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"Think of this as a chance at revenge," Sweeney said.
What a moronically quaint idea.
This jumped up little shit had come into my home, interrupted my retirement and here he was talking to me about revenge, as if he knew the first thing about what I’d seen, what I’d been through, why I’d quit.
Looking into his eyes, I knew he didn’t understand. I knew he couldn’t.
I've been hunting vampires for most of my life. I've killed more of them than I can count. But Clementine Di Cesare was no ordinary vampire. Hell, none of the Di Cesares were ordinary vampires, but even among them Clementine was… unique. She was the one all the others quietly feared. The one who was even spoken of with reverence by the Di Cesares masters, those twin Immortals who could not be killed by any weapon of this world. Seeking revenge against her was like seeking revenge against death itself.
“Revenge?” I repeated, with a dismissive scoff.
“You’re really going to tell me that after what she put you through, you don’t want revenge?” Sweeney asked.
“If you knew what she did to me, you’d know why I don’t want revenge,” I replied.
“Really? Sorry Franklin, but I don’t buy that. Look, I get it if you’re reluctant to jump back into the fight. I do. You of all people know just how dangerous the Di Cesare’s are. Especially ‘La Morte’.”
I looked over at him as he said that name. It rolled off his tongue so irreverently. To him, it was just a name. An alias assigned to some vampire he’s only heard of stories. He didn’t utter it with the respect it deserved, and I almost couldn’t be bothered to correct him. Any words spent on this small minded glory hound were probably wasted.
“Yes, I do know.”
“Which is why I need you,” Sweeney said. He almost sounded as if he were pleading with me. “Think of this as an opportunity to set things right… to put that vampire bitch in the ground where she belongs, and save God only knows how many lives in the process!”
He just didn’t get it.
“Mark my words, Mr. Sweeney, if you chase after Clementine Di Cesare, you’ll end far more lives than you save. She didn’t get a name like ‘La Morte’ for nothing. She earned it. Purchased it with the blood of the tens of thousands she’s sent screaming into the maw of Hell. She is not something you chase, Sweeney.”
“She’s a vampire,” Sweeney said dismissively. “She’s another enemy to destroy.”
“That’s what George Bundy said,” I replied. “Then not too long after, he died.”
“I’m not George Bundy,” Sweeney said.
“No. You sure as hell ain’t,” I agreed, before looking the kid in the eye.
He thought he was an up and comer, climbing the ranks of the Brethren. He probably thought of himself as some sort of badass vampire hunter too, when in reality he could never have so much as dreamed of holding a candle to the likes of Bundy… or hell, any of the men who’d died in Brazil.
“You should watch your tone with me,” Sweeney warned.
“Or you’ll do what?” I asked, “You ain’t going to frighten me with vague threats, boy. I’ve walked through Hell, trying to kill the Devil. What have you done?”
Sweeney bit his lip but didn’t respond.
“There’s nothing you can say or do that will intimidate me,” I said, before lighting myself a cigarette. I stared at the road outside of my porch, old memories flooding back to me before looking over at Sweeney again. He sat in his chair beside me like a sulky child. This was the man who wanted to destroy the Di Cesare family? Pathetic.
“Exactly how much do you know about the Brazil Job?” I asked.
“I know it was a failure. Clementine Di Cesare killed most of the men the Brethren sent out… all except for you. You were the only one good enough to beat her.”
“Good enough…” I repeated with a huff, “Hardly… whatever picture you’ve got in your head of some glorified battle, throw it away. Trust me, the Brazil Job was anything but glorious. It was a two hour long trek through Hell. And I didn’t beat Di Cesare at the end of it. I survived her. They’re two different things entirely.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Sweeney said.
“You wouldn’t, would you?” I sighed and took another drag on my cigarette.
This kid wasn’t going to leave until I made him understand… so I told him my story. I told him everything even though I knew he’d learn nothing from it.
I’d joined up with the Brethren Knights of St. Fontaine back in the 1980s to hunt monsters. Back then, it seemed like the best use of my skills. I’d done my tours with the army, but even after I got out, I was still looking for an enemy to fight. So naturally, once I found out that vampires were real, I set my sights on them. It seemed like the most sensible thing to do at the time.
The Brethren Knights fancied themselves the descendants of the Knights Templar, and they insisted that their God given mission was to protect mankind from the things that lurked in the shadows. I didn’t really have much love for God at the time, but if the Bretheren were the ones fighting the monsters, then I was happy to tolerate the Jesus freaks in their ranks.
It was 1988 when we first heard whispers of the Imperium. A supposed cabal of vampires, trying to get them organized. At the time, it’d seemed too crazy to be true. Vampires generally went their own way, in my experience. At most, they might have a partner but other than they they didn’t really socialize with their own kind. But supposedly someone out there had the big fucking balls to keep them in line, and whoever they were, they scared the shit out of the Brethren.
They’d started targeting high profile vampires, trying to find someone who was involved in this ‘Imperium’, hoping that maybe they might get someone to talk. And it wasn’t long until they found someone who did.
From my understanding, the vampire they captured didn’t seem to know much about who was actually running the show. But they knew who their second in command was… and that was when I first head about the Di Cesare family.
The name was familiar to some of the higher ups in the Brethren, and I’d heard some stories. Not sure which were true, but the long and short of it was that the Di Cesare’s and the Brethren shared a bloody history, and didn’t particularly like each other too much.
George Bundy explained it to me like this at one point: ‘The Di Cesare’s are an old family. Most of them used to be witches, up until their Matriarch turned them into vampires. Now they’re a whole new kind of nasty. Far as I know, the only time anyone’s actually managed to kill one was about 200 years ago. Anyone who’s tried since has ended up dead, so most folks don’t even bother anymore.’
I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising they’d be involved in the Imperium, but the mere mention of their name ruffled some feathers higher up on the chain of command, and eventually they put out a kill order on them. Most of the Di Cesare’s were generally pretty hard to track down, but the top brass had a pretty good line on their matriarch, Bianca Di Cesare. Supposedly, she’d been spotted near the family’s private estate in Brazil and rumor had it that most of her daughters were there too.
Normally, the brass wouldn’t have sanctioned any kind of attack on them. The Di Cesare’s were already considered off limits, and attacking them at their private estate was considered damn near impossible. The estate was located in a small mining town outside of Manaus called Refugio de Julia, or just Julia for short. The town was fairly remote, being only accessible from a few backroads and most folks tended to avoid it, claiming they’d had various strange encounters in the area. Their accounts described unsettling pale figures with dark hair and large green eyes working in the mines, although some of the more disturbing stories we heard involved sightings of other creatures in the jungle surrounding the town. Massive spiders with humanoid faces, tending rotting corpses filled with stinging bees, giant howling beasts who tore through the forest, hunting prey, and beautiful women who would appear in the nearby towns, betwitching men into coming away with them only to reveal themselves as monsters who fed on the blood of their victims. Some had even claimed the Di Cesares themselves were such beasts… although those claims weren’t taken quite as seriously.
A skeptic might say the stories that surrounded Julia seemed like little more than just local superstition… but the Brethren had been dealing with the supernatural for long enough to recognize when something was probably real, and when it was probably fake and they knew damn well that most of the stories about Julia were probably true. None of them had ever dared set foot in Julia to find out for sure, since doing so would probably be suicide, but the theory was that the Di Cesares had created Julia as something of a refuge for other creatures. Other vampires, werewolves, arachne, karah and all sorts of other hellspawn. They offered them a home and safety in exchange for their labor in the mines. Hell, the name of the town more or less spelled it out.
Refugio de Julia
Julia had been the name of the only member of the Di Cesare family that the Brethren had ever killed, so I guess it was only fitting they named the town after her.
I honestly think using other creatures like them as a workforce was a bit inspired… since it made Julia damn near impenetrable. Reaching their estate at the far side of the town would have been impossible without being noticed by every creature of hell living in that town, and odds are they’d tear anyone apart long before they even reached the gates of the Di Cesare estate. And if one had the bright idea to approach the estate from another angle, they’d be trudging through miles and miles of rainforest to do so, only end up face to face with a massive stone wall that kept the rainforest out.
In effect - the Di Cesare estate was a fortress. Getting in would be no easy feat, to say nothing of confronting the vampires within. But with the fear of the Imperium gnawing at the back of their minds, the Brethren had finally set their minds to trying.
George Bundy had been the one in charge of planning the operation out.
I’d known Bundy before I’d joined up with the Brethren. Hell, Bundy was the whole reason I’d joined the Brethren. He’d been my CO a number of years back, and he’d earned his reputation as a hardass just about ten or twenty times over. Bundy was a gruff looking man with a bushy moustache and intense eyes. During the years I knew him, I don’t believe I ever once saw him so much as crack a smile. He only ever seemed to speak when he felt there was something he needed to say. Otherwise, he was usually dead silent.
He was somewhere in his late fifties back in 88. By all rights, he ought to have retired years ago. But he refused.
“I’m a soldier,” He said, when I asked him about it once. “That’s all I am. I don’t know what else to be.”
Bundy’s initial plan had been to hit the Di Cesare estate from the air. Come in fast and loud with a couple of helicopters and see how those vampires stood up to some good old American flak. The idea got shot down pretty quickly, so to speak. Apperantly, most if not all of the Di Cesares had cursed their own bodies, causing whatever wound one inflicted on them to appear on whoever it was who had wounded them. Going in guns blazing would have ended in a bloodbath… and not for them. There were also some concerns about drawing attention from Julia. With no conclusive data on just what they had living in that town, there was no guarantee we’d be safe in the air. A few eyewitnesses had described seeing giant nests in some of the trees in the jungle, supposedly consistent with the nests made by harpies.
Flying in guns blazing was out. So Bundy went back to the drawing board and what he came back with… well, it was ballsy, but it almost seemed like it just might work. During his reconnisance of the Di Cesare’s estate, he’d noticed a large but shallow tributary flowing into the amazon river that led right through the Di Cesare’s estate. Along the tributary was an abandoned water mill, that connected to the Di Cesare estate.
He’d suggested using the water mill to gain entry to the grounds, and from there, move on the Di Cesare’s. That plan had been approved, and Bundy had been allowed to handpick his team for the operation. He’d chosen fifteen men, all of them ex military, most of them having served under him before.
He’d told us we would be dividing into three teams of five men each. We would leave Manaus by boat, and land at three different areas near the tributary before making our way to the mill on foot, where we would regroup, before moving on the Di Cesares. The reason for the division was to ensure that if any of our teams ran into trouble upon making ground, the entire operation wouldn’t be compromised.
Team 1, led by Bundy himself would depart first and land to the west of the tributary. Team 2, led by a man named Ferdinand Hernandez would make land about fifteen minutes later near the mouth of the tributary and Team 3, to be led by me would land fifteen minutes later to the east.
On the day of the operation, I sat in my boat, watching as the other two left. It was twilight when we set out, and I remember that as my team and I carried out our final checks on our equipment, the only thing I felt was a familiar anticipation.
I’d hesitate to call it fear. Fear is what came later. Anticipation is the better word. I knew we could be walking into a tough situation… but I trusted Bundy. I trusted he’d run a smooth op. God knew, he’d done it a thousand times before.
The team assigned to me wasn’t anything particularly special. They were competent enough, but none of them would’ve been my first choices. Jack McMullen, for instance, who was about the same age as I was at the time. We’d both served under Bundy before, although while I respected Bundy, Jack was wholly devoted to him. I swear, if the man had told him to stuff a live grenade up his ass, Jack would’ve done it without a moments hesitation. I dunno if Jack simply saw him as the father he’d never had or what, but he damn near worshipped Bundy.
I can’t quite say the same for the other guys we had with us, though. One of them, some greenhorn by the name of Pearce Wilson struck me as an airheaded pretty boy who’d never actually had his boots on the ground before, while the other one, Scott Barber had left a bad taste in my mouth last time we’d worked together. Barber was capable… but he was violent. This was a kid with a hell of a chip on his shoulder, and it looked a hell of a lot like that Confederate flag patch he wore on his jacket. He wanted an excuse to shoot something, and I don’t think he cared what. Under most circumstances I’m not sure I would’ve fully trusted him with a gun.
The last one though, Joseph Feng… him I trusted. Feng was the one I knew the least about, and he didn’t seem much for conversation. But he handled himself competently enough and seemed to know when to sit down and shut up.
When Team 2’s boat was far enough away, we got the radio signal to follow. Barber was the one steering the boat, so I gave him the order to cast off and we ventured out into the twilight, unaware of just what was waiting for us out there.
We landed in our designated area fifteen minutes after Team 2 confirmed they’d touched down at theirs. Our landing was fairly uneventful. Feng, Barber, and I secured the boat before we radio’d Bundy to let him know we were in position. After that, it was just a matter of making it to the tributary.
As we ventured into the jungle, the world around us was quiet. There was wind, the whisper of the river behind us, and the sounds of animals. But little else. The river fell away behind us as we moved in single file toward the tributary, maintaining radio silence as we did.
It was about a half hour before we heard the gunshot.
Just one, echoing through the twilight. But it was enough to give us pause.
“The fuck was that?” I heard Barber ask. Immediately, the kid was on high alert, with his gun raised as if he were expecting every monster in Julia to come charging at us from all angles.
I just listened, waiting to hear if there was anything else. I half expected my radio to come to life, but it didn’t.
“Team 1, status?” I asked.
The radio crackled with static, but there was no response.
I tried it again, but still with no success. The radio was working, that much I was sure of. Something had to be blocking the signal.
“What’s going on?” Feng asked.
“Dunno,” I replied. “Comms are down.”
“Down?” Wilson asked, “So we’re flying blind out here, then?”
“More or less,” I replied.
“What do we do? Do we go back… if the comms are down…”
“Just because something’s jamming our signal doesn’t mean we’re made,” I said. “Relax. We keep moving for now. You keep your eyes wide open, and your head on a swivel. We’ll make it to the tributary and see if we can’t meet up with the other teams.”
I could tell Wilson wasn’t a fan of my answer, but I didn’t much care. We had a job to do, and I aimed to do it.
I pressed on without a further word and the others followed. Up ahead, I could hear the sound of running water and picked up the pace. I figured the tributary had to be close… and I was right.
I emerged from the brush into the stream, only to pause when I saw what was waiting for us in the water.
In the dying sunlight, it was impossible to mistake the bodies sprawled out on the rocks as anything else… and all I needed to do was look at their uniforms to know they were our people.
“Jesus…” I heard Wilson say under his breath. He froze up, lingering by the bank as I cautiously approached one of the bodies.
It belonged to a somewhat heavyset man with a thin mustache who I recognized as Hernandez. His eyes were still open, although lifeless and staring in different directions, and there was a clean hole in his forehead where a bullet had ended his life. The gunshot we’d heard earlier had likely been the sound of his death.
Looking at the bodies around him, I knew they had to be the rest of Team 2… although it was a little harder pinning down their cause of death. Some sort of bladed weapon, perhaps, judging by the state of them. I realized the odds were that they walked into some sort of ambush.
“What about Bundy and Team 1?” Jack asked, “Any sign of them?”
“No,” I said. “These bodies are all from Team 2… Bundy could still be ahead of us.”
“Then we need to keep going!”
Jack turned, heading up the stream and Barber was right behind him. Feng paused for a moment, thinking this over before following. Only Wilson remained.
“How do we know we’re not walking into a trap?” He asked.
“We’ll deal with that when we get to it,” I said before moving to follow the others.
“With all due respect, Sarge… that doesn’t sound like the best course of action!” Wilson argued, finally following me. “It sounds just like a good way to get killed!”
“Yeah?” I asked, “I’m gonna tell you an ugly truth, kid. That’s the job. Make your peace with it, and it’ll go a lot easier.”
Wilson didn’t like that answer either and trailed off behind me, watching as I continued upstream. For a moment, I half expected him to go back to the boat… but no. I dunno if he found his balls or just didn’t want to get left behind, but he started to follow us again.
I kept trying to raise Team 1 on the radio while we walked, although I still had no luck. The light above us slowly faded into darkness as we trudged through the water in silence, guns sitting comfortably in our hands and mosquitos biting at our necks.
It wasn’t until we lost Feng that I heard anybody so much as make a sound, and when we lost Feng… it happened almost instantaneously. One minute, he was at the head of the group, walking just ahead of Jack and I. The next, he was gone, only barely having the time to let out a scream as he fell into the river ahead of us.
The rest of us paused. Jack seemed to freeze and I pushed past him, calling out for Feng as I did. As punishment for my compassion, I almost went down after him. I only barely stopped myself from stepping on the slippery rocks that had helped send him to his demise.
I could see Feng’s body in the water, and I could see the blood pouring out of him. He twitched a few times, but I knew he was dead. The sharpened wooden spikes jutting out of him confirmed as much.
“What the hell…” Jack said under his breath, staring at Feng’s corpse in disbelief. “That’s a fucking spike trap!”
It was indeed a fucking spike trap.
I could see other spikes jutting out of the water ahead of us, just past a small dam of rocks that were just slippery enough to make it difficult to stop yourself from falling. Some of those spikes had other bodies on them… likely members of Team 1. I only counted two, although that still didn’t exactly bode well.
“They put a fucking spike trap in the goddamn stream…” Jack said, “Who the hell does that?”
“Somebody who’s expecting us to use the stream,” I replied.
“So they know we’re coming?” Barber asked.
“Clearly…” I replied. “And they’ve got a good idea on what our route is too.”
“Yeah, no shit!” Barber snapped. “Christ… let’s get the fuck out of here. There’s probably more fucking traps upstream!”
“Bundy’s orders were clear!” Jack argued.
“Bundy’s probably dead by now!” Barber replied, before looking at me. “Sarge, come on. You have to know this is suicide!”
“Suicide was part of the job description, was it not?” I asked.
“The job is to kill those fucking vampires, not to die in the goddamn process! We need to get out of the stream and into the woods!”
“Judging by the fate Team 2 met, I’m not sure the forest is someplace we want to be right now,” I replied.
“Excuse me?” Barber asked, “What the hell are you talking about, Sarge?”
“Five men dead, but only one gunshot. How did the rest die?”
Barber didn’t seem to be able to answer that.
“By now… yes. It’s clear we’ve walked into a trap. And yes, I understand that it makes sense to try and leave that trap… but I don’t know if we’ll be safer in the jungle. Something jumped Team 2. Cut them apart, and then shot Hernandez as a warning. They didn’t have to shoot him. They did it so we’d hear.”
“Your point being?” Barber asked.
“I don’t think this is just a trap, Barber. It’s a game. Stop playing, and you might just end up like our friends downstream.”
“A game?” Wilson asked, “Sarge, you can’t be serious!”
“From where I’m standing, we have a better chance of surviving in the stream,” I said. “Look, we’re at least halfway to the rendezvous point, and there have to be at least two members of Team 1 left. The safest thing to do right now is to follow them.”
“You’re off your fucking rocker, Sarge,” Barber spat, locking his eyes with mine. For a moment, I thought the boy was going to try and fight me. But no. He was wise enough to stand down.
“If you wanna get yourself killed, go right the fuck ahead. Just leave me out of it! Wilson, come on,” Barber said before trudging over to the edge of the stream. Wilson didn’t even hesitate, just looking back at Jack and I quietly before he disappeared into the forest with Barber.
“You’re not gonna stop them?” Jack asked.
“No,” I replied. “God willing, there’s a chance that pigheaded asshole is right… dunno how much of a chance, but a chance.”
“Then how come we’re not following him?” Jack asked.
“There’s also a chance he’s wrong.”
I turned, before making my way around the spike trap.
“Keep a slower pace,” I said. “Watch for traps.”
Jack hesitated for a moment, but he followed me without any further questions and we walked in silence for a little longer.
We heard nothing from the trees. Nothing that told us about the fate of Barber and Wilson. I wasn’t sure if that was good news or not.
In fact, I don’t think we heard a thing until about a half hour later, when we heard the explosion.
It came out of almost nowhere, but ahead of us I could see a flash of light and hear the screams of men. On instinct, I found myself picking up the pace and could hear Jack behind me. In the low light, I saw a shape float past me in the stream. It took me a moment to realize that it was a severed human arm.
In the water ahead of us, I could see a figure clinging to one of the rocks and trying to pick himself up. I recognized him as George Bundy.
Jack was at his side almost immediately, trying to help the old man to his feet.
“Sir! Are you alright?”
Bundy just wheezed, before his legs gave out from under him. I helped Jack drag him to the shore so he could sit and rest for a moment.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, looking back at the stream.
“Grenade trap… I think…” Bundy panted, “Fucking tripwire… Popkov tripped it, I think…”
Popkov… odds are he was one of the two mangled corpses lying in the river a few feet away from us. It seemed they’d taken the brunt of the explosion, although Bundy still had some shrapnel in his arm that Jack was tending to.
“Christ… whole fucking ops gone to shit…” Bundy spat. “Team 2 got taken out just about as soon as they landed. Someone killed them and dumped them in the goddamn river. Lost half my boys to the fucking spike trap and half to this…”
He looked up at us, before spitting onto the ground.
“Guess you two haven’t done much better.”
“Hard to say,” I replied. “Two of ours took off into the woods, trying to avoid the traps.”
“Then they’re dead,” Bundy replied. “I’ve seen her watching us… always just up ahead, always from a distance… she’s seeing how far we’ll go. How much we’ll take…”
“She?” I asked.
“La Morte. Should’ve figured she’d be the one to greet us.”
“La Morte?” I asked.
“It’s Italian. Supposedly, she earned that name around the time the Di Cesares fled Venice. It’s funny, the Brethren like to act like the Di Cesares leaving Venice was some big victory of theirs, since before they did, they finally killed one of them… hard to call it a victory though, considering how many corpses they made before they fled. And most of them came from La Morte…”
Bundy winced in pain as Jack bandaged his arm before he continued talking.
“See… when the Di Cesare’s left Venice, one of them stayed behind. Clementine, the Scorpio sister. Guess she was unwilling to leave the fight unfinished… and according to the stories, the death toll she personally amassed in the years after the Di Cesare’s left Venice make the bodies they claimed during the Venetian Massacre a hundred and fifty years prior look like a pittance. The Brethren still occupying the city started to call her La Morte. Death. Cuz wherever she went, death followed in her wake… and it seems we’ve walked right into her open arms, haven’t we, boys?”
“You’re sure it’s her?” I asked.
“She’s a Di Cesare… and the shit we’ve seen out here… I don’t see any other Di Cesare setting those traps. It’s her. I’m sure of it. She’s watching us. Seeing how far we’ll go. Seeing if we’ll turn tail…”
“Should we?” Jack asked, and Bundy finally seemed to acknowledge him.
“Excuse me?” He asked.
“Should we? Look, sir… I’d follow you into the mouth of Hell, but right now, we’re down from fifteen men to three. Can’t say I’m optimistic about our chances right now. If this woman is half as bad as you’re saying she is, maybe it’s time we took a step back!”
Jack looked at me, hoping I might back him up, but I remained silent.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Bundy asked.
“What I’m hearing here, is that as of right now, the vampire out there could kill us at any time. She hasn’t. Far as I’m concerned, that’s mercy. Maybe we should be taking it while it’s offered.”
Bundy stared at him, before chuckling. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen him laugh.
“Just walk away, then?” He asked.
“Walk away, and come back better prepared!” Jack corrected.
“Walk away,” Bundy said again. “We walk away now, and there won’t be a chance to come back better prepared. We get one shot at this. One. Failure is not an option. We go in there and we kill them or we die. End of discussion.”
“And how exactly are we even supposed to kill them?” Jack asked, “That curse they have… bullets aren’t gonna do shit, sir!”
“Yours won’t, mine will…”
Bundy pulled his pistol from his holster. I noticed some sort of pattern crudely engraved on it.
“I’ve been doing some research… studied the curse they put on themselves… and I think I’ve found a way to break it. Not sure if it’ll work yet… but we get one chance to test it.”
Jack stared at the gun, then back at Bundy.
“Sir… do you hear yourself?” He asked quietly, “You can’t be serious… right now, even with that gun we don’t stand a chance in he-”
The gunshot echoed through the forest and made me jump. Jack’s voice died in his throat as he hit the ground.
Bundy stared at him for a moment, before huffing and holstering his pistol again. He draped his coat over his shoulders, before looking over at me.
“No room for failure, Frank,” He said calmly.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I stared down at Jack’s body, my mouth hanging open slightly. When I looked back at Bundy, he was already back in the stream.
There was a tense silence between Bundy and I as I followed him along the final stretch of the tributary. He trudged on ahead, covered in sweat and straining with every step, but I could sense the quiet determination he had to see this through. Looking at him, you could’ve told me that George Bundy could wipe out the Di Cesare’s all by himself and I would have believed it in a second.
The night around us was full of sound, and each one drew my attention. I watched the forest, expecting to see some sign of La Morte watching us. But I saw nothing, except for what she wanted me to see.
“Mill’s just up ahead,” I heard Bundy say as we pressed on, although I noticed his steps faltering as he seemed to notice something in the trees above us. I stopped behind him, looking up before seeing what he saw, and when I saw it I felt my stomach turn.
I’d seen death before.
But what Di Cesare had left out for us… that was something else.
Pearce Wilson and Scott Barber weren’t dead.
But if they could have spoke, I’ve got no doubt they would have begged us to kill them. Wilsons pretty face was covered in blood and his pouty lips were parted as more trickled out of him. His curly blond hair was matted and I could see crimson there. Tree branches portruded from his ribs, while the loops of his entrails dangled out of his opened stomach. And Barber was in just about the same state, only he seemed to at least have the ability to turn his head to look at us.
I think he might have tried to speak, but the only sound he seemed to be able to make was a pained whimper.
“Jesus Christ…” I said softly.
“He had nothing to do with this,” Bundy replied. He took one last look at the two dying men hanging from the trees, before moving on.
“We should put them out of their misery, sir,” I said.
Bundy paused, before looking back at me.
“Don’t waste the ammo, Frank,” He replied. “They’re already dead.”
“Not yet they’re not!”
“Give them time. They chose to go into the woods. They can live with the consequences… for however long that lasts.”
With that, he left them. If I were a more compassionate man, I would have put them out of their misery. But no. Bundy moved on and so did I.
He approached the water mill, before examining it. It was an old building, made of stone that had long since been overgrown by moss, and sat right on the wall that separated the Di Cesares estate from the amazon. It hardly looked secure, even if the only entrance hadn’t just been an old wooden door secured with a padlock, finding a way in wouldn’t have been difficult. And it didn’t take much for Bundy to break through that door. All he needed was a couple of well placed kicks and it swung right open.
Drawing his gun, Bundy strode inside and I followed him.
“The Di Cesare’s will be in the main house,” He said. “We should find a way in through the back, try and catch them off guard. Main target should be the matriarch, Bianca. Her we should prioritize keeping alive… the rest are expendable.”
“Much as you are, I’m sure.” A voice called from deeper in the mill, and both Bundy and I froze.
I noticed movement on the floor above us, and through the shadows, I saw a tall woman watching us. She was dressed all in black, with blond hair tied back in a ponytail and the intense eyes of a soldier.
This had to be Clementine Di Cesare.
Bundy aimed his pistol at her, although she only barely seemed to notice.
“Only two of you left… I’m not sure the odds are in your favor,” The woman said. Her voice was low, calm and quiet.
“Only one way to find out,” Bundy growled.
“And only one way to walk out of this place alive,” Di Cesare countered. “You can put the gun down, turn and walk away. I won’t stop you. There’s no shame in living.”
“All the bodies you’ve left in your wake… that’s rich,” Bundy said.
“I don’t relish what I’ve done. I simply don’t know how to do anything else,” She replied. “Think about this, Bundy. Over my lifetime, there have been countless thousands who have come to kill me. All of them are dead, but I am not. Even if you could kill me… you could not kill my sisters. Not all of them. Not before they came for you.”
“Just you, would be enough…” Bundy said, before pulling the trigger.
I knew he’d hit her. I knew the bullet pierced her shoulder. But that woman… she didn’t even flinch. She simply dove out of the way before he could shoot again, taking cover and avoiding his next shot.
“Frank, upstairs!” Bundy snapped, “Flush her out!”
I went, trudging up the old wooden steps with my rifle drawn. Only to see Di Cesare vaulting over the railing and back down to the ground floor as soon as I made it up there.
Bundy shot at her again, only to miss for a second time. I saw Di Cesare’s arm move, and heard him cry out in pain. In the low light, I could see a dagger protruding from his shoulder. He stumbled back a step, leaving himself open for only a split second.
That second was all it took for Di Cesare to raise her own gun and fire just one shot.
George Bundy hit the ground without so much as a final scream. There was just a simple hole in his skull where she had shot him.
I felt my heart start to race faster. My eyes settled on Bundy’s gun, and I ran for the railing, vaulting it and dropping to the ground below with a thud. Di Cesare shot at me, and I felt the bullet tear through my leg. I reached out for the fallen gun and grabbed it before turning it on Di Cesare, only to find myself staring down the barrel of her own pistol. My finger rested on the trigger, but I didn’t have the guts to pull it.
"Kill me, and you will not see the sun tomorrow." She said, her voice still cold and calm.
“Killing you is part of the job…” I replied, but my finger still couldn’t squeeze the trigger.
“And is it worth your life?” Di Cesare asked. “You fail your mission either way.”
“And die with some goddamn honor…”
“There’s no such thing as honor. There is alive and there is dead. Choose.”
I knew what I was supposed to choose.
But my hands were shaking, as I stared into the face of death. My finger couldn’t squeeze the trigger.
The gun collapsed to the floor and Di Cesare kicked it away from me, before huffing and lowering her gun.
“Do not return,” She said softly. “Or next time, I will unleash a hell upon you that will make you beg for simple traps.”
She picked Bundy’s gun up off the ground, and then she was gone. After I finally picked myself up off the ground, I was gone too.
As I walked back along the stream… I passed the corpses of the men we’d left behind. Barber and Wilson, Jack, Feng, Hernandez, and his team. The flies were already feasting on them. Animals had already torn at them. And as I looked down at their cold corpses, I knew I had made the right choice.
I filed my report with the Brethren. Told them that Di Cesare had wiped us out, and a few months later I quietly retired. I never looked back.
“You walked away from her?” Sweeney asked in disbelief, “You had her dead to rights and you walked away from her?”
“I chose to live,” I replied. “Can’t say I regret the decision either. Because of the choice I made, I met my wife and had my kids. I’ve lived the life I had because I chose not to throw it away on some vampire.”
Sweeney just shook his head.
“You could have gotten the first confirmed kill on a Di Cesare in two centuries, and you threw it away you fucking coward! I could execute you for that!” I noticed his hand hovering over the gun on his hip.
“You could.” I replied, before quietly unholstering the pistol I kept at my side. I aimed it at Sweeney’s head.
He stared at me like a slack jawed idiot.
“Would you like to give it a try?”
“Would you like to give it a try, Mr. Sweeney? Or would you like to see the sun tomorrow?”
He stared down the barrel of my gun, and I already knew what his choice would be.
Sweeney took a step back. I saw his hand move away from his holster, and I lowered the gun with a huff.
“Thought so,” I said.
Mr. Sweeney left me without another word.
I knew he would not return.
hi guys 👋 so ive just got to the point where ive lost interest in trading for several reasons and the main one would simply be it's not the same anyone and the people i made friends with on here don't really seem to care anymore.
i wouldn't mind racking up as many credits as I can for the next few months so I can have a little extra change in my pocket for a down payment/registration etc for my new car im choosing to get 😊🚘
posted my striker sun ray set and got some alright offers but none worth selling for so my next move is to see if anyone wants to pick away at the 💩 decals ive been collecting for the past 2 years? it was actually fun to do.. got past my 900 mark. I knew I would never be able to get every single one so I didn't sweat picking them up
if interested just ask a specific cert and what decal and I'll let you know if I have it. some decals I'd prefer to sell as a "set" for example I'm missing one cert for thanatos. I just feel the should stick together lol
if you read this far sorry your loss ily guys never forget that ❤️ more random stuff coming stay tuned
As the title suggests, what would you go for with the following details? I am hyperaware that I am posting in a Hyundai subreddit :D Wondering if anyone has had similar considerations when purchasing their vehicles?
Had the 2016 Ioniq PHEV briefly and plugged that in every night. Really enjoyed driving that for the range and having a fresh 29 miles of EV every day. I was always "anti EV" (mainly because of range anxiety), then I test drove the Model 3 LR and really enjoyed the power, the minimal design, but probably need some getting used to for that tablet interface. I prefer the exterior look of the Ioniq more, just cause the Model 3 is literally everywhere where I live, but prefer the interior of the Model 3.
- Live in a climate that rarely ever drops below 40F
- Work from home on my online business
- home has solar
- Usual trips are to the grocery store, gym, and family's house, all within 10 miles radius
- will share with the lady, who would take the car to work 1-2x per week, probably around 15-mile radius
- Occasionally max ~60-mile round trip 1x / month to try new foods
- I always think we would go camping or take longer road trips to national parks and car camp (but in reality happens only once a year), or take the 2 bikes out to go bike riding
- 110V chargers in the garage, but not opposed to adding a L2 charger
- Own a '13 Subaru BRZ as my "fun" car. Mpg is not great (avg ~24mpg). I intend to keep it
- I've tried changing the oil on the 2016 Ioniq before and it was a PITA, NEVER AGAIN. I would definitely be taking that into the shop for oil changes, which is a time cost. For that reason, a pro is not having much maintenance to do for the Model 3.
- Preferred budget Ideally ~$30K or lower. Aware that the Model 3 is priced above this, but keeping in mind other costs like insurance + the $4500 federal tax credit
- relatively practical vehicle, and save on gas/money over time
- intend to keep long-term, maybe 10 years or so
- prefer to be able to fit 2 bikes (or larger equipment) occasionally
So the ultimate question is: which might you recommend?
I enjoyed test-driving them both, I know it's comparing apples and oranges a bit, that's why the $10K difference is substantial. Is the Tesla worth $10K more based on these goals/context? Or another way to reframe that question: would the $10K difference be better invested elsewhere? TIA!
THE CARS:2019 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV2019 Tesla Model 3 Long RangePrice (used)$22,000$32,000Mileage26K41KRange29 miles (EV); ~650 miles total~240-280 (310 EPA estimate)
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My ex broke up with me, but he was upset because I wanted to move out. He wanted to keep himself open for a chance with another girl, and I had already put 9 years of my entire being into the relationship. He wants to go explore and not miss out on the opportunities he feels like he missed out on because he was dating me. I stayed because I'm the only one paying the bills, and it's been tough on our landlord recently. We have enough space to separate, but he keeps trying to push on as if we are still together. He tells all his guy friends that I'm his girl. Even showed them some pictures of me that he should have deleted since breaking up with. He told the girl he's trying to talk to that I'm not his girl. He's been chasing after her our whole relationship, and I agreed with the breakup in order to give him the space he needed. He keeps going through my stuff, to the point that I had to change my passwords. Meanwhile he had already locked me out of everything.
She has made it very clear that she's not interested, but doesn't mind continuing hanging out with him knowing how bad he wants a chance with her. She thinks it's just a phase. This really bothers me, as I'm not the type to let people stay around me just hoping for a chance. He thinks hanging out with her even more is going to help him get over her. She has no idea of what we've been through, and he's lied to her on many occasions about events that happened.
She wants to hang out with me apparently, but I've already reached the point of saying fuck both of them. As in the past I've tried talking to her, but her responses were always, "well I need to hear that from him, in order to tell who's lying" I understand as he has already told her I'm only here to start drama, but it's sad that I would never have known a lot of the truth had I never thought to ask her. They were always hanging out during inappropriate hours and he wouldn't return until the morning and he even ditched plans we had on many occasions throughout the years, in order to spend time with her. We only have one car and it's interfered with my work and his kids. She doesn't know any of this. All she knows is the version he told her, which is "Oh my gf didn't want to hang out with us" when in fact I had been asking to go.
She doesn't understand that in the past he broke up with me every time they would hang out so that he wouldn't have to feel guilty if the chance landed in his lap. Those are his words to me. So now he wants full on permission. According to him she's been interested in me since she first saw me, and he kept her from me, because he wanted her all to himself. I've done nothing but support their friendship, but he doesn't do the same. Instead since I'm bi, he accuses me of trying to leave him for anyone literally. He's worried her and I will run off together as well. He thinks I'm just being difficult by not giving in, but during the entire 9 years together, I don't ever remember being truly happy. It has felt more like taking care of a child. I feel like he's just trying to use me to get closer to her romantically.
He just started cleaning up the house for me after all this time, and none of it seems genuine, as his reasonings would be " It was the least I could do since I'm going to hang out with her" . I would like to be able to hang out and be cool, but I would also like to be loved in the way that I desire to be loved. Communication isn't an issue on my end. I have consistently and calmly explained to him what bothers me, and what I need done. He'll say he understands, and then flip the script days later. Starting the argument again. I've done nothing but compromise with him and it seems to have gotten me nowhere. I'm on the verge of dropping everything and just disappearing. Should I just block them both and leave it be? He says he's compromising with me, because he's not being as flirty and active as he really wants to be. Need advice.
Any woman above like a 5.5 could go on Facebook’s dating site (not a hook up site like tinder or bumble) and only swipe right on stable looking men with middle class careers and have a couple thousand options to choose from , in almost any location in the US and have a dozen who are willing to pay their bills. So why would they choose sex work????
Men are not like women… we are far more analytical and most don’t like the chase or playing the “will she or won’t she “ game. A woman could literally, just straight up offer, “ I’ll be monogamous, you get sex 2–4 times a week, keep the house clean and run any work hour errands that need doing and you pay the bills, provide a car and a 300$ a week allowance. Let’s see if we can make it work” and the vast majority of single men would be down. Without anyone feeling the need to play a single game.
So why would that option be better that being a street prostitute??
1) Is it an mistaken fear of rejection, because even if they face a little rejection they would still have dozens of options to choose from.
2) just a legitimate desire to do street level sex work? (Doubtful in any numbers)?
3) a POS pimp who has then manipulated? (Obviously this fits some, but I’m my experience the majority are independent)?
4) They don’t want to have to play by the rules of a 9-5 or required to make a relationship work? (In my experience this is the majority, but that is anecdotal.)
5) being raised to be independent, but unable to make that work financially?
6) do to trauma is assuming the average man is predatory, when it is really just a minority, but that doesn’t totally add up considering they are putting themselves in a vulnerable place with random men more likely to be predatory than the average.
Obviously trauma and drug use is prevalent, but won’t prohibit an attractive woman from getting wifed if she is willing to work on it..
It just seems nonsensical to me be considering if I were an attractive woman it would take me zero time to land a good husband/provider.
I own a 2010 corolla that has about 170k miles on it. My budget is about 12kUSD. I'm just wondering if it's worth trading it in for this cheap car? It has 46k miles and is about 9k. I would be the fourth owner if I purchased the car. So too good to be true or just wait for prices to drop?
And can someone explain why so many car listing say zero miles? But when you check the service history it states it got serviced at 150k miles. Is that to trick people or...?