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The Hunter Chronicles: Closure

The house wasn't much. Built somewhere in the mid-fifties in a quiet Toronto suburb, single-story with full unfinished basement. Not the kind of unfinished that came with studs, insulation and partial wiring of today; but worn-brick walls, bare rafters, and a single bulb hanging in the middle of the room kind of unfinished. There was an old furnace and water heater along with a body-sized heavy bag hung from the rafters where Hunter worked out when she visited.

Local lawn care and snow removal services, as well as timed lights, added a certain lived-in, cared-for look. Mail forwarding to Hunter's rental box in the city cut down on mailbox clutter.

For most of her adult life, Hunter proved adept as enforcer, collector, problem-solver or disposal specialist as her boss, Anthony "Tony Chins" Cincionelli required.

Slight, almond-shaped brown eyes framed by a thick mane of black hair that fell in tangled waves behind her back along with a toned athletic build and mixed-Asian heritage allowed free movement across various social lines that she encountered.

A drug dealer in the city made the cardinal sin of using what he sold; building debt that he could not pay. Hunter was called in to collect and been given title to the dealer's late mother's home instead. Not one to miss an opportunity, Hunter fronted the debt and kept the house to herself. The dealer hadn't lasted the month before he overdosed and moved on to his just reward, taking any dealings between them to his grave.

Users and the dealers who fed their habits were like that: here one day, dead and gone or in prison the next.

Until the fateful day when a warning turned fatal, Hunter fully expected to live the life of the city she enjoyed until she chose to leave it. Instead, the decision of others to make an example left her beaten and broken next to a dumpster where she was expected to bleed out and die.

Fortunately life had other plans when the vampire Valeria found her. Valeria was an angel with golden eyes and long haloed blond hair.

Hunter was never sure how Valeria knew about the safe house, but it was there that Valeria nursed Hunter through her change and secured blood for her to drink. Valeria's whispered guidance taught Hunter to be careful in her new condition, and she learned to sit in broad daylight while admiring her reflection in a mirror and holding a crucifix.

When fully healed, Hunter woke alone to find a folded note with a phone number and address in a place called Goblin's Toe, Wyoming somewhere south of the border. On the back side of the note, a simple line in neat script: "When you find closure, come find me. V."

Realizing just how close she had come to death and why, Hunter knew what she would need for closure: revenge.

She started with the men in charge of the men who tried to kill her, learning more of new abilities along the way as she stalked and dealt with each man in turn -- leaving for last the one who had beaten her: Edward "The Black Hand" D'Angelo.

In life, their paths had rarely crossed, he the proven sadist called in to end problems; she, the obsessive-compulsive who tracked down and fixed that which was broken or behind in payment. They knew each other just enough to nod acknowledgment when they passed.

Once she started killing, Hunter knew Edward would be called in. It wouldn't take him long to link the men who died and a list of people with the most reason to want them dead.

Fortunately for Edward, one obvious member of that list was someone with whom he thought he already dealt with.

And that is where the house came in. It served her well as safe-house, now it would work just as well as a trap.

* * *

Sparring with the heavy bag in the basement allowed Hunter focus while she planned.

Killing Edward would be too easy. She never enjoyed prolonging suffering more than was absolutely necessary and the thought of his blood passing her lips made Hunter nauseous. That left disabling him in such a way that he would live the rest of his life wishing he were dead.

With every blow, details formed into a working plan. Each drop kick or roundhouse back swing brought finesse to the details. By the time Hunter left the basement and cleaned up, she had her to-do list formed and ready.

The attached garage housed a vanilla plain cargo van that Hunter bought at an auction not long after she got the house. Magnetic emblems listed a defunct plumbing company should she need camouflage. The gurney from a chance encounter with an unattended ambulance fit perfectly in the back.

A veterinarian long ago educated Hunter on the use of etorphine hydrochloride. Fast acting, a proper dose would decide if a charging rhino stopped dead mid-charge or collapsed where it landed to sleep it off. The down side to effectiveness was that it would not leave her any time to speak with Edward.

That problem was solved by a weapon she once acquired from contacts within the horsemen. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were moving to less lethal means involving Tasers. Words like neuro muscular incapacitation or shaped pulse technology didn't really matter to her as long as her target was down and defenseless. Dual-safety action protected the wielder from accidental discharge, while a fifteen-foot range gave distance to the weapon.

That left cheese for her trap. Checking in with Tony Chin's message service downtown solved that problem. Word of contact would assuredly get back to Edward. Using a burn-phone paid for with cash would prevent her calls from being traced easily. Remove the battery; apply a ball-peen hammer and no more cell-phone.

Once Edward figured out she had a hidey-hole, he would begin checking records, starting with her boss. Successful collection of a large debt, particularly where a drug dealer and known-user was concerned would make him curious.

Checking property records would hopefully do the rest.

Now Hunter would simply have to relax and wait. Ego or curiosity would bring Edward to finish the one that might have gotten away.

* * *

The heavy bag served as her hide-away when Edward eventually checked the basement; Hunter's slight frame replacing the usual foam content stashed in the garage.

The poorly lit room was just too open and clean to conceal any threats. The rest of the house showed a more cluttered, lived in look; fresh food in the fridge, dirty dishes in the sink, mail on the counter and dishwasher ajar to cool recently cleaned dishes. Ever thorough, Edward still checked the attic.

For Edward, it was as if Hunter was on an errand and would return at any time for him to finish off.

The tart odor of Marlboro wafted down to the basement as Edward relaxed in wait; occasional slick sounds breaking the silence as he checked and rechecked his weapons.

If Edward hadn't been there to kill her, his smoking in the house would have seriously pissed her off.

Backed neatly into shadow beneath the basement stairs, Hunter's braided hair snaked down to curl in her lap. Black spandex wrapped her in darkness while wrist sheaths held what a casual viewer might see as decorative bodice daggers with polished camel bone grips – except decorative daggers didn't usually come with honed razor edges.

Good for close quarter combat or ending a difference of opinion.

Looking up she followed the soft sound of Edward moving from kitchen to living room and back, checking out the street. He left occasionally, probably to walk the neighborhood and check in with whomever it was he was working for now. Or he was watching outside to see what moved while he was gone.

Edward eased the basement door open and closed, signaling his return. Hunter brought the Taser up with safeties off as he came down the stairs and reached for the light cord with one hand, while the other held a bag that reeked of fast food. Perhaps it was natural senses or something innate that caused him to stop with his back to her.

The bag dropped and Edward whirled to bring his weapon up in smooth motion as two wire prongs hit him square in the chest and any control fled his system. The only shot he got off ricocheted harmlessly wide and away. The silencer worked well and kept things quiet.

A faint burnt electrical odor filled the room as Hunter rose to her feet and walked over to him.

Rough gray stubble showed he hadn't shaved in days. She turned and moved to the heavy bag, pulling out the small black bag she prepared in advance. Injecta-pens were an improvement to needles simply for ease of use and cleanup. Figuring Edward's weight was mostly guesswork so she kept the initial dose light.

"Do you remember what you said the last time we met?" Hunter asked sweetly, pressing the pen to his neck. "Oh wait! I do! Just business, nothing personal, babe" There was a soft hiss when she pressed the trigger. Edward's body stopped twitching as he relaxed.

Hunter rose and did a slow stretch, bending to touch her toes. Hands resting on her hips she realized how relaxed she was for the first time since she almost died. The next phase in plans for Edward made her smile.

"No worries, this *will* be very personal, babe..."

Hunter patted him down and pulled the key fob from his hip pocket. It was time to feed and prepare. With any luck she would kill many birds with one stone before this night was done.

* * *

Finding Edward's car was easy; the fob set off its parking lights as Hunter strolled around the quiet neighborhood. A quick search revealed it to be as clean as she expected it to be – a rental, not something he actually owned or could be linked to.

A quick stop at Goodwill supplied used clothing to replace Edward's current look as part of her plan for him.

Long term parking at the airport took care of Edward's car, while a handy garbage can along the public concourse solved any tracking that someone might try to do with his cell phone. A free shuttle ride to a nearby hotel and it was an easy walk back to the house. Dinner was a would-be mugger who saw her as an easy pick along the way; she saw him as new spin on fast food.

When Hunter finally got back, the house was still and nothing moved. Quietly, without need for lights, she loaded Edward and the gurney into the van. She was fairly sure Edward would not have shared the location of her safe-house with anyone, for the same reasons she hadn't.

Safe houses proved useful if no one but you knew about them.

The emergency room parking lot was connected to a sidewalk at the bottom of a shallow hill. It was too early in the morning for patients and too late in the night for casuals to wander by and witness her unloading the gurney. She guessed large on Edward's measurements while at Goodwill to make him look properly scuffed up.

Locking the wheels in place Hunter carefully rolled Edward and pulled out a dagger, scanning the area for any wandering eyes. She made the cut -- feeling the soft snap of his spine before adding gauze and tape to protect the wound.

To become nothing more than a head on a stick seemed appropriate for someone like Edward.

On his back and strapped down securely, Hunter covered Edward with a blanket and added the note. It was written as crudely as she could manage; explaining to anyone who read it that the man was homeless and hurt his neck in a dumpster.

"Good-bye Edward" she said softly, pointing his feet toward the doors of the hospital before gently shoving the gurney.

By the time the hospital staff stabilized him Hunter was an hour away and headed further West.

What was it Valeria had once said? One chapter closes and another opens. Hunter had never been to the United States, let alone Wyoming; it might prove to be an adventure.

Even if her new home would be a place called Goblins Toe, Wyoming.

* * *

To Be Continued

Copyright © 2004-2011 by Robert L. Sellers Jr. All rights reserved.
Please do not use without permission of the author.

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