“They say you’re going to be fine,” Crow said. “They don’t think the rotator cuff’s torn.”
Weinstock looked at him for a moment and then turned away. “What does it matter?”
Crow frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I was bitten!” he said in a tortured voice.
Weinstock turned sharply, eyes flaring. “Don’t you understand? I was bitten by a vampire!”
“He just bit you, Saul,” said Val. “He didn’t kill you.”
“I’m going to die! I’m going to come back as…as…”
“No you’re not!” she snapped.
“I’m damned! Don’t you get it? I’m going to die and then I’m going to come back as a freaking vampire and—”
Val bent forward and stared at Weinstock until he stopped talking. She bent and kissed him on the tip of the nose. “You are not damned, you dope! Jonatha told us that you have to die by a vampire’s bite and then either be forced to drink blood or drink it when you revive. Neither of those things happened. This is just a wound. Right now you’re hurt and you’re scared. We’re all scared.” Her smiling mouth started to tremble. “Mark only bit you. He didn’t drain your blood, he didn’t kill you, and he didn’t make you drink his blood. You’re not going to turn into what he was.”
Weinstock stared at her for a long moment, then he wrapped his uninjured arm around her and pulled her close. After a moment she sat back on the bed and fished for a tissue in her pocket, didn’t find one; Crow held one out without comment. He handed a second one to Weinstock.
The TV was on and they all pretended to watch ABC’s coverage of the town’s Mischief Night festivities. After a minute Weinstock said, “I need to call Rachel. I need to get her and the kids out of town.”
“It’s the middle of the night, Saul…” Val began, but let it go. She understood, and she sat with him while he made the call, listening as Saul concocted a complete piece of nonsense about an outbreak of avian flu that was just discovered. Saul pleaded, he cajoled, he even yelled, but in the end he convinced her. When he hung up he looked ten years older, but greatly relieved.
Later, Crow said, “We have to decide what to do about Connie.”
Without looking at him Val replied, “I want her cremated. I’ll call the Murphy Brothers tomorrow; they can come for her and take care of it. Mark, too. Jonatha says fire will work, so let’s end it with that.”
There was a light knock on the door and Ferro came in with a cardboard carrier heavy with Starbucks cups. He looked like five miles of bad road, and Crow told him as much. Ferro’s attempt at a smile was ghastly.
“You okay?” he asked Val, offering her a cup.
She waggled her hand back and forth. “Where’s Vince?” she asked, taking the coffee.
“Throwing up,” Ferro said. “Again. He said he might go to the hospital chapel for a while.”
Ferro cleared his throat. “Look, Crow, Val…as soon as Vince is fit to travel we’re heading back to Philly. No, no, don’t look at me like that—we’re not jumping ship. We talked it over and the bottom line is that we all got hurt in there because we were underprepared. No way am I letting that happen again, so we’re heading back to the city to get some more reliable armament. Kevlar vests, ammunition, the works. I figure we tweak Crow’s shotgun-shell idea and put a drop of garlic oil in the tips of hollow-point rounds and seal them somehow.”
“I have plenty of sealing wax at my store,” Crow said
“Outstanding.” He sipped his coffee, winced, and set the cup down. “While we’re gone, maybe you can pick up some garlic oil, and anything else you can think of. I’m sure Saul can arrange for us to use one of the rooms here as a staging area.”
“Anything you need,” Weinstock agreed.
Ferro looked at his watch. “Should take us about six hours. We should try to get some sleep…but I don’t know how that’s going to happen. We’ll pick up No-Doz or something on the way.” He leaned back in his chair and looked at Val. “In the morgue…that was, well…that was bad. We were there to protect you and we let you down. That won’t happen again, I give you my word.”
Val nodded but said nothing.
“I’m sorry for what you had to go through and what you had to do. You’re an incredible woman, Val, and I’m proud to know you.”
“Thank you, Frank.”
To Crow he said, “I hope you’ll be ready when we get back because I want to saddle up, get down to Dark Hollow, and see if we can finish this.”
“Frank…we don’t know if Ruger’s even down there, or if he’s even alive. We don’t know if we’ll find anything down there.”
Ferro stared at him for a long moment. “He’s out there. I know it. You know it.”
Crow just looked at him.
“If he’s not down at Griswold’s house, if he’s not in Dark Hollow, then we have to hunt him down and kill him no matter where he is, no matter where he’s hiding. We have to. The alternative is just too…”
He stopped, shook his head, and and left.
They gave Weinstock a sedative, which he grumbled about taking, and he drifted off. Crow looked at his watch. “I’d better get moving, baby. If I’m going to be ready when they get back I’ve got to get a bunch of things done.”
“I wish I was going with you today,” Val said as Crow fished his car keys out of the plastic bag that held his clothes. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. I know I’m pregnant, I know I’m too delicate.” She hooked quotation marks around that last word and her tone was mocking.
“Honey,” Crow said, straightening, “believe me when I tell you that if you weren’t pregnant with Crow Junior I’d want you riding shotgun…and I mean that exactly.”
“Why do you always think our baby is going to be a boy?”
“Because you’re going to want another guy you can boss around.”
She stuck out her tongue. “You will pay for that remark.”
“Vince, Frank, and I can handle this part of it. By the way, I called Newt, but Jonatha answered his cell. She said he was asleep.”
Val arched an eyebrow. “Asleep? With her?”
“I didn’t ask for details. I told her the plan and she said that she and Newt would try and meet us back here before first light to help us get ready. She sounded pretty rocky. Not everyone’s as tough as you, baby,” Crow said. “Look…I’d better go.”
“God,” she said, “this is never going to be over. I can feel it.”
“No! We’re going to end it today.” He kissed her, long and sweetly, and then knelt and kissed her stomach. Rising, he hitched up as confident a smile as he could manage. “Trust me, Val. We’re going to win.”
“I trust you,” she said softly.
He kissed her again and left.
Crow drove out to Val’s farm, pulled up to the big tool-shed near the barn, trained the high beams on the door, and got out of his car holding Ferro’s shotgun. It still held four shells doctored with garlic and he approached the shed cautiously until he was sure it was safe. He unlocked the shed and removed four yellow 4.6-gallon backpack-style sprayer tanks that were used for liquid fertilizer; they were exactly where Val said he’d find them. He poured out their contents and wiped each one down.
He filled them at the farm gas pump and tested the sprayers; each one worked fine.
“Hope the gas doesn’t melt these puppies,” he murmured as he stowed them in his car.
Next he drove to the Haunted Hayride grounds. It was past two o’clock and everything was shut down, but Crow let himself in and drove to the barn where a dozen ATVs stood in a row. The ones Crow wanted were in the back, three nearly new bright yellow Renegade 800s. Four-wheelers with 800cc, four-stroke v-twins. Less than six hundred pounds each and as tough as Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
It took him an hour to load three of them onto a flatbed, drive out to the Passion Pit, offload everything, and drive back to get his car. He left a note for Coop, the Hayride’s manager, and then headed up the road to Millie’s Farm Stand. Crow had called before midnight and told Millie that he wanted every drop of garlic oil she had plus six big sacks of garlic bulbs. When she asked why, he told her it was for the Halloween Festival.
Millie was waiting up for him, bleary-eyed but amused. Everything was in boxes and Crow crammed them into his car and tied the sacks of bulbs to his roof.
“For the Festival, you say?” she asked as Crow wrote out a hefty check.
Crow kept his face bland as he tore off the check. “Life’s always a little different in Pine Deep.”
“Mm-hmm,” Millie agreed, her face equally bland. “Always is.”
As his car was rolling over the gravel and onto the blacktop, Oscar ambled over and stood by his wife. Unlike Millie, Oscar was not a native of Pine Deep, having been raised on lobster boats off the Maine coast, and despite his forty years in Pennsylvania, he still maintained his laconic New England drawl.
“Was that Crow driving off just now?”
“Mm-hmm,” she said. “He bought ten gallons of extract and three hundred pounds of bulbs.”
“Ayuh?” he murmured.
“Awful lot of garlic.”
“I mean, for someone who owns a craft store.”
“And he was here with a policeman last night to buy some, too. I told you about how he was in a terrible hurry. Worked up into such a state.”
Oscar nodded and wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they watched Crow’s car dwindle to a dot and vanish around a curve.
“Still seems to be in a hurry,” she observed.