The deadBryce Menard had never failed before. The Fringe—his brother vampires who had joined together over a hundred years ago to police their own kind—wouldn’t take kindly to him doing so now. Their numbers were small; each had to do his part. No one believed or supported that more than Bryce.
He would jam the ceremonial blade of disgrace in his own heart if he failed.
But it was too early to start planning his own death. He had only been tracking the Zombie Maker for three months, having taken over from one of his brothers who had failed.
And Bryce had a lead.
Feet shuffled to his left. He sank back against the side of the building and disappeared into the shadows.
A human boy, no more than sixteen, shambled past. His gait was no different than that of a thousand other apathetic teens, but his scent—stench to Bryce’s vampire nose—was pure rot. A zombie.
He had been turned—Bryce inhaled—but recently.
He waited another two minutes for the boy to be within easy reach, then sprang from the darkness and grabbed the walking corpse by the neck. His fingers pressing into the boy’s throat, his face against his ear, he whispered, “What are you worth to your maker?”
Lexi Thompson hurried down the quickly darkening street. Mitchell was a block ahead of her now. She couldn’t lose him, couldn’t stand the thought of her student becoming another victim of the drug epidemic that was claiming her brother.
She knew what Mitchell’s shuffling steps, the flat deadness of his eyes and the undeniable odor of his breath meant. He, like Tony, was addicted.
She didn’t care what they termed it; she wouldn’t lose a student to it. If the police wouldn’t take her calls seriously, she would take care of things on her own. They might be able to ignore her pleas to help one strung-out kid. But if she had the name, even the face, of the dealer to give them, how could they ignore that? They couldn’t. She’d make sure of it.
Determined and convinced she was doing the right thing, the only thing she could, she stepped out of her heels and left them lying forgotten on the sidewalk. They were only slowing her down. Then, ignoring the cold concrete beneath her bare feet, she hurried her steps.
Her sacrifice paid off. Another ten feet and she caught sight of Mitchell again. She let out a tension-filled breath, but she was only allowed that one tiny moment of relief before a new anxiety wrapped around her.
A man jumped from the shadows and grabbed the teen around his neck. Strung out as he was, Mitchell didn’t struggle. He stood in the man’s grip defenseless…lifeless.
A memory of her brother lying pale and near death on his bed, a needle protruding from one arm, flashed through Lexi’s mind and crowded out everything else, every sense of personal danger she had ever held.
She raced forward and threw herself on the man’s back.