Author's Note: Came up with this story after surveying a new residence a couple years ago. The hunter is not anyone in particular.


He chose this place because of the bars on the windows. Iron. Old, which was better, because most of the newer ones were made out of steel alloys or even something worse like zinc. They weren't pretty, black and basic, bulky and tacky, jutting out of the window frames and advertising the seedy side of town this place was located. But they'd do. They were even bolted down firmly. Might keep humans out too.

It wasn't a bad location besides. Ground floor, it was true, but he didn't like apartments. Too many people, walls too thin. A single house, even if it cost more, was worth it. It was the bad side of town in a town that was already pretty bad by itself. That didn't bother him. He'd been worse, seen worse, and anyway, normal crime didn't scare him anymore.

He would have liked a place closer to a church, or some kind of sacred ground, but that was getting to be a little too much to ask for. Not a graveyard though. Not one of those again. He'd learned better after last time. The closest hallowed ground was three blocks away, but he figured that would be all right. He'd already timed how long it took him to run there, both in the daytime and in the dark. It was important to know these things. A minute and twenty seconds if he went fast, less if he didn't bother about where he was putting his feet. He hadn't timed it yet with a potential handicap, like blood loss or other injuries. He reminded himself to do that soon.

He had the key the realtor had given him. He would get the locks changed soon. Standard practice even for normal people, he remembered. He examined the door, standing in the doorway and swinging the door slightly. Steel, hollow core. Not the best, but it would do. Maybe someday he would upgrade, but he doubted he'd be staying here that long. The locks were crap. He'd get a set of steel bolts, install them himself. He always did. And then the usual protections. They would be more useful.

There was carpet underfoot. Old, beige once maybe but brown now. Carpet was okay. It muffled noise and made creeping up easier, which was only much of a benefit to him. Most of the things that made it into the house didn't need to worry about footsteps. He checked the doorframe from the inside, jiggled the wooden molding. Firmly built. He liked these old houses better, for their construction. They could be a little trickier, what with the history and the increased chance of bad vibes getting stuck in the place, but he still liked them better. He'd checked this place out anyway. No violent deaths, not even one in the sixty years since it had been built. Two houses away there had been a murder twenty years ago, and a couple houses from that there had been a few drug related deaths more recently. Not bad considering the location. It was impossible to find anything completely clean, so this was good.

He'd dug through police records to find out about this place before taking it, under a false name and paid under the table. It never ceased to amaze him how poor the security was in police stations. Bit of research in the local library, nothing on the archives. Then he'd hit the best place for information: the locals. None of the old geezers at the town bar had any nasty stories about this place. Seemed it had always been nice and quiet. No demonic activity at all, nothing suggesting poltergeists. Anything else he figured it was impossible to avoid. He'd just have to deal with that if—when—it came.

He glanced at the bars through the windows, dusty, yellowed curtains left over from the last tenants. Nice people. He'd talked to them before, found them living twenty miles away. Pretended to work for the city, doing census work. He didn't know how the hell these people ever believed him. But they hadn't mentioned anything unusual. It seemed a nice place.

He realized that he didn't do that very often. Talk to the previous residents. Why had he done that this time? He considered. Maybe he wanted something a little more permanent this time. Last time he'd tried that—well, he knew how that had worked out. With Charlie dead in a ditch, that was how it had ended. But this place was better. Maybe he could stay here a little longer, grow roots, settle down a little….

He sighed and shook his head. It was good place, but that was it. He wouldn't stay long. It was getting dangerous, even more than it had been a couple years ago. He couldn't afford to stay in one place for too long. Not with them still after him.

There was no door to the dining room, just a door-shaped hole in the wall that led to the next room. He didn't give a damn about the architectural shortcomings of the house, but he would have liked a door separating the rooms. Gave another barrier if he ever needed one.

Nothing fancy in the kitchen. Sad, dirty, outdated appliances. He didn't cook anyway. The fridge would be good for storing ammo though. There was a small window in the kitchen, a bit too small for anyone other than a tenacious human to fit through. He considered what precautions it would require. The windows in the front had the bars, but this one was bare. Builders must have thought it wasn't likely a full-grown human would try it. Hawthorn over the window, salt on the sill was a given. He'd get some chrism too, mentally adding that to his to-do list. He was almost out.

The bedroom was small and dark, bent blinds on the windows. He pulled one open, but it didn't shed much light in the room. Wrong side of the house. That bothered him a little, which surprised him. He was getting scared of the dark.

Back door was a pathetic affair, busted up wood with peeling paint, didn't even fit squarely in the frame. He could probably break it down by leaning on it. He already had a piece of sheet metal in his pickup, sixteenth of an inch thick, bought to shore it up. He couldn't afford a new door, and besides, it was better to let it look flimsy and unprotected from the outside. Don't let the enemy know what's inside, was one of his mottos. The hinges needed replacing, obviously. New locks. He thought he might set up a detonation device behind the door, in case anyone—anything—tried something. He'd have to work on that. And get some witch-hazel. Better for doors.

The walls were in good shape. He'd already put the gris-gris inside, and buried the Benedict medals in the corners of the yard. Foundation was solid concrete. He didn't need any houses with crawl spaces, not after Tallahassee. That was another thing this house had going for it.

He stopped in the tiny hallway, little more than a two-by-two space between the kitchen and living room, really. Something about this house felt good. Right. He hadn't felt that in a long time. Getting paranoid these days probably. That was all right. "Paranoia pays" was another one of his mottos.

He dropped the duffle bag in the kitchen and sat on one of the counters, his jeans catching on the cracked orange Formica. He liked having a safe place. A base of operations. Jim was all right for short periods of time, but keep them together for more than a few days and there was bound to be blood. Even if he had helped—a lot—with that spirit in Sacramento. He still owed Jim for that, but he'd return the favor eventually. He always did.

It was getting dark. He knew he should start to unpack—not that he had much to unpack—but he didn't move yet. At least set up for the night, get the preliminary things done and the absolute necessities, like salt the doors and windows, set the charms over the doors, and get the guns ready. Just in case. But he watched the sun sinking lower through the kitchen window, turning the sky orange and backlighting the telephone wires until they were black against it. Sometimes he hated this life. The death, the danger, the constant hiding, loosing friends and family and never getting to be…free. He thought about Charlie in that wet ditch that night and wondered who would be next: him or Jim. One of them. They weren't going to live long, he knew that. But right now, he didn't care. The house was good and it was as close to being home as he was ever going to get. The closest thing to being safe and happy.

He sighed. Jumped off the counter and bent over the duffle bag, pulled out his knives. It was going to be a long night.