Glancing around the room at us, Murphy said, “I know where Kayla is, our search for her is nearly over.”
Scrambling to my feet and going to him, I said, “Where is she?”
“Not far from here,” he told me.
Gripping his forearm, I stared at him and said, “Where, exactly?”
“I’ll show you,” he said, turning away and running one of his powerful hands through his silver hair.
Coming to stand next to me, Luke said, “But Sarge, how did you find her?”
“We haven’t been the only ones searching for her,” Murphy said, not looking back at us.
“Who else then?” Potter said, looking across at Luke and me with a puzzled look on his face.
“Somebody who owed me a favour – a debt – and it was time to collect.”
“Who?” Luke asked him.
“Don’t ask me that,” he said turning to face us. “You’re like family to me. I would never do anything to hurt you -”
“But…” Potter cut in.
“No buts,” Murphy said. “I can’t tell you who it is that has helped find Kayla…”
“Does this have something to do with that trust-thing again?” Potter said, his voice sounding bitter, almost resentful.
Staring at him hard with his sharp, blue eyes, Murphy said, “Wake the kid up, we’re leaving.” Then Murphy swung the door open and disappeared outside.
I looked at Luke and he shrugged.
The thought of seeing Kayla again was too much to resist, so turning, I headed straight for the door. As I did, I heard a deep groaning sound of pain. Looking to my left, I watched Potter pull his foot back and kick Isidor in the side, as he slept on the floor.
“Wake up, sleeping beauty,” he snapped. “We’re outta here.”
Leaving Isidor on the floor clutching his side looking confused and dazed, Potter popped a cigarette into the corner of his mouth and left the signal box.
Within minutes, we had gathered outside. Murphy, as we had come to expect, was standing off to one side on his own, his pipe drooping from between his lips. Thick clouds of smoke tumbled from it and disappeared into the night sky. The moon hung high above, flat and round-looking, like a giant silver disc. Isidor stood with his rucksack and crossbow slung over his back and glared at Potter. Before another series of insults could be exchanged between them, Murphy was walking away.
“This way,” he said over his shoulder and was gone.
We followed him into the night, making our way across the deserted level crossing and into a nearby field. Potter trailed behind, silent and brooding. Luke walked beside me and I felt uncomfortable. It was the thought of what had taken place between Potter and me in the outhouse that made me feel like I had betrayed him.
But I pushed Potter away, I tried to tell myself. But who was I trying to kid? I knew deep inside where those secrets lay – the ones that you don’t like to get out and examine too closely – the ones where I’d enjoyed being kissed by Potter and I’d enjoyed kissing him back even more. There was so much about the guy that infuriated me – made me angry – but when he held me, kissed me, pulled me close against him, I felt nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time. He was what I guess you would call a ‘turn-on.’ But I knew that wasn’t enough for me. I’d never really been attracted to guys like Potter – the wise-guy – I’d seen too many of my friends get hurt by men like him, and I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. Luke was the sorta guy I usually went for, dependable, loyal and honest.
But he’s just so boring, Potter said inside my head.
So taking Luke’s hand, I pushed Potter out of my mind. Looking down at me and gently squeezing my hand in his, Luke winked at me and we quickened our pace to catch up with Murphy and Isidor, who led the pack.
We walked the next two miles or so in silence. Then, reaching the brow of a hill, Murphy signaled for us to get down. On seeing his command, we instantly dropped into a crouching position and tucked ourselves behind the trunk of a large tree that stood alone on the moonlit hillside. Walking quietly over to us, he bent down.
“We’re here,” Murphy said, his voice barely a whisper, and his eyes twinkling in the dark.
“Where’s ‘here’?” Potter asked.
“The Sacred Heart Monastery,” Murphy whispered back.
“Monastery?” Isidor asked.
Then spotting Isidor’s many rosary beads glinting back from beneath his coat, Potter said, “You should feel right at home.”
Ignoring him, Isidor looked at Murphy and said, “Why have they brought Kayla to a monastery?”
Hunkering down beside us, Murphy said, “It’s a monastery in name only. It’s one of the strongholds designed to protect the Vampyrus from vampires,” he said. “Just like Hallowed Manor was.”Glancing over his shoulder, looking down the hill I could see a large stone building set amongst the shadows of a nearby wood. The building looked very much like a medieval cathedral with a tall-looking bell tower that pointed up into the night sky.
“The local community still actually believes that it’s a working monastery,” Murphy continued in his hushed voice. “The Vampyrus who live here are believed to be monks – they are known to the locals as the ‘Deserted Fathers’. See, it suits them to live here – they live like hermits, shying away from the rest of society. They led a peaceful and tranquil existence until -”
“Until what?” Luke cut in.
“Until the agents of that invisible man took the monastery over – flooding it with Vampyrus that believe in his twisted doctrine. It has become a breeding ground for vampires and a place where they can experiment on the half-breeds like Kayla. It’s the perfect cover, you see.”
“So are you gonna tell us who led you to this place?” Potter asked, his eyes fixed on Murphy’s.
“We’ve already had that discussion,” Murphy hissed.
“But can we trust them?” Potter pushed.
“I’m not asking you to trust them,” Murphy said. “I’m asking you to trust me.”
Potter looked away, back down the hill, and I could see that he didn’t look happy with Murphy’s reply.
So, changing the subject and just wanting to get Kayla out of that monastery, I said, “So how do we get in?”
Looking at me through the darkness, Murphy said, “Like Hallowed Manor, there’s a huge wall to get over – but that shouldn’t be a problem.”
I looked around the tree trunk and into the distance at the monastery. It looked unwelcoming and sinister set against the skyline. It didn’t look like a place of worship, more like a sanctuary for the devil himself.
“So what’s the plan?” Potter asked.
“Plan?” Murphy asked, one of his silver eyebrows cocked.
“Yeah, a plan,” Potter sighed. “Like what happens when we get over the wall?”
“I don’t know,” Murphy said with a weak smile. “I’m making this up as I go along.”
Then he was gone, limping down the hill towards the monastery.
“It’s a shame we don’t have any explosives,” Isidor mumbled as if talking to himself.
“Explosives?” Luke asked.
Then, glancing at Luke, Isidor looked embarrassed and said, “I was just talking to myself. But you know it’s a shame we can’t just blast our way in through that wall.”
Standing, Potter looked down at Isidor and snapped, “Listen here, Houdini or whatever your name is, this is meant to be a break-in, not a break out. Explosives for crying-out-loud! This isn’t an episode of The A-Team. Jeez – you’ll be suggesting next that we build a bridge out of elastic bands and climb over the wall that way!”
“I was only saying…” Isidor started.
Ignoring him, Potter glared at Luke and me, and said, “I don’t know about you two, but I’m not standing here all night listening to this B.A. Baracus wannabe – I’m going to catch me some vampire.”
Then he was off, heading down the hill towards the monastery. I looked at Isidor and he looked hurt and dejected.
Squeezing his shoulder, I said, “Take no notice of him, Isidor. He doesn’t really mean it.”
Standing, Isidor looked at me and said, “Yeah, he does.”
But before I could offer him any more words of comfort, he too was heading down the hill as Luke and I followed.
Reaching the wall that surrounded the monastery, Murphy signaled for us to get down again.
Crouching, he looked at us and said, “On any other occasion I’d suggest we fly over, but we can’t risk being detected this close to finding Kayla.”
Looking up at the wall that towered over us, I could see that it was far too tall even for Murphy and the others to leap.
“What do you suggest?” Luke said, staring at Murphy.
Then flicking his wrists before us, he kind of grimaced as the tips of his fingers transformed into the animal-like claws I’d seen him brandish so many times before.
“Okay,” Luke replied, seeming to understand what it was that Murphy was suggesting. Then as one, Luke, Potter and Isidor’s hands were changing – growing as if twisting out of shape – until each of their hands had changed into long, bony claws, their fingertips capped with long, ivory-looking nails.
Looking at my hands, Potter smiled, and holding his claws before him, he said, “I was forgetting you don’t have claws, yet.”
“Yet!” I hissed. “I don’t ever want a set of those things!” The thought of watching my fingernails changing into those yellowy-looking claws made my flesh crawl.
Smirking at me, he turned to face the wall. I hated the way he looked at me like that, but before I’d had the chance to react, Luke had pulled me up onto his back and was carrying me towards the wall. Looking over my shoulder, I watched as Murphy and Isidor ran, and springing into the air, they began to climb. Their ascent was rapid and swift, and despite the sheer height of the wall, they were perched on the top of it within seconds.