Andrew was coming in hard and merciless. Anne Marie was swinging a hammer with the rest. Boarding up windows, ready to ride out the storm.
As the winds blew in, the sky darkened. She’d come here to investigate the stories of zombies. She’d seldom followed up on this type of report, most were crap. But this particular area seemed to have more than its share of urban legends about them as well as a run of mysterious and gruesome killings.
She cursed herself for not looking at long term forecasts for the area. Hurricane parties were not going to further her research. She pounded a final nail and scurried indoors to wait out the storm.
The low rent complex she had chosen was mostly empty. The hold out residents were those with the glassy eyes of drug users that had no where else to go. Most were camped out in the building’s narrow hall. Curled up in pitiful balls, enduring various states of jonesing. The mostly conscious eyed her warily as she passed, her steps disturbing the perpetual dust and other debris that ever lined the worn carpet.
None dared to bother her since she had physically removed the few that thought her rooms to be an easy target for robbery and other amusements by assault. Anne Marie never feared the criminal fringes of humanity. A few broken bones and other embarrassing injuries had them walking a wider path when they caught sight of her. After all, they were merely human. Of course, she rarely feared the inhuman either. They could handled, though she found killing them to be the easiest and obviously most permanent answer.
She let herself into her rooms. The boarded windows made the space seem close in the darkness. With no power, she resorted to candlelight. The lazy flickering gave her a feeling of calm that electric lighting never could. As the storm gained strength, she settled into a comfortable overstuffed chair with a pile of pages, some computer printed, others were copies of notes from the local police, along with many newspaper clippings, all covered with notes scribbled in her own hand.
She was intent on her work, when she became aware of a sudden lull. The eye, she thought. Soon the other wall would arrive with another round of screaming winds and pounding rain.
Just as she opened another can of soda, she heard the crash of the outer entry door. The heavy footsteps that followed were muffled only a small bit by her closed door. Her hearing was more acute than most people, she could sort out the sounds of shuffling that would be the residents winding themselves into tighter balls as heavy footsteps moved along the hallway. Boots, she decided, well made, heavy boots.
The ancient broadsword that traveled with her had made its way to her hand. She stood in practiced balance, ready to defend or strike. Which ever she deemed necessary.
“Annie! Annie, me love! I know you're here, I can smell ye!” the heavily accented voice, funneled by the narrow confines of the hall, seemed to fill her room.
With a sigh of annoyance, she relaxed her stance slightly. She knew the owner of that voice. Had hoped never to hear it again.
Anne Marie could feel the boot tread stop in front of her door, “come on sweetling, let an old friend in. It’s positively monstrous out there.”
She could refuse to answer, but it wouldn’t stop him, just make him more determined to get a reaction from her. Giving irritation to her voice, she answered, “Go away, Liam, I’m not in a mood to entertain you, and I’m far too busy to be bothered with killing you right now.” She gave a short snort of regret, “I should have killed you last time. I was evidently in a far too generous state.”
He chuckled, “you'd not be the first lass that wanted to do me in, m’dear. Its my wanderin’ eye always gets me in trouble with the ladies.”
“Then please, wander your eye elsewhere, there’s naught here to see.”
“Hah!. Slipped into the “auld” English a moment there.” The doorknob jiggled as he tested it, knowing it would be locked. “You're too tense, girl. All worried about fitting in. Have you adopted the local drawl as well?”
Anne Marie growled under her breath. Her ability with language and dialect had served her well. She could pass for a local almost anywhere in the world. Yet Liam could cause her to make mistakes. That made him dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than those she hunted.
She resigned herself to his presence and returned the blade to its worn leather sheath. “Soft as a babe’s breath that was.” Liam’s hearing was almost as good as her own. “ I’m glad you've changed your mind about killin’ me right now.”
“Right now, but I could reverse that decision easily if you annoy me much more.” She turned the flimsy lock and opened the door. The point of the dirk she held to replace the sword drew a single drop of blood from Liam’s neck as she blocked him from bursting into the room. “Not so fast, I’ll need an inventory of your knives first.”
Liam rolled is eyes dramatically, “Annie, I’m here as your friend…”
“Now, Liam. How many and where.”
“Fine lassie. There's the blade is me right toe, the buck knife, a switchblade in me left pocket and three of them throwing stars from the Japans in the right. A tension triggered blade on one arm and the other,” he grinned with pride, “the other is released and pointing at a target right below your pretty bosom.”
Anne Marie side stepped with practiced ease, her dirk taking an extra layer off his throat out of spite. “You are a fool, Liam. I will kill you one day.”
“But not today, Annie, not today.” He glanced quickly around the small space, then made himself comfortable on a small love seat across from her chair. “Sit down, girl! Relax.”
Anne Marie returned to her chair, gathering the papers and clippings she’d dropped when Liam made his noisy entry. “Ive never been good at small talk, Liam, what do you want? I would like to finish my research, when the storm has passed I have things I need to do.”
“Company, Annie. You told me long ago that immortality was over rated. I know now what you meant.” The smile he gave her now held a hint of sadness and regret. “You're the only one left has known me most my life.”
‘You made you own choice, I warned you.” Anne Marie had limited pity for him. “Why don’t you track some of your blood? Become the obnoxious well to do uncle. And leave me alone.”
“I just don’t have the stamina to track my bloodline like you did. I have to say though, I was intrigued when I found you had left Renewal and your little great great great…how many? Granddaughter.”
Liam eyed the papers, “that’s why I'm here to help you out, sweetling. I have info ye need to finish your task and get back to stalking your descendants”
“I. Work. Alone.” She said each word quietly, yet the force made her meaning clear.
“Aye, I know, the lone gunman. Er, swordsman…woman, whatever.” Liam wave a hand in dismissal. “I still have info. I know some things ye don’t. So. You can hear me out, and let me help, or I can take my knowledge elsewhere.”
The elsewhere caught Anne Marie’s attention. “What do you mean, elsewhere? Who else would believe, much less be interested?” He was hinting at another hunter. She hated dealing with other hunters. They were, generally, ill equipped, undereducated, and mostly, in the way.
“Oh, there’s others. Here. Drawn by the same stories probably caught your eye, lassie.” Liam knew he had her attention now. “Scary murders, no suspects. Fresh bodies disappearing from the local morgue…”
“Bodies disappearing?” Anne Marie hadn't come across any news of body snatching.
“Got ye now, haven’t I, lass.” He didn’t even attempt to hide his delight. “Aye, girlie, bodies gone missing overnight. And often the theft, if that's what it is, is followed by another unpleasant crime scene.”
He snatched the stack of papers from her hand and started to study them. “For someone that pokes fun at me accent, you oughtta start writin’ in that language you're speakin’ at the moment.” He could make no sense of the characters scrawled in the margins of the reports and clippings. The alphabet used had disappeared over a millennium ago.
Anne Marie smiled sweetly, “ there's a reason for that. Of course, if your info is legitimate, I might translate some of it for you.”