Chapter 4.

I came across one of the Hunters just across the Ponte Vecchio one bright Saturday afternoon after Velvet’s funeral. It was a hot day and the place thronged with the usual tourists all taking in the sights of old Florence. Here, as you go over the Ponte Vecchio, you’ll find all the expensive jewellery shops. Want to spend a fortune on a watch? Here’s your place! Idiots. I was aiming for a long walk along the Arno, maybe try and clear my head of the many intrusive thoughts regarding Julie. Oh, Julie! She got into me big style. And I mean Big Style! All those nights of passion and, well, not love exactly on my part but... And look what happens. Shit happens, that’s what! Anyway, I knew this dude was a Hunter from the very first eye-balling. He was tall, strong and had an air of watchfulness that makes your average cop look like a hippy on dope. He carried a bag rather like a doctor’s bag, which I guessed contained the tools of his particularly nasty trade—crucifix, stake, hammer, holy water, garlic, that kind of stuff. The usual. He also wore a long black coat, quite inappropriate for the season, under which was a V-stick. Now this is a longish rod with a cleft at the end and it is used to hold a Vampire at arm’s length by the neck. Otherwise we bite, see? Once we’re caught like that the Hunter can control much of the fight that way. All that shape-shifting stuff? The tricks we can use to escape? Well, it’s only partly true. We just can’t jump from one thing to another in a matter of moments. It depends on the season, our personal powers and the phase of the moon.

So, I see he’s spotted me and I also see that he knows I’ve clocked him back. The game’s afoot as they say. I try to pass him on the left side of the Ponte but can’t. Running water. Fuck! So I head at speed down to the Ponte Vespucchi and the long way through the back streets towards the Pitti Palace. Because there are so many jewellery shops over the Vecchio I’m a bit slowed by all the tourists milling around the area. Still, I’m much quicker than him. I’m round the Palace, down on past the restaurants on the left until I reach the Via del Campuccio—a long straight road leading to the Biblioteca Pietro Thouar. But I can take him here in the palazzo on the left. This is an old building with many antique references on the walls—helmets, shields, spears etc. Reaching it, I jump the wall of about fifteen feet just by the gates—no mean feat even for a Vampire—and then I wait. Silent. Steady. This Hunter I’ll kill quickly and with enjoyment. I hear fast footsteps suddenly halt and then the sound of the big gates being forced a little. But the Hunters are, after all, only men and so it’s necessary for him to force the locks. Good. Gives him away and me time to think and move in. The gates are finally opened with a shriek of hinges and I see him come through with no little degree of caution. This one knows the dangers alright, but he’s inexperienced. He’s clearly come for me without back up. Now usually these bastards come in twos and threes to get an advantage. But not this time. Why? Perhaps he’s trying to impress someone by a lone kill. Well, he’ll be lucky. I’m not that easy. Not me. I’ve been around far too long. Anyway, it’s better for me like it is. I hope. Now I see him more clearly. He’s about thirty five and has the look of an angel. That I speak to God directly. Bastard! I make an effort to distract him by influencing the rats that are around to scuttle about him and jump at him. He’s taken aback momentarily, but he doesn’t seem unnerved. I see him reaching for his V-stick and then something else. I’m waiting for him perched on a ledge inside the grounds near the gates and before he can even notice me I’m on him and have him by the neck. I smile at him as I increase the grip around his throat. Surprise and then fear fills his face as he had no idea I was waiting. No idea I would bring the fight to him. No. He thought I’d run. Also, he is clearly astonished by the speed of my attack and the ferocity behind it. You surprised at me? Well, fuck your surprise. I’m fighting for my very existence here. Fuck his surprise too! I lift him up about two feet and throw him back against a stone wall where he bounces to the ground. I hear his back make a ‘click’ as the force of the throw dislocates a bone somewhere. Now with one quick swing I stoop and cuff him hard across the face, then smack him hard again the other way, sending him down again. He screams out as the nails in my hand carve deep tracks into his face. His eyes have grown wide with real terror at what’s to come. Despite his prone position I see him throw something in desperation at me and then I feel a splash and a deep burning. Holy water. Bastard! I can hear the sizzling as it eats into my flesh. I can smell the acrid reaction it makes. And now I’m really pissed off. And you can take that to the bank. I can’t stand that water stuff at all. Burns like a motherfucker. I cry aloud and bring one foot down hard on his nose and break the bone into shards. Blood spurts into the air. He’s semi-conscious now and gurgling so I guess he’s out of the fight already. Roaring with rage I dive on him and plunge my fingers into his eye-sockets, gouging his eyeballs, and then I sink my fangs into his throat. I take deep draughts of his blood and finally feel him wilt like a parched plant. It’s over for him now. Another Hunter is history. Standing up I look down on him and feel nothing but loathing. Grabbing his body by the neck I swiftly throw it into the undergrowth. It will take days to be found and by then I shall be well away. Well away, back into my normal, respectable life. My problem will be explaining the burns on my face. But I’ll think of something. Vampires always do! I look for his bag, which I will also hide. Ah, there it is! I find it some feet from where he fell. Opening it I see all the trappings of a Hunter. This one even has a rosary to wrap around locks and the like to keep us from opening them. But you know, this Hunter was strange. Inexperienced and alone he still went for a kill. It didn’t make sense and so I began to wonder what shenanigans were on their way. 

In case you guys want to know, Hunters in one form or another have been around for a long time. True. Even in the States. Little more than a century ago, we Vampires stalked Rhode Island. There the New England farm families, who turned vigilante Hunters, were digging up their dead relatives who were suspected of being Vampires and then desecrating the bodies. It was a sort of misguided effort to protect themselves. Misguided because we Vampires were far too strong and far too clever. Often these Hunters cut out and burned the hearts of their loved ones. And here’s another thing for you history buffs also: this practice likely began in Eastern Europe, spreading to France and England in the 18th century. It moved Stateside to rural New England where Vampire panics became common, particularly in Rhode Island. Exhumations and staking, burning, beheading and whatever else followed were an effort to insulate the community against further harm. And often the Vampire-hunters thought themselves not disappointed. When they pried open the graves many natural signs of decay, like bloating and bleeding from various orifices, looked like evidence of midnight feasts! It makes me laugh. So, you see we’re everywhere. We’re part of your darkest fears.


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