Chapter 16
(Late Aug)

    The large LCD screen winked into darkness.  Duk leaned back in the comfortable chair and noisily exhaled through pursed lips.  Everyone has a history, leaves tracks that can be followed. Everyone.  Each deep scan he conducted on a one month time frame took several hours to days.  He'd managed to throughly scan for Eliza Radu for the past three years.  Nothing.  He felt sort of dirty, lifting her finger prints from the Palinca bottle, and still nothing.  He took a sip of the Palinca.  The damn stuff was good!  The lady had taste.  She tastes good too!  They'd been dancing around it for some time, and that night was wild.  Most women would been camping on his doorstep, now, but he'd not heard even a whisper from Eliza.  Yes, she had class!  She not only had class, it could be she just didn't exist.  “Witness protection,”  he mused.  He doubted it.  She was simply into too much to be hiding. 
    Standing, he tossed the last bit on the Palinca that was in his glass.  He had some very real tasks to attend to, and some very real money and risks were going down.  A ton of weed may not be a lot in the grand scheme of life, but it was one hell of profit for his little band.  He suited up and chose some heavy caliber weapons.  A feral grin split is features and he looked almost as dangerous as he actually was. 

    Eliza shook her head.  Maybe he was telling her the truth.  She'd accessed the newspaper archives, the ones that Sofye had found, and followed Du'ks very interesting existence in town. It was ten years of violence and suspicion, but random convictions for public drunkenness, lewd behavior and one minor assault charge that was pled out were the only stains on his record.  He'd arrived on the scene and taken over the city's only motorcycle gang by beating the leader almost to death and thoroughly whipping five others that tried to intervene. 
    From that point on, the nature of the gang changed.  They become much more low key and obviously very profitable.  Certain crime statistics actually declined.  Eliza guessed because someone was maintaining order with an iron fist, exactly what she'd seen from Duk.  “This is one serious dude,” she whistled.  “I'm glad he's on my side”
    It was annoying, but prior to his arrival in town, she could find no trace of him.  Considering that she didn't even know his real name, this wasn't that surprising.  Eliza was much better looking for data than people.  She'd taken to living more in the moment, now, so really wasn't too disturbed that his past was closed to her. 
    She'd actually taken Duk's advice and had stopped playing with civilians.  The scene with Patrick had been intense, but not as bad as she'd feared.  He'd accepted that they should stop seeing each other and plead that she seek psychological counseling.  While being thought of as being “unbalanced” was annoying and insulting, she realized it was working for her and went with it.  They'd parted almost friends, with the majority of the regrets on Eliza's side.  She'd really cared for him. 

    She could have taken the hog, but it was almost cool tonight, and the hog did attract attention, especially when she was in the saddle.  Standing, almost invisible, outside of Duk's flat, she watched.  It looked like any other ordinary flat in this section of town, slightly run down, but serviceable.  Not something that would attract attention.
    At irregular intervals people would come in and a few minutes later come out carrying a duffel bag.  Eliza nodded and smiled.  Business must be good.  There'd be some happy people in town tonight.  These were Duk's trusted group, the one's he allowed to move bulk and be trusted to pay when they'd moved enough.  Duk was very efficient and his organization ran flawlessly. 
    A long dark car slowly cruised by causing every danger sense in Eliza's body to fire.  That was one of The Deacon's cars and that meant trouble.  The second time it drove by, slowing in front of Duk's flat, Eliza acted.  As soon as the car passed, she flashed across the street and into the hallway.  Duk lived on the third floor and she ascended the stairs as full speed in total silence.  She knocked on the door, hoping for a quick response. 
    She got one.  The door opened and she was pulled in, thrown to the floor and was staring down the barrel of a Colt .45 auto.  “Good reflexes, guy, but we need to get out of here,” she gasped.  “Do you have an escape route?”
    “Eliza?”  He looked confused.  “What the hell are you talking about?  What are you doing here besides trying to die?”
    “The Deacon, he's coming.  Let's get out of here, now!”
    Duk grimaced and pulled her to her feet.  “This way!”  He walked to a book case and slid it back, revealing a stairway.”
    Duk stared over the low parapet and grunted, seeing the cars in the distance.  They were distinct and not the best choice for a low profile action.  “Not good Eliza.  Not good.  I'll thank you later, but right now, I've got some work to do.”
    Two cars pulled up and several men, carrying automatic weapons, got out and headed towards the door way.  As they approached, Duk slid back a panel cover and flipped a switch.  There was a muffled “whump” and steam seemed to rolling out of the hallway.  “Tear gas,” Duk muttered.  He opened another concealed area and took out a scoped, silenced rifle.  With some care, he began shooting out the windows of both cars. 
    The confusion and panic caused by the silenced weapon, providing no clue to the origin of the rounds, was actually comical.  They eventually piled into the semi-wrecked cars and squealed into the distance, tires smoking.  “I guess this changes things,” Duk observed.  “I think that was a declaration of war.”
    They were leaning, standing side by side, on the parapet, gazing into the now empty street.  “Yes, I guess it does.  But that was really fun.  You won that battle and no one was killed.  Interesting.”  Time passed in silence.  Eliza squirmed.  The moon wasn't full, but it would be soon and she was beginning to feel twitchy.  Violence excited her in many ways and she was feeling the unease of a building need.  She sighed and turned to face Duk, her face flushed.  She licked her lips.  “That was awesome, Duk.  I...”  She shivered.  The temperature had unexpectedly continued to drop.
    He faced her and smiled.  His eyes scanned her body, lingering on her breasts and well defined abs.  “You're totally turned on, aren't you?”
    She flushed a deeper red and nodded.  Arching her back, she unfastened her halter and let it drop at her feet.  There was a flash of lightening, followed by a crack of thunder.  A cold wind blew and large, isolated, drops of rain began to fall. 
    Duk bent and retrieved her halter top, pausing to kiss an erect nipple as he stood. “This way,” he whispered, taking her hand.

    Her room was comfortably cool and dim.  She stretched and smiled.  That had been really good!  She'd not even had the urge to bite him.  She grinned.  Except is a very sexual way!  “You have to give stamina high marks,” she thought.  “We have got to do that again!”
    The afternoon and evening had passed too quickly in the Library.  She'd not had time to consider the situation and she felt the need to act.  Duk was her friend, the Deacon her enemy, so her general course was clear.  Time for a heart to heart with Duk, she reasoned.
    Her senses picked up Duk's arrival, before he ever entered the building.  She took another sip of the Palinca and made sure she was visible as he entered the room.  She hoped he was as sharp as she thought he was.  Getting shot hurt!
    The door opened and Duk stepped in, routinely scanning the room.  Almost in one motion, he dropped rolled and executed one of the fastest draws Eliza had ever seen.  Staring down the barrel of a .45 automatic was unnerving, but she simply smiled.  “I hope you don't mind if I helped myself to some Palinca.  I got bored waiting.”
    Duk spit out a short epithet.  “Are you freaking suicidal?  What the hell are you doing here?”  Duk looked around.  “How did you get in here?  None of my tell tales were triggered.”
    “Can't a friend come visit?  Just where are your manners, young man?”
    Duk stood up and holstered his gun.  His sigh was noisy and long.  “Yes, a friend can come to visit, but the friend and better damn sight tell me how she breached my security.”
    “Oh, she'll tell you.”  Eliza smiled.  “Your roof and book case entrance are unprotected.  A real oversight on your part.”
    He frowned.  “There is only one way to get on my roof and that's to fly!  Did you suddenly sprout wings?”
    “You think wings are a big problem?  Seriously, that was sloppy.  If the Deacon has wanted to be sitting here, he'd be sitting here.  Face it.  You got lucky on timing – twice!  And both times it's been my smiling face that's greeted you.  Now, let's have a heart to heart and figure out what we're going to do.”
    “We?” Duk queried.  “We?  Why should this be a we?”  He took the Palinca from her, sipped some and handed it back.
    “I'm offering to make it a we because I've got something personal against the Deacon.  I think that bastard has overextended himself and I've been off of his radar for some time, now.  I'm guessing that, together, we can put him where he belongs.  Besides, like you said.  We are buds and I don't like sleaze bags messing with my buds.”
    “Eliza, you know there is no way I can let you take chances like this would involve.  You are a real bad ass with a gun, but...”  He sighed.
    Eliza stood, carefully putting the cap on the Palinca, and face him.  “I'm going to take your gun from you and stick it in your mouth.  Maybe that'll convince you.”
    Duk's grin was erased by steel hard fingers ramming into is solar plexus.  He felt himself lifted, spun around and he momentarily lost consciousness when his head hit the floor.  He grunted and tried to curse, but the barrel of his .45 was preventing any real sound from coming out.  His eyes widened and he held out both hands, fingers spread, as a sign of submission.
    Eliza lowered the hammer to half cock, flipped it to a reverse grip, easily pulled him to his feet with one hand and handed him his piece.  “Do you want to see that again or will you accept my partnership in taking down the Deacon?”
    Duk coughed and rubbed the back of his head.  He stuck out his hand and said, “Hello, partner.” 

    The Palinca bottle was almost empty, and both them were giggling in a silly fashion.  “Ya know, Dukky, I think we're getting hammered.  Shouldn't be really be paying more attention to business?”
    “Well, Lizzy, you might be right.  In fact, I suspect you are right, but my policy is go with the flow and right now the flow seems to be down stream.” He hiccuped.  “Where ever downstream is and whatever that means.”
    “I think it means you want to get into my pants as bad as I want you there.”  She hesitated and took another sip of Palinca.  “Did I say that out loud?”
    Duk grinned and nodded.
    “Sheeit.  This time of month I talk with my hormones.  You be a good boy and pretend you didn't hear that, ok?”
    Duk nodded.  “Got you.  Didn't hear a thing.  And I gotta question.  Do you always wear leather?”
    She shook her head in the negative.  “Not always, sometimes I wear leather and silk, but I like the way nice soft leather laces up and allows freedom of movement, air flow, and besides, it doesn't show blood and when you do get splattered, it washes right out.”
    Duk gulped, visualizing her in silk.  He stared at her smiling.  “I like the idea of you in leather and silk.  That has to be an inspirational sight.  And a little bit of blood never really hurt anyone, now did it?”  He removed a small sharp knife from his belt and opened it. 
    Eliza watched curiously as he held out his left arm and carefully made a shallow cut on the inside of his forearm.   The red blood welled up and he smiled and extended his arm to her.  “Want some?”
    She offered him a quivering smile, and unable to speak just pulled his arm to her and clasped her lips over the cut he'd inflicted on himself.  She closed her eyes and abandoned herself to pure sensation and enjoyed the “blood offering” she was receiving.  Somehow her shorts had vanished, as had her halter top, and she was unsure exactly what was happening to her and didn't really care.  It was all feeling good beyond belief.
    When she awoke, they were naked, and she was on top of him.  The taste of his blood was a gentle copper in her mouth and she wanted more.  “Control yourself,” she thought.  “Gotta do this right.”
    She knew what she wanted so she squirmed down between his legs.  Allowing her hands to roam, she smiled as her fingers rested over the femoral artery. Fangs fully extended, she gently bit, hardly causing him to stir.  Besides, what she else she was doing was occupying his full attention.  All she had to do was time things right and they'd both be very satisfied.
    She had good instincts.  She timed things perfectly and did just the right thing.
    Her head hurt and she was getting cold.  Her leg was twisted, somehow, and she couldn't straighten it.  She opened one eye and it all came rushing back to her.  She was part of an improbably complex tangle of arms and legs, naked, and the air conditioner blasting did explain her chill.  She managed to extricate herself from the two party pile and shut down the A/C.  “Ah,” she sighed.  “I might survive now.  I do not like sleeping cold.” 
    She looked at the empty Palinca bottle and shuddered.  “It really can hurt you.”  She looked at Duk, and he was still breathing.  “Good,” she nodded.  He was still alive.  “He must have the constitution of a bull!”  She smiled as he groaned and opened his eyes.  He gazed blankly around the room till he saw Eliza.  He grinned.
    “Anyone who puts clothing on you should be shot.”  He sat up and rubbed his temples.  “Is my forehead cracked or does is just feel like it's splitting?”
    “No, it really is cracked.  Just give it a little time, though, it'll heal.”
    “Thanks a bunch.  You're a big help.”  He groaned and stood up.  “We really didn't accomplish a lot, but I for one, did enjoy the experience, but you should have warned me about the Palinca.”
    Slipping into her skirt, Eliza said, “You're right.  We didn't accomplish a lot and we really need to address this situation.”
    He grunted and watched appreciatively as she put her halter top on.  “Yes, I guess we do.  I was considering just killing him, but that's a bit too obvious and I don't know how good his internal organization is.”
    “We don't know that, and I suspect it's better than it looks, Eliza agreed.  “Suppose we create a diversion.  Cause some real problems in some of his existing enterprises.  That could get him off of your back and focus some unwelcome attention on him.”
    “Yes, that would be a good initial approach.  The more problems he has, the less of a problem he'll be for me.  If we're lucky, we might find something that can do him.  You have any ideas of where to start?”
    Grinning, Eliza responded, “Nothing like a little death and chaos to cause a little dissension in the troops.  I'm an unknown quantity to the Deacon.  If you can place some centers of operation where his soldiers congregate, I could raise a little hell there.  Back at the ranch, you can remain very visible so there is no way it can be connected to you.  How does that sound to you?”
    Duk chuckled.  “How come you get to have all the fun?”  Eliza just smiled.  “You sure of this?  I used to make my living doing things like that, and I'd think twice. “
    “Yea, I'm sure.  I've got things on my mind that the Deacon has to pay for, and I want to be the one to present the bill.” 
    Duk felt a chill and he actually shuddered.  “I see,” he said.  “I don't guess you care to tell me about it.  I'll admit you are one scary lady when you're pissed.”
    “On this one, I'm not really able to share.  It's sort of personal, and you've only met my good side!”
    “Lady, you really do scare me sometimes.  Ok. Let's get our act together.  I don't want you doing something to get you hurt and I don't want to be in the way when you are doing whatever it is you intend to do.”  His grin showed he was not entirely joking.

    The moon was full, but clouds made the night dark, the wind howled, and an intense mist, a fog almost, made visibility poor.  Even with her heightened senses, Eliza was being very slow and deliberate.  Duk had found one of the Deacon's enterprises, a meth lab.  Duk dealt mostly with softer drugs and he was guessing that the Deacon wanted to move into that to, and the best way to do that was eliminate the competition.  The lab was several miles outside of town, remote, and a perfect target for a subversive attack, Eliza's specialty.  He'd, with some convincing, finally agreed to give Eliza the location, making her solemnly swear that she'd not do anything crazy.
    “No mechanical transportation, tonight,” she mused.  “I'm in and out as a vampire.  What I leave is for anyone else to figure out.”  Even though it was August, the wind and mist made it chilly.  Dressed in black leathers, Eliza blended, invisibly, into the night.  She was circling the perimeter of the camp.  Their heat signature made the outlying sentries visible to her night tuned senses.  One by one, she approached them and one by one, they silently died. 
    The building was a two story farm house.  There were a couple of outlying buildings that probably contained supplies, but she could take care of them later.  Right now, she was anxious to get started.  She'd not taken time to feed on the men she'd killed, and the death, smell of blood and violence had her heart racing and her craving for blood at an insatiable level.  She decided on a second story entrance.  There were rooms on the second floor that were dark, and so far, the subversive approach seemed to be working well.
    Scaling the wall and forcing a second floor window was no problem.  Silently entering the room, she realized that she was not alone.  The slow deep breathing indicated someone sleeping.  She grinned, her fangs descending.  “Pleasant dreams,” she whispered, turning him over, clamping her hand over his mouth and placing a death grip, for him, on his throat.  He started to scream, but the loss of blood, the damage to his vocal chords and the enthrallment she'd place upon him, conspired to ease his way into an eternal darkness.  She sat erect and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her form fitting leather shirt.  “Ah, I hope it was as good for you as it was for me,” she whispered to the corpse.  It was fun killing your slimy ass!”
    She carefully checked the second floor and found three more men, who would not see morning.  It was as she was approaching the stairs, that things started to go wrong.  One of the Deacon's “soldiers” came up the stairs, made the bend into the hall way, and was face to face with Eliza.  He was quick and deadly!  He drew his gun and fired, hitting Eliza in the upper thigh.  She spun and fell.  Her instinct to roll kept her from receiving a second bullet.  She'd rolled toward her assailant and his step back to avoid her sent him tumbling back down the stairs.  The two shots, the noise of him rolling down the stairs and his cursing has certainly eliminated any chance of a silent entry.
    With her constitution, the damage to her leg was not totally disabling, but she did not want a direct confrontation with a room full of armed men.  She turned, ran down the hallway and leapt through the window, to the ground below.  She hit hard, rolled, and limped to the edge of the woods, concealing herself.  “Plan B,” she muttered.
    Men were piling out of the house, now, guns in hand, but the weather was obscuring any possibility of them seeing her.  Their calls to their sentries, going unanswered, was giving them a clear indication that they were under attack.  Eliza, implementing Plan B, made her way to an out building and forced her way in.  As she'd guessed there were barrels of chemicals, some of which contained ether.  Reaching into a pouch, strapped around here waist, she pulled out a plastic stick, bent it across her knee, tossed into the middle of the chemical barrels and ran out of the door.  Again, she streaked to the surrounding woods and counted.  When she reached 35, there was a loud crack, a moment of silence and then the outbuilding vanished in a ball of flame. 
    “Damn!  Duk wasn't kidding when he said, 'get the hell out of Dodge!',” she said aloud.  The soldiers came running at the sound of the explosion and were milling around, unsure of what to do.  Eliza took the opportunity to kill three more of them before the realized that they were losing more men.  Eliza slipped back to the farm house, which appeared to be deserted.  Almost deserted, she realized as she came face to face with the man that had shot her.  This time, she reacted first, and a spear hand doubled him over, and a double fist to the back of his head, put his lights out. 
    She could detect the faint smell of ether, but couldn't tell where it was coming from.  Then she realized there was a basement.  Opening the door to the basement, there was no doubt that was where the smell was coming from.  Another one of Duk's little presents was tossed into the basement and she ran like a werewolf was after her.  She kept on running even after the second explosion ripped the night.  She settled down to a mile eating trot, one that she could endure for hours.  Her leg was a little tender, but it had almost healed.  The blood she had taken fueled her system and made her feel good.  The killing had made her feel good.  This was part of group that had abused Sofye and nearly killed her, and pay back was a bitch. 
    She grinned.  “And so am I!”

<---PREVIOUS    NEXT--->