A/N: Summer be upon us. Freedom from school, and therefore an excess of time on my hands. And you know what that means. More chapters for just about everything soon. Note: Changed the name from DarkBane to Exoneration, simply because it sounded better in my ears. Like it?

P.S. Be sure to check out Son of the Dragon. I hate to laud my own work, but it's really lacking in reviews!


The sound of an empty cartridge seemed to echo to Rick, as he popped the clip from the bottom of the gun. On practiced fingers the new one spun, twirled right-side up, and slid into the open slot on the butt of the Jericho.


This one was far more satisfying, more comforting. The next bullet confirmed that, splitting the pale, clammy skin between the dead crimson eyes of another vampire. Another comforting noise was the soft whine of the small pumps coating the bullet in holy water, as good as a potent acid to the undead he currently fought.


The sound of wood splitting behind him gave more solace than ten gallons of holy water, as a leather boot caved the beaten door in on the back of an unsuspecting vampire. Two bullets whistled a ditty of death through the air, punching holes in a chest and a head. Rick took advantage of the distraction, grabbing the nearest one by its greasy hair. It hissed, baring its fangs for his unblocked wrist, but instead found the barrel of Rick's gun rammed down its throat. Its chest burst outwards like some kind of horrible birth when he pulled the trigger.


The liberation of steel from a leather prison was a sweet sound indeed, and the ex-cop was well aware that he had nothing to fear from his back as long as Matthew's wicked dance stayed in tempo. He downed two more, just as he felt hands as cold as the crypt close in around his throat.

He holstered his gun and flicked his leg, sending his dagger into the air. His hand lashed out and snatched it, and he wasted no time running it through the vampire's eye, all before it could blink. The creature staggered backwards, and Rick's next brutal kick sent the dying monster through the third-story window behind them, into the cold February waters of the bay below.

Matthew had shown up several hours earlier, in his typical fashion--that is, before Rick-- reclined comfortably in the ex cop's favorite easy chair in front of the TV. He'd gotten a job about a den of vampires, which were apparently numerous in the city, that were creating a nuisance to a real-estate tycoon wishing to build by the docks. Always glad to get out on a mission, Rick had suited up and was ready to roll in minutes.

He realized that the few vampires that remained all circled Matthew, cautiously testing the hunter's range. The saber flashed out without warning, taking off the decayed finger of the closest one. It leaped backwards, just as Rick sheathed his dagger in the base of its neck.

The remaining few had decided they'd had enough. The ceiling above had decayed so badly, equal parts from age and the proximity to the salt water. It held little resistance against the undead, as they leaped through it effortlessly.

"Why can't we do that?" Rick mused as he ran for the nearby window and the fire escape that gave passage to the roof.

Matthew, shy of pointing out that he could, drew his revolvers and instead made a run for the opposite window, leaping through it and crashing through the glass of the derelict building beyond. He turned and made for the skyward stairs. Rick rolled his eyes. "Showoff," he muttered, before he continued up the fire escape.

It was a wary climb to the roof; it was the only place they could be, and he'd have seen if they'd flown off. He dropped prone as he reached the top, peeking around the corner.

The three remaining undead had made a triangle, backs towards one another. Beyond their dead gazes, Rick saw Matthew crouched, his dark gray greatcoat virtually blended with the shadows behind him. He flashed him a hand signal. Rush in three, he knew it meant, after months of practice and experience. He counted it out in his head.

One. He chambered another round, muffling the click with his hand.

Two. Matthew spun the cylinder of a revolver, dropping the bullets into its rotating sides.

Three. He sprang upwards, letting off a shot. He gasped as the gun was knocked from his grasp, a vampire springing up from the shadows on the other side of the wall he'd been hiding behind. It bashed into his gut with its head, and pushed forwards with its shoulder. Both of them went tumbling from the edge of the fire escape.

Four. There was not supposed to be a four, yet Rick counted it nevertheless. It was his last thought, before his head impacted the railing two stories down, knocking him unconscious. He spun hard the other direction, before landing with a crunch in a dumpster. His eye stayed open just long enough to see a winged figure burst from the rooftop, fire two shots backwards, and swoop down towards him.

Gabriel, he surmised, before he surrendered to the throbbing in his head.


Shadows played another trick not two rooftops away, bearing aloft yet another creature of the night. Normal undead--could such a paradox be applied--bowed to this one, a mixture of two evils never meant for mortal eyes. Part legend, and part nightmare, he gazed upon the scene he'd so carefully orchestrated, and smiled. Elongated canines, longer than any but those of the most ancient of vampires, curved well past his chin.

"A wife and now a friend." He spoke to the night air. "So many more to go, Vadenhart." He stood, and leaped back into the shadows behind him, disappearing like sunlight below the horizon.