It is 1940 and Europe is in the grip of World War II. Spike and Dru, Sunnydale's sexiest vampire couple, find it the ideal environment for a blood-stained spree. They set out to kill Sophie, the current Slayer, and all the Slayers-in-Waiting - the "pretty maids all in a row".
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Christopher Golden is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as Wildwood Road, The Boys Are Back in Town, Of Saints and Shadows, and the Body of Evidence thriller series. He has cowritten a number of novels and comic books set in the worlds of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. There are more than eight million copies of his books in print. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Atlantic Ocean
Spike stood on the deck of the Aberdeen, cigarette clenched between his lips, and leaned perhaps too much against the rail. It was twilight, and the last of the sun's rays lit the tips of the waves on the western horizon. The ocean was rough and beautiful, ephemeral turbulence on the surface belying the eternal calm below.
The boredom was killing him.
The engines rumbled loudly below the thrumming deck, their smell inescapable for anyone who actually had to breathe. In the dining room each night Spike and Drusilla sat and ate the slop that was served to them. They did not have to eat for sustenance. On this trip, however, if they dined with others aboard the ship it was for the sake of appearances only and almost not worth the trouble.
Monotony. The same faces passed by on the deck each night. Three British airmen returning home to do their duty for His Majesty. A young lady and her governess en route via England to an elite Paris boarding school. The filthy crewmen and anxious-looking stewards. The fat American woman whose pinched features threatened at any moment to explode in a torrent of abuse poured upon her bespectacled, quavering husband. He represented an American firm that hoped to introduce new techniques in steel welding and shipbuilding to the British for the war. Apparently no one had explained to him that the British were not bloody likely to be taking advice from the Yanks, if anyone.
Nearly every one of them had been the object of his homicidal fantasies during the voyage. Most had escaped unscathed. It would not do to have the truth about his and Drusilla's nature revealed to a passenger ship full of humans already on edge because of the outbreak of war. Particularly not in the middle of the Atlantic.
Spike took a long drag on his cigarette, the ember at its tip glowing in the dark, and leaned out across the rail to stare down at the water churned up by the Aberdeen's passing.
"Careful there, mate. This old girl's in good shape, but the rail might not hold."
The voice was gruff, British, and by now familiar. It belonged to Jack Norton, one of the grimy men responsible for keeping the old vessel's engine running. He often walked the deck to stretch his legs after a shift below and was among the very few living souls on board that Spike had no immediate urge to kill.
Smoke drifted in twin streams from Spike's nostrils, quickly sucked away into the cold spring night. "I can think of worse things, Jack. A little bit of a dip, some chaos aboardship, 'man overboard,' all that. It'd be a bloody joy about now. How do you do this all the time without going out of your mind with the boredom?"
Norton stroked his gray mustache, unmindful of his dirty hands. "Who says I'm not out of me mind?" he said, expression quite serious. "Tell the truth, lad, it don't really bother me. I'm down below, me mind on me work. Don't have much time to think about it."
The crewman paused, studying Spike closely. "You and the missus have a fight?"
Spike frowned. "I don't think I like that question."
"No offense, sir," Norton replied, unaffected by Spike's apparent annoyance. "It's only that yer on yer honeymoon here, ain'tcha? Makin' yer way home. You've spent near every waking moment in yer compartment, celebratin' like."
"Well, that's what newlyweds do, isn't it?" Spike snapped. "We've come out for meals and walks around the deck and the like."
"Aye. But this is the first time I've heard ye sayin' how bored you are. None of my business to be sure, but I've a feeling if I was on me honeymoon with that pretty bird o' yours, I wouldn't be bored, or at least I wouldn't act it. Just a friendly bit of advice, as me ol' mum used to say. Worth what you make of it."
The impulse to kill Jack Norton just then was quite strong. Spike resisted it. Instead he took another puff of his cigarette, felt the burning in his throat, and then snorted plumes of smoke back into the air. He shook his head.
"So you don't think I should go for a swim, Jack? That's what you're saying?"
"That's what I'm saying," Norton agreed. "I expect you knew that, but we're all feeling a bit dodgy these days, aren't we? What with the U-boats prowling about down there..." He gestured toward the water. "...and three people lost on this trip already."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Three?"
Norton glanced about to make sure no one else was within listening distance. "The captain don't want us talking about such things with the passengers, but aye, the count's up to three now. The first one was that doctor from New York. Hastings was his name I think. Same night one of the nightwatch went missing. A piece of the rail give way. He were up there watching for subs, so he might have gone over by accident. Might have."
"But then in the storm last night..."
"Aye," Norton said gravely.
As if on cue, the fat American woman and her ratlike husband ambled by on the deck, out for an evening stroll. Many of the passengers stayed belowdecks as much as possible, uncomfortable with the roll of the ocean and the openness around them. Not this pair. The woman visibly flinched as she walked through the trail of smoke from Spike's cigarette. She turned up her nose as she paused to regard him.
"Pardon me, sir, if I might inquire? What manner of tobacco is it that creates such an awful stench?"
Norton grumbled something under his breath and tried to diminish his large frame somehow. He was uncomfortable around passengers other than Spike. Only the stewards were meant to have contact with them.
For his part, Spike pinched the cigarette in his fingers, put it to his lips and drew in a lungful of smoke. He did not need to breathe, but could duplicate the process at will. With a devilish grin, he exhaled smoke into the woman's face. Her husband blinked behind his glasses as his wife began to cough.
"It's Turkish," Spike told her. "A bit exotic for you, dear, but you should get 'round to that part of the world sometime. Like as not they'd slit your throat for being such an obnoxious cow."
The woman had the imagination to glance at her husband as if he might have the temerity to offer some retort. He seemed frozen, rooted to the spot, and managed only to look flustered and fiddle with his spectacles as if he were warming up for some tart rejoinder. None was forthcoming however. His wife marched away in a huff and her mate followed as though she held his leash.
Spike turned his attention back to Norton who was staring at him with an expression of amazement. "You were saying?"
"Now see here," Norton said stuffily. "I may only be one of the blokes stoking the engines 'round here, but it isn't proper for you to speak to a woman that way."
"Spare me." Spike sighed. "You'd like to see her overboard next, I'd wager. You were telling me about last night."
The crewman seemed about to chide him again but then chuckled and shook his head. He glanced about once more, then slipped into the conspiratorial tone he had been using before the Americans had approached.
"Coulda been the storm, right enough. But Webley, the man went over last night, had eleven years at sea. Not the kind of man ye expect to fall overboard, even in a real guster."
"So that makes three," Spike noted. "But if they weren't accidental, then what? Does the captain think you've got a killer on board?"
"Worse," Norton said, his voice barely a growl. "Nazi spies."
Spike brightened. "Oh, right! Now there's a bit of excitement."
"Keep it down, mate. You'll have me in a fix if anyone finds out I let it slip."
"Not to worry, Jack. Ol' Spike can keep a secret," he reassured the man. With a grin, he flicked his still burning cigarette overboard and watched it spin down into the raging sea.
"Do a chap a favor though. Give us a shout if you hear any more, right? If there is a Nazi spy on board, I'd like to get a few licks in myself. Break a few bones for His Majesty."
Norton's expression became grave, his jaw set grimly. "Will do, sir."
They said their good-byes and Spike shoved his hands in his pockets and went back belowdecks. He bumped into an older British couple, the Bracketts, he thought he recalled, and nodded an amiable enough greeting. Not much farther along, he came to his stateroom. When he pushed the door open, Spike found Drusilla brushing her long raven hair and singing softly to herself. A violent little lullaby whose lyrics were never once the same.
She turned to pout at him. "You were gone too long, Spike. Hurt my feelings. The ocean hissed and I was afraid at first. Then I grew angry and it slunk away."
Spike went to Drusilla and kissed her silent. Then he stroked her face lovingly as he regarded her. "The bloody fools think they've got spies on board, Dru. Think there are Nazis killing the crew."
"Spies!" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing. "How exciting."
As he often was when around her, Spike was overcome suddenly with the intensity of his feelings for Drusilla. He stared at her, glared even, almost angered by how deeply she affected him. Lights seemed to dance in her eyes, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a mischievous, seductive smile. Overwhelmed, he kissed her again, harder this time, and ran his hands over her body. His tongue flickered into her mouth, and Drusilla bit it hard enough to draw blood. Spike hissed with the tiny pain, but did not withdraw. He felt her curves beneath his hands. His fingers trailed up to her throat and he untied the little bow that held her shift in place. It slid down her pale body, alabaster skin veined with blue ice.
They made love in a brutal frenzy on the floor next to the corpse of Webley the steward, whose dead eyes watched with blank jealousy. Later they drank of him again. In the small hours of the morning, the lovers slipped out together to dump his body over the side and into the tumultuous waters below.
The submarine sliced the rough ocean surface, the light of the moon gleaming off the imposing armor of its conning tower.
Kurt Raeder sat deep within its bowels and wished for a shower. Not only that, but he wanted every other member of the crew of U-28B to have one as well. He sat with the submarine's other petty officers in their quarters and ate what passed for food after four days at sea. The four men sat in silence on the lower bunks in the U-room, heads bowed to avoid striking them on the metal frames above. A grim air of disappointment mixed with their stink to contaminate the entire vessel.
A convoy had passed within forty nautical miles of them and they had missed it. U-29 and U-5 had reached it in time and done a great deal of damage but they had been out of the action. They had sunk only one vessel -- a merchant ship -- since the outbreak of war.
"Damned convoy," Petty Officer Walther grumbled, dropping his spoon into the slop in his bowl. "What is the sense of a convoy of ships? They make a larger target traveling together. I have never understood it."
Kurt frowned. "It is a big ocean. Ships traveling together are less likely to run across one of our patrols and even if they do they have armed escort. It is all about the odds."
He might have said more but the others all glanced at him distastefully and then went back to their meals. Jaw set angrily, Kurt put down his bowl. He ought to have known better than to respond to such a question. It proved Walther's ignorance but attempting to correct one of the other petty officers was fruitless. Kurt's uncle was Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander in chief of the German navy. Kurt could have had any job on the ocean, but he chose to serve under it. U-boat crewmen were valiant and clever. Their clandestine operations required courage and stealth and were vital to the Fuhrer's plans. Uncle Erich had attempted to dissuade him, but Kurt was steadfast. Submarine service would be everything he had ever imagined.
Or so he had thought.
He lived, now, in a Type VIIA U-boat; crammed into the steel cylinder with forty-five other men. From outside, the sub was the size and shape of a passenger train car. Within, however, the size was revealed to be an illusion. The vessel's interior space was filled with machinery; it was one long gangway along which the men moved during shift changes. Even the captain had only a desk hidden by a curtain. There was no privacy aboard a ship like this. No room to move save to sleep or do the job that he had been sent to do. Nobody washed or changed his clothes. When the U-boat was submerged the toilets did not work. The stink of men and oil and mold was thick enough to choke on.
Kurt had chosen this. He might not even have regretted it, for there were benefits as well. The things he had imagined about U-boat service were true. For other subs. But U-28B had sunk a single merchant ship, nothing more glorious than that. And the other men hated him because he was so obviously their intellectual superior and because his uncle was Grand Admiral Raeder.
The others all dropped their spoons. Mealtime was over. Kurt's shift would begin soon. It was still night above and he and others on his shift would shepherd the boat through the night and into the dawn hours until the captain awoke. By then they would turn for home. A day for rest and refueling, and then out to sea again. It had not turned out to be all he had dreamed but Kurt would not allow himself to become further discouraged. He would do his job and speak to his uncle about advancement. If word spread and bitterness trailed in his wake, so be it. He realized that the only way for him to prove his worth was as a captain with a U-boat of his own to command.
"Your turn, Raeder," Walther grunted.
Kurt made no response as he picked up the bowls and spoons from the table in the middle of the corridor. The others folded down the table's leaves. With them up, no one would be able to manuever along the passage. Kurt carried the bowls toward the galley, squeezing through other crewmen's quarters and past the captain's desk on his way. Before he reached his destination he heard shouts echoing down the passage all the way from the command center.
A target had been sighted.
Kurt grinned even as the submarine -- which had been running on the surface to conserve time and fuel -- began to dive. He stumbled with the pitch of the U-boat but regained his footing before he dropped any of the bowls. As U-28B dove he rushed to the galley, shoving men aside, and dumped the bowls in a sink.
Quick as he was able, he manuevered back along the ship's single corridor until he reached the command center. His clothes were always damp aboard U-28B, but now they were damp with sweat as well. The sweat not of fear but of anticipation. Within the command center all was now silent. The chief stood motionless between the men of the bridge watch. In the small space between the periscope shaft and the interior wall of the conning tower, the commander sat on the periscope saddle, feet on the controls that would rotate the entire mech...
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