Home > The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(3)

The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(3)
Author: Lisa Shearin

A dark column as big around as a power pole and nearly as long rose out of the water and fell across the railing not twenty feet from where we stood. The tapered tip crashed through a salon window, then withdrew and flailed blindly until it found the railing and coiled around it, getting a good grip.

Power poles weren’t in the middle of rivers, and they definitely didn’t have suction cups.

It was a giant tentacle.


THIS was one of those times when even I doubted what I was seeing. I felt like I’d just been dropped into the middle of a B movie creature feature from the 1950s.

Part of my agent training when I started working for SPI included watching more than a few of those movies for educational purposes. You’d be surprised at what some of those low-budget Hollywood filmmakers got right. Still, I couldn’t believe what was less than twenty feet from us.

“Is that what I—?”

“Kraken,” Rake confirmed. In one smooth move, he released me, raised his now red-glowing hands, and launched an incendiary spell.

Other than giving us a better look at what was about to drag the yacht to the bottom of the Hudson River, the spell did nothing.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Rake said mildly.

“I think we all are.”

As a seer, my job was to point out the supernatural bad guys, then get the heck out of the way so they could either be taken into custody or, if necessary, taken out. I was presently on track to become SPI’s longest surviving seer. My three predecessors had met with on-the-job accidents that had turned out to be not so accidental. Some unknown entity was trying to keep SPI without a seer. I was trying to live long enough to qualify for retirement. Lately, I’d been glad just to survive until my next paycheck.

All that being said, I had a gun, I’d been trained, and I almost had the confidence to use it. Though suddenly, I went from having one target to what SPI’s shooting instructor called a “target-rich environment.”

We were being boarded. It wasn’t by pirates, and unfortunately none of them looked like Johnny Depp. If I had to assign a movie to the things that were slithering entirely too fast up the side of the yacht and over the rail, it would be Creature from the Black Lagoon. The kraken was holding the Persephone still while the creatures swarmed over the sides. Screams from the other side of the ship suggested the starboard guests were getting their share of attention. The humans on board were probably the ones doing the screaming—the non-clued-in ones, that is. Thankfully, my training kicked in before my vocal cords could.

But call me picky. I liked to be sure that the bad guys were actually bad before attempting to fill them with holes. Seconds later, one of the creatures lashed out with a webbed hand tipped with hooked claws and ripped the throat out of one of the crewmen trying to fend it off. Dark blood sprayed the yacht’s windows.

Bad guy. Check. I opened fire.

Magic was great, but sometimes there was no substitute for lead and silver.

If it had worked.

Not only did hollow points infused with silver not kill it, the thing wasn’t even inconvenienced. That was bad.

There was now no one between us and two targets that were close enough for me to see the gills flexing on the sides of their necks. Too close. I squeezed off two more shots: one hit, one miss. I forced myself to relax the two-handed death grip I had on my gun.

Rake was the poster boy for cool as he readied another spell. “Aim for the eyes.”

I had been aiming for the eyes; that part was easy. The things were glowing yellow and were the only light on the boat, or at least the corner we were trapped on. Killing them was the hard part. My bullets might as well have been gnats—minimal annoyance, no damage.

Rake launched a different spell. In my deep knowledge of magic, I knew it was different because it was blue and not red. This one picked up the creature in question and hurled it off the side of the yacht and out over the river at a distance the Yankees would have envied. Rake followed that up with doing the same to the next six boarders.

He was panting with exertion, but sounded pleased with himself. “If I can’t destroy, disperse.”

Rake was winded, but all the creatures had to do was swim back to the yacht, their trip across the river having merely pissed them off.

In the next instant, darkness covered everything as if a black, smothering blanket had been dropped on top of the entire yacht. I could not see my hand in front of my face. My breathing became labored, and the screams sounded unnaturally distant. As far as my ears were concerned, turning down the volume on dozens of panicked people was a good thing, but nothing else was.

I no longer sensed Rake next to me, or even near me.

He was gone.

Or had been taken.

“Rake?” I didn’t want to shout and earn the undivided attention of any remaining swamp things, but I wanted Rake to hear me.

No response.

I replaced my gun with a knife.

A hand grabbed my arm, and I slashed out. Another hand grabbed my wrist. The grip was like iron, but it didn’t smell fishy.

“It’s me!” Rake hissed.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“Why did you yell? I was right here.”

“I didn’t yell, and I can’t see anything,” I snapped. Rake was a goblin. Cats were blind as bats compared to goblins. “Can you see?”

“Not much. It’s black magic.”

With an emphasis on black. And silent, at least on our side of the yacht. The screaming escalated on the other side.

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