Excerpt: City of Monsters

You know you’re in for a bad night when you wake up dangling ten stories above the ground. Somehow, the night gets worse when you realize an angry vampire is holding you by the ankle.

“Good, you’re awake,” Fang said as my eyes continued to adjust. My head ached, and I figured I’d been clobbered. Not that I could remember any of it, mind you, but that came with the territory of head injuries. “I was afraid you were gonna sleep through your death.”

“Fang, dude, let’s talk this out,” I said, hoping I didn’t sound as pathetic as I thought I did. The truth was, I bet I sounded a million times worse. “What is it you think I did?”

“You know what you did, you rat bastard.”

“Yeah…you’re gonna hafta narrow it down for me, Fang.”

He made a noise of disgust and shook his head, which I could feel in the slight tremor of his arm. “Mutt, even you can’t be this stupid.”

“I am not a mutt,” I protested, even though that was really just a guess on my part. You’d think after six months I would have known kind of were I was, but nope. I kind of didn’t want to know because, with my luck, I was something ridiculous. A worm maybe, or a dung beetle.

He sighed. It wasn’t natural for a vampire, so when they bothered to do it, they were being drama queens. “Did you forget about the wolf races?”

“No.” I quickly realized that yes, I had. “Yes.” I’d really thought Silver Streak was a shoe-in to win the third race, but then he’d had to pull up lame. Just my luck.

“You now owe Mr. Deth two grand—interest added—’cause you didn’t show up Friday to pay off the fifteen hundred, and he figured you were trying to weasel out of your debt. Is that what you are? A weasel?”

“No. I genuinely forgot.” I had. It may have been related to a self-pitying, sorrow-fueled bender, but hell if I was gonna tell him that. He didn’t need to know about my personal life. Although the saddest thing was, I’d had so many interactions with Fang that he was kind of a frenemy. Personal life wasn’t exactly out of bounds. “I’ve kinda been…sick.”

“Ya mean drunk?” he asked, his voice dripping with contempt. “I can smell the booze coming through your pores.”

“Look, can you give me a break here? My head’s killin’ me, and if you keep dangling me, I’m gonna barf. Wanna find out what I ate last?”

He made a grumpy noise and roughly deposited me back on the roof, where I flopped down like a landed fish. The sky, a weird midnight blue with dark, flesh-pink tendrils at the very edges, spun as if it were on a broken turntable—too fast and a little wobbly. When my vision cleared, Fang was standing off to one side, arms crossed over his chest, looking vaguely disgusted. The fact that he’d given in so easily confirmed my long-held suspicion about him—that he felt sorry for me. And how sad was that? I’ve always depended on the kindness of enforcers.

His name, by the way, was actually Fang. He was an Asian-American vampire, or more accurately, he used to be Asian-American before he was turned into a vampire. The Asian part was pretty obvious, but the American giveaway was his almost comically thick Minnesotan accent. The first time I heard him talk, I’d laughed, expecting him to ask me if I had a hot dish to pass, don’tcha know. He punched me into next week, and I’d never laughed at his accent anywhere near him again. It was still really funny, though, especially considering he made his living as a hired thug.

“Look, he’s extended all the credit he can,” Fang said.

“That’s bullshit and you know it. He could do more if he wanted.”

“Yeah, but why would he for you?”

That was a damn good point. I would have agreed if I weren’t concentrating on not vomiting up my digestive track. Fang looked down at me, scowling with distaste, and finally rolled his gleaming copper eyes. “I’ll see if he’s willing to have you work off the debt. But how are you at shakin’ people down?”

“Depends. Actual humans?”

“Oh, hell no.”

“Not that good, then.” Finally the sky steadied, and I got brave enough to push myself up to my knees. Took a bit longer than it should have.

“Has anyone told you that even for a weird were, you’re kinda lame?”

“Don’t you start, Fang. I’m humiliated enough as it is.” I sat on the cool crystal roof and tried to mentally will myself into feeling better. It wasn’t working. Spirit wine was a fucking bitch. Brilliant when you had it, but later you understood why they gave it the name—it haunted you like a cursed graveyard. Also, it made you feel undead. In a bad way.

“I’ll talk to Deth. Don’t leave town. If you do, you’ll be sorry,” Fang said before stepping off the edge of the roof. He couldn’t fly—vampires couldn’t do that—but they were pretty indestructible, like most of the undead, and Fang’s legs weren’t natural. Oh, maybe they had been once, but his boss, Deth, had arranged for his number one enforcer to get legs made of that nigh-invulnerable black crystal stuff the bug people used for their buildings. I couldn’t pronounce their name for it, and frankly I didn’t care to ’cause I wasn’t insectoid and it didn’t really matter. All I knew was, if you made Fang mad, he could easily kick a hole through titanium-plated steel. When he landed, he left two foot-shaped indents in the ground below.

“Where the hell would I go?” I shouted after him. Did he hear me? Didn’t matter. It was a rhetorical question anyways.

Still, at least he’d given me an out. Kind of. How pathetic did you have to be for a legless enforcer to feel sorry for you? I guess I’d just answered that question.

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