What Are We Hunting, Tonight?

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick something from the index.
***

The streets were relatively empty, for New York anyway. Chelsea and Andy shivered in their hats and gloves in the wind off the river with only a handful of others.


They both studied the darkness between apartment buildings. The wet autumn had driven most of the denizens to warmer and drier spots. They’d paid for a hotel for the old woman they’d found here earlier in the night.


Chelsea sipped on her coffee with a grimace. “At least the rain stopped.”


He snorted a laugh. “Almost dry now. Footing will be sketchy as hell.”


More life giving warmth found its way to her belly. “How much longer do you think?”


A glance at his watch brought a shrug. “Official sunrise is in ten minutes. So any time now.”


She chugged the last of her coffee and started stretching.


Andy chuckled as he checked his weapons. “You fixing for a fight tonight?”


She froze and covered the moment by adjusting her axe. “Amber has been crying on and off since that call with Jackson.”


He rubbed at his eyes. “I see.”


“She won’t talk, though. She just cuddles Bentley and cries.”


“Is that why you left the bestest doggo home tonight?”


A chuckle relieved some of her tension. “Yeah, she needs him more than I do. And I hate when he fights monsters. I just can’t stop him from doing it.”


Shuffling from the darkness silenced both of them, but the skinny, feral cat ran away quickly when Chelsea started stretching again.


Andy put his hands in his pockets. “Have you tried talking about something other than Jackson?”
“Dinner. That’s it. She’ll talk about food.”


“At least she’s talking.” Andy sighed. “Probably doesn’t need to be said, but, like most hunters, she’s had a rough life.”


Chelsea grunted as there didn’t seem much to say to that. Instead, she focused on the darkness of the alley. Which is why she noticed the reaver a moment before Andy.


She’d hunted reavers before, with Andy, but these vampires were deadly on multiple levels. A bite would paralyze her, and if then she’d be a meal… or worse, another reaver.


She tugged on her hat, rolling it down her face and covering her neck. She adjusted the eye holes, pulled her ax, and waited. Beside her the hum of Andy’s telescoping staff announced he was also ready for the fight.


The vampire was sluggish with the sun rising as well as full from whatever it had eaten earlier. It trotted down the alley until it got to a service door.


“Motherfucker.” Andy’s breathy whisper barely penetrated her covered ears. “They’re lucky it hasn’t turned that whole building.”


They waited a few seconds before hurrying over to the door. Andy pushed it open with his staff, but the reaver was long gone.


Chelsea followed to the dank basement. The open door had let in the storm’s detritus. The puddles and leaves showed the reavers passing.


They headed past the boilers and garbage piles, weapons out and walking quiet. Andy spotted the small access panel that sat askew. He nudged it aside with his staff. The reaver slept, curled up, in the corner of the room beyond.


Andy nodded to her, and Chelsea charged. The added momentum of her few steps was nearly enough to let her decapitate the reaver. The vampire hissed and dropped, nearly flying to the door, her ax stuck in its neck.


The wet smack of Andy’s staff on the vampire’s head fell flat on her ears. The reaver, however, stumbled. Andy’s staff flashed silver as he spun it around. He slammed the end into the vampire’s forehead.
Chelsea darted over and yanked her ax from the reaver’s neck. It tried to hiss again, but the gaping wound stopped the sound.


Andy hit it in the head twice more before Chelsea could swing her ax. This time, she severed the spine. The reaver’s body rattled before it turned into dust.


Leaning on his staff, Andy pulled off his hood. “I got clean up and I’ll be by later with your cut.”


Chelsea pulled off her own hood. “Sounds good. Amber said she was making some kind of pork soup for dinner. I don’t remember the name.”


“I’ll find the proper wine, don’t worry.”


With a laugh, Chelsea headed for her car. The purple and red of sunrise had brightened to orange and gold as she headed up the stairs to Amber’s apartment.


Fresh pancakes sat on the table and Bentley sat, prim and proper, eying them by her favorite chair. Laughing, she scratched at his ears before settling down to breakfast.


Amber emerged from the bedroom in her server uniform. The black sheathe hugged ample curves and the ridiculously huge white lace collar only made it more obvious.


“Stop that.”


Chelsea laughed. “Stop what?”


“You’re as bad as Jackson with those looks.” By the end of the sentence, Amber’s face had gone pale. Like she hadn’t meant to speak out loud.


Change the subject. Something other than him.


“Have you thought about what medium you want for your picture?”


Wiping at her eyes, Amber still beamed at the pieces of paper taped to the wall. An abstract series of irregular shapes, done in black and white. “I’m thinking you need to do a fresh one, for my tattoo.”


“Tattoo?”


Amber turned the smile on Chelsea. “My whole back. Like you said.”


Tears rose in Chelsea’s eyes, and she found herself on her feet. Amber met her halfway around the table. The kisses were hot and desperate as they headed back to the bedroom.


As Chelsea tugged on the zipper at the back of the black dress, Amber giggled. “It’s a bitch.”


Chelsea tugged twice more before giggling herself. She disengaged from Amber’s greedy hands and turned the woman around. “How do you get this on by yourself?”


“With just a shit ton of aggravation.”


Laughing heartily now, Chelsea let go of the dress. “This is a sign. You have work soon.”


Amber groaned. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”


Chelsea reached up and lightly kissed those pouting, full lips. “I’ll still be here tonight.”


“I know.” Amber stepped close and pulled her tight. “Thanks for that. You… you’re just here and you don’t push me. You just let me be me. And I… thank you. Now, I have to do something.” She let go of Chelsea and headed for her purse.


Unsure, exactly, what was going on, Chelsea settled against the door frame. Amber pulled her phone out, took a deep breath, and called someone. “Hey, Kayla, it’s Amber. And I’m just letting you know that I quit, effective now. I won’t be in for my shift tonight. Have a great life. Also, these uniforms fucking suck.” She tossed the phone aside, before reaching up and pulling her dark hair out of its high ponytail. With a huge grin, she beamed over her shoulder at Chelsea. “One: get me the fuck out of this dress. Two: What are we hunting tonight?”

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