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EXCERPT: Silver Mask (Vamp Camp 3)

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from Chapter One

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Des­tiny and fate, the uni­ver­sal forces that drove me to the moment at hand. They are twin con­duits, almost iden­ti­cal until you see them beside each oth­er and they join as an unstop­pable pow­er. They provide the uni­verse with its momen­tum.

My name is Mårten Larsson, vam­pire.

Des­tiny and fate: the rest of the world became a blur as I con­cen­trat­ed on the image at the busi­ness end of my sniper rifle’s tele­pho­to sight. My entire life had led me to this moment. This was the rea­son I was born — des­tiny — but the sit­u­a­tion was not some­thing I had cho­sen. The events select­ed me — fate.

I point­ed my sniper rifle toward the side of a small hill in the desert of Ari­zona near Las Veg­as, Nevada, in the Unit­ed States. A local vam­pire, act­ing as the offi­cial guide for this killing, had told me the rogue vamp would be return­ing to the hill before day­light. I only kill vam­pires who have lost their minds and are killing humans. I only kill those who have com­mit­ted some cap­i­tal offense under vam­pire law. I only exe­cute those who have been able to evade the jus­tice of the local vamps. You have to cre­ate an awful sit­u­a­tion to rate my atten­tion. The locals real­ly want you dead or they wouldn’t pay my fee.

My name is Mårten Larsson, vam­pire and vam­pire killer. My train­ing has been flaw­less, and my aim is always dead­ly. My train­ing and skills were focused on that desert in a ris­ing tor­rent of ugly-ass vam­pire jus­tice in the form of sil­ver shrap­nel. One rogue vam­pire was about to go ka-boom, and my bank account was about to go ka-chink.

Move­ment. I saw it through my tele­pho­to sight. It hap­pened so far off in the dis­tance that you would have seen noth­ing with­out lens­es. It was dark, with only a lit­tle moon­light. No, I can’t use night-vision equip­ment, because vam­pires have no heat sig­na­ture.

Move­ment. My sight is always adjust­ed based on the tra­jec­to­ry infor­ma­tion that Oberon gives me. He and I are a team on this mis­sion. He is my spot­ter, my light, my life, my hus­band. We have been a cou­ple for more than a hun­dred years, and I look for­ward to spend­ing anoth­er thou­sand years with him.

Move­ment. Front-to-back, and that is always a sim­pler shot. If the tar­get is mov­ing left-to-right, I have to cal­cu­late where he or she will be five or six sec­onds after I squeeze the trig­ger.

Relax… dou­ble-check aim… pre­dict… squeeze… squeeze… ah-choooooo!

Skit. Skit. Skit. Some­times Swedish works bet­ter, espe­cial­ly when I don’t care if anybody’s around to under­stand the words.

My name is Mårten Larsson, vam­pire, vam­pire killer — with the most embar­rass­ing frig­gin’ allergies in the whole his­to­ry of the plan­et. Oberon and I are mem­bers of the Obscu­rati. That’s my pre­tend name for our group, which is so secre­tive that just know­ing the real name could get you and me killed. I mean, I could get over you being killed. No offense. But I’m sort of attached to me. The Obscu­rati are the “unseen death” that is feared by rogue vam­pires every­where.

I could feel my Viking blood start­ing to boil. It can some­times get the best of me, so I try to relax and to con­cen­trate.

I’m not sure how to tell you to adjust your sight,” Oberon said using sign lan­guage. “I think you put that round some­where in New Mex­i­co.”

Fuck you,” I sig­naled using the kind of sign lan­guage the whole world knows. No codes: some sign lan­guage is uni­ver­sal.

My sniper rifle is instant­ly ready to fire again because it has a mag­a­zine of ammu­ni­tion. Some snipers use a bolt-action weapon, but I stick to semi-auto­mat­ics because I often have to lay down sev­er­al shots.

The first shot was so far off-tar­get that the doomed vam­pire didn’t know about it.

Relax… dou­ble-check aim… pre­dict… squeeze… pop! Wait for it… wait for it… poof of sand.

Sand. Great. The vam­pire jogged a lit­tle to his left, and I had no way to adjust the bul­let in the air. The wind could have helped a lit­tle, but it decid­ed to gust the wrong way.

Skit. I mean, frig­gin’ skit. My freak­in’ des­tiny tripped over my god­damn fate.

Adjust three dots right,” Oberon signed; he could see the trace that my sec­ond shot made through the air. It didn’t leave a streak of light. Oberon can fol­low the bul­let by watch­ing the air it dis­turbs on its way to the tar­get.

I know the weapon and the sight, and the sight match­es the rifle exact­ly. I need the adjust­ment, not the rifle. The tar­get changed direc­tion, and a wind gust pushed the bul­let the wrong way. May­be I could send out for a bag of stead­ier wind.

And don’t go all smug on me. You try to make this shot. The rogue vamp was head­ing to his lair, a hole on the side of a hill over­look­ing Lake Mead. There was no place to estab­lish a sniper’s nest on the bank. I couldn’t go for a high-angle shot by lev­i­tat­ing because this vamp was also able to fly and would have detect­ed an extra vam­pire in the air.

Direct­ly across the lake was Scan­lon Bay, which would have made the shot sev­er­al kilo­me­ters beyond my range. I can make amaz­ing shots using Oberon’s home­made bul­lets, but I have to be no more than two thou­sand meters from the tar­get or else I miss. My rifle sup­pos­ed­ly can make a longer shot if you fire it up like an artillery can­non, but I don’t even under­stand that kind of shoot­ing. I have learned to cope with my own lim­i­ta­tions, but don’t go spread­ing the word or I won’t be paid as much mon­ey for mis­sions.

One near­by shore put me close enough. It was at my upper per­son­al range, but I could do it. I think I can. I think I can.

The locals had offered to get us on a boat in the lake, but I had told them it wouldn’t be nec­es­sary. Waves in a boat: yeah, that will help me. Now I was in dan­ger of los­ing the tar­get for the day, and that would be bad news for the Obscu­rati. The sniper was out being cocky about his tough-guy rep­u­ta­tion.

The tar­get saw the sec­ond round but wasn’t sure what to do. He knew he was safe on the side of his hill. Nobody could cause him any trou­ble because he had picked his lair as a defen­sive strong­hold. We were too far for him to sense our pres­ence using vamp-dar. We were no big­ger than lit­tle specks on the hori­zon, so there was no chance he could see us. It was hot, but vam­pires don’t sweat, so he couldn’t smell us. Our cov­er remained solid. Our stealth was intact. Only my rep­u­ta­tion was in jeop­ardy.

Skit. Skit. I can make this shot. I’ve done it hun­dreds of times on our tar­get range in Ger­many and in the field.

Oberon has com­put­ers and elec­tron­ic tar­get­ing thingies.

Yeah, I have a super tele­pho­to tele­scop­ic gonzo laser sight on top of my rifle. I have my lover at my side with all his tar­get­ing com­put­er and weath­er giz­mo thingies. But the bul­let is in the air for more than six sec­onds. You try to pre­dict where the tiny spot in your sniper rifle sight will be six sec­onds from now. Do it in the mid­dle of the night with­out much moon­light and with­out any infrared night-vision equip­ment because vam­pires have no heat-sig­na­ture.

Oberon and I get called in to fin­ish off a vam­pire when the locals have run out of things to try. Oberon tells me how to adjust my sight and how to fudge the shot to account for wind direc­tion and the frig­gin’ cur­va­ture of the god­damn earth. That was how far away we were from the vic­tim. I was in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent state from the tar­get, for cry­ing out loud.

Years ago, I used a PSG sniper rifle. It was state-of-the-art then. I could drop a vam­pire at 800 meters, and that dis­tance made me a very rich vam­pire.

When some­body needs a sniper, they con­tact the vam­pire queen of Europe. Oberon and I live in Bavaria, in south­ern Ger­many, but we have a house in New York City and a whole island in the South Paci­fic. We even own a big jet with vam­pire shield­ing on a big bed­room, so we can fly even when it is day­light.

It’s an empire. For­tu­nate­ly, we have Lon­ny to run the fam­i­ly busi­ness. Lon­ny is a vam­pire and my hus­band and the love of my life.

Yeah, I already said the same thing about Oberon. Lon­ny and Oberon are both my lovers.

It’s com­pli­cat­ed.

I was zero hits for two shots, and I was mov­ing from embar­rassed to real­ly angry. My efforts to stay calm weren’t work­ing. Don’t let my Viking blood boil. Calm. Focus.

My sniper rifle. I miss my PSG, the hard­ware that made me a very rich vam­pire. If I had still been using it, we couldn’t have tak­en the job at the Nevada-Ari­zona bor­der, because that was far out­side the range of a PSG.

My new pop­gun is a Bar­rett M82A1. It uses mon­strous .50-cal­iber BMG ammu­ni­tion, and cal­iber was why I held off chang­ing. Oberon has machin­ery to cus­tom-make ammu­ni­tion. Chang­ing my ammu­ni­tion meant Oberon had to retool every­thing in his work­shop.

Reg­u­lar bul­lets can’t kill a vam­pire.

Excuse me,” you might say to the clerk of a gun store, “I’d like a box of your best vam­pire-killing sil­ver ammo.”

Yeah, right. Oberon makes armor-pierc­ing bul­lets out of deplet­ed ura­ni­um. He has a sup­ply of incen­di­ary ammu­ni­tion to let me set build­ings on fire at a sniper range. My favorite is his cop­per-clad, hol­low-point sil­ver bul­let. It just explodes inside the vam­pire. You can only kill a vam­pire by blow­ing off his head or set­ting him on fire. Sil­ver dis­ables a vam­pire. So if you have a bul­let that explodes with sil­ver inside the vam­pire, there’s not much left for the locals to clean up.

Oberon makes all the muni­tions at his work­shop in south­ern Ger­many, and we had a dead­ly assort­ment of his hand­i­work in the west­ern part of the Unit­ed States. Yes, the Amer­i­can author­i­ties would have all kinds of issues with us bring­ing deplet­ed ura­ni­um and explod­ing sil­ver into the States. I don’t plan on telling them. If they sud­den­ly know, I will know you opened your mouth.

Many snipers prefer a bolt-action weapon, but I like the semi­au­to­mat­ic because I need to lay down whole sheets of bul­lets. A bolt-action is good for sin­gle shots, and it would make me con­cen­trate on that one shot. It doesn’t match my real-world sit­u­a­tion.

The old­er PSG uses stan­dard NATO rounds, and Oberon had been mak­ing that size for years. He had to retool all of his equip­ment. It was Oberon and Lon­ny who final­ly con­vinced me to try the Bar­rett M82A1.

It has an effec­tive range of two thou­sand meters (about 1.2 miles). I mean, holy shit. Can you even imag­ine that kind of shot? Just read­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tions made me pee all over myself. Almost.

The man­u­fac­tur­er says you can shoot much fur­ther than that, but I don’t see how. I can’t. You can’t tell me that any­body can. I think the man­u­fac­tur­er is a bit opti­mistic in their lit­er­a­ture, but it adds so much more range com­pared to my pre­vi­ous sniper rifles.

The Bar­rett doesn’t even look like a rifle. It is more like a long rod with a trig­ger on the bot­tom and a han­dle on top. They don’t both­er mak­ing some­thing that looks like a reg­u­lar stock. It has a thing to go again­st the shoul­der, but it doesn’t look like it should.

It has a kind of shock absorber that cuts down the kick. I don’t think any­thing short of a bat­tle­ship could sur­vive .50-cal­iber recoils with­out the extra onboard baf­fles. The rifle still has a kick because of Oberon’s spe­cial ammo, but it is man­age­able.

There is a lev­er to pull to load a car­tridge, and I knew I had a seri­ous rifle the first time I tried to pull the lev­er. It takes lots more oom­ph than my pre­vi­ous weapons. I’m stronger than the strongest human, but I have to admit that I noticed the dif­fer­ence. I had to prac­tice pulling the lev­er so I didn’t get into the field and embar­rass myself: “Hon­ey, could you come pull my lev­er?”

A .50-cal­iber car­tridge going into the cham­ber makes an unmis­tak­able sound. You nev­er have to ask if the rifle is load­ed because you just know. Releas­ing the lev­er pro­duces a clank that sounds seri­ous. You might as well be putting a pro­jec­tile into one of those big guns on a bat­tle­ship.

My ears rang for an hour after I first fired the Bar­rett. It takes pow­der to move a shell that is thir­teen mil­lime­ters (a half inch) in diam­e­ter. Pow­der is loud. I had to get some noise-fil­ter head­phones quick­ly. It isn’t that I’m a sis­sy, but vam­pires have ultra-sen­si­tive hear­ing.

I had to prac­tice for months before I was worth a hoot beyond a cou­ple of hun­dred meters. Even today some shots are just dif­fi­cult. I have to know about the var­i­ous wind direc­tions and speeds between me and the tar­get. Grav­i­ty is a fac­tor at the upper end of my effec­tive range. On a short­er shot, grav­i­ty doesn’t get enough time to pull the bul­let. Lis­ten to me: short­er shots. The PSG has a huge range, but it isn’t in the same league as the Bar­rett.

And to make things even more inter­est­ing for me, vam­pires usu­al­ly don’t stay still. At over two thou­sand meters, the bul­let is in the air for five or six sec­onds. I have to pre­dict where the tar­get will be six sec­onds from when I squeeze the trig­ger. It is eas­ier when the vam­pire is walk­ing direct­ly toward me or away from me. When he is mov­ing left to right, that is a ridicu­lous cal­cu­la­tion. If the vam­pire changes tem­po, it becomes an impos­si­ble shot. The job is always a SWAG — not mere­ly a wild-ass guess but a sci­en­tific wild-ass guess.

Oberon invent­ed a dot sys­tem for me to cal­cu­late move­ment. My sight has lit­tle dots in addi­tion to the stan­dard crosshair. Oberon has a tele­scope that has the same dots, so he can help me adjust the sight. I count how far the tar­get moves across the sight in one sec­ond. Then I count the dots to the left or right or up and down for every sec­ond the bul­let will be air­borne.

There’s a rea­son we charge the local vam­pires so much mon­ey. I was a math major in col­lege, but that was back before World War One. I was real­ly good at using a slide rule, but that kind of cal­cu­la­tion is slow enough to let a vam­pire be on a dif­fer­ent con­ti­nent before I know how to aim. For­tu­nate­ly, my hus­band, Oberon, is real­ly good using com­put­ers. He picked up his lat­est, a tablet PC, at a store in South Africa. It is a Sahara and has a touch screen with­out a phys­i­cal key­board, and it has cus­tom soft­ware that he uses to come up with the adjust­ments on my sight. His elec­tron­ic gad­gets all plug into the PC and talk direct­ly to his soft­ware with­out requir­ing any typ­ing or oth­er input. When he has to type some­thing, the Sahara draws a pic­ture of a key­board on the screen, and Oberon touch­es the vir­tu­al keys.

There was a time when he used an iPad, but he got pissed at Apple one too many times. The iPad was always about lim­i­ta­tions. He said it was almost impos­si­ble to get soft­ware to talk to his equip­ment, so he final­ly flew out over the Atlantic Ocean and flung it as high and as hard as he could. Hope­ful­ly his iPad didn’t hit the space sta­tion, the Hub­ble tele­scope, or any of the military’s secret tele­scopes or com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites on its jour­ney into space. I’m sure it had escape veloc­i­ty.

I thought your iPad was the lat­est thing,” I said.

Yeah, if you want to look cool. The min­ute you try to do some­thing use­ful, you find that it can’t do it. Ugggh. You can’t even run Flash. Every god­damn com­put­er on the plan­et can run Flash, but not if you have an Apple. No Flash… I want about thir­ty min­utes alone with the ass-wipe who thought that was a good idea.”

Inter­galac­tic Vam­pire Fris­bee?” I asked when he returned from his trip to the ocean.

There’s an ‘app’ for that,” Oberon said as he tossed every wid­get and acces­so­ry from Apple into a garbage bag. He was through with that com­pa­ny, and noth­ing Apple could do would ever change that. He even threw out his music play­er. He wasn’t even wor­ried that he might break the stuff when he threw it. I think he tried to break every­thing.

Hand-held phone,” he said as he dug his tele­phone out of a pock­et. “It only works if you put it on a table. Pick up the phone with your hand, and it los­es its sig­nal.”

Crack went the phone when it crashed into the pile of oth­er Apple hard­ware in the bag. Oberon sent the iPad into out­er space, but he kept the rest of the junk. He said he was final­ly ready to try out the Bar­rett for him­self. I had been after him to try the new rifle, but I guess he was wait­ing to have a tar­get that he real­ly want­ed to anni­hi­late.

Note to self: do not piss off the Goth vamp.

Our new field equip­ment uses either Lin­ux or Win­dows. He goes back and forth, but I think he cur­rent­ly has Win­dows load­ed. The Sahara can han­dle both Lin­ux and Win­dows, so Oberon is free to exper­i­ment. His weath­er good­ies can talk direct­ly to his com­put­er with­out any wires, which is way beyond any­thing that the Apple stuff could do. It seems like a sim­ple thing to get hard­ware talk­ing to each oth­er, but I guess I don’t under­stand enough about it.

For the first time, I have to take main­te­nance of the rifle seri­ous­ly. I can’t just pull the rifle out of my bag and start fir­ing. Aim­ing is so crit­i­cal that I have to be a good lit­tle Boy Scout and run a clean­ing rod inside the bar­rel. The tini­est bit of mois­ture inside could move a bul­let by sev­er­al feet down­range. They ship the thing in a water­proof con­tain­er, and I think that I’m sup­posed to cart around this con­tain­er. It isn’t going to hap­pen, but I do know that I have to keep it clean and dry before I set up for a shot.

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But I digress.

Back to the job at hand, and this one was begin­ning to annoy me.

You aren’t cold bore now,” Oberon sig­naled.

Bite me,” I sig­naled back. He was try­ing to remind me that the rifle would behave a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly because it was warmed by my frig­gin’ wild shots.

Oberon shrugged.

No, bite me,” I sig­naled again, “and then go fuck your­self.” I used all those inter­na­tion­al sig­nals that work in most lan­guages. I fol­lowed it with the kind of cold stare that told him I wasn’t in the mood for antics.

I’m just say­in’,” he whis­pered.

So the vam­pire in Ari­zona thought he was being very clev­er. He was! Not clev­er enough, of course, but he made me earn my pay. This guy was mur­der­ing humans all over the place. He was get­ting noticed by the local law enforce­ment peo­ple, and that is a very bad thing for vam­pires to do. The locals want all the vam­pires in their ter­ri­to­ry to stay invis­i­ble to humans. There are plen­ty of vol­un­tary blood donors, but some vam­pires just go crazy. They break and start ter­ror­iz­ing the natives. May­be they were turned too young, or some­thing snaps as they get old­er.

Teenagers only make good vam­pires in Hol­ly­wood movies. When some­body gets turned before their human brain has set­tled down enough to han­dle the extra stress, it nev­er results in a good turn­ing. The kid ram­pages through the human pop­u­la­tion, respond­ing to an intense hunger for blood. The rest of us can’t do any­thing to teach the child vamp, so we have to kill him. The vamp’s Mak­er usu­al­ly gets killed too. Every vam­pire knows not to turn a child, so there’s no mer­cy for those who break this rule. It is a kind of child abuse.

On the oth­er end is a real­ly old vam­pire who has been fol­low­ing the rules for hun­dreds or thou­sands of years. Nobody knows what caus­es some to snap in their old age, but there is almost always some kind of trau­ma, like the loss of a long-term mate or friend. Some­times the vampire’s mind just gets addled, like a super­nat­u­ral form of Alzheimer’s. The­se are tough jobs because old vam­pires are always pow­er­ful. They have hun­dreds of years of sur­vival train­ing, and they can taste dan­ger long before they see it.

This vamp was just mean. He wasn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly old in vam­pire time, may­be a hun­dred years or so. The guide told us that he had always been pecu­liar and bru­tal, but the locals had been able to keep him con­trolled. Six months ago he got tired of liv­ing with rules and moved out to the desert. The locals had lost sev­er­al vam­pires in their bat­tle with this guy. He would kill any vam­pire or human who got close.

He spent each day buried in the side of a hill in the deserts of Ari­zona. The locals even sent out humans dur­ing the day to try uncov­er­ing him. The rogue vam­pire killed the humans even in the day­light. He must have been burned by the radi­a­tion of the sun, but he could still hold off attacks.

There weren’t any trees to block his view. His hill over­looked Lake Mead, and he had a com­mand­ing view of every­thing.

Across the lake was Scan­lon Bay in the state of Nevada, and that was where we start­ed. The locals had got­ten us a boat to move closer to the vam­pire, but I fig­ured I could make the shot. Lake Mead was a lit­tle nar­row­er at one place. It was an impos­si­ble shot: from Nevada, across the lake, into Ari­zona. Huge dis­tance. To go across Scan­lon Bay would have totaled more than six kilo­me­ters, well out­side my abil­i­ty. In the­o­ry the rifle could make the shot, but I would have to fire it up in the air like a mor­tar. I don’t under­stand how to cal­cu­late those angles. To kill a vam­pire six kilo­me­ters away, I have to know where he will be in sev­en-plus sec­onds, and I have to aim the rifle at Mars or Jupiter. May­be some­day, but just think­ing about what I’d have to do makes my brain hurt.

The vam­pire in Ari­zona thought he was safe. When he got close to his lair, he slowed down. It was like a nice, night­time stroll in the moon­light. He was walk­ing from the lake up to his hole, and there was only the slight­est move­ment right-to-left. It was enough to make me miss on my first shot.

I’m sure he saw the bul­let hit the sand of the desert. It just didn’t reg­is­ter that some­body could be putting a bul­let so close to him in that par­tic­u­lar loca­tion. Jeez, you’d have to be… what? Across Lake Mead?

Impos­si­ble. In fact, the vam­pire turned and sat down on the side of his hill to watch the night sky. I sud­den­ly had all the time I need­ed, and there was noth­ing mov­ing. I didn’t have to use cal­cu­lus or alge­bra or any­thing.

It was about twen­ty sec­onds between shots. I had to wait to see where the first one land­ed, and then I had to recal­cu­late my ticks to the right. I could count a tick for a sec­ond, but the winds were mess­ing up my tra­jec­to­ry. It was more like a third of a tick per sec­ond. There are usu­al­ly land­marks between me and the tar­get that tell me what the wind is doing, but I only had desert and a lake for this one. Nei­ther gave me a hint of any breeze. I knew it was present because I saw what the bul­let did. How do I pre­dict this one?

If I had been an Eng­lish major instead of a math major, I’d be use­less.

May­be I should leave the Bar­rett and launch an attack with one of the assault rifles we car­ry. That’s more fun than a sniper rifle. I like to mix things up. The sniper rifle is like a sci­ence project. It keeps me out of the fight. The only thing we use is my brain and fin­ger — Oberon’s brain too — but we are far removed from the action.

One more round toward this guy, and I am going into assault mode.

Look… slide the safe­ty knob to ver­ti­cal… aim… con­firm the tar­get… pre­dict the wind… tick, tick to the left for the breeze… squeeze… pop! Wait… wait… wait… six sec­onds and noth­ing. No, sev­en sec­onds and there’s a siz­zle way across the lake.

My third shot hit him in the neck. I could tell that there was an explo­sion inside the vam­pire, but it was too far away to hear. May­be my ears were ring­ing from being so close to the rifle. I do need to get some of those sound­proof head­phones. Is there a sniper sup­ply store? There must be. Oberon reads all the trade mag­a­zi­nes, so he’d know.

The explod­ing bul­let blew the vamp’s head into a mil­lion pieces, thanks to the shards of sil­ver shrap­nel.

The locals would do any cleanup of the dead vam­pire, but my new weapon nev­er left much that need­ed to be cleaned. When a vam­pire dies from an explod­ing bul­let, the only thing left is a lit­tle pile of ash­es.

I have a stash of handy-wipes in my bag, and I like to wipe my face and hands after a kill. This time I found that my nose was leak­ing. I sneeze blood. A vam­pire with hay fever is real­ly embar­rass­ing. Yeah, I’m a big tough assas­s­in with blood trick­ling out of my nose.

Oberon and I both wear masks that Lon­ny made for us. They add to our mys­tery, but this time mine was streaked and splat­tered with vam­pire sneezeage (read: blood). I was going to have to do some seri­ous clean­ing back in New York.

Oh, come off it. You try lying down in the state of Nevada and tak­ing aim across an entire lake to take out a skit­tish vamp in the state of Ari­zona.

Okay, smar­ty-pants. Try it with hay fever.

Three shots?” Oberon said.

Bite me,” I fired back using the sound­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion of mind-words. Before the shot, we can’t use mind-words because the tar­get would be able to hear us. We have to main­tain “radio silence.” After the shot, Oberon is free to try and make me feel even worse than I already do.

Love to bite you, dar­ling,” Oberon laughed in my head, “but we prob­a­bly ought to head back to New York. Don’t let that blood on your mask dry.”

I shot him a look as I pulled the safe­ty lev­er on the Bar­rett back to its hor­i­zon­tal posi­tion.

Oberon would gath­er his gear and get our pay­ment. As soon as I saw the vampire’s head explode, I shot up into the air.

I was halfway to my cruis­ing alti­tude when I remem­bered some­thing. I had to turn around to pick up my spent shell cas­ings. They all got dumped into a duf­fel bag. I’d clean the rifle lat­er. Right now I just want­ed to be away from Ari­zona and Nevada and Lake Mead and that awful desert. Fuck the gig and the desert.

For­get some­thing?” Oberon said to me using hand sig­nals. We were learn­ing sign lan­guage to keep all our com­mu­ni­ca­tion between just the two of us.

I held up a shell cas­ing. He nod­ded. Nobody need­ed to have the­se cas­ings with my fin­ger­prints and Oberon’s fin­ger­prints or the marks made by the Bar­rett. We try not to leave fin­ger­prints or DNA, but I am not going to clean up what­ev­er I expelled dur­ing that first sneeze. If any crime scene guys think they can find it, they may have my DNA. Hap­py Yule.

Oberon took his time gath­er­ing his gear and get­ting our pay­ment from the local guide. We nev­er say any­thing to the guide. We just take direc­tion and do the shot, and then Oberon gets the mon­ey. Oberon nev­er has to rush because he is light­ning-fast in the air.

The local guide may also be Obscu­rati or just a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the local vam­pire roy­al or mas­ter. We don’t ask. The guide usu­al­ly doesn’t tell. Some­times we get a chat­ty guide, but Oberon tells him (or her) to stay qui­et.

Do you want to go catch a show while we are so close to Las Veg­as?” Oberon said when he caught up to me in the air. “You know it always helps you calm down.”

The last time we went to a Las Veg­as show, an ush­er decid­ed I would be her spe­cial project for the evening. She had hair spiked in a great fan or Mohawk on steroids, and she picked on me loud­ly until the show began. Her hair was a rain­bow of col­ors that don’t exist in nature, unless her moth­er had an affair with a metal­lic pea­cock. The mutant ush­er made me part of the ambiance of the show. Pick­ing on me was all part of her act.

We had great tick­ets and sat close to the stage. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this show used lots of fire, and our good seats put me close to the pyrotech­nics. Vam­pires siz­zle and burn eas­i­ly. Oberon had a love­ly time, of course.

To review: I was picked on by the creepy ush­er with weird, grav­i­ty-defy­ing spikes of wild­ly col­ored hair and almost fried by stray embers. Yeah, that always keeps me calm. Sign me up.

I head­ed back to our build­ing in New York. I can blast along at about ten times the speed of sound. Wicked fast, but Oberon is always faster.

Okay, you’re just try­ing to run up the score­board,” I told Oberon using mind-words as he whooshed past me. I don’t even know how to cal­cu­late how fast Oberon can move, but he is one of the fastest vam­pires I’ve ever seen.

Oberon has blue eyes and long black hair that becomes a kind of tail or trac­er as he flash­es across the sky. The duf­fel bag full of his equip­ment stays flat on his back, strain­ing again­st the rush­ing wind. Its straps are pulled taut by the force of his speed. Oberon had an aero­dy­nam­ic bag made just for his flights through the air, because any ordi­nary bag would dis­in­te­grate in the wind and pres­sure, which would be a bad thing when you are haul­ing ammu­ni­tion and com­put­ers.

The mask that Lon­ny made for Oberon fits so per­fect­ly that the wind nev­er knocks it off. Oberon dress­es like a Goth per­son: guy-lin­er, black clothes, and sulk­ing lips with faint traces of lip­stick. He is the most over-sexed per­son I’ve ever known. Oberon is vague­ly effem­i­nate but all top in bed. No oral sex for him. He likes to fuck, and he can do it four or five times a day with­out any trou­ble. Our record is about eight times, just the two of us. We have an open rela­tion­ship, and that real­ly helps keep my ass from feel­ing like worn-out ham­burg­er meat. We’ve been a cou­ple for more than a hun­dred years, and I’ve loved every day of it.

He would prob­a­bly be back in our New York build­ing and in bed with a blood-donor before I crossed over the Mis­sis­sip­pi river. We don’t kill humans. Vam­pires have been com­plete­ly civ­i­lized since the 1500s. If you read about vam­pires being mon­sters, remem­ber you are read­ing fic­tion. Those oth­er authors know about as much about vam­pires as I know about mak­ing ched­dar cheese, which is not very much. We keep a staff of human blood donors. They are most­ly gay men. In return for their blood, we pay for their col­lege edu­ca­tions.

After a blood donor grad­u­ates, we do a vam­pire mind-trick to make them for­get about the very exis­tence of vam­pires. They agree to all this up front or they don’t become a blood donor. We get blood, and they get edu­ca­tion.

They can have all the sex with Oberon they want. When a vam­pire takes blood, it is a real­ly sen­su­al or sex­u­al expe­ri­ence for the human. There is some­thing in our sali­va or bite that cre­ates the most amaz­ing expe­ri­ence for the human.

A few of our blood donors are het­ero­sex­u­al, and that’s okay. I don’t under­stand it. May­be they are just born that way. They just give blood and get edu­cat­ed, and nobody forces them to have sex. We don’t even force any human to be a blood donor on any par­tic­u­lar day. If the human is sick or not in the mood, we go to anoth­er donor. A com­put­er pro­gram makes sure that we rotate through all the blood donors, nev­er tak­ing blood from any­one more than once or twice a week.

The Obscu­rati — the “unseen death” — had anoth­er notch on the score­card. One evil vam­pire was put out of busi­ness, and all the locals in the Lake Mead and Las Veg­as area were hap­py not to have to wor­ry about unwant­ed noto­ri­ety. Humans were safer, and we were exor­bi­tant­ly richer.

This job paid €50,000 (about $65,000), and the Las Veg­as vam­pires were hap­py to pay it. There was no oth­er vam­pire in the world who could have tak­en this guy down. The bad vam­pire would have sensed their pres­ence in plen­ty of time to escape. He couldn’t sense our pres­ence all the way across Lake Mead, and that was his down­fall.

When I was over the Appalachi­an Moun­tains, I felt an updraft and slowed to take in the scenery, doing a few high-alti­tude som­er­saults. Some­times my life seems fun­ny. I grabbed my duf­fel bag and start­ed danc­ing with it, singing, “If my friends could see me… if my friends could see me… if my friends could see me now.”

Hey, can I help you?” came a voice over my left shoul­der.

Crap. Vam­pire secu­ri­ty. There must be some­thing going on down below. When vam­pires need secu­ri­ty, they get mus­cle to lev­i­tate. They cre­ate a kind of bub­ble of blood-thugs.

Crap. Crap. I didn’t even look around but flashed out to the east as fast as I could.

May­be you didn’t hear me, moth­er­fuck­er,” hollered the vam­pire. I just looked east and didn’t acknowl­edge his pres­ence.

No inter­ac­tion should mean that I was just pass­ing through. I was a vam­pire wear­ing a mask and car­ry­ing an over­sized duf­fel bag. I made con­tin­gen­cy plans to unzip my bag and pull out my pis­tol. May­be I ought to just wear the pis­tol dur­ing the cross-coun­try flights. No, that was crazy; this was the first time a vamp had been up at my alti­tude to ques­tion my pas­sage.

Hey, I’m talk­ing to you, shit­head,” he called out as he stopped some­where over Penn­syl­va­nia. The vamp had anger issues and was on that invis­i­ble line where all my but­tons live. Hope­ful­ly he won’t push any of those but­tons, because I don’t want to have to clean up the mess that I know I can cause. I stayed my course through all the hos­tile words.

He grabbed my arm to spin me around, and that was when he noticed that I was wear­ing a mask streaked by blood. He rec­og­nized the mask. I didn’t know my mask was famous, but he def­i­nite­ly knew that the mask meant I was not a vam­pire to be messed with. He might have assumed that all the blood spat­ter was from a fight. I wasn’t going to tell him it was from a sneeze. The mask meant that I was a tough guy or that I was out on a drunk­en Hal­loween jun­ket. I made sure my face didn’t show him any change: no smile, no frown, noth­ing.

I could dash down to the ground and stash the bag if I had to. It might even be fun to mix things up with a local vam­pire. I shoot rogue vam­pires, but I don’t enjoy it. What I real­ly like to do is fight — alley-style with no weapons — and I was will­ing to do that if he insist­ed. I was on busi­ness, so I tried not to get involved in any­thing else.

Excuse me, sir,” he said. He backed off, and I heard him tell some oth­er vam­pire that it was the Obscu­rati, only he used the real name. I didn’t stop to warn him not to do that. He was on his own if there were oth­er Obscu­rati in the area. I did what any vam­pire should expect from any mem­ber of our group: no inter­ac­tion at all. We are the “unseen” enforcers of vam­pire law, and we don’t get chum­my when we are out on a job. It is all busi­ness.

Crap. You nev­er see oth­er vam­pires over Europe. The Unit­ed States has crowd­ed air­space. Sup­pos­ed­ly the air over Chi­na can be a com­plete clus­ter­fuck some­times, but I’m not an expert on any­thing Chi­ne­se. They take care of their own.

[/​two_​last]

 

WHERE TO BUY: Silver Mask (Vamp Camp 3)

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[two_last]
The Vamp in the Silver Mask (Vamp Camp 3)

[/​two_​last]

EXCERPT: The Obscurati (Vamp Camp 2)

[list3]

[/​list3]

from Chapter One

[two]

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Lord, bless Mårten, for he hath sinned egre­gious­ly again­st Thee,” the priest said.

Why do you both­er with a pri­va­cy screen if you can tell it’s me?”

It’s a con­fes­sion­al, so every­one expects a screen.”

Shouldn’t you pre­tend you don’t know me?”

You want me to lie? You’ve been com­ing to my con­fes­sion­al for nine­ty years. Even if I couldn’t see you, your Tex­as dialect stands out in Ger­many.”

I had sex four times yes­ter­day.”

God has rules about pride and brag­ging.”

Isn’t there some rule about gay sex?”

Jesus said noth­ing about gays,” he said.

Any kind of sex rules?” I asked.

Oh, most assured­ly,” he said with a schol­ar­ly flair. “The rule says ‘Thou Shalt Not Boink’, but it only applies to cas­tratos and col­orat­uras.”

All I could do was study the floor, hop­ing that the stones would mor­ph into some­thing I could under­stand.

Are you sure you’re a priest?” I asked through my teeth as I shook my head. Please let me find wis­dom ris­ing from the grout between the stones of the floor.

Ja, Mårten. Cas­tratos don’t have much sex, so I nev­er under­stood why they were men­tioned in the rule, but we should keep our eyes on the col­orat­uras. They can’t be trust­ed with­out ade­quate super­vi­sion. There’s noth­ing more dis­turbing than a col­orat­u­ra boink-a-thon.”

What? Did you even hear me say that I had sex with Oberon four times yes­ter­day? I don’t care about col­orat­uras.”

Yes, Mårten. You’ve lived with Oberon for almost a hun­dred years. I would wor­ry if you weren’t hav­ing sex.”

Four times,” I said.

That’s nice, dar­ling, but don’t brag. Are you try­ing to make me jeal­ous?”

Not at all, Father Johan­nes. There’s no need to be jeal­ous. You can have sex with Oberon any time you want.”

Shh­hh, I’m not gay,” the priest whis­pered.

Your boyfriend thinks you are, Father Johan­nes.”

Humph. He only wish­es it. Did you kill any­one since your last con­fes­sion?” the priest asked bland­ly.

Nobody,” I said. “Just two vam­pires.”

Ah-ah,” the priest said, tap­ping his knuck­les again­st the pri­va­cy screen. “Vam­pires are fic­tion­al char­ac­ters.”

So your boyfriend sleeps with a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter? He’s going to be shocked.”

Focus, Mårten. This con­fes­sion is about you, not me. Are you sor­ry for killing the vam­pires?”

No, Father. It was busi­ness, and they were vam­pires, so tech­ni­cal­ly they were already dead.”

That’s nice, Mårten. Don’t for­get to pray. Lud­wig and I went to a Chi­ne­se restau­rant last night. When he opened his for­tune cook­ie, the piece of paper was com­plete­ly blank. Do you think that means any­thing? He was in tears, of course. I need to go… you know. It’s Lud­wig.”

And with that, the priest was gone. I was alone in the chapel’s con­fes­sion­al. The layper­son always leaves a con­fes­sion­al first. The priest leaves lat­er, but Father Johan­nes doesn’t under­stand such mun­dane rules. He has to be the strangest priest I’ve ever known. He didn’t tell me to be sor­ry or to promise to do bet­ter or to say Hail Mary’s. He just men­tioned his boyfriend’s for­tune cook­ie and went poof.

I was left to pon­der or shake my head. It sure feels like he is mess­ing with my head, but he is always like that. He gets into my thoughts, slaps me around, scares the day­lights out of me, and then he dis­ap­pears.

I am a vam­pire, but not by choice. A Ger­man pris­on guard dur­ing World War I raped me and turned me. I’m gay and would have agreed to the sex if he had asked, but he didn’t ask. Rape is always wrong. He’s dead now. I killed him. Twice. But that’s a whole oth­er sto­ry.

A hun­dred peo­ple wit­nessed the sec­ond time I killed my rapist and Mak­er. He was a bad vam­pire who need­ed to die. Nobody com­plained (except my rapist, of course).

The vam­pire queen of Europe didn’t even object that I refused her help with the sec­ond killing. She helped the first time, but it didn’t get him com­plete­ly dead. If you want to get things done right… you know.

[/​two]
[two_last]

 When I killed him the sec­ond time, I ripped his head right off his body and threw it onto a bon­fire and watched as his head burst into flames. I will nev­er for­get the look of total shock on his face when the head hit the flames of the bon­fire. He was stunned. He was so sur­prised by the way I killed him that he hasn’t spo­ken to me since.

There are two ways to kill a vam­pire: rip off his head or burn him. I did both. It was the vam­pire ver­sion of the fat lady singing: rip off the head and burn it, and it’s all over.

That’s what it did: I flew up and pulled the asshole’s head right off, and then I flew to a bon­fire and threw the head onto the fire. Most vam­pires can’t fly, but I can. It is a tal­ent or skill that is the envy of many vam­pires.

Pride is def­i­nite­ly a sin, Mårten.”

Yes, Father, but I’m telling this sto­ry. Don’t you have some altar boys to chase?”

That isn’t fun­ny, Mårten.”

Oh, yes it is, Father.”

The queen’s own chief goon watched me take down the bad vam­pire. Pier­re called my fight­ing the most insane­ly ter­ri­fy­ing thing he had ever seen, and he is sev­er­al hun­dred years old. He made me promise to get some train­ing. The queen had told every­one that I was a Mas­ter Vam­pire after this caper, so I think I could have ignored the promise to get train­ing.

But I didn’t. I tried train­ing.

Thwunk came a blow to my chest that sent me som­er­sault­ing back­wards. My fight­ing teacher and I were about thir­ty meters in the air, just above the top of the tallest tree. Just as soon as I rolled half a turn, I felt a swift kick to the butt: thwunk.

Ham­let!” I screamed. “Are you try­ing to kill me? No sex for you when this is over.”

Ham­let is the most effem­i­nate vam­pire any­body has ever known. I’ve known him since he was about eigh­teen years old. His Mak­er refused to turn him until he was in his mid-twen­ties. I know because I was his Mak­er. Ham­let looks like a frilly queen on the out­side but fights like the tough­est kung fu nin­ja karate black­est-belt-pos­si­ble you can imag­ine.

Ham­let is a mag­net for street thugs who want to roll young gay guys, and he loves it when they try. Think­ing you can get the drop on Ham­let says more about your think­ing than it does about Ham­let. He fights with human bul­lies, and he loves send­ing them fly­ing again­st walls or Dump­sters.

He likes fight­ing with me, although I am tech­ni­cal­ly his stu­dent. We try not to hurt each oth­er too much.

I almost nev­er get mad at Ham­let because anger changes all the rules. I go absolute­ly berserk when I am in a real fight. What you see is an insane burst of ven­om and move­ment. Ham­let could prob­a­bly take me down in a real fight, but I know that I could cause some dam­age.

Caus­ing dam­age wasn’t part of that day’s agen­da. Humil­i­at­ing me in front of a dozen oth­ers was what Ham­let intend­ed. He smacked me, kicked me, and threw me.

Nel­ly frig­gin’ vam­pires.

When I turned, Ham­let was grin­ning and pranc­ing on the ground with one hand on his hip. A vam­pire sashay­ing is a sight like no oth­er, espe­cial­ly after the girly fight­er has wiped the floor with the scrap­py one.

Ouch,” I com­plained loud­ly. I got no sym­pa­thy from the gallery on the ground. They just jeered that a wimpy lit­tle guy like Ham­let could wipe the whole sky with my butt.

I grabbed one of his legs, but he curled his knee quick­ly and sent me crash­ing down to the ground. There was no jus­tice. No dig­ni­ty.

Had enough for the night?” Ham­let asked as he pranced to the house. I saw one mem­ber of the human staff, appar­ent­ly a recent addi­tion, pulling some fold­ed mon­ey out of his pock­et and hand­ing it to a groundskeep­er who had been at the estate for years. The bitch bet again­st me.

Father Johan­nes, is it wrong to wish for the death of anoth­er vam­pire?”

Ham­let again?” he asked.

Ja, Vater. May­be I could just cause some pain.”

Don’t for­get to pray, Mårten.”

[/​two_​last]

 

WHERE TO BUY: The Obscurati (Vamp Camp 2)

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ISBN: 978 – 1-61581 – 615-6

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ISBN: 978 – 1-61581 – 614-9

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[two_last]
The Obscurati (Vamp Camp 2)

[/​two_​last]

EXCERPT: Vamp Camp

[list3]

[/​list3]

from Chapter One

[two]

from Chapter One

My name is Mårten Larsson, and this sto­ry is about me. That already tells you a lot about me and the book. For one thing, you know my name (unless I was lying), and you know that I will sur­vive what­ev­er hap­pens, as I am per­son­al­ly telling you about the­se amaz­ing events (unless I’m some­how dead and writ­ing as a ghost).

How many oth­er options are there? Not many, and my moth­er didn’t raise me to be a liar. If I told you any lies, at least she’d want to make sure they were believ­able lies. In oth­er words, she wouldn’t want me to get caught.

Get­ting caught is what I do best. It is either a nat­u­ral tal­ent (which means we can blame my fam­i­ly genes) or a well-hewn craft (in which case we can still blame my par­ents). I am the very kind of per­son Moth­er warned me to avoid.

When you vis­it the gov­ern­ment print­ing office, you can buy whole sheets of dol­lar bills. Did you ever hear the phrase “queer as a three-dol­lar bill”? Fun­ny. Ha ha. When my moth­er vis­it­ed the place where they print mon­ey, she bought me three one-dol­lar bills as a sheet. My own moth­er said I was queer as a three-dol­lar bill.

See the kind of tor­ment I’ve had to work through? I have those bills framed, and you can still see them hang­ing on my wall. I am queer as a three-dol­lar bill. Truth doesn’t hurt.

Sticks and stones hurt. Names hurt too.

Why is there a cir­cle over the A in my name?” I asked Moth­er.

You’re Swedish,” Moth­er said.

Guys at school think it’s sis­sy.”

Good, it’ll make you grow up tough.”

My own moth­er. I always thought about suing her over that name. Shouldn’t there be some kind of mater­nal mal­prac­tice?

I’m tak­ing you to court,” I told her once.

Eat your cere­al,” she said.

I’m gay, you know.”

I’m not blind,” she said.

It makes me sen­si­tive.”

That’s nice, dear. Eat your cere­al.”

Nobody ever got my name right. It usu­al­ly got Amer­i­can­ized into Mar­t­in or Mar­ty. If any­thing, it could be Mor­ton, which is how to say my name in Swedish. An A with a lit­tle cir­cle sounds like the O in “yon­der.” Why couldn’t they just turn the let­ter into an O? I have no idea, except that it must have been some kind of plot to get me picked on in school. Can you imag­ine the grief a kid in Tex­as gets when his first name has an Å in it? Oh, the pain. The human­i­ty. I am the only guy who grew up in Bible-belt bub­ba-land with a damn cir­cle over his A.

So lit­tle Mårten put up with it, and I grew up tough. I’m scrag­gly and skin­ny, but men­tion that lit­tle cir­cle in my name and see me go all hos­tile on your ass. I used to have this T-shirt: “Warn­ing: I go from 0 to Viking in 10 sec­onds.”

Rape and pil­lage are both in my blood. The word “berserk­er” was a kind of Norse war­rior. Yeah, it is also a rock band from Aus­tralia, but they didn’t make up the name. The Norse war­riors went absolute­ly nuts when they attacked. They screamed and ran for­ward, scar­ing the ever-lov­ing crap out of any­one in their way. I know, it sounds like the band, but this is dif­fer­ent. It was like the berserk­er war­riors were in a kind of trance. I know how they felt, and I guar­an­tee it is genet­ic.

Does Mårten turn the oth­er cheek? Hell, no. I don’t even know how to do that. If you cross me, I’m instant Viking, so stand down.

That whole thing got me more time in deten­tion than I like to remem­ber. Skin­ny blond kid who’s queer as a three-dol­lar bill and gives every appear­ance of being an easy mark for a school­yard bul­ly or Wall Street sharpie.

Not so much. My nature is more like “ready, shoot, aim.” If you see any­thing else, it is me try­ing to play nice. It is me work­ing again­st my genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tion.

It doesn’t make me a bul­ly. Sure, I would be a good bul­ly, but that is so much extra work. What­ev­er you have, even­tu­al­ly there is some­body who has more. Bul­lies either have to pick on hap­less punks who can’t defend them­selves or even­tu­al­ly become the vic­tim them­selves. That is way more com­pli­cat­ed than it has to be.

I say, live and let live. If you don’t want that phi­los­o­phy, I can cer­tain­ly flip over to die and let die. Not a prob­lem. I’m wired for bat­tle.

[/​two]
[two_last]

My name is Mårten Larsson: true.

This sto­ry is about me: true again. You prob­a­bly could tell that by now.

I’m alive and kick­ing: only half true. I can kick and enjoy it, but there’s no way you can con­sid­er me among the liv­ing. It isn’t my fault. It is just the way things have laid down.

When you see the words “I” and “me” in a book, you jump to con­clu­sions about the author. You think the guy is alive and all. It’s log­i­cal. It’s also about as incor­rect as you can be.

But I’m get­ting ahead of myself, which in itself is not as sim­ple as it sounds… I mean, how do you real­ly get ahead of your­self? You’d have to be real­ly quick. I’m blind­ing­ly fast, but not even I can get ahead of myself. I nev­er get any­where before myself.

It is all real­ly con­fus­ing. Being dead was con­fus­ing at first, too, but I will get to that lat­er.

Typ­i­cal child­hood. Well, it was the only child­hood I had, so for me it was typ­i­cal. I grad­u­at­ed from col­lege with a degree in math­e­mat­ics and imme­di­ate­ly enlist­ed in the mil­i­tary.

What does the Navy do with a col­lege kid with a math degree? They send him to school to learn how to fore­cast the weath­er. Of all the bone-head­ed things I could have done, this was way up there. What in the Sam Hill am I sup­posed to do with school­ing in weath­er?

There was no such thing as air­line com­pa­nies at the time. Yes, it was a long time ago.

You could not get a job as a tele­vi­sion mete­o­rol­o­gist because TV had not been invent­ed. Radio had bare­ly been invent­ed, so weath­er fore­cast­ing was sort of a dead end. Being a weath­er fore­cast­er back then was as use­ful as hav­ing an emp­ty buck­et of orange paint.

But hey, we were at war. War needs guys who can look at the clouds and make pre­dic­tions. It was the “Great War,” the first World War (only we didn’t know to call it “first” back then because nobody knew about the sec­ond).

I enlist­ed in the Navy because they got bet­ter food and didn’t have to dig trench­es. What’s more, I could be part of the big war effort sit­ting at a desk and using my over­ac­tive mind to pre­dict which way the wind would blow. You real­ly need­ed to get wind direc­tion nailed, because this was the era of poi­so­nous gas. The Ger­mans used “mus­tard gas” again­st their ene­mies, and every­one need­ed to know when the wind would be inbound from Ger­man lines.

Larsson?” the lieu­tenant would bel­low. Moth­er would say he was hav­ing a hissy fit.

West-to-east, sir,” I’d say.

Thank you, ensign.”

That is about how I spent the entire war. I was in an office, fig­ur­ing out wind pat­terns. The Navy had stopped rely­ing on wind pow­er, so ships with sails weren’t much of an issue dur­ing the Great War. We had enor­mous bat­tle­ships with guns that could turn a whole city block into rub­ble with one shot. The Navy wise­ly kept me away from the trig­ger of that kind of gun. May­be it was wise. I per­son­al­ly think I could have won the war faster than the idiots in charge. You just load up all your bat­tle­ships and blow Ger­many over to Rus­sia and let them freeze or some­thing.

Some­times I would be asked to guess on a weath­er pat­tern at sea, or where some of our blimps might be blown. Pilots of the rinky-dinky two-wing don’t-even-think-about-getting-me-in-one air­planes want­ed to know about wind pat­terns and got com­plete­ly bent when I was wrong.

They used big bal­loons, offi­cial­ly called “Type-B limp” air­ships, or “blimp” for short, to see where the Ger­mans were try­ing to sneak. It would be bad to have the bal­loon thingies hit by gale-force winds all of a sud­den.

Larsson?” the lieu­tenant would yell at me.

Sor­ry, sir, freak wind,” I’d say when my fore­cast failed to match the actu­al con­di­tions in the air.

You’ll be up in it next time,” he’d threat­en, grin­ning like a gopher that had found an acre of soft dirt. I know about gophers, but what am I sup­posed to do about wind?

No, sir. Won’t hap­pen again.”

And so forth and so on.

[/​two_​last]

WHERE TO BUY: Vamp Camp

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[/​list3] [two]

Audiobook

Unabridged. Jason Lovett, nar­ra­tor. Intro­duc­tion by the author. [list2]

[/​list2]

e-Book

ISBN: 978 – 1-61581 – 613-2 [list2]

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Paperback

ISBN: 978 – 1-61581 – 612-5 [list2]

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[/​list2] [/​two] [two_last] Vamp Camp [/​two_​last]

EXCERPT: Fangs over America

[list3]

[/​list3]

from Chapter One

[two]
You can jump into this book even if you didn’t read the first three. Mak­ing this your first read is like play­ing a musi­cal record­ing real­ly fast just to lis­ten to the last verse. It seems like it is cheat­ing some­how. I mean, shame on you for skip­ping ahead, but this book will still make sense to you. I think. I hope (knock on a wood­en coffin).

My name is Mårten Larsson, and my lit­er­ary agent said that I swore my Vamp Camp auto­bi­og­ra­phy was a tril­o­gy. The sexy cov­ers on each of the pri­or Vamp Camp vol­umes claimed that it was a tril­o­gy. Books don’t lie, of course. Lit­er­ary agents nev­er ever lie, except when they promise to pay an author.

Cross my heart, my agent told me about send­ing a check a few years ago. I was wait­ing for the sec­ond half of that old say­ing. Say it, lady! “Hope to die” is some­thing I can help with, being a vam­pire and all. I wait­ed, but she nev­er said it. One day, she’ll let it slip.

The prob­lem with the vol­ume you’re read­ing is that it would be book four of the tril­o­gy. It’s a tech­ni­cal­i­ty. Minor. Micro­scop­ic. Given the tur­moil and prob­lems in the world as a whole, nobody was ever going to notice.

Her: It’s your agent.

Me: Hi, are you call­ing to say you’re send­ing me a check this mon­th?

Her: (dis­re­spect­ful snick­er­ing) I’m call­ing to say that I got your man­u­script.

Me: And?

Her: And I notice that it claims to be the fourth book of your auto­bi­og­ra­phy. That’s impos­si­ble, right?

Me: Why?

Her: Why’d you write it?

Me: I have bills.

Her: But you… because it… it is book four.

Me: You can count!

Her: Your auto­bi­og­ra­phy was a tril­o­gy.

Me: It’s way too impor­tant to be con­tained in three books.

Her: You know what a tril­o­gy even is? It is a col­lec­tion of three books.

Me: Sure, like The Lord of the Rings? That was a four-book tril­o­gy.

Her: I knew J.R.R. Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien was a friend of mine.

Me: You are not going there, are you?

Her: Mårten, hon­est­ly? You write like Kil­go­re Trout.

Me: That is so harsh. I’m a sen­si­tive artist, and you are bor­der­line car­nap­tious.

Her: If you nap on my car, I’ll have you arrest­ed.

Me: I’ll shop the book around by myself if you want.

Her: That’s not what I’m talk­ing about.

Me: Do you want it or not?

Her: I think you don’t know the dif­fer­ence between a three and a whole case of Shi­no­la… blah-bum-blah-blah-blah….

Con­tempt was drip­ping out of my tele­phone ear­piece. It was brown, gooey con­tempt — well known to be the worst kind.

She went on and on. I think she was afraid that her lit­er­ary big­wig my-ink-don’t-stink golf bud­dies would notice the issues with the math and give her a hard time about a four-part tril­o­gy.

At one point, I sug­gest­ed we call it “Vol­ume 3.14159” to keep the num­ber under four. She said that num­ber was already tak­en. Who knew?

Vol­ume three. I know about the num­ber three. I am proud to say that I ful­ly grasp three-ness. I know that the num­ber three nev­er grows fat enough to be a num­ber four, even when it goes on a crème brûlée binge over three weeks. Every three is exact­ly the same. You can have three hors­es and three lit­er­ary agents. The num­ber three would be exact­ly the same in both places, although the three with the lit­er­ary agents would be try­ing to bribe the oth­er three to switch places. The three could be ashamed or embar­rassed, but it would still be a three.

Num­bers nei­ther age nor die. Nobody can step on three and squish it into a two. If you throw one of the lit­er­ary agents into a bar­rel of sul­fu­ric acid, you have to stop using the num­ber three. The three itself wouldn’t change, but it would cease being accu­rate. I may be run­ning that test at some point.

But three is only one of so many oth­er num­bers. I can actu­al­ly count at least to forty-eight. That’s the hon­est and com­plete truth. Just to make sure, I did that just now.

I think I can prob­a­bly go to six­ty or beyond, but I didn’t want you to wait on me to run tests. You want to read, so I’ll skip tak­ing the time to prove myself.

Yes, Vamp Camp is (or was) a tril­o­gy. This is book four of the tril­o­gy. Frig­gin’ deal with it.

In my defense, gobs of shit has hap­pened since I wrote Sil­ver Mask. Some tru­ly weird shit. Beguil­ing doo-doo if there ever was any. I was dodg­ing shit every day as it was flung out of my elec­tric fans, so I had to get it into a book.

[/​two]

[two_last]
Let me catch you up, in case you for­got what my life was like before now.

I was born in the late 1800s, fought in World War I in the AEF, got shot down while strapped to an obser­va­tion blimp, and was turned into a god­damn vam­pire by an ass­hole guard in a Ger­man POW camp. The guy just left me a note of instruc­tions: drink blood and avoid sun­light. The ass­hole wrote it in Ger­man, so it might as well have told me how to play the sax­o­phone. With­out help from my orig­i­nal mak­er, I sur­vived. Fuck­wad. Most days I’d say that I thrived, but that was because of a vam­pire men­tor named Menz who found me and taught me how to sur­vive.

I went on to become a mem­ber of a vam­pire assas­si­na­tion squad that enforced vamp laws. Vam­pire lead­ers would hire Oberon and me to kill a vam­pire who couldn’t be con­trolled. If some vam­pire goes nuts and lash­es out at chil­dren, we get called when the local lead­ers can’t off the vam­pire by them­selves. Give me a sniper rifle, and I don’t miss. It isn’t brag­ging if you can do it.

Oberon — my lover and my assas­si­na­tion spot­ter. He gives me weath­er and range infor­ma­tion. The two of us became a dead­ly sniper team and mem­bers of a world­wide group of vam­pires that get called in to han­dle impos­si­ble sit­u­a­tions. We are real­ly expen­sive, and the pow­ers that be try every­thing else first. The vam­pire lead­ers would much rather take care of their own vam­pires, because they’re cheap bas­tards. They don’t want to spend their per­son­al mon­ey on a hit squad unless they real­ly have to. Plus they don’t look tough and scary when they have to admit they have trou­ble that is beyond their measly abil­i­ty to con­trol. And if they knew they were reach­ing out to a cou­ple of fairies, they’d be beside them­selves in shame for hav­ing to crawl to a cou­ple of gay guys to bail their sor­ry ass­es out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Yup, they’d be beside them­selves, which is a real­ly dif­fi­cult thing to pull off. Most vam­pires are light­ning fast, even the fat-cat lead­ers, but no vam­pire is fast enough to pull off being beside him­self (or her­self, even though the wom­en hon­cho vamps are usu­al­ly more trim and fit).

I am going to call our group the Obscu­rati (as in obscure or hid­den or secret). That isn’t the real name, because it’s secret. If I used the real name, I would anger the kind of vam­pires it isn’t safe to anger.

Let’s say that if I told you the real name of our assas­si­na­tion group, I would have to kill myself. Pow­er­ful vam­pires would hire the Obscu­rati to kill me, and that’s where things get real­ly dicey. Because I’m the Obscurati’s best sniper, I would be hired to kill myself. Com­pli­cat­ed: my sniper rifle is far too long to point at my head or heart. If I had to assas­si­nate myself, the only thing I could fig­ure out is for me to fire a round and hus­tle to the busi­ness end of the rifle before the round emerges. Can you imag­ine fir­ing a rifle and scam­per­ing to the oth­er end before the bul­let blasts its way out? I’m a light­ning-fast vam­pire, but I’m not that fast. And how do you aim on a shot like that? It’s eas­ier just to keep the secret from hit­ting ink (or elec­trons, if you are read­ing an e-book).

The Obscu­rati made Oberon and me a cou­ple of the rich­est vam­pires any­where. It kills me that I can’t tell every­one how I got so much mon­ey, but that would make the Obscu­rati way too pub­lic. We just enjoy our wealth with­out mak­ing too much of a big deal.

The vam­pire queen of Europe knows about the group. Queen Cécile is the one who gets noti­fied that some­thing is wrong. She tells us about the job. I guess you could say that the queen is our pimp, and she doesn’t even take a finder’s fee.

Oberon and I have three homes: Lech­mont Manor in Bavaria (south­ern Ger­many), a whole island in the Paci­fic, and an office build­ing in the Chelsea area of Man­hat­tan (New York City). Things got so out of con­trol that we had to hire a human to take care of our prop­er­ties. That worked pret­ty well until I fell mad­ly in love with the human.

I was smit­ten. It could have been the end for Oberon and me as a cou­ple, but Oberon fell in love with Lon­ny too. He’s an amaz­ing young man, which you’d already know if you’d read my oth­er books. Tight­wad. We first met Lon­ny when he was an engi­neer­ing stu­dent at a uni­ver­si­ty in Munich. He was liv­ing at our Lech­mont Manor estate while he stud­ied. We provide room, board, and schol­ar­ships to dozens of stu­dents, and we only ask that we be allowed to drink their blood from time to time.

Back then, Oberon was com­plete­ly over­sexed. I didn’t mind him hav­ing sex with the humans; they enjoyed it. If we had had a closed rela­tion­ship, my ass would have been rubbed raw sev­er­al times every night. After a few hun­dred years, I’d need a butt trans­plant. Ouch.

Then every­thing changed. Some­time after Lon­ny became our mutu­al hus­band, Oberon decid­ed to change his ways. He is no longer a sex fiend, and he rarely has sex with any­body oth­er than Lon­ny and me. I think we still have an open rela­tion­ship, but we act like we are exclu­sive to each oth­er.

All mod­ern vam­pires are extreme­ly care­ful not to cause harm to humans. I’m still a preda­tor; I love rip­ping off body parts. If I don’t rip out the throat of every human I see, it is because I’m trained not to go with my first impulse. I’ve learned to hunt and kill vam­pires who break vam­pire laws.

We have to drink blood from a liv­ing being, but we don’t kill. We are more humane than any human you’ve met. The Obscu­rati takes care of those who give in to the preda­to­ry lean­ings deep in each vam­pire.

Keep­ing col­lege kids around makes it eas­ier for us to keep our blood-food flow­ing, and they get a free edu­ca­tion. At Lech­mont Manor, all the human donors are col­lege stu­dents. When they grad­u­ate, they move on — after we tweak their mem­o­ry just enough to keep our fangs a secret. We have swarms of col­lege grads who think we’re the kindest, sweet­est hops farm­ers in Ger­many, and it’s been going on for more than a hun­dred years. The guys make an informed choice (even if they have trou­ble recall­ing the specifics years lat­er). All our blood-schol­ar­ship recip­i­ents are male. Most are gay. Sex was avail­able, but it was nev­er forced on any­body. There’s some­thing erotic about a vampire’s bite. Even if the human isn’t up for sex, he usu­al­ly gets hard while we eat. I think there’s some­thing in our sali­va.

Even­tu­al­ly we agreed to turn Lon­ny into a vam­pire, and we wel­comed him into our life as an equal. They all request it, don’t they?

Our ménage à trois works, and I think that is a rar­i­ty. Oberon and Lon­ny are the loves of my life. If I love one more than the oth­er, I’m cer­tain­ly not going to type that into a word proces­sor.

I’m the ten­der preda­tor with two hus­bands. I kill bad vam­pires and pro­tect humans. I love two men, and they love me.

So this is book four of my auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal tril­o­gy. It grew a fourth book because my life keeps get­ting more and more “inter­est­ing.” (Read: Mårten is a type-B vam­pire pressed into a type-A lifestyle).
[/​two_​last]

WHERE TO BUY: Fangs over America

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Paperback

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e-Book

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Wholesale

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  • Please con­tact Dream­spin­ner Press (pub­lish­er) or Ingram for infor­ma­tion on whole­sale quan­ti­ties.

[/​list2]
[/​two]

[two_last]Fangs over America (Vamp Camp 4)
[/​two_​last]

The Vamp in the Silver Mask (Vamp Camp 3)

[list3]

[/​list3]
[three]

Mårten Larsson and his hus­bands — plu­ral — are at it again, sav­ing the world from exsan­guina­tion one twist­ed vam­pire bad guy at a time. As the Obscu­rati sniper team known as the Unseen Death, Mårten and Oberon trav­el the world exter­mi­nat­ing the undead, leav­ing Lon­ny to be the brains of their vam­pire empire back home in Bavaria.

But the ren­o­va­tions Lon­ny has slat­ed for Lech­mont Manor get put on the back burn­er when some major demo­li­tion unearths a stone coffin and a decades-old plot to pol­ish off the pope. Sud­den­ly the Obscu­rati are the ones being hunt­ed by mem­bers of a pow­er­ful super­nat­u­ral orga­ni­za­tion that aren’t afraid to walk in the day­light. To make mat­ters worse, the mount­ing ten­sion is dri­ving a wedge between Mårten and his hus­bands. If Mårten wants to save their unlives — and their mar­riage — he will have to solve the mys­tery of the vamp in the sil­ver mask before the Illu­mi­nati turn out the lights.
[/​three]
[three][quote2]“What sur­prised me the most about this book was the ele­ment of sar­cas­tic humor that Mårten has. There were sev­er­al laugh out loud moments for me and see­ing every­thing through his eyes was def­i­nite­ly enter­tain­ing to say the least.”

—Night Owl Reviews Top Pick[/quote2]

Num­ber of Page 200
Inte­ri­or Type Black and White
Trim Size (inch­es) 6 x 9
Bind­ing US Trade Paper
Pub­lished 2011, Dream­spin­ner Press

[/​three]
[three­_last]
The Vamp in the Silver Mask (Vamp Camp 3)

[/​three_​last]

The Obscurati (Vamp Camp 2)

[list3]

[/list3][three]
A hun­dred years after his turn­ing, Mårten Larsson and his lover Oberon have tak­en the com­pas­sion and car­ing they found in Vamp Camp and cre­at­ed an empire that brings bal­ance to vam­pire soci­ety around the world. Once two gid­dy young vamps, now they’re the most for­mi­da­ble vam­pire hit squad in his­to­ry: The Obscu­rati.

As the “Unseen Death,” the duo enforces vam­pire law. When a vam­pire breaks the rules any­where in the world, or when the local vam­pire lead­ers can’t con­trol a sit­u­a­tion, that’s when The Obscu­rati show up. Mårten and Oberon tur­bo-charge the action with the lat­est in anti-vamp fire­pow­er and more, all the while push­ing their steamy rela­tion­ship to the next lev­el.

Num­ber of Page 210
Inte­ri­or Type Black and White
Trim Size (inch­es) 6 x 9
Bind­ing US Trade Paper
Pub­lished 2011, Dream­spin­ner Press

[/​three]
[three][quote2]“Goodbye, vam­pires in New Orleans, Colo­nial era. Hel­lo, vam­pires in Ger­many, World War One era. Author Wynn Wag­n­er tack­les a sub­ject that many authors have tack­led, notably Anne Rice, and he has found new and col­or­ful and erotic ways to write about it. Best of all, he does it with the deli­cious­ly dry wit that infus­es every­thing he writes.”

—Patri­cia Nell War­ren, author of The Front Runner[/quote2]

This is the sequel to Vamp Camp.

[/​three]
[three­_last]
The Obscurati (Vamp Camp 2)

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