Excerpt from the Forthcoming Novel NIGHTWALKERS
SoHo, Manhattan, New York
From the window of her loft apartment Linares scowled down at the moving van stopped in the middle of the street five stories below where three men in gray overalls were wrestling a Buick-sized armoire off the back of the truck. A blonde in a fur coat too warm for the weather stood on the sidewalk with her hands on her hips, apparently ready to rain hell on the workers if they put a scratch on her furniture.
Well, there goes the neighborhood, Linares thought. She bought this building because of its isolation from people. It sat in a section of the city stuffed with historic but deserted buildings that had once been factories and sweatshops. She’d purchased this building specifically because back in the fifties it used to be some kind of produce packing operation, and whoever owned it back then had left a bunch of no-longer-functioning walk-in refrigerators in the basement. So as not to make any one refrigerator draw attention Linares had placed padlocks on the doors of all of them. Abby slept in one of the boxes during the day. Because the refrigerators had interior emergency release levers Abby could let herself out at nightfall.
Down on the street the blonde in the fur coat stepped off the sidewalk to the moving van and said something to the workmen. The way she was gesturing, she seemed to be scolding them about something. Then the woman looked around, and then up, shielding her eyes against the morning sun with one hand. Linares stepped back too late, and the woman spotted her and waved up at her window.
Linares didn’t wave back. The last thing she needed was some broad thinking she wanted to be neighborly and share tea and cookies while watching All My Children. She didn’t need to know anyone but Abdiel and Abby and her consorts, and the occasional guy or girl good for a roll in the hay when she got bored with her consorts mooning over her.
This woman definitely didn’t look like anyone she’d want to know. She looked fortyish, with too much makeup and overdressed for moving; nothing like the other artsy-fartsy types who’d been creeping into SoHo over the past few years. At least creative people could be interesting once they stopped talking about whatever art they happened to be into. And at least so far they’d stayed off her block.
She and Abby had only lived in the building for three years, and Linares didn’t want to move again so soon. Usually she could live ten years, maybe twelve, at a residence with nearby neighbors. She’d move before they could start to wonder why she didn’t look any older than she had a decade earlier. For locales she really liked she would wait fifty years or so after moving away, until her old neighbors had either died off or relocated, and then move back under a new identity.
When they moved to SoHo it had been a ghost town—a seemingly ideal spot, especially since Abby didn’t want to move too far from Jersey. She’d said that she had a feeling she shouldn’t go too far away. Abdiel instructed her to go along with Abby’s instincts because they might be linked to prophecy. That was another reason for them to stay in SoHo. So neighbors were not a good thing.
The movers managed to get the gigantic armoire off the truck and onto the street without dropping it. They slid a dolly under it, and with Blondie leading the way rolled it to the building next door. Linares watched until they were out of sight at the building entry and left the window, headed for her bath.
She and Abby had two master suites built into the loft for privacy for themselves and for when they had guests—usually their consorts—over. Linares ran her bath, thinking that it was too bad Abby was stuck inside in the dark until after sundown. It would’ve been fun to hang out today, because right now Fifth Avenue was calling her, was positively begging to turn her on to some new midi skirts and over-the-calf boots. Too bad for Abby, missing the fun. By the time she was old enough to walk in the day everybody would probably be dressing like the crew from Star Trek. Ugh; Can you say grotesque, boys and girls?
Linares put on Carole King’s Tapestry album and climbed into her tub. As she settled into the steamy water she thought about how she might chastise Owen, her real estate attorney and one of her consorts, for not following her instructions and informing her when someone purchased a building on her street. She needed to know when the contract was signed, not when they were moving in their belongings. Well, she would deal with Owen later. Right now she was ready to let Calgon take her away, and then do some shopping.
She knew Abby’s sizes so maybe she’d pick her up something nice to wear too, and then tonight they could go out disco dancing. Why hang around the apartment just because they didn’t need to replenish their essences? They could go out to have some fun sometimes, too. Everything didn’t have to be about the blood.
Linares’ thoughts were interrupted when thanks to her heightened senses beneath the music she heard a tentative tapping on the door of her loft.
She muttered curses as she tied the sash on her robe and padded through her loft. It was probably Owen, making a personal trip to grovel and apologize for not following her instructions about new neighbors to the letter. Consorts were necessary, but sometimes so aggravating with their clinginess and desire to please.
Because the building had once been an industrial operation, the door of her loft was a seven-foot square plate of inch-thick steel, secured by a bolt latch and a deadbolt lock she’d had installed after moving in. The door opened and closed by sliding horizontally in runner tracks. Since there was no peephole Linares played the role of the cautious woman living alone and called out, “Who is it?”
A soft, tentative feminine voice answered, “My name is Miriam Wilbanks. I’m moving in next door. I think I saw you in the window?”
Oh great; already with the tea and cookies. Linares unbolted the door and slid it open a foot.
“I’m so sorry for disturbing you,” the blonde stammered. “I have a key to my building but it doesn’t work. Might I use your phone to call my agent?”
Linares didn’t hear a word the woman said because the moment she’d opened her door the stench of evil slammed into her senses, harder than it ever had before, so powerful it made her gag, jerk her face away and stagger back. When she looked back she saw the three workmen standing in the corridor behind the woman, glaring hate at her. One of them hissed and shoved the door farther open.
In her near three thousand years of existence Linares had never encountered more than one demon-possessed person at a time, and now here were four of them. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
Beyond the possessed humans, coming up the corridor toward her door, rolling like a boiling wave of black storm clouds they came: demons. Before she turned and ran Linares thought she saw at least a dozen pairs of blood red eyes amongst the shadows, maybe more.
Linares dashed for her bedroom, desperate to reach her nightstand and the blade stored in the top drawer. She could defeat even four possessed humans alone and without a weapon, but for all those demons she needed her blade. She couldn’t run away. She had to fight them even if it meant she’d be killed. She couldn’t let them get to Abby, the Chosen One.
Linares ran, not certain she could make it to her bedroom before the shadows of death overtook her. She wasn’t sure that it would even matter.
From her stereo Carole King crooned It’s Too Late.