Sunday, November 03, 2013

Chapter One: Moriko - New Jersey Bound

Moriko’s new assignment arrived by secure email on Thursday night. By Friday morning, her and her father had packed up all their belongings, left behind the prepared letters and notifications to those they’d made commitments to, and were gone. 

Gone again, Moriko thought. Three to four times a year they moved. Never enough time to really make roots, to make friends. Accept once. Alex Monroe had been her friend and much more than that. The first boy she’d ever kissed the first to ever call her his girl. But he’d been left behind, too, in the wake of multiple mysterious homicides and crime scenes that made experienced policemen lose their lunches. So many unanswered questions, so many dead. But Moriko new the answers, and so did her father. And that’s why they had to leave. Again.

They’d been laying low in Mexico for the summer. She hunter cucuy and ghouls while her father taught Karate to the sons of wealthy families. Their own family was ancient and well connected. Moriko and her father had changed identities so many times, she sometimes forgot that not all families lived their lives on the run year after year. It was August in Mexico. North of the border, a new school year would be starting soon. That’s why they were heading north. Moriko knew the pattern now. She did not entirely care where they were going, but eventually, all the logistical and mundane conversations were long over and they waited in the front seat of the Winnabego.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“New Jersey,” her father answered. His voice was gravelly and deep. It always seemed to make people take him more seriously,  though Moriko always took her father seriously.

It was very hot, though Moriko knew the vehicle had air conditioning, her father chose not to use it. He always told her she must never allow herself to become accustomed to such luxuries; she must be prepared to endure any pain or discomfort in dispatching her… duties. A long line of vehicles waited ahead of them for a turn to pass through the customs inspection and enter Texas, USA. Luckily there were no buses in the line their motorhome was in. Buses seemed to take a really long time to get through. A black bus in aisle five had just pulled up to the squad of men manning the station. 

A car so old and dusty it was impossible to tell more than it was a sedan rear ended an SUV. The collision was at such a low speed, Moriko could see no damage to the SUV, though it did push the vehicle. A little. A man in a pristine white t-shirt and an Oakland Raiders baseball cap got out of the SUV and strode back to the driver’s window of the dusty little car. He began a litany of what, Moriko could only guess, were profanities that left shiny spittle in his mustache. She could just hear his words as a mumble over the classical music her father preferred. When he wasn’t listening to Japanese folk music, it was classical, especially Philip Glass. Moriko hated it. She liked love songs.

The driver of the dirty vehicle must have done something inflammatory. White t-shirt guy ran back to his vehicle and came back with a tire iron in a flash. He must be from an area where it’s a good idea to keep a weapon handy. Moriko doubted most people could even tell you for sure if their vehicles had a tire iron. He started smashing in the driver’s window of the dirty little car. She could see the border security already mobilizing as the t-shirt guy reached in and began struggling with the driver. This is so stupid, she thought. Why must I devote my life to protecting these people? They don’t want my protection and they’d probably resent me if they knew.

T-shirt man had opened the driver’s side door now and was dragging the dirty car’s driver outside, beating him with the tire iron. The cops were not quite close enough to draw their weapons on him, but she could see them shouting as they ran. Moriko saw the driver wore black clothes over an emaciated figure. He was more than weak, he was near death… Something had been feeding on him, she felt sure.  He’s not even fighting back.

“Moriko-chan, have you memorized the appearance and license number of the vehicle you must pursue?” Her father spoke English with her as often as possible. He took great pride in his mastery of both languages and demanded equal dedication from his daughter. Her dreams now were a strange mix of English and Japanese, now with a smattering of spanish. 

Moriko peered more closely at the SUV. It’s plate was clear, but that driver and his vehicle would soon be under the power of the border patrol. The dirty little car was no threat, and it’s plate was unreadable. So what did her father mean? She looked around but could not give him an answer within a few seconds. She did not know.

“My daughter, you have fallen for the same distraction as the officers at station five.”

She looked there. Many men had responded to the sounds of violence, including several from station five. But two guards were there, waving through a bus full of people. No way that bus could be done with it’s inspection already. But it was through the gates and though she could see glimpses of the matte black, the license plate was blocked by the border structures and a sea of vehicles. The accident on the other side of the lines had been a distraction of some kind. But what? A bus full  of people… illegal, untraceable people? 

The boy who’d been pulled from the dirty little car was a bloody mess, but the responding officers seemed loath to approach him, even after t-shirt man had been forcibly restrained. He must have looked horrible up close and smelled even worse.

“Vampires.” Moriko guessed. “The bus was loaded with food for vampires.” But she’d not gotten the plate had she? They would have a head start of perhaps an hour. She’d failed. 

“Warlocks, I think.” Said her father. “Child, vampires can hunt anywhere. Their prey gives itself willingly. I pray you will not face one before your training is complete. They can turn your mind against you.”

Moriko was unhappy to be wrong. “No vampire will control my mind. I would die first. But, I will kill them all.”

Her father laughed at her, a deep tumbling chortle—he was really amused—that burned her cheeks. She reached down for her laptop while he finished laughing and waited for the information.

“Your confidence is wonderful, my girl. Perhaps your wild spirit is strong enough to resist the great leeches, but still, your training must be completed. It will give you the skill to go with that confidence. Fighting vampires and werewolves and mummies (among other things) is not the same as slaying ghouls.”

Moriko waited. She’d heard this lecture, or some variation of it, many times before. Their Winnebago moved a couple of spaces up in line. 

Finally, her father gave her the license number and she sent it, along with a description of the vehicle, in a coded message to her contact in the hunter net. The request ended with the phrase, “oracle requested.” Though Moriko often felt alone, there were many resources at her disposal, as long as she continued to hunt the monsters. She shut the machine. It would take them a while.

“I have never heard anyone say anything nice about New Jersey,” she said.

“You must go where you are most needed, Moriko-chan, not where it is nice. Must we have this discussion again?”

“No, papa,” she replied.

* * *

They received an answer not long after passing through the customs inspection.  The intel led them to a warehouse out in the south Texas desert where a coven of real-live satanists were holed up, celebrating the arrival of a batch of fresh sacrifices from south of the border. Most of them were still alive that night, when Moriko stole into the compound, slaughtered the warlocks, their guards, and their sycophants. After letting the sacrifices free, she disappeared in a cloud of smoke. All anyone had seen was a short figure in black and a flashing blade.

The rest of the journey to New Jersey was mostly uneventful. Mostly. 

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