Chapter 1: Steps Toward (first half)

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The full moon rode high in a murky mauve by the time Jared Stern turned his steps toward a subway station, on the evening a star-crossed meeting would turn his world upside down.

Confined between the closeness of the muggy air and the pressure of the dinner helpings he'd been too polite to refuse, his pace was slow. But it being a Friday, he was in no hurry to get home, and the longer he walked the shorter the stay in the sweltering subway below. Tonight, however, he'd strayed from his usual course, plodding beneath the starless sky, fingers tugging at his scratchy cuffs and collar, mind dipping in and out of idle fantasy.

The story shifting through his head was born of the workday's most outrageous article—a piece on a homeless man who'd claimed to have seen a vampire attack—played out against the backdrop of the latest detective novel he'd been reading. Nothing like prowling Manhattan at night to help hard-boiled fictions along, and shadowy scenes had accompanied him since he'd set out. A murder had been staged behind a window high above, tense conversations performed on the same crowded sidewalks he'd been jostled down, a chase begun inside a cab that had squealed past him, a private eye placed beneath the glare of a neon sign as he'd walked by. By the time the noise and bustle of Midtown had faded to the darker streets of Hudson Yards, his actors were in position for the climax.

...she takes a drag from her cigarette and goes on, her tone as loaded as a souse on a Friday night. "I'm afraid you'll find, Mr. Starr, that my firm bleeds its clients dry."

The moonlight filtering through the blinds catches on her pointed smile.

"You don't have to tell me, darling," I sigh. "I'm well aware the lot of you are vampires."

"Ahh," Miss Moon replies, her smile widening into an upended picket fence, "but I don't think you are."

Her coworkers appear, creeping over cubicles and outta adjacent rooms onto the walls.

I break out my stake gun. "I was afraid it'd come to this."

"Well, well, a hunter? Looks like we were the the dark."

"I don't care if you've all pledged your souls to Satan," I say. "That's a personal choice. But punning? That's a public offense!"

They dive at me, and I open fire. We battle across the office floor. I skewer 'em left and right, but I'm running outta ammo. One of 'em clocks my head, and I reel, ears ringing like it's time for dinner. Just not mine. She appears in front of me, all teeth. I raise the gun, about to stick it to the broad once and for all, when outta the darkness above one pounces on me. The horde overpowers me, pinning me to the ground.

"Disarm him. No-no-no-stop!" Miss Moon touches a pale hand to her brow. "You have no idea what it's like working with these idiots."

"It must be murder," I pant.


Jared paused. Something had distracted him from his reverie. At first, he thought it was the scent of salt on the air. It was so easy to forget, gridlocked in the smoggy streets, that New York was a port city.

But no, that hadn't been it. There had been a sound, distinct amid the usual rumble of traffic.

A cry.

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