A huuuuge thanks to my super-wonderful beta FaithUnbreakable, who helped me get this just perfect.Note 2:
This is a revised repost, because it wasn't exactly what I wanted the first time. Enjoy!
The town was small and remote, high up in the Canadian Rockies. Smoke from the wildfires miles off settled upon the streets like a veil of mourning, and the moon burned red in the sky. The residents of this particular blip on the map didn’t seem to be in danger, but looking into windows, there were people packing everything they needed into clearly labelled boxes – just in case. They could fit everything they held dear to them in a few boxes. Edward didn’t even need the boxes. The only thing that was remotely important to him was his own body, and even that was questionable. Flesh was just flesh. He’d given up on his immortal soul a long time ago.
The place had a veneer of perfection plastered over it, the way places sometimes do when everyone knows everyone else. It made it easier to pretend that you didn’t live next to people that could fuck you over, could steal their money, or rip out your throats and feel nothing. It was the sort of place where a murder investigation could turn up nothing but dead ends, because nobody wanted to look at the evidence and see that it was the very man who was doing the investigating that was guilty. It was disgusting, and so pathetically weak that Edward could not even shake himself from the nothingness where his feelings should have been.
That same empty place was what would get this job done. A previous citizen of this small town had double mortgaged his new house and had taken out a loan to offer a price Edward would accept. That did not give Edward a sense of duty towards the man, but he’d do the job because that’s what he did. He found, he killed, and he went on. He was the virus that killed the monsters of the world. Or maybe, he was the virus that helped create the monsters of the world. He’d seen the dead, angry look in people’s eyes after he’d killed their family member, friend or lover. He supposed it must have been the same look he’d had once upon a time, when he’d knelt in his own puddle of blood. Karma, some called it. Edward called it reality. You either learned to see, or you remained blind.
The bar he sat in wasn’t anything special. He was huddled over the beer he’d taken one sip of, and no more. He was here to do a job, and that meant he had to blend in. A drink helped do that, but he needed to be at his best. He had weapons on his person, but no one had asked him about them. This was hunting country. If you had a gun, people expected you to use it on the animals.
What they didn’t realize was that Edward was going to use it on the animals, only this particular breed of animal he was hunting could walk like a man, talk like a man. Only fools believed they were human. The world seemed to be full of them.
The man he was after was one Sheriff Senchel. He was an aging man, about forty-five, who was beginning to show the signs of maturity in a way that hung over his belt. He had a loud, booming laugh and a bright nose. A small blonde was snuggled into the curve of his arm, and his arm was around her. Edward assumed she must be his lover or wife, since the looks Senchel was giving her were far too predatory, but who knew? People, especially cops, tended to have morals that were rotted through. Edward wasn’t one to talk.
He leaned over his bar again and simply listened to Senchel laugh and talk. Eyes closing for a moment, he heard a sound next to him, and looked over, trying to put something that wasn’t there into his eyes.
“Hey!” It was the blonde from Senchel’s arm. “Haven’t seen you around here before, stranger.” Her look was flirtatious, and her demeanour made Edward knock her to just over twenty.
Edward gave his best Ted smile. “I’m just passing through. Ted Forrester.” He held out his hand to her.
She shook it. “Anne. You’re from the South?”
“I’m pretty sure everywhere is south of here. It’s like the goddamn end of the world.”
She laughed, a surprised sound that made her seem younger. “Can’t argue with you there. Any reason you’ve decided to stop in our, well, street? There isn’t even enough to really call this a town.”
“Like I said, I’m just passing through.” He turned away from her to take a drink from his beer. She seemed like the sort of small town girl who had grown up knowing everybody, not realizing that there were bad people out there. Like him.
All the innocence and cheer leaked out of her voice a second later. Instead, it sounded like the echo running through caves. It was cold and distant, and it was hard to tell if you were actually hearing what was there, or if you were just imagining it.
“Then why are you carrying more weapons on you than I am?”
He couldn’t help it when all the things he wasn’t feeling drained out of his eyes like used bath water. Edward regarded her and decided that only a lycanthrope could be that small and expect to be that intimidating. She was a small thing, not much shorter than another woman he’d recently met by the name of Anita Blake. But where Anita was sturdy, this woman was thin and wispy. She was so thin that she could appear harmless – even he had fallen for it – but upon closer inspection, there was strength under that skin. Definitely a lycanthrope.
Then he met her eyes, and changed his mind. There was none of the savagery in her eyes that you’d expect from an animal. The look was as cold as his, and he felt something inside him tingle to realize that he was looking at a green version of his own gaze. It was hard like diamonds, but green like emeralds in the darkness. There was no light in them, no life. They were mirrors that would reflect whatever you put in front of them. And because he couldn’t show anything any more than she could, they showed nothing.
Edward was interested, but more than that, he was drawn
“Is there a problem here?”
It was like the woman – Anne, although Edward wasn’t naïve enough to believe that was her real name anymore than he believed she’d bought his – it was like she took the now-broken pieces of her mask and pasted them back onto her face. The smile that seemed to cause her to light up from the inside was back, and she leaned against Senchel.
“Not at all. Mr. Forrester and I were just talking.” She smiled. “He’s from the South,” she added rather conspiratorially.
Edward followed her lead and smiled as well. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” said Senchel, but not like he really meant it. He hugged Anne to him. “We’ve really got to be going, though.”
Anne snuggled against him. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Forrester.” Something dangerous flashed in her eyes.
He watched with cool eyes as they went out the back exit. He took a sip of his beer and waited a moment, before throwing a few Canadian dollars on the bar and following them. By the time he was outside, he had his gun drawn and ready to aim at Senchel. If “Anne” got in the way, it would mean that she wasn’t nearly as good as she put off.
A thrill ran through him. He hoped that wasn’t the case. If it were, he’d be killing one of the most potentially interesting creatures he’d ever come across.
Coming out into the alley, he aimed his gun. He turned and took a few steps forward, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. What greeted him made Edward lower his gun for a moment and stare.
Anne had a blade shoved into Senchel’s heart. He was looking down at her, gaping, and seemed to be trying to form words. There was no expression on her face, not even hate, when she slid the weapon – it was a small sword, he saw now – out of him and lowered her arm. Blood flowed down the blade and dripped down onto the pavement, but it wasn’t red – it was black and thick like molasses.
Her other hand was around his neck, and Edward frowned when he realized she was holding the almost dead man up. Closing her eyes, she drew a deep breath as she let go and Senchel slumped to the ground. When she opened them again, she was looking in his direction.
“I suppose we were both after the same thing, then,” she said.
His gun was aimed at her head. “What are you?” His voice was bland, emotionless.
“Don’t you mean, who?”
He shook his head.
Anne shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. It’s the same answer.” She was quiet for a long moment, a frown pulling at her eyebrows. When she spoke, there was an expression on her face that was both sour and regretful. “I’m the Slayer, and you are?”
Her eyes widened. “Well, I guess you’ve got me beat in the intimidating-name department. It’s catchy, like Ghandi, or Madonna.” Her head cocked to the side, and it was an animalistic gesture that made Edward realize she couldn’t be wholly human. “Someone’s coming. Behind you.”
Edward glanced over his shoulder for the briefest of moments while still trying to keep an eye on Anne. It was enough. He’d barely blinked, and she was gone. Cautious but curious, he ran out the other end of the alleyway and looked back and forth. There was no one there.
Hiding the gun in his coat, he walked down the street like nothing had happened. It was time to leave now that the job had been completed. His employer, seeing that Senchel had been suitably dispatched, would wire the money into the German bank account. That Edward hadn’t killed the man didn’t matter. That he was taking money his employer didn’t have didn’t matter either. All that mattered was the woman with the green eyes – The Slayer.
He had a new quarry.