Chapter 1

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"I am here to kill everything I see!"

The madman roared his oath as he dragged the carbine from a dingy-brown gig bag, yanking back on the charging handle. The crowds gathered there on that wet suburban Saturday began to scatter, or to hide, or to simply stay there frozen in terror, as Ralph Stevens started jerking the trigger, sending several rounds toward the assembled masses, thankfully missing the people as bullets shattered windows or pockmarked the fake-marble tiling. Ralph had hoped to bring fear and terror, and he had brought that in spades. Those who could run did, and those who couldn't were surely condemned to die a death they did not deserve, a death they never saw coming that day.

And there our hero was, walking up to the guy as though he were going to ask him on a date. Not that he would have actually asked the guy out, as he didn't really swing that way. Besides, loud, angry, violent men wouldn't have been his first choice even if he were that way. His ex-wife was angry enough for him, thank you very much. What I'm trying to say is that he walked up to the guy casually, confidently, with no fear of death at all. Not of his death, certainly. Death was now a moot point for him.

So, how did he get here? Why was he walking right up to an armed madman, unarmed and completely void of fear? After all, fear dominated his life—up until now. But now, everything had changed for him.

Of course, I'm leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Perhaps we should start at the beginning. After all, that's where everything starts—the beginning. But even before that, I should probably introduce you to our hero: His name is Scott Campbell. And he is a vampire.

***

We cannot start this story without introducing you to a guy named Jack. Tall, dark, and creepy. Chiseled good looks and flowing, long black hair in a fitted black jacket and slacks and a long leather coat overtop all that. Jack is really into black, but then, most vampires are. That's right—Jack is also a vampire and, in fact, is Scott Campbell's sire. If you weren't sure, a sire is the vampire who turns you into another vampire. After all, you have to catch it from somewhere.

Now, you're probably asking yourself the same questions Scott himself did for a long time: Why Scott? Of all the people Jack could have forcibly converted into undead monsters, why did he choose Scott Douglas Campbell, middle-aged slacker and humble nobody? And how did he choose him? You know, the whole vetting process for accepting a candidate for vampirism (and yes, there is a vetting process for this, but more on that later) was a big mystery for Scott, especially considering he didn't know such things were even possible. Scott probably wouldn't have qualified anyway, if he were processed through legitimate means. (Legitimate, at least as far as vampires go. I know, the two concepts together—legitimacy and vampires—are probably causing you a slight case of cognitive dissonance. Oh well.)

The simple fact is that Scott Campbell was chosen. He was set up for conversion into the world of the vampire by someone at his place of work. Scott is an IT clerk at a small liberal-arts college in Portland, Oregon. The guy who set Scott up, who set Jack on his trail, also works there but is not exactly a coworker.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon (no, really, it was—this is Portland, after all) when Jack strolled into the lecture hall at Simeon College. The class had just adjourned, and students were leaving the arena-like facility, packing books and laptops into already overly burdened backpacks as they scattered out into the night. The man at the lectern was a chubby, jovial-looking older fellow with a full white beard and mustache and black-framed spectacles. The guy looked like Santa Claus—in fact, many of his students called him Professor Santa. He always had a smile on his chubby face and a welcoming and open demeanor, which further endeared him to his students. However, he was not tolerant of failure and would verbally brutalize anyone who annoyed him or challenged his world views—always with that smile and those chubby cheeks. Professor Robert Malheur looked up from his lecture notes at the strange, handsome man who was walking down the steps of the hall toward the lectern as everyone else exited.

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