A snake bite? In the winter in Colorado, in the middle of the city?”
“Hey, you never know. I’m beginning to think these are ritual killings of some kind. Devil worshippers love to use snakes and stuff.”
His gaze slid slowly away from mine and then looked at the body, then around the warehouse, then back at me. “Well, where are the candles? The pentagrams etched into the body or around it? Where are the torture marks? These people are just dead. Drained of blood, the M.E. says, and I bet this one, too.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “You watch too many crime dramas. Pentagrams, really?”
He pointed at my neck. “You’re the one with a tattoo of one on your neck. Kinda contradicts those pretty flowers on your arms.”
I yanked the collar of my white blouse up higher over my neck subconsciously and sniffed. “It’s not a tat, it’s a birthmark, I told you before. Now drop it.”
He shook his head and bent over the body again, examining her neck.
I hated this damn birthmark on my neck. It was reddish and sort of star-shaped, admittedly resembling a pentagram – the “Star of David”, a five-pointed star with a circle around it, but it wasn’t perfect. The circle was a bit oval shaped and the star isn’t perfectly shaped, either, but that happens as a person grows, I guess.
If I had thought I was just a regular human, I would probably have shrugged it off. But finding out I was half vampire and faery, something told me that this “birthmark” was probably something more than that. I’d tried Googling it and even searching at the library in old books about this type of mark, but the closest I could find was where witches had branded some of their people with it, but it was much larger and more perfectly shaped – and these witches were cursed with it for being outcasts. A scarlet letter, if you will.
The cologne smell still lingered in my nose and I had an idea.
“Waters, I’m gonna take a look around this place. I’ll be back in a few.”
He waved me off. CSU had just arrived and he was busy with them.
Spying a set of metal steps in the corner of the warehouse, I walked over and started up them. They went up to the second floor, which was open. I could see the entire first floor from up here. I continued up the metal catwalk and saw a set of doors at the end. I tried one of the doors, but it was locked. Then suddenly, the smell of that cologne became strong. I looked down at the crime scene, at the fresh body – thought about how her puncture wounds were still visible – how she hadn’t been propped up like the others – how she hadn’t been posed there, left to rot.
Oh, my God. The killer was still in here!
My heartbeat sped up and then jumped into my throat. I looked down once more at the crime scene and then back at the door. I pulled my gun out of my body holster, took a deep breath, and raised my boot. Rearing back my leg, I kicked in the door as quickly and as hard as I could and it flew off one of its hinges. It lay half on-half off the doorframe and I raised my Glock in front of me and waved it cautiously around.
The scene in front of me made me gasp. Four makeshift beds on a bare stone floor in an empty room that was probably once an office. The one and only window was open and I flew over to it and looked down. That same blonde undead piece of shit who had been looking in my window was now looking up at me, smiling, then he ran off.
I looked up into the sky. It was heavily gray and threatening rain – or maybe snow, it was hard to tell this time of year – and I yelled in rage. Lucky bastard. If the sun had been out, he’d have been a vampire barbeque. I was about to hop up on the ledge and jump out when Stephan and two other CSU members came running in.
“What is it?” he asked me, but he was looking around the room, along with the others.
“Assholes must have escaped out of the window,” I said, pointing at it.
All three went over and looked down at the two-story drop, then back at me.
“What, they jumped?” one of the crime scene unit guys asked me.
I shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe?”
“I don’t see a rope or anything else,” Stephan said, almost in a challenge.
Saying nothing, I looked out the window.
“C’mon, Garcia, let’s get back to the scene. Hopefully they’ll catch this vampire killer,” one of the CSU guys said.
I whipped my head around and said to their retreating figures, their white CSU suits swishing as they walked. “What did you say, Erick?”
He turned around and said, “We’re calling him the vampire killer. Because of the puncture wounds. I thought I saw some on the other body, too, but I couldn’t be sure. But this body’s fresher. Those are puncture wounds.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Yeah, probably made by needles by crazy cultists stealing blood.”
He grinned at me, almost in a knowing way, and then turned around and walked out, followed by his colleague and mine.