SERGEANT NEWCOMB WAS a man who struck Megan as the type of father she would have dearly loved to have had. She reminded herself that she'd been raised by a wonderful stepfather, and she should just be grateful for that fact. But Newcomb was endearing to her nonetheless.

He limped down the aisle to them. "I believe we'll be here for about an hour or so. They're adding more supplies and taking on a few more passengers."

"Thank you," Cole said. "We'll detrain for the time? Maybe find a restaurant where we can get something to eat."

"There is a place in the St. James Hotel, just up the street," Newcomb told them.

"Will you join us, Sergeant?" Megan asked him.

Newcomb shook his head. "We'll remain here, miss, to watch the provisions. You go and have a nice meal, some proper sustenance."

Cole grinned. He whispered in her ear, "Maybe we can find a very rare steak."

She forced a smile. "I certainly hope so. You always do smell good enough to eat," she replied covertly.

To her surprise, he laughed. "All right, I deserved that one! Come on, then, let's hurry. An hour isn't that long."

"I hope not. I think we might have gotten there much more quickly on our own," she said, chaffing.

"In the best of conditions, it's a day on horseback. And given the terrain-and what might be found on such a journey-the train is our best bet," Cole assured her. "Besides, with what we might be facing, we have to be supplied, and rested."

"All right. Let's find a rare steak, then," she said.

They walked through the station to the street, where they were directed to the hotel. There were many men in uniform about, and there were many men who must have been in uniform at one time or another, their shirt-sleeves clipped at the elbow, where their arms ended, or moving awkwardly on crutches, lower limbs missing. Women moved along raised sidewalks, and here, too, though some sights showed clearly that a war was in progress, people went about their daily lives. At the hotel restaurant they were ushered to a table, and an elderly waiter took their order. There was no beef to be had, so they settled on chicken.

"I'm sorry," Cole told Megan.

"I'll be fine. I have my...basket that Cody and Alex prepared."

Their plates had just arrived when she saw Cole suddenly stiffen, looking toward the doorway.

"What is it?" Megan asked.

"Trudy," he said, frowning. "Alone."

Megan tried to discern who this Trudy was that had seized his attention. She felt a fluttering of jealousy, no matter how she warned herself that she was certainly not the object of any real affection from Cole.

She was startled to realize that he was looking at a small, mousy little woman. She was tiny, extremely thin, and seemed to be slightly bent over. She wore gold-wired glasses, and wore her hair in an unflattering bun.

"Trudy?" she persisted.

"She's Lisette's assistant," Cole explained, rising. "Excuse me."

He walked across to the entry, startling the woman as he greeted her. She offered him a shy, meek smile, and then followed him across the room.

"Trudy Malcolm, this is Megan Fox. Megan, Miss Trudy Malcolm," Cole said, politely introducing the two.

"How do you do," Megan said politely.

Even at that, the young woman blushed. "I'm fine, thank you. I didn't mean to disturb your lunch."

"You're not disturbing us. Please. Sit down," Cole urged her.

"Oh, no, really, I..."

"Please, Miss Malcolm, we would very much enjoy for you to join us. Were you about to have a late lunch?" Megan asked.

"Yes, but-"

"I'll have our waiter bring another chair," Cole said firmly, and insisted that Trudy take his seat while he arranged another for himself.

The woman sat, looking so miserable that Megan wondered if they shouldn't have just let her be.

"So, where is Miss Annalise?" Megan asked, not wishing to let the young woman sit there in painfully awkward silence.

"Oh, well, Lisette went on into Harpers Ferry on the late-afternoon train that left last evening. I'm to board the train in about an hour."

"The train we're on?" Megan said. She forced a smile, but her mind was working. So, Lisette Annalise was already at Harpers Ferry.

And men had been savagely killed overnight.

But the attack on the children had been last night, too. Of course, they knew that there were a number of the creatures at work in D.C. still and at Harpers Ferry.

But she had dreamed that Lisette was a vicious blood-sucker. After Cole!

"Well, you'll be on our train, then," Megan said cheerfully.

Cole had garnered another chair and he pulled it up to the side of the table. Their elderly waiter was a bit slow in adding another setting to the table, but they all waited patiently. Eventually, Cole told him, "We have to be back at the train, my good sir, if you'd be good enough to bring us a plate as quickly as possible for this young lady?"

The waiter nodded.

"Thank you," Trudy murmured.

"I must admit, I'm surprised to see you alone," Cole said. "I thought it was your job to follow along with Lisette."

"Oh, it is!" she said quickly. "But we came here quite late, and Lisette ordered me to just rest for the night. I believe she thought that I was a bit of a hindrance, that I wasn't moving quickly enough for her. She can be very impatient." She seemed disturbed. "It's my job, of course, to see to such mundane things as accommodations, and I should have gone ahead of Lisette, but...well, events move quickly. I do my best to be of service."

"I'm sure you do," Cole told her.

Megan noted that he was kind to the shy, unattractive woman, and she liked him all the more for his careful courtesy. Still, she couldn't help but wonder what his relationship with Lisette Annalise had been. The woman was certainly a powerhouse. She went after what she wanted, and she had evidently wanted Cole.

And? Had she had him? She'd implied that they'd been close. Intimately close.

Megan told herself that she seriously needed to remember the business at hand-and to stop indulging in this growing fascination over Cole and his life. He was a Texan, for God's sake. A sheriff. A human who knew all about vampires. A man who considered her to be...a monster, still, no matter what his words or his apparent trust.

Trust...she had earned.

Fine, so she was jealous. That didn't entirely preclude rational thought. And Lisette had been in Harpers Ferry, and more people had been killed. Lisette had been in Washington, D.C., when other horrible things had happened there, though, apparently, not when the children had been attacked. And, if she was to be honest with herself, the figure last night had been in a long coat and a broad hat. The figure had appeared to be that of a man, before it became a whirling shadow shooting into the sky.

"Lisette is, of course, brilliant," Trudy said, defending the woman.

"She is an excellent actress," Cole agreed.

Megan found herself clinging to those words. He hadn't said that Lisette was beautiful, or that she was a wonderful person. He had just stated that she was quite the actress.

"And she is energetic, and dedicated," Trudy said loyally.

"Very dedicated," Cole agreed.

The waiter brought Trudy's chicken. As he did so, a woman let out a cry from a table near them. Cole and Megan were both instantly on their feet, seeking out the problem.

"Joshua, my boy, my poor child...!"

She was just two tables down from them, and she was on her knees next to a boy of about eight or nine who had collapsed at the table.

Cole was at her side in two steps, inspecting the boy's eyes and face closely. "Is there somewhere I can take the child?" he asked.

The elderly waiter could move when necessary. "There are downstairs guest rooms-right this way, sir!" he told Cole.

Cole gently cradled the collapsed child in his arms and followed the man. The woman was right behind him, Megan behind her.

They came to a nicely appointed guest room and Cole laid the boy out on the bed. He turned to the hovering older woman. "Has he been ill?"

"Just...just this morning. He said that he was feeling weak, and I thought that I should I take him for a good meal and that would make him feel better. His father is far away fighting, and his mother died a few months ago, and...he's all that gives us hope!" She was hysterical, her hands grasping at each other desperately.

"I'll ask after a doctor," the waiter said.

"There's no time," Cole said briskly. "I need medical tubing and two surgical needles. The soldiers will have the supplies on the train."

He stared at Megan.

You're not a doctor! Cody is, she mouthed to him.

"I need the supplies!" was his only reply.

As she turned to head out and run for the train, she nearly tripped over Trudy Malcolm, who had silently followed her. Megan couldn't waste time being gentle. She moved the young woman out of the way, tore out of the hotel and ran back down the street to the train. Sergeant Newcomb saw her coming and raced toward her, moving very quickly for a man with a limp.

"Cole needs a medical supply bag. I didn't know that we-"

"I'll get it."

She nodded as he turned and ran. She waited-for too long, it felt!-but the bag wasn't packed anywhere at the rear of the train, and upon his return Newcomb yelled that he had to look among their things in the passenger car. Megan thanked him, and she hurried back up to the hotel.

"You could kill the boy!" Trudy was saying as Megan burst back into the room, her meek voice filled with horror.

"Mrs. Osterly, is it? Ma'am, I honestly believe this is the only chance the boy has to survive," Cole said, looking intently at the nervous woman.

Megan glanced at the boy. He was almost parchment-white. "He's right," she said.

"Oh, I don't know. Joshua..." The older woman spoke in a whisper, still wringing her hands.

Megan went up to the boy and touching his cheek. Upon his throat she saw the telltale marks.

Sometimes, vampires struck in a wild frenzy, hungry, and in a swift killing mode.

Sometimes, they were subtle, taking enough to slowly drain the life from a victim.

This boy was near death from total blood loss.

"This gentleman is right," she said, her voice strong with conviction. "The child will die without a transfusion. They've been done by several doctors on both sides of the conflict, and I've been involved, as has Mr. Granger. I will stake my life that we can save the boy."

Mrs. Osterly smoothed back a stray strand of graying hair and looked at Megan.

She nodded. "Yes. Give him a chance!" she managed.

"Height," Cole said. "Megan?"

She nodded, and quickly added cushions and pillows to one side of the bed. She lay down and bared her arm. Cole went through the medical bag and found the needles and tubes that were necessary. He tied a tourniquet around her arm.

"Have you done this before?" she asked him in a whisper.

"Not alone," he whispered back. "Do you trust me?"

She met his steady gaze. She nodded.

She closed her eyes and felt the pinch of the needle. She'd given blood so recently she thought she might black out. It seemed she could feel it flowing from her veins. She closed her eyes and tried to think of daylight, of beautiful days in rich green meadows with the sun shining overhead. She tried to think of the sound of a brook rushing over rocks....

She saw the beautiful meadow, the dazzling water.... And then shadow. The dark shadow that came to ruin the brilliance of the day.

She opened her eyes.

She was still in the guest room at the St. James Hotel, and Cole was still leaning over her. She had blacked out. She had frightened herself back to consciousness.

Cole was looking at her with concern creating dark storms in his eyes. Tension knitted his brow and tightened his features. "Are you all right?" he asked anxiously.

She nodded. "Joshua?" she asked weakly.

Cole nodded gravely.

She tried to offer him a weak smile. "I guess you're not a bad doctor."

He shook his head. "I shouldn't have used you. I shouldn't have used your blood."

She started to rise, feeling just a little dizzy. "I do have the best blood."

"Easy," he said.

She looked around. They were alone in the room.

"Where is everyone?" she asked.

"I'm here!" Trudy said, waving a hand from the doorway, then, apparently, feeling that she had intruded, she stepped back.

"Well, thank you," Megan said, trying to make her feel welcome, yet hoping that she and Cole hadn't said anything that they wouldn't have wanted the young woman overhearing.

Trudy got up the courage to step into the room again. "I-I took the liberty of having the waiter prepare bundles of food for you, too."

"That was very thoughtful," Megan told her.

"Yes, and, if you can, we need to move. They've delayed the train, but can't do so for long," Cole said.

"No, no, I'm fine. Just so long as the boy..." Her voice trailed as she tried to rise and nearly fell back. Cole caught her, steadying her.

"You're not all right," he said.

"I will be...if we can just get to the train."

"Lean on me," he said.

"I seem to be doing that a lot lately," she murmured.

"Ah, but that's because we keep using you," he teased in a whisper, for her ears only.

She likely would have flushed, had she enough blood left to rush anywhere.

"Come on, now," Cole said.

His arm was around her and she leaned heavily against him, allowing him to lead her through the door and out to the hallway. A crowd had gathered, their waiter among them, a number of the diners from the restaurant, as well. Guests had come into the hallway, and she saw several men in suits and hats with notebooks, writing and drawing furiously as she walked into the hallway. She and Cole were met with applause.

Mrs. Osterly came hurrying toward them from a nearby doorway, her smile brilliant and lighting up her face, though tears still dampened her cheeks.

"He's so much better already! Joshua has color and opened his eyes and spoke to me-and he's telling me that he's hungry!"

"We're grateful to hear that," Cole said.

"Very," Megan agreed.

"There must be a way to repay you.... I have some money," she offered.

"Stay well and survive," Cole told her. "Keep the lad in at night, and keep him wearing that cross I gave him. That's payment enough."

"Pray!" said a man from the crowd.

"Prayer and belief are always good," Megan said.

Mrs. Osterly walked up and kissed her cheek. Her voice was tremulous as she said, "You gave my grandson your blood! May God protect and bless you!"

A bright light suddenly burned her eyes and a puff of smoke filled the room. One of the newspapers had sent a photographer to the hotel. Megan blinked furiously, and Cole said, "Excuse us, please, we must be on the train."

"This way, this way, come along!" The speaker was Sergeant Newcomb, who was waiting at the hotel's main door alongside Gerald Banter. The two had come to bring them back with an escort so that they wouldn't be waylaid further by the crowd.

Cole led her through the mass of people to the doorway. She realized that meek little Trudy Malcolm was hurrying along behind them, the medical bag now in her hands. They walked down the street to the station with applause and well wishes following them. Michael Hodges was waiting at the top of the steps to their car and reached down to help her in. Cody followed, then Trudy and then Sergeant Newcomb and Gerald Banter.

"Let's get her to her seat," Cold said.

"I'm all right," she protested.

"You're going to need one of the drinks Cody sent," Cole told her firmly.

He ushered her into a seat by one of the small oval windows and sat down next to her. "She's fine!" he told the others. "She just needs some rest now, gents. And Miss Malcolm, if we can give her a little peace...!"

"Oh! I'm back here, if you need me," Trudy said.

As she sat, and waited for Cole to find the blood in the travel bag beneath her seat, she noted that Sergeant Newcomb had the medical bag, and apparently intended to keep guard over it. Cole produced a canteen, and she drained its contents quickly. Almost immediately, she felt revived.

"I'm better!" she assured him.

"Rest anyway. It's not far now. Close your eyes, and rest. It may be that you'll need your strength. Soon."

He reached for her, pulling her head down to his shoulder.

She liked it. She wanted to reimagine her rich meadow with Cole there at her side. With the sound of bubbling water near, and the sun overhead. She wanted to dream....

A dream in which there would be no black-winged shadows.

THE ROCKING of the train's motion, and even the click-clacking of the wheels, had a lulling effect. Megan seemed to be sleeping peacefully enough against him, and Cole was careful not to move, lest he disturb her.

They'd traveled slowly, the engineer ever vigilant for track sections that guerilla troops had managed to rip out or damage. They passed through the rolling country and headed toward the mountains, and giant, beautiful bluffs, purple and orange in the waning of the day, began to appear before them. Cole wasn't tired. He'd actually had several hours of sleep the night before. But the motion was so lulling that he'd begun to doze himself when he heard the first faint thud on the top of the train car.

He was instantly alert, and he sat rigid for several seconds, waiting.

No one else seemed to have noticed anything.

And there was nothing else...

Then he heard sound again. There was something moving stealthily atop the car.

He eased himself up, trying to slide Megan to lean against the side of the car, but she was instantly awake. She didn't cry out in alarm; she looked at him tensely, waiting.

"On top of the car," he said quietly, pointing up.

She nodded. He rose, moving back to Sergeant Newcomb, who had been dozing, rocking along with the motion of the train. He touched Newcomb and the sergeant was quickly awake and aware, as well.

"I'm going out back," he whispered. "Guard the front of the car. Take one of the knives, and if anyone tries to enter, go straight for the throat."

Newcomb nodded. "And decapitation," he said flatly. "Soldiers! To your posts," he said in a low voice as he tapped each one awake. The soldiers on board got up, deftly negotiating the tight aisle space. Newcomb and one of the men headed directly for the front of the car as the other two men began to follow Cole to the rear.

"Oh, dear Lord! What's happening?" Trudy cried out.

"Sit tight and stay quiet," Cole told her, pausing by her side to bring his fingers to his lips in a warning motion. He realized that Megan was by his side.

"Sit. You can't be strong enough," he told her.

"But I am," she assured him flatly.

"Megan, please?"

"Cole, I'll settle for giving you the lead," she said and looked at him. "We don't know how many there are," she reminded him.

No, he didn't know their numbers. Nor did he know their power....

"Why, Miss Fox," Sergeant Newcomb said. "You sit down. I've been on trains under attack before."

"Not like this, Sergeant Newcomb," Cole said firmly. "She knows what she's doing, and we can use all hands, honestly."

Megan looked at him for a moment with eyes full of appreciation. Then, suddenly, she was all business and supplied herself from the box they had quickly split open in the aisle. She followed Cole to the back.

Hodges was waiting by the rear door, ready to let them out. When he opened the door, Cole grasped the edging to gain his balance before straining with his all his might to pull himself up to the top of the moving car. He ducked low, aware that he might have been heard.

It seemed that Megan came up beside him with far less effort.

He saw a being ahead, clinging to the roof of the train car and bending low to push at the windows. Crouching low, Cole balanced for a minute, then moved quickly down the length of the car, learning to move with the sway of the train as he did so.

He moved quickly to reach the figure and didn't dare take the time to ask questions. With all his speed and force he pounced upon the creature's back, catching its hair and drawing his bowie knife across its throat.

There was no blood. The effort was minimal. The head came off in his hand without being severed.

He quickly tossed the head and the body over the roof.

"Cole!" Megan cried.

He turned just in time to keep himself from being swept off the roof of the car. The creature that flew at him came in a dark fury, not even a fully solid form at first, only becoming so as they both crashed down flat and hard on the roof.

The creature stood up quickly though. It stood over him, this thing that had once been a Southern cavalry soldier now missing half of its face, the other half offering a one-eyed stare as malignant and evil as anything Cole had ever seen. The mouth opened, and fangs seemed to sparkle as they dripped saliva. With all his force, Cole kept the creature at bay, straining to get his knee and leg up to kick the thing away from him. At last he accomplished the task and sprang to a crouch, ready for the next attack.

But the creature didn't come at him again. It let out an unholy scream and began to smoke, twist, wriggle and writhe. He saw Megan behind him, an empty bottle of holy water in hand. He reached into his belt satchel for a stake and dove at the being, slamming the stake down hard into the heart. In a flash, the smoking creature became deadweight and fell at his feet. It rolled and fell from the moving train.

As Cole stared at Megan, gasping for breath, he saw something else emerging from the darkening sky, heading her way.

"Megan, duck!" he ordered and pulled out another stake. Bracing himself, he waited for the flying object so intent on bringing down Megan. Lunging forward, he managed to catch the shadow on the stake, and, using the momentum of the weight that came flapping heavily against him to press hard, prayed that he had struck somewhere near its shapeless heart.

He'd struck, but he hadn't managed a dead aim. The thing became fully solid, in the form of a man, this one in a Union artillery uniform. It was injured but still fighting, still desperately hungry and still clinging to what had become its existence. Cole slashed at the thing. He cut its flesh, and, though catching the throat, realized he wasn't getting his cuts in deeply enough.

To avoid the chomping fangs, he grabbed the thing and rolled off the roof.

He desperately grabbed at the upper railing, losing his bowie knife but catching hold. To his horror, the thing didn't roll and go flying from the moving train.

The thing clung stubbornly to his back.

It was desperate, too.

Their position was perilous. Cole's legs were swinging wildly and the effort to hold on was like fire ripping down his arms. He tried to shake the thing off, but its fingers were gripped into his back like talons. He knew that he couldn't hold long, even if its fangs didn't strike into his nape or his shoulder.

But the thing clinging to him made a hideous shrieking sound, desperate. He wasn't going to be able to shake it. He had to get back on top of the train and free his hands to draw another weapon.

With all his might he strained. But then he saw that Megan was above him, casting vial after vial of holy water onto the creature-it began to shake and ease its hold. He twisted to look over his shoulder and see it turning darker and darker, see the flesh turn to ash and blow in the wind.

Briefly a skull appeared beneath the dark and smoking ash, and then the bones disarticulated and fell, some clattering away from the tracks, some crunching loudly beneath the iron wheels. Megan gave Cole an arm, drawing him back to the roof. They fell there for a moment together, gasping. Then he pushed from her, rising in a leap, balancing carefully and turning around and around.

One more shadow came out of the air that had turned into mist as they came closer and closer into the foothills of the mountains.

Cole reached into his pocket, drawing out a vial, hitting the shape before it could take full form and substance. It shrieked, crashing down just inches before them, flapping its parts, banging wildly with arms and legs as it burned and sizzled in horrible throes. Megan, behind him, tossed another vial, and the thing began to burn in earnest. He drew a stake from his coat, pinned the creature straight through the heart and then kicked the whole of the burning, decaying, disjointed creature from the roof of the train car.

Again, the two of them adopted a defensive stance. And waited, ready for whatever might come.

Cole could hear it. The things made a sound when they came sweeping down. And he knew that the one coming was older, wiser. It didn't rush.

It landed feet away from them on the swaying surface of the roof. Megan was ready; from a crouched stance, she rushed forward, hurling holy water with a speed and accuracy that surprised even Cole. It surprised the creature, which just stood there, screeching, burning.

She turned to look at Cole.

"Cole!" Megan cried. "Duck!"

"From where-?"

"No-the railway tunnel!"

He collapsed face-first in the nick of time. The quivering, shrieking thing was dashed against the granite archway of the bridge. Its cry was cut off, and it was as if a silence now issued from the thing. Bursting into a thousand pieces, it blew away, one with the darkness.

Cole inched closer to Megan as the blackness of the tunnel and the coming night overwhelmed them. He reached for her, drawing her tightly against him until they had cleared the tunnel.

And yet, the sky barely lightened. They were nearing Harpers Ferry, and the heights around it, and the mountains were now rising like massive shadows, deep violet against the gray of the sky. Night was nearly fully upon them.

"They're gone, I believe," Cole said after a minute.

"They-they seemed to be starving. I don't think they were part of any band.... I don't see any more of them.... And I don't-hear them."

"The other cars-" Cole began, straining to see in the darkness. But he could detect nothing more either before them or behind them.

"It's over," Megan told him. "It's really over."

It was over, but he knew their real ordeal was just beginning.

They were coming into Harpers Ferry where the Shenandoah and Potomac met, where great peaks looked over deep valleys. Where John Brown had determined to free the slaves, and instead, a freed black man had been among the first to die.

Where the abolitionists had been given their cause, and bloodshed had come early.

By night, it was oddly beautiful to roll closer and closer to the depot. To see the majesty of nature in the massive cliffs, feel the soft, cool air as it rushed around them.

And still...

The cliffs and valleys held secret places where evil could dwell, where the unwary might be taken, where evil could abide.

And watch.

And wait.

The mist grew denser. The train began to chug over the bridge and then slow. Cole could see the station ahead.

They had arrived.