Excerpt: Death Mask
“Prez, you’re gonna want to take a look at this.” Nightingale, Sergeant in Arms of the Black Harbingers MC, called to me from the tail end of the box truck that recently arrived from the docks. The products the vehicle carried included the much-awaited shipment of LSD for the city’s elder vampires. The goods were late by one week, and I had some agitated parasites on my hands. If someone so much as fucked with the shite, they would be in a world of hurt, because I had no qualms feeding the arseholes to the bloodsuckers.
The clubhouse for the MC was a repurposed three-story library. The block had been slated for demolition after World War II to make way for a strip mall or some such. I loved the building, with its Grecian columns, marble floors, and the liberal use of dark woods. She had character, and after I greased a few palms, she became our clubhouse, our home.
On the ground floor, to the rear of the building, were two bay doors. Semis could back up to one of them, allowing people to walk into the bed without using a ramp. The second bay, vehicles drove directly onto the dock. Granted, unloading the boxes was harder, but we didn’t have to worry about prying eyes and for this shipment, we needed complete privacy.
By the tone of Night’s voice, I wouldn’t like what I’d see. One of the prospects had been sent to retrieve the truck from the docks. Not quite members of the MC, prospects were initiates working through the probationary period. Simply put, they were the club’s gofers. They did anything and everything the brothers asked of them. They guarded the bikes in public places, manned the doors at the parties, and made sure no one unauthorized entered the clubhouse. If a brother’s old lady needed to go somewhere, a prospect escorted them. The list of shitty duties was endless. At the end of the probation period, the brothers voted the prospect in or out, but until then, the prospect did what they were told, without complaint. Our newest one, Tinman, who’d picked up the box truck, stood off to the side looking concerned, but not afraid.
“The truck was where you’d said it’d be, Misery. There weren’t any problems and no one followed me,” he said, without prompting.
When I rounded the rear of the non-descript vehicle, the door was rolled up, exposing the back of the compartment, stacked with boxes. Nightingale stood with his arms crossed over his chest, his cut hidden by the muscular bulk of his arms. At one time, he’d been a Noble Fae. From which court, I’d never asked. When most preternaturals came looking to join the Black Harbingers, they left behind who they once were. The brothers only cared about the here and now, content to leave whatever hell they’d escaped in the past. We all carried secrets best left undisturbed, and we let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.
Those who didn’t know of Nightingale’s origins wouldn’t have believed he belonged to that waif-like race. He’d shed his litheness, becoming a motherfucking powerhouse of strength and muscle. Even his unnaturally-white hair, which many people assumed the poor bastard had gone gray early, didn’t soften his appearance. Most bikers didn’t have facial piercings because they stumbled into too many fistfights, but not Night. He wore a ring in the right nostril and two in his bottom lip that he fiddled with when something bothered him, like now. When he met my gaze, his green eyes were troubled. Then the scent hit me.
When I went to ask what the fuck he was waiting for, Night placed a pale finger over his lips, biding me to listen. The sound was faint, but the soft whines of some kind of dog or… Well, fuck me sideways.
“Someone find Hog and Lalios.” My request was made in a low voice, but the brothers jumped to it as if I’d yelled. Perhaps they felt my tension or they, too, scented the blood wafting from the back of the truck, now that the door had been raised.
More than one person drew a weapon. Grabbing the handrail on the side of the door, I readied to climb into the back.
“Misery,” Night called to me softly, but I ignored him.
Even if werewolves had hidden in the truck, I didn’t worry about my safety. The sound of the pitiful, tiny snarls and growls intensified when my heavy boots struck the bed. Pausing to listen, I couldn’t hear an adult voice among the pups. With the scent of blood heavier in the confines of the cabin, I surmised the parent was severely injured. A werewolf in pain was a dangerous creature, more animal than man. Blinded by the agony, instinct would take over, and he, or she, would attack first to protect their young. If that were to happen, then I was the one equipped to handle the werewolf. Sure, I could be hurt like anyone else, but I was hard to kill. Living for almost two hundred years had proven that.
Listening intently, I heard three, perhaps four distinct voices, which was surprising. Nowadays, werewolves lived longer than they did five hundred years ago. When they became the stuff of folklore, people stopped hunting them. Since they lived a more peaceful existence, the number of litters they birthed dropped off to where pups were now born singly to couples every hundred years or so. The young were precious to the packs and there being four here made my skin crawl with foreboding. The day kept getting better and better.
Grabbing a box of product, I crouched, handing it to Nightingale. Without being asked, several brothers jumped forward to help. Before Hog and Lalios hurried onto the loading dock, I’d removed several rows of merchandise, uncovering a pocket. When I withdrew a box near the ceiling, instead of another being behind it, there was only darkness. The scent of blood was stronger, sharp and metallic… and fresh.