Seeing Oliver, Jesse and Myrnin that way - reduced to their purest hunting instincts - had terrified Claire on a very deep level, but the scariest moment was at the end, when Oliver had no one left to fight.
No one but them.
For a long, long few seconds Claire was convinced he was about to take them out too ... and then he just turned and walked away.
'Wait,' Claire said. Shane tried to hush her, probably scared that attracting Oliver's attention was a very bad idea - and he was likely right about that - but she had to know. 'Did you kill them all?'
'What did you expect us to do?' he snapped without turning toward her.
Claire felt numbed by it all now; she knew on some level that killing all these people had been necessary, because they'd been doing their level best to kill her friends, but ... but she couldn't face it. She started for the barn, but Shane held her back. 'No,' he said. 'Claire, don't. You don't need to see that.'
'What about Dr Anderson?'
'Ah,' Myrnin said. 'I almost forgot.' He flashed back inside the barn, and when he came out, he was dragging Dr Anderson by the collar of her lab coat.
She was alive. Bruised, battered, but alive. He'd put her into one of the straitjackets they'd used on him and Oliver, and strapped it too tightly for her to move, though she was trying to fight her way free. He'd also gagged her.
Good. Claire couldn't imagine anything she wanted to hear from her right now. She was overwhelmed by the conviction that if she hadn't started all this by her stupid little project, those stupid VLAD guns, then none of it would have had to happen.
None of those people would be dead right now.
Oliver and Jesse, meanwhile, walked out to the van that lay stranded and stuck in the field. The two of them easily picked it up and carried it back to the gravel. 'We need to go,' Oliver said. Dr Anderson was screaming behind the cloth, and trying to kick at Jesse, who ignored her. 'We'll take both vans. Myrnin will ride with you. Michael ...?'
'We'll come with you,' Michael said, and Eve nodded. He turned to Shane, and something strange passed between the two of them that Claire couldn't understand. She'd thought they were good, but there was some kind of caution there, some wary distance. 'See you back home?'
Shane nodded. 'Be safe, man. You okay?'
'Better,' Michael said. He sounded more like himself, at least; he wasn't as pallid as the other vampires, and he seemed less ... alien, somehow. What did I do to them? Claire wondered. She'd had to make guesses about how to adjust VLAD's settings, and she hadn't been at all sure that it would be enough to reverse the effects of the first blasts ... she'd been right about the reversal, but it seemed to have done something else, too. Something scarier. It was as if their essential humanity had been stripped away. Even Myrnin's. She couldn't meet his gaze; it was too strange, too ... too frightening.
'We can't just leave all this here,' Shane said. 'For one thing, our DNA's all over the place.'
'What do you propose?' Oliver asked.
'Well, it's a farm. There's gasoline and fertiliser.'
Pete nodded, suddenly looking a lot steadier than he'd been. 'I'll help you,' he said. He and Shane moved to a storage building next to the barn, and began rolling out drums and equipment. It didn't take long, with vampire help, to wire up improvised bombs - something Shane had learnt from his dad, Claire assumed - and set them in both the barn and farmhouse.
'What was this?' Claire asked numbly. 'I - who are they?'
'Were,' Myrnin said. 'They were from the Daylight Foundation.'
'But what do they want?' She was shivering now, shuddering, and she half expected Myrnin to notice, to ask if she was all right.
He didn't. There was nothing in him right now that cared.
'They want vampires dead,' he said, and the slow, cruel smile on his face chilled her into ice. 'The war has been coming for a while now. But they've chosen the wrong way to start it in earnest.'
Shane came back with Pete, and they all climbed into the van. In this vehicle they had Liz, Pete, Claire, Shane and Myrnin; Eve was the only human in the other van, mainly because Michael could probably protect only one of them at a time.
Myrnin was looking at Liz, and Pete. 'Now, what shall we do with these two?'
Claire shuddered at the lack of feeling in his words, and quickly said, 'They're okay, Myrnin. They'll be fine.'
'They are not Morganville,' he said. 'And they are not fine.' He put down the weapons, and before Claire could stop him, he grabbed Liz and pulled her close. Claire and Liz both screamed, and Pete lunged forward. Shane would have, but he'd just climbed into the driver's seat. None of that mattered. Myrnin ignored Pete's attempt to pull him off, just as he ignored Claire's words that tumbled out begging him not to hurt her, and Liz's struggles to pull free.
Then Liz stopped screaming. She went entirely still in Myrnin's hands, staring into his eyes, and Claire swallowed and let go. She wanted a weapon - a silver one, preferably - but there was nothing in the van that could really hurt Myrnin.
Nothing but VLAD.
Pete had already thought of it, and he picked one of the two up - the damaged one. God only knew if it would work, but if it did, it would only make things worse. 'Not that one!' Claire yelped, and scrambled over to grab the other. 'Put it down!' Pete did, and Claire turned VLAD - the original version - on Myrnin. 'Please. Please don't make me do this. I don't want to do this.'
'Claire,' Shane said softly. 'Don't.'
Because Myrnin's head had turned toward her, and the look he gave her was bone-chilling. It wasn't a human sort of expression. She remembered what they used to call him, in the bad old days; what his neighbour in Morganville, Gramma Day, still called him. Trap-door spider. This was the old, worst version of Myrnin, and the most powerful.
'Put that down, or I'll snap her head off like a daisy and beat you with it,' he said. It was almost a purr. 'I'm not intending to hurt her. But I'll happily do it if you try to use that on me again. And I won't stop with her. Do you really want to be trapped in this van with me in a murder-crazed state?'
He sounded rational, but he wasn't, and Claire froze. She didn't dare try to shoot. He was fast, ridiculously so, and he'd move the barrel aside in these close quarters and then ... then it would be a bloodbath.
He'd probably be sorry later. Probably.
She put the weapon down.
Myrnin turned his gaze back on Liz, who seemed terrified and mesmerised at the same time. 'Now,' he said, in that same warm, terrifying purr. 'Let's see what it would be best for you to remember. Ah, I know. You were abducted and held here at this place. You don't know what their business was, but you believed that they dealt in drugs and slaves.' He paused and frowned, then looked confused. 'Do they still have slaves these days?'
'Sex slaves,' Shane said. 'Yeah.'
'Ah. How unpleasant. Very well, they dealt in drugs and sex slaves here at this place. There was an attack by some rival force. Everyone was killed. Then the farmhouse was destroyed. You were lucky to escape with your life by hiding in the fields.' He released Liz, who sank back to the floor with her back against the van's wall. 'She'll remember nothing else. Don't speak to her. She won't be able to respond, for now.'
Claire had no idea Myrnin could do something like this - though she supposed she should have known. He'd built a machine that could wipe out human memories. He'd have been able to do that only if he'd had the ability to do it himself, and known the techniques. But she'd never really seen him do it, full on.
He looked completely alien to her right now. I've turned him up to eleven, she thought, and had to choke back a terrified, completely insane laugh. This was a very bad idea, having Myrnin in a small enclosed space with four tempting pulses. He'd be hungry. He'd have to be hungry.
'Yes, I am, a bit,' he said, and she blinked. That terribly disturbing smile grew wider. 'Does it surprise you I can read your thoughts? Your own fault, Claire. You turned on parts of my brain that I'd shut down years ago. For safety. I imagine that Oliver and Jesse are having much the same issue. I do hope that Eve doesn't irritate them too much. I don't hold out much hope for poor Irene, but then, she did bring it on herself.'
He shook his head. 'Leave it.' Then he turned toward Pete, and riveted him in place with a stare. 'Now, for you. I think it's best you were never here. I'd just leave you to burn with the rest, but you are Jesse's friend, after all. She wouldn't appreciate that. So here is your story: you were home, sleeping. You don't know anything about this entire affair. In fact, you drank too much. When you do make it home, that's precisely what you'll do: drink too much. I'd like this to be as accurate as possible.' Pete sank down against the van's wall, next to Liz, staring straight ahead. He and Liz were both in some sort of limbo, held there by the power of Myrnin's mind. It was unsettling how powerful he was right now.
'Shane,' Myrnin said, and her boyfriend turned face forward.
'If you try to mess with my head, Count Dickula, I'll rip your throat out,' Shane said. There was a tense, trembling flatness to his voice that Claire didn't remember ever having heard before, but he was probably just as freaked out as she felt right now. 'And don't you even think about touching Claire. I mean it.'
'Drive,' Myrnin said. He didn't seem ruffled. He didn't even, truthfully, seem to pay attention to what Shane had said. Claire hesitated, looking from him to the blank, zombified stares of Pete and Liz, and finally scrambled up to take the passenger seat of the van. She belted in just as Shane hit the gas.
'Just so you know, I didn't drive just because he made me from the power of his mind,' Shane said. 'I did it because the sooner I can get him out of here, the better I'm going to feel.' He hesitated, and reached over to take her hand as he steered the big van over the rutted gravel road. Claire sighed in relief at the touch of his warm hand, and the feeling of safety it gave her to be in contact with him again. 'Are you okay?'
She laughed. She couldn't help it, and it had a distinctly crazy edge to it that earned her an alarmed look from him. 'Okay? No. No, we just left a whole bunch of dead people back there, Shane. Dead people.'
'I'm aware of that. But they were kind of trying to kill us hard and ugly. You don't really think they'd have let us get out of there alive, do you?'
'I don't know. I just-' The feelings boiled up in her again - despair, hopelessness, guilt. Anger, too. Anger at herself, and Myrnin, and Oliver, and Jesse, and ... the world. But mostly at herself, for all the mistakes she'd made. 'It's my fault.' All the misery distilled down into that one, nuclear-hot three-word sentence. Toxic. And Claire covered her face with her hands, fighting back tears.
'Ah, yes, lovely. The guilt phase. Just what we needed,' she heard Myrnin sigh, and heard his head bang hard against the van.
Shane didn't say anything. He just put his hand on her leg and kept it there, a gentle and constant pressure, as they drove on into the rising light of day.
They were about a mile out when the explosives went off. Claire gasped at the fireball and looked behind them; the other black van with the rest of their survivors was there, following closely. The smoke rose up into the clear morning air like a black balloon, and in another five minutes they'd gained the intersection with the interstate. Shane relaxed as they merged with traffic, heading for Boston. On the access road, sirens wailed - fire and rescue and police, heading out to the scene of the explosion.
Claire dried her tears on her sleeve and took in deep, centring breaths. 'Are we going to get away with this?' she asked.
'Depends,' Shane said. He was watching the rear-view mirror with special intensity. 'If anyone connects these vans with the farm, and the explosions, maybe not. But they're pretty generic, and if we're lucky, most of Dr Anderson's little playmates were out there at that farm. Even if they weren't, I don't think they're going to be interested in talking to the cops about what kind of weird operation they had going - way too many questions to be answered. If we can hit it out of town and get back to Morganville, we're fine.'
'Promise?' Claire asked.
'I promise,' Shane said. 'I promise you, we'll be all right.'
It was a promise he couldn't keep, she knew that, but she loved him intensely for trying. All the differences she'd thought existed between them ... those had fallen away, when it counted. She'd craved a normal life at MIT, but now ... now, she had to face the fact that Morganville was never letting go of her. Even when she'd thought she was escaping for a while, it had followed her. No, it had been waiting for her.
And look what it had cost, this little bit of freedom. Look how many lives she'd ruined.
Claire let her eyes close. She was suddenly, overwhelmingly tired, and honestly, she had no idea how she was ever going to feel better, ever again.
She didn't have any memory of sleeping, but when she opened her eyes again, Shane was pulling the van in at the kerb near Pete's apartment. It looked quiet and peaceful; no sign of police, nothing unusual. 'I think we're good,' Shane said. 'So how does this work, exactly? You just whammy him and dump him on the sidewalk?'
'If you mean, do I complete the removal of his memories and send him inside to drink himself into an unconscious stupor, yes. Exactly,' Myrnin said. He sounded a little more himself, and when Claire glanced back she saw that he was sitting slumped against the van wall, looking tired. He was kneading his forehead with the heel of his hand, as if it hurt. His colour looked better, too ... not quite so luminously white. 'But first I must consult with Lady Grey.'
'Because he is her vassal, not mine,' Myrnin said. He slid the door open, took a second to prepare himself, and then launched himself out of the van and down the sidewalk at a deliberately normal pace to the other van parked behind them. The door slid open for him, and he climbed inside.
'We could just drive off,' Shane said. 'Might be a good plan, actually.'
'Might be,' Claire agreed, 'but you know they'd just track us down.'
'Can't run, can't hide,' he agreed. 'Sucks to be us, right?'
'It never sucks if you're with me,' she said, very quietly. He looked over at her, gave her a heart-melting smile.
'There are all kinds of completely inappropriate things I could say right now, but I'll be a good boy.'
They were quiet for a moment, and then Shane said, 'Heads up,' and Claire saw in the side-view mirror that Myrnin was coming back, with Jesse. The two of them climbed in and slid the door closed, and Jesse crouched down across from Pete. She looked better, too - less feral, more in control. 'Pete,' she said. 'It's Jesse. Can you hear me?'
'Yes,' he said. That was probably the flattest tone Claire had ever heard from him. 'I hear you.'
'Pete, I need you to tell everyone at the bar, and everyone who comes asking, that I left town. You don't know where I went, only that I hooked up with a guy from my past.' She looked at Myrnin, and smiled, briefly. 'Nothing strange about it. I'm fine. I'll call you when I get settled. Understand?'
'Yes,' he said. 'You're leaving town. But you'll call when you get settled.'
'Good,' she said. She leant forward and kissed him gently on the lips, then the forehead. 'You've been a good friend, Pete. I'm so sorry you got caught up in all this, but you're not going to remember any of it in a few minutes. Just remember that I love you, all right?'
'I love you too,' he said. For a moment, the old Pete was back, and he blinked at her. 'Jesse? Did you just kiss me?'
She laughed. 'Only a little. Don't think it means we're engaged.' She leant forward and brushed his short-cropped hair affectionately. 'Take care of yourself, Pete. Maybe I'll be back. Stranger things have happened.'
'Definitely,' he said, and smiled, just a little. 'See you.'
She sat back on her heels, and nodded at Myrnin, who leant in and captured Pete's stare. It seemed to take more effort for him now, but Pete's expression smoothed out and took on that blankness again, and Myrnin said, 'Go home, Pete. You remember what I told you to do?'
'Yes,' Pete said. 'Go home. Drink. Forget everything that happened today except what Jesse just said.'
'Exactly so. Goodbye, Pete.'
'Goodbye,' Pete said, and climbed out of the van. He walked to his front door, opened it, and was inside in thirty seconds.
Myrnin slid the van door shut. 'Next, we say goodbye to your friend, Claire. And we get what's needed and head home.'
'What if I don't want to go?' Claire asked. She wasn't serious, but it was almost worth seeing his double take. And Shane's very anxious expression.
'You can't stay here.'
'You could at least ask me what I want to do,' she said. 'But yes, I know staying here isn't an option. Not any more. There's too many questions. And too much chance I could be connected to what happened out there. At the very least, Liz is going to be connected, and that means I'll be questioned as well. Plus, my boyfriend's basically a wanted felon.'
'So not my fault,' Shane said. He put the van in gear, and it was a short drive to the row house Claire shared with Liz. There were no signs of police, at least, though there was some kind of official seal on the door. 'We're not going to want to hang around here, guys. I'm guessing my picture's been passed around, at the very least.'
'It'll be fast,' Claire said. She got out of the van, leading Liz by the hand, and walked her up the steps. She broke the seal on the door with her house keys, opened up, and shut the door behind them. Inside, the lights were off, and the house smelt like unwashed dishes and old wood.
Liz blinked and looked around, like a sleepwalker just coming out of a coma. 'I - what happened - Claire? Claire, I - those people, they took me ...' She blinked again, and Claire saw the horror dawning in her eyes. 'Oh God, I can't believe I got away. They were going to sell me!'
'I know,' Claire said softly. 'But you're safe now, sweetie. Derrick was one of them. He's gone now. You're going to be all right.'
Liz burst into tears, and Claire managed to get her into her room, bundled her in bed, and sat with her for a few minutes until Liz fell into an exhausted, restless sleep.
Then she went upstairs.
I can leave all this, she thought. There were only a few things she really needed - memories, mostly. Things that mattered. They went into one suitcase.
She sat down and wrote a note, for Liz. And the police, because they'd be looking, too.
Liz, it said. I'm sorry, but you were right. MIT's not for me. I'm a small-town girl at heart, and the pressure here is too intense. I miss my friends, and I miss my boyfriend, and I miss the life I had back home. So I'm going. I'll send for my things in a couple of weeks once I'm settled again. I'm sorry about the apartment, and I hope you will be okay without me. Call me soon. Your BFF - Claire.
It wasn't much, but it sounded right, and it had the virtue of being true ... all except the BFF part, but Liz would have expected that.
Claire left the note on the bed, grabbed her suitcase, and headed out to the van. She ducked inside, put the suitcase down, and strapped herself into the passenger seat.
'Ready?' Shane asked.
They drove past the MIT campus, and she got one last look at the domed beauty of the Maclaurin Buildings, flanked by the Pierce Lab and Building 2. Overnight, someone had put an old-school MTV spaceman on top of the Great Dome, complete with stiff little American flag. Someone had done another brand new hack, a giant Transformers statue in Killian Court; a student walked up and pressed a button, and it glided from robot into car, complete with movie sound effects. The assembled crowd cheered, then dispersed to their classes.
I could have been one of them, Claire thought. She could have been a roof and tunnel hacker. She could have hung out with Nick and his crew. She could have been Jack Florey leading an orange tour. She could have done anything.
But instead, she was doing this. Heading back to Morganville.
And to her surprise - her great surprise, actually - it was all okay. I'm not meant to be out here, she thought. Where she went, Morganville went, and the last thing she wanted to do was bring that darkness here, into this light.
'Be safe,' she whispered, to nobody in particular, as they took the next turn and headed for the freeway, and home.
In Ohio, they ditched the vans, selling them for cash to a scrapyard and buying two big dinosaur SUVs. Having two, they decided, would allow four vampires and four humans to travel in relative comfort, and being able to change vehicles meant they probably wouldn't kill each other before the trip was over.
Whatever VLAD's beams had done to Oliver, Jesse and Myrnin had mostly worn off. They looked, and sounded, more like themselves, less like cold-blooded killing machines. But Claire couldn't quite forget what they'd been, back on the farm.
She knew she'd never forget it again. What they could be.
Michael and Eve chose to travel with her and Shane for a while, with the three other vamps and Dr Anderson in the second vehicle, and that should have felt normal again. Better.
But it didn't.
Maybe it was just the exhaustion, the stress, the shattering weight of guilt, but Claire felt they were all trying to figure out how to talk to her. What to say.
She had no idea what to say either. Not for a long, long time.
Eve fiddled with the stereo, seeking out alt-rock stations until all that was left was static, and finally switched it off. Shane was napping by then, and Michael driving. Claire should have been sleeping too, but she couldn't.
She opened her eyes, which had drifted closed, and saw Eve watching her from the front. 'I'm awake.'
'I just - look, I need to know. How much of what happened did you plan?'
'From the time we came out from rescuing Liz from that trap. Did you even have a plan?'
'I-' Claire swallowed. Her throat felt suddenly dry, tight and uncomfortable. 'Not until I knew Dr Anderson was against us. Then I had to - I had to play along. She knew too much. And she didn't need anybody except the vampires, for lab tests. She only needed me as far as she could trust me, so I - I had to make her trust me, a little.'
'You turned on us,' Eve said. 'You made Shane turn on us, too, didn't you?'
'I'm sorry,' Claire whispered. 'But it was all out of control, Eve. I didn't know how else to do it.'
Eve stared at her for another long, painful moment, and then reached her hand back. Claire didn't know what to do for a second, then she grabbed hold. 'Don't ever do it again,' Eve said. 'I don't like feeling that way, okay? It's the four of us, always. Promise.'
'I promise,' Claire said. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she cried a little, holding Eve's hand. 'I promise.'
Shane wasn't asleep after all, because he sat up, put his arm around Claire, and said, 'We promise.'
'You'd better, jerkface,' Eve said. 'How's the head?'
'Taped,' he said. 'It's fine. Chicks dig scars. Wait, did you just call me jerkface? Are we back in grade school?'
'I love you,' Eve said.
He closed his mouth, fast, because obviously that was not what he'd expected. 'I, uh, okay. Love you too. Can we stop that? It's uncomfortable.'
In the morning, Shane became the designated driver of one of the trucks, and Jesse took command of the other. They got as far as they could, and then Oliver booked them hotel rooms that night. He, Myrnin and Jesse each got their own accommodations; Michael and Eve, of course, shared theirs.
Oliver handed Shane and Claire each key cards. 'I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, your current relationship,' he said. 'Use both, use one, use neither, or sleep in the van. Whatever you choose that involves me the least.' Like Jesse and Myrnin, Oliver was looking absolutely exhausted. He kept Irene Anderson with him, but Myrnin had - in Shane's terms - whammied her into submission. She stayed passive, and Oliver didn't even need to tie her up.
Claire didn't want to know what Oliver intended to do with her. She still couldn't quite bring herself to care.
She paused with her suitcase at the door of her room, and looked down the hall. Shane was puzzling out his own key card, finding out which way the arrow went into the lock; he sensed her looking, and sent her a nod.
Claire nodded back, walked into her room, and set the suitcase on the bed. She stripped her clothes off - clothes she never intended to wear again - and got into the shower. The hotel's shampoo and conditioner smelt like honey and ginger, and the soap smelt like lime; she decided that she would end up smelling like someone's kitchen pantry, but at least it was better than how she'd been smelling, like sewers and blood and fear.
She put on a clean pair of jeans, a plain blue top, and walked down to Shane's room. She knocked.
He answered. He'd been in the shower, too ... his hair was still damp, and he was wearing the hotel bathrobe.
'Hi,' she said, and came in. She closed the door behind her. 'I don't want to spend another night alone, if that's okay with you.'
'You seriously think I might object to that.'
'No,' she said, and stepped in closer to take hold of the tie of his robe. 'But how about this? Any objections?' She untied one loop of the knot, and hesitated. He was watching her with a strangely vulnerable intensity. 'Shane?'
'I love you,' he said. It came out in a rush, as if he couldn't wait to get it out. 'I love you and Jesus, you scare me. Having to give you up was the hardest thing I've ever done, Claire; I can't do it again. Please tell me - please tell me that you're coming back for good. Or at least, if you leave, let me go with you.'
'You came with me this time.'
'I followed you. I didn't come with you.' It seemed to be important to him that she understand the difference. And she did, she really did.
'I needed to be away from Morganville,' she told him then, 'and I needed to be sure what it was I really wanted. Do I want what I had back there, for a little while? That normal life? It was nice, Shane, but ... but it's not me. Not any more. It's too late for me to live that life. But not too late for us to live our life together. If you still want-'
'Yes,' he said. 'Yes, I want. If you don't believe me, untie the rest of the knot.'
She laughed a little, and moved into his arms. The kiss started soft, turned urgent and sweet and damp, and then he walked her back to the feathery hotel bed and stretched her out on the duvet. Everything seemed warm, and in its comfort, in his comfort, she floated.
No. In his comfort, in his warmth, in his passion, she flew.
And when she floated back to earth, he was still there, warm and safe, holding her.
Before she drifted off to sleep, he kissed her hand. No, the ring that he'd given her, that promise of a someday-life together.
After all the grief, all the guilt, all the horror of the night and the day ... he was the one thing that held it back.
He was the thing that would always give her that safe, warm space that made it possible to breathe.
In the morning, they started for Morganville.
It took another two solid days of driving, day and night, with brief stops at motels for showers and naps, but finally, they rolled past the familiar, antique faded glory of the WELCOME TO MORGANVILLE billboard. And they were greeted by the flashing lights of a police car, coming toward them at high speed.
Shane pulled over, and Jesse nosed her SUV in behind him on the side of the road. Shane stretched and yawned and said, 'Damn, I never actually thought I'd be happy to see this place again, but I am seriously missing my bed.' Michael, behind them, leant over the seat to slap Shane on the shoulder.
'Me too, man,' he said. 'If I have to spend another day in this car wearing hats and tarps to keep the sun off, I think I'm going to need some kind of tranquilliser.'
'Hey, we had fun,' Eve said, and pinched his earlobe. 'In the sense of next to none at all, I mean. Next time, can we at least stop at a mall? Maybe see a movie? Avoid the mass murders of our enemies, maybe?'
'Promise,' Michael agreed, but it was an absent kind of comment, and he leant forward to peer out through the dark windows. 'Is that Sheriff Moses?'
'Looks like,' Shane said. He opened the SUV's door and stepped out as Hannah Moses approached. She wasn't alone, Claire realised; there were two other men with her, dressed in Morganville PD uniforms. And more police cars coming, lights flashing.
Too many for comfort.
Somehow, Claire wasn't too surprised when Hannah drew her gun. Shane slowly raised his hands.
'I'm sorry about this, Shane,' she said. 'But laws are laws, and I don't want you doing anything stupid. You too, Claire, Michael, Eve - all of you, out of the car. Now.'
All the good feelings were gone, Claire thought, and she climbed down from the truck's cab to stand next to Shane, leaning against the fender. Michael and Eve got out, too. Wind shivered over the desert, and drew icy fingers down Claire's face. The other police car parked behind the second SUV, and more cops arrived, all pointing guns.
'What's the meaning of this?' Oliver demanded, as he got out of the second vehicle. Myrnin stepped down with him, dark eyes flashing around in restless motion, cataloguing everyone and everything. Jesse joined them, and she held Irene Anderson still as the professor tried to pull away. 'There's surely no question of our right to entry!'
'Not at all,' Hannah said. 'But we have something we have to take care of first.' She stepped up, fastened handcuffs around Shane's wrists, then Claire's, then Eve's. 'I'll need that lady over there, too. Paul, put some cuffs on her and bring her over here. Michael, if you would, please stand over there.' She pointed at Irene Anderson, who was escorted over and handcuffed. Michael went to stand next to the other van.
It was weird and confusing, but there was no reason not to trust her; Hannah seemed the same as she always had. Competent, calm, professional.
It was only as they did it that Claire realised that Hannah had just separated the humans ... from the vampires.
And then the cops stepped back, and two others stepped forward with double-loaded crossbows. It happened fast, so fast. Four quick shots, deadly accurate to the heart, and the vampires went down. Jesse first, then Myrnin, then Oliver and Michael almost in the same instant.
Eve screamed. Claire didn't. It's wood, she told herself. They're staked with wood. They're not dead. But she didn't know why this was happening, and worse, she didn't know why Hannah was doing it.
'Hannah?' Her voice sounded small and confused, and the police chief looked at her with sympathy, and no small amount of pity.
'They'll be all right,' she said. 'But they'll be taken to a safe place. I'm sorry, Claire. I'm sorry for everything. But it's for the best.'
'Amelie's going to-'
'Amelie's not in charge,' Hannah interrupted. 'We are. For the first time, the humans have taken complete control of Morganville, with the help of the Daylight Foundation. And the vampires are being quarantined for their own protection.'
'What are you doing to them?' Eve cried. She was fighting to get free, to get to Michael, but that wasn't going to happen.
'We're going to help them,' Hannah said. She sounded utterly sure of what she was saying. 'We're going to help them get better.'
All this sounded like what Shane and Captain Obvious and so many others had been wanting for years, Claire thought. A Morganville run by humans, not by vampires.
Then why did it feel so wrong?
'We'll be okay,' Shane said to her. It sounded like a prayer. 'It's all going to be okay.'
Somehow ... Claire didn't think so.