Kiss of Death
Chapter Ten

 Rachel Caine

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The sheriff's station in Durram, Texas, was basically two rooms, if you didn't count the bathroom; there was a small open area with a couple of desks and computers, some cork boards on the walls full of notices and pictures, and behind that, a door with iron bars. But first, before they got to the iron bar part, Claire and Shane were seated on a wooden bench--it was a lot like a church pew, only with big bolts drilled into it on either side--and cuffed to the bench; too far apart, for Claire's comfort. She really ached to be held by him right now. "Hey, sir? Could I use the bathroom?" Shane asked. "Not until you're processed."
"I'm not kidding. I really need to go. Please? Or would you rather clean it up?" The deputy stared at him, harassed and doubtful, and Shane did a convincing squirm that Claire wasn't absolutely sure was fake. The deputy finally sighed and unhooked him to escort him to the small bathroom off the main room. Eve, meanwhile, had been taken straight to the sheriff's desk, where he offered her a big box of tissues and a glass of water. Claire was wondering what the heck to do, when she saw a flash of a face in the window of the station, behind the sheriff's back. A tall, lean figure in a long black coat, hat, and gloves. Oliver. Dressed for the sun. Out and moving, getting an assessment of where they were and what had happened. He saw her watching him and gave her a quick nod that told her nothing at all, not even, Don't worry. Then he vanished. Her phone gave out an ultrasonic ringtone. She blinked and looked around, but neither the sheriff nor the deputy had noticed it at all. Eve had, but after that first involuntary glance, she kept her back turned and stared off into space, Kleenex crumpled in both hands. Claire squirmed and managed to get her phone out of her pocket without attracting attention. She had a text message, from Michael. It read, We'll get you guys out of there soon. Meanwhile, stay quiet. It was pretty much the same advice Shane had given. She wanted to believe it, but her insides were still shaking. She was definitely not meant to be a career criminal. Right. She should just sit here, then, and--think of something else. Like science. Some people recited baseball scores to distract themselves; Claire liked to go through the entire periodic table of elements, and once she'd finished with that, she started on all of the alchemical symbols and properties Myrnin had taught her. That helped. It made her remember that there was something out there beyond this room, this moment, and that there were people out there who might actually care if she didn't come back. Shane came back from the toilet and was cuffed in place again. He edged over a little closer to her and leaned forward, elbows on his thighs, head hanging down so his hair covered his face. "There's a window in the bathroom," he said. "Not very big, but you could get out of it. Doesn't open, though. You'd have to break it out, and that would be noisy." Claire coughed and covered her mouth. "I'm not breaking out of jail! Are you crazy?"
"Well, it was a thought. I mean, seemed like a good idea at the time." Shane sat back up and looked at her, forehead crinkling in a frown. "I just don't want you here. It's not--" He shook his head. "It's just not right. Me and Eve, well, yeah, she piled into it head-on, and I'm always in trouble. But you ..."
"I'm okay." She reached out and put her palm against his cheek, feeling the slightly rough stubble there. It made her steadier. It made her want to be somewhere else, like in the motel room, with the door closed. "I'm not going anywhere without you."
"I am such a bad influence on you."
"Trying to get me to stage a jailbreak? Yeah. You really are."
"Well, at least you didn't do it. There's that." The deputy got up from his desk and came to unlock Shane from the bench. "Let's have a talk, Mr. Collins," he said. "Oh, let's," Shane said, with totally fake enthusiasm. He winked at Claire, which made her smile for a second, until she remembered there really was something tragic here--one man dead; two missing. Granted, they hadn't been the nicest people, but still... She realized, with a grim, cold, drenched feeling down her spine, that she had no idea what Oliver had been doing when those men were being killed. No idea at all.
The sheriff kept them talking for hours, then locked them in the cell in the back. Shane went in one cell; Eve and Claire together in the other. All of their stuff was taken away, of course, including cell phones. Claire had erased the text messages, but she figured it was only a matter of time before the sheriff got them, anyway. And then he'd know for sure that Michael was out there, a fugitive from justice. That sounded romantic, but probably wasn't, especially since he was a vampire caught without shelter in the daytime. She hoped he and Oliver had remembered to take the cooler of blood with them. They might really need it, especially if they got burned. And here I am, worrying about a couple of vampires who can take care of themselves, she thought. I ought to be worrying a lot more about what's going to happen when they call my parents. They would--and that would make it just about a million times worse. "Hey," Shane said from the other side of the bars. "Trade you cigarettes for a chocolate bar."
"Funny," Eve said. She was almost back to her old un-Gothed self again, though there were still red splotches on her cheeks and around her eyes. "How come you're always behind bars, troublemaker?"
"Look who's talking. I didn't try to outrun the cops in a hearse."
"That hearse had horsepower." Eve got that moony look in her eyes again. "I love that hearse."
"Yeah, well, I hope it loves you back, because otherwise, that's just sad. And a little sick." Shane drummed his fingers on the bars. "This isn't so bad. At least I've got better company this time around." And he wasn't scheduled to be turned into a vampire, or burned alive, but that kind of went without saying. "And they even have toilet paper."
"Oh, I really didn't need to hear that, Collins." Eve sighed and paced around the cell again, hugging herself tight. "It tells me way too much about your past." Claire leaned into the bars. Shane leaned in from the other side, and their fingers brushed, then intertwined. "Hey," he said. "So, this is familiar."
"Not for me," she said. "I'm usually outside the bars."
"You're doing fine." Claire smiled at him, then drew in a quick, shaking breath. "I have to tell you something," she said. "It's important." Shane's fingers tightened on hers, and his index finger stroked gently over the silver claddagh ring, with its bright stone. "I know."
"No, you don't. I saw Oliver," she whispered, quickly and as softly as she could. Clearly, that was not what Shane was expecting to hear, and she watched him go through a whole list of reactions before he finally settled on annoyed. "Great," he said. "When?"
"Outside the windows while they were talking to you," Claire said. "Was he barbecued?"
"No, he was wearing a big coat and hat. I don't guess he was any too excited about being out in the daytime, though."
"I guess barbecued was too much to hope for." Shane fell silent as he thought about it, then finally shook his head. "They'll wait for dark," he said. "They'll have to, whatever they plan to do; Michael's just too vulnerable out there in the day. I wish we knew what they were doing."
"I'm pretty sure they're thinking the same thing about us," Claire said. "Since they probably have no idea what happened. As far as they know, this hassle is all about Eve's bad driving."
"Hey, I heard that!" Eve said. Shane smiled, but it was brief, and his dark brown eyes never left Claire's. "I don't like this," he said. "I don't like seeing you two in here."
"Yeah, well, welcome to my world," Claire said. "I haven't enjoyed it much seeing you behind bars, either." She laughed sadly. "This was supposed to be a fun little trip, remember? We should be in Dallas by now."
"My dad used to say that life's a journey, but somebody screwed up and lost the map." Claire wasn't sure she wanted to think about his father right now. Frank Collins wasn't the kind of ghost she wanted drifting around between them, especially since being in jail--again --probably made Shane think a lot about his dad. Not that Frank was a ghost. Unfortunately. He'd been a terrible, abusive father, and now he was a vampire, and she couldn't really imagine that it had improved him all that much. Even if he had saved her life once. "As long as we're together," she said. "That's what matters."
"Speaking of that," Shane said, "we could be together and headed anywhere when we get out of this, you know. I'm just putting that on the table." He was talking about not going back; about leaving Morganville. She'd been contemplating it, and she knew he had, too. "I--I can't, Shane. My parents ..." He bent his head closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. "Do you really think they want you to be there? Risking your life, every day? Don't you think they want you out, and safe?"
"I can't, Shane. I just can't. I'm sorry." Shane was silent a moment, then let out a long breath. "I bet I could convince you if I could get through these bars...."
"You'd get arrested all over again."
"Well, you're just that tempting. Jailbait." He kissed her fingers, which made her shiver all over; his lips lingered warm on her skin, reminding her of what it felt like to be alone with him, in that timeless, special silence. "Not a lot we can do until--" He stopped, then, frowning, looked over at the barred door that led into the sheriff's office. "Did you hear that?"
"What?" Even as she asked it, Claire heard the growl of an engine outside--a big one. It had to be some kind of truck, maybe, but not just a pickup--a big delivery van, or an eighteen wheeler. The brakes sighed, and the roar of the engine cut out. "I guess they're getting some sort of delivery, maybe?" Maybe, but somehow, Claire didn't think so. She had a bad feeling. From the way Shane was staring at the jail door--which wasn't telling them anything--he was feeling the same thing. And then in the outer office, glass crashed, someone yelled, and Claire heard laughter. Then more crashing. More yelling. Shane let go of her. "Claire, Eve--get to the back of the cell." When they hesitated, he snapped, "Just go!" They did it, not that there was anywhere in particular to go, or to hide. They sat together on one of the two small cots, close together, watching the jail door to see what would come through. What came through wasn't Oliver. It wasn't even Michael. It was Morley, the vampire from Morganville, in all his homeless-bum glory. He was dressed in layers of threadbare clothes, and he had a large, floppy black hat on his head over his straggly graying hair. He looked at the bars on the jail cell door, sneered, and snapped the whole thing off its hinges with a heave. He tossed the iron aside as if it weighed next to nothing. Morley stepped through the open space, surveyed the three of them, and swept off his hat in a low, mocking bow. He was good at the bowing thing. Claire supposed he'd probably had a lot of practice. He seemed old enough to have lived in a time when bowing well got you somewhere. "Like lobsters in a tank," he said. "I know we agreed you'd give up your blood to me, but really, this is just too easy." He smiled. With fangs. Claire got up and walked toward the bars. She didn't like letting Morley--or any vampire-- see she was afraid of him; from working with Myrnin in his crazy days--crazier?--she'd realized that showing fear was an invitation to them. One they found really hard to resist. "What are you doing here?" she asked. Because for a confusing few seconds, she thought that maybe Oliver had teamed up with Morley to rescue them. But that was flat-out impossible. The idea of Oliver and Morley ever being able to have a civilized conversation, much less actually work together, was completely ridiculous. "You're not supposed to leave Morganville!"
"Ah, yes. Amelie's rules." He said that last word with a lot of relish, and there was a muddy red flare in his eyes to match. "Poor, dear Amelie is operating at a disadvantage these days. Rumors said she was unable to keep the boundaries of the town in quite the same condition they had been. I decided to test the theory, and behold. I am free." That was really, really not a good thing. Claire didn't know a whole lot about Morley, but she knew he tended more to the bad-old-days model of vampire--take what you want, when you want, and don't care about the consequences. The opposite of how Amelie--and even Oliver --ran things. To Morley, people were just blood bags that could talk--and sometimes outrun him, which only made it more exciting. "They'll come after you," Claire said. "Amelie's people. You know that."
"And I look forward to seeing how that turns out for her." Morley paced back and forth in front of the bars, humming a song Claire didn't recognize. In the net of his wild hair, his eyes glittered with a kind of silvery light. They expressed not exactly hunger, but more like amusement. "You look cramped in there, my friends. Shall I get you out?"
"Actually, it's pretty roomy," Shane said. "I'm feeling better about it all the time."
"Perhaps ..." Morley turned. "Ah, you're playing the gentleman, I see. Of course, by all means. Ladies first."
"No!" Shane lunged at the bars. Morley had his eyes fixed on Eve and Claire now, and Claire thought, with a sinking sensation, that putting on a brave face wasn't going to get her very far --not with him. "Changed my mind. Sure. I'll go first." Morley shook his finger gently in Shane's direction, but without taking those shining eyes off the girls. "No, you had your chance. And I despise those who think themselves gentlemen in any case. You're not making friends that way."
"No!" Shane yelled, and slammed his hand into the bars, which rattled uneasily. "Over here, you ratty flea-bag! Come and get it!"
"Fleas suck blood," Morley said mildly. "Quite the cousin of the vampire, those clever little creatures, so why should I find that insulting? You really must find more interesting ways to bait me, boy. Tell me my beard would better stuff a butcher's cushion. Or that I have more hair than wit. Live up to your heritage, I beg you." Shane had no idea what to say to that. Claire cleared her throat. "Like ... you're... an inhuman wretch, void and empty from any dram of mercy?" She hated Shakespeare. But she'd had to memorize lines back in high school for a production of The Merchant of Venice. And it had finally paid off, from the surprise in Morley's face. He actually took a step back. "It speaks!" he said. "And in lilting, glorious words. Though I am not so partial to the Bard, myself. He was a pitiful man to drink with, always dashing off to scribble away in the dark. Writers. Such a boring lot."
"What are you doing here? Because I know you didn't come to get us," Claire said. She advanced and wrapped her hands around the bars, as though she wasn't at all afraid of him. She hoped he couldn't hear her heartbeat, but she knew he could. "We're not important enough."
"Well, that's certainly true. You're entirely incidental. Actually, we're in search of a town. Something small, remote, easily controllable. This seemed a good possibility, but it's rather too large for our purposes." We. Morley hadn't just slipped out of Morganville alone. Claire remembered the big, throbbing engine outside. Might be a big truck. Might be a bus. Either way, it would probably hold a lot of vampires--like the ones Morley had applied to be allowed to leave Morganville with in the first place. Oh, this just got better and better. "You can't just move in here," Claire said, trying to sound reasonable, as if that would do any good. She let go of the bars and backed away as Morley took a step toward her again. "People live here."
"Indeed, I'm not planning on it. Too much trouble to subdue such a large population. However, we're in need of supplies, and this town's quite well stocked. Couldn't be better." Morley suddenly lunged forward, grabbed the bars of their cell, and ripped the door off--just like that, with a shriek of iron and sharp snapping sounds. Eve, behind Claire, screamed, and then the sound went muffled, as if she'd covered her mouth. Claire didn't move. There didn't seem to be much point. Shane was yelling something, and for some odd reason the place on her neck hurt, the place where Myrnin had bitten her, where there was still a nasty scar. Morley stood there for a moment, hands on both sides of the doorway, and then stepped inside. He glided, like a tiger. And his eyes turned red, the irises lighting up the glittering color of blood. "Get down!" somebody yelled from behind him, and Claire hit the floor, not daring to hesitate even for a second. There was a loud roar that it took her a second to identify as gunfire, and Morley staggered and went down to one knee. The sheriff looked dazed, and there was blood on the side of his head, but he held his gun very steady. "Get down, mister," he said. "Don't make me shoot you again." Morley slowly toppled forward, face-forward, on the floor. The sheriff breathed a sigh of relief and gestured for Eve and Claire to come out. Claire did, jumping over Morley's outstretched hand and expecting that any second, any second at all, he'd reach up and grab her, just like in the movies. He didn't. Eve hesitated for a few seconds, then jumped for it, clearing Morley by at least a couple of feet, straight up. The sheriff grabbed them and hustled them off to the side, then unlocked Shane's cell. "Out," he said. "Help me get him inside."
"It won't do any good to lock him up," Shane said. "He already ripped off two of your doors. You want him to go for three?" The sheriff had clearly been trying not to think about that. "What the hell are these people?" he snarled. "Some kind of damn monsters?"
"Some kind of," Shane said. He'd put his hands on Claire, and now he wrapped his arms around her, and after a second, included Eve in the hug, too. "Thanks. I know you don't believe us, but we're not the bad guys here."
"I'm starting to think you might be right about that."
"What gave you your first clue? The fangs, or the door ripping?" Shane didn't wait for an answer. "He's not dead. He's playing with you."
"You can't kill him with that thing," Eve said. "Can't even slow him down, really." The sheriff whirled to stare at Morley, who was still facedown on the floor. He aimed his gun at the body again and kept it there. Morley didn't move. "No, he's down," the sheriff said, and walked over to press fingers to Morley's dirty neck. He yanked his hand away quickly, stumbling back. "He's cold." Morley laughed, rolled over, and sat up, doing his very best risen-from-the-grave imitation. It helped that he was filthy and looked kind of crazy scary. The sheriff backed away, far away, all the way to the wall, then aimed his gun at Morley and pulled the trigger, again. Morley brushed his clothes lightly, dismissing the bullet even before the echoes from the shockingly loud gunshot stopped ringing in Claire's ears. "Please," he said, and practically levitated to his feet. He reached out and took the sheriff's gun from him, then tossed it in the corner of the cell where Eve and Claire had been kept. "I hate loud noises. Unless it's screaming. Screaming's all right. Let me demonstrate." He reached out and grabbed the sheriff around the neck. Something pale and very fast flashed through the doorway, and suddenly another vampire was there--Patience Goldman, with her slender hand wrapped around Morley's wrist. She was a dark-haired young woman, pretty, with big dark eyes and skin that would have probably been olive had she still been alive. It added a honey undertone to her pallor. "No," Patience said. Claire had met her--and the entire Goldman family--more than once. She liked them, actually. For vampires, they had real concern for other people-as demonstrated by Patience's trying to keep Morley from killing the sheriff. "There's no need for this." Morley looked offended, and shoved her back with his free hand. "Do not lay hands on me, woman! This is none of your concern."
"We came to--get supplies," Patience said. She seemed uncomfortable with that, and Claire immediately realized that supplies was code for people-to eat. "We have what we need. Let's go. The longer we delay, the more attention we attract. It's unnecessary risk!" Patience and Jacob, her brother, had been hanging out with Morley for a while, and they'd wanted to break out of Morganville, and their parents' restrictions--Theo Goldman was a good guy, but kind of strict, as far as his family went, or at least that had been Claire's impression. Claire could easily believe that Morley had convinced Patience and Jacob to come along, since he was leaving, anyway, but she also didn't believe they'd go along with killing people. Not unnecessarily, anyway. Vampires in general were a little shaky on the details of morality in that area--a hazard of being top predator, Claire guessed. "Hmmm," Morley said, and turned his gaze back to the sheriff. "She does have a point. Fortunately for you." He released the man, who slammed back against the wall, looking sick and shaky. "Stay. If you move, speak, or in any way irritate me, I'll snap your neck." The sheriff froze in place, clearly taking it all very seriously. Claire didn't really blame him. She remembered her first encounter with vampires, her first realization that the world wasn't the neatly ordered place she'd always been told it was. It could really mess up your head. In fact, she wasn't entirely sure hers had ever recovered, come to think of it. She was just starting to relax when Morley reached out and grabbed her and Eve by the arms. When Shane yelled a protest, Morley squeezed, and Claire felt agony shoot in a white bolt up her arm. Yeah, that was almost broken. "Don't cause a fuss, boy, or I'll be forced to shatter bones," Morley said. "The girls come with us. If you want to run, you may. I won't stop you." Like Shane would. Or even could, being Shane. He fixed Morley with a bleak, grim stare and said, "You take them, I'm coming, too."
"How gentlemanly of you," Morley said, smiling. "I believe I already told you how I feel about gentlemen. But suit yourself." He hustled Claire and Eve out into the open room that was the police bullpen. Desks had been shoved around, papers littered the floor, and Deputy Tom was lying half hidden behind one of the chairs. Claire was glad she couldn't really see him. She hoped he was just... knocked out. Somehow, though, she really didn't think so. Shane followed behind Morley. Patience walked next to him, but she didn't try to touch him --which was probably smart, given the fiery look in Shane's eyes. His muscles were tight, his hands bunched into fists, and the only thing holding him back from punching Morley was the certain knowledge that it would be Claire and Eve who'd get hurt. Morley shoved open the glass outer door with a booted foot, and glanced up at the blazing sun. "Quickly, if you please," he said, and dragged Eve and Claire across the open ground at a stumbling run to an idling bus. It was an old passenger bus, with darkened windows, and the next thing she knew, Claire was being shoved up the steep, narrow steps ahead of Morley, with Eve being dragged along behind him. It was dark inside, with only a few overhead reading lights on to show her the interior. There were worn, fraying velvet seats, and in almost every one sat a vampire, at least in the front two-thirds of the bus. In the back were mostly humans--tied up, gagged, and looking desperate. There were no Morganville residents, at least that Claire could spot offhand, but she saw two immediately familiar faces--Orange Cap and Angry Guy, from the diner, who'd trashed Eve's car. The sheriff had said they'd disappeared; she'd assumed they were dead, like their friend who'd been left with his pickup truck. Morley had grabbed them. Claire thought that the other one, the one who'd died, had been more of an accident than deliberate murder, although maybe he'd done something to make Morley angry, too. There was no way to tell, really. The two bullies weren't looking quite so in control now. Their eyes were wide, their noses were running, and they kept wrestling against the ties that held them in place. "Friends of yours?" Morley asked, seeing her expression. "I'll see if I can seat you in the same section. Aisle or window?" He shoved Eve into a seat next to a window, across from Orange Cap, and then slung Claire into the empty chair beside her, on the aisle. Then he turned to Shane. Shane sat down silently in the chair in front of Claire. Patience, watching this, bit her lip and shook her head, but when Morley snapped the orders, she broke out some plastic cable ties and fastened Claire and Eve to the seats, then turned to Shane. "I'm sorry for this," she said softly. "You should have gone. Gotten help. I would have made sure no harm came to them."
"I don't trust their lives to anybody but me," he said. "No offense."
"None taken," Patience said with a sigh. "But Morley will require you to provide blood. He's promised not to drain any of our captives, but I'm sure you understand his temper. Resistance would not be wise." Shane shuddered and looked away. He didn't like giving blood, even at the Bloodmobile or the blood bank, and that was a lot more removed from having a vampire taking it, no matter whether they used medical equipment or went the old-fashioned way. Claire wasn't too cool with it herself, and she knew Eve well enough to know she'd fight it, hard. "Let us go," Claire blurted. Morley had wandered away toward the front of the bus now, talking to someone else, and Patience was leaning over her, checking her bonds, which were very tight. "Patience, please. You know this isn't right. Just let us go."
"I can't do that."
"I can't," Patience said, with soft but unyielding emphasis. "Please don't ask again." She straightened and walked away without another glance, leaving them in the back, pinned like the other UnHappy Meals. At least she hadn't gagged them. Claire supposed she would, if they started screaming. Note to self: don't scream. Good advice. Shane twisted around in his seat to peer at her over the top of the seat. "Hey," he whispered. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Eve?" Eve was fuming, her cheeks bright, her eyes hot with fury. "Fine," she snapped, biting off the word and leaving a sharp, broken silence. After a second, she softened a little. "Pissed off. Really pissed off. What kind of stupid trip is this? So far, I've been assaulted, insulted, arrested, and now I'm tied to a chair by a bunch of vampires in case they crave a little O negative at lunch. And my boyfriend is out there somewhere, dodging sunbeams. This sucks! "
"Ah--" Claire didn't quite know how to answer that. She looked at Shane, who shrugged. "He'll be okay."
"I know," Eve said with a sigh. "I'm just--I need him right now, you know? Shane was all gallant and came with you. I feel... abandoned, that's all."
"You're not abandoned," Shane said. "Dude, don't bag on Michael. It's a whole different problem when you're flammable." Eve turned her face away, toward the window, and said, "I know. I'm just--Gah, seriously, I hate being helpless! We have to do something," she said. "We have to get out of this." But, as Morley dropped into the driver's seat of the bus, slammed the doors closed, and put the beast in gear, Claire wasn't at all sure what options they really had. Morley wasn't interested in bargains, and they had nothing to trade, anyway. No way they could threaten him, not even with Amelie; he'd already given Amelie the finger on his way out of Morganville, and he clearly wasn't worried about her coming after him--or, if so, what would happen when she did. Claire didn't have anything else in her bag of tricks; nothing at all. "Wait it out," Shane said, as though he knew what she was thinking--and he probably did, actually. He was starting to get really good at that. "Just wait and watch. Something will happen. We just need to be ready to move when it does."
"Fantastic," Eve muttered sourly. "Waiting. My favorite. Next to skinny-dipping in acid and having vampires suck my blood. "
"Sorry," Shane said to Claire. "For what?"
"That you're sitting next to Little Miss Sunshine. It's not going to be a fun trip." He was right about that. It wasn't. 8 Eve mostly sat in silence, but she was just crackling with anger. Claire could feel it coming off her like static electricity. She wasn't cooling off anytime soon, either; Claire thought she was being angry to keep from being scared, which wasn't a bad choice. Being scared under these circumstances wasn't going to get them anywhere. It certainly hadn't helped Orange Cap and Angry Guy much, or the five other people Claire could spot who were bound and gagged, waiting for a vamp to get hungry. She saw it happen once, but in the medically approved way; Jacob Goldman--Patience's vampire brother, and under other circumstances kind of an okay guy--had fixed somebody up with a tourniquet and drawn out about ten tubes of blood from one of the men sitting two rows up. He was good at it. Theo, his dad and a doctor, had probably taught him how to do it. She supposed there was one advantage to having a vampire draw your blood--he wasn't likely to miss a vein and have to try again. Jacob looked unhappy about what he was doing, and at the end, even patted his victim on the shoulder in a gentle, reassuring way. Claire half expected him to hand over a lollipop- although since the man was gagged, that probably wouldn't make much sense. "Not happening," Eve whispered next to her. "No, not happening. This cannot be happening. Where the hell is Oliver? Isn't he supposed to be our chaperone?" Claire didn't know and couldn't begin to reassure Eve, because there was a creeping sense of doom coming over her, too. Michael wasn't showing up, and neither was Oliver, and that had to be bad. It just had to be, somehow. Oliver, at least, could stand the sun; she'd seen him outside the jail before Morley had made his dramatic entrance. So why wasn't he stepping in? Because you're not important, Claire's little, traitorous voice whispered. Because you're just human. Fast food on legs. No, that wasn't true. Even Oliver had treated them--well, not exactly nicely, but he had developed a kind of basic respect for them. Maybe, in Eve's case, even a little liking. He wouldn't just stand by and watch things happen. Unless he thought he couldn't win, the little voice responded, and ugh, the little voice was way too logical for Claire to argue with. Oliver wasn't the self-sacrificing type, except maybe-- maybe--where it applied to Amelie--and only in little glimpses. But Michael was, and Michael would have shown up unless something had stopped him. Or someone. Claire cleared her throat. "Jacob? Can I ask you something?" Jacob slipped the blood vials into a pocket of his jacket and came back down the aisle of the bus. He swayed gracefully with the motion of the road, not even bothering to check his balance against the tops of the seats, the way a human probably would have. He crouched down next to Claire, bringing them to eye level. "I'm so sorry," he said immediately. "This was not what we'd planned. We never intended to do it this way, but we couldn't get to either the blood bank or the Bloodmobile--they were both well guarded. We had to choose--leave without supplies, or ..."
"Or pick them up at the convenience store?" Claire tried to keep the judgy tone out of her voice, but it was hard. "That's not what I wanted to talk about." Jacob nodded, waiting. "Have you seen Michael?" Jacob's eyes widened. "No," he said, and he was an even worse liar than Claire expected. "No, did he come with you?"
"Jacob, you know he did." Claire said it softly, and hoped that Eve couldn't hear what she was saying. "Did something happen to him?" Jacob stared at her for a few long, sick seconds, then said, "I don't know." He stood up and walked away. Claire bit her tongue on an almost-overpowering urge to yell something after him; it probably would have just gotten her gagged, anyway. Shane was turned in his seat, as much as his bonds would allow, and he was staring at her. He knew, too. Claire risked a glance over at Eve, but she was staring out the window. Not crying, not anymore. She just looked... distant, as if she'd removed herself from everything happening around her. Shane was right. There was nothing to be done now except wait. Claire was bad at it, but she spent the time trying to think through the problem. What would Myrnin do? Probably invent some device made out of fingernails and coat threads that would cut through plastic handcuffs. Then again, Myrnin would be cheerfully chugging down the blood, so maybe he was not such a good example to follow. Sam. What would Michael's grandfather have done? Still a vampire, but he'd never have gone along with this stuff. He'd have stood up for people. He had his whole life, both as a human and a vampire. And he'd have never been handcuffed to a seat, genius, Claire's little voice reminded her. How about Hannah Moses? That was a good suggestion, for once. Claire couldn't imagine how Hannah, who'd been a big-time soldier, would have gotten out of this, but it probably would have involved a concealed knife--which, of course, Claire didn't have. The steady throb of the road was hypnotic, and since the windows were blacked out, there wasn't much to see out there except some passing shadows. The vampires were mostly whispering among themselves, and she could feel their suppressed excitement. It was strange, but the vampires seemed to feel they'd been prisoners in Morganville, too--mostly prisoners of its strict rules of conduct, but Claire knew they hadn't been allowed out of town freely any more than the human residents. It was odd that the vampires would now be feeling that same freedom that she, Eve, Michael, and Shane had felt leaving the town borders. It seemed ... wrong. "Eve?" Claire tried bumping Eve's shoulder with her own. She did it often enough to finally pull Eve out of her staring trance and get her attention. "Hey. How you doing?"
"Fantastic," Eve said. "Adventure of a lifetime." She dropped her head back against the seat's built-in pillow and closed her eyes. "Wake me for the massacre, okay? Don't want to miss it." Claire had no idea what to say to that, so she just settled her own head back, closing her eyes, too. The road hiss became a kind of white noise in her head, and then ... She was asleep.