Story Unlocked: Against Our Better Judgment

This story was one of the first I had published, and one that I got to explore relationships between werewolves and vampires. It was originally published in December 2011 by Wicked East Press, who unfortunately closed its doors in 2013. Since then it’s been out of print, and the original anthology has skyrocketed in price. So I thought it would be ideal to include in the Story Unlocked series!


The chiseled white statues of the graveyard looked particularly ghostly as the humid Louisiana evening trailed mist along the fields of clover. Lazy weeping willows swayed in the breeze, ancient magnolias filtered the streams of moonlight above. From the more secluded end of the cemetery, a dark figure emerged, slowly picking its way through the myriad pathways between the tombstones. He came to a clearing of graves where a giant blockish mausoleum stood with its white pillars and onyx vaults.

“Evening.”

The shadowy figure paused, turning his haggard face toward the top of the pale mausoleum. A thin blonde man was sitting atop the tomb, his legs dangling over the edge. He smiled, “Goodness but you took your time getting here.”

The darker man sighed, “You say that as if you didn’t just wake up. Some of us don’t have the luxury of sleeping within the city.”

He laughed, “You consider this the city? You really don’t get out much.” He dropped down to the earth with barely a sound. “Well my wolfish friend, we have a very important decision to make here.”

“The name’s Terry,” he cracked his neck. “And yeah I agree, we have to figure out when you’ll be leaving. It’d be nice if it was tonight, but your kind probably has a coffin to move or something stupid like that.”

“Goodness Perry, do we have to start on such a sour note? You know there’s plenty of hunting ground elsewhere. Plenty of well-endowed women who I’m sure would be willing to hole you up in a crate once a month.”

“It’s Terry. Get it right, Vamps else I’ll have to pop off that pretty head of yours.”

The blonde narrowed his eyes before folding his arms and approaching the shorter man. “Listen, Terry. Personally I’ve nothing against you creatures, but this town has a convenient setup for me. The graveyard is only half a mile out, and I get meals delivered almost weekly. These kids and their silly drinking games, it’s like regular takeout! Do you know how long I’ve waited for such a perfect setup? Two hundred years! I’m sure your tiny animal brain can scarcely imagine such an expanse of time.”

Terry grinned, “Well then I’m sure you won’t mind waiting until I’m dead and gone then, won’t you? Sorry Vamps, but I’m not handing over this town just cause of a little inconvenience. I have friends that live here, human friends that I care about, and I’m not about to let a giant tick run loose.”

He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Oh honestly, if I must call you by your first name, then I deserve the same, right? It’s Rutger. A giant tick? Really? Not very imaginative, are you?”

Terry rolled his eyes. “Alright Rutger, then let me finish. This town can barely support one of us, not to mention two. You’re attracting unwanted attention, and next we’ll have Hunters breathing down our necks because of your sloppiness.”

“Sloppiness! Oh please, you’re the one leaving disemboweled hunks of flesh out in the farmlands!”

“You leave your victims in the middle of the road!”

“Alleyways are not necessarily roads. Hardly anyone notices them anyway. However the ferocity of your kills is a completely different matter.” Rutger’s eyes were dark.

Terry was releasing a low growl as he hunched down onto all fours. “Then I guess there’s only one way to settle this.” With a snarl he leapt at his adversary, his fingers now long black claws.

Rutger caught him by the throat and held Terry’s jaws at bay but the claws still raked across his chest. He hissed into the werewolf’s face, incisors extended and eyes now gleaming ruby in the darkness. Rutger smiled before holding his neck closer to his lips. I’ve never tasted werewolf before, but tonight seems a good time to try,” but Terry had frozen, his tongue extended in a pant against Rutger’s grip as his eyes looked off toward the left.

“Did you hear that?”

Rutger paused, loosening his grip and sniffing the air. A human was close, but it was impossible to tell exactly how—

A shot rang out in the darkness, and Rutger felt the slug hit Terry’s shoulder, knocking him from his grip and onto the ground. Then a wooden bolt hit him directly in the stomach. The force of it knocked him to the ground and it took a moment for Rutger catch his breath. A wooden stake, he realized, but luckily whoever shot it was a poor aim. He pulled it out quickly, grunting as the skin slowly pulled together over the wound.

“I think I hit it!”

“Excellent, my boy! Hurry then, we need to gather them before they escape!”

Rutger could hear their feet moving along the graveled paths and patches of grass. He looked to his side to see Terry whimpering, his shoulder bleeding profusely. Damn, it must’ve been silver. He’d be up on his feet if the bullet had been anything but. They had to get out of here.

Grunting, he sprang to his feet and hurled Terry onto his shoulder, forcing himself to ignore the tempting blood scent that tingled his nose. The pain of the wooden bolt was enough to keep him focused—at least for now. He hissed in the direction of the humans, easily dodging a second wooden bolt. “You’ll both pay dearly for this!”

In a moment he’d fled the graveyard, his feet only barely touching the grass as he took off into the countryside. He glanced down at the werewolf, cursing at the glazed eyes. This idiot was causing him so much trouble!

***

When Terry came to, the comforting scents of the dirt and mud greeted him. Cold but at least it was familiar. He took a deep breath to take in more of his surroundings, but hissed at the sharp pain in his shoulder. “Aw hell, what is that?” he muttered, shakily moving his hand to examine it.

“Not yet, my friend.” Rutger smacked it away, turning to light an oil lamp. The scent of the struck match made him want to sneeze. “You touch that and you’ll double your chances of silver poisoning.”

Terry opened his eyes slowly, blinking to get them adjusted to the light. “Rutger? Why the hell did you…?”

He sighed, “Don’t ask me stupid questions, alright?”

Terry simply stared at him as though he was a madman that had escaped the asylum.

“Well I couldn’t just leave you there, could I?”

“Heh, well I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had. Hell, I’d have probably left you there.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Rutger leaned down and examined the wound. The blood was still oozing out steadily as Terry’s body tried to heal itself. Of course, that was how the silver poisoning started, by weakening the wolf enough and turning their rejuvenation against them. It was a damn good thing vampires didn’t have such an obvious weakness. Rutger positioned the shoulder so that the light gleamed down into it, ignoring Terry’s hiss of pain. He could just barely spot the gleam of silver. “That slug hit you hard. And it’s preventing you from healing.”

“Yeah, I kind of noticed I was turning this cave into a bloodbath.”

Rutger closed his eyes momentarily to keep his hunger at bay. Now was not the time to feed, even as much as he’d like to.

“So what do you think, Vamp?” Terry asked, “You still glad you saved me?”

Rutger glared at him, “Keep it up and I may start regretting it, idiot mutt. I think I can remove it. I’m pretty sure I lost them, but I’m not sure how wide out their posse is positioned. You’ll have to stay as quiet as possible.”

Terry choked a laugh, “God, did you just say posse?”

“Oh shut up, will you?” He dug his fingers into the wound—probably a bit too forcefully, he realized, as Terry’s body buckled.

“Oh shit,” Terry whispered, his voice wavering with the pain.

Rutger finally put his fingers around the bullet and wrenched it free. Terry let out a gasp before his body finally went lax. The wound was pumping out the blood more regularly now, but if Rutger remembered his limited experience with lycanthropes correctly, it should be able to heal on its own. “You okay?” Terry kept his face turned away from him, but nodded slowly nonetheless. Good, at least he hadn’t lost consciousness again. “I guess I’ll need to get you some food,” he sighed. “I’m pretty famished myself.”

“Watch yourself,” Terry whispered. “They may be close.”

Rutger nodded. “Oh I will. Don’t you worry,” he smiled back at him as he reached the entrance of the cave, “They won’t even know what hit them.”

***

Terry fell swiftly into a dizzying sleep. His dreams were plagued with pain and the perils of the silver poisoning. The bullet wound had swollen and spread, covering his skin in tiny silver pustules like tiny glittering slugs. The pustules then drained into his blood system, covering his limbs in gray streaks as it took over his veins, his mind, and even clouding his eyes into liquid silver masses. He stared down at his body as a hovering figure and gazed at his suffering in horrific fascination as the silver made its way to his heart and clogged the pump permanently.

When he woke covered in sweat, he heard the birds of dawn singing their anticipation of the morning sun. He sat up slowly, trying to catch his runaway heart. His shoulder looked and felt much better than it had since the bleeding had stopped, but he still had a deep hole where the flesh still had to grow over. It had certainly taken a number on his appetite. His stomach moaned in outrage, and Terry curled in on himself against the pain. The hunger pangs reminded him of his first few days as a lycanthrope, eating all the wrong foods and wondering why he was still starving. He gazed around the cave with increasing alarm as he realized Rutger had still not returned. He turned back to the forest outside and on the threatening dawn.

Surely, it didn’t take all night for vampires to feed. Had the Hunters found him and finished him off? Maybe he’d holed up somewhere to wait out the day. Could they follow his trail back to the cave? Terry tried to push himself to his feet, but his legs wobbled and refused to hold him. Raw meat was said to be the best medicine for any injured wolf, but Terry had no hope of finding any while he was trapped here. Then he heard footsteps making their way up the dirt path that led to the entrance. Shuffling and noisy, they were far too obvious for any vampire. Was it a lost traveler looking for shelter? A wayward homeless man? His stomach growled eagerly again at the chance of a full course meal, and Terry rolled himself against the wall, placing his feet against the rock of the cave to push off. A ground based attack was certainly not the safest option, but considering his condition it was probably the safest.

As the person came into view, the pale dead skin made Terry realize it wasn’t human. The blonde hair still looked as luxurious as if he’d just returned from the salon but the skin had become a pallid gray, and the musky scent of vampire blood hit his nostrils. “Rutger, is that you?”

He turned, his red eyes flashing momentarily, “Oh good, I’m glad you woke up.” He picked up a satchel he’d been carrying, his arm shaking horribly. “I got you some food.”

Terry took the bag and started devouring the one of the pair of hares almost instantly. He finished one off in less than five minutes before turning to his friend. “What happened?” Then he noticed the smattering of bullet holes in his chest. “Ah hell, man.” He flung the bag aside, and crawled over to where Rutger had collapsed. “What happened?”

“I’ll be alright. Just need to sleep…”

“No, you’ll be turned to a crisp once that sun rises. Come on,” he picked Rutger up under the arms and started dragging him deeper into the cave. Of course Terry’s shoulder was still badly injured, so he had to rest every few steps. “Let’s get you back here…where it’s dark.”

By the time they’d reached the back of the cave, Rutger had fallen into his death sleep. His body looked completely corpselike. Terry wasn’t sure if it was normal for vampires to look like that before passing out or not, but the amount of blood he was losing to the bullet wounds made him doubt it. The blood oozed to a stop once Rutger fell fully to sleep, hardening almost instantly to the consistency of a long-perished corpse. If it wasn’t for the faint beating of his heart, he might’ve thought he was indeed dead.

“Well it looks like you’ll last at least until nighttime,” Terry sighed, positioning Rutger’s body so that it was flat on the ground. “But we’ll need to get those out of you, else you’ll just wake up and bleed to death. Damn these Hunters.” After devouring the second rabbit, Terry decided to give a go at removing the bullets.

Working far into the afternoon, Terry took his time. He’d always been one for meticulous details, but finding exactly where the bullets were inside of the wounds was a far more difficult task than he’d expected. At least if Rutger was fully alive at the moment, the direction of the blood flow would be a useful guide even though the pain of the procedure might have made him wish he was dead.

Finally he removed the last bullet, “There you are, you little bastard. That’d be number twenty-nine if you were counting. That means you owe me twenty-eight favors after all this shit’s over. I mean, that’s the least you can do after making me slave over you like some sort of surgeon all day.”

Terry lay down on the ground, grateful that they were in the cool shade of the cave and not in the blistering heat outside.

***

Hours passed. The rays of sunlight were creeping across the stone floor, and Terry crouched down next to the pale vamp, pulling his knees to his chin as he listened to the birds and the various noises of summer outside. A fly buzzed in, landed in Terry’s dried blood from the night before, and then took off again. Then a twig snapped, not far from the entrance of the cave if his senses were right. He looked to his disgusting corpselike companion. He wouldn’t be much help.

Terry got to his feet, removing his blood soaked shirt and tossing it aside before poking his head out the cave. Walking slowly up the steep path was a squat plump man with a bit of a limp. He was gripping a crossbow loaded with a wooden stake. On his back was a long shotgun, probably the same that had hit Rutger earlier. He was in deep conversation with a teenage boy that walked with him. The tall boy carried a gun in his hand and Terry pulled back as soon as he’d seen the glint of light on it.

Damn, so that was the kid with the crack shot from last night.

He looked at his bullet wound: it had healed even more since he’d eaten the two hares. Well, he’d just have to hope he’d heal from this too. He flicked his hand into a set of claws, and grimaced as he dragged the edges over his chest, face, and arms. They’d bleed just enough to make them look fresh. Even if the main wounds healed up, the blood would still look authentic. He ruffled his hair out once more before flinging himself out of the cave entrance and onto the ground.

“Oh god,” he moaned, coughing into the dirt.

“Oh my, one of their victims. We must be close!”

The pair of footsteps turned to a sprint as they came closer. Terry kept his head down and forced a shudder when one put a hand to his back. “Son, are you alright?”

“What the-” Terry flung his body back, crawling in crab form backwards into the cave and a hitched cry wavered from his throat.

“What’s wrong with him, Sir?”

“It-it’s alright, Jeremy. He’s probably just startled.” The man turned back to Terry, his black mustache glistening with sweat. Taking a gamble, Terry scrambled to his feet and darted deeper into the cavern.

“No, not that way, mister!” the boy’s voice echoed down the tunnel, and Terry jumped behind a large boulder, glancing to make sure Rutger was still in the same position as before. His glassy eyes and still body confirmed it, Terry just had to hope he wasn’t really dead or he just might be the butt of this little operation. He swallowed and tried to increase his breathing to attract the Hunters deeper into the cave.

One of them pulled out a lantern, striking a match and gasping at the blood on the ground. “My god, sir! I don’t know if we should-” The light dimmed a little as the boy backed out of the entrance.

“No, no we cannot leave, not while that man’s still alive. They might be feeding on him. Goodness there may be dozens of them in here! The poor man.”

“M-maybe we should come back with help? Get some more hunters, you know?”

No, Terry stood slowly from his crouched position, if they left they might tell others, that is if they hadn’t already. He needed them alive, and he needed them back here. It was their only chance. Jesus, he hated taking so many risks.

“Help, please…” he whispered.

They were silent a moment, Terry stood his ground waiting. If he pushed too soon, they’d suspect. No, he had to be patient. They’d take the bait eventually.

“No, my boy. By the time we got the others, that man and who knows how many others could be dead. We simply cannot take that chance.”

“But—”

“You are a licensed Hunter, are you not, Jeremy?”

“Yes, but—”

“And you took an oath to protect the people from such despicable hellspawn, am I correct?”

Jeremy sighed, “Yessir.”

“Well then, hold the light steady. I’ll take the lead.”

Good. The larger man will come first and the boy will have to hold the lantern instead of the gun. That is unless they switched weapons.

The streams of light were getting brighter as the pair came closer down the tunnel. Soon they would be mere feet from him, and Terry would have to act quickly. He would have the shadows to conceal him but only for a moment.

Slowly the larger man waded into view, his crossbow out and held firmly. He must have been doing this for a while now though. His grip didn’t even shake though his brow was dripping with sweat. In a flash, Terry wrenched the crossbow out of his hands and slashed the man’s throat. The blood flooded out as though a dam had been broken, and the man’s large eyes opened even wider in a mixture of shock and horror. His mouth formed the word “You” even as Terry flung him behind and into Rutger’s lap.

And boy, Rutger must have indeed been starving, for his fangs had latched onto that wound faster than Terry could even register. In one moment he was lying flat, a lifeless corpse, the next he’d attached to his victim in a death grip reminiscent of a wildcat.

But Terry didn’t have time to watch long. The shift of light meant that the boy was moving, potentially for the gun. He made a lunge at him, pinning his skinny body against the wall with his right elbow against his throat, and with his left arm pinning the wrist wielding the gun to the wall. Jeremy’s finger hovered precariously over the trigger, and Terry took a moment to catch his breath.

The boy could have been no older than fourteen, and yet his aim last night had been dead on. It was difficult to think that this scrawny thing could have meant his death. His eyes were wide and the lantern light flickered in his tear-filled eyes. “Please…” his voice was barely a whisper.

Terry sighed and motioned to the gun, “You’re a good shot with that thing, aren’t you?”

He could feel the Adam’s apple dip and rise beneath his firm grip. “Yes, yessir.” Behind them the struggles of the larger man had come to a deathly silence, and the boy’s eyes wandered in horror in the direction that Terry had thrown the body.

“That’s pretty amazing for a boy of your age, isn’t it? For a young man like yourself?

“Yes,” his voice was smaller this time as though he was only now realizing his fate.

Honestly didn’t he know the dangers a Hunter faced? Terry sighed, “Look, do you want to live kid?”

“I do, sir,” his voice cracked, and he dropped the gun with a clatter to the ground.

Terry nodded, “Smart kid. Good survival instinct there. You were probably hired by the local villagers to hunt us down, am I right?”

His head barely nodded.

“I tell you what, I’m not particularly hungry right now, and I think my friend and I have made enough of a mess in this town. You tell your friends that you killed us, and we’ll move out of here. Does that sound good?”

“I-I don’t know…”

“Look kid, it’s either that or I feed you to my hungry friend back there. And I guarantee you he won’t be as quick about it as I am.”

The boy blinked, his wide eyes looking back to Rutger before returning to him. “Alright, sir.”

“And if you break this Jeremy, I promise you I will hunt you down. I’ll stay clear of this place if you uphold your end, ok?” He lowered the boy carefully to the floor, keeping his body primed in case the boy went for the gun.

The boy looked about on the verge of tears, but gurgled out “Thank you,” before scurrying out of the cavern again.

Terry shook his head as he watched him leave. He hoped to God he’d made the right choice there, but he honestly didn’t know for sure. He turned back to Rutger to find the dried husk of the previously pudgy man lying beside him. Rutger on the other hand leaned up against the wall, his eyes not quite as glazy as before.

“That was a dangerous move there, Terry.” His ruby fangs glittered in the dimming lamplight from the next room. “I can’t leave here till nightfall, so if he tells then we’ll both be in trouble.”

“He won’t.”

“But he could.”

Terry sat down next to him, kicked the corpse aside. “He was just a kid, Vamps. I know your kind don’t quite understand the meaning of humanity, but we tend to value it.”

Rutger smirked, “I think that was me that saved your hide last night, wasn’t it? Oh yes, I believe it was.”

Terry shook his head, “Get some sleep, Vamps. We’ve got to be heading out of town come nightfall.”

Rutger’s eyes slid closed, “Separate towns, I’m assuming?”

He sighed, “Possibly. I guess we made a pretty good team today didn’t we?”

“Mm,” he nodded. “I just hope your judgment gets better. You’re going to get your ass killed acting like a compassionate fool.”

Terry rolled his eyes.

…..

This story was originally published in Under the Stairs by the now closed Wicked East Press. If you wanted to read this story, the only way you could find it is if you were willing to cough up the >$100 for the out of print book on Amazon. I don’t like that. I want my writing to be accessible to as many readers as possible. So thanks to my amazing Instagram followers, you can now read it here for free!

My writing style has changed greatly since this was originally published back in 2011, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Terry and Rutger. I like to think they went on to have other adventures after this one. This story also inspired my as of yet unpublished novel One Way Down featuring a vampire and werewolf and lots of banter, only it’s set in the American Old West. Maybe someday it’ll see the light of day, but until then at least Terry and Rutger can get some love.