Chapter Twelve


Eve was right: limos felt a whole lot like hearses, when you got right down to it.

Oliver drove fast, which was alarming, because Claire of course couldn't see a thing through the extremely dark windows. She concentrated on air bags and seat belts and all the nice safety features that car manufacturers built in these days. Vamps couldn't opt out of air bags, could they? Well, at least there were seat belts. That was something.

"Why not you?" Oliver asked.


He glanced over at her. "Why not you, or me? What keeps us from being affected by this miasma?"

"What's a miasma?"

"A fog," he said. "An influence."

"I don't know," Claire said. "To be honest, I don't know if we're immune, or if it just takes longer for some people, or if it's just completely random. But it could be that because we weren't here three years ago, it doesn't affect us."

"Hannah Moses wasn't here, either."

"Yeah, but she's from here. Maybe there's a connection. We're both--"

"Outsiders," Oliver finished. "Interesting. I'm not certain how that would work."

"It might not, for much longer," Claire said. "It hit Myrnin sooner than Amelie. It hit some people right off the bat, and others days later. I don't think it's following any kind of pattern. Maybe we're going to get it after all."

"Are you armed?" Oliver asked her.

She glanced down at her backpack and instantly, instinctively held back. "No."

"Lie to me again and I'll put you out on the street and do this myself."

Claire swallowed. "Uh, yeah."

"With what?"

"Silver-coated stakes, wooden stakes, a crossbow, about ten bolts . . . oh, and a squirt gun with some silver-nitrate solution."

He smiled grimly at the dark windshield. "What, no grenade launchers?"

"Would they work?"

"I choose not to comment. Very well, I will take your crossbow. Try to use nonlethal methods, if you please; there's been enough disaster in this town recently. Also, I assume you're still fond of Myrnin, in some way." He said that as if he had no clue why that might be the case. Well, she could understand that, from his point of view.

"I won't kill him," she said. "But I'll hurt him if he tries to hurt me."

"An excellent strategy, except that if you hurt him, he will kill you, most likely. So leave Myrnin to me. You do your job, and this will soon be over. . . ." His voice faded as he made a turn, and Claire saw something happen in his face, which was an eerie blue-white in the car's dashboard lights. She just wasn't sure what it was. "Get down, Claire."


He didn't tell her again, just reached over, grabbed her head, and pulled her sideways on the seat, then pushed her down into the wheel well.

The windshield rattled, and all of a sudden there were holes in it, sunlight streaming in. No, that hadn't been the windshield rattling. Something had hit the car.

Bullets had hit the car. Oliver swerved the limousine and accelerated, but there was more noise, and this time Claire realized it was gunfire. The entire windshield fell out, and Oliver made a choked sound as he got a faceful of blazing sun.

But he kept driving, until they hit something with a crash. Above her, Claire saw a flash of white as she was thrown forward against the carpet.

Great, the air bags had deployed, and she was in the wheel well. But at least she hadn't had far to go, and in fact, she didn't think she was hurt at all, though there was some glass that had fallen on her.

Oliver was fighting to get free of his seat belt and the deflated air bag, but he didn't make it. Someone yanked open his door, and Claire guessed they cut the seat belt, or broke it, because they dragged him out of the limo. He was struggling, but their attackers must have been vamps, because he wasn't getting away.

They don't know I'm here, Claire realized, and stayed where she was, curled into a very small ball in the shadows under the dash. Her backpack had slid off the seat and was next to her. She carefully unzipped it and pulled out the small, folding crossbow, cranked it open, and got out the bolts. She did it very carefully, hoping the noise of the fighting outside would cover up any sound of what she was doing. It must have, because nobody reached into the car to grab her.

She heard Oliver being dragged off, and finally risked slithering out of her hiding place to peek over the dashboard, out the sharp-edged hole where the windshield had once been.

There were vampires out, all in their heavy coats and hats and gloves. Some carried umbrellas, which was surprisingly practical of them. A whole group of them, maybe twenty in total, were standing in the shade of a building.

Amelie had an umbrella, but she didn't carry it herself. She had a minion for that. Her umbrella, like all the others, was black, but the silk suit she was wearing was icy white, with hints of blue. The color of dead lips, Claire thought, and wished she hadn't. Amelie looked dangerous, even though she was just standing there, hands folded, watching as Oliver was dragged over and dumped at her feet.

"I knew it was you," she said. She sounded viciously angry. Claire could just barely hear her, but she certainly didn't want to try to get any closer. ". . . think you wouldn't be suspected? Such an obvious . . ."

The wind kept blowing, and it made it harder for Claire to hear what was going on. Oliver said something, and it must have not made Amelie happy, because she snapped her fingers and a couple of other vampires grabbed his arms and raised him to his knees. Claire couldn't help but think how wildly all this had reversed. First Amelie had been at his mercy; then he'd been at hers; and now she had him once again.

That wouldn't make Oliver happy. Not at all.

"Don't spin your tales with me," Amelie said. "I don't believe we were ever . . ." More wind, and Claire lost the words. ". . . coming here. You were invited, once. You refused. Now you think you can just come here and scheme to take over--"

Oliver laughed. It had a raw, desperate sound to it. Whatever he said then, Amelie drew back a step, and then she shook her head. "Useless," she said. "Take him to the cells. I'll decide how to deal with him later."

There were way too many for Claire to even think about staging any kind of rescue. Oliver was clearly hurt, and she didn't think he'd appreciate any Rambo-style heroics, anyway.

But she'd just lost her chance to stop all this. Without Oliver, she had almost no chance of getting past Myrnin. Unless Myrnin was more himself this time.

The vamps melted into the shadows, taking Oliver with them, leaving Claire and the shot-up limo where it sat, in the middle of the road. She sat back and dialed her cell phone, but the lab number kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Just as she was about to hang up, there was a click, and Myrnin's voice said, "Hello?"

"Myrnin, it's Claire. Claire Danvers."


"Myrnin, do you know who I am?"

More silence, and then Myrnin said, very softly, "My head aches."

"Myrnin, do you know who I am?"

"Claire," he said. "Yes, Claire. I know you. Of course I know you."

A feeling of hot relief made her just about melt into the seat cushions. Oh, thank God. She'd caught him at a sane moment. "Myrnin, you have to do something for me. It's really important, okay? I need you to go down to the machine in the basement of the lab. Do that now, okay? Right now."

"My head aches so. Do I have to?"

"I'm really sorry, but this is going to help. Please. Just go now."

She heard noises that she assumed meant he was unlocking the trapdoor, jumping down, walking through to the cavern, and then he said, "All right, I'm here. Claire? Could you come here to help me? I really don't feel at all well."

"In a minute," she promised. "Right now, I need you to go to the keyboard and enter the password you put on the system so we can turn it off. Can you do that?"

"Password," Myrnin said. "I don't think . . . I can't remember any passwords with this headache. Could you come help me?"

"I can't until you do this. Just concentrate. Remember the password, okay? Put it in and then I can come help you."

"Oh, all right . . . I think maybe--yes, I think that's it. I'm turning it off now." She heard sounds of clicking, of what sounded like switches being thrown, and then Myrnin said, "All right. It's safe. You can come back now, Claire."

There was something strange about his voice. It wasn't right. "Myrnin? Did you turn it off?"

"Of course. I did just as you asked. Now come."

That really wasn't right, and Claire felt a shiver working its way up her spine. "Myrnin, are any of the lights still on? Are you sure you turned it off--"

"Come here right now!" Myrnin roared, and she was so shocked she dropped her phone and scrambled away from it in panic, as if it had grown teeth. "Come here, little Claire. Juicy, sweet little Claire who thinks she can fool me into destroying Morganville. Come and get your reward!"

Claire folded up the phone and ended the call. She sat clutching the crossbow, feeling cold even in the sunlight.

She'd never felt so alone, never. Not even when she'd first come to Morganville.

She couldn't stop this. She was helpless. Completely helpless.

She put her head on the deflated air bag and cried.

Eventually, crying wore off, but the feeling of overwhelming failure didn't. She kept the crossbow ready, just in case. She thought she'd go to Eve, find her . . . but then she realized that although Oliver had known where they were going, she had no idea where Eve's house might be. The only thing she could think to do was . . . go back to the Glass House. It seemed like a long, scary walk. There were lots of people roaming around, mostly confused, angry, or terrified. She tried to avoid them, but sometimes they confronted her and wanted to know where their wives, husbands, sons, daughters, moms, dads were. Or what had happened to their houses. Or their cars. Or their jobs.

She could have sworn someone was following her.

She finally just started running, running as if her life depended on it, and there was such a surge of pathetic hope when she saw the Glass House up ahead that she felt sick. She unlocked the door and slammed it behind her and slid down against it, holding her head in her hands.

It'll happen to me, too, she thought. Maybe in an hour. Maybe tomorrow. But I'll forget, too. And when I do, nobody will be able to stop this.

She felt a rush of warmth around her, almost of comfort. It was the house, trying to respond to her misery. She wiped her eyes and sniffled and said, "That doesn't help. Nothing helps."

But somehow, it did help a little, even though she knew it was as useless as a hug during an earthquake. She sucked in a deep breath and got up to go upstairs. No Michael, of course. Not yet. And no sign of Eve, so she probably was at her parents' house, after all. Her door was open, and her clothes were all thrown around. It was impossible to tell whether that was panic or just natural behavior with Eve.

Claire's room was neat and just the way she'd left it. She got into bed and pulled the covers up, keeping the crossbow with her, and curled onto her side. She still had her phone with her, and she paged through the contacts list, feeling miserable and alone. Finally, she tried to call Eve's cell. She didn't know why, but maybe Eve had snapped out of it. Maybe she--


That sounded like the Eve she knew. Claire slowly sat up in bed, clutching the phone like a lifeline. "Eve? Oh, thank God. Eve, where are you?"

"Home, duh. Who's this?"

Her heart sank. "C-Claire."

"From school?"

"Uh . . . yeah. From school." She only lied because she felt so bad, and she needed to just hear a friendly voice. Even if that person didn't know who she really was. "In math."

"Oh, yeah, you sit at the back, I remember."

Claire cleared her throat, because her voice sounded thick and teary. "What are you doing?"

"There is some weird shit going down in Weirdsville, let me tell you. I came home and my mom won't talk to me, which is actually nice for a change, but my room is gone. I mean, it's here, but it's full of junk. I had to move stuff to get to my bed! It's like they didn't care if I ever came back." Eve sounded manic, and nervous. "It's weird, I mean, my stuff . . . I think she trashed everything. I can't find my clothes. I think my parents are trying to make me leave. Which, fab, I'll go, you know? I hate it here. Don't you?"

Claire sniffled and wiped her nose. "Yeah," she said faintly. "I do. Where would you go?"

"I don't know. Away, you know? Away from all this crap. Someplace sunny, if you get me."

"What about Michael?"

"Michael? Glass?" Eve laughed, but it sounded edgy and strange. "Like he knows I live at all. I mean, he's hella cute, but he's not ever going to notice me."

"I think he will," Claire said. "I mean, I think he thinks you're cute." "Really?" Eve's voice sharpened and got suspicious. "You think I'm really going to fall for that? Am I supposed to go up and fall all over Mr. Perfect Glass and get humiliated? Is that what this is about? Who are you, one of Bitch Queen Monica's posse? Because if you are--"

"I'm not! I promise!"

But Eve's paranoia switch was well and truly tripped now. "Yeah, well, nice talking to you. Have a great life."

And she hung up.

Claire clutched the phone to her chest, hard, and tried not to scream out her frustration. When the phone rang, she thought it would be Eve calling back, maybe to give her more attitude. "Yeah?" she said miserably.

"Claire?" Shane. "Claire, are you okay?"

She almost started crying again. "I'm home; I'm at the Glass House. Where are you?"

"On my way there now," he said. "Stay put. It's not safe out here."

"I know." She sat up and hugged her pillow. "Oliver wasn't affected; he was going to help me get to Myrnin."

"Claire, I told you not to--"

"It doesn't matter. We got ambushed on the way. Amelie hauled him off. I think she thinks he came to kill her. She doesn't remember him living here, or that he was her . . . friend." Friend didn't sound right, especially given what had gone on between them. "I don't know what happened to him."

"Well, sorry to say this, but if she kills him, boo-hoo, and I'll get counseling. Look, just stay there. I'll be home in about ten minutes. I'm bringing food."

"What about Michael?"

Shane was silent for a long few seconds, so long Claire checked the screen to see if she'd lost the connection. "I couldn't get him to remember," he finally said. "It was safer to leave him with the vamps. He nearly took my throat out, and he kept screaming he wasn't . . . you know. It was bad."

"It's all bad," Claire said. "And it's all my fault. I can't stop it, Shane. I can't do anything to stop it."

"Hey, hey, stop that. We're going to figure this out, okay? We'll find a way. But first, we eat, we get some rest, and then we save the world. Right?"

"Just hurry," she said. "Nothing bad can happen when I'm with you."

"Wow. I'm not sure if I feel shiny or scared."

"Scared is useful right now."

"Good point. I'm coming, okay? I'm running."

She was smiling, though faintly, as she hung up. She stayed in bed, crossbow at her side, until she heard the front door downstairs open and close, and Shane's voice called her name. Then she got up and took the crossbow and phone downstairs to meet him.

He looked a little worried about the crossbow as he set a grease-stained bag on the dining table in the corner. "Expecting somebody else?" he asked. "Because I hope that's not for me."

She put it down, ran to him, and kissed him frantically. He held her close and kissed her back, warm and sweet and soft, and just the fact that he was here with her made things so, so, so much better.

She finally broke free of the kiss and put her head on his chest. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you for remembering."

"Yeah, no problem," he said. He sounded amused. "You may not thank me for the burgers and fries, though. I don't think Dan's Drive-In is doing its best work today."

"Anything," she said. "As long as you're here."

"Claire." He pushed her away a little, and tilted her chin up. He looked tired, and worried, and she thought he was, deep down, just as freaked-out as she was. "Don't forget me, okay?"

"I won't," she promised. "I don't think I ever could. Not even . . . not even if . . ."

He hugged her, and they really didn't need to finish that conversation at all. It was all . . . better.

Eventually, he said, "The burgers are getting cold," and Claire let go and went into the kitchen to retrieve the all-important drinks to go with dinner. And yeah, the burgers were kind of gross and the fries were a little cold, but she savored every bite. It tasted like normal life, and she needed every bit of that she could get. They cleaned up afterward, and Shane decided that he'd better wash the dishes, because it was Eve's turn and she wasn't going to remember anyway, even if by some miracle she found her way back here. And that felt good, too.

It felt like being in control, at least of the kitchen.

Claire called her mom, who talked about the tests they were running on her dad, and how they planned surgery to fix the valve in his heart, and how he was doing so well, really, all things considered. Claire said very little, because she was afraid she'd just start crying hysterically if she did. Mom didn't seem to notice; her focus was on Dad, of course. And that was okay.

The last thing her mother said to her was, "I love you so much, honey. Be safe. And call me tomorrow."

"I will," Claire whispered. "Love you, too, Mom."

She hung up before her voice could tremble, and saw Shane watching her with a kind of warm understanding in his face.

"That was hard, huh?" he asked, and put an arm around her. "Your dad's okay?"

"Doing better than they expected," Claire said, and took in a deep breath. "Unlike us, I guess."

"Hey, don't count us out yet."

"I don't," Claire said. "But it's bad, Shane. I feel like we're really alone this time. Just the two of us."

He hugged her closer. "And that's not all terrible. Tomorrow we're going to get this handled, all right? You're too shaky right now, and going out in the dark isn't a fabulous plan. We'll fight monsters in the morning."

The Morganville TV station was showing reruns of shows from three years ago. Shane put in a movie, and they talked some about . . . well, nothing, really, and kissed and stayed together until finally there was nothing to do but go to bed.

Shane walked her to her bedroom door, and before he could say anything, she said, "Stay, okay? I want you with me." He just nodded, and she saw relief on his face. He'd been going to ask, anyway.

They got undressed--mostly--in silence, and slipped under the blankets to hold each other. Claire was too worried and scared to want to do anything else, and she thought he felt the same, really; it was more holding on for comfort right now. And that was good. That was really good.

"I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow," Claire said finally, into the dark. Shane's arms tightened around her, pulling her closer against his chest.

"Tomorrow, we're going to find out who can still fight, and get down there and pin Myrnin down and fix this," he said. "I swear. We're going to make this work."

"The two of us." "Yeah, the two of us, and whoever's left who's not bug-eyed crazy." He kissed the back of her neck, very gently. "It's going to be okay. Sleep."

And she did, warm in his embrace, and dreamed of silver rain.