Whatever I expected, it wasn't this. It wasn't Claire selling out Myrnin, of all people. Oliver maybe; we both had enough cause to do that. But without any kind of warning, without so much as a hesitation, she'd given him up, knowing that Anderson was going to shoot.

I can't say I wouldn't have done the same, but I never claimed to like the guy so much. We had a cheerful sort of loathing going on; he'd save my life out of sheer duty, and I'd do the same for him, but neither of us would shed any tears over a tragic accident.

But Claire ... I knew she had this thing with Myrnin. Not love, maybe; not in the sense of the romantic kind of love, anyway. But whatever her feelings were, they ran deep, and so did her loyalty. For her to stick it to him like that ... it shook me. It made me wonder in that instant, if I really knew her at all.

I'd been thinking we could still salvage all this - let Myrnin take Anderson, grab Oliver, get the hell out before Dr Davis's armed cavalry returned. But Claire ... Claire changed all that. Claire gave up - she gave up on the whole idea of winning. And I never saw it coming.

From the frozen shock on Myrnin's face when she'd pointed him out, it wasn't what he'd expected from her, either.

I didn't love the guy, but I winced and looked away when Anderson kept shooting him. No visible wounds, no bleeding, but the agony was obvious. She was hurting him, and from the cruel, wet light in her eyes, she liked hurting him a whole hell of a lot. I wondered what kind of crush she'd harboured on Myrnin all these years, only to see Claire take her place in the lab, and maybe in the vampire's affection.

I tried to step in, but Anderson swung around on me, ready to fire, and I was forced to come to a halt with my hands up. 'Yeah, right, okay,' I said, and I kept my voice quiet and calm. 'Lady, he's down already, he's down. You can quit now. He's no threat to you.'

Dr Anderson stopped firing, then, and she got a look on her face like she was sickened by what she'd done - but only for a second. And then it was gone, replaced by that righteous glow I remembered so well in my father. He was all about the cause, and he'd sacrificed everything and everybody for it. Including me, of course.

I wondered what, and who, she'd sacrificed along the way, if this was her cause now. The crazy thing was that Myrnin had still trusted her - had trusted her the same way he did Claire. He'd never suspected that she'd turned on him.

And now Claire had just stuck the knife in, too. Not a good day for Team Vampire.

I didn't try to go see if Myrnin was okay; it was pretty obvious he wasn't - just like Oliver, who was rocking and moaning in the corner. And Michael, whom we'd left trembling in Eve's arms like a scared little kid. I've staked vampires, don't get me wrong; I'm no wilting flower when it comes to doing what needs to be done, when it needs doing.

But what Anderson had done, and was doing ... it was cruel.

Claire was chalk-white, and her eyes were huge; I was afraid she might just fall down too, as the enormity of what she'd done hit her, but instead, she lifted her chin and met my stare without flinching. Like she was trying to tell me something. I had no idea what, but maybe, just maybe, Claire had some sort of a plan.

It made more sense than thinking she'd suddenly developed a talent for two-faced betrayal.

Trust her, something in me said. No matter what it looks like. No matter what she says or does, or what anybody else says or does. For God's sake, trust her. Because that was the lesson I'd learnt so hard over the past few weeks. When everything went crazy, when nothing made sense ... Claire made sense. I just had to trust even when I couldn't see.

I brushed the back of her hand with mine in a silent caress, and tried to make her understand that I was about to play along. I hope she got the message, because after that, the first thing I did was shove her backward. 'The hell, Claire? He was our only shot at getting out of this! What the hell were you thinking?'

She stumbled, looked stunned, and for a second I thought she'd totally missed my attempted reassurance - but then I knew she hadn't. I couldn't even pinpoint how I knew ... but she and I were in sync, again, and we understood each other. 'He wasn't our only shot, and we weren't getting out of it,' she said. 'And don't you push me, Shane. Don't you ever do that again.'

'Or you'll what? Get your buddy there to vamp-tase me?' Anderson was watching us closely, and I made sure I put as much bitterness into it as I might have once felt. 'You stabbed Myrnin in the back, Claire. I thought you actually liked him.'

'More than I like you,' she shot back. 'I left you, Shane. I left Morganville. I left Myrnin. I came to make a new life and try to be somebody else, and you all followed me! Why am I the bad guy all of a sudden? She's not hurting them, she's just ... she's just disabling them. Like you said. A taser, only for vampires.'

'Look at them. Look! You're sure that it doesn't have lasting effects?' I asked her. 'You're sure that Michael's going to get up and laugh it off? Yeah, and even if it is temporary, I'm sure Oliver's going to take it totally well when he quits crying like a little girl. You just made damn sure they all kill us really, really dead, you understand that? If you wanted to go to war with Amelie, you've done it. She's never going to let this stand.'

'Amelie will never know,' Dr Anderson said. 'Oliver was in exile. She sent Michael to chase down her wayward missing pet madman. If all of them disappear along the way, well. Accidents happen, even to vampires. And no one can possibly swear they were ever even here.'

'Except Liz, and Pete, and Claire, and Eve and me,' I said. 'So I guess we'll have to take a fertiliser nap in your rose garden, right? Oh, wait, you're the good guy. Sorry, I was confused for a second.'

'I can assure you that the four vampires won't be killed. They're invaluable lab specimens, so long as we can keep them docile, which this weapon does very well,' Dr Anderson said. 'And I think I can persuade the rest of you that it's in your best interests to keep silent. Liz is a young, impressionable girl. You, Shane - well, if you won't be convinced, I'm sure I can talk Liz into blaming her abduction on you. You'll spend half your life in prison.'

'You don't have to do that,' Claire said. 'He won't say anything. Shane - listen to me. If we all stick together, if we tell the same story, we can be safe. For the first time in our lives, safe. Amelie won't come here, it's too much of a risk. We can stay here, live our lives not afraid of them for a change. We can be happy.'

'And, of course, if you decide your principles are more important, I'm sure we can still fall back on Option One,' Dr Anderson said. 'I admit, it's not my first choice. I dislike hurting humans. My goal is to make a world where vampires can be contained, constructively managed for their own safety and for ours. If you agree with that, I think we can all get along just fine.'

'You going to make Eve agree with that, too? With letting Michael be some kind of - of lab rat?' I demanded. 'Shit, Claire, you know it's never going to happen. Maybe you can convince me about the rest of them, but not Michael. He's our friend. He's my brother.'

'I don't really need four subjects,' Dr Anderson said then, ready to make the concession at just the right time. My dad would have been proud. 'Three will do. Michael can be kept safe, but unharmed. Does that answer your concerns?'

What had happened, in the moments since Claire had given up Myrnin, was pretty amazing, because we'd gone from being on the deadly end of the deal to negotiating for favours, and I didn't think Dr Anderson had even realised she was being played as thoroughly and masterfully as she'd once played Claire. It was impressive. And a little scary. That funky weapon wasn't pointed at me any more, even vaguely; it was aimed down at the ground. That didn't mean it couldn't come right back up again, if I did something stupid, but by focusing my anger on Claire, I'd won some breathing space from the real target. I'd put Claire and Anderson on the same side, and now they were just working out details.

I just hoped Claire wasn't buying into what I was selling. I couldn't really tell now. She still looked pallid, shocked, and fragile and I wanted to take her in my arms so bad it hurt ... but that wasn't what would help either of us right now.

'You'll have to sell it to Eve, not me,' I said. 'But you back off Michael and I might be able to live with the rest of it. Maybe.'

'There's no maybe, Shane. Maybe earns you prison. So I suggest you think hard about your next answer, yes?'

I let the moment drag out, and then finally nodded. I was trying not to look at Myrnin, because he was curled in a fetal ball on the floor, whispering to himself, and if I'd ever thought he'd looked crazy before, well, I'd been wrong. He looked wrecked now, and I wasn't sure any of those pieces were going back together again. Myrnin had been breakable, and now he looked shattered.

Claire had a dull, hard look in her eyes, one I recognised; she was trying to keep everything inside, to just get through to the next moment without feeling the pain. I knew that look because I'd just about invented it.

'So what do you want me to say?' I asked, and looked at her directly. 'Claire, tell me what you want me to say. You know I'll do anything for you. I always have.'

She pulled in a sharp, shaking breath, and said, 'Just say you'll back me up when I have to talk to Amelie. Tell her you never saw any of them, or any of ... this. Tell her that as far as you know, everything's normal here.'

'What about Jesse? Amelie sent her to watch your boss, here. She's going to be suspicious when Jesse goes missing too.'

'Jesse will be handled,' Anderson said. 'She has pressure points, and I know how to apply them. She'll do what I tell her when it counts, and she's got little love for Amelie anyway.'

I knew all of a sudden exactly what that pressure point was ... Myrnin. Jesse had a special little sparkle when she talked to him; she was fine with Oliver, but extra fine with Count Crackula. Dr Anderson would keep Jesse in line by threatening more damage to Myrnin. And it was all okay, because hell, they were just vamps, right? Didn't matter if they got hurt. Lab rats.

I could feel the ghost of my dad nodding in agreement with that, and it made me feel sick, deep down. 'Thought you and Jesse had some kind of friendship going,' I said.

'We did, once,' Dr Anderson said. 'And you of all people should understand that you can't rely on a vampire for sentimentality. They just don't have the wiring in their heads to really feel the way we do. It's counterfeit, a mask they wear to draw their prey in and keep them close. They're predators, pure and simple. They're just extremely good at it.'

There were sounds in the hallway, and I heard some kind of vehicles pulling up in the parking lot. The fun was over now; Claire had made her play, I'd supported it, and now ... now we'd see if Dr Anderson really believed us.

Patrick Douche Bag Davis appeared in the doorway. 'We've got secured vehicles outside,' he said. 'We can manacle the vampires with silver, they won't go anywhere. What about these two? Are they prisoners?'

I felt the weight of Anderson's stare on me. I was hanging over the fire pit, for sure; she wasn't kidding about getting Liz to blab that I was the one who'd kidnapped her, and that put me in federal prison, doing long time. I was used to Morganville's jail cells, but this was something else.

'I need a show of good faith,' Dr Anderson said. 'So, you're going to show us where you left your friends Michael and Eve. We need to retrieve Pete and Liz, as well. For their own safety.'

That phrase made me grind my teeth, but I tried not to let it show. 'Sure,' I said. 'I'll take you there.'

'Of course you will,' she said. 'Because if you don't, I'll find them anyway, and I promise you, the outcome won't be quite so nice. I want Claire's cooperation and support, and she's clearly willing to offer it. But I don't need yours, Shane. You can go missing just as easily as the vampires, and there are a surprising number of John Does who die in Boston every year. You could be one of them, donating your body to the medical school. Are we clear?'

So clear I could practically see the shine on it. I nodded without bothering to say anything, and when Patrick Davis gestured to me, I followed. Before I got in the blacked-out van, though, I turned around. Dr Anderson was behind me, with Claire next to her.

'Just one thing,' I said to Anderson. 'I owe Dr Davis something.'

She probably knew what was coming, because she didn't make a move, and I didn't wait for permission. Sometimes, it's just better to ask for an apology.

I punched him in the face, and damn, it felt seriously good, all the way down my arm and into my guts. Just a little violence, to let off the steam from the boiling pot.

'That's from Liz,' I said. 'Asshole.'

Dr Anderson laughed. Davis went down hard, cradling his probably broken nose, and someone made a joke about nosebleeds and vampires, and I didn't listen because I swung into the passenger seat, buckled in, and rested my head against the glass. For a second or two, the red haze refused to clear. That's the danger of letting the beast off the chain for a bit; sometimes, he just doesn't want to come back. But by the time the driver was strapped in and the door had slammed shut, I was my old, cheery self again, and I gave him a smart-assed thumbs up.

'You're damn lucky one of us didn't put a bullet in you,' he told me.

'I live a charmed life,' I agreed. 'Head out of the lot and turn left. I'll give you directions.'

Claire and Dr Anderson hadn't gotten in the van with us. I turned my head and watched the two of them standing there with another set of guys in suits, and I hoped like hell that I was doing the right thing, because if I wasn't, if somehow I had gotten all this wrong ...

Then we were all going to suffer for it.

The warehouse looked as deserted as ever. I made the driver park a block down, just in case Michael had recovered enough to give some kind of warning; I ended up at the head of a column of four guys, including the driver. He was a bland, blank sort of guy, but then you put a dark suit on most men and they start blending together. He was African-American, but that didn't make him any different from the others, except the usual height and weight and jacket size variations.

'So what's your deal?' I asked him, as we moved down the alley toward the warehouse. 'You work for some kind of company?'

'Yeah, kid, I'm a vice president at Van Helsing Incorporated.'

'Ha, very funny, yeah, I've read Dracula, surprise.' Jackass. 'What I mean is, are you some kind of true believer or just hired on?'

'You asking if I've lost people to the vampires? Because yeah. We all have. So, shut your mouth and do your job. Let us do ours.'

That answered my question pretty well, actually. True believers. Not great news, considering that I had a lot of experience with those kinds of people. Much better to be dealing with hired guys who didn't have an emotional stake in what was happening.

'I'm Shane,' I said. Step one, try to form a bond. Any hostage negotiator will tell you that's important to stay alive.

'Don't care what your mommy and daddy called you,' he said. 'Now shut up and show us where you left them.'

So much for bonding. I followed instructions, and reached the warehouse's bent siding where we'd crawled in. I pointed to it and indicated he ought to let me go in first. He nodded. I didn't take that as any kind of promise he'd wait, though. He might give me a minute, or he might just come in yelling, guns at the ready.

I ducked inside, and immediately was on the business end of a nice, sharp piece of broken bottle at my throat. 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, girl, I'm on your side,' I told Eve. She let out a gasp and stepped back, dropping the glass, and then lunged at me to wrap her arms around me. She smelt like tears and desperation.

'Oh, God, thank you, I was so scared - Shane, he's not getting better, we need to get him out of here, we have to-' Her voice faded out as she pushed back from me. I hadn't said anything, but I guessed my body language had clued her in that something was off. 'Where's Claire?'

'Trust me,' I said. It was all I had time for, so I said it fast. 'Trust me whatever happens. Okay?'

'Okay,' she said, but her voice shook, and from what I could see of her face, she looked terrified. 'Shane-'

And then the driver edged into the room, nailed her in place with a sudden flare of a flashlight, and as she tried to block out the beam, he stepped aside to let the others inside. 'Freeze! Down on your knees!' he yelled, and then it was all over in seconds. Liz was awake but scared out of her mind, and she screamed and tried to hide in a corner; Pete threw a couple of punches, but it was half-hearted, and he went facedown on the dirty concrete in under ten seconds.

Eve, pinned under the driver's hand, stared at me with coal-black, burning eyes, and said absolutely nothing.

Trust me, I mouthed, and hoped she could read it. If she'd had the broken bottle in that moment, I was pretty sure I'd have been leaking all over the floor, especially when two of the four men went to Michael, grabbed him, and dragged him away.

He wasn't better. Not even a little bit better. And it scared me to see him shaking and whimpering like that, as if every demon in the world had crammed itself into his head at once.

It scared me a little more to see the black promise in Eve's eyes as they handcuffed her and pushed her out after him. Then I watched them load up Pete and Liz, too.

The driver came back over to me and nodded. 'Not bad,' he said. 'You might have some promise after all. If you hate vampires, we can use you. We can always use good men.'

'I don't think you understand what that word actually means,' I said, and walked on my own back to the van. On the way there, I discovered a sudden and urgent need to throw my guts up next to the dumpster. It smelt like rancid Chinese food, but I was pretty sure that wasn't why I felt so bad.

Betrayal had a bitter, horrible taste all its own, and no matter how much I rinsed my mouth out with bottled water, I couldn't get rid of it.

I wondered if Claire was tasting it, too. If I was feeling this, what could she be suffering? Because she was the one who felt things too deeply, cared too much.

I hoped she wasn't just as wrecked as Myrnin, when all this was said and done.

The drive that came after that was surprisingly long, and the sun was already coming up when we arrived ... at some kind of a farm, from what I could see of the landscape. We'd made it out of the city and into the country, although there were plenty of little one-Starbucks towns. On the east coast, 'in the country' wasn't the same as it was in West Texas, where you could drive for two hundred miles and hardly glimpse a ruined shack, much less a town square.

The last town I'd been able to spot with any kind of signs had been Meldon, and since I didn't want to pull out a map and try to figure out our location, I just filed it all away for later.

Not much to learn from my new friends; they continued to be blank slates, and they weren't chatty. Eve was, but what she was saying was vicious and I was trying not to hear any of it. Boiled down, it meant she blamed me. Guess that wasn't too surprising. Better me than Claire, anyway. After a while she ran out of ways to tell me I was an evil, backstabbing traitor and she wished she'd never met me. But I was afraid of the silence even more, as it turned out, because it had a kind of dense, hot gravity to it.

And it hurt. Bad. I might tease Eve, maybe too much, but I loved her like a sister; I thought she was brilliant and funny and sharp as my best knife. Thinking that she hated me, even if she reconsidered later ... yeah, it cut pretty deep.

When the van finally rolled to a stop, I got the hell out of it, fast, hoping to just walk away, but they weren't going to make it that easy. The driver came around the hood and shoved me back toward the van. 'You're in charge of the mouthy one,' he said. 'Shut her up or I'll do it for you, and you won't like how I do it.'

I felt sick, but there wasn't a lot I could do about it. I just nodded, grabbed Eve by the arm and pulled her out of the van. She kicked and screamed, and I yanked her close enough that the dawn light got her full in the face and made her blink.

'Let me go, you asshole!' she said, and shoved at me with her bound hands. 'Swear to God if you touch me again I'll chew your fingers off!'

'Eve, chill it. I told you to trust me, didn't I?' I kept it low, almost a whisper, but I yanked her arm extra hard so that the driver, who was watching closely, witnessed the pain that burned across her face. 'I'm trying to keep you alive, you and me and Michael and Claire and everybody else. So just - dial it down. Hate me all you want; in fact, that helps. But just do it at a lower volume, would you? Or he'll hurt you.'

She glared at me, but I saw her nod, just a little. Not that she was on board with the whole trusting thing; I could see from the fire in her eyes that she wasn't. She was just giving me some rope, the better to choke me with later. Hanging, she would have said, was too good for me.

'If anything happens to him, or to Claire, I'll skin you and use your hide for a throw rug,' she said.

The place smelt like a working farm; there was a drifting stench of fertiliser coming off the fields, and I could hear the low mooing of cows somewhere out in the distance, hidden by thick layers of mist. I hoped they weren't vampire cows. I didn't want to get eaten by a steak. There was a large two-storey farmhouse with an old-fashioned wrap-around porch on it, complete with white-painted rocking chairs and little ceramic statues of ducks on the steps leading up to it. Adorkable, as Eve would have said if she was in a better mood. In the mist I could see the dim outlines of a barn of some kind. Could have been red, it was hard to tell.

'Inside,' the driver ordered me, and I hustled Eve up the steps and into the house.

It was like time had stopped in the eighties, with all the pastel fabrics and ruffles and white wood. If this was Douche Bag Davis's house, his wife had definitely decorated it. Then she'd probably divorced him, and he hadn't bothered to change it up; the layers of dust on those balloony curtain tops and on the decorations scattered around proved me right.

We didn't have much time to admire the decor. There was a kitchen off to the right, with the divine possibility of all kinds of sharp objects and explodable chemicals, but the driver was right behind us with his gun. Pete was behind him, but he had Liz over his shoulder, and it looked to me like all the fight was out of him. Behind him came another, unburdened guy, and two more dragged Michael, who was still convulsed into a shuddering ball.

Beyond the front room with its dusty ceramic ducks and floral wallpaper, though, things changed. The next room had been renovated with a steel door, a vinyl floor, white walls, and embedded fluorescent fixtures above. A lab. I knew what they looked like, though I wasn't one to spend a lot of time in chem classes. This one had a variety of cages up against the wall, from ones small enough to hold rats up to big ones that could have safely contained a tiger.

They put Michael in that one.

'No, relax, it's okay,' I said, as Eve tried to pull free of me. I kept my voice low and gentle, because I could feel the desperation in her now, and knew she was on the verge of breaking. 'He's safe. Nothing's going to happen to him. I'm more worried about us.'

'Us?' She frowned at me, still distracted; I got that. If it had been Claire in the cage, I couldn't have concentrated, either. 'What do they need us for?'

'They don't,' I said. 'Which is why I'm worried.'

The driver, right on cue, turned to the four of us - me, Eve, Pete and the limp form of Liz - and said, 'In there.' He emphasised it with a flick of the gun toward another doorway. Steel. With a prominent lock on it.

'Hey,' I said, and held up my hands. 'I'm on your side, remember?'

He laughed. 'Yeah, kid, sure you are. Inside. Don't worry, you're not in any danger. We need you, to keep your smart little girlfriend in line.'

'Wait,' Eve said. I thought she was going to go ballistic again, but she stared the guy down, calmly, and when he nodded, continued, 'Could we maybe have a bathroom break first? Because I personally need to pee like mad.'

He looked irritated, but it wasn't like bad guys didn't understand the need to pee. Everybody got that. Not everybody cared, though, and I held my breath a second hoping he wouldn't just toss a bucket into the room or something, but then he nodded, reluctantly. 'Go with him,' he said, and pointed to one of the other guys who'd been holding Michael. 'Door stays open.'

'Are you kidding?' Eve's voice rose, and she put her hands on her hips. 'What are you, some kind of perv? You get off on watching teenage girls-'

He flinched. 'Fine. But you have one minute, and if you're not done, the door opens hard.' He jerked his head, and his boy took Eve off out the other door. 'Anybody else got a shy bladder?'

Pete and I shook our heads. I raised my hand. 'But I wouldn't say no to the bathroom, either.'

'Me too,' Pete said. 'In case this is a long stay in jail.'

'Count on it,' the driver said. 'All right. When the girl comes back, you go next.' He pointed to Pete. 'You go last, Shane.'

'Why me?'

'Because I dislike you the most.'

Ditto, I thought, and smiled at him. He smiled back. I was thinking about how I was going to take the gun away from him, and he was probably thinking about how hard he was going to shoot me when I tried it.


Out of the corner of my eye I saw Michael, in the cage, raise his head. Funny. In my peripheral vision, his eyes were burning red. I remembered what Myrnin had said about Michael needing blood to fight whatever this force was acting on him ... and no matter how strong that cage looked, it wasn't good enough to contain Michael, or any of the vamps, if they really wanted out.

Turns out I was wrong about that. Michael took hold of the bars - moving quietly - and started to bend them. They didn't go far. He kept trying, but whatever the cage was made of, it was definitely proof against vampire muscles. Not silver, because it didn't burn him. It was just ... stronger.

He let go and, as one of the guards glanced his way, collapsed back into a shrinking, shiver ball of misery.

Nice, I thought. At least we had one ace in the hole, even if it was locked up. Sooner or later, they'd underestimate him, and let him loose.

And then the joker would definitely be wild.

Eve returned from the bathroom, and Pete left; she leant against the wall and folded her arms, staring defiantly at our driver. He walked over to check Liz, slumped against the wall. I'd already done it. Her breathing was good, but I didn't like the chalky pallor of her skin. Whatever they'd given her to put her out when they'd abducted her, it had really taken her down. I supposed we were lucky they hadn't given us the same tranquillisers ... yet.

'I've been thinking about it,' Eve said.

'About what?' I asked, still watching the driver.

'I think you're still an asshole.' And she turned and slapped me. Hard enough to leave a mark. I blinked and caught her hand on the second attempt, and felt her other hand, disguised by all the drama, shove something into the pocket of my jeans. I didn't look down, just straight into her face.

'Well,' I said, 'I think I get your point.' I shoved her backward, and the driver got to his feet, frowned, and opened up the steel door. He shoved Eve inside, then me, and dragged Liz in as well.

'If you want to go at each other, do it in there,' he said. 'But I'm not sending in any bandages. You want to fight, you can just bleed freely.'

'He's not worth the effort of a punch,' Eve said. She turned her back and walked away, arms folded again.

Pete arrived and was shoved inside, and the door boomed shut. I didn't get a bathroom trip, probably to punish me for being myself.

The room, upon inspection, was a plain concrete box, no windows, nothing. There was a faintly antiseptic smell, as if it had been used for storage of medical supplies, but there was nothing left but us, and a small hand-sized drain in the centre of the floor. My dad had already said that a human body could fit through any size of hole large enough to accommodate the head; it was just a matter of dislocating enough bones. Yeah, he was fun that way.

But this hole wasn't even big enough for my clenched fist, never mind my skull. So that was out. Fortunately.

I checked the door and the ceiling and the corners. I didn't see any cameras watching us, but I didn't think I could rely on privacy; tech had gotten way too good for that. We'd been spied on once by someone we'd thought of - wrongly - as a friend, and I wasn't about to spill my plans, such as they were, to Douche Bag Davis and his friends.

I was scared for Claire. Heart-stoppingly scared. She was all alone, surrounded by wolves who could take her down at any time, and the only thing she had to use was her guts, and her wits.

Fully armed, then. But it still scared me.

I put my hands in my pants pockets and slouched, like any street corner punk. Give me a backward cap and saggies and a sports jersey, and I'd have nailed the whole look. But it wasn't just attitude. It gave me the chance to figure out what Eve had managed to shove down my pants - a thing that I wasn't going to tell Claire about, incidentally.

It was a piece of rusted metal, probably some kind of flange to hold the sink drain in. About four inches long, jagged on the end. As weapons went, it was jailhouse-nasty. Pretty much perfect, actually. Too bad I hadn't gotten a bathroom trip; there must have been plenty of other opportunities in there for fun mayhem-makers. You could kill somebody with a bar of soap, if you tried hard enough.

'So,' Eve murmured, head down so any cameras wouldn't see her talking. 'What's our play, then?'

'Still hating me?' I talked to my shoes, too, and kept it quiet, in case there were microphones as well as cameras.

'It'll take a little bit longer for the burn to go away, yeah. Why? Am I hurting your little tender feelings?'

Yes, I thought, but I said, 'Bitch, please. You know I ain't got no feelings.'

'About that plan?'

'Yeah, about that,' I said. 'Looks like you're going to have to kill me.'