Richard Kadrey: Kill the dead

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Richard Kadrey Kill the dead
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    Kill the dead
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    Ужасы и Мистика / на английском языке
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Richard Kadrey

Kill the dead

Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things Abominable, unutterable, and worse…


I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.


IMAGINE SHOVING A cattle prod up a rhino's ass, shouting "April fool!", and hoping the rhino thinks it's funny. That's about how much fun it is hunting a vampire.

Personally, I don't have anything against shroud eaters. They're just another kind of addict in a city of addicts. Since most of them started out as civilians, the percentage of decent vampires to complete bastards is about the same as regular people. Right now, though, I'm hunting one that's trying for a Nobel Prize in getting completely up my ass. It isn't fun work, but it pays the bills.

The vampire's name is Eleanor Vance. In the Xeroxed passport photo Marshal Wells gave me, she looks like she's about seventeen. Probably because she is. A pretty blond cheerleader type with big eyes and the kind of smile that got Troy burned to the ground. Bad news for me. Young vampires are all assholes. It's part of their job description.

I love older vampires. A hundred and fifty, two hundred years old, they're beautiful. The smart ones mostly stick to the El Hombre Invisible tricks that urban monsters have worked out over centuries. They only feed when they have to. When they're not hunting, they're boring, at least to outsiders. They come off like corporate middle management or the guy who runs the corner bodega. What I like best about old bloodsuckers is that when you've got one cornered and it knows it's coffin fodder, they're like noble cancer patients in TV movies. All they want is to die quietly and with a little dignity. Young vampires, not so much.

The young ones have all grown up watching Slayer videos, Scarface, Halloween, and about a million hours of Japanese anime. They all think they're Tony Montana with a lightsaber in one hand and a chain saw in the other. Eleanor, tonight's undead dream date, is a good example. She's got a homemade flamethrower. I know because when she blasted me back at the parking garage, she fried one of my eyebrows and the left sleeve of my new leather jacket. Ten to one she found the plans on the Web. Why can't vampires just download porn like normal jailbait?

It's Sunday, about a quarter to six in the evening. We're downtown. I follow her along South Hill Street toward Pershing Square. I'm about half a block behind her. Eleanor is wearing long sleeves and carrying an umbrella to keep the sun off. She strolls along happy, like she owns the air and everyone has to pay her royalties whenever they breathe. Only she's not really relaxed. I can't read a juicer's heartbeat or breathing changes because they don't have them. And she's too far away to see if her eyes are dilated, but she keeps moving her head. Microscopic twitches left and right. She's trying to look around without looking around. Hoping to catch my shadow or reflection. Eleanor knows she didn't kill me back at the garage. Eleanor's a smart girl. I hate smart dead girls.

At the corner of Third Street, Eleanor shoulder-butts an old lady and what's probably her grandkid into the street, in front of a flatbed truck carrying a backhoe. The driver slams on the brakes. The old lady is on the ground. Cue the screaming and squealing tires. Cue the sheep who stand around pointing and the Captain Americas who run to help. They pull the old lady and the kid back onto the sidewalk, which is great for them, but it doesn't do anything for me. Eleanor is gone.

But it's not hard to find her. Fifty people must have seen her pull the stunt and half of them point as she sprints down Third before cutting right onto Broadway. I take off after her. I'm fast, a hell of a lot faster than the flat-footed civilians trying to chase her down, but I'm not quite as fast as a vampire. Especially one who's lost her umbrella and wants to get out of the sun before she turns into chicken-fried steak.

She's gone when I hit Broadway. This part of town isn't that crowded on Sundays. I have a clear view in both directions. No perky blondes running down the street in flames. It's mostly stores and office buildings down here, but all the offices and most of the stores are closed. There are a few open doors in the small shops, but Eleanor is too smart to get cornered in one of those little cracker boxes. There's only one place a smart girl would go.

God said, "Let there be Light, and cheap take-out Chinese," and the Grand Central Market appeared. The place has been on South Broadway since before the continents divided. Some of the meat they use in the burritos and Szechuan beef is even older. I think I once saw Fred Flintstone's teeth marks on some barbecued ribs.

Inside, I'm facing down tacos and pizza. There's a liquor store to my left and ice cream against the far wall. Every spice known to man is mixed with the smell of sweat and cooking meat. Not too much of a crowd at this time of day. Some of the shops and kiosks are already counting up receipts. I don't see Eleanor down the central walkway or either of the side ones. I start down the middle of the place, cut to the right, and walk by a fish stand. I'm reaching out. Listening, smelling, feeling the movement of the air, trying to pick up any tiny vibrations in the aether. I'm getting better at this kind of hunting. Ambush predator stuff as opposed to my old Tyrannosaurus-with-a-hard-on moves that don't go down quite as well in the streets of L.A. as they did in the arena.

Subtle hunting, acting like a grown-up, I really miss Hell sometimes.

A tourist dad asks me how they can get back on the freeway to Hollywood from here. I ignore him and he mumbles something about his taxes and how come we don't have more cops to clear out these drug addicts.

Six months after the New Year's bash at Avila and I'm still not used to this place, these people. In a lot of ways civilians are worse than Hellions because at least Hellions know they're miserable sacks of slaughterhouse shit. More and more, I want one of these mortal types to have to face down a vampire, a Jade, or a bat-shit demon elemental. Not a ghost glimpse in the dark, but having to stare straight into a beast's red meat-grinder eyes hungry for the souls of the terminally clueless.

Be careful what you wish for.

A long orange jet of fire rains from overhead and there's Eleanor, standing on top of the glass-and-chrome cases at a spice kiosk. The business end of the flamethrower is a little thing, no bigger than a.45 semiauto. A tube runs from the pistol to an Astro Boy backpack, where the gas and propellant are stored.

Eleanor moves her arm in a wide arc, torching produce, signs, and the backs of a few slack-jawed market workers. She's smiling down at us. Annie Oakley and Charlie Manson's demon baby, jacked up on that sweet and special prekill adrenaline.

Then she's down and running with a small bubbling laugh like a naughty six-year-old. I take off after her, running deeper into the market. She's small and fast and a second later she cuts left, down the far aisle, and doubles back toward Broadway.

I can't catch her or cut her off, but there's an empty utility cart by a produce stand. I give it a kick and send it through the empty dining area. Tables and chairs go flying. The cart slams into her legs at the end of the aisle, knocking her through the counter of Grand Central Liquor. Suddenly it's raining glass and Patron Silver. Right on cue, people start screaming.

Eleanor is back on her feet a second before I can grab her. She's not smiling anymore. Her left arm is bent at a funny angle and a chunk of bone the size of a turkey drumstick is sticking out just below her elbow. She has the flamethrower up, but I'm moving flat out. No way I can stop. Instead, I go faster. She pulls the trigger and I'm drowning in fire.

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