Chapter Eleven


Eve had ordered something special off the Internet, which had arrived by mail, Claire discovered. She'd gotten three of them, and Claire put hers on with a whoop of delight.

Getting two-inch silver chain chokers around the neck of a guy, especially Shane, proved to be more of a problem.

Shane held the jewelry at arm's length, dangling it like a dead rat. "No way in hell am I caught dead or alive wearing that."

"Oh, come on, just this once," Eve said. "Protects your neck. As in your arteries and veins? That's kind of crucial, right?"

"Thanks for the thought, but it doesn't go with my shoes."

"You're seriously going to worry about what people think right now?"

"No, I'm worrying about people taking pictures and putting them on Facebook. That crap never dies. Kind of like you, Mikey."

Michael, straight-faced, said, "He's got a point, because I would definitely take pictures. So would you."

Eve had to grin. "Yeah, I would. Okay, then. But you'd look glam. I could fix you up with silver eye shadow to match."

"Tell you what: you can be Glammera the vampire hunter. I'll stick with being manly and heavily armed."

Michael snorted and picked up some wooden--i.e., mostly nonlethal--stakes, which he stuffed in his jacket. "You guys ready?" "Guess so." Shane gave his small crossbow another once-over, then put it in the carry bag. Eve had packed a (for her) huge purse full of stuff. The purse, of course, had a shiny yellow happy face on it--with fangs. Claire stuck with her unfashionable but useful backpack. She'd emptied out all of her books and left them stacked on the table. She had no idea when she'd actually get back to school, but it certainly wouldn't be today.

Shane dropped the silver choker to the table, shuddered, and led the way out of the Glass House to the car. Michael locked up behind them, and Claire thought about how natural it was for them now to watch one another's backs. There wasn't even any discussion. Shane went first, keys to Eve's hearse in hand; Eve had, of course, called shotgun, so she was heading straight for the passenger side. Claire was checking shadows and heading for the back of the long black coach, and Michael zipped down fast and joined her as she opened the back. He was the last one in, and smacked the roof to signal Shane as he and Claire sat down on the long bench seats in the back.

Eve had added some kind of color-changing strips along the inside of the roof. "What's with the disco lights?" Michael said, rolling down the window between the driver's compartment and the back.

Eve turned around, and her face brightened. "You like it? I thought it looked really cool. I saw it in a movie, you know, in a limo."

"It's cool," Michael said, and smiled at her. She smiled back. "Can't wait to lie here and watch it with you."

Claire said, "You don't have to wait; it's working now. Look--Oh. Never mind." She blushed, feeling stupid that she hadn't gotten that one in the first second. Eve winked at her.

"Shouldn't you be calling Amelie and getting us some kind of parking permit?" Eve asked. Claire nodded, glad to be off the hook, and made the call. It rang to voice mail, and Claire left her a message. She was just hanging up when she spotted a parked police car out of the window.

Hannah Moses was standing alongside it. Just . . . standing. Looking around.

"Wait," Claire said, and leaned over to grab Shane's shoulder. "Stop. She can get us in; she's got permission to go to Founder's Square anytime she wants."

Shane pulled in behind Hannah's cruiser, and Claire got out to talk to her. She moved fast, because this wasn't a well-lit area, and everything seemed really dark tonight anyway. Even with the hearse's headlights shining, it felt shadowed.

"Hannah!" she said. "We need some help. Can you get us in to see Amelie?"

Hannah turned to look at her, and there was something odd in her body language. She seemed tense and ready to react. She kept her hand near the gun in her holster. "Who are you?" she asked. "Name."

"Oh, crap," Claire said. "You've got it, too."

"Name!" Hannah snapped. "Now!"

"Uh, okay, I'm Claire. Claire Danvers. You know me."

Hannah shook her head. "This is Morganville," she said. "I can't be in Morganville. I was in . . . I was in Kandahar. I was just there." She looked down at her police uniform and shook her head again. "I wasn't wearing this. I'm not a cop. I'm a marine. This can't be happening."

"Hannah, you're having a . . . a flashback, that's all. You're not a marine; you're not in Afghanistan. You're here, in Morganville. You're the chief of police, remember?"

Hannah just looked at her as if Claire were crazy.

"Look at what you're wearing," Claire said. "Police uniform. Why would somebody kidnap you, bring you here, and change your clothes? What sense does that make?"

"It doesn't," Hannah admitted. "None of this makes any sense. I need to call in." "Call in where?"

"To my commanding officer."

"Hannah, you're not in the marines now! You don't have a commanding officer!"

Hannah didn't seem to hear her this time. "They'll think I'm AWOL. I need to tell them what happened." Then she looked around again, and the look in her face was a little desperate. "Except I don't know what happened."

"I just told you! Flashback!"

"This isn't a combat flashback!"

"No, it's . . ." Lying, Claire figured, was now the only way to go. "You've been drugged. You have to believe me. You live here, in Morganville. You're the chief of police."

Hannah was shaking her head--not as if she didn't believe it, but as if she didn't want to believe it. "I'm not going back to Morganville. No way in hell am I signing up for that."

But you did, Claire started to say, then held it back. She didn't know why Hannah had changed her mind; maybe something had happened to her while she was in Afghanistan, or since she came back from there. But whatever it was, in Hannah's mind, it hadn't happened yet.

"I know this is hard," Claire said. "But we need your help. Really. All you have to do is call in permission for us to go into Founder's Square. Would you do that?"

"I don't know you people," Hannah said. "And you're driving around in a damn hearse. It doesn't exactly make me want to trust you. . . ." Her voice trailed off, and she blinked as the hearse's doors opened, and Michael and Eve got out. "You're . . . you're the Glass kid. The guitar player. I remember you. And--" Hannah did an absolute double take, the most surprised Claire had ever seen her. "Eve? What the hell did you do to yourself? Have your parents seen how you look?"

Claire exchanged a mute second of stares with her friends, and Eve finally said, "Ah, yeah, they've seen it. I've been dressing like this for about three years; don't you remember?"

"No," Hannah said, and suddenly sat down on the sidewalk. Just . . . sat. She put her head in her hands. "No, I don't remember that. I remember . . . you were in school with my brother Reggie, before he . . . I saw you at the funeral. . . ."

Eve crouched down next to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "I know," she said. "But then you went to Afghanistan, and then you came back, and now you're the head police chick. You have to remember that!"

"I don't," Hannah said, and Claire realized with a shock that she was crying silently, tears running down her face. "I don't remember that at all." She pulled in a deep breath, wiped her face, and let Eve help her to her feet. "All right. Let's say all that's true, even if I don't believe it. What do you want?"

"Just . . . we need you to call in to the guard post at Founder's Square and give us a pass to see Amelie," Claire said. "Please. I've tried phoning. She's not answering." And Claire found that she was really, truly worried. Not that Amelie was a friend, exactly, but the idea of a Morganville without her was . . . unthinkable. She couldn't get the image of Amelie lying limp on the floor in Oliver's arms out of her head.

Hannah stared at her like she was even crazier than before. "We don't ever call the Founder by name."

"We do now," Claire said. "I do. We all do. You have to believe me--things around here are different now. Please, Hannah. We really need this if we're going to help people."

Hannah took another look around at the town, at them, and finally nodded. "All right," she said. "You tell me what to do and I'll do it. Anything to make this all . . . stop."

Claire got into the police car and found Hannah's cell phone. Sure enough, it had all kinds of numbers plugged in, and one of them was to the guard station at the entrance to Founder's Square. She dialed it for Hannah and held out the phone.

"Guard post?" Hannah said, and here, at least, she seemed to be on familiar ground. Marine training did that for you, Claire guessed. "This is Lieut--This is Hannah Moses. I've got four kids in a hearse who are cleared for admittance to Founder's Square." She covered the phone receiver and looked at Claire. "Anything else?"

"Um . . . they should let us in to see Amelie."

Hannah took in a deep breath and nodded as she uncovered the receiver. "Yeah, and they'll need unescorted access to the Founder's office." She listened, and her eyes widened a little. "Great. Thank you." She passed the phone back to Claire, who hung it up and put it back in the car. "They said they'd put you on the list. Just like that."

"Thanks, Hannah." On impulse, Claire hugged her. Hannah was a solid block of muscle, but then she softened a little and hugged her back. "Go home. Don't go out again until things stop feeling weird, okay?"

"Home?" Hannah echoed, and looked haunted again. "I've got no home here."

Well, she probably did, but Claire didn't know where it was. She thought for a second, then said, "Go to Gramma Day's house. You used to live with her, right?"

"When I was a kid, yeah."

"She'll help you," Claire said. "Tell her I said hello."

"She's a tough old lady," Hannah said, but it sounded fond. "Yeah, I'll go there. But you owe me explanations, Claire. Real ones."

"If this goes right, I won't owe them anymore," Claire said. "Be careful, okay?"

Hannah smiled faintly. "I'm from Morganville," she said. "I'm always careful."

They left her behind, still standing beside her patrol car, and headed for Founder's Square.

The guards looked inside the car, but didn't search; Claire supposed they had no real reason to, with Hannah approving their visit. Eve looked nervous, but not too nervous, and having Michael with them guaranteed that the vamps would keep their hands off, anyway. The guards waved them on, and Eve, now driving, guided the big car down the ramp and into the underground parking area. "Damn," she said. "I hope I can park this thing in here."

In the end, she wedged it sideways in two spots, but since the garage was mostly deserted, Claire supposed nobody was going to complain. "Okay, we're here," Shane said. "What now?"

"Let's do this smart," Michael said. "Shane, you and Eve stay here with the weapons. I'll go up with Claire. If we don't come back in ten minutes, load up and come running."

"You're taking weapons," Shane said.

"Just what we can conceal," Michael said. "If we go in there with crossbows, Amelie will kill us all just for doing it. She'll overlook personal defense. Not armed assault."

Claire lifted her backpack. People were so used to seeing it on her that it didn't matter what she carried inside. She knew Michael had stakes on him. It would have to be enough. "I'll call you if it's okay," Claire promised, and kissed Shane quickly. He grabbed her hand when she tried to leave the car, and pulled her back for another kiss, a longer one. He didn't want to let go, and neither did she, but he finally sighed and nodded, and she opened the back door.

"Hey, Mikey? You get her hurt and I'll end you."

"You let anything happen to Eve and I'll do the same," Michael said. He'd just finished kissing Eve, too. "While you're at it, don't get yourself killed, either, bro."

"Ditto. And don't kiss me." Claire cocked her head at him, exasperated. "Seriously, Shane? Ditto? That's the best you can do?"

Shane and Michael exchanged identical looks and shrugs. Guys.

"Let me show you idiots how it's done," Eve said, and hugged Claire fiercely. She kissed her on the cheek. "I love you, CB. Please take care of yourself, okay?"

"I love you, too," Claire said, and suddenly her throat felt tight and her eyes burned with tears. "I really do."

Shane and Michael watched them with identical expressions of blank bemusement, and finally Shane said, "So basically, it's what I said. Ditto."

Michael grinned and headed for the elevator that would take them up to the Elders' Council level. "Coming?"

Claire picked up her heavy backpack and ran to join him.

The elevator was empty and cool, the metal gleaming as if someone had just finished polishing it. Michael pressed the button and looked down at her. "You okay?"


"Your heart's beating really fast."

"Gee, thanks. That's very comforting that you can hear it."

He smiled, and it was the old Michael, the one she'd first met before all the vamp stuff. "Yeah, I know it is. Sorry. Just stay behind me if there's trouble."

"You sound like Shane."

"Well, he did say he'd kill me if I got you hurt. I'm just looking after my own neck."


He ruffled her hair, like an annoying big brother, and stepped in front of her as the elevator dinged to a stop, and the doors slid open. She couldn't see anything, but evidently the coast was clear, because Michael stepped out and walked down the hallway.

"There's usually a guard there," Claire said, peeking around him at the double doors of the council chamber.

"When they're meeting," Michael agreed. "No reason to guard an empty room. It's this way."

He turned at a T intersection and went right down another identical hallway, all paneling and marble floors and steadily burning dim lights. It still reminded Claire of a funeral home. No sounds in the building except for the muted sighing of central air. The air was cool, verging on cold. All the doors were unmarked, at least to human eyes.

"Up there," Michael said. Claire nodded. She could see a vampire guard in black stationed outside of one of the doors--the woman who'd been one of the guards at the council chambers. She was sitting in a chair reading a magazine, but as Michael and Claire approached, she stood up and assumed her usual at-rest position.

"Michael Glass and Claire Danvers for Amelie," Michael said.

"You don't have an appointment."

"No," Claire said. "But it's important. We need to see her."

"My instructions are that she isn't to be disturbed," the guard said.

"But it's an emergency!"

"I have my orders."

"Amelie will want to see us," Michael said.

The other vampire raised her eyebrows, just ever so slightly. "It doesn't matter whether she would," she said. "Amelie no longer gives the orders. Oliver does, and his orders are that she should rest undisturbed. Now go or I'll have you removed."

"Maybe we should see Oliver," Claire said doubtfully.

That made the vampire guard smile, with the tips of fangs showing. "An excellent idea, but again, you have no appointment. Oliver sees no human without an appointment."

"What about me?" Michael said. They got into a staring match.

"I'm afraid Oliver is not available to anyone at the present time," she finally said. "Orders."

"Then we'll just see Amelie," Michael said, and reached for the doorknob. The guard's hand flashed out and closed white and hard around his wrist, stopping him an inch from the metal. "Really? You're sure you want to do it this way?"

The guard smiled, with vamp teeth showing fully now. "You're the one pushing the issue, New Guy. I told you: go away. There's no more discussion--" Her expression suddenly altered, and even Claire felt some kind of force sweep past them, a kind of pressure wave that made both vampires turn toward the Founder's closed door.

Claire found she was holding her hands to her head, and couldn't remember doing it. She looked up at Michael, who looked just as shaken as she felt. The vampire guard looked just as surprised.

"What was that?" Claire asked.

"Amelie," Michael said. He reached again for the doorknob, and the vamp blocked him. He grabbed the vamp's arm above the elbow with his left hand, and tipped her over his head in a sudden, shocking movement. She should have been down on the floor at the end of it, but instead she twisted in midair and came down lightly on her feet, got her balance, and slammed him against the paneled walls with her clawed fingernails at his throat.

Claire grabbed the doorknob and plunged inside the office.

Inside, it was dark. Pitch-dark. She couldn't see a thing, and for a second she just stood there, hoping her eyes might adjust. Nothing. It was like swimming in ink. Claire groped along the wall for a switch, and found one.

When she flipped it on, she found Amelie standing about one foot away from her, staring at her with wide, ice-gray eyes. Claire yelped and flinched back against the door. Amelie leaned forward, one palm against the wood to the side of Claire's head. With her right hand, she reached over and turned the bolt to seal them in.

"Now," she said softly. "Who are you, little soft girl? Some novice vampire slayer who thinks she will free the town and become a hero of the people? Do you really think you have the courage to put a stake in my heart, child?"

Amelie didn't know her. At all.

Worse, there was another vampire in the room. Oliver.

And he was lying unconscious on the floor, with blood streaming from two puncture wounds in his throat.

In retrospect, it was fairly obvious what had just happened; Claire had seen the reverse of it earlier, in the council chamber, when Amelie and Oliver had struggled for control of the town, and Amelie had lost.

It had happened again, and this time she'd won.

Claire looked at the hot, alien light in Amelie's eyes, and thought, Yay? It was a crazy thing to think, especially since the thought sounded like Eve's voice inside her head, but somehow it made her feel a little steadier. A little stronger.

"Don't mind the intruder," Amelie said, glancing sidewise at Oliver, who was showing no signs of moving. "I've put him in his place. As I assure you I will do for you, little slayer girl." Claire swallowed hard and tried to regulate the racing beat of her heart. Showing fear wasn't going to help. "My name is Claire Danvers," she said. "I'm Myrnin's apprentice."

Amelie smiled. Not a nice smile. "My dear, Myrnin would devour you for a morning snack," she said. "He's done it before, to those more capable and better loved by him." The smile died. "Now. Who are you?"

"Claire! My name is Claire! You know me!"

"I do not. Nor do I see why I should bother. You shouldn't have come here, little girl. I don't tolerate these kinds of rebellions."

Claire had no idea why she thought of it, but suddenly, a page from the history book that she'd bought at the used bookstore flared in front of her brain, clear as if it had been pasted on. She could see every detail of the type, even down to the water stains on the paper. "But you did," she said. "About a hundred years ago. You let Ballard Templin go free after he took a shot at you on the street."

That surprised Amelie enough to make her cock her head and frown, just a little. "Ballard Templin," she repeated. "How would someone of your age know of Templin?"

"He was a gunfighter," Claire said. "And he was hired to kill you. You took his gun away and told him to go kill the man who'd hired him. He did. It was the bank manager."

"These are things you should not know, girl. Things that were never made public."

Claire called up another page in her memory. "You bought the land for Morganville from a farmer named Roger Hanthorn, for about a hundred dollars. The first barrier around it was made out of wood, a big fence, like a stockade. And you used to play the harp. People said you played like an angel."

Amelie had gone very still, and the bafflement in her face was almost human now. "You cannot know these things."

"Your father was Bishop," Claire said. "And you were in love with Sam Glass--"

She didn't know what she'd said wrong, but Amelie bared her fangs and grabbed Claire by the arm. She threw her across the room in a weightless rush, and Claire lost the backpack along the way as she tumbled over and over, until she came to a hard, sudden stop against the wall.

Things went fuzzy then, and she felt weirdly hot. She blinked a few times, and Amelie's face came into focus right above hers. "Who are you?" Amelie said. "What do you know of Sam? Where is he? He can't hide from me, but I can't sense him! Who has taken him?"

Claire snapped back to instant clarity. She was hurting, but she didn't think anything was broken. There was a hot, throbbing spot on her head where she'd hit the wall, though.

All of that faded to the background as she realized what Amelie was asking.

She thought Sam Glass was alive.

She thought Sam was missing.

And she thought Claire knew where he was.

That was bad, but what was worse was that there wasn't any good answer. What was she going to tell her? Sam's dead? You buried him? I can show you his grave? How horrible would that be? And besides, Amelie would probably kill her for it, even if she believed it, which she probably wouldn't. Hannah hadn't believed she was back from Afghanistan. This would be a lot harder to accept.

"Well?" Amelie whispered, and pressed her fingernails gently into Claire's neck so she could feel the sting. "I won't kill you, girl. Not yet, and not quickly. If you've done anything to Sam Glass, I will see you destroyed slowly, in the old ways. You can save yourself by telling me where to find him, now." Her eyes widened. "Was it Oliver who took him?" She let go of Claire and whirled to stalk over to Oliver, who was just opening his eyes as she bent to grab him by the shirtfront and drag him up to a sitting position. The wounds on his throat were almost closed. "You." Amelie's voice dripped with scorn and venom. "Is this how you repay my kindness to you? I let you live the last time you challenged me. Did you take Sam Glass to ensure your victory this time?"

Oliver blinked, and Claire was sure she saw bafflement in his eyes, and dawning realization. "She doesn't remember," Claire said. "It's got her, too."

"So I see," he murmured, and shut his eyes again. "I can't help you, Claire. I can't help either of us."

Claire's mind wasn't blank, exactly; it was whirling with ideas and thoughts and schemes, and the problem was that none of them would save her, and she knew it.

Amelie stared down at Oliver with ice-cold fury and said, "Tell me where he is now, or I will destroy you."

"I can't tell you anything," Oliver said. "I'm sorry."

She was going to kill him. And Oliver wasn't going to make a move to defend himself . . . or maybe, Claire realized, he couldn't. She'd weakened him too much already. "The machine's malfunctioning!" Claire blurted, as Amelie pulled back her hand with claws extended to rip out his throat. "That's why you're confused! That's why you can't remember where Sam is! You know where he is, Amelie. You know me, too. You gave me a gold bracelet for a while, and now I have a pin. You gave me a pin! You have to believe me!"

That was not what Amelie was expecting her to say, obviously, because she drew back, just a little. She let go of Oliver and came back to Claire, and Amelie's fingers touched the small gold pin, with the Founder's symbol, that Claire had on her shirt. "Where did you get this?" she asked. "From whom did you steal it?"

"I didn't steal it," Claire said. "You gave it to me. How could I know the name of Myrnin's computer if I wasn't who I say I am? How would I know any of what I said to you?"

She thought for a second that she'd gambled all the wrong way, because Amelie looked so angry, and so . . . confused. All she had to do was hit her, and Claire was going to come to a very messy, unpleasant end.

"A good question," Amelie finally said. "How do you know these things? Only Myrnin and I know of the machine. No one else. No one alive. Did he tell you?"

"I work for him," Claire said again. "I work for you. And there's something wrong with the machine. That's what's wrong with you. Don't you feel something's wrong?"

Amelie kept watching her for a moment more, then frowned down at Oliver, who was propped now against the wall, still making no effort to rise. She turned and walked back to a big, polished desk. Claire looked around and realized that she recognized this room; she'd been in it before, but by portal rather than the front door. There were a lot of old books in built-in shelves, and beautiful old furniture, and soft lights. Large windows that were, just now, uncovered to show Founder's Square at night.

The cage in the middle of the park was lit up like an exhibit. Claire wondered if the boy was still in there, or if somehow he'd managed to take advantage of the confusion and get out. She kind of hoped so. What if Kyle didn't remember why he was in that cage? How awful would that be?

Claire limped over to a chair and fell into it. Her head was spinning, and she felt like she wanted to throw up, but there was no way she was going to do that on Amelie's fancy carpeting. Oliver had already bled all over it.

Outside the room, there was sudden silence, and then the door banged open with a crash that sent the lock flying right out of the wood. Michael came inside, dragging the guard along with him. She'd been tied up with what Claire realized were strips torn from her coat, and he'd added a gag. Both of them looked ragged and worn-out.

Amelie stood up, mouth open, and cried, "Sam?" just a second before she realized she was wrong. Not Sam Glass. His grandson. They looked a lot alike, except for their hair color. Sam's had been more red. "Michael. But you . . . you can't be . . ." Her expression changed, slowly, and she breathed out, "No. Not possible. You can't be any get of mine. I would know this. I would remember." But Claire could tell that she could feel it was true--and that made Amelie even more confused.

A confused Amelie was very dangerous.

Michael dumped the guard in the corner and came to Claire. "Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm okay."

"There's blood on your shirt."

Oh. Yeah, her neck was bleeding a little. Not enough to worry about. "I'm fine." Except for the headache, which was bad, but that wasn't something she wanted to go into. Michael looked doubtful, but he turned from her to look at Oliver. "What happened to you?"

"Complacency," Oliver murmured. "I thought she was under my control, and then . . . she changed."

"She lost her memory," Claire said. "She forgot you'd taken over. So she attacked you."

Oliver lifted a weak hand in agreement, and they all looked at Amelie, who was white as a marble statue now. "How can this be? You were . . . I remember you, Michael. You should be younger . . . thinner--"

"And not a vampire," Michael said. "But I am one. And you made me one."

"Yes," Amelie whispered. "I can feel that. But how . . . how can this be true when I don't--"

"It's the machine in Myrnin's lab," Michael said. "We need your help to stop it before it's too late. Myrnin doesn't remember things, either. He won't let us get close without a fight. You're the only one he'll listen to."

"I must think," Amelie said, and sat down as if she'd lost all strength. "Leave me." She didn't seem to care about them anymore, any of them. There was a deep, miserable confusion in her eyes, and Claire remembered how the vampire in the diner had snapped. Surely that wouldn't happen to Amelie.

Not to Amelie.

Claire turned to Oliver. "Help us," she pleaded. "We need your help. You still remember."

"For how long?" Oliver asked. He, too, sounded weak and odd. "I saw it overtake her. It will do the same to me, and I'll be of no use to you then."

"Convince her to come to Myrnin's lab," Michael said. "That's how you can be of use to us. We need you there. Both of you."

Amelie looked up sharply. "No one convinces me. Leave now, or I'll destroy both of you. If there's action to be taken, I will take it, but you will not stay here and insult my authority by appealing to him." She pressed a button on her desk, and an alarm began to sound out in the hall. "I must have time to decide what to do."

Michael pulled Claire out of the chair, grabbed her backpack, and said, "We're going."

"Then run," Amelie said. "Because if my men catch you, I will have them kill you."

Michael nodded, and practically dragged Claire at a run out of the office.

"I can't!" Claire panted. Her head was pounding, and she couldn't keep her balance. Michael didn't hesitate. He grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder, and kept running. She could see behind him.

Vampires were coming out of the doors and running after them. Jumping after them, eating up the corridor in big bursts of movement. "Faster!" she screamed. He got to the intersection of hallways and raced so fast that she felt even dizzier from the rush of wind and blurring paneling. Okay, she was not going to throw up on Michael's shoulder. She just couldn't.

Michael banged through a door, and suddenly she was airborne. That didn't help the disorientation at all, but at least it was fast, and she felt the impact when he landed--where?

Oh, at the bottom of the stairwell. She craned her neck and looked up three stories, where the vampire pursuers were jumping after them, and one of them was on the railing, readying to leap right on top of them.

Michael didn't wait. He threw open the door to the parking garage and the next thing she knew, she was being tossed into the back of the Death Limo and Eve was peeling out of the garage like her tailpipe had caught fire.

Claire breathed as deeply as she could, and in a few seconds, the world stopped twisting around quite so badly. She opened her eyes and looked up at Shane, who was holding her in his lap.

"You were supposed to call," he said. He sounded angry.

"Sorry," she said. "We were busy being almost killed."

Eve screamed through the window at the front, "Michael? Michael, what happened? Are you all right?"

"I'm okay," he said. He must have been, because Claire couldn't imagine how he'd outrun all those vamps if he hadn't been. He was lying down, though, on the other bench seat in the back. "They won't chase us outside of the square."

"I'm not taking any chances! We are going straight home!"

Nobody had any argument for that. Claire was thinking, But we have to do something. Anything.

The problem was, everything she could think of ended with them getting killed.

She had to think of something.

Only she didn't. It was late, and they were all tired, and her head hurt. She fell asleep on the couch, and Shane finally woke her and told her to go to bed. She wanted to stay with him, but she knew she shouldn't, not when she was trying to think, and her head hurt so badly.

She didn't remember getting upstairs to her room, but she must have, because when she woke up, sunlight was streaming through the curtains and laying a warm blanket across her bed. She felt better, until she poked at the bump on her head; that still hurt. But it was healing, she could tell.

She still hadn't thought of what she was going to do, except that she needed to get to Myrnin, convince him to help, or else she needed to take down the computer's power. Maybe the power station, she thought, but she'd been there once, and unless she was planning to get a full Navy SEAL team and maybe Hannah's old marine buddies, there was no way she could take out the power there.

It had to be done in the lab. Which left the problem of the crazy vampire who didn't remember her and wanted to have her for lunch.

There was nothing coming to her, nothing at all. Amelie might help, or she might not. There was no telling what she, or Oliver, would do.

It was still early enough that Michael was probably home, but Claire thought today was Eve's early day at Common Grounds; she put in only about sixteen hours a week there, but she tried to do it early mornings, because she really didn't like spending evenings there anymore. So she'd probably already been up and gone, if she was intending to work at all. Shane would be in bed. He never got up before ten unless he had to.

Sure enough, when Claire went into the bathroom, there was fog on the mirror, and still-warm drops in the shower, and Eve had left her makeup scattered all over the counter. Claire put it back in the bag and got out her own, which wasn't much beyond an eye pencil and some mascara. She showered and dressed fast, and had her mind on what she was going to say to Oliver when she opened the bathroom door, and ran straight into Michael.

He looked at her in shock--so much shock, in fact, that she checked to make sure she'd remembered to put her pants on. She had. "What?" she demanded. "Do I have something on my face?"

"What are you doing in my bathroom?" Michael asked, and took a giant step back. "How did you get here?"

Oh, crap. She'd been afraid Michael was susceptible to whatever was going on, and now here it was again. Just like Amelie. Just like Myrnin. Just like Monica, for that matter.

He didn't wait for her answer. He ran to the end of the hall, to her room, and threw open the door. "Dad . . ." He fell silent, staring at the room. "Dad?" He backed up slowly. "What the hell is going on?"

Claire sighed. It seemed like her whole life was being spent telling people the bad news. "I know you're not going to believe this, but I live here, Michael. I've been here for a while now."

He turned back on her, fists clenched. She'd never seen that look on his face--scared and desperately angry. "What did you do with my parents?"

"I promise, I didn't do anything! Look, you can ask Eve if you don't believe me, or Shane--"

"Did Monica put you up to this?" Michael asked, and pushed her. That was a shock, and the grim, furious expression he had made her feel cold inside. "Just get out. Get out of our house!"

"Wait!" It was no use; he wasn't going to believe her any more than Hannah had, or Amelie, or Myrnin. "Wait, don't--"

Michael pushed her again. With vampire strength.

Claire flew backward, fell, rolled, and almost slid down the stairs before she grabbed hold of a banister railing to pull herself to a stop. Michael stood there, looking utterly astonished; he stared at her, down at his hands, and back again.

"You're a vampire, Michael," Claire said, and scrambled up. Her head was hurting again. No surprise there. "If you don't remember anything else, remember that. You can hurt people, even if you don't mean to do it."

"Get out!" he yelled. He looked really upset, and very, very angry. Bad combo for a vampire. His eyes had taken on a wicked crimson shimmer.

Claire went down the steps, grabbed her backpack from where it was leaning against the wall, and dashed out the door. Once she was outside in the sun, she stopped and pulled out her cell phone, and dialed Shane's number. It rang and rang and rang, and finally he picked up and mumbled something that didn't really sound like a word.

"Wake up! Watch your back," she said. "Michael doesn't remember who I--"

She didn't have any time to say more, because Michael had followed her out onto the porch, and as she started to turn, she saw that he was coming after her.

In the sunlight.

"No!" Claire yelled, and dropped her phone and the backpack to the ground. Michael's skin started to sizzle and smoke instantly on contact with the sun, and he just stood there, staring down at himself, as if this was some horrible dream, and he was waiting to wake up. "Michael, get back! Get in the shade!"

"I'm not . . . I'm not a . . ." He staggered and fell to his knees. "I'm not a vampire."

"Michael! "

She didn't have a choice. She'd have to risk him turning on her, like Myrnin; she couldn't leave him out here to fry. He didn't seem to understand that he had to move--or maybe he wasn't able to. She couldn't tell.

"Shane! Shane, get your ass down here!" she screamed, loud enough that she hoped he could hear it over the still-on cell and through the windows. She couldn't wait for him, though.

She dumped her backpack and raced back to grab Michael under the arms. His shirt was on fire, and she batted it out before trying to drag him, but as soon as she did, the shirt burst into flames again, singeing her own clothes. The shadows were still three feet away. If she got him there, he'd be all right; she knew he'd be all right . . . but he was struggling now, and she kept losing her grip.

Do it, just do it! Claire took a better hold and gritted her teeth and pulled with all her might. He was heavy, really heavy, and it hurt trying to hold on while he thrashed. She moved him another foot. It seemed to take forever.

"Move!" Shane yelled from behind her, and jumped down the steps with a heavy quilt in his hands. He threw it over Michael and started slapping out the flames. "What the hell happened?"

"He . . . he forgot he . . ." Claire couldn't get her breath. "I couldn't get him to go inside."

"Jesus, Michael . . . Claire, go call an ambulance. Hurry."

She stumbled up into the house and made the call as Shane dragged their friend back up the steps and onto the porch. She hoped she made sense to the emergency services person on the other end. She honestly didn't know. All she could think about was getting back out there and helping Shane.

It was only as she hung up the phone that she realized her own hands were burned, too. She tried not to look too closely. They didn't hurt yet, exactly. That was probably shock. She went back out to the porch, and saw that Shane had peeled away the quilt.

Michael was alive, but he didn't look good. His shirt was covered with burned holes, and the skin underneath looked horrible. So did his face, his hands, his arms--every part of him that hadn't been fully protected. He was still awake, and his eyes had turned a brilliant ruby red. "I'm not," he was saying. "I'm not one of them. Shane, tell me I'm not!" He sounded so afraid. His voice was shaking.

Shane's expression made Claire's heart ache, and his voice came out rough, but oddly gentle. "You're not one of them, bro," he said. "You're one of us. You'll always be one of us."

Michael was crying now. "Get my dad. I need my dad."

Shane pushed his hair back with one hand, clearly not sure what to say, and then shook his head. "I can't. He's not here, Mike. Just stay still, okay? You're going to be okay. They'll fix you up."

"Get Sam," Michael pleaded. "He'll tell you I'm not . . . I'm not . . ."

It was awful. Claire wanted to cry, too, but she knew if she started, she wouldn't be able to stop. Why Michael? God, it was her fault. Hers and Myrnin's. This was happening to so many people, and she couldn't take it; she really couldn't. Michael didn't deserve this. Nobody deserved this.

"Claire, your hands . . ." Shane was looking at her now, and he seemed pale. "You burned your hands." "I'll be fine," she said. It seemed the thing to say. It didn't look so bad now, in the sun. Mostly they were red and angry-looking, like a terrible sunburn. Well, she'd had those before. "Is he in pain?"

"I'm right here," Michael said. He was getting hold of himself a little. "It hurts. Not so much now, though."

"He's healing," Shane said quietly. "He'll be all right."

But Michael was staring at Claire now, and suddenly he said, "You . . . you did something to me. Poured gas on me. Something. I'm not a vampire. I didn't just catch fire."

"No!" Claire was appalled he even thought it. "No, Michael, I didn't--"

"Get her away from me," Michael said to Shane. "She's crazy. She was in the house. She's one of Monica's friends. You know how they are with fire."

"Mike . . ." Shane hesitated, then plunged on. "She lives here, man. She's got the room at the end. Your parents' room. She's okay. Really."

Michael didn't say anything to that, just shook his head and closed his eyes. Shane looked at Claire, and lifted his hands in a silent apology. She nodded.

It was a relief hearing the ambulance come screaming toward them.

Shane went with Michael to the hospital, and the paramedics looked Claire's hands over, gave her some kind of cream, and told her she'd be fine. She didn't feel fine, but she ignored it. Somebody had to tell Eve, and she didn't want to do it over the phone. There were some things that just didn't sound right, and this was a big one.

Backpack and phone back in place, Claire ran the blocks to Common Grounds. Along the way she saw plenty of evidence that things were going even farther off the tracks--lots of police out, people wandering the streets looking lost and upset, people fighting. One woman kept trying to get into a house, and she was scaring the people inside.

Claire didn't stop for anything.

Common Grounds, on the other hand, was weirdly normal. The overwhelming aroma of coffee hit her like a wake-up call as she came in the front door, and there were plenty of people here, huddled over their mochas and frapps and lattes as they studied or chatted or phoned.

Everybody seemed to be from TPU today. She couldn't spot a single Morganville resident--but then, it was the middle of the morning, and most people had already left for work, unless they were out wandering the streets, confused.

There was no sign of Oliver in the place, and no sign of Eve, either. There was some other girl working the register. Claire hurried up, breathless, and said, "Where's Eve?"

"Who?" the girl asked. She looked new. And clueless.

"Eve," she said. "Tall girl, real Goth? She works mornings. I need her."

The girl gave her a harassed look as she added milk and stirred, added whipped cream, and handed a cup over to one of the two boys Claire had displaced. "Are you deaf? She's not here. I don't know any Goths around here."

"She works here!" That got nothing but a shrug. Not a very interested one. "What about Oliver?"

"You mean George?"

"George?" Claire stared at her, a sick feeling growing in her guts.

"Yeah, George, the owner. Not sure where he's gotten off to today." The girl went to ring up someone else. Claire hissed in frustration and tried to think what to do next; it was clear that whatever memory reset the counter queen had undergone had erased Oliver, too. Claire headed for the door. She was surprised to hear the girl call after her. "Hey!" she said. Claire looked back. "Some girl came in today and tried to put on an apron. I guess she was kind of Goth; she had black hair, anyway. I told her to go home."

Claire caught her breath. "Home," she said. But if Eve had it, too, she might not remember the Glass House as home. Like the woman she'd seen down the street, trying to unlock a door that wasn't any longer her own.

She'd have gone home home . To her parents' house. That could be . . . well, either good or bad, depending. Claire wasn't really sure. She'd been under the impression that Eve's dad, who'd passed away last year, had been the real trouble in Eve's home life, but what about Jason, Eve's brother? Three years ago, he'd probably been a dangerous little creep. It might not be safe for Eve at all.

"The Rossers," she said. "Where do they live?"

"No freaking idea," the counter girl said, and turned to the next customer. "Yeah, what do you want?"

Claire was ready to interrogate everyone in the shop for answers, but she didn't have to after all, because a door opened at the back of the shop, and she saw Oliver in the shadows. He looked odd--tired, wary, and very paranoid. He looked around the coffee shop, frowning, and his eyes fixed on her.

He nodded very slightly.

He knew who she was. That sent a wave of relief flooding through her, all out of proportion to things. She wanted to lunge over and kiss him. Well, ew, not really, but maybe a hug. Or a handshake.

What she did do was walk slowly and calmly over to him. "Are you okay?" she asked.


"I don't know, because the last time I saw you, you had bite marks in your throat?"

He grabbed her wrist and held it very, very tightly. "You'd do well to forget you ever saw any of that."

"There's too much forgetting going on already."

"Certainly true," he said, and let go. "Were you concerned for me?"

"Not exactly."

"Wise answer."

"Michael has it. The memory thing. He doesn't . . . he doesn't remember who I am."

Now she had Oliver's full attention. He looked at her for a moment, then turned and walked away. She hurried after him to his office. Oliver closed the door behind her, leaned against it with his arms folded, and said, "I thought you and Michael were going to shut down that cursed machine. Haven't you done so?"

"No, we--I--" She had no excuses, really. "Not yet. I was going to try this morning, but I really need help. Michael's . . . Michael's not it. What about Amelie?"

Oliver took in a deep breath that, as a vampire, he didn't really need except for talking, and then let it out. "Amelie is . . . struggling to understand, but she's having a difficult time accepting the world as it is when part of her is insisting on seeing the world as it was. She let me go. I'm not sure how long that will last." He shook his head, as if pushing all that away. "Tell me what you think the machine is actually doing."

"Instead of wiping memories of people leaving town, it's broadcasting a wider field, and it's affecting people in town. I think it's wiping out at least three years of memories. Maybe more for some people; I don't know." "And how do you come by this startling calculation?"

"Hannah says she was in Afghanistan yesterday," Claire said. "Michael talks about his mom and dad as if they were still living in the house. Amelie acts like Sam Glass is still alive, but missing. Monica thinks she still has a shot at dating Shane. And Myrnin . . . Myrnin isn't at all like the Myrnin I know."

"No, he wouldn't be," Oliver said, thoughtful. "When I came to town he was already far gone. He would have been completely unpredictable three years ago. Amelie doesn't remember Sam's death, you said. She certainly doesn't remember my arrival, either. It's a complete puzzle to her as to how I came to enter Morganville without her knowledge. I guarantee that she's well on the way to blaming me for this entire disaster."

"Why you? Why not Myrnin?"

"When I came to town, Amelie and I . . . we had a great deal of history behind us, none of it good. It took us work to reach the understanding we have. If she doesn't remember that, it will be war all over again."

"It's worse than that. Michael walked out into the sun," she said flatly. "He doesn't remember he's a vampire."

Oliver's eyes widened just a bit, and then he said, deliberately neutral, "I hope that the sun convinced him otherwise. And I trust you called for help."

"He's on his way to the hospital. I came to get Eve, but I think she's gone to her parents' house. She won't remember me, either."

"If Michael's been injured, they won't take him to the hospital; they'll take him straight to the blood bank. He'll be all right, as long as he wasn't in the sun for long. Some blood, a little rest, he'll heal fine. The bigger issue is that if he refuses to believe in his current condition, he'll lose control and feed recklessly. Probably on one of his friends, because you're all too thick to take proper care."

"I know," Claire said, and leaned wearily against Oliver's desk, which was loaded with papers, unopened mail, pens, paper clips . . . messy. That made her feel better about him, somehow. "We need to stop this, but Myrnin put a password on the computer. I can't shut it down by myself."

"Pull the plug," he said. Funny. Oliver and Shane thought alike, and just about at the same speed. Claire didn't imagine either one of them would like that comparison, though.

"I can't do it with Myrnin trying to snack on me. I'm kind of tired of just about getting killed for now. If you go with me and keep him off of me--"

Oliver, at least, had a sense of urgency. He grabbed his long leather coat, hat, and gloves, and dressed for the sun. "Then let's go," he said. "The sooner, the better. I can't guarantee how long Amelie will allow me to operate freely."

"But Eve--I was going to get her. Let her know about Michael."

"We'll go by the Rosser house on the way, if you insist," he said. "But if she's not there, we go on. No arguments."

That was fine with Claire. She was too tired to argue. As she tried to pick up her fallen backpack, she winced. Oliver grabbed her wrist and looked at her hand. "You're burned," he said. He sounded surprised, and continued. "You tried to pull him out of the sun. With your bare hands."

"I had to try," she said. "He's my friend."

Oliver gazed at her for a few seconds, then shook his head and let go. "Just don't let it slow us down."