COLE DECIDED TO make the deconsecrated chapel their camp, and they spent their first thirty minutes or so unpacking supplies, finding a suitable tethering anchor for their horses and setting up. He spoke to the men then, telling him that they knew their business so he wouldn't be giving much in the way of orders. He just wanted them to be certain that they were ready at every minute to fend off a potential attack.

The men were all solemn. They nodded mutely at Cole's words.

And then they set out to explore the graves in the cemetery.

Beneath the jungle of wild grass, wildflowers and weeds, they found a number of graves with loose dirt. Dirt that seemed to have exploded upward from beneath the ground.

The men split into three divisions, the better to move through the cemetery. Though Megan was ready and willing to assist in the digging-and disposal-they insisted that she was best utilized keeping an eye on the forests that surrounded them.

And so she did.

The day was uneventful. Many corpses, appearing fresh, were dispatched according to Cole's prescription. Dickens let out a cry once, certain he had happened upon a vampire. Megan followed Cole to the grave and they stared at the body of a young man in a coffin, one who appeared as if he might open his eyes and speak.

"We'll do our usual, but I don't believe that this fellow has turned," Cole had said.

"Look at him!" Dickens had protested.

Cole had nodded. "I believe that's the work of a talented embalmer."

Newcomb was standing by them, as well. "Aye, lads! Some boys don't make it home, and in other cases...well, it is the embalmers and morticians who are making out like bandits. Every poor mother wants to look one last time on the countenance of her son, and the embalmers across this great country-or countries, as it may still prove to be-have worked endlessly to preserve those sons for their mother's eyes. Yes, see, on the coffin lid? Tweesdale and Sons, Morticians, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania."

They were all silent for a moment, then, looking at the soldier.

Then Newcomb had reached into the coffin and pulled out the body, shoving a stake through the heart.

"Never hurts to be certain," he'd said grimly.

"It never hurts," Cole had agreed.

The thing was, Megan wasn't so sure if Newcomb had staked the boy more for precaution, or more because he was irritated at the mortician's handiwork.

At dusk, the men built a cooking fire in the clearing before the chapel and brought out their mess. Megan had dined on hardtack and dried beef before, and she expected little other than sustenance. But one of the men, Wilson, had brought along a supply of herbs and seasoning, and he heated their meals with water, and the dried beef became more like a really edible, if not delicious, meal.

Newcomb carried a harmonica, and he played for a while as the men talked about their homes. They came from all over-New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland and Illinois. They were all fascinated by the West, and Cole told them what life was like out on the frontier. Then the conversation died away, and guard duty was divided for the night.

They'd arranged for Megan to have a little section for herself at the corner of the chapel, complete with a bedroll and a real blanket that they'd packed for her. She thanked them all for the courtesy, but when she lay down she realized that Cole wasn't in the chapel, and she rose, anxious to discover where he had gone.

She found him just outside, staring out over the graveyard.

He set an arm around her shoulder when she approached.

"We didn't find him," he said.

"Who?" she asked, thinking, despite all logic, that he might be referring to her father.

He turned to her and spoke softly. "Billy. We should have found him up here."

"We haven't finished yet," she told him.

He shook his head. "I'd hoped that we'd find him quickly and easily today, that he was seeking shelter here. But more and more I get the feeling that there is someone near us who started all this, someone who had an agenda. An agenda, of course, of death. They've been playing this almost like a military campaign. Create a disturbance in Washington, D.C. Gather a force of minions to attack, and if they're lost, so be it-men die in battles. This creature has loyalty only to itself, and doesn't care how many casualties of its own kind it creates. But it's smart enough to take a number of its victims under its wing, and teach them how to seduce and destroy targeted victims, if not much else. I think that Billy must be under that creature's power, and that he killed the ones who loved him most, first."

"We'll find him," she assured him gently. She hesitated then. "Cole, I thought I saw something when we first got here today."

"What?" he asked, turning to her.

"A shadow," she said.

He nodded, pulling her close. "Every time we dig up a recent corpse, we are thinning the numbers. But you're right. They're still out there." He tightened his hold around her. "Come on. Let's go and try to get some rest. Newcomb is on guard with three others now, and Dickens and I will take the hours closer to morning's light."

"They attack by day, too," she reminded him.

"But they can attack more freely at night. They can be one with the darkness."

She knew he was right. They walked back into the chapel together. Half of the men were sleeping, or resting, at least. Cole would have gone to lie beside them, on the bedroll laid out for him, but Megan held tight to his hand. "We can at least rest together," she said softly. He hesitated.

"I really don't care in the least what anyone thinks," she told him.

He came with her, and they lay down on the mat on the hard floor together. She tried to rest, glad of his warmth and his presence at her side, and of his arm around her.

But she lay awake, listening. She heard the cries of night birds, and in the far distance, the lonely screech of a bobcat.

Hours passed, and she thought that morning might come without incident.

That was when the vampires struck.

COLE JUMPED TO HIS FEET, instantly alert. He'd heard Newcomb's shout, and had been half-awake anyway, so it was only seconds later that he snatched up a bow and a quiver of arrows and rushed out the door of the church.

Newcomb and his men were defending admirably.

The things had come like winged harpies in the night, joining with the darkness of the sky. He watched as the massive shadows swooped down and was reminded of the battle they had fought at Victory. He realized that this wasn't really an attack-they had come on a scouting mission.

And still, they were deadly.

His days on the Texas plains had taught him the use of a bow, and he could string, aim and fire approximately twelve arrows in a minute. But aiming at flying creatures was difficult. Still, with his speed, they began to fall.

His Union soldiers were indeed battle ready and well trained. They formed an arc before the door to the chapel. The rest of the men spilled out of the church as well, each ready to fight. Bows and arrows, holy water, bowie knives and stakes-each was prepared.

Newcomb took it upon himself to finish off the beings as they fell to the earth, staking the wounded with swift accuracy. Dickens and Megan were busy creating smoking, writhing masses out of the fallen that had not yet been struck in the heart.

It was all a cacophony at first-a massive invasion of flapping noises. At times the things indeed appeared giant winged bats. The men shouted to one another words of warning, and in the first assault, it seemed that they worked as one, arrows bringing the creatures down, water pinning them and stakes finishing them off.

Then, suddenly, there was silence.

Newcomb let out a holler of victory. "We beat 'em back, boys! We beat 'em back!"

The others agreed, and Cole was reminded of the Rebel cry that had spilled across many a battlefield.

A shout that had too often ended in the gasp of death.

"Hold it! Hold it! That was just the first. Make sure you're rearmed. They'll be coming again."

The area was strewn with corpses. Some were little but bone and ash, and some appeared nearly as they had in life, as boys, dead boys, already abused by the brutality of war. All of them young, all of them some poor mother's son.

Cole looked over at Megan. She was just a few feet away, silent, still and listening.

"Is it over?" he asked her.

She shook her head. "It's just begun," she said softly.

They waited again, still and on the alert.

Cole could feel the men around them growing restless. "Steady," he said quietly.

Another few minutes passed.

Then Megan cried out, "I hear them-they're coming again! Be ready!"

This wave was larger than the last. But there were ten of the party arrayed in a semicircle, and they caught most of the creatures in the air. One landed and charged Newcomb, but the hardened sergeant was ready, thrusting his razor-honed stake deep into the chest of the vampire-soldier charging into him. The animal stopped, pinned on the stake, writhing. Newcomb shoved harder and it fell.

But more and more of them were reaching the ground. Cole drew out his knife, slashing with all his might against the throat of a Union artilleryman. The head fell to the side at an awkward angle.

"Cole!" Megan cried, and he spun around as the artilleryman fell, only to discover a Confederate cavalryman about to pounce on his back. He reached for a vial of holy water with a split second to spare and threw the contents of the vial into the man's face. It let loose with a horrible scream, writhed and shook and began to steam and smoke, and fell to the ground.

It had become all hand-to-hand battle.

Cole slashed through another several men, approaching one who had pinned a terrified Dickens to the ground. Cole ripped his throat out by grabbing his hair, pulling back his head and slicing viciously. The man fell and Dickens crawled out from beneath him.

He turned to see that Megan was surrounded-and drew another arrow through the bow he whipped off his shoulder, taking down one and then the next. Megan had the last, and, as they fell, she sprinkled more and more of the holy water on them until it seemed that the ground was nothing but a pool of viscous, smoky oil. A cry from Dickens and a sense that someone was behind him gave Cole fair warning; he didn't turn, just used both hands to shove a stake backward in a savage motion. He hadn't taken the creature in the heart, but he wounded it enough to turn and jab the stake in properly.

He rose, looking around, ready for the next combatant.

But there was none. The clearing was quiet again.

The men were silent, alert, twitching-ready for the next assault.

"Is everyone all right?" Cole asked. His voice seemed loud and harsh in the darkness and the sudden silence that surrounded them.

"Sound off!" Newcomb commanded, and the men did so.

They were all accounted for. They still stood, waiting. But nothing else happened. Nothing else came at them.

There were at least thirty creatures that had come for them, thirty that now were dead in truth. Thirty-and all of them soldiers, from the North and from the South. Cole thought drily that Maryland, Virginia, and now West Virginia, were all border lands, so it was natural that men of both loyalties should lie dead upon the soil.

He removed the last head and looked to the sky. The first light of morning was beginning to appear from the east.

It had been a long night.

He surveyed the dead and fallen again.

Still, there was no drummer boy among them.

THE MEN WERE COURTEOUS to a fault. They accepted the fact that Megan was good at what she did; she could defend herself with the best of them. But they were still men, and she was still a lady in their eyes, and they wouldn't accept her help in the final dispatch, or in hauling the remnants of the bodies out to the cemetery.

As morning dawned fully, Newcomb and his fellows built a great bonfire, throwing full corpses, and what remained of other corpses, into the blaze. And though they might have been destroyed as something else, the smell of the burning flesh was sickening-human-and Megan found herself remembering the Battle of the Wilderness, where it all seemed to have begun.

Cole stood with his hands on his hips, watching the blaze, and she stood beside him. Finally, she had to turn away.

They spent the rest of the afternoon walking the graveyard again, searching through the dead. But that afternoon the corpses they dug up had been long gone, and were in such serious stages of decay that there was no possibility they could rise by night.

Later that day, Megan realized that she couldn't stand the stench any longer-it seemed to linger on her. Dickens told her of a creek nearby, a freshwater creek that eventually flowed into the river below them.

"We can't split up," Cole said, frowning when Dickens noted that he could lead Megan to some privacy at the creek.

"Well, sir, I'd say that we're all beginning to be a bit-disgusting," Dickens said, looking at his hands. "It's not the dirt, though. It's-it's the bits of body clinging to me and the smell from the fire."

"Well, then, we'll all go together," Cole said.

Megan looked at him and arched a brow.

"We can find a bit of privacy for you-where we're all still within an easy holler," he said.

She smiled. Even in the midst of battlefields, she'd never been in a situation where men had to travel en masse to bathe.

"We could split up," Newcomb suggested.

"I don't like us being apart," Cole told him.

Megan touched Cole on the arm and said quietly, "Perhaps Sergeant Newcomb is right. I'm not sure we should leave our supplies untended."

He nodded, smiling slowly. "You're right."

She grinned in return. "Why, thank you."

It was decided. Newcomb, Hodges, and the three newcomers would stay behind while Dickens, Cole, Megan, and Banter and Briar made their way to the creek. It wasn't far-just a hundred yards downhill and through the trees.

The creek, splashing over rocks and falling downward toward the river, was beautiful. The water was cool and refreshing, and the air was clean. They set up a little area with a four-foot pool for Megan to have to herself while the men were upstream but a few yards, though divided by a slight bend in the creek and a thatch of trees.

She could hear them laughing as she enjoyed the brilliant blue of the water herself, and it made her smile. She scrubbed her hair with the bit of soap she'd been given, scrubbed her body and dipped low into the shallow water, shivering at the chill of it but delighted at the cleanliness it allowed her to feel.

She rose, smoothing back her wet hair, and opened her eyes.

There was a whooshing noise from above her. She ducked again instantly, and rose just as swiftly, looking around herself.

There were shadows. Shadows in the air, despite the sunlight. They were moving together toward the trees, and they seemed to be tumbling together as they disappeared into the canopy of the branches.

She blinked, and the sight was gone.

She blinked again, and the heavy sense of unease remained with her. She was facing the trees, and she could have sworn, again, that she saw something, heard something, and that there was movement in the forest.


She shouted his name, running from the water, heedless of the rocks and pebbles beneath her bare feet. She reached the shore and didn't bother to dry herself, but scrambled into her man's shirt and breeches, staring up at the trees.

Cole, with nothing but a shirt wrapped around his waist, came running around the soggy bank, nearly crashing into her. "What? Where?" he demanded quickly as he took her into his arms.

"There-there's something in the trees right there. Something that has been watching us!"

She stumbled back into her boots as the men-in their breeches and with their knives at the ready-came in Cole's wake.

"Let's get back to the embankment on the other side, get ourselves well armed," Cole said, drawing her with him.

Dickens stood protectively next to Megan while Cole gathered the rest of his clothing. "Stick together!" Cole ordered, heading into the woods with Megan at his side.

"What did you see, exactly?" he asked her.

"A shadow," she told him.

They walked in formation. That way, one of them looked in each direction. Cole paused suddenly, studying a branch that was newly broken, the green of the stem showing them that it hadn't been exposed long.

Megan looked around. "There! Just there, ahead!"

She'd seen it again. The shadow. Only it had flowed strangely. It had been real.... It had been substance.... It had been hiding in the trees. And when it moved, it had done so with a swish, as if it had if it wore shirttails that flowed behind it.

She ran forward, heedless of the others, but when she reached the location, Cole at her heels, there was nothing there.

"Megan!" he called. "Don't do it-don't go ahead like that! There's safety in numbers!"

"I'm sorry, Cole," she said. "I didn't mean to rush ahead so far."

He nodded. "I know you can handle yourself. But we all need help now and then, especially during the kind of onslaught we faced last night."

"Of course."

The others joined them. They started forward again, winding through the trees back toward the chapel rather than taking the established path.

A startled cry behind them caused them to spin around. Dickens and Newcomb's man, Hodges, remained.

The other soldier was gone.

Dickens shouted, "Henry, Henry, where are you?"

There was silence. The breeze didn't even ruffle a leaf.

"What in the name of Lucifer-he was here, he was right behind me, I could almost feel his breath on my neck!" Dickens said. "He cried out, and now he's gone! Vanished, as if into thin air."

"Tighten up, and don't split up!" Cole commanded. He looked at Megan. "Listen to me now, I beg of you-listen to me!"

She nodded, her heart heavy. The shadow had taken Henry.

They turned back and searched for the man. Almost arm in arm, they stayed that close, but they found no sign of Henry or any creature lurking in the woods. After what must have been hours, they headed back to the chapel with heavy hearts. They had to explain to Newcomb and his men.

"Maybe he'll make his way back," Dickens said hopefully.

"It was a mistake," Cole said flatly as they spoke with Newcomb, still on guard at the door to the chapel. "We've had a man picked off, and we never saw what happened, what took him. We searched-and he's gone."

"It was Henry," Dickens said mournfully. He hunched down, looking ill. "It was Henry. His wife just had a baby. A baby boy."

They were all silent.

"Well, then," Newcomb said at last. "I guess the rest of us will just stay dirty." He looked at Cole. "We need more men."

"It's too late to head down for reinforcements now," Cole said. "It'll be dark in another hour. It's time to shore up for the night. I think we're going to take a different approach. Megan, we need a seal of holy water around the chapel, maybe additionally around the windowsills, too, just in case. We're not going to fight them in the open. If they come tonight, we're going to shoot them out of the sky from within, and clean up when the major onslaught is over-when the light comes in the morning. They can be up and about in the light, but they're not as strong as they are in the night, not the wild ones.... Maybe, though, they'll all just let us get some rest tonight instead."

Megan nodded, and went into the chapel for the holy water. She started carefully, as they needed to guard their supply, but did her job thoroughly as she trailed a tiny stream of water around the circumference of the chapel.

She wanted to talk to Cole, but he was working with the men, setting up guard stations at the window and at the door. Eventually he pronounced them as ready as they would ever be, and that it was time for mess.

That's when she realized that she was starving.

The fire was lit again just outside the chapel door, and the men set about preparing a meal, though far more quietly than they had the night before. Given her cup of mushy hardtack and seasoned meat, Megan sat beside Cole and spoke softly.

"Cole, I saw it again today-there were two shadows. Two of them. One was coming for me. The other was trying to protect me."

He looked at her, and he set an arm around her shoulders. "Megan, your father could have caught a ship to Europe by now, for all you know."

"But he hasn't. I can feel it. But-"

"Megan, when they attack, we can't just stop and ask them all if they might happen to be your and Cody's father."

"I know that, Cole. But if one of them is my father, he won't be attacking us," she implored him to understand.

He didn't answer. He pulled her a little closer. He looked at her and smiled. "Your hair smells good."

She smiled in return. "And you smell delicious."

"Good enough to eat?"

"Of course."

He didn't allow himself much of a moment of tenderness. He eased from her and rose, gathering her all-purpose bowl and his own to their small wash bucket to rinse out. When he was done, he addressed the others. "We'll feed the fire now and let it burn as long as it will. They don't like fire."

The men rose, gathering bracken and branches to keep the fire going as the darkness of the coming night settled down upon them in earnest.

Megan caught Cole's hand as he surveyed the night sky and waited for the soldiers to finish their task.

"There's something more, Cole."

He gazed down at her, his forehead wrinkling into a frown. "What?"

"I saw a skirt."

He stared at her, truly puzzled. "What?"

"When I ran ahead today...when I'd seen something in the trees directly in front of us, I saw a long fabric trailing the shadow. I think it was a skirt. Cole, our evil creature could be a woman."

He sighed, grimacing. "Megan, you don't like Lisette. I understand that. I don't like many of her ways myself. But to accuse her of being the mastermind of all vampires is stretching the imagination a bit, don't you think?"

"First, I didn't accuse Lisette. And secondly, if she's old and practiced at her existence, she could very well have fooled us all. But I wasn't implying that it was Lisette. I'm simply telling you."

He nodded in agreement, but she thought that he doubted her words. Then a curious cast came to his eyes and she almost backed away.

Yes, it could be a woman. She was a woman, and he knew the truth about her.

She turned away and walked into the chapel, taking up a position at one of the windows. They were down to nine. The chapel had ten windows, two in front, two in the back and three on each side. She watched as the men boarded up the rear, hacking up pieces of broken pews to nail across the windows. They determined to leave the front unbarricaded, should they need to flee amid fighting, but also as a lure, where they could focus their firepower on the horde if it came through all at once.

It seemed, as the last nail drove home, that the lanterns inside did nothing to ease the cast of darkness and shadow now upon them. The men took up stances at the windows, vials of holy water toyed with in some of their hands.

Hours passed. Cody gave alternate men leave to doze at their posts.

More time passed.

And then, it came. The attack.

But it wasn't as it had been the night before.

They heard a cry from the copse outside the chapel door.

Dickens was guarding at one of the front windows.

"It's Henry!" he cried with delight. He started for the door.

Cole caught him by the shoulders, swinging him around. "Dickens-it's not Henry. Listen to me, and listen well. It's not Henry-not the Henry you knew anymore!"

Megan came to look out the window, and she saw that Henry was standing there, indeed, just as Dickens had said. He stood casually by the remnants of fire, where only the embers still glowed red. He set his hands on his hips and called out to them.

"Hey! What's the matter with you all? I was lost, you idiots, and you left me out there. But I've found my way back and you've barricaded the place against me! Hey, come on, you asses! Open the door, let me in!"

Cole picked up his bow, slinging a quiver over his shoulder. He took out one of his specially hewn arrows and set his sights on Henry.

"Stop!" Dickens begged. "What if it is Henry? What if he really was lost."

"Dickens, it can take several bites for a man to become a vampire, or a good strike can turn him immediately, and he's been gone now a while. We have do what we have to do."

"But he sounds just like Henry!" Dickens said.

"It's not Henry, son," Sergeant Newcomb said.

Cole was about to fire.

But none of them was quick enough to stop Dickens. He threw the door open and ran heedlessly to his comrade.

What happened then happened so quickly that Megan wasn't sure of what she saw herself. Dickens nearly reached Henry. Henry opened his mouth and let out a cry like a wolf, and he looked at Dickens with fangs exposed and saliva dripping. He lifted off the ground and started toward the hapless soldier.

But Cole had been ready.

His arrow flew, catching Henry dead center in the heart.

Henry seemingly froze in midair for a minute, and then dropped to the ground.

"Get the hell in here, now, Dickens!" Newcomb bellowed, and the young corporal, frozen in shock, his jaw agape, didn't even blink.

"Now!" Newcomb shouted.

Cole burst past Newcomb, going for the young man. He grabbed him by the cuff of his shirt and jerked him back, dragging him to the chapel door. Just as they reached it, a flurry of noises arose from the trees and everything seemed to come at them at once-flopping, massive-winged shadows.

Cole nearly threw Dickens inside and turned just in time to fend off one of the shades. Megan backed from the window, her heart in her throat as she lobbed vial after vial of holy water. The men had sprung to, as well, and they used their stakes and axes against the onslaught of wings.

The area at the door began to smoke, sizzle and steam. Cole came back in and slammed the door in his wake; they could no longer afford to keep an opening. All their own fire would have to be through the windows. Hodges understood the situation immediately; he hurriedly dragged one of the remaining pews to set against the door.

The fluttering suddenly came to a dead stop.

Dickens was on the floor, but he quickly stood up, his stance tall.

"For the love of God, forgive me!" he said. "So help me God, I will not fail or falter again, or be caught off guard."

"Get back to your post. They're coming again," was all Cole said.

The men ran to their window posts, ready when the siege began.

The horde struck the left side of the chapel, and Megan raced to join the men there, a quiver of arrows over her shoulder and a sack of holy-water vials in hand.

"To the right!" Newcomb cried.

"Hold your posts. Let Megan be the reinforcement," Cole ordered. "Watch it!"

"There, there! Right there!"

"Steady boys...steady..."

And so they fought, and so the voices went on for the next thirty minutes. They had realized quickly any weakened position would be targeted, and that none could be left unmanned for too long. Megan moved from position to position, throwing herself past Hodges when she saw that one had gotten partway through the window. She felt the scrape of a fang against her arm, but she knew it would do her little harm; she merely prayed that Hodges, or the other men, hadn't seen it.

When it ended, she was exhausted. And yet they had to maintain their vigilance, for another attack could commence at any minute.

"How long until daylight?" one of the soldiers asked wearily.

"Just another hour, son, just another hour," Newcomb said.

They waited.

But once again, they would find the mode of attack had changed.

Megan heard it first. A beat. A drumbeat. She saw Cody stiffen, and they all listened to the steady rat-tat-tat-tat of a drummer boy's drum, the beat that led men as they marched into war.

The sound came right up to the chapel door.

And then it stopped.