The next day, there was no sign of the vampires, none at all. Claire checked the portal networks, but as far as she could tell, they were down. With nothing concrete to do, she helped around the house--cleaning, straightening, running errands. Richard Morrell came around to check on them. He looked a little better for having slept, which didn't mean he looked good, exactly.
When Eve wandered down, she looked almost as bad. She hadn't bothered with her Goth makeup, and her black hair was down in a lank, uncombed mess. She poured Richard some coffee from the everbrewing pot, handed it over, and said, "How's Michael?"
Richard blew on the hot surface in the cup without looking at her. "He's at City Hall. We moved all the vampires we still had into the jail, for safekeeping."
Eve's face crumpled in anguish. Shane put a hand on her shoulder, and she pulled in a damp breath and got control of herself.
"Right," she said. "That's probably for the best, you're right." She sipped from her own battered coffee mug. "What's it like out there?" Out there meant beyond Lot Street, which remained eerily quiet.
"Not so good," Richard said. His voice sounded hoarse and dull, as if he'd yelled all the edges off it. "About half the stores are shut down, and some of those are burned or looted. We don't have enough police and volunteers to be everywhere. Some of the store owners armed up and are guarding their own places--I don't like it, but it's probably the best option until everybody settles down and sobers up. The problem isn't everybody, but it's a good portion of the town who's been down and angry a long time. You heard they raided the Barfly?"
"Yeah, we heard," Shane said.
"Well, that was just the beginning. Dolores Thompson's place got broken into, and then they went to the warehouses and found the bonded liquor storage. Those who were inclined to deal with all this by getting drunk and mean have had a real holiday."
"We saw the mobs," Eve said, and glanced at Claire. "Um, about your sister--"
"Yeah, thanks for taking care of her. Trust my idiot sister to go running around in her red convertible during a riot. She's damn lucky they didn't kill her."
They would have, Claire was certain of that. "I guess you're taking her with you . . . ?"
Richard gave her a thin smile. "Not the greatest houseguest?"
Actually, Monica had been very quiet. Claire had found her curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, sound asleep. She'd looked pale and tired and bruised, and much younger than Claire had ever seen her. "She's been okay." She shrugged. "But I'll bet she'd rather be with her family."
"Her family's under protective custody downtown. My dad nearly got dragged off by a bunch of yahoos yelling about taxes or something. My mom--" Richard shook his head, as if he wanted to drive the pictures right out of his mind. "Anyway. Unless she likes four walls and a locked door, I don't think she's going to be very happy. And you know Monica: if she's not happy--"
"Nobody is," Shane finished for him. "Well, I want her out of our house. Sorry, man, but we did our duty and all. Past this point, she'd have to be a friend to keep crashing here. Which, you know, she isn't. Ever."
"Then I'll take her off your hands." Richard set the cup down and stood. "Thanks for the coffee. Seems like that's all that's keeping me going right now."
"Richard . . ." Eve rose, too. "Seriously, what's it like out there? What's going to happen?"
"With any luck, the drunks will sober up or pass out, and those who've been running around looking for people to punish will get sore feet and aching muscles and go home to get some sleep."
"Not like we've had a lot of luck so far, though," Shane said.
"No," Richard agreed. "That we haven't. But I have to say, we can't keep things locked down. People have to work, the schools have to open, and for that, we need something like normal life around here. So we're working on that. Power and water's on, phone lines are back up. TV and radio are broadcasting. I'm hoping that calms people down. We've got police patrols overlapping all through town, and we can be anywhere in under two minutes. One thing, though: we're getting word that there's bad weather in the forecast. Some kind of real big front heading toward us tonight. I'm not too happy about that, but maybe it'll keep the crazies off the streets for a while. Even riots don't like rain."
"What about the university?" Claire asked. "Are they open?"
"Open and classes are running, believe it or not. We passed off some of the disturbances as roleplaying in the disaster drill, and said that the looting and burning was part of the exercise. Some of them believed us."
"But . . . no word about the vampires?"
Richard was silent for a moment, and then he said, "No. Not exactly."
"We found some bodies, before dawn," he said. "All vamps. All killed with silver or decapitation. Some of them--I knew some of them. Thing is, I don't think they were killed by Bishop. From the looks of things, they were caught by a mob."
Claire caught her breath. Eve covered her mouth. "Who--?"
"Bernard Temple, Sally Christien, Tien Ma, and Charles Effords."
Eve lowered her hand to say, "Charles Effords? Like, Miranda's Charles? Her Protector?"
"Yeah. From the state of the bodies, I'd guess he was the primary target. Nobody loves a pedophile."
"Nobody except Miranda," Eve said. "She's going to be really scared now."
"Yeah, about that . . ." Richard hesitated, then plunged forward. "Miranda's gone."
"Disappeared. We've been looking for her. Her parents reported her missing early last night. I'm hoping she wasn't with Charles when the mob caught up to him. You see her, you call me, okay?"
Eve's lips shaped the agreement, but no sound came out.
Richard checked his watch. "Got to go," he said. "Usual drill: lock the doors, check IDs on anybody you're not expecting who shows up. If you hear from any vampire, or hear anything about the vampires, you call immediately. Use the coded radios, not the phone lines. And be careful."
Eve swallowed hard, and nodded. "Can I see Michael?"
He paused, as if that hadn't occurred to him, then shrugged. "Come on."
"We're all going," Shane said.
It was an uncomfortable ride to City Hall, where the jail was located, mainly because although the police cruiser was large, it wasn't big enough to have Richard, Monica, Eve, Shane, and Claire all sharing the ride. Monica had taken the front seat, sliding close to her brother, and Claire had squeezed in with her friends in the back.
They didn't talk, not even when they cruised past burnedout, broken hulks of homes and stores. There weren't any fires today, or any mobs that Claire spotted. It all seemed quiet.
Richard drove past a police barricade around City Hall and parked in the underground garage. "I'm taking Monica to my parents'," he said. "You guys go on down to the cells. I'll be there in a minute."
It took a lot more than a minute for them to gain access to Michael; the vampires--all five of those the humans still had in custody--were housed in a special section, away from daylight and in reinforced cells. It reminded Claire, with an unpleasant lurch, of the vampires in the cells where Myrnin was usually locked up, for his own protection. Had anyone fed them? Had anyone even tried?
She didn't know three of the vampires, but she knew the last two. "Sam!" she blurted, and rushed to the bars. Michael's grandfather was lying on the bunk, one pale hand over his eyes, but he sat up when she called his name. Claire could definitely see the resemblance between Michael and Sam--the same basic bone structure, only Michael's hair was a bright gold, and Sam's was red.
"Get me out," Sam said, and lunged for the door. He rattled the cage with unexpected violence. Claire fell back, openmouthed. "Open the door and get me out, Claire! Now!"
"Don't listen to him," Michael said. He was standing at the bars of his own cell, leaning against them, and he looked tired. "Hey, guys. Did you bring me a lockpick in a cupcake or something?"
"I had the cupcake, but I ate it. Hard times, man." Shane extended his hand. Michael reached through the bars and took it, shook solemnly, and then Eve threw herself against the metal to try to hug him. It was awkward, but Claire saw the relief spread over Michael, no matter how odd it was with the bars between the two of them. He kissed Eve, and Claire had to look away from that, because it seemed like such a private kind of moment.
Sam rattled his cage again. "Claire, open the door! I need to get to Amelie!"
The policeman who'd escorted them down to the cells pushed off from the wall and said, "Calm down, Mr. Glass. You're not going anywhere; you know that." He shifted his attention to Shane and Claire. "He's been like that since the beginning. We had to trank him twice; he was hurting himself trying to get out. He's worse than all the others. They seem to have calmed down. Not him."
No, Sam definitely hadn't calmed down. As Claire watched, he tensed his muscles and tried to force the lock, but subsided in panting frustration and stumbled back to his bunk. "I have to go," he muttered. "Please, I need to go. She needs me. Amelie--"
Claire looked at Michael, who didn't seem to be nearly as distressed. "Um . . . sorry to ask, but . . . are you feeling like that? Like Sam?"
"No," Michael said. His eyes were still closed. "For a while there was this . . . call, but it stopped about three hours ago."
"Then why is Sam--"
"It's not the call," Michael said. "It's Sam. It's killing him, knowing she's out there in trouble and he can't help her."
Sam put his head in his hands, the picture of misery. Claire exchanged a look with Shane. "Sam," she said. "What's happening? Do you know?"
"People are dying, that's what's happening," he said. "Amelie's in trouble. I need to go to her. I can't just sit here!"
He threw himself at the bars again, kicking hard enough to make the metal ring like a bell.
"Well, that's where you're going to stay," the policeman said, not exactly unsympathetically. "The way you're acting, you'd go running out into the sunlight, and that wouldn't do her or you a bit of good, now, would it?"
"I could have gone hours ago before sunrise," Sam snapped. "Hours ago."
"And now you have to wait for dark."
That earned the policeman a fullout vicious snarl, and Sam's eyes flared into bright crimson. Everybody stayed back, and when Sam subsided this time, it seemed to be for good. He withdrew to his bunk, lay down, and turned his back to them.
"Man," Shane breathed softly. "He's a little intense, huh?"
From what the policeman told them--and Richard, when he rejoined them--all the captured vampires had been at about the same level of violence, at first. Now it was just Sam, and as Michael said, it didn't seem to be Amelie's summons that was driving him. . . . It was fear for Amelie herself.
It was love.
"Step back, please," the policeman said to Eve. She looked over her shoulder at him, then at Michael. He kissed her, and let go.
She did take a step back, but it was a tiny one. "So--are you okay? Really?"
"Sure. It's not exactly the Ritz, but it's not bad. They're not keeping us here to hurt us, I know that." Michael stretched out a finger and touched her lips. "I'll be back soon."
"Better be," Eve said. She mockbit at his finger. "I could totally date somebody else, you know."
"And I could rent out your room."
"And I could put your game console on eBay."
"Hey," Shane protested. "Now you're just being mean."
"See what I mean? You need to come home, or it's total chaos. Dogs and cats, living together." Eve's voice dropped, but not quite to a whisper. "And I miss you. I miss seeing you. I miss you all the time."
"I miss you, too," Michael murmured, then blinked and looked at Claire and Shane. "I mean, I miss all of you."
"Sure you do," Shane agreed. "But not in that way, I hope."
"Shut up, dude. Don't make me come out there."
Shane turned to the policeman. "See? He's fine."
"I was more worried about you guys," Michael confessed. "Everything okay at the house?"
"I have to burn a blouse Monica borrowed," Claire said. "Otherwise, we're good."
They tried to talk a while longer, but somehow, Sam's silent, rigid back turned toward them made conversation seem more desperate than fun. He was really hurting, and Claire didn't know--short of letting him go for a jog in the noontime sun--how to make it any better. She didn't know where Amelie was, and with the portals shut, she doubted she could even know where to start looking.
Amelie had gathered up an army--whatever Bishop hadn't grabbed first--but what she was doing with it was anybody's guess. Claire didn't have a clue.
So in the end, she hugged Michael and told Sam it would all be okay, and they left.
"If they stay calm through the day, I'll let them out tonight," Richard said. "But I'm worried about letting them roam around on their own. What happened to Charles and the others could keep on happening. Captain Obvious used to be our biggest threat, but now we don't know who's out there, or what they're planning. And we can't count on the vampires to be able to protect themselves right now."
"My dad would say that it's about time the tables turned," Shane said.
Richard fixed him with a long stare. "Is that what you say, too?"
Shane looked at Michael, and at Sam. "No," he said. "Not anymore."
The day went on quietly. Claire got out her books and spent part of the day trying to study, but she couldn't get her brain to stop spinning. Every few minutes, she checked her email and her phone, hoping for something, anything, from Amelie. You can't just leave us like this. We don't know what to do.
Except keep moving forward. Like Shane had said, they couldn't stay still. The world kept on turning.
Eve drove Claire to her parents' house in the afternoon, where she had cake and iced tea and listened to her mother's frantic flow of good cheer. Her dad looked sallow and unwell, and she worried about his heart, as always. But he seemed okay when he told her he loved her, and that he worried, and that he wanted her to move back home.
Just when she thought they'd gotten past that . . .
Claire exchanged a quick look with Eve. "Maybe we should talk about that when things get back to normal?" As if they ever were normal in Morganville. "Next week?"
Dad nodded. "Fine, but I'm not going to change my mind, Claire. You're better off here, at home." Whatever spell Mr. Bishop had cast over her father, it was still working great; he was singleminded about wanting her out of the Glass House. And maybe it hadn't been a spell at all; maybe it was just normal parental instinct.
Claire crammed her mouth with cake and pretended not to hear, and asked her mom about the new curtains. That filled another twenty minutes, and then Eve was able to make excuses about needing to get home, and then they were in the car.
"Wow," Eve said, and started the engine. "So. Are you going to do it? Move in with them?"
Claire shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. I don't know if we're going to get through the day! It's kind of hard to make plans." She wasn't going to say anything, truly, she wasn't, but the words had been boiling and bubbling inside her all day, and as Eve put the car in drive, Claire said, "Shane said he loved me."
Eve hit the brakes, hard enough to make their seat belts click in place. "Shane what? Said what?"
"Shane said he loved me."
"Okay, first impressions--fantastic, good, that's what I was hoping you'd said." Eve took a deep breath and let up on the brake, steering out into the deserted street. "Second impressions, well, I hope that you two . . . um . . . how can I put this? Watch yourselves?"
"You mean, don't have sex? We won't." Claire said it with a little bit of an edge. "Even if we wanted to. I mean, he promised, and he's not going to break that promise, not even if I say it's okay."
"Oh. Oh." Eve stared at her, wideeyed, for way too long for road safety. "You're kidding! Wait, you're not. He said he loved you, and then he said--"
"No," Claire said. "He said no."
"Oh." Funny, how many meanings that word could have. This time it was full of sympathy. "You know, that makes him--"
"Great? Superbly awesome? Yeah, I know. I just--" Claire threw up her hands. "I just want him, okay?"
"He'll still be there in a couple of months, Claire. At seventeen, you're not a kid, at least in Texas."
"You've put some thought into this."
"Not me," Eve said, and gave her an apologetic look.
"Shane? You mean--you mean you talked about this? With Shane?"
"He needed some girl guidance. I mean, he's taking this really seriously--a lot more seriously than I expected. He wants to do the right thing. That's cool, right? I think that's cool. Most guys, it's just, whatever."
Claire clenched her jaw so hard she felt her teeth grinding. "I can't believe he talked to you about it!"
"Well, you're talking to me about it."
"He's a guy!"
"Guys occasionally talk, believe it or not. Something more than pass the beer or where's the porn?" Eve turned the corner, and they cruised past a couple of slow blocks of houses, some people out walking, an elementary school with a TEMPORARILY CLOSED sign out front. "You didn't exactly ask for advice, but I'm going to give it: don't rush this. You may think you're good to go, but give it some time. It's not like you have a sellby date or anything."
Despite her annoyance, Claire had to laugh. "Feels like it right now."
"Well, duh. Hormones!"
"So how old were you when--"
"Too young. I speak from experience, grasshopper." Eve's expression went distant for a second. "I wish I'd waited for Michael."
That was, for some reason, kind of a shock, and Claire blinked. She remembered some things, and felt deeply uncomfortable. "Uh . . . did Brandon . . . ?" Because Brandon had been her family's Protector vampire, and he'd been a complete creep. She couldn't imagine much worse than having Brandon be your first.
"No. Not that he didn't want to, but no, it wasn't Brandon."
Claire blinked. There wasn't much Eve considered offlimits. "Really?"
"Really." Eve pulled the car up to the curb. "Bottom line? If Shane says he loves you, he does, full stop. He wouldn't say it if he didn't mean it, all the way. He's not the kind of guy to tell you what you want to hear. That makes you really, really lucky. You should remember that."
Claire was trying, really, but from time to time that moment came back to her, that blinding, searing moment when he'd looked into her face and said those words, and she'd seen that amazing light in his eyes. She'd wanted to see it again, over and over. Instead, she'd seen him walk away.
It felt romantic. It also felt frustrating, on some level she didn't even remember feeling before. And now there was something new: doubt. Maybe that was my fault. Maybe I was supposed to do something I didn't do. Some signal I didn't give him.
Eve read her expression just fine. "You'll be okay," she said, and laughed just a little. "Give the guy a break. He's the second actual gentleman I've ever met. It doesn't mean he doesn't want to throw you on the bed and go. Just means he won't, right now. Which you have to admit: kinda hot."
Put in those terms, it kind of was.
As it got closer to nightfall, Richard called to say he was letting Michael go. For the second time, the three of them piled into the car and went racing to City Hall. The barricades had mostly come down. According to the radio and television, it had been a very quiet day, with no reports of violence. Store owners--the human ones, anyway--were planning on reopening in the morning. Schools would be in session.
Life was going on, and Mayor Morrell was expected to come out with some kind of a speech. Not that anybody would listen.
"Are they letting Sam out, too?" Claire asked, as Eve parked in the underground lot.
"Apparently. Richard doesn't think he can really keep anybody much longer. Some kind of town ordinance, which means law and order really is back in fashion. Plus, I think he's really afraid Sam's going to hurt himself if this goes on. And also, maybe he thinks he can follow Sam to find Amelie." Eve scanned the dark structure--there were a few darktinted cars in the lot, but then, there always were. The rest of the vehicles looked like they were human owned. "You guys see anything?"
"Like what? A big sign saying This Is a Trap?" Shane opened his door and got out, taking Claire's hand to help her. He didn't drop it once she was standing beside him. "Not that I wouldn't put it past some of our finer citizens. But no, I don't see anything."
Michael was being let out of his cell when they arrived, and there were hugs and handshakes. The other vampires didn't have anyone to help them, and looked a little confused about what they were supposed to do.
"Sam, wait!" Michael grabbed his arm on the way past, dragging his grandfather to a stop. Looking at them standing together, Claire was struck again by how alike they were. And always would be, she supposed, given that neither one of them was going to age any more. "You can't go charging off by yourself. You don't even know where she is. Running around town on your white horse will get you really, truly killed."
"Doing nothing will get her killed. I can't have that, Michael. None of this means anything to me if she dies." Sam shook Michael's hand away. "I'm not asking you to come with me. I'm just telling you not to get in my way."
"Exactly. Do as you're told." Sam could move vampirequick when he wanted to, and he was gone almost before the words hit Claire's ears--a blur, heading for the exit.
"So much for trying to figure out where she is from where he goes," Shane said. "Unless you've got light speed under the hood of that car, Eve."
Michael looked after him with a strange expression on his face--anger, regret, sorrow. Then he hugged Eve closer and kissed the top of her head.
"Well, I guess my family's no more screwed up than anybody else's," he said.
Eve nodded. "Let's recap. My dad was an abusive jerk--"
"Mine, too." Shane raised his hand.
"Thank you. My brother's a psycho backstabber--"
Shane said, "You don't even want to talk about my dad."
"Point. So, in short, Michael, your family is awesome by comparison. Bloodsucking, maybe. But kind of awesome."
Michael sighed. "Doesn't really feel like it at the moment."
"It will." Eve was suddenly very serious. "But Shane and I don't have that to look forward to, you know. You're our only real family now."
"I know," Michael said. "Let's go home."
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com