Knox Weiss was a pretty normal guy. An aspiring novelist who happened to be the star in one of the hottest new movies, Jake Rider: Monster Hunter. He was a pretty normal guy until he found out that Jake Rider (occupation: monster hunter) was a real person, and got pulled into the crazy world of monsters and magic.
Putting the blame on a dead guy
“So, what are we looking for?” I shine a flashlight around the dark house. These people, they always drag me places, but they never tell me what we’re doing. Cas barged into my motel room and told me we had to go. So when I get into the truck with her and Oz, I look at them and ask what we’re doing, and where we’re going. Neither of them said anything. Eventually I got an answer out of Cas, but all she said was that “we had work to do.” I feel like I could be a little more helpful, and a little less annoying, if they just told me what the heck was going on instead of keeping me in the dark. Maybe they think it’s funny watching me fumble around like an idiot, no idea what I’m doing. I say maybe, but I know that they love it.
We pulled up to this house, the sun hadn’t gone down yet but it was starting to set. There was no one home so we broke in. Cas picked the lock on the front door, thankfully there was no security system or anything like that. I’ll tell you, my heart was racing! I’ve never broken in anywhere before, hell I’ve never really done anything remotely illegal. It was sort of exhilarating. I bit my bottom lip to keep the smile off of my face, I figured Oz would make fun of me if he saw it.
He gave me a flashlight once we were in the house and told me to start looking around for things that looked suspicious. I don’t really know what that means. I don’t know why they couldn’t have brought Jake, and I don’t know why we don’t turn the lights on in the house to make it easier to see things. Cas gave a definite no to turning the lights on though, so now I’m stumbling around a dark house with a flashlight looking for… something.
“Clues.” Oz says back to me. I don’t know where he is in the house, but he’s definitely yelling.
“Yeah, I got that!” This is ridiculous. “What sort of clues? Clues of what?”
“Clues from the struggle, you moron!” he yells back. Why am I the moron? No one tells me anything around here. I don’t even know what struggle he’s talking about. I look under a cabinet, there’s nothing there. Check some of the drawers, nothing there either. There’s a pair of polka dot rain boots by the door, but I don’t think that counts as a clue. I go from the entryway into the dining room. A couple of chairs are pulled out, one is knocked over. That’s probably suspicious. I grab my phone to take a picture. I mean, that’s probably what I’m supposed to do, right?
“You find anything?”
I practically literally jump out of my skin. I turn around, my heart pounding, Cas is standing there smiling. I clutch at my chest trying to regain my breath. “These, uh,” I take a deep breath, “these chairs are all messed up.”
Cas laughs a bit.
Oz comes running down the stairs, he looks a bit panicked. He glances between us and his face hardens. “What the fuck was that? I heard a girl scream.” Cas bursts into a fit of laughter. I can feel my face get hot. I look away, and Oz starts to laugh too. “Oh my god, was that you, Jazz Hands?”
“These chairs are messed up!” I point at them. I may have yelled that a little bit. I don’t scream like a girl.
No, you don’t scream like a girl exactly, more like a two year old. I hear Jake say in the back of my head.
“Shut up,” I grumble.
They both look at me, they seem confused at first, but I guess they realise quickly that it was probably Jake and that mental link that we share, because they both look a lot less confused after a second. I turn away and look at the chair. And then I look back at Oz. “Is this a crime scene?”
He smirks a bit. “Sort of.”
“You took me to a crime scene without telling me? I’ve been touching everything!”
“I said sort of, calm down!”
“Yeah don’t even worry about it, Knoxy. They think they caught the guy who did it. Of course, they didn’t, because that guy was not human.” Cas shakes her head.
“Why are we here, Knox?” Cas says, she looks a little worn out. I’m a smart guy, but they give me no information how do they expect to connect literally no dots.
“Kidnappings,” I nod. Oz walks around to the chairs.
“Exactly,” she says. “A kid, about seventeen years old, was taken from his home last week. His parents are in the hospital, both in comas, his little sister is the witness who was awake, and with the information they got from her, they arrested a guy.” That’s probably who owns the rain boots.
“Okay but, how did they get the guy and close the case in a week?” What is this, a procedural cop show?
“The thing framed a petty criminal, his prints were all over the place, although he says he never came near this house.” Oz knelt down and looked at the chairs. “The crook said he, and I quote, hates the suburbs and would never even rob a house out here.” When did they get all this information, and why do they never share these things with me? Oz is examining the chairs that I had pointed out. I don’t know how much information you can get form a couple of chairs, but I guess Oz thinks it’s worth a try.
“He’s not alive.” Oz stands up and looks at us.
“What?” I cock an eyebrow.
“The kid isn’t alive. They’ve been taking these kids and doing something with them, but this one definitely isn’t alive, he died here and they took the body. Shit.” He doesn’t look very happy.
“How did you–?”
“Did you even read the books, Knox?” Cas laughs a bit. “He’s a demon, he’s got a great sense of smell.” Like I can remember every little detail from the books right now. These people need to give me more credit, I’m new to this whole thing! I nod like I understand, I don’t want to ask any more questions. I’ve never felt like such an idiot in my entire life. Sorry I don’t know all of the ins and outs of demon hunting. “Should we keep looking, or?”
“Might as well, there could be something else.” Oz looks between us. “Let’s have a look in the basement, shall we?”
Cas looks at me and smiles.
“After you,” she motions to the door that I’m assuming leads to the basement. I look between them both and realise I have no other option. I walk over and open the door. Thank God there’s a light switch. It doesn’t look that scary from up here, now that the lights are on. I head downstairs. Cas is right behind me, and Oz behind her. If we know where the guy died, why are we even doing this? I look around the downstairs. It’s not very big, and nothing looks weird. I’d really just like to get out of here. Oz and Cas are looking very thoroughly through everything. I don’t know what I should be looking for. I lift up a couch cushion. They have a nice TV.
“Hey Oz,” I look at him. “How did you get into this business anyway?” seems like a good time to ask. I know he’s from Doncaster and that he moved to London, but that’s about it. I lift up another cushion. Nothing under there.
“Oh I’ll tell you!” Cas pipes up. She looks excited.
“No,” Oz says. “You’re a horrible story teller.” He puts on this fake, high pitched British accent. I’ve never heard him talk like that before. “And then Oz did like… this, and then like, did this…. And then they were like… this.”
Cas does not look impressed. I stifle a laugh.
She walks over and punches him in the arm. “I do not talk like that, you asshole!” Oz just smiles, a real smile, and shoves her a bit. She smiles back at him.
“I’ll tell you the story, Jazz Hands, but if you put it in any of your stupid books, I swear to god I will skin you alive and make a pair of boots.”
“Noted,” I nod.
“And you’ve got to keep looking!” he says as he sits down at a desk chair. I guess lifting up couch cushions isn’t good enough. I nod and start glancing around, shuffling papers I find on the table, things like that. “My family has been hunting for a long time, not as long as Jake’s I’ll admit, but a long time.”
“How long has Jake’s family been hunting?” I look up from a stack of papers.
“If you spend this whole story interrupting me– ” Cas interrupts him.
“He’s a fourth generation Rider, but if you follow his family tree all the way back, they’ve been doing this for like eight generations. It’s the only thing he knows how to do. It’s in his blood. He was raised reckless.” She shrugs.
“That would explain a lot.”
“Oh yeah, definitely. Most hunters are smart, his dad was smart. Jake, though, has the natural skills and wit of a hunter, but with his father dying and stuff, Jake sort of stayed in that childish place, no real social queues. We all know that he’s never really grown up.” So they are aware. I guess they have been hanging out with longer than I have, they probably got used to it.
Oz continues the story that he barely got to start.
“So, four generations of my family fought demons all over the UK. My parents settled down in,”
“Doncaster!” Cas says like it’s a trivia game. Oz glares at her.
“Doncaster,” he repeats. “A little while after they had me. That had happened a lot. People died, quit, had families, there weren’t very many of us left out there. My older brother, Daniel, he never wanted to stop. He was deep into the hunting. If Jake wasn’t so over the top, they probably would have gotten along.” An older more intense version of Oz, not someone I’m really interested in meeting. “When I was thirteen Daniel woke me up and told me that he was going to London. He heard there was a lot of demon activity there, and he wanted to clean it up. I protested a bit, but then told him I was going with him. I said if he didn’t bring me I was going to scream so loud, they could hear me from three blocks away.” Oz and Cas both laugh, I chuckle a bit too. It’s hard to picture Oz as a kid, I mean, I sort of always thought he came out of the womb as an adults. “Daniel was nineteen years old. I grabbed some of my stuff and we went on our way to London.”
“Knox stop getting so wrapped up in the story, you have to keep looking!” Cas says. She wasn’t looking for anything, she was standing beside Oz. I just sight and start going through their DVD cabinet.
“Two days after we moved to London,” Oz continues, “our parents showed up. We were staying in this dingy flat, it was the only thing we could afford at the time. My brother was looking for part time work. I told him I could help too, but he insisted that I stay home and school myself. Good thing I did too, or I could have turned out like Jake. Anyway, our parents show up. They start screaming at Daniel, like really ripping him a new one.” Oz chuckles a bit. “I’ve honestly never seen him look more terrified. Like he never thought about the fact that our parents would come looking for us, a total idiot, that one was. No need going into detail about the fight. It ended in our parents funding our demon hunting in London, so long as I promised to stay safe and keep up on my studies. We moved into a nicer flat two weeks later.”
“Can you believe that, Knox?” I looked away from the DVDs at Cas. “His parents actually let them stay in London!” Oz looked at her, he looked pissed off. Pretty sure that’s why she was doing this. Just messing around with him. I smiled and nodded.
“My parents weren’t very, what is that term, helicopter?”
“Unlike mine,” Cas groans.
“And they knew why we were doing this, they had been hunters too once. And let’s be honest, if they had said no, we would have just run away again, and made it even harder for them to find us. So it really was in their best interest to just let us stay there. For a while we lived there, and we were doing pretty good with the demon hunting. My brother had a few girlfriends, and I kept up with my studies. Probably had some of the best days of my life in London.” Cas hits him on the back of the head. He just chuckles and smiles up her. “I said some, didn’t I?” Is this what it’s like to date Oz? He actually seems nice. “Now a little while after I turned fourteen the two of us went out to hunt this thing, it was an Aztec creature called an ahuizotl. I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was doing in London.” I open my mouth to ask him what that is an… ahuizotl, is that what he said?
“It’s a monkey/dog hybrid,” Cas says before I can ask. Probably saving me from the wrath of Oz.
“It was freaking people out and causing trouble so we went to stop it.” He says like Cas never interjected. “The thing was harassing this lady, she was pretty fit, so my brother did everything he could to impress her. Because I guess just saving her life from a dog monkey wasn’t enough for the asshole. While we were fighting the beast, these four guys showed. Four guys who knew a lot of magic. My brother and I were more into weaponry than magic, so you can imagine how out skilled we were.”
“Laaaaaaaaaaaaame,” Cas says in a sing song sort of voice.
“So they kicked our asses,” Oz continues, ignoring her again, “killed the thing and walked off with the girl. It was one of the most embarrassing things that I have ever experienced.”
“What about that time,” Cas starts but Oz smacks her in the arm. She pouts. I really want to know about that time now.
“It happened more than once, every time we went out to hunt it seemed like they were–”
“Did you hear that?” Cas asks, her expression serious.
“What?” I start looking around. Oz looks up at her, confused.
“I could have sworn I heard–”
Something rams into my back, knocking me over face first into the couch. I heard shuffling and yelling as I get up. Blood rushes to my head and I feel dizzy. Oz and Cas are already running up the stairs after the thing. I get to my feet, try and regain my balance, and start to follow after them. What was that? Where the heck did it come from? I turn around just as I hit the stairs. There’s a door leading into another room. It must have been hiding in there. Let’s be honest, there’s no way I could catch up to Cas and Oz. I move slowly towards the door, holding the flashlight like a club. I don’t have a gun.
This is a bad idea, I know this is a horrible idea. I mean this is the part in horror movies where the cute blonde gets violently murdered! But there could be clues in there, and I’m a serious writer!
I walk through the threshold into this other room. It’s a workshop. Cold concrete floors, unfinished walls, tools everywhere. I find a light switch and turn the lights on. They flicker, but thankfully they don’t go out. I walk in slowly, looking around. There doesn’t seem to anyone else in here. Be thorough though, Knox. Look at everything.
My phone starts to ring.
“Where are you?” It’s Cas.
“I’m still in the basement, I’m checking out the room that thing came from.”
“Okay, we’ll be right back.” She hangs up.
I’ve got to find something. I look over the whole room, it’s not until I get the back corner (it’s always got to be the last place you check, doesn’t it?) that I see something. Lying on the floor in the corner of the room is a weird slimy sort of transparent… thing. I don’t know what to call it. I poke at it with the flashlight, but nothing happens. Gross, what is it?
“What did you find?”
My stomach jumps up my throat and I fall backwards.
Cas starts laughing. And once again Oz bursts into the room.
“You scream like a girl,” he says, almost laughing.
“Shut up!” I stand up and look around. “I found this weird stuff.” I point the floor with the flashlight.
Oz and Cas crowd around me and look at it.
“Shit, no wonder he was fast.”
“He’s a vampire.”
“Vampires?” I look between the three of them. Jake is sitting on his bed nodding. “Vampires are you serious?”
“Scared?” Jake looks up at me.
I groan loudly. I know this shouldn’t be what I’m worried about. Vampires, that’s pretty scary. And I mean what was up with that lump of stuff I found in the corner of the basement? Yeah, no one told me. But honestly. “It’s so cliché! Vampires are so in right now! Every teenage girl wants to date Edward Cullen. Guys, I can’t write about vampires.” I shake my head.
Jake looks at me, he looks confused, and then he starts laughing.
I scowl. This will be my first novel, and I’m taking over the series from an author who people really look up to. He had a big fan base. I throw something lame out there like vampires, what is that going to do to my career?
“I guess they didn’t get the memo.” Oz says, smirking.
“Knox,” Cas looks a little sympathetic, “like you said: vampires are in, people have wanted to see Jake Rider fight a vampire since the beginning of time! Trust me, it’ll be fine.”
“Anyway, Knoxy, we have more important things to discus.” Jake looks up at Oz. “What do you think they’re up to.”
“They’re definitely feeding,” Oz nods, “but I don’t think that’s all they’re doing.”
Jake raised an eyebrow.
“Jazz Hands found a pile of skin in the corner of the basement.” Oz continues.
“That was skin?” That’s so gross.
“Older vampires,” Cas starts, “When they get too old they start to regenerate. They shed their old skin to reveal a fresh new body. Like a snake.”
Jake starts to chuckle as I grab my notebook. This is interesting. Maybe vampires aren’t so bad after all. I’ve got a fresh new mythology to go with, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone write about vampires like that before. So this shouldn’t be too bad. I bet it looks really gross when it actually happens. I could have fun writing that. I look up at the three of them. “So can all vampires do that?”
“No,” Oz says. “Only really old ones. Really powerful ones.”
“The regeneration, it takes a lot of blood,” Jake talks slow as I quickly scribble down what he’s saying. “And it takes a lot of energy, if you aren’t prepped for it, I’ve heard, you like catch on fire.”
I look up at him, and then at Cas and Oz. “Catch fire?”
“God, I don’t know, Knox, I’m not a vampire!” Jake chuckles a bit. “Something happens, they die. You have to be really ready for it. But once you do complete it, if you don’t die, you are so much stronger.”
“That’s why he was so fast.” Oz says. “He had probably just finished shedding his old skin.”
“Gross,” my face contorts.
“I figure, they’re probably trying to bulk up, you know?” Cas says. “They get as strong as they can get, fresh new skin, and they reinvigorate the pack with fresh meat. New vampires are pretty vicious.”
“Why?” I look between them all. Maybe it’s some sort of vampiric war or something. Something really ancient. That would be good to write about. A sub-plot about vampire history or something. Shit, this could actually be a pretty interesting book. And I can always use the cop out that I found Talons notes, right? He had been planning to write this before and I’m just… fulfilling his dying wish, or something like that. I mean, I don’t want to use a dead guy as an excuse but… I also don’t want people to think I’m a shit writer.
“That’s what we’re going to find out.” Jake smirks.