Bring Him Back, Jack – Holly Day

Chapter 1 Malik glanced out the window. He’d suspected the sun was shining, and he’d been right. He hadn’t seen daylight in over a week, but the twittering of the birds he’d heard through the basement walls had him guessing on a sunny day. “I’ll assign you to Snow.” Joy spread in Malik’s chest. But he was careful not to show it. “You’ve been with me a long time, and I know you’re not as stupid as you let on.” Malik stared at Master with a blank face. None of them were stupid, and if they were, it was because they never got the chance to explore the world, not because they were less intelligent than humans. They were stronger, faster, and bigger. A different species and yet alike. “Snow is a danger to us.” Malik’s senses went on high alert. Snow was not a danger. He was the worst agent they had, which was part of why Malik loved him—not that he’d ever let anyone know.

Humans believed vampires incapable of emotional connections, a belief they worked hard to maintain. For now, they controlled them through withheld food, chains, and the little device attached to their chests ready to shoot a stake the size of a chopstick through their hearts at the push of a button. The chopstick was made of plastic, so they didn’t die, but they were paralyzed should their handler trigger it. Should it have been made of ash wood—and Malik knew of those who had theirs replaced to ash—you were screwed. “Jack! Are you listening?” “Yes, Master.” His name wasn’t Jack, none of them were named Jack, but it was what Master called all the males. The females he called Mary. Like Jack, it’s one of the most common names among humans, and Master didn’t want them to be special in any way or form—so no individual names. They didn’t even get a unique number as many other masters used for their vampires. “The mission is real. He’s to retrieve the necklace from Lord Zelly, and I don’t know of anyone more fitting for the job. But you never let him out of your sight, understand?” Malik nodded. “You bring him back, Jack.” He nodded again. He was cannon fodder.

His job was to die in Snow’s place when on a mission. It was Snow deciding where he should go and when it was time to head back. He had no say in any of it. When it came to Snow, he’d voluntarily take a bullet to save Snow’s life, but not for any of the other agents. He’d do it because it was his job and the punishment if he didn’t would be far worse than the bullet itself, but Snow…He’d gladly die for Snow. The only time he didn’t resent humans was when he was with Snow. Snow called him Jack, but Malik suspected it was because he’d never told him his real name. He forgot the device triggering the plastic stake when they were out. The chain protocol demanded they’d have them on at all times when out of the basement. Snow fought against them. Every time. He couldn’t remove them. There was a spell keeping them in place. There were nails inside the cuffs going through his wrists, keeping them on at all times. The chain was magically enhanced so it couldn’t be broken.

Malik had been on a mission with Snow once when he had tried to take them off. He’d taken Malik to the weirdest place where there had been smoke and candles and stuff, and Snow had paid a woman with pink hair to remove the chains. It hadn’t worked, so she had taken off the cuffs instead. It might have been the moment Malik had fallen in love with him. Not because he’d removed the cuffs, though it was nice to be out of them for a couple of hours, but because of how Snow had cursed when he’d realized the spikes went through Malik’s wrists. It had taken minutes to heal the wounds and even longer after they’d gone back in again, but Snow’s constant ranting about sick motherfuckers and how Master one day would pay made up for some of the pain. “When he brings you to the basement, you attack.” Malik didn’t move a muscle. “Do you understand me, Jack?” Malik didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure he did. “In about fifteen minutes, Snow arrives. You’re to wear this.” Master fastened a round metal thing to the pocket of his ratty shirt. “I’ll bring him down to the cages, and we’ll bring you out to go with him on the mission.” Snow never picked Malik.

He always asked for a female, despite having to know they hardly ever were allowed to leave the cages. Their main purpose was to produce new vampires. Females were rare and too valuable to be bodyguards. When Master denied Snow a female, he huffed and rolled his eyes. Then he’d pick Cassius, who hadn’t been outside the cage in years. He was old and starved since he didn’t get any missions and therefore only got the minimum portion of blood to keep him alive. Torture for long and faithful service. When master refused to give him Cassius, he’d point in Malik’s direction and say, “What about that one then?” Master would agree, and then Snow would introduce himself and ask if they ever had been on a mission before. Malik didn’t know if it was a game or if Snow truly didn’t recognize him. They all had their heads shaved every morning—not only the stubble on their cheeks, but the hair on the top of their heads as well. Malik guessed they all had similar features since they were of the same family line, so maybe Snow didn’t recognize him. It hurt to think Snow didn’t when Malik wanted to make him his for the rest of their lives. A vampire could live for several hundred years, and their mates lived for as long as they did. These days most vampires didn’t get to be as old, and they were careful not to let the humans know they could prolong their lives by mating with them. “Are you clear on what to do?” Master’s voice cut through his thoughts, and he wanted to shake his head.

“We do the mission, and I kill him.” “No!” The blow came so fast Malik staggered backward, not having been prepared enough to brace for the impact. “You’re to capture and secure him and hand him over to Wenior, who’ll be waiting. I’ll officially brand you a traitor so my other agents won’t suspect I’m involved, but I won’t punish you further, and I’ll make sure you get plenty of food and easy assignments for the rest of the year.” Unease curled in Malik’s gut. Being branded a traitor could make the rest of his life a lot harder. “Who’s Wenior?” “You’ll see him. He’s a wizard or sorcerer or whatever he calls himself, but you don’t need to know who he is to do your job.” Malik feared he’d be sick. He didn’t fear pain, though having red-hot metal pressed against his skin when they branded him, and then having the wound sealed with salt wasn’t anything he was looking forward to, but what would happen to Snow? Since Master had told Malik as much as he had, he must trust no one would believe Malik if he spoke—no one ever listened to vampires, but still. “Hurry down to the cages now. He’ll be here any minute.” Chapter 2 Ivan Snow strolled into the spacious lobby—though maybe it wasn’t called a lobby when it was an old brick row house like this. He had nothing against the house, it was lovely, but he had something against Remington Redwood, the owner of the house. It all started a tragic night two years ago.

Remington called him an agent, but he wasn’t. He committed crimes to pay off his debt. Raina, Ivan’s beloved sister, had made a bet. A bet! She’d run into Remington at a bar, had a lifetime of drinks too many, and had made a bet. She didn’t remember the details, but it had something to do with her being able to get past his security—she couldn’t—and steal a vampire from him. She had one killed. Though strangely enough, the vampire had been killed on a floor she hadn’t been on. Ivan was sure Remington had killed the vampire himself or had a guard do it, and then he’d gotten Raina to sign a deal where she promised she’d work off the debt. Vampires were expensive, but not as expensive as Remington had claimed, and Raina was many things, but a successful thief she was not. Ivan had renegotiated the deal. He would work off the debt—with interest, of course. The debt should have been paid off already, but Remington always fiddled with the numbers. After this job, he’d be free. It made him suspicious as to why he’d been summoned in a hurry. Ivan did other things when demanded, but his main job was being a cat burglar, and when you were a cat burglar, you needed time to prepare.

This hit was supposed to happen today, so Remington either planned to kill him or have him caught. “Snow!” Remington came walking toward him, smiling and clapping his hands the way old people did when delighted over something. Remington was neither old nor delighted, but he worked hard to perfect his upper-class creepiness, so Ivan wasn’t surprised. “Likewise, old chap. I woke this morning and thought to myself: Why not make this the day I do my final job for Remington Redwood.” The way Remington’s eyes widened for the slightest of moments told Ivan he was right. Remington planned for this to be the final job, one way or another. “What do we have?” “The queen’s diamond is in town, and I have an eager buyer.” Ivan suspected the queen had many diamonds. “The queen is here?” It was unlikely. “No.” Remington jerked as if Ivan had said the most outlandish thing. “Lord Zelly is here with his wife and thirty of his closest guards.” Vampires. Ivan allowed a mental sigh.

He could melt into almost any environment— literally—but vampires were awesome creatures. Magnificent. They were fast and strong, had a better sense of smell than humans, could see in the dark, and were damn hard to fool. He could fool them into thinking he was a clueless, ignorant human, but fooling their senses wasn’t as easy.


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Updated: 15 September 2021 — 03:18

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