She sat up again, took a deep breath, and started working with the paper clip. It took a long time to pick the lock on the handcuffs.

Myrnin had drilled her, at one time, in the finer points of the art; he’d felt it was a necessary skill to have, in Morganville, and it turned out he was almost certainly right. Still, she was rusty, and it took too long to bend the tough, thick clip into the right shapes, and to maneuver it into position. Then she had to fight her own burning, cramping muscles to delicately trip all the little triggers inside the lock, but finally she felt the first of the cuffs slip free.

The second took only about a third as much time, now that she had the right angle on the problem.

Freed, she took a few seconds to breathe and silently celebrate.

Then she checked the drawers of her little room. As expected, there were ugly cotton undies, in a variety of sizes, and some equally ugly sports bras (though she quickly switched out what she’d been given back at the Vampire Mall, since even this stuff was an upgrade). Then she pulled on the drawer and found it slid smoothly, in and out.

Good news.

Claire padded the area beneath the drawer with the pillow from the bed, emptied out what was inside, and yanked hard on the mechanism. It caught firmly, refusing to slide out. She worked it up and down, side to side, until one of the small wheels inside slipped free of the guides, and then the left side popped free. From there it was simple enough to wrench it loose from the right, but the drawer was heavy and awkward, and she was glad she’d put the pillow in place to catch it as it fell or the noise would have echoed down that hall— quiet, now that the screaming had faded away.

Once the drawer was out, she saw the metal guides screwed into its sides. Perfect.

Claire worked on her paper clip until it was twisted into a makeshift screwdriver that slotted into the heads of the screws.

Working with it took muscle power, sweat, patience, and more strained muscles, but she managed to loosen two out of three fas- teners on one side, and the third didn’t matter; she torqued the metal until it ripped loose.


She’d started handcuffed, armed with a paper clip. Now she had a ten- inch strip of metal with sharp edges, handcuffs, and a paper clip. Her odds were improving all the time.

There wouldn’t be time to fashion the metal properly, but she found that using the heavy edges of the wooden drawer, she could press on the metal and fold it into a sharp point. An extra pair of undies wrapped nicely around the other end, to provide a decent grip.

Instant knife.

She worked on the other guide and got it free, and bent it into a springy U- shape. With the carefully wrapped addition of a sports bra, she had a passable slingshot. The screws she’d loosened provided ammunition. So did pieces she managed to tease out of the bed’s frame.

The drawer went back in, filled with the clothing, and the pil- low back on the bed. At first glance, everything looked perfectly normal.

Claire made a sheath for her knife out of cardboard (they’d left some with crayons, for drawing, in a drawer) and fastened it with a loop of torn elastic to the belt loop of her jeans. Then she put the sheath down the side of her leg, inside the jeans, and slid the knife in. It did show, but not as much as it would have if the jeans had been tighter. Good enough.

The ammunition for the makeshift slingshot went into her pockets. On impulse, she broke up the crayons and added those, too. And the button off her blue jeans.

She was contemplating what to do with the handcuffs when the door rattled, and after a second’s thought, she jammed the slingshot down the small of her back, and put the cuffs back around her wrists, but just barely clicked on . . . loose enough that she could get her hands free with a brisk shake.

She was standing in the middle of the room looking crestfallen when Dr. Anderson swung the door open again. “Can you please take these off now?” she asked, and tried to sound chastened.

“They hurt.”

“In a while,” Anderson said, which was exactly what Claire had expected her to say. She gestured for Claire to come out, and she did. The metal slingshot jammed against her back felt raw and awkward, and she knew it would be visible from behind, poking out against her thin shirt, but Anderson didn’t go behind her; she took her elbow and walked next to her quickly down the hallway toward the end. No one passed them, and when Claire risked a look behind, she didn’t see anyone following, either.

“Not much of a staff,” she said.

“We’re just hiring,” Anderson said. “You and your friend are our very first patients. I’m sure you’re honored.”

That wasn’t how Claire would have put it, but she didn’t have a chance to fire off a sarcastic rejoinder, either, because they turned the corner to the left and arrived at another metal door. This one had a sign that read: treatment room. no admittance without prior authorization. Anderson pulled a thick set of keys from her belt to open it up.

The screaming had started again— muffled, but clearly com- ing from the other side of this door.

It swung open, and Claire saw Eve. Her friend was strapped into a chair, completely locked down, and she was being bit en by a vampire. It wasn’t Michael. It was some filthy, wild- eyed hobo with fangs, with his mouth on her throat. A tiny thread of blood dripped down her pale skin showed that he’d hit the vein.

“No!” Claire screamed, and lunged forward— into a plate- glass window that stood between them. “Stop it! Leave her alone!”

“She’s the one who chose this,” Anderson said. “She chose to degrade herself like this, offering herself to the vampires.”

“No, she didn’t! She and Michael—”

“Michael’s a vampire.”

“Stop this!”

“I want you both to see just what they are, these vampires.

They’re predators. Parasites. They don’t care about you, except as food, and they never will. Look at him, Claire. Look. ”

Anderson forced her to stay still for a torturously long few sec- onds, and then reached past her to press a button set into the wall next to her. “That’s enough,” she said to someone at the other end of the speaker. “It’s time for the next phase.”

Eve was barely conscious now; she’d stopped screaming, and her skin had an awful bluish cast to it. Two white- coated staffers came into the room through another door behind Eve; one had a Taser, and the other had a silver- coated collar on the end of a long pole. The Taser shocked the feeding vampire away from Eve, and as he snarled and showed bloodied fangs, the second attendant slipped the metal collar over his head and pulled it tight with a trigger mechanism on the side. The vampire choked and tried to pull free, but the attendant pushed it out the door and into a cage beyond.

Claire didn’t pay any attention to the vampire after that; she was too concerned about Eve, who was breathing too fast, too shallowly, and stirring weakly in her chair. Her throat was still bleeding.

Another white- coated staffer came into the room and quickly, efficiently, bandaged up the bite. Then she brought out a syringe and shot it into Eve’s arm.

Eve’s eyes opened very, very wide, and she suddenly looked hor- ribly alert, even though she still seemed weak. The attendant rolled a portable IV rack into the room and hung some bags on it— dark red ones. The woman must have had a lot of experience, because she hit Eve’s vein in the bend of her arm expertly on the first try, and hooked up the IVs to drain.

“What are you giving her?” Claire asked. Her voice felt raw in her throat. She wanted to act, but she knew this wasn’t the mo- ment; there was no way to get to Eve from where she was, and she needed to help her friend, not just escape. “What is that stuff?”

“Blood, obviously,” Dr. Anderson said. “Your friend has lost at least two pints, and she’s dangerously low. Any more, and she might have suffered cardiac distress.”

“So that’s your aversion therapy? You let a vamp bite her, then you save her?”

“No,” Anderson said. “That’s part of it, of course, the loss of control and fear. But the most important part is what is in the blood she’s receiving. It contains a compound I’ve developed that reacts intensely to the presence of a vampire. She’ll feel terrible pain when she’s around one, and after we repeat this process a few more times, she won’t even need the transfusion to feel it. The hu- man brain is funny that way; it will anticipate pain, and save itself from it. It will take a few weeks of this, but in the end, she’ll be unable to tolerate the very sight of vampires— any vampires. Even Michael Glass. She’ll be overcome by the conditioned fear and the revulsion.”

“Can she see me?” Claire asked. She was trying not to let her anger get the better of her before she was sure it would be useful, but it was so hard, watching Eve shiver and twitch like that.

“No. It’s one- way glass so we can observe the patient,” Ander- son said with a smile. “Don’t worry. Her treatment will be over in another half hour, and then it’ll be your turn. I thought it might be helpful for you to know what was coming.”

It was absolutely all Claire could do not to shake off the cuffs right then and punch Anderson in the face, but she clung to one thing: I’m going to punch you in the face. Just not now. When the time is right.

Because Anderson so utterly deserved it.

“You know that you’re evil, right?” Claire asked. “I mean, gen- uinely, deep down evil. You understand that what you’re doing is wrong.”

“Evil is being a Renfield, like you,” Anderson said. “As in Dracula’s minion in Stoker’s novel. An apologist for the vampires.

A collaborator. A traitor to humanity. And I think that before long, we’re going to show you the error of your ways, Claire, and then you can help us find better, faster ways to get rid of the monsters. Finally, you’ll be useful.”

Claire bit the inside of her lip until it bled, and watched in si- lence as the blood bags emptied into her friend’s arm. Eve seemed steadier, and her color was better, by the time the second bag had drained in, and that, at least, was a good thing.

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