Uno gripped my arm with the retractable blade and held it in place. I punched him hard in the face with my free hand. Little good it did. It hurt me more then it did him. He laughed before I felt his hot breath on my neck. I wondered if my corpse would share a space on his front lawn with the rival clan leader. His fangs pricked at my skin.
“Killing him would be a grave mistake,” a woman said nonchalantly.
Uno stopped and turned toward the intruder. “Sekhmet?”
I recognized the name immediately. Sekhmet was a Thaloc, more plainly known as a shape-shifter. Perched at the edge of the large oak desk like a great bird, she had taken the form of a small girl. Huge wings extended from her back as black as her raven colored hair and eyes. Her sudden appearance had surprised everyone. Hammer had drawn back his Khopesh ready to take Sekhmet’s head from her neck.
“Stay your hand,” Uno yelled, “She is an ally.”
She glanced over at Hammer and smiled. “Oh don’t worry about me dear. His sword would never have touched my delicate skin.”
Sigma stood and grimaced like a wounded animal, but I knew it wasn’t because of pain. The rapid healing abilities granted to all vampires had already mended his shattered bones. I suspected his beef at the moment was the fact I had injured him in the first place. Assassin, as well as vampire pride obligated him seek retribution. He grabbed my leg and yanked me out of Uno’s grasp. My back thudded against the floor, knocking air out of my lungs again. Elevating me into the air, I dangled upside down in his one hand like a fish on a hook. I jabbed my blade into Sigma’s leg, the same one that I injured earlier.
Sigma screamed, dropping me at the same instant. I rolled away until I was stopped by Uno’s desk. Sigma’s wound was too much for him to bear and he finally buckled to the ground staring at me, his face a twisted jumble of hatred and pain. His fingernails became long and pointed, and as sharp as talons. He struck at me, thinking I was defensively braced against the desk with nowhere to go. He was wrong. I countered with my own attack and severed his forearm from the rest of his body.
Panicked I would strike again with a killing blow, Sigma drew himself quickly away, screaming and cursing in an ancient language. Since his heart hadn’t pumped with true life in hundreds of years, no blood sprayed from his stump of an arm. The detached limb on the floor squirmed for a short while like a fish pulled out of the sea. When it eventually stopped, the hand curled into a fist and then extended its middle finger defiantly in my direction.
“Enough,” Uno said directing all of his attention at the one armed assassin. “If Moon is to die it will be by my hands.”
Propped against the door, Sigma hauled himself up on his one good leg. “He dishonors me! He should be my kill!”
A silence fell in the room that was almost palpable. Hammer’s concentration stayed focused on Sekhmet like she was the only person in the office. The shape-shifter smiled down at me. She remained unmoving, balanced on the far end of the desk waiting patiently for something to happen.
I picked up Sigma’s Khopesh off the floor and got to my feet. Standing between the two men that wanted me dead, I pointed my retractable blade at the assassin and stretched out the sword at Uno. “Who dies first?”
Like the small child that Sekhmet pretended to be, she laughed gleefully, clapping her hands together in appreciation. In my voice, she said, “Who dies first?” And then she laughed some more. “Humans are so much fun.”
Her amusement brought the tension in the room to a manageable level. Uno looked at me. “Lower your weapons, Moon. Your blood will not be spilled this night.” He turned his attention to Sigma. “Collect your arm and get out until I call for you.”
Sigma glowered at me. “And what of my honor? Am I to let the insect live?”
“For now,” Uno answered. “You two can settle matters later.”
That seemed to calm the assassin.
I tossed him his Khopesh.
In a voice that sent chills up my spine, he said, “I will send you to Osiris to past judgment on your soul.”
I gave his severed arm a hard kick and sent the limb rolling across the floor until it stopped short at his feet. “You’ll have a better chance of doing the job with both your hands, though I wouldn’t place any bets on it.” Then I turned my back to him, which equated to a slap in the face.
There was an animal growl and then the door opened and closed.
Uno stared at Sekhmet. “Were you in my office spying the entire time pretending to be a cockroach?”
“A fly actually. Cockroaches are so filthy. I would never think of becoming one of them,” she answered. “And a good thing I was here. If you’ve killed the human, you would have lost any chance of ascension.”
I retracted my blade and took a few steps backwards. “I’ll be on my way then.” In the corner of my eye, I saw that Hammer kept pace. He wasn’t about to let me reach the door.
“I think not,” the shape-shifter said, “You have work to do.”
“I don’t work for vampires.”
She stood to her full four feet height balanced at the edge of the desk by her toes. “Then I shall hire you.”
I laughed. “That’s worse than working for Uno.” Shape-shifters are as dishonest as imps. The only real difference, an imp won’t try to kill you after the deal was struck.
“Uno isn’t the only person I’ve been spying on of late,” she commented, “I’ve been keeping an eye on you as well, Moon. You need money in a hurry.”
Her words stopped me in my tracks. I did need cash, lots of it. I lost count of how many debt collection agencies called my home and office number. The only thing that had comforted me was the fact the phone company would soon be disconnecting my service. I hadn’t had a customer in over three months and was down to my last twenty dollars and that would be gone after I hailed a cab to get home.
Uno must have noticed my hesitation. He reached inside his suit jacket and withdrew a sheaf of money. He tossed the bundle and it landed at my feet. “Take it. Consider it a commission just for listening.”
I looked down at the cash. Benjamin Franklin’s face stared back up at me and it looked like he brought at least thirty of his identical family members with him. My empty stomach growled as if to say in a Mr. T voice, “Fool, pick up the damn money!” What the hell, if they he wanted to paid me just to listen, why shouldn’t I take the money?
Both Uno and Sekhmet smiled as I scooped up the bundle. Never could resist Benjamin Franklin. “What’s the job?” I asked.
Uno sat in his blood red leather chair. “We need you to find two items for us.”
I gave him my best annoyed expression. “Finding things is what I do, so I already knew that much big guy.”
The sign on my office door and business cards listed me as a relic hunter. I search for ancient artifacts in the most unusual places. You won’t find me exploring the jungles of the Yucatan or the deserts of Egypt. The objects I recover shall never find its way into museums or in a billionaire’s private collection. The people who employed me are only interested in relics filled with supernatural properties, located in places where anyone with half a sense would never dare to tread.
“We need you to find the Sceptre and Ankh of Life,” Sekhmet explained.
I cringed and then stared first at the shape-shifter and then at vampire clan leader with disbelief. I understood then why Uno didn’t want the members of Set Amentet to know what he was up to. I knew exactly why he wanted the ancient Egyptian relic.
Uno wanted to become a god.