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Chosen Hazel Eyes

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Summary: When Travis McGee and Meyer take a trip to the Caribbean they run into more than they bargained for. COMPLETE - repost to fix nautical error

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Crime > Travis McGee SeriesMarcusRowlandFR1316,471251,3653 Jan 048 Jan 04Yes
This is a crossover between Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. BtVS belongs to Mutant Enemy and its creators, Travis McGee to the estate of John D. MacDonald. There is no intention to infringe copyright in the source material, and this story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis.


For BtVS this story follows one of the stories in the Tales of the Slayer graphic collection (Titan Books 2001) and contains major spoilers for it. It foreshadows events in BtVS Seasons 5 and 7. For Travis McGee the setting is a few months after "A Tan and Sandy Silence". For more information on Travis McGee try a Google search - the first three or four sites to come up probably contain everything you'll need to know.


This story is especially for Roz Kaveney, who did more than anyone else to get me hooked on Buffy and Angel and talked me into writing my first fanfic about a year ago. Thanks also to Roger Perkins for nautical advice.

Illustration
Chosen Hazel Eyes

by Marcus L. Rowland



"Got another beer, Travis?" asked Meyer.


"Ice tub's empty."


"Then I'll get some from the galley."


We were aboard the sixty-foot twin-engined Chris-Craft cruiser Pierre Broca. She belonged to Max Breen, a Boston neurosurgeon, and was named for the Frenchman who invented the science. Breen was currently operating on a patient in Nassau but planned to begin his vacation once he was sure there were no complications. He'd had to leave her in Fort Lauderdale and when he wanted her brought out the job was offered to me. Breen was a nice guy and the cruise would make a pleasant change, so I secured my houseboat, the Busted Flush, persuaded Meyer to join me for the trip, and set off on a pleasant day in late July. We had plenty of time to get there, the weather forecast was good, and our plan was to take an indirect route to Nassau, cruising by day and anchoring to fish the waters around a couple of the more remote islands by night. Once we reached Nassau we'd crew her for the return to Fort Lauderdale, where Breen's wife and kids would join him for the rest of the vacation and take over the running of the boat.


It was the second evening of the cruise and we were heading towards our next anchorage, on the South coast of a rocky island with no name that was marked as uninhabited. We came around the coast to a wide bay overlooked by high cliffs, and saw that we'd been beaten to it.


She was a huge Broward motor yacht, about a hundred and twenty feet. I guessed she'd cost a couple of million no more than three or four years earlier, but I could see that she was listing to port and drifting towards the rocks at the base of the cliffs. I took a look at her through binoculars and was pretty sure that I could see a body slumped over a table on the aft deck.


"Can you make out the name?" asked Meyer, putting the bottles down unopened.


"Think it says Seacrest. Ring any bells with you?"


"Belongs to a trader named Le Banc, from New York. It's a small world."


"Why?"


"His name's come up recently, in connection with some of the financial consultancy work I do. There were some odd discrepancies, figures that didn't quite add up. It's hard to understand how he affords to run the Seacrest, for example, he hardly ever uses her, but she's based in Miami and always crewed."


"You think he's a crook?"


"Maybe. But I didn't find proof of anything, just inconsistencies that could simply be the result of some creative accountancy or tax avoidance."


"You said she's based in Miami?"


"That's right."


"I thought I remembered her. She called in at Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days last week." While we were talking I'd been cautiously steering towards the Seacrest. There was definitely a body there, but in the failing light I couldn't see what had happened to him. "We need to get alongside and put a line aboard, then I'll see if I can tow her safely. We might actually do some real salvage work. Get on the radio, see if you can raise the Bahamas coast guard."


Meyer tried, but got nothing but static. The same for the USCGS. I guessed that we were in a natural dead zone; that, or the island was blocking our signal. The chart showed twenty fathoms throughout the bay, the echo sounder seemed to confirm it, so it looked like it was safe to go in. As we got closer I realised that the port anchor of the Seacrest was still out. I got out a megaphone and called "Ahoy Seacrest! Ahoy Seacrest!" There was no response. I turned to Meyer and said "looks like she's dragging her anchor, there's no way we'll tow her clear while it's down. One of us will have to go aboard. Meyer, can you con us across her stern? There's a ladder there." There was also a set of empty davits, about the right size for a small launch. I tried to remember if she'd carried one when I saw her, and was fairly sure she had. I couldn't see it anywhere, afloat or beached. Two larger lifeboats were still aboard.


"I think so." We were close enough to see the body clearly now, the shirt seemed to be soaked in blood. I guessed he'd been shot or stabbed in the back, but we were at the wrong angle to see the wound. Meyer took the wheel, and I got a boat hook and a heaving line, clipped a hunting knife and a flashlight to my belt and prepared to scramble across. "Once I'm aboard take her round to the bow."


"Be careful, Travis." As we got closer I began to smell something, the faint metallic odor of blood, overlaying the normal salt of the sea. I could hear insects buzzing, and guessed that the flies and mosquitoes were smelling it too. Oddly there didn't seem to be any carrion birds on the scene. Come to think of it, I didn't think I'd seen many birds since we got near the island.


I got onto the ladder easily enough and cautiously climbed to the aft deck. The body was still there, of course; from here I could see something sticking out of his back, it looked like an arrow... no, thicker and shorter, a crossbow bolt. The body was thick with flies, with more circling and waiting for their chance to land and feed. I felt it, and guessed he'd been dead for three or four hours. There was another body on the deck, also dead, also covered with flies, with a bolt through the heart. There were rifles near both bodies, M16s with long magazines. I took one of the rifles, checked the magazine and the safety and slung it on my back.


"Find anything?" shouted Meyer.


"Another body. They've been shot with a crossbow. Looks like they were the deck watch, I guess they weren't up to the job."


"Be careful, whoever shot them may still be around."


I went forward and found myself in a big saloon. It was dark, but I found a light switch and flicked it up; the main lights weren't working, no surprise since I couldn't hear a generator, but some small emergency lights came on. There was a big crate on one of the tables, labelled as M16 rifles, empty, another wasn't labelled but something had been packed in corrugated cardboard inside it. From the shape of the pieces I guessed machine guns, maybe something like Russian Kalshnikovs. I was beginning to think that an arms deal had gone sour. Except that things didn't add up, the boat was bound to be worth more than any plausible cargo of guns and probably easier to sell, why leave it to smash on the rocks? Whatever, I suddenly began to feel an itch between my shoulder blades, the feeling of being a target, and flicked the lights off again. It wasn't completely dark, while I'd been looking round the quarter moon had risen above the horizon, and I had the flashlight if I needed it.


Forward of the saloon was the galley. There was nothing cooking, but some empty pots on the stove held traces of egg, beans, and grits. Cups, plates and cutlery were drying in racks by the sink, I guessed enough for ten or twelve people.


Forward again. Another body, this one lying face-up with a bolt in his throat. I had a feeling I recognised him, and went back to the galley, got a damp cloth, used it to wipe blood from his face. Terry Pendleton, one of Fort Lauderdale's nastier specimens. He was muscle for hire and enjoyed his work. About four years earlier I'd broken his arm after he tried to "protect" a friend's bar, when he went to the hospital for treatment a cop recognised him, realised he'd jumped bail on a rape charge a few months earlier, and arrested him. He'd gone down for five years, must have had some time off for good behaviour. Not that it had done him much good.


I found the rope locker and tied the heaving line to a heavy towing line, secured it to the samson post, and threw the heaving line back to Meyer. As he hauled in the line and secured it I told him about Pendleton.


"No great loss. What's the situation there?"


"I don't think we've got the engines to tow this thing to safety, there's a current taking her in. If you can slow her a little I'll try to anchor her properly, check the upper deck and below, find out why she's listing and get the pumps working."


"All right. Let me know how you're getting on, I don't want to have to come looking for you." He started to take up the slack, about four hundred yards from the shore. There was enough power to hold her there, but not enough to get her out.


"Okay," I shouted, "Hold it like that, I'll be as quick as I can."


I went up to the bridge, didn't see any bodies, and took a look at the controls. Screens for radar and echo sounder, a bank of instruments that looked more complicated than an Apollo capsule, most of them dark. I checked them, eventually spotted a panel for the auxiliary generator. There was only one light on it, the one saying that it was out of gas. That didn't make much sense since the main tanks were two-thirds full, so I went below decks and checked. It looked like there was a reserve tank for the generator, and someone had left it switched to that instead of the main tanks. There was a little dirty water sloshing around the deck, it didn't seem to be rising much and I guessed that the bilge pumps would take care of it if I got the power back, so I switched tanks, found the starter button, and tried it. The generator turned over, coughed, and stopped. Again, same result. A third time, and it began to chug gently and the lights came on.


I went to look for the bilge pumps, found them already running; they'd started up automatically as soon as there was power. I couldn't see where the water was coming from, the most likely explanation was that she'd brushed against a rock while drifting and sprung a leak. That or the hull had been punctured by another crossbow bolt. Main engines... no keys, and a lot bigger than I expected. She was probably much faster than the Pierre Broca. I might be able to hot-wire them if I had to, but for now the generator ought to give me enough power to fix the anchors properly. I went back to the bridge and lowered them, then told Meyer to cut power so that the Seacrest's momentum would bed them in. In a minute or so I felt them dig in to the rocky sea bed. I went back on deck and shouted across to Meyer. "I think she'll hold until morning. I'm going to try her radio, see if I have better luck."


Meyer reversed to loosen the rope then came round to the stern of the Seacrest while I went back to the bridge. I tried the radio, but the results were the same; it had to be a dead area, I wasn't even picking up commercial radio stations. Coming down I looked into cabins, tried to work out numbers; it looked like fourteen people had been aboard.


I was just climbing back aboard the Pierre Broca when I heard the shots; first a couple of rounds from a rifle, then a burst from a machine gun. I couldn't see anything, which doesn't mean much with modern guns, but we weren't being hit so I assumed that someone else was the target. I had a feeling that whoever was being shot at was carrying a crossbow. I got to the wheelhouse and asked "Did you hear that?"


"What?"


"Shots. Rifle and a machine gun." I took the wheel, gunned the engines, and started to take her out to sea.


"Must have been drowned out by the engine noise. Aimed at us?"


"I don't think so, but we're too close for comfort."


"What do you want to do?"


"Get to the other side of the island, see if we can get the radio to work and call the Coast Guard."


"Sounds like a good plan."


I took her out of the bay, kept going until we were a couple of hundred yards out, then turned East to take us around the coast. With hindsight it was probably the dumbest thing I could have possibly done. We were just coming around the South-East corner of the island and turning North when I heard shots again and saw flashes from the cliff-top. They were firing at us, at least two guns, maybe three. I gunned the throttles, cut the lights, and tried to get out of there, but the wheelhouse glass shattered and I heard a bullet thud into the hull. Suddenly it was twice as noisy in the wheelhouse, spray was blowing in, and normal conversation was impossible. She was rocking and pitching as I tried to get more speed out of the engines and took the tachometer into the red.


"Who the hell do they think they're shooting at?" shouted Meyer, holding onto the rail as I steered the Pierre Broca through an S-curve that took us back towards the cliffs; it was a gamble, but whatever was firing at us was a hell of a lot more accurate than an ordinary M16 and I had to assume it had a lot more range. A downwards shot is always tricky, so it was probably best to stay close to the cliffs and keep changing course.


"Us, I guess."


"What?"


"They're shooting at us, I guess."


"Or her," shouted Meyer, pointing at a lower section of the cliffs up ahead. In the moonlight I could see a woman poised there, for a fraction of a second, before she dived about sixty feet into the sea. There was a splash, surprisingly small considering the distance she'd dived, and she vanished underwater.


"What the hell?"


"Slow down, we're getting close to where she went in."


I throttled back and looked around but I couldn't see anything. A bullet whined overhead, and I knew we couldn't stay there. I hit the throttles again and headed out.


"Damn," said Meyer, once we were about a mile out and I'd cut the speed a little, "get on the radio, call for help. She might still be alive."


"No radio," I said, pointing at the broken glass, "their first shot took it out."


"We have to go back for her."


"No you don't," said a woman's voice behind me. Both of us turned so fast our elbows collided. Somewhere along the way I got the rifle from its sling and began to work the safety, but it was snatched from my hands before I even saw her, so fast and so hard that it took skin from my left hand and left my fingers numb.


Standing there was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She was black, about twenty with the figure of a dancer or an athlete, black hair knotted back in a water-logged bun and hazel eyes. She wore sodden black slacks and a soaked black T-shirt with a low neckline that emphasised her figure, with a thick leather belt and a heavy silver chain and crucifix around her waist, a smaller one at her throat. She was holding the M16 and efficiently ejected the clip and the round in the chamber, then handed it back to me, butt-first, while I was still gaping at her. She smelled of the sea, with a faint overlay of perspiration.


"I'd better get you a towel," said Meyer. "You look like you need it. I'm Meyer, this is Travis. And you'd be...?"


"Call me Nikki. Sorry about your hand, I'm not fond of people pointing weapons at me." She had an educated voice, with a hint of Harlem in her accent.


"I'll get that towel," said Meyer. "Would you like some food, something to drink?"


"Water would be good, it's been a few hours, better drink before I eat anything." He went below. "Best keep moving," she said, "they'll come after us and that boat's pretty fast."


"I saw the engines." I checked the chart and compass and changed course slightly, steering for a cluster of small islands about twenty miles away. We might be able to hide there. "Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on?"


"When your friend gets back." There was an uncomfortable silence. I steered the boat, watching her out of the corner of my eye. She stood patiently. "Why don't you sit down?"


"Don't want to mess up the seat. It can wait until I'm dry."


"Don't worry, it'll wipe clean." She sat beside me. In the moonlight I could see several faint scars on her arms, a couple that looked like knife wounds, an ice-pick or some other stabbing weapon and something that looked like the raking of animal claws. After a couple of minutes Meyer came back with a big bath towel, a couple of bottles of water and a plastic glass, and said "better take it slowly or you'll get cramps."


"Thanks." She sipped half a glass then began to towel her hair, muttering something as she tried to unravel the bun.


"So..." said Meyer, "lovely weather for the time of year."


She stared at him and laughed, then sobered and said "Okay. I guess I owe you an explanation."


"That'd be good," said Meyer.


"About three months ago the man who owns that boat, name of Le Banc, smuggled some.. weapons into New York." There was a hesitation before she said "weapons," and I wondered what she wasn't telling us. "The cops were waiting for him, my man Li was the commander. There were a dozen of them, should have been enough, but Le Banc was ready for them, they never stood a chance. He killed all of them, every last mother's son, left seven widows, eleven kids who'll never see their fathers again, and laughed while they were dying. I was there, tried to stop it, but I was too late, got hit and passed out. When I came to some other cops tried to arrest me, I had to run for it. The papers called it a drug deal gone sour."


I asked "Why? Couldn't you have explained?"


"There were reasons, the main one being that I had to be free to chase Le Banc. Found out where he was hiding, turned out he was planning to use the weapons for... well, I guess you'd call it terrorism. Just sheer random killing."


"What did you do?" asked Meyer


"What I could. I destroyed the weapons, but by the time I'd done that Le Banc had run. I've been tracking him ever since, found out where he was going for the next shipment and arranged to be there to meet him."


"The island?"


"That's right. I underestimated him, I was expecting a few rifles, didn't bargain on the machine guns. They had me pinned down at the edge of the cliff when I saw this boat, and I hate heights."


"How many...?" Meyer began, then stopped.


"How many did I kill?"


"Yes."


"Eight, I think. Still five or six of them left."


I whistled. "How the hell did you do it?"


"Crossbow, knives, and my hands."


"What are you? Some kind of special agent?"


"I can't answer that."


"I don't think you need to," said Meyer.


"What does that mean?" asked Nikki.


"If I asked you if you know Sam Zabuto, would that mean anything to you?"


She looked wary. "Maybe." Both of us could see that she knew the name.


"You're her, then. The Chosen One." I could hear the capitals in that, and wondered what the hell Meyer was talking about.


"Okay... you a Watcher?"


"No, but I've helped Sam with research a couple of times. Most recently about Le Banc."


"What kind of research?"


"Economic mostly, tracking the movement of money, odd commodities, that sort of thing. I wasn't going to do that without knowing what he needed the information for. It's a hell of a coincidence we wound up here at the same time."


"Maybe." She didn't look convinced.


"Anyone feel like telling me what this is about?" I asked, trying to split my attention between steering and the conversation. They ignored me.


"Sam told me about you," said Meyer, "he didn't name you, but he mentioned you were based in New York. It's an honour to meet you."


"He shouldn't have done that."


"I work better when I know what I'm doing and why. You should have come to me before you set out, I could have helped."


"This wasn't exactly planned with the Watchers. In fact they told me to leave it, wait for Le Banc to come back to New York."


"What the hell is a Watcher?" I asked. "What's this about?" There was an awkward silence, then Meyer asked "Can I tell him?"


"I'll tell him. If I'm going to get him killed he'd better know why." She sipped the rest of the water and opened the second bottle, then said "You ever wonder what's really out there in the dark? Why there are so many legends of vampires and demons and other monsters?"


"Damned if I know," I said. "After people started shooting at me in Korea I stopped worrying about that sort of thing, concentrated on staying alive."


"That's always a good idea. Most people can go through life without ever worrying about that stuff. Trouble is, it's out there."


"What's out there?"


"The monsters. Vampires, demons, all the rest of them, they're all real." She was deadly serious, "They mostly try to stay out of sight, find an occasional victim but keep a low profile, because we've got them outnumbered by thousands to one, but it doesn't mean they're not there. Mostly they're stronger and faster than we are, predators and parasites on the human herd. It takes someone just as strong and fast to kill them."


"And that would be you?"


"That would be me. The Slayer."


"You're out of your mind."


"You've just seen me dive off a cliff, swim about a hundred yards in ten seconds, and come out of the water without even breathing hard, then snatch a gun from your hands so fast you didn't see it go. I was shot four hours ago," She pulled up the bottom of her shirt to show me a pink weal on her side. It looked a week old. "It's already half-way healed. I'm stronger, faster, and tougher than anyone you've ever seen or imagined."


"Prove it."


She looked around, took a shark-fishing gaff with a tubular alloy shaft from its rack, effortlessly bent it into a pretzel shape, the metal shrieking as she distorted it, then handed it to me. I tried to bend it a little more, but needed to use my knee to get leverage; I shifted it a few degrees, but it would have taken a vice and tools for me to duplicate what she'd done so casually. The metal was warm where she'd bent it. I didn't want to believe her, but I was starting to. "How? Some sort of super-serum, like the comic books?"


"Slayers are chosen magically, not made. Oh, did I mention that magic's real too? One minute you're an ordinary girl, the next minute you can bench-press a refrigerator and wrestle a grizzly. I was sixteen when it happened to me, I'm nineteen now and I've been doing as long as the last half-dozen Slayers."


"What happened? Did they quit?"


"They died." There was a long pause, then she went on "They were killed. It's what you might call a high-risk occupation. When one Slayer dies another girl is Chosen."


"How long has this been going on?"


"All of recorded history, probably much longer."


"You said you're the Slayer, what are Watchers?"


"Every Slayer, every girl that might become a Slayer, gets assigned a Watcher. Teaches her to fight, helps her with research, that sort of thing. They can be a pain in the ass, especially when they're trying to tell us how to live our lives, but they're everywhere, keeping an eye on things and reporting back if they spot anything that looks off. Sam Zabuto's said to be one of the best, he's only twenty-five or so but he's already in charge of the Watchers all over the Caribbean. He told us where Le Banc was headed, I expect he thought I'd get him when he got back to New York."


"Okay... Let's say I believe all this..."


"You can believe it," said Meyer, "Sam gave me some proof, showed me a little magic."


"Fine. Just fine. Okay, it's all real. So what's Le Banc really up to?"


"I was coming to that," said Nikki, "he's capturing demons, really ancient ones, wants to let them loose in New York. Thing he bought in last time was nasty, hell of a job to kill it. Don't know if he's after another like that, or if there's something even worse on the island."


"Why would he do that? Why would anyone do that?"


"He's a demon himself, of course. I've never managed to get close to him, but I'm pretty sure he's a vampire... reminds me, do you guys live on this boat?"


"No, we're just ferrying it out to someone."


"It's nobody's permanent home?"


"No."


"Damn. Means vampires can come aboard without an invitation. Anyway, he's some kind of demon, I think a vampire, won't know what type for sure until I get within a few feet, the rest of his men are human, far as I know, mercenaries who'll kill anyone if the price is right."


"So what happens now?"


"We try to get away, I'll get back to New York and arrange for support there, if we can't we kill as many as we can, mess up their plans. If they beat us and Le Banc survives it'll take a while for him to get organised again, by then my replacement ought to be ready for him."


"Okay. So... if Le Banc's a vampire, or some other sort of demon, how do we kill him?"


"You don't, I do. If he's a vampire it takes a stake or an arrow through the heart, decapitation, that's pretty much it. Oh, fire sometimes works but usually they can leap clear. Guns slow them a little but can't kill them, except maybe a shotgun to sever the spine at the neck. They burn in direct sunlight but that's not going to do us much good for ten hours or so. Crosses and holy water burn them, but don't usually kill them. Other demons, sometimes the same things work, but you never know unless you know exactly what you're dealing with."


"You should have taken him first."


"Believe me, I tried. He moved just as I fired my crossbow, bolt went through his shoulder instead of his heart. After that his mercenaries were all over me, so I had to concentrate on them."


"Will the shoulder slow him at all?"


"It's probably already healed. Reminds me, I need to make some weapons. Got any wood?"


"There's some below," said Meyer, "Couple of broom handles and some lengths of two by four. And we've got a few knives, a spear gun, fishing equipment. No other guns though."


I said "The M16 has a full clip and I know how to use it."


"That's all good," said Nikki. "If you could give me the brooms and a sharp knife I'll start whittling."


I asked "What about.. oh, running water, garlic, that sort of thing?"


"For vampires? They're myths, mostly. Oh, some of it is true, they don't have reflections and they can't go into a home without an invitation, but most of the rest is nonsense. The good side is that they can't turn into bats or do all that Dracula stuff, although some of them can hypnotize people. Down side is that they're really strong and fast, they can kill you in a couple of seconds if they get hold of you. 'Course most of them like to play with their food first..."


Meyer came back with the brooms, a saw, and my best knife. She eyed it approvingly and began to cut pieces about nine inches long and sharpen one end to a point, about as fast as a kid sharpens a pencil. I guessed she'd had a lot of practice, and the strength to do it so easily. After a couple of minutes she said "How long until they catch up with us?"


I looked at the chart, made some mental calculations. "About an hour if they went straight back to the boat and left within fifteen or twenty minutes, more likely two to three hours if we assume some delay."


"Where does that put us?"


"Worst case, in this clump of islands here." I pointed to the chart. "They're all pretty small and uninhabited, not much more than rocks, there's a little cover for a boat this size but I wouldn't want to rely on going unnoticed, there's enough moonlight to worry me and we'd be a sitting duck in daylight."


"Best case?"


"We get beyond them and about half way to the next clump. Trouble with that is that the Seacrest has radar and we'd stick out like a sore thumb in the open sea."


"Do you want some tape for these," asked Meyer, gesturing at the stakes, "make a better grip?"


"That's a good idea. Thanks." He went below again. She finished another stake and said "The best thing for you would be to leave me on one of those islands with something to burn and attract their attention. I think they'd settle for me, it's not like anyone would be believing anything you tell them."


I said "No chance."


"I'm serious."


"So am I. Not in a million years."


About five minutes later Meyer came back with the tape and a stack of thick sandwiches, cheese and ham. "Coffee's on, tuck in."


Nikki took a sandwich and said "I've just told Travis that you should leave me for Le Banc, maybe you'll be able to convince him."


I snorted, and Meyer laughed and said "Travis is the most stubborn man you'll ever meet, even if he wasn't I wouldn't try to persuade him. We're helping, like it or not."


"This isn't your fight."


"We both have friends in New York, and even if we didn't it'd still be the right thing to do."


She smiled and said "Okay... then let's think about evening the odds a little."


* * * * *


A little after midnight we heard their engines, a little later we saw their search-lights, almost immediately they found us, waiting for them in a narrow channel between two rocky islands. As soon as we knew where they were and I was sure they'd spotted us I hit the throttles and took the Pierre Broca round in a tight turn away from her. Meyer took the wheel and I went aft with the M16, lay prone, and waited for them to get a little closer. A couple of bullets whizzed past, neither particularly close, then I got the shot I'd been waiting for and took out one of her searchlights. The other swung round towards us, and I wasted three more shots before I managed to hit it. The second it went out Meyer began to steer a series of s-curves, keeping us about three hundred yards ahead of her, and I ran back to the wheelhouse, somehow keeping my balance on the heaving deck. I could see occasional flashes, but the bullets didn't seem to be coming anywhere close.


"Think we got their attention?" Meyer asked as I took the wheel.


"Looks like it. Let's hope we can keep it. I'll try to get further ahead, but they're bound to pick up speed once we're clear of the islands."


"Provided they're concentrating on us it won't matter. It shouldn't be long now."


A minute passed... two... three... There was a sudden flare of light from the Seacrest, and she began to lose way and swing off course. We could see flames coming up from the after-deck, and I knew that Nikki had done her part. When we'd left the islands she'd been waiting in the water with her stakes and three knives, a bottle of gasoline, and our flare pistol. She'd got aboard and started a fire, I just hoped she'd chosen the right place, near the bottled gas for the galley or the gasoline supply for the launch, and got off safely. As the fire continued to spread I became reasonably sure that she'd got at least the first part right.


"What now?"


"We wait. She can find us a lot easier than we can find her."


There was a dull explosion aboard the Seacrest, then another, and she began to list, heeling over slowly at first, then faster, and going under as she continued to roll. There was still oil burning on the water, and I could smell burning fuel and flesh. A couple of times I thought I heard screams. Then the Pierre Broca rocked, and I turned expecting to see Nikki. Climbing aboard was a gaunt man with glaring yellow eyes and a ridged forehead, his mouth deformed by two fangs. Somehow I hadn't really believed it, despite everything Meyer and Nikki had told me, and I froze for a second. After that it was too late. By the time I remembered the gun he'd snatched it from me and hit me in the solar plexus with the butt, then thrown it overboard. I was down, almost paralyzed, vomiting, and he was after Meyer, who was scuttling back towards the wheelhouse and seemed to be terrified. Le Banc laughed, and I remembered what Nikki had said about vampires playing with their food.


Meyer ducked inside, and Le Banc went after him, then staggered back out a second later. There was a steel spear in his chest. I expected to see a spray of blood but there wasn't any. Meyer hit him with the empty spear gun and he went back another step he didn't have, flailing his arms and teetering on the edge of the deck, then fell into the sea. I got to my knees but couldn't stand. He was floating in the water about five feet from the boat, struggling to pull the spear out. Behind him the water roiled, and I thought for a second that a shark was attacking. Then there was a sudden "whoosh" and he vanished. In the moonlight I thought I saw a skeleton sinking and crumbling to dust. Nikki bobbed up to the surface where he'd been and swam back to the Pierre Broca.


"Are you all right?" asked Meyer, helping her aboard.


"I got turned around in the water, had to swim around the fire before I got back to you. Apart from that I'm fine."


"Any survivors?"


"No." I noticed that she was missing two of the three knives, and guessed what had happened to them. I wasn't going to grieve over it. "How about you?"


I said "I think he broke a couple of ribs when he hit me. Apart from that I think I'm okay. What about you, Meyer?"


"Terrified but okay."


"You did well," I said. "Better than me. You really had me fooled, I thought you'd lost your nerve."


"Thought hell, I was terrified. If I hadn't happened to put my hand on the spear gun I would have never remembered it."


"So what happens now?"


"We'll strap up your ribs," said Nikki, "then if you can get me somewhere where I can call Sam Zabuto he'll take care of things. Make sure that nobody gets too curious about what happened to the Seacrest."


"What about our damage?" asked Meyer.


I thought for a second. "I'll have to look round in the morning, find all the bullet holes, but all we really need to do is explain the loss of the radio and the wheelhouse window, and replace things like the flare gun. It'll have to wait until we reach a good boatyard."


"If you can give me the details," said Nikki, "Sam will arrange for the yard to be waiting when you reach Nassau."


"What about you?"


"I got what I came for, now I'm going home. My kid won't have a father," she touched her belly and I suddenly realised that she was pregnant, "but at least his murderer won't be laughing at us."


"You're... how long?"


"I'm three months gone, must have started a couple of weeks before Li was killed."


"And you still went after Le Banc?"


I could see something in her hazel eyes; a mixture of tiredness and indomitable willpower. I knew, even as I asked it, that it had been a stupid question.


"Someone had to, and I'm the girl that's Chosen."


End

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