Horrified screams raced through the building, and with them, the sound of thunderous roars.
“No! Please! I didn’t mean it!”
“You knew what would happen! You were fucking warned! You decided to go against me, and now you suffer your fate. Hold him still, Reese!”
“Got him, Zane.”
“Please! I promise to obey your order!”
“Too fucking late!”
And with a whip of a slashing through air, the terrified wail was cut short, and everything went quiet.
“Zane?” said a woman’s worried voice, breaking the silence, but then she said nothing else.
Hard steps pounded on creaking wood, followed by the clanging of metal against concrete.
“I’m sick of this fucking shit.”
“Only a few more tonight,” a different female said.
“Go get the next ones, and let’s get tonight fucking over with.”
His deep voice filtered down the hall, carrying the words with an undertone of power that almost rattled my bones upon their utterance. I was having a hard time imagining being in front of him, withstanding the power that I was sure emanated from him.
He was Zane Thornton. Born in the Middle Ages. A renowned knight. Turned by another vampire older than he was by a millennium. Zane was spoken of in varying degrees of reverence or disdain, dependent on the crowd and their experiences with him through the ages. I’d heard stories about him over the years, some I’d taken with a grain of salt, but I was reconsidering my earlier sentiments.
I’d never had any reason to approach him before. I handle my own shit. However, I had no other choice but to face him during the event. That was my last resort, after being shot down by the Twin Ravens Motorcycle Club. From what I’d gathered, they seemed like good guys at heart, or at least the type to take down a rogue club in their area. But it appeared that what I’d heard was wrong. Either that, or they didn’t see what Armand had done as worthy of their time.
Vampires had come to The Decrees to have their disagreements settled, similar to a human courtroom, but that wasn’t why I was there. I had no one to bring before him to accuse. Instead, I needed his assistance, and I hoped I would be able to urge him to my side and live to see another night. I was counting on the tales I’d heard of his chivalrous nature, sense of justice, and overall levelheadedness being true and for him to come to the conclusion I needed him to.
As the death cries of whoever had been struck down faded from my senses, I steeled myself.
Across from where I sat, a man’s head jerked up, as footsteps echoed down the hall, approaching the door behind which we waited to be seen. As one after another had left to meet their fate, he’d become more agitated at the utter destruction only yards from us. We had no idea who’d been killed or who had successfully pled their case. Once they walked through the door to the other side, all we knew were the chilling things we overheard.
“My God! He’s killed another one!” he shrieked, jumping to his feet.
“Yeah. Sounds like it,” I said, looking around the sparsely furnished room, as I stretched my legs out in front of me, projecting a nonchalant air I didn’t feel inside. “He doesn’t mess around.”
The guy shifted on his feet and plunged his fingers through his hair, pulling a few out.
The clicks of heels grew louder, as they came closer, but then they ceased.
“Why’d she stop? What’s going on? What are they planning?”
The guy needed to calm down, or his time in front of the judge would not end well. His state of agitation was escalating, and from where I sat, he looked like he was on the verge of a full-scale panic attack, or worse.
“I gotta get outta here! I gotta get outta here!” he screeched.
Running to the doors, he grasped the handle and then jerked back, with smoking hands.
“They silvered the doors! Why would they do that, lock us in? He intends to kill us all! Mark my words! There will be no justice here! I never should’ve come!”
Seeing I had no other alternative except to try to allay his delirium, I stood, raising my hands in front of me.
“No, that’s not it at all.” I took a step towards him. “Think back. The email said that the handles would be coated in silver. Whoever got here first would check in and then come inside to wait. That’s what the keycards that we got in the mail were for. Once we run it through the electronic lock, it registers the code and allows entry. The other party goes to the corresponding room to wait to be called. The setup for the plaintiff and defendant are the same. The intent is to keep them separated prior to the trial to avoid fights. The silver is just a deterrent.”
“I don’t remember that!”
“Why should I?”
“Because I’m not a liar, and you’re not thinking straight. Sit down and concentrate on what you’re going to say about your case.”
Just then, the door swung inward, and the redhead walked inside, as she had so many times during the night.
“Hi! It’s me again, Jen. I’m looking for—”
Before I could react, he flew at her, fangs descended and claws slashing out in front of him.
Quicker still, she flipped her metal clipboard over and whipped it through the air with a downward slant, using it like a makeshift blade. His head dropped to the floor, completely severed, and his body followed, crumpling to ash. The edges of her board had to have been ground razor sharp in order to do the damage it did.
No silver was needed to kill him.
With a glance to me, she walked to the desk at the far end of the room, set the clipboard down, and smoothed her hands over her clothes. Once she was satisfied with her state of dress, she gave me a onceover with eyes squinted to slits.
“Am I going to have trouble with you, too?”
“No. I have to get the judge’s good favor.”
“Good. You’ll need that attitude in there for sure.” She looked in disgust at her papers on the floor that were splattered with blood. “Well, that’s great. My whole listing’s gone to shit, and I don’t have a printer here to make a new one. Another thing I’ll have to do tonight.” She picked them up and then swiveled back to me, taking the pen from behind her ear. “And you are...?”
She nodded, as she marked through a line on the paper that I assumed was my name.
“Yeah, you’re the last one tonight.” The body of ash caved in, throwing up a cloud ahead of me. “At least, now you are.”
“Where the fuck are they?” Zane shouted, as we remained fixed on each other.
“Jen!” said a female voice.
Another woman ran into the room, her dark eyes landing first on the redhead, then on the remains on the floor, and lastly, on me. She let out a menacing hiss and flipped around to fully face where I stood, prepared to take me on.
Hoping to lessen the level of hostility, I looked down, taking a stance of submission, showing I was not a threat.
“It wasn’t him, Tina. He’s okay.”
“Then, let’s go.”
“So impatient!” Jen said with a laugh at her friend, and then she directed her words to me. They were flat and stern, and she spoke them as she raised her instrument of decapitation, making sure I saw it. “Go through the door and then stop until we join you. Follow each direction I give you, and you’ll survive to present your case.”
“Yes, I will.”
With a wave of her hand towards the exit, she said, “Go.”
As I stepped past the women, into the doorway, I asked, “What should I call him?”
“Death, if you’re not obedient and respectful.”