Hunted Blood II: Dark Reign Ch. 6byAmenRa©
There was no one to meet him at the airport. Michael had not expected anyone to be there, yet he knew that sometimes The Organization took care of things like that. He almost expected to see a black limo or a car with a driver waiting for him on the tarmac. But, there again, he wasn't surprised to find that there was no one at all.
When the Beechcraft King Air 350 powered down its Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprops, Stone exited, thanking the cabin steward and flight officers for a smooth ride. He walked out onto the asphalt flight line and into the bright Indiana sun. The airport Stone had landed out was non-commercial, and only had two runways and a refueling station. Michael casually noticed the refueling truck approaching the King Air to deliver a load of Jet-A aviation fuel. He made his way across the tarmac to the door of the customer lounge.
The air inside was cool. Michael saw one attendant at the service counter, who quickly took his Visa card and set him up with a rental car. Michael watched as the King Air was finished with its refuel. He saw the props begin to turn and heard the whine of the turbines through the glass windows of the lounge. When the King Air had started it's taxi to the runway, Michael left and went to his waiting car. There were important packages aboard the King Air, weapons that he had brought back from Japan with him. He wanted to make sure that the plane was on its way to Italy before he left the airport.
Stone drove the rented Camry away from the airport, through town, and headed towards the countryside. It wasn't long before he saw the old mailbox sitting atop a rotting post. The black mailbox had faded white letters that read "Stone". He turned down the dirt road and drove until he came to the house.
The two story house was white-washed with wood siding. Michael's father had built it upon the old foundation of the home that had burned so long ago. Michael parked the car behind his dad's 4x4 and walked to the front door.
Several knocks and doorbell rings later, Michael realized that his father was not inside. He made his way around the house to the large metal building out back. Michael was almost beside the horse stables when a large, black Labrador walked up to him.
It had been a long time since he had seen Joe. The dog now had a touch of white at his muzzle. The old dog wandered up to Stone, his tail wagging. Michael stooped and patted the dog on his head, then scratched behind his ears.
"You remember me, boy?" Michael asked. Old Joe continued to wag his tail as he licked Michael's hand. Stone began to walk to the metal building, and Joe took up pace beside him. As Michael neared the structure, he could hear the sound of an old country song playing. It sounded a lot like Merle Haggard's "The Good Times Ain't Over For Good". Stone smiled. It was just like his dad to be listening to that, he thought.
Michael stepped in through the open door. The interior of the garage/work shop hadn't changed much. He saw the old Massey-Ferguson tractor was still seeping oil onto the concrete floor. There was a Jeep there, too, a yellow one, it's top off and windshield folded down. That was new. Something else was new as well. Michael looked at the shiny black color of the Plymouth Barracuda. It was lifted into the air about two feet with a floor jack. Stone saw the brown work boots and jean covered legs protruding from under it.
"When did you get this?" Michael asked. The legs came out from underneath the car as John Stone slid out on a mechanic's creeper.
John stood. He was as tall as Michael, and although a good bit older, he still carried a well-muscled frame. His broad shoulders were clothed in a red and black flannel shirt. His hair was cut short and almost pure white. He had the same eyes as his son. Cold, gray eyes that looked through a person, not at them.
John looked at his son for a moment. He wasn't sure Michael was really there. Then he broke into a grin, and in one movement, had his arms around his boy.
"Wish you had called," John said in Michael's ear. "I would've had something cooked."
"Then it wouldn't have been a surprise," Michael stated.
John held him at arm's length for a minute. He looked him over, and satisfied that Michael was really real, let him go. The greetings over, they turned to the shiny black car.
"Got it last week. Needs some work. Exhaust system has to be re-done. Other than that," John said, "she's in damn good shape."
Michael smiled. He looked past the car, into the far and dimly lighted corner. There was a tan colored car cover there. The shape of a vehicle underneath could just be made out.
"Yeah," John said, seeing where his son was looking, "its still here."
Michael went over to the covered vehicle. He slowly, almost reverently, began to pull the cover off the front. Lights came on over his head as John flipped the switch for them. The shiny red fiber body came into view. The pop-up headlight covers, then the yellow medallion with the black prancing horse came next. Michael uncovered the rest of the car. Then he stepped back and smiled.
The Stone's were well taken care of by The Organization. His father had invested most of his earnings, and chose to live simply. Michael had invested a little, but he had spent quite a bit. The car he now looked at was a bit of that spending. It was, he thought, quite possibly the best $200,000 he had ever spent. Yes, he thought, the Ferrari F355 was definitely worth every penny.
"I start it up every so often," John said. "To make sure it still works and all."
Michael smiled. "Does it?"
They made their way into the house, where John got to work in the kitchen. Michael helped set out a few things, but was soon pushed out of the kitchen by his father. While the elder Stone cooked, Michael walked into the study.
The walls were covered with pictures, plaques, and display cases. There were photos of John's unit in Vietnam. Michael saw the patches and ribbons in the display cases. One of the cases held the beret flash for the 5th Special Forces group. There was also a patch of the Military Assistance Command/Studies and Observations Group. Another case contained a Silver Star, along with its ribbon. His father had been a Green Beret serving under General Westmoreland during the Vietnam conflict. Michael had been a very small child, but he still remembered his dad coming home on a big airplane. He remembered waiting on the tarmac at Ft. Bragg with his mother.
Her picture was on the desk in the corner. She was a beautiful woman, with kind and caring eyes. Stone fought back the tears for a minute.
After Vietnam, John Stone was recruited into the CIA. Shortly thereafter, The Organization recruited him further.
"You ready to eat?"
His father's voice startled Michael from his reflections. He followed John into the kitchen, where they sat at a small table and ate. After dinner, they both went into the den, where John poured them a glass of Glenmorangie.
"What's on your mind, son?" John asked.
Michael took a sip of the Scotch. He then looked into his father's eyes and told him about Anita and the events that had taken place since he met her.
After Michael was finished, John just stared at him for a moment. He shook his head, took a sip of Scotch, and said, "You're in love."
Michael nodded, draining his glass.
"And it scares you," John added.
"Well hell yes it does, Dad. I mean, how the am I supposed to deal with this? She's a vampire."
"So, she's a vampire," John explained. "That does not mean that she is incapable of loving, son. I know what you've been taught. But, experience has taught me that not all of them are evil."
"I know," Michael revealed. "She is not evil at all. She is the most caring person I have ever met." His eyes wandered over to a picture of his father and mother's wedding. "Well, maybe not," he continued, "but she's a damn close second."
John Stone smiled and nodded his head slowly. "You're worried about The Organization's views on this," he stated.
"Not so much this, but on an alliance with them. The truth, I believe, is that if we don't work together, Akuma will eventually bring us all down."
John swirled his Scotch around in the glass. "Maybe," he stated. "But The Organization dates back to before the Roman Empire, son. Changing beliefs that are as old as that won't be an easy task."
"So, you're going to the meeting with the director in the next few days, and you're going to walk in there and make him and the Council see your point?"
Michael shrugged. "Well, Anita and I together are going to try," he replied.
John Stone shook his head. "Does Shultz know?"
John was referring to Manfred Shultz, the Director of The Organization. Michael nodded his head. "Yes, sir. Sensei sent the message that we were coming. Anita is bringing some friends. I haven't heard a negative response as of yet."
His dad smiled. "And you won't. I imagine that Shultz is pretty damn curious about what is going on. He'll listen to what you have to say. I can't say the same for the rest of them."
They continued to talk well into the night, the subjects changing, until they had caught up with each other sufficiently. Michael didn't sleep well that night, though, despite his training. His mind was alive with the events that would take place over the next few days. And then there was Anita. He missed her. He wanted to be with her right now. He wanted to hold her and make love to her.
If Michael could have known, if he would have quieted his mind, he would have seen that she missed him, too.
Akuma had rested well. The trip from Japan to his island fortress was cloaked in invisibility and darkness. The trip was by sea, and was long. He had nearly circum-navigated the globe in his ferry, moving quietly. He and his crew of subordinate vampires had made several stops at many ports, exchanging orders and information with his loyal servants. Now, he waited while he planned.
Feasting from the neck of some peasant island girl from the Caribbean, Akuma thought as he drank. Someone powerful had been in Japan. He felt the presence. It was familiar to him, but it did not linger long enough for him to be sure. He had not heard from Greg. It is possible that somehow, the vampire hunter Michael Stone had been avenged. The Organization was powerful and far-reaching. Of this, he was certain.
As the girl's body went slack with death, Akuma dropped it to the metal floor. He wiped his mouth with a folded napkin, and gestured to one of the humans to remove the corpse. The humans were loyal to him, but only because he paid them. He knew that deep down, they looked at him with disgust. It didn't matter. Soon, they would all bow their heads to him. Yes, even in the daylight, they would bow their heads at the mention of his name.
Italy looked no different now than it had a year ago. Stone stepped off the plane in Rome, wondering if it had really been a year since he had been here last. He realized that it had, and wondered why he had waited so long to return.
He had a taxi take him to his hotel. It was almost time to eat dinner, and he could feel his stomach rumbling. He never, ever ate the food on the airlines. Something about it, maybe that the French toast really did look like cardboard, just made him queasy. There was a message waiting for him at the hotel's front desk. It was hand written in an elegant, feminine cursive.
RM 321 MAJESTO
Stone smiled as he pocketed the note. On the elevator up to his room, he took the folded paper out and smelled it. Yes, it smelled like Anita.
He showered and changed. The navy blue Hugo Boss linen suit looked good, he thought. It was just a bit tight in the shoulders, but the tailor could fix that. It did not show the slight bulk of the Glock 36 that rode high in the Fobus paddle back holster on his right hip. For that, he was grateful. Stone's diplomatic passport had allowed the weapon to pass through customs. He wasn't sure that it would allow it to pass a frisking by a Roman police officer.
The Majesto was only a few short blocks from his own hotel. The sky had darkened already, and Rome was alive with nightlife. The streets were busy with people. Perfect hunting grounds for a vampire, he knew. Stone stopped quickly at one of the street vendors, buying a single red rose. He continued through the crowd, entering the Majesto and going up the stairs. He stopped in front of room number 321.
The door opened shortly after his knock. And there she was. Beautiful, with her long black hair pulled into a pony tail. She wore a dark green silk blouse that was cut low. Stone could see the tops of her creamy breasts. Her skirt was a deep, dark crimson red. A slit up one side showed the curve of her thigh as she stood with one leg slightly in front of her. Anita smiled, and her eyes lit up.
He was in her arms, breathing her scent, his eyes closed. He wanted to tell her so many things, but he didn't know where to begin. He felt her embrace tighten as she sighed a sigh of contentment. He could feel her ample breasts crushing into his chest. He kissed her ear, then her cheek, the lips.
"I have missed you, Michael," she whispered.
Oh how he had waited to just hear her voice in his ear like that. It had only been three days, yet it seemed like a lifetime had passed since he had seen her last. He pulled back from her and handed her the rose.
Anita took the flower and smiled. Stone saw a tear well in her right eye. She blushed pink in her cheeks, an erotic, sensuous blush that only a vampire could perform. "Come inside, I have some friends for you to meet."
Michael raised an eyebrow as he followed her into the suite. There were three other vampires there. Michael instantly went on guard. His eyes narrowed. His muscles tensed. There were two males and a female. The two males wore suits, and the female who was as dark as ebony, wore a deep blue dress.
"Calm yourself, Mr. Stone," the red-haired male vampire spoke. "We come in peace." Michael thought he detected a bit of a Scottish or Irish brogue.
"I think it might be him that should tell us that," the other male answered. His hair was blonde. Michael recognized the accent as pure English, probably from the heart of London.
The black female approached him slowly. She looked him from head to toe, and then looked at Anita. "Mmmm, you did tell the truth, m'lady," she stated. She, too, had an accent, African possibly, maybe Caribbean.
Anita made the introductions. The red-haired one was called Robert McKay, from Scotland. The other was Thomas Smith, from, as he guessed, England. Her name was Nera. She was from Africa. Stone learned that she was Nubian.
Dinner went well. Stone sorted through his steak, drinking only water, while he watched the vampires muse through their courses and drink wine. He knew that the food they ate did little for them. A vampire's body was made to digest blood, and it extracted very little from normal, "human" food.
The dinner conversation was about tomorrow's meeting with the Council of The Organization.
"It would be nice if they simply accepted us," the vampire Thomas Smith stated.
Stone agreed. "It would," he said, "but it won't be that easy. There never has been an open alliance with you. Everyone in The Organization is aware of how some of you have helped us over the years. But, remember, we used to hunt you as well."
Stone noticed the room air seemed to chill a bit as his last words hung about the table. McKay cleared his throat. "Aye, we remember it all too well, lad. I have narrowly escaped death at the hands of one of your hunters a few times in the past."
"But what has kept us alive for so long," Nera said, "is that we've stayed out of your sight." She looked at Stone with cold dark eyes. "We hid ourselves, never killing unless we had to, never taking more than what we needed."
Stone nodded. "It will take words like that to make them see," he concluded.
"I believe," Smith offered, "that Anita has already taken great steps in proving her loyalty. One does not take lightly the killing of one's own kind."
Anita looked at Smith. "Would you not have done the same?"
"Certainly," he replied, "given the circumstances, I am sure any of us here would have. But in doing this, you yourself have brought our attention to the others."
Stone guessed that by 'the others', Smith was referring to the 'bad' vampires. Stone shook his head. He had been taught to believe that all vampires were bad, period.
"It doesn't matter now," Stone told them. "Akuma is a threat to us all. You would have had to come out of hiding sooner or later to deal with this."
Smith and the rest agreed, knowing that Stone was right.
Room service arrived not long after they had finished to clear the dinnerware from the table. Stone and the others had moved onto the suite's large terrace, where they sat sipping wine. Except for Stone, who dared not dull his senses with the slightest of alcohol. Not now, not when he had four vampires within arms reach of him.
Anita watched him. Michael seemed uptight. She knew that many things were on his mind. Tomorrow evening would be stressful for him. And then, he had probably never been in a room with so many vampires and not been killing them. She tried to peek into his mind. When she pushed, she struck a solid wall. Michael had mentally armored himself against a probing vampiric mind.
The evening turned later, with Smith and McKay venturing off into the streets to "get a taste of Roman nightlife" as they put it. Anita and Nera stayed behind.
They were sitting in the suite's day room, Michael and Anita on the loveseat, and Nera across from them on the sofa. Nera's gaze held Michael and made him somewhat uncomfortable. She looked like she was ready to devour him whole.
"Keep a tight leash on this one, M'Lady," Nera said. "I'd hate to steal him from you."
Anita only smiled. "I'm afraid this one can't be tamed," she answered. Nera bade them goodbye, and retired to her own room in the hotel.
Stone made slow and passionate love to Anita that night. And afterwards, they held each other, both sleeping soundly. Even with the anticipation of the coming evening, Stone slept like a baby in her arms.
The old monastery had sat in the same spot overlooking part of the city for many hundred years. Built when Christianity first came to Rome, the monastery soon became the headquarters of The Organization.
Unusual for monasteries, this one had a gate that guarded its cobbled-stone drive. A guard, dressed in a non-descript suit, stood at the gate. He looked passively at the drivers of black Mercedes and BMW limos as they approached. He could be seen touching the transceiver earpiece on his left ear, speaking to those inside, telling them who was arriving.
He made no special remark as Stone’s car pulled to him. He casually glanced inside, seeing Stone in the front passenger’s seat. He gave Anita and the others a once-over glance, then nodded to the driver to proceed.
They got out of the car, and entered the monastery. Stone made his way quickly toward the rear of the church. He paid no attention to the monks that were praying. He saw that Thomas Smith and Nera were beside him. He guessed that they were not Catholic, either.
He noticed that there were hushed gasps from the monks. He turned, and saw what they were looking at. Anita and McKay had stopped, and knelt, crossing themselves and bowing their heads before the visage of the Virgin Mary. The monks looked from them to Stone. They knew what Anita and the rest were. They had never believed a vampire would set it’s foot upon holy ground.
Stone motioned for Anita and the Scott to join him as he made his way around the pulpit to an antechamber. Once inside, Stone removed a book from the old bookcase that stood in the corner of the room. The bookcase swung aside, and the group moved into a darkened, stone passage. A short walk down the passage brought them to a set of sliding metal doors. The doors parted, and they entered the elevator.