Prologue - Victoria's Capture

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Hector studied the memo carefully, as he had several times that night. The job had seemed simple enough. One vampire, only turned a few weeks ago with no real combat experience. Strange then that Mr. Royle had asked for him personally. Normally he wouldn't bother with a case as trivial as this, but this one had captured his interest. Not least because he'd been offered twice his usual fee.

Hector Grange was the leading vampiric bounty hunter, tasked with dealing with the vampires too mentally unstable to integrate secretly into human society. Very few ended in assassination; most of his targets ended up in the Asylum. He stared at the rifle in his hands, the chambers containing nothing but ordinary copper shells with a thin lead coating. Hector had understood the order to bring Victoria in alive, but he'd still have liked some form of defense if she got hostile.

He'd been preparing for this moment for weeks, constantly scanning the human newspapers for the telltale signs of an emotional vampire. Sure enough, in the space of a week in one town there had been three gas leaks, and an incident with a shark at the local aquarium. To the untrained human eyes these events were unlinked and just dismissed as bad luck, but to Hector they were a trail of breadcrumbs to follow.

This particular gingerbread house was... not what he had been expecting, to say the least. He knew that Victoria had been Kier Royle's sister before an undisclosed family dispute had estranged her, so he'd expected her to live in a certain level of comfort. A dingy block of flats was not his interpretation of accommodation for a princess. But this was definitely where she'd be; he'd triangulated the incidents several times to make sure.

He looked at the floor plan at the reception desk to try and establish which floor she was hiding on. He reasoned that her connections to people of influence would make the "lavish" penthouse too obvious a hideout, while the bottom floor wouldn't give enough warning if someone came looking. And so it was onto the second floor corridor that he exited the elevator, his rifle held warily in front of him. It took him a few steps before he became aware of music playing faintly. He closed his eyes to focus on locating the sound.

It seemed to be coming from a few doors down the hall; heavy metal guitars by the sound of it. The music got louder and louder as he neared the door, and yet when he stopped the music did too. Hector froze, waiting for an ambush. Nothing. He stayed still for a couple more seconds before kicking the door off its hinges and pointing his rifle inside.

His first impression was that he'd entered the wrong room. Sitting on the carpet in the centre was a black-haired girl who looked no more than 17 years old, the remote for a hi-fi in her hands. She hadn't even acknowledged the new arrival; she was too transfixed by her surroundings. Covering every inch of three of the four walls were photographs and paintings of a teenaged boy with long, typical "emo kid" style dyed hair. Was this boy a member of a band? Was this girl just another obsessive fangirl? His eyes scanned the walls until one picture caught his eye. The boy was wearing a tuxedo, and the girl was beside him wearing a peach-coloured dress and the widest smile Hector had ever seen...

Suddenly it all slipped into place. The boy wasn't just some teenage crush. He was Victoria's husband. He glanced over at the girl again, noting that she was still shaking her head to the music... The music which hadn't been playing since before he'd even entered the room... Hector leapt back sharply, as if receiving an electric shock. Because now he realised why Kier Royle had offered him so much money. He began to wish he'd asked for more.

Victoria wasn't dancing. She was sobbing. Tearless tremors of emotion were coursing through her body. All the pictures on the walls. The music. It all made perfect sense now. Victoria's husband must have died recently, and she was still grieving. That made her unpredictable, and more dangerous than any vampire he'd ever faced. All he could do was pray that she didn't notice him... Her eyes snapped open and she turned around sharply.

"Who the hell are you?" she snarled.

"My name is Hector Grange, Miss Royle."

"Mrs. Mrs Royle." she muttered quietly. "Just because I'm a..." Her voice broke as the weight of the word hit her. "...a widow, doesn't mean my marital title changes."

"Sorry, Mrs Royle. I'm here to.."

"I know EXACTLY who you are and why you're here. You find vampires who are suffering genuine emotional trauma, and instead of talking to them and getting them help, you lock them up and throw away the key. And get paid an obscene amount of money to do so by all accounts. May I?" She asked, gesturing to the gun in Hector's hands. He nodded, still paralysed with fear. She ran her fingers delicately over it.

"Not bad. Hardly a Winchester, but that goes without saying." She opened it up. "Normal rounds. So you're under strict orders to bring me in alive. If killing me was an option there'd be at least one diamond bullet in there. All you've got is a little bit of lead coating on the bullets to burn me if I resist too much."

Her eyes narrowed. "My brother set you up to this. He's the only one sentimental enough to leave me alive. Well I'm done playing by his rules. He killed my Ashley." She stepped over to the one plain wall and turned so she was facing away from it. "Ashley died so that Kier and his selfish whore of a wife could stay together! He didn't stop to think about what it'd do to me, why would he? He's got his happy little family, what does it matter to him if his grieving sister is left to rot in the Asylum? As long as I'm alive he'll never be affected by what he did..." Without warning Victoria shoved the rifle into her mouth, and before Hector could stop her she pulled the trigger, staining the white wallpaper behind her a deep crimson. Hector stared dumbfounded in shock at Victoria's corpse, an expression that turned to horror as she slowly stood up again.

"Seriously?" She yelled. "I just blew my own brains out, and it STILL didn't kill me?" She turned to stare at the gore-spattered wall behind her. "I mean look at that! That's literally half my head on the wall! There's no way anyone could survive that, and yet..." She froze, then whispered quietly to herself. "It's healing, I can feel it. I put a bullet through my brain, and it's just closing over like a papercut..."

Hector took advantage of Victoria's distraction to make his escape. Destroying the brain was supposed to be one of the only three ways to kill a vampire, and she'd just shrugged it off like a minor inconvenience. He hated to admit it, but this was beyond even him.

For the first time in weeks, Victoria smiled. Because in destroying her brain, she'd opened her mind. She was starting to see things she could never have even dreamt of before. Her plan to kill herself and destroy Kier in the process seemed so small in comparison to the masterpiece laid before her.

"First stop: The Asylum..." she giggled to herself.

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