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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2017 Jessica Marting



ISBN: 978-1-77339-383-4


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: Melissa Hosack



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



DEDICATION


For David, again.


DARK MOON


The Searchers, 2


Jessica Marting


Copyright © 2017


Prologue


4 May 1889

Dresden, Germany

Dear Edgar,

You might find this unbelievable, but I’m bringing back a friend with me to New York. His name is Max Sterling and I expect you to be nice to him. Also, please ask Frank and Beth to be ready for his arrival. He will be sharing my room. Please do not be scandalized. (Ha! As if anyone in the Burgess family could possibly be scandalized!) I’ve already sent them a letter telling them we will be arriving at the New York City Airfield on the 30th of May on the Carl Friedrich Gauss. It will be arriving at six in the evening. Please be there to collect us. I am sure you and the New York branch of the Searchers received my cables and letters about the “problems” I discovered whilst in Europe (whilst! Max’s high English ways are rubbing off on me!). Max and I have taken care of a great deal of those problems and are enjoying a peaceful stay in Dresden right now. He is very excited to meet you and our family once we reach New York. Edgar, for the first time in my life, I am in love. We saved each other’s lives. I will tell you all about it when we come home.

Also, I received your cable about the disappearance of Molly McKillip. I’m so sorry to hear of that, Edgar, I know how special she was to you. We will talk about her further once Max and I land in America.

Much love to you always,

Your irritating sister, Ada


Chapter One


It was incredibly satisfying to come across a den of sleeping vampires. It made Edgar Burgess’s job that much easier, and, frankly, staking them while sleeping was much safer. The bloodsucking persuasion was strong enough to slow down even the most determined monster hunter, and Edgar could swear they were getting smarter, too.

Or maybe Edgar was getting dumber. His brother and sister had suggested that a few times. It was a possibility Edgar didn’t want to think about too much.

He expertly staked the vampire curled on its side, slumbering on the cellar’s dirt floor. The crumbling tenement the vampire nest had taken up in had been abandoned after a fire ripped through its upper floors in the summer of 1886, nearly three years’ prior.

The cellar was filthy enough that Edgar could leave behind the greasy piles of ash they disintegrated into after staking. Maybe he was wrong about vampires getting smarter; intelligent monsters picked out better hiding places. The curled-up vampire gave a final gurgle in its sleep before crumbling into dust, leaving only its clothes behind. Edgar nudged the dirty garments out of the ash, and with his gloved hand, picked them up and flung them into a corner with the rest of the vampires’ clothing. He’d already staked a female and two males, with one more of the latter to go.

Edgar swung his lantern over the cellar, finding the last vampire sprawled on top of a battered, oversized steamer trunk that could probably double as a coffin. A smart vampire would have slept inside the trunk, Edgar thought. He raised his stake and mallet and plunged it into the monster’s chest, spraying oily ash all over the trunk and himself.

“Damn,” he muttered. It was difficult getting vampire remains out of one’s overcoat, even if it was already a dark color.

He pushed the vampire’s clothing off the trunk, coughing at the ash whirling in the air. “Damn again,” he said. “That must have been an older one.” Undead beings tended to be dustier with age once they were finally killed for good.

His head had stopped aching once the vampires were dead, and he couldn’t sense any more left in the derelict building. Of course, that didn’t mean there weren’t any more out there. There were; New York had a moderate-sized infestation problem at the moment. But the daytime meant Edgar could slip out of the cellar to the street, where Brooklyn was already waking up, and return home. He could rest for a few hours, then pick up some work at the Coney Island Airfield. They always needed some extra help with its construction, and he would be glad to receive the money. He’d been spending these last two weeks hunting vampires as much as possible.

But a scratching sound from the inside of the steamer trunk had him turning back to it. Was a cat trapped in there?

He rapped on the trunk’s top, vampire ashes falling to the scarred lid. “Meow?” he said, then immediately felt like an idiot.

The scratching turned into a rapid pounding against the lid, followed by a muffled but very human yelp. “Is someone there? Let me out! Please!”

Could it be…? Edgar’s pulse sped up at the possibility.

“Shit!” He knew whoever was in there wasn’t a vampire; they all passed out at dawn, a compulsion none could disobey. He fumbled with the latches on the trunk and found it locked. “Just a minute.”

“Please help me!” The voice was female, familiar to him, and now started to sob softly.

Or he could be imagining that familiarity out of desperation and guilt.

Edgar snapped off the lock with his stake and mallet and flipped open the lid. A blonde head popped up, and he stepped back in surprise and relief as he recognized the trunk’s occupant. “Molly! My God!”

She had lost weight since he saw her last, her hair was matted, and dried blood was crusted to her dirty dress and exposed skin. There was a lot of it, considering how shredded her clothing was. But it was Molly McKillip, recently disappeared young widow, and his neighbor.

She greedily sucked in deep breaths of stale-tasting air before her gaze fixated on Edgar’s face. Shock spread across her features. “Edgar?” she whispered. Her eyes were wide and frightened.

It really was her. Molly McKillip had been missing for just over two weeks, and Edgar had refused to believe she could be dead. “Molly,” he said, reaching for her, but she shrank back, eyeing the mallet and stake in his hands.

Molly McKillip wouldn’t have known about the existence of vampires before she ended up in this abandoned tenement cellar, let alone that her next-door neighbor was a vampire hunter.

Molly licked her dry, cracked lips. “Are you one of them, Ed?” Her voice was soft, but Edgar heard the tremor of fear in it.

He laid down his stake and mallet, holding up his hands in mock-surrender. “No. I kill them.”

She looked around the cellar. “Where are they?”

Edgar nodded his head in the direction of the pile of ash and garments. “Over there. I staked them when the sun came up.”

“So it’s morning?”

He nodded.

“Did you come to save me?”

Yes! he wanted to shout. I’ve been looking for you in every nest for weeks, my kill rate is the highest of the Searchers’ New York branch, maybe even the entire East, and I’m doing this because I love you more than I could ever tell you and it was my fault you were kidnapped!

But he didn’t. Instead, he replied simply, “Yes.” He held out his hands. “Let me help you out of there.”

“Did you kill Agate, too?”

Edgar dropped his hands and looked at the pile of clothes in the corner. “I don’t know. I staked five today. I don’t look for identifying information before staking them.”

“So that’s what those sounds were.” She shuddered. A wooden stake slammed into a vampire’s heart made a very distinctive, wet sound, reminiscent of the noises made by meat being butchered. Edgar was used to it.

“Agate always wore a black overcoat, even though it’s getting warmer,” she said. Her eyes took on a faraway look as she recalled his appearance.

“Molly, a lot of vampires wear black. I think they think it adds to the effect.”

“He has light hair, almost white,” she said. “He went, um, naked quite a bit, too. Did you kill him?”

Her eyes were hopeful, and Edgar hated to break her heart. He would have remembered a white-haired, naked vampire, and there were none in his list of kills this morning. “I don’t think so,” he said. Her face fell, and a tear slid down one grimy cheek. He stripped off his dirty gloves and shoved them in pants pocket, holding his hands out to her again. “Let me help you up.”

Her face was wary and eyes glassy, and she hesitated for a second before letting him lift her out of the steamer trunk. She was lighter than she should be, as delicate as a bird.

She swayed on her feet, and Edgar steadied her. “Do you think you can walk?” he asked.


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