Chapter Six: Hunter and Prey
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Outside the study, Alice turned left to where the vampire had fled.  Down the hall, in the light of the flashlight taped to her gun, she saw the bathroom door facing her where the hall made an L turn to the right.  Absentmindedly, Alice noted that she could hear Aunt Betty and Penny putting the bookcase up again.  Alice didn’t know what else they’d use to block the door but hoped it would be enough.

            Getting an idea, Alice pulled out the pistol tucked into her belt and aimed it at the roof.  She figured that if the sound hurt the vampire’s ears, then the ensuing shriek might give Alice an idea of where the Vampire was hiding.

            She shot the roof, the bang ringing in her ears.  However, no sound from the vampire answered her, just empty silence. So either the vampire was far enough away that it didn’t hurt as much, it had enough walls between them to muffle the sound, or it was trying very hard to stay quiet so Alice couldn’t track it.  Whatever the case, Alice would have to find this vampire the hard way.

            Alice put the pistol back into her belt, feeling the wooden stake she also had there and then raised her rifle.  She moved forward slowly, towards the bathroom door.  When she got there, she held her gun with one hand, placed her hand on the doorknob, and kept an eye down the hall.  Bracing herself, Alice quickly threw the door open and aimed her gun inside.  All she saw with the flashlight was a bathtub, a toilet, and other ordinary things for a bathroom.  Even the shower curtain was drawn back, revealing an empty bathtub.

            Alice turned.  There were two bedrooms to her right, one more bedroom to her left, and the living room before her, with the couch, the television, and the coffee table barely visible in the darkness ahead.  Alice moved to the next room and once again carefully reached for the doorknob before throwing it open.  Aiming her gun inside, she saw a bed, a chest of drawers, and an open closet.  She carefully made sure to check the corner around the door.  Even without vampires, the corner around the door was always a problem, but Alice saw nothing.  She also knelt to check under the bed but again saw nothing.

            She quickly stood looked down the hall, still waiting for a vampire to jump out at any moment.  She could practically hear her heart beating and feel sweat dripping down her face.  Looking forward, she didn’t see anything in the living room, so she looked to the bedrooms.  The final two rooms faced each other, and Alice would have to open them one at a time.  If she chose the wrong one, that would leave her open to an attack from behind.  Left or right?

            Alice ultimately chose the left side.  She still had garlic powder on her shoulders and wrists, so hopefully, if the vampire attacked from behind, that would throw it off.   Even So, Alice decided the rifle wasn’t the best weapon here.  The pistol wouldn’t penetrate as much, but it would be easier to move back and forth between the two doors.  For a moment, Alice wished she’d thought to bring a rifle strap but was too late for that now. 

She held the rifle with one hand, aimed low, and kept her pistol up with her right hand, ready to aim it in either direction. Then, slowly, Alice turned the doorknob and began to open the door.

            The door behind her burst open.

            Alice turned and fired her pistol, just barely getting two shots off as the vampire tackled her, shrieking as her rifle clattered to Alice’s left.  Alice hit the floor, her hands pinned by the vampire as it loomed over her, fangs bared, its legs trapping Alice’s closed.  Blood dripped onto Alice’s face from a bullet wound in the vampire’s cheek as Alice froze, her face contorted with fear.

            The vampire leaned down to bite, and Alice thought it was all over, but then the vampire lifted its head.  The monster started breathing through its nose violently as if it was in pain, its head thrashing violently from side to side, and Alice realized that the garlic had done its job.

            Grimacing, Alice started rocking her body, trying to knock the vampire off of it.  The vampire kept snorting painfully, and Alice then pulled the trigger on her pistol, making the vampire shriek from the sound.  The creature’s grip finally seemed to loosen enough for Alice to pull her legs out, raise them, and kick the vampire off of her.

            Alice sat up and raised her pistol, but the vampire jumped to the wall, making Alice shoot empty air.  Alice kept shooting, grimacing in frustration as every shot missed. The vampire crawled away, bobbing and weaving as it shrieked in pain from the sound even as each bullet hit the wall.  Still shooting, Alice grabbed her rifle and stood, retreating to the doorway.  As she did, her pistol clicked, empty.   The vampire noticed.

            Alice threw away the empty pistol and closed the door behind her just in time for the vampire to slam into it, busting it off its hinges.  Alice tried to lift her rifle, but before she could even turn around, the vampire grabbed her from behind, pinning Alice's arms to her sides.

            Alice struggled to move, but it was futile.  Pinned, Alice felt two movements the vampire was making.  One was to reach for the stake at Alice’s belt slowly so it wouldn’t lose its grip on her.  The other sent shivers down Alice’s spine as something wet and slimy slid along her neck.  The vampire had an inhumanly long tongue, and it kept its head leaned back while it licked the garlic powder off Alice. 

            That only took a few seconds, and the vampire quickly pulled the garlic into its mouth and spat it away.  It took a few strained breaths, and Alice thought quickly.  The vampire’s hand was almost on the stake.  Unable to think of anything else, Alice shot the floor with her gun.  The vampire shrieked from the sound, but that made it tighten its grip.  Alice moaned painfully, even as she tried to move, but not only did the vampire have her arms pinned, the monster’s claws dug into the floor, keeping either of them from moving.

            Alice knew she couldn’t just keep shooting the floor.  She’d just run out of ammo.  She needed to shoot the vampire directly.  As the vampire recovered from the sound, Alice let her gun fall to her side.  Holding it with one hand, Alice aimed where she hoped the vampire’s right foot was.  As she felt the vampire lean forward to bite her, Alice prayed her aim was true and pulled the trigger.

            The vampire shrieked in pain as its right foot let go of the floor.  Alice groaned as the vampire’s arms tightened but kept her focus.  She heaved with all of her strength and managed to loosen the vampire’s other foot and knock the vampire’s back against the wall.  Alice then slammed the back of her head into the vampire’s face, knocking its head into the solid wood of the hallway.  Alice did this again, and again, and again, moaning in pain as the vampire gripped harder, but finally, after hitting the vampire’s head one more time, she felt the grip slacken.

            Alice then twisted her body, trying to let the vampire fall off her, but the monster’s grip didn’t let go before Alice fell, landing on her back.  Keeping a grip on her rifle, Alice tried to crawl away, but the vampire crawled on its belly and reached for her leg, ripping it open to sink its fangs in.  Alice raised the rifle to stop it, but the vampire leaped up and grabbed the barrel, pulling the barrel away from its face and letting the bullet strike the wall.

            The vampire shrieked in pain but kept its grip on the barrel of the gun, keeping Alice from aiming it.  When the vampire recovered, it tried to bite her neck, but Alice managed to raise the rifle and stick the top of it in the vampire’s mouth.  In a second, Alice noticed that the bullet wound on the vampire’s cheek was now gone.

            The Vampire once again reached for the stake in Alice’s belt, so Alice put her garlic covered wrist right at the vampire’s nose, making it snort painfully again.  Alice couldn’t get the gun out of the vampire’s hands, even as it thrashed around from the pain, but she could move it a little while it was distracted.  Knowing this might be her last chance, Alice pulled her hand back to knock the barrel of her gun right next to the vampire’s ear.

            She pulled the trigger, making the vampire shriek louder than before as blood spilled from its ear.

            Alice took the opportunity to rip her gun from the vampire’s claws and put the barrel at the vampire’s throat.  The creature reached for Alice’s face as she fired through the vampire’s neck, splatting blood everywhere.  The vampire fell back, its claws raking across Alice's cheek.  Alice stood, aiming her rifle down as she started shooting, over and over again.  The vampire shrieked again as Alice emptied her gun’s clip until it clicked on empty.  The vampire writhed on the ground, blood spurting from the bullet wounds in its chest, but didn’t otherwise move.

            Alice took her rifle in her right hand, aimed the stock downward, and then pulled the wooden stake from her belt with the other.  She knelt over the vampire, placing the stake over the vampire’s heart, and then raised the gun.   The vampire reached for her, but Alice, screaming at the top of her lungs, brought down the butt of her rifle, driving the stake into the vampire’s flesh and making it shriek.  Alice struck again, and once the stake was embedded in the flesh, she lifted the rifle with both hands and struck again, and again, and then she struck one more time, driving it through the ribcage.

            The vampire shrieked the loudest, shrillest shriek yet as Alice moved back until she sat against the wall.  The vampire writhed on the floor as its bloodcurdling shriek seemed to go on forever. Then the creature started changing, its skin smoothing out and changing color from dark grey to pale.  Its nostrils shortened and its nose grew out.  Its eyes slowly shifted from red to blue, and the fangs in its mouth shortened.  After a moment, the being beneath Alice was no longer a vampire, but human.  Even the shriek slowly shifted from an inhuman sound to a human scream.  And then, instantly, the woman stopped moving and went completely silent.

            Now that everything had gone still, Alice was painfully aware of the sound of her own heavy breathing.  She could feel her heart pounding in her chest and the sweat dripping down her skin, mingled with the vampire’s blood that had splattered on her.  Some of her own blood dripped down her cheek from the scratches there.  Noticing this, Alice ripped her sleeve and put the cloth on her cheek to stem the bleeding.  Then Alice sat there on the floor, just taking a moment to rest.

            As things calmed down, Alice became aware of the pain in her arms, and looking at them revealed ugly bruises from where the vampire had gripped her.  She was amazed she hadn’t felt it sooner but supposed the adrenaline was wearing off.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, but she was at least grateful the vampire hadn’t broken any bones.  Alice then looked down at the dead woman who had moments ago been a vampire.

            On the one hand, Alice felt an overwhelming sense of relief.  She’d done it.  She’d survived and killed the monster attacking her.  But, on the other hand, what was left over now that the vampire was dead was something Alice found deeply unsettling.  What struck Alice most was just how human she looked.  She was no longer the monster that Alice had struggled with, nor was she the ethereal beauty that Alice had seen at the door.  Instead, she was just an ordinary human woman.

            Alice wondered who this woman was and just how she became a vampire.  Did she get cornered by a terrifying monster going down the wrong dark alley?  Or did she meet a stranger in need at the door, only to learn what he was when it was too late?  Alice was aware of vampire legends and so knew that they all started human before being turned.  Seeing this dead woman now, after she’d been a monster just moments ago, made that fact seem real in a way Alice didn’t think she could describe.

            Even though the vampire had tried to drink her blood, Alice still felt a strange sense of compassion for whoever this woman used to be.  Alice didn’t know if this woman had been a good or bad person before her transformation, but that didn’t change how she felt.  Alice reached out her hand and used her fingertips to close the woman’s eyes.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.

            Before Alice decided to move, she heard footsteps down the hall.  Penny and Alice’s mother turned the corner.  Penny carried a gun while Sara Hayes held a pistol in one hand and a first aid box in the other.  They saw Alice sitting next to the dead vampire, and Penny’s eyes grew wide while Alice’s mother came over to check on Alice.

            “You did it,” said Penny. “You actually did it.”

            “You’re hurt,” said Alice’s mother, kneeling and opening the first aid box.

            “It’s not as bad as it looks,” said Alice, looking down at her bloody blouse. “Most of this blood isn’t mine, and my cheek is just a scratch.”

            “And the bruises?” said her mother as she put some disinfectant onto a cotton ball.

            “They look worse than they are.  How’s Uncle Paul?”

            Alice flinched as Sara Hayes wiped her daughter's cheek with the cotton ball. 

            “Fine,” said Alice’s mother. “Aunt Betty’s with him.  He’s breathing more easily now but still can’t talk.”

            “Good,” said Alice. “Anyway, I thought I told you to barricade yourselves in the study?”

            “It’s alright, Mrs. Hayes,” said Agent Walker.  Alice realized her phone was in her mother’s pocket as Walker continued. “I recognized the sound of a dying vampire’s shriek.  It’s not a sound I’m going to forget any time soon.”

            Yeah, thought Alice, I’m not going to forget it any time soon myself.  Alice’s mother then applied a large square bandaid to Alice’s cheek, stopping the bleeding.  When she finished, she looked at her daughter and smiled with tears in her eyes.

            “You really did it, didn’t you?” said Alice’s mother. “I shouldn’t have doubted you.”

            “Hey,” said Alice, smiling back at her. “If you weren’t worried about me facing a vampire on my own, I’d think something was wrong with you.”

            “Congratulations are in order,” said Walker from Sara Hayes's pocket. “Taking down a vampire on your own with such limited resources is no small feat.  I suspect that when this is all over, my superiors will want to talk to you.”

            Did he think Alice was Night Hunter material?  Alice had to admit, a part of her liked the sound of that.  It was another chance to track down the vampire who took Arthur.  A part of Alice really liked the sound of that. But, of course, the rest of her was terrified of the idea.

            “Let’s get through the night first,” said Alice, she and her mother standing up. “First, let’s check the front door.  The vampire said she’d picked the lock, after all.”

            The others nodded, and they went to the front door.  As Alice feared, the door was open.  When they approached and looked out, they gasped, startled.  Five vampires stood just outside the door, their human disguises shed.  Their red eyes glared hungrily while their fangs gleamed in the moonlight.

              “Alice,” said Penny, raising her rifle.

            “Easy,” said Alice. “They can’t enter uninvited.”

            “That’s correct,” said Walker. “But it can’t hurt to close the door.”

            The vampires had clothing as tattered and dirty as the previous vampire. Judging by that clothing and the tangled hair, Alice counted three males and two females.  She reached for the door to close it, but as she did, one of the male vampires took a deep breath through its nose.

            “You smell nice, Alice,” said the monster.

            Right as the door closed, Alice shuddered before locking the door once again.  Her mother put a comforting hand on Alice’s shoulder.  That helped, but Alice knew it wouldn’t make the vampires go away.

            Moments later, they went back to the study.  Along the way, Alice pulled the bloody wooden stake from the dead vampire and stuck it back through her belt.  Back in the study, Alice reloaded her pistol and her rifle.  Alice’s mother went back to Paul Hayes, and Betty kept peeking out the barricaded window, afraid something might try to break through at any moment.  Penny watched the hallway with her gun, just in case.

            For a moment, Alice saw Ryan in a corner of the room.  The others must have moved him there when Alice was fighting the vampire.  They’d crossed his hands over his chest, and he looked almost peaceful.  Alice felt a swell of regret for what had happened to him but didn’t have time to dwell on it.  They had to plan for survival.

            “So,” said Alice. “Agent Walker.  How long until that backup get’s here?”

            “They’ve been pushing it,” said Walker, Alice’s phone on the table again. “Going as fast as they can get away with.  I now have an ETA of fifteen minutes.”

            Alice breathed a sigh of relief.  That was good.

            “And I have more good news,” said Walker. “Another unit has redirected.  They’re on a plane and can parachute in.  It should be there in twenty minutes.  I was kind of surprised they were available, to be perfectly honest.  This unit is made of…specialists.”

            “Specialists?” asked Alice.

            “Let’s just say that when fighting the supernatural, it helps to have the supernatural on your side.”

            “Oh, please don’t tell me you fight vampires with vampires.”

            “Not vampires, no.”

            Alice was just about to ask for more details when Aunt Betty spoke up.

            “Alice!”

            Aunt Betty was looking out the window, peeking around the bookcase in front of it.  Alice came over and peeked through herself.  Outside, in the light of the moon, Alice could see a line of people approaching the house.  There were a lot of them, and they didn’t look like vampires.

            “Walker,” said Alice. “You said that vampires can control humans, right?  And those can enter the house uninvited?”

            “I’m afraid so,” said Walker.

            Alice looked around and could tell everyone was scared.  She wasn’t far off herself.

            Alice took her rifle, pulled back the slide to put a round in the chamber, and then looked at the others with as much confidence as she could muster.

            “Fifteen minute ETA,” said Alice. “We just need to last until them.  Get ready.”

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