WIP The Undead Unit Series, Book One: Fang and Claw by Markie Madden
It was edging into late fall of the year 2118, the hot and humid Texas days merging with crisp, cool nights. The world was the same, but everything had changed. The thin tapestry of society experienced a change of epic proportions many decades ago with the acknowledgment of the Undead.
Lacey Anderson clearly remembered the day she had been forced to take the Undead Oath. The Oath made each of the Undead swear to abide by human law, especially where the harming of others was concerned. The Oath was worded slightly differently for each species; for her, it meant not drinking human blood.
All of this passed through Lacey’s mind in a flash as she gazed out the window over the shoulder of a large man. “You want me to do what?” She stood stiffly, back ramrod-straight, the hands clasped behind her vibrating with anger. Despite the precaution of the closed office door, she was sure the sound of her voice was apparent to whomever was still at their desks in the bullpen. “What is this, some way to get me to quit so you don’t have to fire me?”
Her commander, George Wilson, was a big, burly man whose pate was covered in thick, black hair shot with silver. He sat behind his pristine oak desk, hands folded together and resting on the blotter. The huge window behind him offered a breathtaking view of the city below. The tawny colors of dusky sunset sparkled in the spaces between city skyscrapers. With a seemingly-bemused expression on his face, he explained the new assignment to her.
“This unit is being formed as an experiment.” His voice was like a military commander during a debriefing. “It’s thought, by some, that a unit made up of Undead officers will have more success in investigating and closing cases involving either Undead victims or perpetrators. Though you’ll be in charge of the unit, we felt that you needed a second and partner who could complement your strengths and balance out your weaknesses.”
My weaknesses? Finally, she could remain still no longer, and started to pace as he outlined the duties of the newly-formed specialty unit within the elite ranks of the Dallas Police Department. He knows a bit about my history, she thought angrily. Doesn’t he know this is akin to torture? His eyes tracked her, back and forth, back and forth. She knew he wasn’t afraid of her, but he was evaluating her reaction. The more she heard, the more she paced.
“Of all the people you could pair me with, why on Earth would you put me with him?” Her voice was full of venom.
“Both you and Colton were up for promotion. But you’re the one that got it.”
She spun around to face him. “But, he’s a Wolf, for God’s sake!”
Lacey didn’t have anything against the Undead, and she’d really never worked closely with Colton Scarber, so she had nothing against the man himself. But Vampires didn’t, as a rule, trust easily, and had long been mortal enemies of Werewolves, due to a dispute the origins of which had been lost long ago.
Lacey stopped pacing, turning and staring out the office window as the light faded over the city she was empowered to protect and serve, but seeing none of it. The sensation of ‘someone walking over her grave’ seeped into her. The long, erratic scars on her right shoulder and arm remained a constant reminder of the fangs and claws of a Wolf, and she rubbed the uneven surface of the scar as if to scrub away the memories associated with it. Her coven had been destroyed nearly five decades ago, and she alone had survived the attack.
“No one’s even sure if this type of unit will work out.” His voice brought her back to the present. “But if anyone can make it work, I have every confidence that you can.” Hearing the dismissal in his voice, she turned and left the office.
Too bad I don’t have that confidence in myself, she mused as she returned to her tiny office on the other side of the bullpen. The stingy room, at the moment, had no door to slam; instead she kicked at the rickety desk chair in frustration. With a creak of sticky wheels, the chair rolled about four inches before coming to a halt. To give herself a moment to settle, she sat at her desk and thought about history as she had experienced it.
~”Wolves cannot be trusted. There remains too much of the animal in them.” She clearly heard Aegon’s voice, though he was turned away from her. “Just remember that.”~
The Undead, a mixture of Immortal species such as Vampires, Werewolves, and many more had, certainly, been around as long as humans, but their numbers at the beginning of recorded time were low enough to conceal from society. Of course, there was always rumor and myth surrounding these supernatural beings, often morphing into fairy tale nightmares about monsters drinking blood or stealing souls, usually told to misbehaving children. At first, the Undead could be passed off as legends. Eventually, the number of Undead individuals had become too great for humanity to ignore.
Later, the passing of the Undead Registry was an attempt by governments to track and control all Immortal species. At first, anyone deemed Undead was required to undergo rigorous medical and genetic testing, and their DNA was downloaded into a database so they could quickly be identified. For a long time, the ruling class had also maintained a group of ‘volunteers’ used for research and testing purposes.
These days, the Undead, while culturally accepted, still suffered prejudice from humans. Yes, they had equal rights, that is, until they went looking for a job, a promotion, or even a decent education. And human parents never wanted their children to bring home a member of the Undead, it just wouldn’t be proper!
With a sigh, Lacey stood. Guess I have to break the news now. Part of the perks of being the boss?
She stuck her head out the office door. “Colton!”
He looked up quickly, as if caught in the act of playing hooky. When she waved him in the direction of her office, he scowled.
Untangling his long, muscular body from his desk chair, he shook a mane of thick black hair away from his face, causing it to cascade down his back. Not exactly regulation. She grumbled to herself, not for the first time. But she knew when to pick her battles.
He walked with an odd gait common among Wolves; he padded on the balls of his feet, his heels never striking the floor. It gave him the appearance of being ready to pounce at any moment. It amazed her that he was able to move his bulky body on the tiptoes of relatively small feet.
Wishing she had a door to close, Lacey decided to get it over with quickly, the same one would do when removing an adhesive bandage. So she put the desk between them and rested her hands on the back of the chair.
His dark brown eyes bored into hers. “Yeah?” His voice was sullen with a hint of impatience.
“I’ve just been informed of some reassignments.”
“You’re kidding me?” He threw up his hands as if in frustration. “What, are they shipping us off to Parking Violations?”
“Since the Equal Opportunity Law has changed, they have plenty of Zombies pulling that duty. You know they’re not good for much else.” That earned her a wry chuckle. “No, this is going to be something new. Some smart ass upstairs,” she referred to the administration, “decided to put together a special unit of Undead, specifically to work cases dealing with either Undead victims or perps.”
“Wow! Never thought I’d see the day. So, they’re sending me to this unit?”
“Both of us, actually.” Her hands tightened on the chair back. “I’ve been promoted, and you’ll be my second.”
On alert for the hair-trigger temper of a Wolf, she stood her ground while he choked and sputtered, until he howled in anger. For a brief moment, the bullpen was silent. But everyone was used to his frequent outbursts, and the normal chatter of a roomful of cops soon resumed.
Colton felt the boil of his blood as he struggled to control himself. Even though he could only turn to a Wolf with the cycle of the full moon (unlike a Shifter who could turn at will), his mind and body still retained Wolf-like characteristics even in his human form. They often had anger management issues.
Every Wolf wants to be an Alpha, the top dog of the pack, instead of taking orders from another. Especially a female. Especially a vamp female. It wasn’t embarrassment over his earlier outburst that angered him; that reaction to anger was common among Wolves. No, it was the fact that he would have to answer to a woman that had his temper soaring.
Body trembling with fury, he stared at his co-worker for a long time. She stood perfectly still, as if she were carved out of a slab of marble. Her pale arms looked pasty next to the dark blue of the pressed uniform shirt she wore. The grayish color of a ragged scar was visible trailing from under the right sleeve. Her ice-blue eyes stared into his, and her regulation, shorter-than-shoulder-length blonde hair was straight and neat as a pin.
God knows why they’d partner me up with a vamp! He thought. Especially this one, knowing her history. She’d just as soon put a knife in my back than work with me! To give himself time to rein in his anger, he paced to the open doorway, leaning heavily on the wooden frame. His hands fisted at his sides, and he took several deep breaths, as he’d been taught in anger management classes.
When he could speak in a civil manner again, he turned to face her. Guess I need to start thinking of her as my boss, for Christ’s sake! She still hadn’t moved a muscle. Unnerving, that way Vampires have of being perfectly still. That’s not natural!
“So, when is this big change?”
“They’d like to have it set up by the beginning of next week.” She stepped out from behind the desk, obviously feeling the need for a buffer was gone. “We won’t even need to move to another department, we can stay right here in Major Crimes.”
“So what’s the deal? I mean, anyone can investigate crimes against any of the Undead. Techniques remain the same. Why form a special unit?”
She shook her head. “We’re all aware that there’s a certain…challenge in dealing with Undead crimes. Especially when it comes to the judicial case after we’ve passed them on.”
“There’s no such thing as a ‘jury of your peers’ when you’re talking about Immortals.” His lips curled with the sneer.
“Well, regardless.” She shrugged her shoulders as if it didn’t make a difference to her. “I think this is just an experiment to bring up the number of ‘solveds’ involving Undead individuals.”
“But the investigation of the case is no different whether it’s involving humans or Undead.”
She raised a hand. “Not entirely correct. After all, we’re more likely to talk to another Undead, even of a different species, than we are to humans.”
He could see her point. Still, he wasn’t happy to know that she had not only gotten the promotion he’d been expecting, but would be his superior officer. Again, his anger boiled and he paced. The cramped confines of the office didn’t allow much room, and his long strides brought him from one side of the room to the other in just a couple of steps.
“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t like this any more than you do. And the commander’s not even sure if it’ll work.”
“So what are they calling this new specialty unit?” He held his chin up in disdain, a subtle behavioral sign of defiance.
“What else could they call it?” She answered with a wry grin on her lips. “The Undead Unit, of course.”
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The Undead Unit Series By Markie Madden.
Writer Markie Madden.
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