After an uneasy night where Kenny took pains to avoid touching Lisa, even by accident, the morning dawned bright and clear for a change. It was hard to believe in vampires in the cold, clear light of day.
“I’m going back to my house,” Kenny announced, after he had showered and come downstairs. Crystal sat at the breakfast table with her usual bowl of cereal. He planned to contact his father as soon as he was away from Lisa’s place. The vampire slept during the day, so they should be safe enough, and his father would know what to do. He didn’t for a minute plan on keeping the vampire’s secret, no matter what Lisa thought about it.
Crystal looked up from her bowl of cereal, her clear blue eyes pinning him in place just as he was about to stand up. “Johnny trusts you.”
Kenny sat down in surprise. “So you knew about the vampire all this time too,” he commented, pouring himself a second cup of coffee. He shuddered to think of the vampire feeding on Crystal. Lisa was upstairs, getting dressed. It was just as well, because Kenny wasn’t sure how he felt about her right this minute. Crystal was so young. It didn’t seem fair that she had to be a part of this. Kids her age should be playing with their friends, not dealing with ancient teenage vampires. “What do you mean he trusts me?”
Crystal shrugged. “He asked me about you, and I told him I trust you, so he said he would too.”
“You talk to him?”
“Yeah, he’s my friend.”
Kenny couldn’t fathom the idea of a vampire friend. He pushed up from the table and grabbed his coat and keys. “Well, I don’t trust him, and you shouldn’t either. Tell your mother I’ll be back this afternoon.”
Crystal shook her head, a soft smile playing on her lips. Kenny would learn.
Kenny didn’t wait for Lisa to come back downstairs. For once, he had to get out of that house and clear his head. He had a lot of thinking to do. He didn’t blame Lisa entirely. She was obviously under the vampire’s thrall. From the look of her neck, he fed on her quite viciously and who knew how often—years, probably. He felt his own neck, and although it itched fiercely, there was no sign of a wound. He would have to ask his father about that. Why didn’t the vampire leave a deeper mark? Kenny had seen his sharp teeth, had felt them. He felt out of his depth. The vampire wanted knowledge that only the hunters had, and Kenny was not at all certain that he knew as much as the vampire thought he did. He only knew what his father had passed down to him. It had been enough for him to identify and kill the vampire four years ago, according to the ancient protocol, but apparently even that had been incorrect, because the vampire was still alive. If you could call what that creature was ‘alive.’
Was it a mistake to beg Lisa to come back to Lockwood? If he had only let Lisa go four years ago, would any of this have happened? But even if Lisa had been safe, the vampire had not died. It must have continued to feed all this time, so in reality, no one in Lockwood was safe. No matter what Lisa thought, it was his duty to eliminate the threat to society that the vampire posed. Crystal he discounted completely. She was too young to know any better.
One thing puzzled him, however. If the vampire had been living in Lockwood for the past four years, where was the trail of deaths that should have followed it? He pulled into his own driveway and shut off the engine. His father would know. Maybe they could get Lisa and Crystal out of there before sunset tonight. Then, once they were out of the way, it would be easier to concentrate on hunting down and eliminating the vampire.
Kenny dialed the phone, relieved when someone picked up on the second ring. “Dad?”
There was a pause on the other end. “It’s not Dad,” said a voice that was terrifyingly familiar. “He’s unable to come to the phone right now.”
Kenny dropped the phone and sagged against the wall. The vampire was at his parents’ house in Rhode Island! How was that even possible? It was, Kenny glanced at his watch, ten in the morning! He scrabbled for the phone again and talked into it. “Are they okay?”
The voice on the other end chuckled ominously. “Depends. Are you going to betray me, hunter?”
Kenny cursed. “What did you do to them?”
“You didn’t answer me, hunter,” the vampire said implacably.
“No, NO!” Kenny shouted, “I won’t betray you, all right? Just—don’t hurt them. Leave them alone.”
“I like your house, Kenny,” the vampire remarked. “Maybe I’ll stay here for a while longer.” With a click, the phone disconnected.
Kenny slammed the phone down and ran out of the house. It would take him a good hour to get to his parents’ house. Dread coiled around his intestines. How had the vampire done it? Gotten to Rhode Island in broad daylight? Crystal was wrong. The vampire didn’t trust him at all.
In Kenny’s childhood bedroom, Johnny lay back on the narrow bed and chuckled to himself. He had the shades closed tightly, but still the light of the sun pulled at him, sapping his strength and his energy. It was a stupid thing to come here, but hopefully he had gotten his point across to the stubborn hunter.
He heard a car pull up, and much as he was tempted to stay and sample the lovely Mrs. Brown again, that would be sending the wrong message to her son. He needed the hunter on his side, willing or no. With a sigh, Johnny got up and slipped out the back way.
Lisa was searching frantically for her car keys when he waltzed back into her house, sunburned and ravenous. He peeled off his hooded jacket and gloves and tossed her the keys, and she stared at him. “You went outside?” she asked him in astonishment. “You took my car? What’s wrong with you!”
Johnny grinned tiredly, but he kept his distance. As bad as he felt right now, he didn’t want to be anywhere near Lisa. “Where’s the hunter?” he asked, knowing full well the fool was probably well on his way to Rhode Island by now. They had most likely passed each other on the way.
“He went home,” Lisa said, then her eyes widened. “Did you go after him?” she asked.
“Not exactly.” Johnny laughed softly. “I think he believes me now, though,” he said. “I owe you for gas.” With that, he turned around and swiftly left Lisa’s house without ever looking for Crystal. He was too dangerous right at the moment. Instead, he made his way down to the lake, not even bothering to find blood first. The water would heal him, and then the night would make him whole.
Kenny screeched to a halt in his parents’ driveway and ran into the house. “Mom! Dad!” he shouted urgently. The house was too quiet.
“In here, dear!” Mrs. Brown called from the kitchen. She filled the coffee pot with water and flipped the switch to start it brewing. “What a nice surprise! I didn’t know you were coming out today.” She got two cups from the cupboard and placed them on the small kitchen table. “You’re in luck! I went grocery shopping this morning and have a fresh apple pie. Would you like some ice cream with it?”
Kenny stood still in the middle of the kitchen, his brow creased in confusion. “Grocery shopping?” he said stupidly. “Where’s Dad?”
Mrs. Brown waved her arm. “Oh, you know your father. He went in to work early this morning. Some big case he had to wrap up. He’ll be sorry he missed you.” She cut a slice of pie and scooped ice cream onto it without waiting for Kenny’s reply.
He strode over to her and cupped her chin, turning her head from side to side. “Do you feel okay? You don’t have any rashes, do you?” He studied her face anxiously.
“I feel fine.” His mother beamed at him, and poured the coffee. “Come on. Sit down and tell me all about you and Lisa and Crystal. I don’t get to see you nearly enough.”
Still confused, Kenny let himself be led to the table. He sat and talked with his mother, but his mind was a million miles away. What was the vampire up to? “Was anybody else here this morning?” he asked abruptly.
“No, why? Were you expecting someone?”
“No.” He smiled at his mother. “I just wanted to see you,” he said. “I’ll try to stop by more often.”
“And bring your two girls with you next time,” Mrs. Brown said, smiling back.
Before he left, Kenny stopped by his father’s study and took out the list of family names. He scribbled a note and left it on the desk. For now, he’d play the vampire’s game and keep his secret. But he needed information from his father in order to give the vampire what he wanted. His note told his father he was borrowing the list, first and foremost. And he invited his father to Thanksgiving dinner at Lisa’s.
The question now was where was the vampire? Had he gone back to Lockwood or had he gone to ground in Rhode Island? He was tempted to call Lisa and ask if she had seen the vampire, but she would just lie to him anyway. At this point, he might as well go back to Lisa’s house and wait for the vampire to contact him. If Crystal was right, the vampire would keep his word and not harm his parents as long as he kept his word and didn’t betray the vampire.
“Where is he?” he growled as he stormed into Lisa’s kitchen. She was roasting a chicken, and the kitchen smelled heavenly. How could she go on as if everything were normal?
Lisa turned around. “Johnny? Sleeping, I guess,” she said. “He’ll probably be back around sunset.” She looked at Kenny hesitantly, worry clear in her eyes.
“Don’t give me that,” Kenny snarled. “I know he can stay awake during the day. He was at my mother’s house, Lisa!”
Lisa paled, then flushed. “What happened?” she asked faintly.
“You don’t sound that surprised,” Kenny said resentfully. “Nothing happened, but he was there, Lisa. I called the house and he answered the phone! He reminded me not to betray his secret, so here I am, back to fulfill my end of the bargain.” His brown eyes flicked up to catch Lisa’s. “Don’t worry, I didn’t say anything. So where is he? Where’s the vampire? I’d rather get this over with.”
“He really isn’t here, Kenny,” Lisa replied. “I’m guessing he’s resting somewhere safe. You’re right,” she added hastily as Kenny’s face darkened. “He can go out in the sun, but it hurts him terribly and he can’t do it for very long. He probably went somewhere to recuperate until nightfall.”
So that’s how the vampire had escaped their previous attempt to kill him. Daylight alone wasn’t enough. Bill Lovall had said as much, but Bill wasn’t the expert on vampire slayings—he was. So he had let Bill Lovall stab the creature to drain it of blood, and then left it staked out in Betty’s field for the sun to finish the job. Even that hadn’t been enough. How the hell did you kill the thing?
“Where is his daytime resting place, Lisa?”
“Do you think he would tell me?” she countered.
“Aren’t you his friend? Isn’t he planning on making you into one of them? Yeah, I think you know.”
Lisa reddened. “I don’t know what I am to Johnny,” she whispered. “I don’t hate him, if that’s what you mean. Not anymore. And you’re wrong. He never had any intention of making me into a vampire. He says he can’t.” That came out more bitterly than Lisa had intended. She softened it with a brief smile. “I don’t have the right kind of blood.”
If it wasn’t Lisa the vampire was after, then why? Suddenly it all clicked. The names, the list, the reason he and Lisa couldn’t have children of their combined bloodlines. “Crystal?” Kenny squeaked. “The vampire is after Crystal? And you let him? My God, Lisa! Why didn’t you come to me?”
“Because you would have just killed him!” Lisa cried out. “It’s not like I had a choice, anyway.”
Kenny closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You didn’t want to see him die, so you condemned your only daughter to a fate worse than death. Do you watch when he drinks her blood?”
Slap! Kenny felt the imprint of Lisa’s hand stinging his cheek. He opened his eyes to find her glaring at him.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Lisa said hotly. “Johnny hasn’t touched Crystal that way. When she is older, he will give her the choice. I believe him.”
Kenny bit back what he was going to say when Crystal came down the stairs into the kitchen. How much had she heard? She didn’t give any sign of it, however. “Smells good,” she said. “When’s supper?”
“In an hour,” her mother answered, turning back to her cooking and ignoring Kenny completely.
“Good.” Crystal sat down at the table with her sketch pad and a few pencils. Kenny eyed her for a few minutes until he realized she had no intention of leaving, and his conversation with Lisa was effectively over.
“I’m going to take a nap,” he said sullenly. Might as well be prepared for tonight. He had a lot to discuss with the vampire.