“But don’t they… hurt?” His face certainly looked strained. I couldn’t imagine that even a vampire wouldn’t feel such injuries.
“I’ve experienced worse.”
I guessed this was true, but that didn’t make me feel any better sitting here with him bleeding out.
“Besides, they will heal soon. I just drank a body dry of blood. My system just needs time to process it. If it doesn’t, perhaps I need more blood.” He jerked his head toward the corpses still in the back of the truck. “There’s enough in this vehicle to keep me going for a long time. If I drink enough, the bleeding will stop fast and the wounds will close… In any case, we don’t stop until night.”
I shuddered, unwilling to look at the mess behind us. Locking my eyes on the road ahead, I was thankful that the windows were tinted. Of course, we had a gaping hole in the roof, but unless a very tall vehicle passed close to us, nobody could see inside.
I sighed and slumped back in my chair, scowling. It was clear that there was no budging Caleb.
Now that things had calmed down a little, the panic and shock that had been coursing through my veins dissipating, I realized that I genuinely still needed to relieve myself. That was a good excuse to get us to stop.
“I need the toilet.”
Caleb breathed out in frustration. He swerved over to the side of the road, the tires skidding on the pavement, and stopped next to a ditch. I got out and looked around. I walked to the nearest patch of bushes and ducked behind them. My bladder felt close to bursting.
Finishing up, I walked back to the van. But I didn’t walk back to my side of the car. I walked up to Caleb’s door and knocked.
He rolled down the window and stared at me through Luis’ glasses, his eyebrows raised. If I wasn’t aware that a few inches below his face, behind the tinted glass, was a bloody mess of bullets lodged into skin, I would have thought there was nothing unusual about him, apart from his paleness.
“Will you really not let me look at those wounds now?”
He scowled. “Just get in the car.”
I sighed and returned to my seat. He accelerated forward the second I shut the door.
My mind drifted back to what had happened, playing the blurred scenes over in my mind and trying to make sense of them now I could think more clearly.
“Do you know who they were?”
“Traffickers. Drugs, humans… they’d probably trade anything.”
I shuddered, recalling how they all seemed to have been eyeing me in particular. I wondered whether their plan was to just kidnap me, or if they’d wanted to bring Caleb along too.
We passed the next few hours until sundown in silence. When Caleb finally pulled off the highway and down a muddy track as the sun started dipping behind the horizon, I breathed out in relief.
The stench of the corpses in the back was beginning to overwhelm me, and yet I knew we couldn’t throw them out until we stopped and Caleb had drained them. I looked over the vampire. Some of his wounds had closed over by now, albeit with the bullet still embedded beneath his flesh. Others were still moist with blood.
As we continued along the bumpy track, I was beginning to worry. The mud seemed to be getting softer and deeper the further we traveled. I supposed that we were planning on abandoning the vehicle anyway, so it wouldn’t matter even if we did get stuck. Caleb stopped the engine once we arrived at the bank of a stream.
“Are you thirsty?” he asked.
I paused, wetting my lips nervously. “Yes, but—”
He seemed to understand my hesitation. I’d had enough of Amazonian streams for more than one lifetime. He reached over and grabbed my water bottle, then made his way down to the water. Filling up the bottle, he placed it on the bank before wading in himself. Tearing off the remaining shreds of his shirt, he dipped underwater and washed himself. By the time he stood up again, his wounds looked much cleaner, the bloodstains gone.
He returned to the car and handed me my bottle.
“Thanks,” I said, unscrewing the lid and drinking from it.
Opening up the middle door of the vehicle, he positioned himself over one of the corpses. I watched with a mixture of horror and disgust as he dug his fangs into the first body.
My own drink seemed less appealing now. Holding my ears, I tried to block out the squelching sounds, but they were hard to ignore. I looked back once the noise stopped. He hauled them both out of the car and dragged them down to the river. Wading in deep, he let go of them.
I felt infinitely grateful that he’d filled up my water bottle before dumping those dead bodies in the river. I imagined that the blood would draw alligators, which made me even more determined to stay in the truck.
When he approached the vehicle again and was about to seat himself back into the driver’s seat, I reached out and locked his door.
“Get in the back,” I said. “We need to take a look at your wounds.”
He heaved a sigh, but did as I’d requested. I climbed over the seats toward him. The blood splatters made me feel nauseous. I craned my neck to examine the back of the seats in the middle row. There were two latches on either side. Just what I’d been hoping for. I unlatched both of them and the back of the seat flattened, creating a narrow double bed.
I ducked down on the ground and looked beneath the seats. There were six small pieces of luggage. I reached for the one closest to me and pulled it out. Opening it up, I found a few personal possessions—toothpaste, a toothbrush, shaving equipment, tweezers, a set of spare clothes… I put the clothes and tweezers to one side before discarding the bag and reaching for another. They all had similar contents—light travel equipment. In the sixth case, I was pleased to see two blankets bundled up inside it. I stretched them both out on top of each other over the outstretched seats, covering up the bloodstains.