Martinez crouched behind the concrete barrier. The fading evening sun cast the world in an ember glow. Martinez checked the battery life on his night vision. He’d be needing it tonight more than ever. 

Ahead of him, Henries and two other team members held their weapons at the ready. Most were crouched on their knees or squatting behind the barrier. Martinez checked his watch. They only had five minutes before sun down.

Then it was go-time.

“What’s our official cover again?” someone asked Henries.

“BORTAC,” he said. 

“Which is?” the other asked.

“Dammit, Simmons, do you ever pay attention in the briefings?” Henries sighed.

“Gotta catch up on my sleep sometime,” Simmons replied.

“Border Patrol, numbnuts,” Henries shot back.

“Then what’s the TAC for?” Simmons said.

“It’s a TicTac for your bad breath,” Henries sighed. Martinez struggled not to grin. “Tactical Unit.”

“That’s not really an acronym-” Simmons started to chime in, but the radio on Henries’ shoulder buzzed to life.

“Hunter Actual to all teams be advised, vehicles are leaving the property.” the radio squawked.

“Understood,” Henries said into the radio. A moment later, a stream of cars hummed by the position. Martinez struggled not to stir in his heavy tactical gear, trying to remain as still as possible amid the gleam of hubcaps rolling past their position. Loud bass music thumped through the night.

“Clear,” Henries said. He looked at Martinez. “It’s go time.”

The group fell in line, with Simmons in the lead, Henries behind him followed by the third team member Johnson and then Martinez bringing up the rear. Several yards away, Martinez spotted the other four-member fireteam moving in a parallel configuration. He clutched his M4 and moved towards the destination.

A sprawling mansion spread out before Martinez’s eyes. It had long fallen into disrepair. Blackened gray shutters covered the mansion like rotting husk, while dust gathered on its large four-square windows. The two-story window looked as if the slightest breeze would knock it over, yet despite all appearances, it remained standing, as if some unholy force prevented its fall.

Which might not be far from the truth.

Simmons planted the charge while Henries cocked his shotgun. Simmons nodded to the team and then ignited the charge, which cut through the decaying door like a firecracker placed on a slice of moldy cheese. The moment the door fell away, gunfire spilled through the doorway from the other side.

Martinez removed a flashbang from his vest and touched it into the room. 

“Flash out,” he yelled to the assembled team. He turned away just before a blinding light blasted through the room. Two seconds, the two teams entered the doorway like twin snakes wrapping around their prey. 

Several men with bandannas fired back with submachine guns, only to be cut down by the response. Martinez moved swiftly through the living room, his feet thumping against the hardwood floor as he cleared the room. Behind one door, a man aimed a sawed-off shotgun, but Martinez dispatched him with one squeeze of his trigger, sending a thumping barrage of bullets into the man, who dropped to the floor.

“Clear!” Martinez heard from the back. He checked the man’s neck. Plenty of tattoos, but no bites. Looked to be members of the local cartel.

“Form up,” Martinez heard Henries call. He returned to his position at the rear of the group as the team crouched up a staircase behind the main foyer. Behind him, Martinez heard sporadic rattles of gunfire followed by silence. He continued moving up the stairs.

Several rooms jutted out over the landing. Most were empty. As Henries opened the door, three figures spilled out towards him. They were all women, or at least, they used to be. Their skin, once colored like brown sugar, now resembled pale flour. The only trace of color on their bodies were their hungry, unnatural yellow eyes, and the blood dripping from their long, curved fangs. 

Henries gasped as the women came at him. He pointed his M4, but his hesitation froze him in place. The first woman tossed him aside like a ragdoll. Simmons managed to get one shot off before the second fell upon him. One moved towards Johnson.

Martinez had to act fast. He dropped his M4 instinctively and pulled out his sidearm. He aimed at the one moving towards him and Johnson and fired, dropping her to the floor. He pivoted and squeezed off two more shots, putting down the two on Simmons and Henries. 

Simmons wasn’t badly hurt. Henries was another story. He had two girls the same age as the women. They had heard reports of missing migrants in the region. Martinez guessed they had found them. He checked the bodies. The women, now truly dead, stared up to the ceiling with vacant, empty eyes as the silver from the bullets trickled out from their bloodstream. 

Simmons volunteered to stay with Henries while Martinez and Johnson checked the next room. Martinez put in a call to team two just in case they needed reinforcements. He had intended to stay put into the squeal of old wood in the next room caught his attention. He alerted Johnson, who moved to the corner and slowly pushed the door.

Martinez scanned the dark room. A long box sat in the center of the darkness. Something stirred within it. Martinez wasn’t going to take chances and end up in the same position as Henries. He fired into the long box’s thick wood - hoping one of this special ammunition penetrated the box itself.

Whatever was in the box stopped moving after Martinez fired. Johnson reloaded his M4 with the special silver ammunition. He nodded when he was finished. Martinez moved to the side of the long box with his sidearm in hand. He tipped the lid over, ready for something to spring up and take hold of him.

The darkness of the box spilled forth to reveal a pale, middle-aged man. He wasn’t moving. Martinez checked him. He seemed dead. Or at least, as dead as someone could be in this line of work. Silver bubbled from a spot in his chest. One of the rounds had hit him. Martinez took notice of the sharpened dentures. Newly turned, it seemed. 

He put in a call into the radio. “Hunter Actual, this is Hunter Two-One. Be advised, the Target is not on site. Repeat, the target is not onsite.”

Another nest burned with no leads, Martinez thought, until he noticed the briefcase in the side of the box. He pulled it out. At least this wasn’t a total waste.

But that was a hunt for another day. Martinez needed to go back to the base, debrief and then get some sleep.

And after that, his team would find the Target and put him in the ground. Permanently this time.

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