French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 11
New York City, 2010
It was easy to lose himself in the past. Too easy. Dylan rubbed his eyes and refocused on the pan he was buttering. Back then, he’d felt responsible for Keith and was willing to give up his humanity for what the vampire did to Bridget and Jackson. It was a struggle for Anna to redirect him. He was stubborn, like many of his own clients these days. Anna never did approve of his hunting. It was always a bone of contention between them. She wanted him to live a nonviolent life; she was a pacifist at heart. That didn’t mean she wasn’t willing to take up the sword when necessary. When she returned, they’d have words about it again, no doubt.
Cheryl was gone, and so were the pizza and sandwich plate. He could hear her and Christie’s laughter out on the floor.
The rest of the evening went well. The muffins were ladled and baked; he made three batches, corn, blueberry, and chocolate chip, and even got some donuts and cookies baked. Louis had done lots of baking earlier, aware he’d be hunting that night. He’d have to work late baking tomorrow night to make it up to him.
The ladies managed to hold the fort up front without calling him up, which was good. That allowed him to finish and clean up by close, and meet Angelus out back with his gear before eleven.
Wearing a backpack over his shoulder, Angelus was leaning against the rear wall of O’Reily’s when Dylan closed the door behind him. The black Italian vampire was dressed in a leather coat and jeans, but Dylan could make out a shoulder holster with a large-caliber handgun just under his arm.
Well, he got rid of that titan-sized auto wrench he was so fond of as a kid, Dylan thought, as he hefted his own hunting gear over his shoulder. Dressed in his duster, Dylan wore his shotgun holstered on his back and a magnum on his hip. Baby Doll, his baseball bat, hung at his other hip; it was his favorite weapon as natural wood was always useful against the undead, and he’d added a cold iron plate with spikes on the side to deal with Fae types of problems.
His father had taught him how to weaponsmith from the time he was a boy. It was a part of his training. He knew almost everything there was to know about making and repairing guns or other weapons. He could even build one from parts… or make the parts from scratch. Over the years, he’d put together his own workshop in a side room of his apartment that included a lathe, a small forge, and the other tools necessary for the task. There wasn’t much space there, but he wasn’t going to be able to keep himself in the hunting business if he couldn’t beef up or repair some of his weapons.
Now Daniel… Daniel had a real forge. The former merchant marine was one of the best blacksmiths he had ever seen. Dylan often went there as well, especially for work on non-firearm weapons — swords, knives, that kind of thing. Daniel didn’t mind the company, and as much as he complained about “cowardly peashooters”, the Irish vampire liked guns almost as much as Dylan did, so between the two of them they had started to build up an extensive gunsmithing shop as well.
“Don’t know if bullets will hurt this thing, Angelus.” Dylan said. “Iron buckshot might. It’s more Fae than demon.”
“I managed to get my hands on explosive rounds.” Angelus told him. “It should hurt.”
“Might.” Dylan slapped the vampire on the shoulder and walked toward the street. “I don’t have much of a plan. I just sort of rely on the sight to tell me when it’s around.”
“Might need bait.” Angelus said. “Dylan, we’re dead, not appetizing to a soul-eating monster. We’re just bound to this plane.”
“Might already have bait running around the park,” Dylan pointed out. “I asked Filipe last night to email me any dog attacks in the park that looked suspicious.” He pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “He texted me one. A cyclist going along the same path Carmen was attacked on just got mauled by what was described by a witness as a ‘motherfucking huge black German Shepherd’. Victim was DOA. Her injuries were bite wounds and claw marks that don’t match any known dog. They think they might belong by someone’s escaped tiger.”
“Thing is that big?” Angelus looked surprised.
“Big as a cow, according to Scottish lore.” Dylan turned on to the sidewalk and shoved his phone in the back pocket of his jeans. “No, I wouldn’t worry about bait; the park and the area around it is loaded with bait. They can be drawn to anything ranging from the sick and dying to pregnant women. New York is perfect for them. It’s already picked its hunting ground, the Ramble, and I can sense it.” He tapped his head. “We’ll draw it out.”
Angelus looked dubious. “Whatever you say. I should have brought my wrench.” Parked at the street corner, was Dylan’s red Toyota truck. It was an old used Hilux and had belonged to his father. Dylan maintained it over the years, and was very fond of the vehicle. It was tough as nails, and one of the only things Dylan had from his father.
“You still have that old thing?” Angelus said with a side-glance.
“Hey, she takes a licking and keeps on ticking, little brother, don’t knock it. I saw on Top Gear, that British show on cars, where they took one and crashed it, drowned it, set it on fire, and finally demolished a building with explosives with the Hilux up on top and the damn thing still started. Hilux is the toughest truck around!” Dylan fished his keys out of his pocket and popped opened the passenger side.
With a shrug, Angelus put his bag at his feet and climbed in. “I remember it looking bigger.”
“That’s because you were like seven years old when you last rode in the back, Angelus.” Popping open the door, Dylan tossed bag behind his seat and slid in and shut the door. “Hey, I put in satellite radio and a CD player, you can’t complain too much.”
“They play iPods now, bro.” Angelus reminded him. He kicked his long legs out and folded his arms behind his head. “Your problem is, you’ve been hanging out with fossils since the Muffin gang left. You need to bro up with ghouls who don’t stiff up in their coffins and a girl, to keep you up to date and in the game.”
“I don’t need a babe, Angelus. I’m married. To Anna.” Dylan gunned the engine. “And it’s not my fault technology moves faster than I do!”
Pulling out, Dylan drove the truck a block and steered it down the next street. O’Reily’s was located on 85th and Madison. He would have to maneuver around and backtrack to 84th so he could drive down East Drive and park near the Ramble; they could walk the rest of the way. The Ramble was a sprawling woodland, a perfect hiding place for a barghest; the thing could hunt along the bike and footpaths cutting through it. People were drawn to the area due to the scenic route though the cheery flowering fields and the romantic location of the lake, boat house, and Bow Bridge, which was perfect for lovers, newlyweds, young couples, and families.
“Playgrounds would draw pregnant women too.” Angelus said. “Moms in the neighborhood always bring their kids there. I see lots of mamas with baby bumps there.”
“The closest playground is off East and near Fifth,” Dylan observed. “Not a good place for this thing to hide. It’s as big as a cow, dude. In fact, most of the playgrounds are near the road; that’s why it’s going after people on the bike trails.”
“Okay, you win.” Angelus held up his hands. “Guess your average New Yorker would notice a dog the size of a bovine. Unless they’re paying too much attention to the rats. Seen one the size of a miniature poodle once. Fuckin’ huge!” He held out his hands to show the size of the rat.
“That’s one big rat. Heard about cockroaches getting that big in the sewers, too.” Dylan guided the truck into the park.
“Nah, haven’t seen a roach that big, but we need bigger cats in this town.” Angelus put his hand on the dash of the truck. “I mean if we got reaper dogs, how do we know we don’t have reaper rats? Hell, we could get an infestation! It’s New York after all!”
The eternal teen was brimming with snark. Dylan shook his head. “You don’t want a rat problem in this town, believe me. Wererats, rat magic, witchcraft, all that fun stuff. Not to mention the vampires! Vile, evil monsters, you know.” He smirked at the vampire who jabbed him in the shoulder.
“You’re miserable here, Dyl, why not move to New Orleans with the others?”
“‘Cause I like it here. My territory is here. Anna’s gonna come home here, not New Orleans.” Dylan focused on the road. He did miss John, Henry, Tina and Paula but he had responsibilities. “Now is not the time to discuss this, Angie.”
Angelus sighed. “It’s never the time, but you’re gonna have to unload someday and the fossils aren’t going to be very understanding.”
Angelus was right. Yet, the other members of the Café were young or tormented by their own baggage. Most of all, they were former patients.
East Drive took them down past a tall weathered obelisk, towering over notched tulip trees and leafless oaks. Angelus stared out at the monument in awe as they passed it and looked back to Dylan. “What’s really funny is, I have no doubt Doctor Smith was alive when that thing was first built.”
“Yeah, probably.” Dylan had no doubt the head doctor at the SoHo Rehabilitation Center was older than Ancient Egypt itself.
“I don’t envy you having him as your rehab doc. I hear he’s a hardass.”
Dylan’s revenant problem had required extensive therapy. Doctor Smith had worked closely with Dylan. Hardass was one way to describe the English physician’s approach to medicine.
They approached 79th and the Ramble appeared on the right. Trees and brush took over the landscape with bright colored leaves of red, orange and yellow. Dylan slowed the truck down. There was a path right off 79th, and they could follow that around to the other paths.
Dylan pulled his truck off the road and parked. Taking a breath, he turned to his friend. It was hard not to see the young man as a boy. He knew Angelus was in his thirties. It was hard to keep track of time when you were dead. One moment Angelus was the seven-year-old half-blood kid sitting in Anna’s muffin shop with his mother, and the next, he was sitting by Dylan’s side, hunting monsters in the park. “I’m giving you a chance to back out.”
“Fuck that, what do you think I am? I’m no kid, bro. I’ve faced worse ghouls in East Harlem.” He lifted his backpack from his feet and popped open the door. “Besides, what would Carmen or Felice think of me if I didn’t help hunt this piece of shit down?”
Angelus’s sense of territorial responsibility extended to the people living there, just like Dylan’s. He understood. He picked up his own bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Okay, just don’t get in the way, and listen to everything I say. Got it?”
“You just tell me what to do and where to shoot.” Angelus checked his magazine and made sure he had two extras in the pockets of his jacket.
“You don’t have three mags of that shit, do you?” Dylan asked, referring to the explosive bullets.
“No, just one. My supplier ran short. After 9/11 it’s been a bitch to get anything really local and it costs a fortune. I do all my shopping online.”
“Make my own,” Dylan said. “Unless your guys use holy oil in their manufacturing process.” He loaded a magazine into his gun. He was glad he’d customized his weapon. As much as he loved his old double-barrel manual load, automatic made it a lot easier to shoot fast.
“You are hardcore.”
“I’m from Texas, I was born and raised hardcore,” Dylan told him with a grin. “Now, let’s go hunting for a ‘motherfucking huge cow dog from hell’.”