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At the End of Existence
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-395-6
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 198 Pages
Published: October 2006

Total Readers: 2

From inside the flap

When investigator Ashton Wilkes walks into a burglary sting turned to the bizarre, he never thinks that the perpetrators might take revenge. But when he finds his house invaded, his family brutally murdered, and his son stolen from him by the thieves that were more than thieves, he finds himself enmeshed in a world in which life means little and only the strongest survive.

His lust for revenge against the vampires leads him into the hands of a cult with a devilish leader. He turns all his passion to the eradication of these monsters, until he meets a beautiful, fiery woman who puts a traitorous question in his mind.

What truly defines monstrosity?

At the End of Existence (Excerpt)

Chapter One

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The tiny crumbs on the pristine blue uniform were brushed away hastily. Ashton Wilkes was, after all, proud of his uniform-and what it represented. One crumb remained, mockingly persistent. A slight frown creased his forehead into even horizontal lines. Flicking the crumb off, he tossed the cracker package into the trash can by his side. Darkness tinged the tile with the eerie blue glow of a full moon. He leaned against gray wallpaper lining the spaces between shops in Oakview Mall.

Looking down at his security guardís uniform, he sighed, ruminating on his stomach. At least he?d kept his shape after all those years, though many of his peers hadn?t. The shiny buttons of his uniform winked in the moonlight. He quickly dabbed a thumb over their surfaces, dulling them with the oil of his skin. It wouldn?t do to flash an alert to those he laid in wait for.

He worked as part of an investigative team, its purpose to expose whomever was behind several break-ins and robberies that had occurred over the past few nights. He?d been instructed to call for help if all else failed, alerting his fellow investigators that the thieves were there. At the crime scenes, traces of marijuana and cocaine had also been found, so it was more than just robberies the police were interested in.

It had been a real conundrum?how the thieves had gotten past the security features in the mall. Its alarms and doors were top rate, the latest technology. No fingerprints had been lifted, no trace evidence left behind, only the sad remnants of broken jewelry cases and glass shards crunching under oneís boots. Ashton sighed and shifted his weight, blond hair falling over green eyes. His mind and gaze wandered, traveling over the silent hulks of window displays and scattered signs. Mannequins stared back with their cold plastic eyes.

Clad only in miniskirts, translucent shirts and leg warmers of appallingly noxious colors, their forms were sheathed in clothing that no sensible person would put together. With perfect, toothpick bodies, they reminded him of the haunting images of Holocaust victims in the last stages of their terrible tragedy, staring with mournful, empty expressions. Tiny stuffed animals looked out on the world with beady black eyes from the glass front of a toy store, shut behind metal bars like toys gone bad.

He could hear, far up in the rafters, the sounds of birds settling their wings and chirping sleepily. He felt like joining them in slumber, for dawn hunted only five hours away. He clicked on his flashlight, sleek and black-handled, and shone it at his boots in boredom. His ears were always alert, though at times parts of his mind wandered.

He snapped out of his reverie at the faint, ringing clash of glass breaking. He stood up and clicked off his flashlight, threading his awareness through the oppressive silence for further sounds. There was nothing, but across the way he spotted a few dark shapes moving. Somehow the alarm had been averted. The bars drawn across the shop front...bent? Surely it couldn?t be, although with appropriate tools it wasn?t impossible. Such equipment, though, was rarely found, owned by only the most dedicated professional thieves.

His stomach fluttered in excitement as he stalked carefully toward the shop being ransacked. He could make out three vague shapes, and one other inside the shop. They didn?t have lights; the brief illumination of moonlight was now fading behind a cloud. The mall plunged into darkness.

"Wait," one said, his voice reverberating in the large space. Ashton drew his gun out of the holster with an audible click, and a soft hiss issued from the thieves. He knew the squad was behind him, but palms slicked with sweat, brain racing inside his skull, he also felt very conscious of the fact that these thieves could end him.

"Humans?" a voice lisped in a poorly concealed attempt at quiet. He caught sight of golden hair in long waves.

"Just one."

Their speech puzzled him, but he was far too focused to ponder it for long. He slinked forward, pressing the button on his walkie-talkie as he brought it to his lips. "I?ve spotted them. Four; I?ve identified one male and one female. Close in."

Gun in one hand, he slid the com back into its pouch and brought out the flashlight again. He clicked it on and gasped at crowd gathering in front of Kayís Jewelers. Sweat slicked his palms as he stared at the one who swung upside down in the doorway, black trench coat around his shoulders and bag in hand. The thief dangled there with ease, the bag bulging with odd shapes and clutched as protectively as a baby. Inky pools of cruel amusement stared at him as the young face contorted in a cold smile. The other young manís eyes were of coolest ice blue, and his black eyebrows floated upward. All of them possessed ghostly pale skin and blinked like owls caught in a searchlight when Ashton turned on his beam. An alien bluish quality hung about their faces, an ethereal aura around them.

Unease washed over him. He feared Ballistics would be getting paperwork from him tonight. The obvious leader caught his eyes, and Ashtonís jaw clenched in irrational fear. The youth put his hands behind his back and rocked back on his heels, with a smile that was a threat tugging at a shark mouth. Blue eyes sparked with a hellish fire. Dark humor lingered at the corners of those flawless orbs, dancing in a devilís glee.

The figure inside the store, a brown-haired girl neatly plucking rings of platinum and diamonds from the shelves, ignored Wilkes? presence, though the stares of the others were disconcertingly direct. She cocked her head to one side in a distinctly avian manner.

"More come. We?d better hurry."

The boy with the ice eyes put out a hand to stay their flight. Ashton found his voice, belatedly. "Freeze! You?re under arrest for-"

"Oh my, he thinks he holds rank over us!" the blonde girl giggled fitfully. The male hanging upside down suddenly fell, landing fluidly on his feet and straightening, in a smooth drop a gymnast would surely envy. Ashton wondered why the security cameras hadn?t caught theses youths, so obvious in their actions. He spotted a wire cutter in the back pocket of the blonde girl and felt mildly relieved. He?d begun to suspect something far out of the ordinary with this operation.

"Put your hands against the wall, and nobody will get hurt," he directed, in a voice that contained no little sharpened steel behind it.

This elicited another round of giggles, and the hand holding his gun went numb for a second. His eyes narrowed, for he had seen such people before. In their mouths flashed sets of silvery, pointed fangs.

"Come now, little man."

He pulled back the hammer. They didn?t hesitate. The brunette swung the sack over her shoulder, satisfied with her loot. He could hear, far off, the tramping of feet. His backup had taken its sweet time to arrive on scene.

"Letís go," the girl said quietly. "We?ve got all we need." The blue-eyed youth shot a poisonous look at her. She gave him a puzzled frown.

"No, I?m going to play with him. Like a cat with prey."

"Enough, Aeolus. Heís got others coming." The youth who?d been swinging upside down tugged at his trench coat. The one Ashton presumed was the gangís leader shrugged him off. Then he drew from his boot nine inches of live steel and advanced toward Ashton with a murderous glint in his eyes.

Ashton fired. His soul drooped as his finger pulled the trigger, as it always did when such things happened, but he put his mind away and let instinct rule.

The shot slammed into the boyís stomach, doubling him over. The blonde grabbed him, and with a feral scream almost tore into Ashton.

"Get down!" Ashton yelled, but the brunette had already grabbed the injured youth up over her shoulder, and they were making off. The bag of jewelry lay neglected on the floor. Ashton touched his com. "Backup, they?re heading for the north exit."

The blonde hesitated and then spun, running backward effortlessly. "You?ll pay for this, you dick!" she screamed, then rounded a corner.

Ashton was alone once more. The moon had come out from behind the clouds, and the blood that had been spilled shimmered with eldritch lines of silver. Taking this in through the span of a second, he ran after them, not caring about the clap of his boots against the tile floor. But when he rounded the corner where they had vanished, they were gone. There was only one bathroom down that end, and it was locked when he checked it. The door to the outside was broken, glass strewn like confetti across the floor. That glass paneling must have been three inches thick, he realized, speechless.

When backup came, there was nothing to be found. His captain put a hand on Ashtonís shoulder. "Where?d they go? We?ve got the place surrounded."

Ashton was staring at the wall that formed the north entrance, a bit like a skylight set on its side. There was brick set in neat rows on it, but he could see, high up, a smear of blood on the glass and more dripping on the brick. It shone with that same moonlit fire. Ashton gestured with his flashlight beam. "I think they climbed up, sir."

"There are more people on the roof," the chief said with assurance. "They won?t get far."

"How many, though?" Ashton muttered, his eyes remaining riveted on that smear of blood. A shiver ran down his back, even as he was dismissing the irrational fear. Irrational because he reminded himself that they were only a few thieves, dressed up in Halloween costumes. They?d pulled and run like any other criminal would. How bad could it be?