Hunted Blood III: A New Beginning Ch. 02byAmenRa©
The flight was available. Actually, Stone had to make it available. He didn't kill anyone and take their place. Rather, he paid someone to take another flight. He bought their ticket. It cost him enough. He would have paid more if he had had to.
As Michael Stone walked from the airport terminal in Tokyo to a waiting rental car, a weight began to press down upon him. A vampire, or vampires, was on its way to kill his master. And somewhere, on some part of this Earth, Anita, accompanied by his father and Yuri Pavelovich, was running for her life from them. Them. The Others. The ones that had betrayed them all.
Stone now knew Nera was part of it. She even seemed to be in charge of it, judging from the conversation he overheard in Shultz's office. The Nubian vampire was powerful, Michael knew, as she was one of the oldest. The older they were, the more powerful they were. But, like most things that had great power, they seldom saw past their own self-image. That had been the deciding factor when Michael cut Akuma's head from his body. He hoped it would be the deciding factor when he cut Nera's head from hers as well.
Of course, if Nera was part of this conspiracy, then it meant Thomas Smith and Robert McKay were as well. Stone clenched his teeth in anger. He had spoken to these people, ate with them, allowed them into the secret chambers of The Organization. And the motherfuckers betrayed them all. And now, they sought to kill Anita. Because she carried his child. He heard Nera speak of the unborn child as an "abomination". Stone shook his head, muttering quietly to himself, "I'll show that bitch who the abomination is."
Anger, again. The emotion was as much a part of Michael Stone as any human being. However, it was one emotion he could not afford. Anger was the enemy of a warrior. A warrior studied ways to calm his mind, be at peace with himself, so that when he fought he could fight as if he was going to die. Michael took several deep breaths and calmed his mind. He focused on his task at hand. And that task became real to him as he drove his car into the mountains around Tokyo, seeking the old dirt path that lead to the dojo of Toshiro Osato.
Anita sat up in bed. She went to the window and pulled the wooden blinds up in her room, watching as the western sky settled into shades of pink and purple. She opened the wooden-slated door and walked into the living room of the motel suite. An old ceiling fan turned lazily overhead. The air was humid, and she noticed the window unit air conditioner was doing little to keep the heat at bay. Although she didn't perspire herself, she knew it was indeed hot in the room when she looked and saw John Stone sitting in a recliner, his shirt plastered to his skin with sweat.
Anita sat beside John on the sofa. The TV was on, and she noticed the local cable was showing "The Empire Strikes Back". The movie had just gotten to the scene where Han finds Luke in the arctic wastes of Hoth, and uses the hero's light saber to cut the belly of the fallen tauntaun to keep him warm.
"Good movie," she remarked.
John smiled and lifted a bottle of water to his mouth. "Yep," he said, "Michael loves these movies."
Anita's jaw clenched at the mention of her husband's name. She fought back a tear and struggled to keep her voice even. "Have you heard from him?"
John shook his head. "Yuri went out to send him a message. We don't dare use cell phones to contact him, because they are probably being monitored. At this point, we can't trust anyone."
Anita nodded. "I would know if he were hurt," she said.
John looked at her, his face turning serious. "And that's why you have to keep thoughts of him to yourself. If you reach out to him with your psychic powers, they could find him. They could find you." He took her by the hand. "That's why we don't tell you where we are."
The tear began to roll down her cheek. She placed her hand over her stomach, where inside her, Michael's child was growing. "I know," she said. "And thank you for all you have done for us."
"He's my son," John said. "And he can take care of himself. As I am sure you can, too. But, the one thing that is most important right now is my grandchild, be it a boy or a girl."
Anita smiled. "You will be a good grandfather," she said.
John smiled. Grandpa. Grand dad. Yeah, he liked Grand dad the best.
The dojo was dark and silent. Stone parked the car well away from the building and approached on foot. He stepped upon the porch surrounding the dojo, and slid the door open.
The interior of the dojo was quiet. A few lights on the posts along the side of the tatami mat were dimmed. It smelled of blood. Though dimly lighted, Stone could see the bodies of three fallen vampires. They lay in a rough circle, and in the circle's center, lying face down on the mat, was a sight Stone had not wanted to see.
Michael rushed to the side of his fallen master. The samurai sensei was covered in blood that stained his white kodachi shirt red. Michael turned him over. Osato's eyes fluttered open, and the old warrior reached a blood covered hand to Michael's own.
"You are late, Michael-san," the old man said.
Stone bowed his head, taking the old man's hand in his. "Forgive me, sensei. I –"
"It does not matter now," the old man said. "Things have been written already, long before you ever walked through the door."
Michael nodded. His master had accepted his fate. It was the way of the warrior.
"I ask one thing from you," the old man rasped. "I do not wish to die on my back, but as a samurai, with honor."
The tears welled up in Michael Stone's eyes. Honor was definitely with the old master this night. The man, well into his eighties, had killed three vampires before succumbing to his wounds.
"Hai, sensei," was all Stone could say in reply. He helped his master to sit up. The old man already had a wakizashi, the smaller blade of the samurai, in his belt. Stone helped the dying samurai unsheathe the polished blade. Stone left him for a second, as he walked to the side of the canvas mat and picked up Toshiro Osato's katana. When Michael returned to him, Osato had already positioned the tip of the wakizashi against his stomach.
Michael stood over him, the blade of his master's katana held over his head in preparation for the final, downward cut. Michael Stone turned his head as tears began to fall. He heard the old man grimace as he drove the wakizashi into his belly and cut across his abdomen. And then, in the final act of seppuku, Michael Stone cut off his teacher's head.
Stone walked to the set of sword stands on the far wall. He picked up an old rag used for cleaning and wiped the blood from Osato's katana. It was his katana, now. He held it for a moment, letting the tears come.
He heard the sound of clapping behind him. He spun. There, across the mat, in the shadows, was Thomas Smith. Stone knew he had not sensed the vampire within the dojo. The sight of his teacher on the mat, dying, had distracted him. Stone quietly berated himself for letting down his guard.
"Bravo," Smith said. "It was an impressive battle, with a fitting end. Don't you agree?"
Michael said nothing. He only eyed Smith hard. Stone was already playing Smith's death out in his mind.
"Nothing to say? No witty comments, or perhaps a eulogy?" Smith asked.
Stone took a quick second to survey his surroundings. Which way would Smith move if he attacked? There was only one logical conclusion. Stone drew his Glock 36 and pumped three rounds in Smith's direction. Smith, however, wasn't there anymore. His vampiric powers had allowed him to move faster than Stone, and the deadly .45 bullets only smashed into empty wood. Stone had counted on this to happen. Which is why, when he had fired the last round, he snapped the katana's blade around behind him, moving it in a quick arc. He felt it cut into something deeply.
Smith gave a yelp of surprised pain as the sword gashed into his upper abdomen. Michael turned, bringing the Glock around, pressing its trigger to the rear as he leveled it with Smith's head.
Thomas Smith was staring at the gaping wound on his stomach, holding his fine linen shirt untucked as he watched the wound close. He looked up at the last instant to see the muzzle flash of the pistol. It was the last thing he saw.
Smith's body slumped forward onto its knees. What was left of the head began to loll to one side, dripping blood and pulp onto the tatami. Stone was sure the two rounds he fired into the vampire were enough. The bullets loaded into the Glock were the ultra-fragmentation rounds developed especially for The Organization's vampire hunters. However, Smith was an old vampire. Stone swung the katana again and cut off Smith's head for good measure.
"No witty comments or a eulogy perhaps," Stone said to the corpse.
Michael stepped back and turned away from the carnage that had now disgraced the dojo. He took a deep breath and realized he had been gritting his teeth. He forced himself to relax. Osato had been avenged. The man died an honorable death, and the retribution brought by Michael's hand had been honorable as well. Stone swallowed, closed his eyes for an instant, and then walked to the far end of the training hall.
Michael slid a canvas lithograph of Musashi to the side. He opened a panel in the wood beneath the painting, and then flipped a switch.
Stone kept his eyes straight ahead as he walked to the door of the dojo. He slid it open, stepped through, and stopped. He stood there for a few seconds, his eyes closed again, and a lifetime of memories of his youth flashed before him. Then he slid the door closed behind him without turning around.
Michael Stone was about to put the key into the lock of the rental car when the dojo exploded into a fireball. All traces of Osato Sensei, the three vampire corpses, the vampire Thomas Smith, and most of Stone's adolescent years went up in an eruption of flame and smoke. The detonation charges had been a safeguard built into the dojo long ago. Now the concussive blast was music for its funeral pyre. Stone got into the car, started it, and left.
A few hours had passed. Michael had showered at his hotel room in Tokyo. He now sat on the bed, where he plugged his laptop in and waited for the wireless modem to connect to the hotel's Wi-Fi system. In a moment he was logged onto his anonymous email account. There was an email from Marko Ramius. Stone smiled. Marko Ramius was the name of a character from a novel by Tom Clancy. It was also the code name for Yuri Pavelovich.
The email didn't say much. Stone learned his father, Yuri, and Anita were somewhere in South America. They were getting ready to move again to an undisclosed location. Everyone sent their love.
Stone returned the email with one of his own. He was brief and cryptic, but he explained what he had witnessed it Shultz's office, the death of Smith, and his next move.
Michael's plans had started brewing during the drive from the dojo. He finalized them in the shower, where he was able to relax with the hot water and let his mind free. He knew Nera was the unofficial head of this alliance of vampires. She was in league with the Director of The Organization. Surely, though, she didn't give two shits about him. To her, Shultz would be just a means to an end. So, if he confronted or killed Shultz, Nera and the rest would simply go into hiding, and make things that much more difficult in the end. No, Shultz's time would come last, but come it would indeed.
Michael knew he would have to find Nera first. Cut the head off the dragon first, deal with the body later. Nera and the rest were actively searching for Anita and him. Would they find her? The fact that Thomas Smith showed up in Japan said enough about how much they did know. Stone also knew that his father would keep Anita moving constantly, and hopefully would stay one step ahead of them. But what if he lured Nera to him?
"Something to tell you about Michael Stone," Shultz said into the telephone, "is if he doesn't want to be found, you will not find him."
"And this is something you promised to deliver," Nera's voice said in Shultz's ear.
"I promised nothing," he replied, "except information so you may look."
"And this information proved accurate," she stated. "Except so far, I've heard nothing to tell me Stone and his bitch are dead."
Shultz sighed heavily. He should have killed her when he had the chance in his office. "Perhaps you should not so much look for the hunter, but for his mate."
There was a laugh. "You forget, Herr Shultz, we vampires are adept at hiding, even from our own kind. There is no psychic link with Anita. I have searched, and I cannot find her consciousness."
Shultz was getting bored with this conversation. For a vampire, she appeared to be quite obtuse. "I have ideas that Anita is with someone other than Michael. Think for a moment. Would you hide together, or separate?"
There was silence for a moment. "Indeed," Nera said, "she is with his father, John Stone."
"Which is why I gave you that information as well," Shultz stated. He then cradled the phone's receiver, and used his TV remote to turn up the volume so he could hear the German singer.
Shultz watched TV for a while. Then he headed upstairs in his house in Munich to bed. He stopped by his office first to check his email as he did every night before bed. When he saw a message from Michael Stone, he almost shit himself.
Shultz picked up the phone. When Nera answered, she could hear the smile in his voice. "The hunter has come to us," he told her. He then read her the email.
John, Yuri, and Anita had moved again. Since they had fled, they had not stayed more than two days in any one location. Now, through some very tactful maneuvering, John had secured them a villa in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. He had plugged his laptop into the house's phone line, and after using an excellent program called Private Surf, checked email.
Yuri and Anita both saw his mouth open as he read the message.
He turned to them and shook his head. "Michael just sent a message to Yuri's email. In short, he explained he was going to send a message to Shultz, stating he wanted him to meet him so they could salvage what was left of The Organization. Michael knows that Shultz will tell Nera, and he's hoping Nera will come to meet him instead."
"That is crazy," Yuri Pavelovich stated.
"He's lost his fucking mind," John said in agreement.
"Where is he?" Anita asked. "Where is the meeting?"
"London," John answered. "In five days."
"We must go!" Anita pleaded. "He cannot face Nera alone!"
John's jaw was set firm as he spoke next. "No," he told her, "that would put you in harm's way. And that is something I will not do."
"Then I will go!" Anita shouted.
Both John and Yuri looked at her hard. Anita looked to each of them, and knew she could not go. She could not risk her child. Even for her husband. She opened her mouth to speak, her bared fangs catching the overhead light, but she only sobbed.
Anita had retreated into her room with, leaving John and Yuri with a piercing glare. John Stone cradled his head in his hands. Yuri placed a hand on his shoulder.
"He is your son, vanya," Yuri said to him. John looked up at the Russian. "I trust Anita and my grandchild will be taken care of?"
Yuri smiled the smile John had known for so long. "I am hurt that you would have to ask me that," he said jokingly.
John nodded his head. "Then I leave at sunrise."
- - -
Michael Stone sat quietly in a small café on Albany Street, not far from Regent's Park. He was wary, and watching the door with keen eyes. Every time it opened, the person walking through could be a vampire. Every person walking through could be one of their allies.
It wasn't paranoia so much as it was caution. The Organization's hunters had gone underground, melding back into a society which they were never really a part of. Stone had passed the warning as soon as he had found out what had happened. Those that were left, just a handful, had disappeared.
But, like they always had, they would still listen to Michael Stone. And Stone knew that his trust in them had not been misplaced when a very large black man walked through the door of the café. The man scanned the room quickly, and upon seeing Michael at the corner table, made his way over.
The man sat shook his head. "I would have never believed it," Robert Keller said, "if I had not seen it for myself."
"You didn't go to the monastery?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, mate, I did," Keller replied. "Had to see it, you know. And I just can't understand it."
Michael nodded slowly. "Betrayal is an ugly thing."
"Yeah, it is," Keller ordered tea, then looked at Michael. "So your vampire lady is pregnant, then?"
"Believe it or not," Stone replied.
Keller smiled a mouth full of white teeth. "Congratulations, I reckon. Although it goes against everything I've ever been taught about them," he stated. Keller's tea arrived and he spooned sugar into the cup. "So, where's all this to take place?"
"The safe house in Cambridge," Michael told him. "The day after tomorrow."
Keller nodded. "I know the place. Take the M11 up from here. You know, I can have my team in place tonight."
"Good," Michael agreed. "I don't know how many guests to expect, so pack for a full house."
Robert Keller smiled. "Revenge is a dish best served cold," he said.
"Indeed it is," Stone confirmed.
Anita woke at sunset. Her room was darkened still, thanks in part to the heavy shades that John and Yuri had put up. On the night stand beside her bed was a saucepan that sat on a hotplate. The pot was filled partially with warm water. I candy thermometer had been placed in the water. The mercury showed 98 degrees. Inside the water was a plastic bag with a pint of blood in it. Anita smiled. Someone had made her breakfast.
She dressed in a robe and walked into the hallway, then down the stairs. The villa seemed deserted. She made her way to the patio out back and found Yuri Pavelovich seated at the table, cutting into a fish filet.
"Good evening, madam," he greeted her.
"Good evening, Yuri," she replied. "Is John out?"
Yuri did not reply. He forked another piece of fish into his mouth and stared at the table.
"He went to London, didn't he?" she asked.
Yuri said nothing still.
Anita's jaw clenched. She turned on her heel and went back inside the house. She knew John had went to London to help her husband fight Nera. She needed to be there. Nera was a powerful vampire, older than she was, and definitely evil. Michael would need more than just his father to emerge the victor in this coming battle.
Anita sat down on the floor in her bedroom and closed her eyes. She opened herself, reaching out with her consciousness. She was seeking an old presence. She found it, touched it, and bonded with it. She had reached out to this vampire before, and she had been ignored. She hoped this time, he listened to her. If she could not go to London, then she hoped he would.
--- to be concluded.