Red Delicious

By: Kathleen Tierney

 A Siobhan Quinn Novel


CHAPTER ONE


A GHOST OF MYSELF

Hello. My name is Siobhan Quinn, and I’m a murderer. It’s been three days since my last homicide.

See? You like me already.

Not that everyone and her mother considers vampires and werewolves—or some poor shit like me who lucks out and gets the best of both worlds—a murderer. Most everyone is too busy either painting us nasties as this or that stripe of demon or monster, or (and this truly does get my goat) they’ve managed to romanticize the fiends we are into tortured Byronic figures who sparkle in sunlight or pretentiously haunt the streets of, say, New Orleans. The heroes and heroines of lurid “shifter” romances and self-proclaimed “otherkin” and “therianthropes” who’d shit themselves silly if they ever got so much as a peep at a genuine loup. Or we get to solve paranormal crimes in an attempt to redeem our damned souls. Or we seek to regain our lost mortality. Or, so say various Academic sorts, serve as metaphors for mankind’s fear of the Other. Or . . .

You get the picture.

And John Wayne Gacy was just some misunderstood candy-colored clown. Jeffrey Dahmer, guy just had an eating disorder. Sure thing. Anyway, we’ll no doubt come back to all this falderal later on, repeatedly, because it never ceases to amuse me.

I hate recaps. With a passion do I hate recaps. But I suppose—for all you folks just tuning in—I should at least make a half-assed, token effort at something of the sort. Here goes:

Once upon a time there was a girl ran away from home to live on the hard streets of Providence, Rhode Island. Before long, she discovered the joys of heroin, or they discovered her, and she took to junk like a fly to horse poop. Then, lo and behold, a series of highly unlikely events transpired during which she accidentally killed a ghoul and then a vampire—in the process discovering, hey, guess what, monsters are real. Whee. Now, homeless junkies who kill two nasties without even trying, they tend to attract attention. Mostly, not the good sort of attention. Which is how it went for me. This dude calling himself B, he shows up. B’s sort of a middleman for all sorts of dealings between things what go bump in the night, which makes him as many enemies as friends. More, actually. So, he shows up and gives me one of those offers you can’t refuse: I go to work as a sort of bodyguard, and he protects me from the baddies want me dead, and he gives me a place to live. Plus, generous soul that he is, he’ll supply me with all the free smack I can shoot into my veins. Well, as long as I can balance being high and getting the job done. I accept, and he pins a rep on me, tall tales of his own invention, how I’m absolute and certain doom to anyone dares fuck with him, and . . . Jesus, I’m boring myself already.

Shorter version: I screw up. And I mean I screw up bad. The same night I get sloppy and get bitten by a werewolf, I’m also bitten by a very, very formidable vampire child called herself the Bride of Quiet. Or Mercy Brown, depending on her mood. B, who sees no shame in cowardice, he takes a powder, leaving me to fend for myself, because, turns out, I’d become some sort of pawn in a decades-old labyrinthine intrigue of revenge and bitch-slapping between the Bride and this even scarier she vamp down in Brooklyn, a firebug of thermonuclear proportions known as Evangelista Penderghast. Events unfold. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. Folks die, most of whom have it coming. Most of whom I ate. Finally, I make a deal with Penderghast, and she loans me a magical doodad—real eldritch voodoo stuff—that allows me to bump off the Bride (and a church bus full of werewolves in the bargain).

B comes back, and all is forgiven.

Cue exit music. Close curtain.

Fast-forward six months or so.

Which brings us, constant reader, to the here and now, and the fact that this story needs a beginning, and I think a good place to start would be the freezing, snowy mid-February morning I was strolling along College Hill, minding my own business. Sky the color of lead, as they say, battleship gray, as they say, and fat, fluffy flakes spiraling lazily down to cover up the frozen mix of ice, sand, and salt from the last week’s snowfall. Providence—something else I don’t generally romanticize—isn’t so bad on a day like that. All the hard, ugly winter edges get smoothed away, you know.

So, I was coming around the corner at Fones Alley and Hope Street, basking in the afterglow of a good feed, free of the hunger for a while—and, even though it had to be eleven a.m. by then, there’s not a soul in sight—not a pedestrian, not a car, not a bus. What the fuck was with that? Sometimes oddly peculiar shit just happens. Like accidentally killing a ghoul. I’d smoked a Camel down to the filter, and I flicked the butt into the gutter, when here comes this cocksucker barreling out of the bushes by the sidewalk. I know right off who it is. Remember the notorious Bobby Ng, wannabe demon slayer and all around ass clown? You know, he who was the brunt of many a joke and had the misfortune of becoming first meal as a loup?

Well, shortly after Bobby’s demise, this other dude had shown up. Nature abhors a void, right? Natura abhorreta vacuum or something like that. However, whereas Ng had been the worst sort of fuckup—at best, good for the occasional belly laugh among the demonkin, too ridiculous to even bother killing—the new guy, he was a defrocked Catholic priest with at least a few brain cells still in working order. Father Bertrand “Burt” Rizzo, who’d been ousted from a parish somewhere in New Jersey for having his way with twenty years’ worth of altar boys. He’d started out with dreams of taking a place among the lofty order of the Societas Iesu, or the Jesuits (if you’ve never suffered the joys of Catholicism). But he washed out, and had to settle for a plain old priesthood. Maybe that left him a little unhinged. Me, I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. What mattered was, whereas Ng’s antics had been pretty much harmless (until he caused me to take out the blood daughter of the Bride of Quiet), Father Rizzo had his act together, and in only a few months had somehow become Providence’s own Abraham Van Helsing.

Lucky us.

This shitbird had a price on his head, but somehow had eluded the bounty for three months. During that time, his body count included four ghouls, a night gaunt, a baby vamp of no particular renown, and, during a field trip to Woonsocket, three loups. Like I said, dude sorta had his shit together. There were suspicions he’d traded the Holy Trinity for darker gods, and that’s how he was keeping his ass covered. Maybe so. Maybe not so.

Rizzo was a big man—lucha libre big—almost a foot taller than me, say six foot six, and at least two hundred and fifty pounds. Most of that was muscle and bullshit. He was fast. Worse, he was well armed. That morning, all I had was the Glock 17 9mm I always carry, and I was nowhere near on my toes. I was walking in a winter wonderland, not braced for an ambush by Rizzo. He hit me hard from behind, knocking me off my feet. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking a spill without breaking anything, and I rolled to my left, ending up half in the dirty mound of slush burying the edge of the sidewalk. I looked up, and there he was, standing over me. The cold morning sun glinting off his bald head, the long, scraggly beard that always made me think of Rasputin. His breath fogged like a steam engine.

This was, as it happened, the first time he’d dared take a swipe at me, the one soul in all Rhode Island who also happened to be his competition. Honestly, I hadn’t thought the dude was that stupid or that ballsy.

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