After the third period of partial lucidity, Subject Ransom experienced a rapid mental and physical decline, as has be n previously documented in the trials; this decline fell within the boundaries of the approximately 73% failure rate. He evidenced a brief period of reversion to True Human before experiencing a fatal isch-emic event. Time of death: 1348 hours.

May God have mercy on his soul.

Mr. Ransom was dead. Because of their so- called cure.

It couldn’t be called a cure if there was a seventy- three percent failure rate, could it?

She opened the drawer and checked Michael’s file again. The box was marked for an involuntary cure.

What had happened to Mr. Ransom— they meant to do it to Michael, too.

Claire ripped the information out of Ransom’s folder and added it to her stash, then quickly made her way back to the stor- age closet and out through the window. No sign of Fallon and Eve, but she saw a car’s taillights disappearing around the corner.

Claire ran for Eve’s hearse, digging the keys out of the purse.

She’d rarely driven the thing, but it couldn’t be much tougher than Shane’s beast of a muscle car; this was more of an ocean liner, with all the problems of maneuvering it around corners. Claire started the engine and did a super- wide turn in the nearly empty parking lot, heading for the street. She was just pausing to check directions when a voice way too close to her ear said, “So where are we going, then?”

Myrnin. She got a grip on herself after the first, uncontrollable flail of shock, and turned to glare at him. He was leaning over her seat, cheek almost pressing hers, and his eyes reflected red in the dashboard lights.


“Would you please sit back?” she said, once she had control of her voice again— though it stayed up in the higher registers. “You just scared ten years off of me.”

“Only ten? I’m losing my touch.”

“What are you doing in here?”

“Hiding,” he said. “You might have noticed that Fallon’s got his very own vampire- hunting pack of human hounds. Unfortu- nately, they had my scent for a while. I think I’ve thrown them off, but I thought it wise to go to ground for a while. You know that I’m clever as a fox.”

“Crazy like one, too,” she said. “Where’s Jenna?”

“Gone home,” he said. “She took me to my laboratory, but I found it in less than salutary condition. I got what I need, how- ever.” He patted lumps under his shirt absently. “I do hope you’re going my way.”

“I’m following Fallon. I think he’s taking Eve to the mall.”

“Ah. Perfect, then. That will be fine. Proceed.” He sat back, as if she were his private limo driver, which made her grit her teeth, but she concentrated on driving for a minute, until she had Fallon’s taillights in sight again. He was, indeed, heading for Bitter Creek Mall, it seemed.

She said, “Fallon thinks he has some kind of a cure for vampir- ism. Did you know?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “I know all about Fallon and his misguided quest to become our once and future savior. It’s never worked. It’s never going to work.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Yes. I plan to kill Fallon and destroy everything he’s built.”

“I think Shane would say that’s a goal, not an actual plan. How exactly are you going to do that?”

“Fangs in his throat,” Myrnin said. “To be specific. I am going to take a great deal of pleasure in draining that man to the very last drop. Again.”

“Again?” Claire hit the brakes and held them, staring at Myrnin in the rearview mirror. “What are you talking about?”

Myrnin clambered over the seat and dropped into the front next to her. He fussed with his clothes— still mismatched, of course— and finally said, “Fallon, of course. I killed him once. I brought him over as a vampire some, oh, two hundred years ago or more— it’s difficult to be exact about these things. I didn’t much care for him even then. He was a bit of a morose and morbid sort, but— well, circumstances were different. Let’s just leave it there.”

“He’s not a vampire!”

“Well, not now, obviously. But he most certainly was once.

Didn’t love the life I’d given him, Fallon. Thought he was so much better than the rest who did.” Myrnin shrugged. “He might have been right about that, of course. But the point is that he devoted all the time I’d given him to finding a way to reverse the process and make himself human again.”

“He found one,” Claire said. “He cured himself. That’s what this cure is he wants to give Michael . . . the same one.”

“I wouldn’t call it a cure,” Myrnin said. “He’s simply no longer dependent on blood.”

“What is he dependent on, then?”

“What are any of you? Air, water, food, the kindness of ran- dom strangers.” Myrnin shuddered, and it looked genuine. “I’d much rather be dependent on blood. Much simpler and easier to obtain in times of chaos. Never rationed, blood. And very often freely donated.”

“But he’s— he’s human.”

“Well, yes. Heartbeat and all.”

“Is he still immortal?”

“No one is immortal.” Myrnin sounded quite serious when he said that, and he looked away, out the window. “Certainly no vam- pire. We are as vulnerable as humans to the right forces. Only gods and demons are immortal, and we are neither of those things, though we’ve been called one or the other.”

“I mean— does he age now?”

“Yes. The instant he gave up his vampire nature, he began the slow march to death again. I expect after all that time with his heart stilled in him, he thinks of each beat as a tick off his mortal clock. I certainly would.”

“How did he do it?”

“I don’t know,” Myrnin said. He sounded sober and thought- ful, and rested his head on one hand as he continued to stare out at the night. “I really have no earthly idea. He was desperate to find some kind of cure when I lost track of him. He’d employed physi-cians, scientists, even sorcerers, to try to break what he saw as his curse. Until I saw him again here, I’d have sworn that such a thing was completely impossible. There is still much to learn in the world, as it turns out. The problem is that some lessons are very, very unpleasant, Claire. I hope this isn’t one of them, but I very much fear it will be.”

She thought of the stamp on Michael’s folder. involuntary.

“Mr. Ransom is dead,” she said. “According to the notes in the file in Fallon’s desk, this cure of his— it’s only about twenty- five percent successful.”

“Unsurprising. The Daylight Foundation— which Fallon cre- ated, of course— has from the very beginning been intent on stopping vampires, eradicating them through whatever means necessary. He’d see a cure as a humane way to do it, wouldn’t he? Even if three- quarters of those were put through such agony that they perished of it.” He let out a sigh. “A humane process, after the word human. But in my experience, humans are capable of such spectacularly awful things.”

She didn’t like the sound of that, not at all, nor the thought of Fallon, with his calm, gentle manner and his fanatic’s eyes, having control of Eve, and Michael, and all of the vampires imprisoned back at the mall. “How did he get Amelie to surrender?” she asked.

Myrnin didn’t answer. “He threatened someone, didn’t he?”

“He threatened the people she least wanted to lose,” he re- plied. “One of them was Michael, of course, but before our little party arrived back in town, Fallon had Oliver, and he used him against her.”

“He used you, too, didn’t he?” Nothing. She took that as con- firmation. “Myrnin, he’s got Eve now. And from what I saw writ- ten on Michael’s file, Fallon’s going to use her to make Michael take his cure or something.”

“Well, that would be a problem,” he said. “I quite like the boy.

And Fallon’s cure is certainly horrifyingly painful, even if one survives it, and as you know, the odds are against it. I’ve no idea what kind of damage it might leave in its wake on a vampire as young as Michael. Nor does Fallon, I suspect. Not that it would stop him.”

Claire could see the mall ahead, its bulk lit up outside with harsh industrial lamps that made it look ever more like a prison, if prisons had abundant parking. “We have to do something.”

“Oh, I fully intend to, and I will need you to make it happen.

You are my assistant, after all. I pay you.”

“Amelie pays me. I don’t think you have the slightest idea of how to work a bank account.”

“True,” he said cheerfully. “It was much easier in the days when you could pay someone in food and a roof over his head, and the richness of knowledge. All this moneygrubbing is simply annoy- ing. Do you still use gold? I think I have some of that.”

“Let’s not get off track,” Claire said, although she was think- ing, You’ve got gold? Where do you ke p it? “What exactly do you want me to do?”

“I need a second pair of hands— human hands, as it turns out, and quite clever ones— to help me sabotage those damnable col- lars. Dr. Anderson is no fool, and although I’ve worked out how to do it, it does require nerve and someone with a pulse; two vampires simply can’t manage it. Speaking of our dear, traitorous Irene, she’ll be working around the clock to mass- produce your anti- vampire weapons, and once that happens, they will have absolutely everything they need to control, corral, and herd us to our de- struction. We can’t allow that to happen, Claire. So I need you to go into the prison with me and help me disable the collars.”

“I’m not sure—”

“They’re killing us when we fight back,” Myrnin said. “They already know how to do it, of course. Very effectively, I might add, and quite painfully. The methods they use last long enough to be a very instructive lesson to others, and I might admire their ruth- lessness if it didn’t come at the cost of my old friends. This is a situation that cannot hold for long, and we must, absolutely must, free the vampires before it’s too late.” He eyed her sideways, then said, “I don’t think you’ll be in too much danger. Oliver and Lady Gray and I can ensure your safety. Almost certainly.”

Most Popular