Read Vampirates 4: Black Heart Online

Authors: Justin Somper

Tags: #Parenting, #Pirates, #Action & Adventure, #Vampires, #Juvenile Fiction, #Mothers, #Seafaring life, #Fantasy & Magic, #Fiction, #Family & Relationships, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Twins, #General, #Motherhood, #Horror, #Brothers and sisters

Vampirates 4: Black Heart (30 page)

BOOK: Vampirates 4: Black Heart
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Jacoby turned over the flip chart to reveal a page of wildly scrawled notes. "Our forebears have listed literally hundreds of possible ways. For instance, place a coin in the vamp's mouth and decapitate him with an ax. Or drive a nail through his navel."

"Now that's what I call a belly piercing," said Jasmine with a shiver.

Jacoby grinned back at her. "In Romania, they favor removing the heart and cutting it in two. But in Serbia, they opt for cutting off the vamp's toes."

Again, Cheng Li stole a glance at Connor. This time he caught her looking and he stared straight back. Perhaps he was made of stronger stuff than she had credited.

Jacoby continued brightly, evidently oblivious to such concerns. "As I said, there were literally hundreds of ideas in the cupboard of death. But I've compiled my list of the big three." He turned the page on the flip chart to reveal a series of fresh headings:

1. BURNING

2. SUNLIGHT

3. STAKE THROUGH THE HEART

"Okay." Jacoby tapped the chart. "Numero uno. Burning!"

As Jacoby babbled on, Connor thought of the night that he had used fire to attack the renegade Vampirates. It was the Vampirate captain himself who had told Connor which weapon to use. And it had proved a success ... to a degree. Several of the Vampirates had been destroyed in the fire. But not all of them, thought Connor, closing his eyes momentarily. These were very painful memories. He had had to turn on Jez -- or rather the thing Jez had become -- and throw fire at him. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. And he had almost been relieved when he learned that Jez had not perished in the fire.

"Connor?" Cheng Li said.

He opened his eyes with a start.

"I know it's late and you've been working hard, but please do your comrades the courtesy of not dozing off during their presentations."

"Yes, Captain, " Connor said. He could have told her, then and there, that fire was not a sure way to destroy a vampire -- that both Jez Stukeley and Sidorio had survived his arson attack. But for now, he decided to let it go.

He kept his eyes open, but as Jacoby continued to discuss the whys and wherefores of exposing Vampirates to sunlight and staking them through the heart, Connor's own mind was focused elsewhere. He was thinking again about the Vampirate captain and how he had given Connor the information he needed to attack Sidorio and the rebels. This interested Connor in two ways. First, because the captain had been willing to turn on the other Vampirates. In the coming conflict, would that still be the case? Or, this time, would the different Vampirate forces come together against a common enemy? The second thing that interested Connor about the captain's advice was that it had been wrong. Or, if not exactly wrong, inadequate. Fire had not proved fatal to certain of the Vampirates. Had they evolved beyond the norm -- beyond even the knowledge and powers of the Vampirate captain himself? Or had he intentionally misled him? Connor didn't think so. His thoughts returned to the healing ceremony he had taken part in to restore the weakened captain's vitality after he had sacrificed himself to save so many others. How was he now? Grace hadn't spoken of him. Did that mean he was still missing, as he had been when Connor had left Sanctuary, or was he now back at the helm of the ship, back in charge of the "good" Vampirates?

Connor's thoughts were interrupted as Jacoby finally wound up his presentation. Cheng Li was clearly impressed. "Jacoby, you've done an excellent job. I think our next step is crystal clear. We need to find ourselves some Vampirates to experiment on before we finalize our attack strategy."

"You mean kidnap a Vampirate?" Jasmine asked.

"One won't be sufficient," said Cheng Li, shaking her head. "I think we'll want at least three in the first instance."

"Three!" exclaimed Jasmine. "How long will we keep them? And where?"

"It's all under control," Cheng Li said. "I'm having some cages built on the deck of the Tiger. We'll keep them there. As to how long -- well, as long as it takes to get a result."

"You mean until we succeed in killing one of them," said Connor.

"Uh-uh," Jacoby corrected him. "Not killing, dude. Until we succeed in destroying them." He turned to Cheng Li. "But where are we going to go to find these Vampirates?"

Cheng Li smiled. "Connor's been working on that part of the mission, haven't you?"

Connor nodded, clearing his throat. "As Jasmine's research indicated, the main Vampirate ship, the Nocturne, is hard to track." He paused. "But it is no longer the sole Vampirate vessel. Sidorio and the rebel Vampirates have taken possession of a prison ship. And while the Nocturne does seem to move in a very mysterious fashion, the rebel ship, the Blood Captain, is moving in an erratic but nonetheless trackable way along the coast."

"How do you know this?" Jacoby asked.

"They're not like the Vampirates of the Nocturne," Connor said. "The Nocturne has its own crew of donors on board." He realized as he spoke that he had just kicked the others' industrious research into gear. But he didn't care. He had two missions to accomplish here: to give Cheng Li what she needed to pursue Sidorio, and to protect Grace for as long as he could. "As I said, there are donors on board the Nocturne who supply blood to the Vampirates. This means that the ship never needs to attack elsewhere. But the BloodCaptain is far less organized. Its crew is growing fast, and they are wild and out of control. This makes them dangerous, but at the same time vulnerable."

"Vulnerable?" Jasmine said with a shudder. "They don't sound very vulnerable."

Connor stared at Jasmine. "They need blood," he said. "They don't have a supply on board, so they have to go onto land to hunt their prey. They've left a trail of devastation along the coast. It wasn't hard to follow." Now he produced his own map on which he'd charted the ship's course, appropriately enough, in red. "I think it's pretty clear the direction it's heading in. It shouldn't be difficult to follow."

"Excellent work, Connor," Cheng Li said.

"I haven't finished," Connor said. He had kept his trump card till last, literally. Now he reached into his back pocket and produced a clutch of playing cards. He leaned forward and fanned them out on Cheng Li's desk.

"Notice anything strange about these?" he asked his comrades.

"They're splattered with blood," Jacoby said. "Gross!"

"They're wrong," Jasmine said. "They're all from the same suit -- hearts. But hearts are red. And these are black. I've never seen cards like these."

Cheng Li stared at Connor. "Where did you get them?" she asked.

"They were found on the victims of the recent attacks. There were hundreds more."

Cheng Li picked up one of the cards. "It's identical to the one John Kuo was holding when we discovered him," she said. "Remember?"

Connor nodded grimly. That was one sight he would in all likelihood never be able to erase from his memory.

"It shows we're on the trail of his killers," Cheng Li said, looking at Connor with unbridled admiration. "Well," she continued, "I must say you have not let me down. Each of your three reports has in its own way been highly insightful and revealing." She sat back in her chair. "I'm going to stay here and do a bit more thinking tonight. You three may return to the ship now. You should still be in time for the second dinner seating."

They needed no persuasion. It had been a long day, and they'd been cooped up in the airless, subterranean lockup for many hours.

The others were out in the corridor when Jasmine suddenly came to a stop. "Sorry, guys, I forgot to tell Cheng Li something. Go on ahead. I'll catch up with you." She turned back and, knocking, stepped around into the archive room.

Cheng Li was already deeply engrossed in her work. She glanced up at Jasmine, clearly less than delighted at the intrusion.

"Did you forget something?" Cheng Li asked.

"Yes," said Jasmine. "It's in your desk drawer. A notebook. I found it earlier, in the last of the archive boxes. I didn't think you'd want me to tell the others about it before you'd had a chance to look at it yourself."

Cheng Li was intrigued. She set down her pen and opened the desk drawer. Sure enough, inside was an old notebook. She lifted it out and set it on the desk. Glancing up again, she saw that Jasmine had already left the room. How strange!

As she opened the notebook, her heart skipped a beat. The calligraphy was unmistakable. It was a terrible shock. Instinctively, she closed the book, then took a deep breath before opening it once more. There was no doubt about it. The precise script. The distinctive turquoise ink. She knew what she held in her hand even before she read the title page.

The Journal of Chang Ko Li, January 2495-

It was her father's journal. He'd begun writing it in January 2495, just a few months before he had died. Cheng Li frowned. Why had she never seen this notebook? How come it was here, in the secret archive? What revelations lay within this journal? And would they shed light on her father's death? Commodore Kuo had told her that Chang Ko Li had been killed in a tavern brawl. That was the accepted version of events. But was it the truth?

Cheng Li began furiously turning the pages of turquoise writing. Words and phrases leaped out at her.

First sighting

A figurehead who comes alive after sunset

Not a veil but a mask!

A second crew who they call the donors

Cheng Li's head was spinning. Her father's last months had been spent pursuing the Vampirates!

Suddenly, she became aware of another presence in the room. This time, there had been no knock, or else she had been too engrossed to be aware of it.

"Jasmine," she said. "Thank you. This really is an incredible find!"

But when she looked up it wasn't Jasmine who stood before her. It was a young man, with translucent pale skin and hair as black as a raven's wing.

"And who might you be?" she asked, though already she had her suspicions.

"My name is Lorcan," he said. "Lorcan Furey." His sky- blue eyes bore into hers as he continued. "I've come to bring you a message from the Vampirates."

30THE CONUNDRUM

Beguiling. It wasn't a word that came into Cheng Li's mind often, but it was the perfect word to describe the young man standing before her.

"So," she said, "the legendary Lorcan Furey."

He raised an eyebrow. "Legendary?"

"I've heard a lot about you," she said with a smile. "And from what I can see, you more than live up to your advance publicity."

In reality, of course, he wasn't young. That was the trick of it! He had roamed the earth and oceans for several centuries. His pallor hinted at the fact, but at the same time enhanced his rare beauty, like the translucent marble of an antique statue or the papery violet-tinged skin of a garlic bulb. Ironic, thought Cheng Li, given what they said about garlic.

His long dark lashes cast shadows over his sharp cheekbones as he looked down modestly. "This isn't a social call, Captain Li," he said. "I have a message for you. From Mosh Zu, guru of the Vampirates."

"Mosh Zu?" she said. "I've never heard of him."

"There is much you don't know about us," answered Lorcan.

"But I'm eager to learn," said Cheng Li. "Why don't you sit down?" She indicated the chair on the other side of the desk. "That is, if you care to sit?"

"Assuming you don't have a handy velvet-lined coffin for me to lie in, this chair will do just fine," Lorcan said, settling himself down opposite her.

"Vampirate humor!" Cheng Li smiled. "I wasn't expecting that. From what Grace told me, I had you pegged as the dark and brooding type."

He smiled at that. "I'm sure I have my moments."

"I'm sure you do, Lorcan Furey," she said, feeling butterflies stirring in her stomach. "I'm sure you do."

I'm flirting with a vampire, she thought. What was the expression? Flirting with danger. Well, it didn't come much more dangerous than being shut in a confined space with a confirmed bloodsucker, even if he did have the kind of looks usually reserved for marble statues. What if he was hungry? Or was it thirsty? Never mind. It all boiled down to the same thing: him leaning across the battered desk and sinking his teeth into her.

"We had better get down to business," Lorcan said, his rich brogue drawing her back from her internal monologue.

BOOK: Vampirates 4: Black Heart
2.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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