Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I turned.  Across the street.  Cosgrove.  He laughed so softly no one else heard him.  No one but me.  He smiled and waved me on.

Then he ran.

I chased him down the rain-slicked darkened streets.  We ran past the office supply store.  Past one side of Fenway Park where the Red Sox played baseball, sometimes badly.  Our feet made no noise as we skirted broken beer bottles, used condoms, and an odd syringe. Cosgrove seemed to skip away from me with ease but he always stayed just close enough to tease me.  I hated him all the more for that. After all, he'd just fed and the vital energy coursing through his system made him stronger than me at the time.

But he'd killed a friend of mine and I was hoping my wrath would sustain me even when the last drop of Simbik's vitality was burned in the furnace of Cosgrove's dementia.

We spilled onto Brookline Avenue down near the old Sears building that had been renovated years back and turned into a big retail shopping center with a cinema and more.

Cosgrove turned and smiled at me through the darkness, then he streaked towards the building, leapt and crashed through a window two stories up.

I didn't follow.

One of Cosgrove's specialties was ambushes.  He was a downright sneaky bastard and before I'd known any better, I had had the pleasure of first-hand experience.  I didn't like repeating mistakes so I made my entrance on the ground level near an emergency exit.

It was dark outside.

Inside the building, it was an absolute abyss.  A dank black hole void of light and, thanks to Cosgrove, it was absolutely awash in unspeakable evil.

And sound.

Primarily high-pitched squeaks.

I've never liked rats.  And at that moment, I was in the giant Port Authority of rat-dom.

They squealed and squeaked as I waded through their numbers.  Sweat ran down every inch of my body as they searched for exposed bits of skin to nibble.  Their coarse skin brushed against me as they swirled in undulating waves of mammalian pestilence against my jeans.  One of them got caught in the cuff of my jeans and tried to run up my leg but failed and tumbled back out into his brethren.

It was all I could do not to retch and pass out.

I finally made it up the stairs to the first level, shaking and kicking off the last of my furry passengers.  It took me a minute of solid heaving to catch my breath.  Finally, I started climbing the steps again.  Slowly.

A voice dripped down from high above.

"If memory serves me correctly, Lawson, you hate rats.  You must be in agony right now."

The bastard wasn't far off the mark, but I shoved on.  I was determined to finish that business there, that night.  If not to spare any more innocent lives, then only to avenge Simbik.  He may not have ever realized what I was, or maybe he did, but he was a friend all the same.  Now he was dead.  Murdered at the hands of a man I should have killed a long time ago.  If I hadn't failed back then, Simbik would still be alive.

I stopped on the fifth floor.  The stairs went no higher.  In the darkness my vision let me see as clearly as a cat, but nothing stirred amid the old pipes and exposed girders.

No Cosgrove.

I scoured the entire floor and only on my second go-around did I notice the door that read "roof."  Without hesitating, I opened it and went up.

At the top, an open door creaked as the night breezes caused it to sway back and forth.  I timed my arrival to when the door was at its greatest aperture and stepped on to the roof.

Boston's skyline sparkled all around me and the neon Citgo sign in Kenmore Square burned like a sun in the darkness casting shadows even in the blackness of night.

Cosgrove was there.

And he chose not to hide.

"Age is slowing you down, Lawson."

He stood at the edge of the roof, draped in expensive black silks that rippled like muscles in the breezes swirling around us.  I felt like a peasant in my jeans and turtleneck compared to the luxury of the finery Cosgrove bathed his body in.

He turned, facing the city.  "Time was you would have followed me through that second floor window without a moment's hesitation.  Now, you amble up steps like a man with no more spirit."

"Time was I believed in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, too.  Look where those got me."  I looked around.  "Last time I followed you head-on, I almost lost my life."

He laughed. "You speak like a human, always have.  You're a vampire. Seems to me you've always had a problem accepting that. You even have human friends."

"'Had' might be a better word for it, thanks to you."

He turned then, and it seemed as though he was somewhat surprised by that last remark.  Then it dawned on him.  "My, my he was your friend? How utterly delicious!  You must be awfully sore with me right now,eh?"

"Actually, I'm just here because I enjoy the profound pleasure of your company."

He let that pass and smiled, teeth gleaming in the night air. "Admit it, Lawson, you want to kill me so badly every ounce of your being is obsessed by it."

"You're just another job, Cosgrove."

"Rubbish!  I've never been just a job to you. You might be able to carry that cavalier attitude off with some of your other sanctions. But this is me."  He smiled again.  "And we do go so far back.  Our delicious history still inspires me to this day."

"You're wrong.  You're just another termination handed down by the Council."

"To hell with the Council!  Nothing but a pathetic group of weaklings. They've kept our people hidden like rats, always in the shadows, feeding off the scraps of this world.  We are a noble race.  We're entitled to more.  If they were strong we would rule this world on our terms instead of merely existing in the background!  We would own the planet!"

"And there'd be no Balance and chaos would erupt."  I sighed.  "We'd be destroyed."

"Not if it were handled properly.  By the right man."

"And, of course, that'd be you, right?"

He nodded casting his arms out as if he's about to hug the world. "Yes.  I am the chosen one.  It's true.  I know exactly what to do." He cocked his head to one side.  "Do you know what it's like to be born a messiah but have no way of realizing your potential?  It's like you can see everything that needs to be done, but these silly laws - these pathetic anachronisms - keep you from accomplishing anything. And your dreams, your hopes for the people you've been chosen to lead, they shrivel up and crumple like so much dust in the wind."

"Sounds tragic."

"It's gut-wrenching.  Believe me.  I know."  He shook his head.  "And you know what the worst part is?"

"I'm sure you'll tell me."

"The worst part is knowing that you're right.  That your cause is like a holy crusade to right the wrongs, to reverse the injustices wrought by so much arrogance.  And yet, everywhere you turn, you're accused of being insane, off your rocker, a nut job.  You're persecuted for your ambition."  He looked at me.  "Even hunted."

Meet Lawson, a cynical, wise-cracking vampire charged with protecting the Balance - the secret existence of a race of LIVING vampires that have evolved alongside humanity for thousands of years.  He's a Fixer: part-spy, and part-commando -- Jason Bourne with fangs. Lawson mixes shrewd cunning with unmatched lethality to get his job done.  There's just one problem - his oldest enemy Cosgrove is back. The last time they tangled, Cosgrove butchered ten people.

Now he's back in Boston and the Council wants him dead. But Cosgrove has other plans, including killing one of Lawson's friends. Then there's Talya, an ex-KGB assassin with secrets of her own and the skills to match Lawson, who wants revenge on Cosgrove even as the psychopath continues killing and threatens to unleash an ancient unholy evil upon the entire city. Can Lawson stop Cosgrove and still adhere to the very laws he protects by not falling in love with a beautiful human assassin?

Jon F. Merz is the author of over 40 novels (including the bestselling Lawson Vampire supernatural espionage series) ranging from urban fantasy to espionage and sword & sorcery fantasy.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer Jon served in the United States Air Force, protected a variety of Fortune 500 executives, and taught defensive tactics to government agencies like the State Department, Bureau of Prisons, and others. He is an active CrossFitter, a 5th degree black belt in Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu, enjoys doing GORUCK challenges.

In 2014 started modeling and acting, most recently starring as Alfred P. Sloan in THE CARS THAT MADE AMERICA on the History Channel. He lives each and every day by the motto, "Who Dares Lives."

Twitter: @jonfmerz