On the far side of the room there was a desk and a laptop, which seemed at odds in the ancient surroundings. Behind the desk there was a leather-backed chair. Crossing the room, I looked at the desk, the laptop, and anything else I could lay my eyes on.
Then from across the room, I heard Luke say, “What’s this?”
Looking up, I could see that Luke was standing in front of some weird–looking control panel. The others crossed the room to where he was and peered over his shoulder. The panel had been fixed to the wall and had a series of flashing lights and monitors. Set into it was a bank of screens, which displayed several different views of the outside and inside of the monastery.
“Looks like some kind of security system,” Murphy said, screwing-up his eyes in the near darkness to get a better look.
“They obviously monitor this place like a prison,” Luke said.
While the others continued to study the panel, I hit one of the keys on the laptop and the screen came on and revealed a partially written email. Lowering myself into the soft leather chair, I read what it said.
We have experienced some problems with the genetic copies. Hunt and Ravenwood’s gene analysis of the half-breed’s DNA appears not to be complete. Without their cooperation, we will not be able to complete the DNA sequence for the female.
The boy, as far as we know at this time, seems to be doing fine – but it is still early days. We will know for definite once he has completed his task.
As for Kiera Hudson, we should have her soon. I hope that your assessment is correct and that we will be able to utilize her whether she is delivered to us dead or alive.
The treaty we have struck with
The email ended abruptly, and sat waiting to be finished by whoever had started it. Isidor was now standing beside me and reading the e-mail over my shoulder.
“What’s that all about?” he asked.
“It’s about us,” I said.
“I can’t see my name in it,” he said, scanning the email.
The chair creaked as I swivelled around, looking-up at him.
“You’re a half-breed, right?” I asked him.
“So I’ve been told,” he said back.
“What else were you told?” I asked, wanting for so long to have this conversation with him, and feeling disappointed that now the subject had been breached between us, we wouldn’t have time to finish it.
Isidor looked at me, went to open his mouth, then closed it again.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping that I hadn’t upset him by raising the subject of being a half-breed. He came across as being okay with the idea. He seemed pretty confident in his abilities, the use of his wings and he could definitely hold his ground with someone as cocky as Potter. So I couldn’t understand the look of confusion that had suddenly masked his young-looking face.
“I’m sorry, Kiera,” he said softly, his voice just above a whisper. “Can we talk about this another time – just me and you?’’ Then glancing back over his shoulder at Potter, he added, “When there is no one else around.”
Standing, I rested my hand on his arm, and said, “I know what you mean. Maybe this is a conversation that we should have in private.”
“Thanks, Kiera,” he smiled, and turned away.
“Anytime,” I smiled and looked over at Potter who was still inspecting the security panel. I understood Isidor’s reluctance to talk about something so personal to him. And I remembered the hurt in Kayla’s face as she had told me how she had been bullied at school because she was different. Despite Isidor’s confident manner, perhaps he’d had similar experiences and felt unable to talk about them for fear of Potter belittling him. I was struggling to come to terms with the changes that I’d experienced within myself, the bleeding eye, the visions, the knowledge that I had those creepy black fingers curled around my ribcage, and how I’d panicked the other night when I had thrown that vampire down the tunnel.
I was twenty – an adult – and I was struggling to understand what was happening to me, so guessing how Kayla and Isidor must have felt going through such violent changes at a young age made me heart ache for them. So, I decided to wait until the time was right to talk to Isidor and in the meantime I would tell Potter to give the guy a break – to back-off.
Then turning my thoughts back to the email I’d read, I called for Luke and Murphy to come and take a look at it. I wondered if the girl and boy that the email referred to were the two teenagers that had been taken from the makeshift hospital at Hallowed Manor. The fact that the unfinished email spoke of me being delivered dead or alive did scare me, but not as much perhaps as it should, because what really scared me about that email was the mention of a treaty. Who had the Vampyrus struck a treaty with, and why?
“Have a look at this,” I said pointing to the screen.
Peering over my shoulder, Murphy and Luke read the email.
“What boy?” Luke whispered. “What task?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Murphy shook his head as if he had no idea. Then pointing at the screen, he said, “Treaty? What treaty?”
“That’s what I was wondering,” I told him.
“What else is on that computer?” Murphy asked, and I noted fear in his voice.
I clicked on to documents and a whole series of files flashed up on the screen. I scanned the files and looked for anything that might refer to DNA, treaties, Kayla, Isidor, or me. As I quickly scanned the list of files, I heard Potter say from across the room,
“What does this switch do?”
“No! Don’t touch anything!” Isidor shouted, grabbing for Potter’s wrist in an attempt to yank it away.
But it was too late. Potter had flipped one of the switches on the security panel. Instantly the monastery was filled with the ear-splitting sound of a siren.
“What have you done?” Murphy barked at him. “It’s not my fault!” Potter insisted. “Yeah it is!” Isidor shouted. “You touched that switch!” “I didn’t know that was gonna happen, did I?” Potter yelled at him over the sound of the alarm. “We’ve got to get away from here!” Murphy cried, pulling the hood over his head. “Wait! I want to copy these files,” I shouted, as I rummaged through the desk drawers. Then finding a disc, I shoved it into the side of the laptop and began to upload the files.
“We don’t have time!” Luke shouted above the deafening wail of the sirens. “We’re going to have company any minute!”
“It won’t take but a second!” I insisted as Murphy went to the door, pulled it ajar and peered out.
I watched the screen, my heart slamming up and down like a sledgehammer in my temples as the files fluttered their way across the screen and onto the disc.
“They’re coming!” Murphy warned us, stepping away from the door and back into the room.
“Hurry up, Kiera!” Luke yelled at me.
“Just a couple more seconds!” I pleaded.
“Pull on your hoods!” Murphy ordered us.
“Files downloaded,” I almost screamed, as the door to the room crashed open.
Two hooded monks came rushing in and stood before us. Even though they were hidden beneath dark brown habits, I could see that whoever – or whatever – was beneath them, were huge. They towered in the open doorway, like two mountains.
“What are you doing in here?” one of them roared from beneath his hood, his face hidden in shadow. “We came to investigate why the alarm had been activated,” Murphy said from under his disguise. “What are your names?” the second monk demanded. We all stood silently for a moment, none of us sure what to say, when Potter suddenly began to twitch, jerk and scream as if in agony. He started to thrash around so violently, that I jumped backwards behind the desk.
“Feed me!” he roared from beneath his hood.
The monks turned to look at him and I seized my chance. Removing the disc from the laptop, I hid it beneath my robes.
“As you can see,” Murphy said, as Luke and Isidor restrained Potter against the wall, “This Vampyrus hasn’t fed today and it’s left him feeling a bit – you know – hungry.”
“I need the red stuff!” Potter screamed again at the top of his voice for good effect. Then, as if to enhance his performance, he began to pinwheel his arms out on either side of him, as Luke and Isidor fought to hold onto him.
The monks glanced at each other again and the tension in the room was unbearable. Slowly, one of the monks turned towards Murphy and said, “Brother, take him to the crypt, there is plenty of human flesh for him there.”
“Delivered fresh just a few hours ago,” the other monk said. “It’s still warm.”
Hearing this made me want to gag, and fighting the urge, I couldn’t help but see my mother offering me a fistful of bloodied flesh. Just wanting to be out of that room in case either of those monks changed their minds, I wasted no time in crossing the room and filing out into the corridor behind the others. We tried to hurry away as fast as possible, without wanting to raise the monk’s suspicions. I knew that as soon as they had investigated the control panel, they would realise that it had been one of us who had messed with it. With my heart banging and my stomach screwing itself into knots, I hoped we were as far away from them as possible before they figured out what Potter had done.
Isidor must have been reading my mind, as we had only gone a few steps when, he whispered, “You know, it isn’t going to take them long to figure out -”
He hadn’t even finished when from behind us the monks screamed, “Come back here!”
In a blur of shadows, Isidor had spun round, produced his crossbow from beneath his robes, and was sending wave after wave of wooden stakes flying back down the corridor towards the monks. They flew backwards and thudded into the floor. Kicking and screaming, they pulled at their robes as if in some way the coarse material was suffocating them. From beneath their robes, I got a quick glimpse of their limbs which were covered in thick, black bristling hair. Then they fell still.