Right now, I’m knee-deep in Blood Letting, the sequel to Blood Flow. But, I’m also writing another story set in the San Jenaro universe. It’s about the gig economy, through a lens of monster hunting. “It’s like Uber, but for fighting back against the forces of darkness.”
It’s called iHunt, and here’s the first chapter:
CHAPTER ONE: SWIPE LEFT
Have you ever tried cutting fabric with child-safe scissors? This is why good vampire hunters, real vampire hunters, don’t do stakes through the heart. It’s just not practical. You can sharpen the stake as much as you want, but there’s just no realistic way to put it through a rib cage unless you’ve got a mallet and the vampire’s asleep. Only some vampires sleep during the day. So, I prefer the tried and true method—the machete.
I sprint after the fang-fucker. It feels good to chase these guys. They think they’re the ultimate predators.
Then what does that make me?
I vault over a barrier made to keep cars out of the park. He’s running through the playground, pushing swings aside. As I run up the slide, I wonder if he’s trying to distract me. If I were an amateur, it’d be a pretty good tactic. Then again, I don’t think he’d be running away from an amateur.
When I hit the top of the slide, I jump as high as I can, raising the machete over my head and bringing it down hard. I won’t behead him with a downward slash, but I’ll sure as hell stop him from running, and set him up for the kill. I miss. Damn it. The machete sprays play sand all over the place. I break back into a run.
Some people say vampires are vulnerable, weak to beheading. I personally think most everything’s weak to beheading. It’s just that vampires are strong to most other things. Vampires are weird. There’s different families. Each family has different strengths. Different weaknesses. Garlic repels some of them. Some die when exposed to sunlight. Some kill every time they feed. Part of the craft means learning what kind of vampire you’re facing, so you can custom-tailor the hunt to the prey.
I chase him into the skate park. There’s a group of teenagers smoking up. He knows what he’s doing. He’s trying to shake me. Most monster hunters won’t kill in front of innocent eyewitnesses. I haven’t decided if I will this time. “COP!” The vampire shouts. The teens snap to attention. They look all over the place, before noticing me. Clearly, I’m the cop. I’m the one chasing the guy.
Today’s prey is a “wolf.” In San Jenaro, the vampire families are all named after animals. From our perspective, on the hunt, wolves are the worst. They’re strong. They’re fast. They’re tough. And their weakness, if you could call it that, is that they’re territorial. If you fuck with their homes, they go all psycho killer on you. Sure, you can abuse that sometimes and make them fly off the handle. This is good for traps. It’s good for ambushes. But when they get like that, they’re even stronger, faster, and tougher than normal. So it’s a trade off.
The kids stare. They move to intercede. They’ve been trained well by the rising fascism in America. They know they’ve got to act fast when authority comes down on the people. They all pull out their smartphones. Under other circumstances, I’d applaud their efforts. I’d cheer them on for holding authority accountable. “Do I look like a fucking cop?” I say, holding my machete up high. They look between each other. When a woman with a machete’s chasing a man twice her weight, she probably has a good reason for it. They back off.
Witnesses. That’s gonna hurt my rating.
No time to think about that. I slow my sprint to conserve my energy. Vampires can always outrun you in a chase. You’ve got to outsmart them. You’ve got to wait for them to make a mistake. He rushes into the park’s bathroom.
There’s his mistake.
I’ve got to consider that he might have a plan. He’s probably preparing for a final showdown, he’s probably used to fighting in closed quarters. So I slow down enough to catch my breath. Gotta be on the top of my game when I get there.
I step into the bathroom. There’s two sinks, two urinals, one janitor’s closet, and one stall. I hear him breathing in the stall. Vampires technically don’t have to breathe, but most do. Some do it to look more human. Some just never get out of the habit. I hear there’s an owl family that has to breathe during the day.
I knock on the stall door. There’s no answer. He’s hoping I don’t know he’s in there. I take a step back, like I’m going to leave. He sighs in relief. At that, I turn on my heel and plant a size 7 Doc Marten into the door and push hard. The bolt buckles and the door flies in.
He jumps, panicked. He’s young. He looks maybe 25. Maybe my age. He’s in skinny jeans, a Metallica t-shirt, and a leather jacket. He’s got short black spiky hair. He smells like sweat and smoke.
“Come on. Let’s finish this.” I say and step back twice. I don’t want to wait. I want to just end it. Unfortunately, you can’t swing a machete in a bathroom stall. There’s just no space.
He hesitates a moment, and steps out. I move back toward the entrance, just in case he tries running.
“I have money!” He says, pleading.
“Oh yeah? How much?” I say, shrugging.
He sighs again, relieved. “Um. I don’t know. Let me see.” He pats his pockets. He fidgets with his pockets—they’re too tight to reasonably put a hand inside. He knocks out a few crumpled $20 bills. I see at least a $100. “You can have it all. Just don’t kill me.”
While he’s looking down to his pockets, trying to fish for money, I bring the machete down wide along the side of his neck. His head doesn’t come quite off, but it’s enough. I bury it about two thirds of the way through. I feel it go through the spine.
I grab his money. I like to call that “the tip.” Then I finish the job. I lift the head by the hair with my left hand, and with my right, I put my knife, my sword, the rest of the way through his neck.
“Mission accomplished. 12:42am. November 7th, 2016. Or, November 8th I mean. Forgot, it’s after midnight. Gotta change the date.” I say loud and clear to the GoPro. I hold the head up next to mine, and with the other hand, snap a quick selfie. I’ll filter it later. Then, I take the remains out behind the bathroom. I grab some lighter fluid from my backpack and spray it down. I strike a strike-anywhere match and drop it on the pile. Even a young vampire like this one’s already decomposing rapidly by the time I get to burning the evidence. I like that most monsters don’t leave much for forensics. There’s still a bit of a mess inside, so I splash it with some bleach, then turn all the faucets on and plug their drains. Public bathrooms are great for this sort of thing, since they usually have flood drains. And vampires don’t bleed much to begin with. I search the janitor’s closet for an “Out of Service” sign and put it on the door on my way out.
I get back to my apartment. I pack a bowl. I light it up, and check the iHunt app. Seven new contracts meet my criteria.
“Chupacabra sighting in the Flip. $1,500 with collection. $500 if verified a hoax.”
Swipe left. Take a hit.
“Client in Palo Verde wants to meet a vampire to consult on her screenplay. $500 after publication.”
Swipe left. Hold my breath for a moment.
“Werewolves on the northeast side. Rabies? $750 per head.”
Swipe left. Release the breath slowly.
“Fairy circle in Ava Blue. $2000 for the circle. $500 for each confirmed kill.”
”Ooooo. Interesting.” I stare at the listing for a moment. I swipe left and shrug. “Someone else can fuck with it. Fairies are too complicated.”
“Haunting near the shore. $2000 for confirmed exorcism.”
“No way. I thought I told them I don’t do fucking hauntings.” Swipe left. “And no fucking exorcisms.”
“Gang of vampires in the resort district. Corporate contract. $5,000 per head.”
Now we’re fucking talking. Corporate contracts are a little rarer. They’re for the elite. You have to have a consistent average four star rating over twenty jobs to start getting them. I guess I’ve earned my wings.
I get a pop-up.
“You’ve received feedback on your most recent gig. ‘Witnesses on site, poorly handled. Sloppy cleanup: Police know to look for ash piles. Wouldn’t hire again. 3 stars.’”
Oh fuck you. The kinds of pricks who leave three star reviews just don’t understand how the gig economy works.