By S. J. Hinton
3 AM, Sigil, Texas.
It's been said that everything happens at three in the morning. It's
also been said, with some trepidation, that anything unusual or scary
that happens does so in Sigil, Texas. Or, at least, it happens more
often in Sigil than almost anyplace else.
No one knows why, exactly. Like why people from a pre-Columbian
culture came to Sigil to build a huge earthen mound, only to fill it
with pottery shards and stone chips before disappearing into the mists?
Or why an old park in downtown Sigil called The Woods has such a bad
reputation as being haunted that even the police refuse to enter its
There are just some things that don't have answers, and others that do
- even though people don't really want to hear those answers when
they're voiced. Most people who live in Sigil just try to ignore the
rumors and get along. It's mostly because Sigil is the only life they
Sharon Langley was one of those people. She was born in Tyler and
moved to Sigil with her family when she was four. She went to grade
school at North Sigil Elementary, then on to Hubert Johnson Middle
School. She graduated from Louis Clarke Memorial High School with
honors and went on to the University of North Texas, Sigil Campus. She
worked through high school at the Quicky Express Superstore, then went
on to become the Associate Supervisor at Video Emporium. Currently,
she'd just started at Computer Town as an evening Shift
And right now, she was sitting in her car trying to figure out what
Retail sucks, she thought as she checked the last drawer and put it in
the lock cabinet. She ran a hand through her short dark hair and bit
back a yawn.
Ben Selleck, the new Operations Manager smiled at her. He was a nice
enough man, but something about his eyes gave her the creeps. It was a
kind of haunted look that only people with deep, dark secrets
"Am I boring you, Sharon?"
She laughed a little. "No. Sorry, but I'm a little frazzled
He nodded easily. "No problem. I'm almost done here. Why don't you
check the back and get your coat?"
She went to the back hallway and checked both restrooms for anyone
hiding, then the fire door at the end of the hall. The restrooms were
empty, and the door was locked and barred. When she checked the
warehouse door, it opened at her touch.
"Damn," she whispered under her breath. She hated the warehouse at
night, especially when she was alone.
She took a deep breath and went in. It was mostly uninsulated, so the
air was chilly. The only other exit was through the loading dock, and
that door was alarmed and barred. She turned to leave, keys jangling in
There was a slight sound above, and she nervously looked up.
She'd known about the roof entry since her second day on the job. The
sliding door was a heavy steel affair with a complex spring-powered
locking device she could never have actuated, and it was located at the
top of a twelve-foot metal ladder bolted to the wall. As she looked up,
a low scrabbling sound came from the other side of the door, and a bit
of pinkish fluff drifted down to her arm.
"Hello?" she called, her voice undoubtedly not carrying very far. She
licked her lips again and tried louder: "Is anyone there?"
The slight echo died down, and there was no sound from the door. She
breathed deeply to try to still the pounding of her heart in her chest.
She could feel the pulse in her neck thudding against her windpipe,
making it slightly difficult to breathe.
Something touched her shoulder.
She jumped. It scared her so badly her skin tightened, making her face
and shoulders burn. Talk about jumping right out of your skin...
There was nothing there. The touch had been a hint of movement of air,
"Sharon?" Ben's voice crackled over the speakerphone.
"Where are you? I'm done."
She breathed a sigh. "So am I," she replied. She hoped no one was
really trying to get in through the roof. "I'll be right up."
She hurried from the warehouse, locking the door as she went. She
paused only long enough to get her coat from the break room, and then
she was waiting outside the office for Ben.
"That was fast," he said.
"I got spooked in the warehouse," she replied. "I was checking the
doors and thought I heard scratching from the roof door." She believed
in covering her back.
Ben shook his head. "I doubt anyone'd try that," he said. "There are
still plenty of lights on in the store, so it'd have to be a stupid
person to try to break in right now."
Sharon silently agreed, but didn't feel much better. She couldn't
remember when she'd heard it, but she understood that Ben hated the
dark. In spite of his assurances he seemed on edge.
They checked to make sure the printer paper wasn't jamming and that
all the closing reports were running, then Ben armed the alarm and they
left the building.
Ben usually made sure any employees he closed with were in their cars
and that the cars were started before he left. He fumbled at bit with
his jacket as they walked.
"Sorry, Sharon, but I've got to run. I forgot to pick up a book for my
wife earlier, and I've got to do that or she'll skin me." He ducked his
head a little.
Sharon nodded. "Go ahead. My car is right over there, and I'll be
right behind you."
He paused. "You sure?"
She nodded. Ben smiled a little then, waved, and was off. His car
started immediately, and he was at the lot entrance before Sharon made
it to her car.
She watched his taillights, realizing she was very alone.
Real smart, she thought. Now, just get the door unlocked and get in.
She reached into her pants pocket, then remembered she'd put the keys
in the coat pocket instead. She rummaged in first one pocket, then the
other. Come on! Her fingers touched and closed on cold metal.
She dropped her keys.
With her heart again thumping frightfully in her chest, Sharon knelt
and felt for the keys. The streetlights were too far away, and the
store lights too dim to be of much help.
There was the soft scrape of a shoe behind her. She tried to turn, but
she was grabbed from behind and held fast. This can't be happening! She
thought frantically. We're too close to the street. Someone's got to
"Okay, missy," a voice breathed in her ear. "You do what I say and
you'll be fine."
Sharon was much too frightened to say anything, even if a hand wasn't
clamped against her mouth. She nodded.
"Great," said the voice. "I need to get in the building. You're going
to help me. If I take my hand away, you won't do anything dumb, will
Sharon shook her head, and the hand slowly came away. "I don't have a
key," she said quickly.
"That's a problem," said the man. "But I got an idea. You can tell me
a little about what the boss does when you close, right?"
She swallowed. "Anything you want to know," she replied in a hoarse
"That's fine," he replied. "Then you'll answer my questions. But
first, we got to get out of sight of the road. Walk over there with
He shifted from behind her to a little to one side, and put pressure
against her arm to steer her toward the back of the building. Sharon
tried not to look at his face, even if it was a temptation. They say
not to resist or to argue. Just do what they tell you, and you won't
They reached the back of the building, where they were out of sight of
the street and sidewalk. A drive curved back behind the store and back
out to the street on the other side, but no one was going to drive
through the lot at this hour. The man let go of her arm, and walked a
little around to look at her face. His face was not hidden at all, and
he looked much younger than she thought he'd be. Maybe nineteen.
"We've got a little problem, though," he said with a slight smile.
"You've seen my face, and I can't let it go."
Sharon shook her head. "I won't say anything," she pleaded. "I'll tell
you anything I can."
He shook his head and leaned into her. He hadn't brushed his teeth in
a few days. "You ain't got anything I can use to get in there," he said
with a nod toward the store wall. "No keys, no codes, nothing. But
maybe tonight won't be a complete waste of time."
When he bent to press his face into hers, she gagged. She tried to
push him away, but only received a shove for her trouble. She stumbled
and went to one knee at the wall.
He looked at her for several heartbeats. "Don't fight and it won't be
so bad," he said as he hooked fingers into his belt loops. Sharon
couldn't look at his face, couldn't keep her eyes off his hands. I've
seen his face, she thought. Rape will be the least he'll do.
He kept staring at her, licking his lips nervously. Then, with a
lunge, he was clumsily on her, pawing and gasping. Sharon tried to
scream, but he closed a hand on her throat. She closed her eyes and
tried to fight. He hit her.
And hit her again.
And was suddenly gone.
She felt the touch of cold night air on her legs where her pants and
been partially undone. She grabbed the waist and hitched them awkwardly
up as she lay on the ground. Then she opened her eyes.
A tall man stood partially over her. He held the would-be rapist in
both hands; the young man's feet clear of the ground and kicking. He
realized she was looking at him, and he turned his head to face
His eyes reflected light like a cat's, shining with a cold blue fire.
The punk made a gargling sound deep in his chest, and his feet seemed
to kick less. Sharon screamed, hardly an exhalation of breath, and
closed her eyes again.
There was a sound like a tomato being sliced, and something warm and
wet dripped on her. She passed out.
Sharon woke slowly, to the sound of dripping water.
She was cold. She opened her eyes and found herself sitting in the
reclined passenger seat of her car and the sound of water was rain
dribbling off the roof.
What the hell happened?
A very good question, the answer to which wasn't immediately obvious.
She lay still for a moment, assessing, and decided she was alive and
felt no specific discomfort. She moved a little, and was rewarded by a
twinge of pain in her shoulders and neck, but nothing too great. She
pulled the lever and adjusted her seat to its upright position, then
moved the mirror.
She couldn't see anything. Cursing, she reached over to turn on the
dome light, then studied her reflection.
There were barely visible dark circles under her eyes, but that could
be lack of sleep as much as anything else. There was a purplish smudge
on her right cheekbone and her lip looked split on the right side.
There were definite bruises on her neck, although they didn't look much
She pressed and poked, and only found what felt like a scraped right
knee. Her clothing was all back in place, and there were no other
Okay. She'd been assaulted. That much appeared to be fact. She also
appeared not to have been raped or harmed in any other way, so far as
she could tell. She didn't think the young punk would have been so
conscientious as to put her in her car, so what else happened?
There had been that other figure. The man she swore must have killed
the punk. What was his part in this?
She rapidly checked her clothes, and what she thought must have been
stains from the ground behind the store now looked hideously like blood
stains - a lot of blood. There appeared to be some on her hands,
She thought about getting out of her car and looking at the place
where the attack had occurred, but she was too afraid for that. It was
three in the morning, and she was trying to figure out what had
happened during the last five hours.
She decided that retreat was better at this hour, so she started her
car and drove to her home.
It was either very late, or very early. That depended on your point of
view. The glass was either half full or half empty.
It didn't matter to Sharon. As soon as the door was safely closed and
locked, she was stripping for a hot shower. He clothes were literally
smeared with blood and ruined. She'd heard that cold water would get
bloodstains out, but she didn't really care. She wadded the clothes up
and threw them in the trash.
The water felt good, pounding her flesh and cooking out the stink of
fear. She checked herself when she was nude, and found no other notable
injuries than she'd already been aware of. She stayed in the shower
until the water turned cold, then got out wrapped in a huge beach towel
and sat on the waterbed.
Activity had been good. While she'd been engaged, she hadn't really
had time to think of things other than the immediate. But now she had
to decide what needed to be done.
She'd been attacked. She'd been injured, although the injuries were
very minor. She'd been threatened with rape and worse, but neither had
come to pass. A stranger had rescued her, although he'd stopped only
long enough to make her safe and dry before taking off. She might have
witnessed a murder, although there was very little or no real
There's the blood.
Yes, and she'd seen the stranger lift the little punk clear off the
ground and throttle him. Then there had been a warm wetness, maybe
blood. Probably blood.
Okay, so go to the police. Yes, I saw the man who killed my attacker.
He was about six feet tall and very strong. Eye color? Oh, I'd say they
Sure. Then they'd question her more while she underwent psychiatric
So maybe the police were not the answer. A couple of days and the
bruises would be almost gone. If nothing unusual were found behind the
store by accident, nothing would come of it. If something were found,
then she'd go to the police. Why not step forward earlier? She'd tell
them what happened, and say she was confused and scared.
That was relatively easy. She was confused and scared.
She doubted she'd sleep tonight, but was willing to try. After a quick
tour to make sure the house was completely locked up and safe, she
climbed into bed and set the alarm. She buried herself deeply into the
darkness and the sheets, forcing herself to relax.
Sharon hated alarms. Her sister would wake with a smile at a simple
touch, and wasn't much worse with a blaring alarm. Sharon jumped like
someone had doused her with scalding water, and would be grumpy for at
least an hour.
She got up, surprised she'd been able to sleep so well after all. She
made coffee and toasted bread, then sat and contemplated.
She needed time to heal both physically and emotionally. She rarely
was sick from work, so that didn't present much of a problem,
especially after the Christmas rush was officially over. All she needed
to do was wait until after eight o'clock to call in sick for her shift
at two today.
Meanwhile, what to do with her time? A line from her favorite comedian
popped into her head unbidden: Smoke a bowl of fruit loops and watch
the mid-morning movie. Right. Crude, but she liked it.
At eight, she called the store and asked for the manager on duty.
Caroline Andrews answered. "I'm so sorry to hear you're sick, Sharon,"
she said with concern. "Do you need anything?"
"No," replied Sharon, trying to sound worse than she felt. "I think I
just need a day or two off."
"Okay," Caroline said. "Just remember to bring a doctor's note if
you're out more than two days. Take care."
Sharon hung up and went off in search of fruit loops.
The second day heralded a crisis. Two, actually.
First, the bruises on her neck had become worse rather than better. If
they didn't begin to fade during the day, they'd be noticeable when she
returned to work tomorrow. If she didn't go to work in the morning,
she'd have to get a doctor's note.
Second, with nothing to do except watch TV, Sharon had eaten her way
through most of the snacks and all of the decent food in the house. She
was down to the miniature chocolate chips she'd bought for baking and
cool-aid. Things were getting dire.
She had to go out of the house.
She decided to make do until later in the evening when the sun had
gone down. That way, at least, she wouldn't be accidentally be seen by
anyone unless they literally bumped into her. Then it wouldn't matter,
She didn't actually want to leave. During the course of the second
day, the fact that the young man had actually planned on raping her had
broken through the numbness, and her anger had come hot and quick. It'd
gone as quickly as it had come, leaving her depressed and wanting
nothing better than to be alone. But it had also left her wanting to
snack, and with nothing left in the pantry she realized she had few
choices. She also realized that she needed to break out of the pattern
she was beginning to follow. She couldn't allow herself to hide out
like this - she needed to get out and feel alive.
Shopping wasn't much of a first step, but it was a step
Night had come to Sigil...
The house Sharon rented for six hundred dollars a month was a
two-bedroom located three blocks west of University Avenue and just off
the Loop. The address was 400 Whitecastle Road, and the neighborhood
was very nice and quiet - not much traffic at night, although you could
hear the dull roar of cars on the highway.
Sharon decided to go to the Brookstone's at the corner of Broadway and
the Loop. It was fairly convenient, not to mention cheap. It also
carried the premium berries and piecrust ice cream she had a craving
for. She dressed down - jeans and a pullover baggy shirt - and drove
her ratty old car to the supermarket. She was still nervous about being
caught lying about being sick, so she kept her eyes open for anyone who
might know her.
If she weren't being so careful, she might not have noticed the man
watching her. He'd been standing outside when she drove up, and she
noticed him periodically as she shopped. He didn't really seem to be
menacing - he was actually kind of cute - but she was skittish after
At first she thought it might be the punk who'd attacked her. She
dismissed it entirely as she got a better look at the man and decided
he was older. He appeared to be in his mid or late twenties. He had
nice brown hair, cut collar length, and blue eyes. He was dressed
casually, and didn't look like he got out much. Maybe he was an office
worker or something of that sort.
She dismissed him, until she caught him watching her near the
vegetables. He was even more noticeable because he didn't appear to be
selecting anything: his basket was empty. Now she was really beginning
to get nervous, so she raced through an abbreviated shopping list and
rushed her bags into her car. She didn't realize she was nearly sobbing
until she pulled into the driveway.
Dammit, get a grip! Not everyone in the world is waiting to pounce on
But she was having a hard time believing it was true.
When she woke, it was to the phone ringing. Glancing at the clock, she
remembered she didn't set the alarm when she went to sleep the night
before. It was a little after nine.
It was Ben. "I heard you were sick," he said. "Sorry to call, but I
wanted to know if you needed anything."
"No, thanks anyway," she responded. "I should be okay by
"Fine," he replied. "By the way, did a man call you last night? He
claims he knows you, but it didn't seem like it to me."
"No," she said carefully.
"Oh." Ben seemed put off. "Then I'm glad I didn't say anything. He
wanted to get your telephone number, but I told him you'd be back
They chatted for several seconds longer, and then Ben hung up.
Sharon checked her answering machine and found a message left about
the same time she was running from the grocery store.
"Hello, Ms. Langley," said a deep, conversational voice. "I'm Gerald
Fallow. You don't know me, and I don't want to panic you in any way,
but I know about what happened to you yesterday evening. It's very
important that I speak with you." He gave a phone number and extension.
"It's very important, perhaps a matter of life and death."
Sharon was very definitely spooked by this time. Why would someone who
knew what had happened take this route?
She called the number, and found out it was the Excelsior Hotel
downtown. Pretentious and expensive, but not too expensive. The
extension was a room belonging to John Harker.
Why does that name sound familiar?
All in all, this was just too strange. Things were too weird, and
happening much too fast to get a good handle on.
That was when the doorbell rang.
Sharon didn't want to answer it, just in case it was someone she knew.
The draw of the doorbell was simply too strong to be ignored, in spite
of herself, so she peered through the peephole.
It wasn't anyone she knew. Against her better judgement, she opened
the door a crack, the safety bar still holding it close to the jamb.
The man shifted on his feet. He was about forty, a little gray at the
temples, and a couple of inches over six feet tall. He also was built
like an athlete. He cleared his throat. "Ms. Langley?"
"Yes," she nodded. The motion was lost to him.
"This is going to sound crazy," he stopped. "I called earlier. I'm
She didn't relax. "You sounded serious on the phone."
He nodded. "Dead serious. Excuse me," he ducked his head. "I saw you
make the acquaintance of a man who could be a very real danger to you.
That's why I'm here."
She became angry suddenly. "You saw me attacked -"
He cut her off. "Sorry, no. Had I seen you being attacked by that
other young man, I would have done something. As it was, I was too late
for that." He shook his head, lowering his voice. "No. I saw the other
man kill your attacker, then place you in your car." He glanced about.
"May we not discuss this inside?"
The heat didn't die down. "You saw a murder, saw me put in my car by
the killer, then just left me? You left me to whatever might have
happened, and to wonder whether I dreamt it all?"
He held up a hand. Sharon noticed the palm was scarred as if by a
"You were in less danger in your car than from the creature who placed
you there. As it was, without my showing myself, he left you there and
went on about his business. You see, I'm tracking him."
She frowned. "You're some kind of police?"
He smiled. "Hardly. I'm more of a bounty hunter. A very specialized
She didn't understand. "What do you mean?"
His smile was very tight and not very humorous. He leaned forward and
lowered his voice to hardly more than a whisper. "I hunt
"Okay, let me see if I got this right," Sharon sat back on the sofa, a
glass of soda forgotten and going flat on the coffee table in front of
her. "You're a vampire hunter, and have been tracking this one vampire
for months. The trail happened to lead to where I work, and you saw
this vampire kill a man who was attacking me, put me in my car, then go
off to hide the body." Her tone said she didn't think for a minute he
was telling the truth.
Fallow sat across from her in a lounge chair. He nodded: "That's about
the size of it, crazy as it sounds."
She stared for several heartbeats. "That's pretty nearly impossible to
Fallow sighed. "Vampires aren't monsters off a TV show, but they're
not human. They are the perfect predators of human beings. They blend
in, feed off humans, and then throw away the empties. They're not
afraid of churches or crosses, they can cross water or enter into your
house without permission, and bullets can't kill them. What proof do
you need?" He smiled just a little at that, allowing his sarcasm to
She shook her head. "Look, I think you need help. You can think
whatever you want to. I'd just like you to leave, now."
He leaned forward, his eyes very earnest. "Ms. Langley, he didn't hurt
you. But do not believe for a moment that you're safe. He knows you saw
him, and I doubt he can chance leaving you alive because of
"If you wanted to scare me, you did a good job. Now can you
He shrugged. "I want to protect you. I know how to do that, but only
if you'll let me."
"I appreciate that, but if killing vampires is what you do for kicks,
then just do it. If you kill the bad vampire, he won't be a threat to
me." She folded her arms.
Fallow looked like he'd been kicked in the teeth. "I can't believe
this," he whispered. He stood. "Okay, I'll leave. But please call me if
anything out of the ordinary happens. Or if you just change your mind."
He handed her a card, then turned and left.
She locked the door behind him before looking at the card. She
expected something a little more dramatic, but it was a simple tasteful
white card with his name and a cell phone number embossed on it.
It takes all kinds, she thought. But she pocketed the card, just the
It was a little after dusk. Sharon sat, eating a sandwich and watching
the news, when the doorbell rang for the second time that day.
I'm getting to be pretty popular, she thought as she went to the door.
She peered through the peephole and saw nothing but blurry redness. She
shook her head and carefully opened the door a crack.
Nothing. Well, almost nothing. No one stood at the door, but a spray
of red roses in a vase sat on the floor just outside the sill.
Looking both ways, Sharon saw nothing suspicious in the hall, so she
opened the door and picked up the vase. The roses smelled wonderful,
and they were the color of fresh blood, deep and velvety.
She plucked the card off its clip and read it: My apologies for not
speaking to you last night.
There was no signature or name.
Shaking her head, she closed the door and placed the flowers on the
table to the right of the door. That was when a pleasant voice spoke
from behind her: "I truly am sorry."
She turned in a swirl. The man she'd seen at the supermarket stood ten
feet from her, holding up a hand.
"Please don't scream," he said with a smile. "I won't hurt you."
Sharon put her back to the door and thought about screaming anyway. "I
wish I could believe that, but I didn't invite you in." She was amazed
how calm her voice sounded.
He cocked his head. She'd seen cats do that sometimes, looking at
mice. "True. But had I planned to harm you, I could have done that at
any time. In fact, I saved you from that young criminal."
His eyes were the bluest she'd ever seen. The whites were nearly
swallowed up by the blue, and his pupils were barely pinpricks.
Something about his face convinced Sharon.
"I'm sorry. I recognize you, and I should show more gratitude." She
swallowed. "But I don't like people breaking into my apartment."
"I walked through your open door," he said offhandedly. He looked
seriously at her face. "So you do recognize me?"
Whether Fallow was insane or not, he'd said this man was dangerous. He
knows you saw him, and I doubt he can chance leaving you alive because
"I think I do," she replied. "I didn't really get a good look at you
or at what happened when you saved me."
He smiled at that - a warm smile without showing teeth - but said
nothing in response.
Sharon tried to think her way through the situation. She was panic
stricken to discover she didn't have the slightest idea how to
"So. What can I do for you?" Brilliant.
"I think it might be more what I can do for you," he replied with that
winning smile. Sharon was shocked at how her stomach did little
"I don't know what you're talking about. It seems like you already did
something by getting rid of that punk."
He bowed his head just a little dip. "That's such a pleasant way of
putting it. Actually, I was wondering just how much you saw and how
much you remembered about what happened. Do you know where the young
man in question ran off to?"
She shook her head nervously. "No. I saw you holding onto him. It
looked like you were actually picking him off his feet. I don't
remember anything else until I woke up in my car."
"What do you think happened?"
She took a breath. "I don't really care. He attacked me, and I hope
you beat the shit out of him. There was blood on my clothes, so I
guessed that might be what happened."
He nodded. "That's a possibility." He seemed to think about that for
several seconds before changing gears. "Why have you been
She was taken aback. "I- I haven't been hiding."
He nodded again. "Yes, you have. You've not been to work, and you
didn't go to the police. Why?"
She was beginning to be annoyed by his demands. "If it's any of you
business, I felt bad. And I didn't want to upset anyone with these
bruises." She sighed. "And I didn't really know how I'd report any of
this to the police."
He considered for several heartbeats, then was at the door - just like
that. She blinked, sure that she must have allowed her attention to
wander while he covered fifteen feet. He paused with his hand curled
around the doorknob.
"Thank you. For both the honesty and for not going to the police." He
bowed a little at the waist. "I'll not bother you further."
"Gerald Fallow is looking for you," she said in a rush. What are you
doing? Don't you want to be rid of him?
He turned to regard her. For an instant his pupils dilated and his
eyes were swallowed in blackness.
"You've met him?" he asked.
Sharon treated it like a statement. "He's insane. He told me you were
dangerous and that he's hunted you for months." She swallowed. "He said
you were a vampire."
He turned to face her, a smile playing about his lips. "And what did
"I threw him out," she replied. "I told him he was crazy."
"Because he believes in vampires," he finished.
He raised an eyebrow. "And you couldn't believe anyone who would stop
violence against another person could be a monster."
She nodded. "Yes."
"Sharon," he breathed her name. "Don't think that anyone is safe
simply because of one good deed. Monsters take a variety of forms.
Fallow is one. Perhaps I am another."
He turned and opened the door. "I don't know who you are," she
"You may call me Jared," he said. It was a whisper of sound, and then
he was gone.
Sharon had spent the two hours digesting what had happened in the last
few days. The result wasn't in the least satisfying, and had left her
with one hell of a headache. In the end she had poured herself a glass
of brandy and had lay back on the couch with only the reading lamp on
the table lit.
She woke up rather suddenly to find the light extinguished and a dark
shape hovering over her. At the same time, she discovered a huge hand
grasping the lower portion of her face and throat. There was a flicker
of light - she couldn't determine the source - and Gerald Fallow's face
was briefly illuminated. The flash also disclosed the large gun he held
up for her inspection.
"You move, and you'll get hurt," he said in a low voice. "Do you
"Good girl. Don't scream, either." He removed his hand.
"What the hell are you doing in my house?" she hissed. She was
surprised at the calm heat in her voice.
Fallow reached over and turned the light on to its first click. She
hadn't noticed how large his hands were until she'd felt one around her
throat. He had grasped her lower jaw, and the tips of his fingers had
met behind her neck. Now the black automatic in his hand looked small
"I'm looking for your boyfriend," he replied, sitting back. "He was
He smiled. It wasn't pleasant. "The monster. It appears he's got a
crush on you."
Her eyes were wide as she shook her head. "You don't know what you're
talking about. I hardly know Jared."
Fallow's eyes flickered a little. "So that's his name."
Sharon squinted at Fallow. "You didn't even know that. Look, if you
don't leave, I'll call the police."
It was a weak threat, and Fallow knew it. "I doubt you would. Besides,
if you tried I'd kill you." He leaned forward. "I mean it."
Her heart was pounding in her throat, and she doubted she could speak
coherently, but she tried. Her life might depend on it. "What do you
want me to do?"
He relaxed a little. "Nothing. If you don't cause me any trouble, I'll
let you go without a scratch. If you don't do what I say I'll hurt
She took a shaky breath. "The police'll find out." She cursed herself
for saying something that stupid.
He just laughed. "I've dealt with the police before," he said. "First
off, I've taken precautions so that they'll be suspicious of anything
you tell them. Second, I've been sure not to leave any evidence behind.
They won't be able to link me here no matter what they get told."
"Why would they be suspicious of me?"
He said nothing, only smiled.
Another tack: "What makes you think Jared will come here?"
Fallow shrugged. "They're creatures of habit. Plus, he's been here
before, so he's got something invested in you. Probably thinks you'd
make a great snack."
She wanted to keep him talking, just to give her time to get out of
this. "You don't really expect me to believe he's a vampire?"
"You're a smart girl," he replied. "At least I thought you were. But
you don't know shit."
"Okay. Fine. So tell me what I should know."
At first she thought he wouldn't, in spite of the old plot device of
the bad guy always talking too much. Then he began to slowly
"I was trained by the army and sent out by the government to collect
information in Central and South America years ago," he said. "The
details don't matter. I was supposed to get the goods on some big shots
in the Colombian cartels.
"I wasn't good enough. I got caught." He held up his scarred hand.
"They tried to make me talk, but I didn't have anything they really
wanted. Then they threw me into a pit out behind an abandoned ranch
"They had something else in there. It looked like a child, but it
wasn't anything human. It was incredibly strong, and it overpowered me
in seconds, breaking my arm and doing this." He pulled down his collar
and exposed the left side of his neck. Thick cords of scar tissue ran
down and disappeared beneath his shirt. "It ripped at my throat and
anywhere else it could reach. It almost killed me with blood loss." He
swallowed. "When it was done it left me to die, or to finish off later.
It slept in the shadows when the sun came up, and I managed to cave its
skull in with a length of wood.
"I got out of there as best I could. I don't remember much how, but I
got back to town and got out of the country. Since that time, I've
spent my life learning about them and how to hunt and kill them."
"So you claim the child was a vampire," Sharon said. "How come you
aren't a vampire, now?"
"The old stories and movies aren't true," he replied. "I killed that
first monster by crushing its skull. They can take a lot of punishment,
mostly because they heal damned fast. But if they're damaged enough, or
killed instantly, they're really dead.
"A vampire's bite is just a bite. They drain blood fast, but usually
they don't drink enough to kill in sitting. They also only feed every
several days or so. You become a vampire only by drinking the blood of
a vampire or somehow getting your blood contaminated with vampire
blood. Even then, it doesn't always work.
"They don't fear any religious symbols or holy ground. Water and salt
don't affect them." He shrugged. "Sunlight can kill them, but it isn't
fast and it isn't pretty. You probably wouldn't get a chance to stake
one, since they don't sleep much heavier in the day than we sleep at
night. A gun'll do more damage and from greater range."
When he stopped, Sharon said: "And you think Jared's a vampire, and
that he's after me."
Fallow nodded. "Yes. I think they're all monsters, and I can't think
of any reason he'd be attracted to you other than for food or because
he wants to make you into a vampire, too." He fiddled with the gun.
"Frankly, I don't care about you. I don't really like you, and I
wouldn't risk my life for you. But if he's coming for you, I'll be here
to get him. Then I'll leave and you won't see me again."
Fallow shrugged. "I'd discovered there were vampires in Sigil. I just
happened to take note of him, and followed him the night he stopped
your attacker. After that he became a target."
Sharon looked him in the eye. "He saved my life. Surely-"
"You just don't get it, do you?" Fallow yelled at her. "He doesn't
care about you. Saving you was a side effect. Since he can't risk you
having seen him, he'll either kill you or make you like him. Either
way, you're dead." He was off the couch in a rush, and stood by the
"I guess you have to do what you have to do," Sharon said, gathering
her feet beneath her. She really didn't know what she intended to do.
"And I'll have to do what I have to."
Fallow turned, raising his gun as he did so. "To hell with this," he
hissed. "I'd rather shoot you than have to worry about my back." He
smiled tightly. "He won't know the difference, so you'll do as bait
dead or alive."
Sharon jumped up, knowing Fallow was going to put a bullet in her. It
was useless, but she couldn't just sit and do nothing.
The window exploded in a crash of sound, Fallow going down beneath
something very fast and deadly. He yelped once in pain, and the gun
Jared stood, his eyes reflecting the light like a cat's. There was
blood smeared across the side of his mouth. Fallow was moaning and lay
on the floor.
"Come," said Jared, holding out his hand.
Sharon took it. The skin was cool and dry beneath her
"Where are we going?"
"Someplace to decide your options," replied Jared. "You don't have
time, but bring anything you'll immediately need with you."
They sat in a booth near the back of an all-night diner. Sharon ate a
club sandwich, and Jared watched. He'd picked the table to be near the
He wore dark glasses to disguise his eyes. They weren't that inhuman,
as she'd seen, but they reacted quickly and strongly to light, and it
was better not to attract attention. During the hour's drive here,
Sharon also discovered that Fallow's wild shot had gone into Jared's
stomach. It caused some pain at first, but his body had already
rejected and expelled the bullet. She'd looked at the wound earlier,
and it already had closed and begun to heal. He'd borrowed a too-small
shirt from her closet.
"What about Fallow?" she asked. They'd been discussing police
"We heard sirens as we left your neighborhood," he replied. "I didn't
kill him, but I'd guess he might not have made it far immediately. His
real name is John Wagner, and he's wanted for questioning for several
She looked at her plate. "He said he'd made arrangements so the police
would question anything I told them."
Jared nodded slowly. "That's possible. But if he'd thrown any
suspicions your way, I think the police would have stopped to see you
already. Besides, he was trying to avoid the police, himself."
He paused, and Sharon studied his face. "He said you'd try to kill me,
or make me like you."
"He's a pathological liar," responded Jared. "If I'd wanted to kill
you I could have done it at any time. If I wanted to make you like me,
I would have required your assistance." He looked around the diner.
"It's not as easy as he might have made it sound, Sharon."
They were silent a moment. Sharon licked her fingertips, Jared
watching her as if with amusement.
"But I won't be able to get back to my life," she noted.
He thought a long while before responding. "I don't think Fallow will
let you get away," he said at last. "Maybe the police caught him, but
maybe not. Either way, I'm sure he'll manage some way of getting out of
it. He always has, according to what I've heard." He leaned across the
table. "Do you want to go back to your life?"
She had to consider that. No family, few friends. No ties. What do I
have to go back to?
He seemed satisfied. "I'm not a monster. I'm not human anymore, I
won't deny that, but I'm not a monster." He licked his lips. "I've
watched you for years, Sharon. I know you better than anyone else has.
I'd like you to consider coming with me. At least let me help you get
That strange tickle came to the pit of her stomach again. "You're
asking me to stay with you?"
He hesitated. "Not much of an offer, eh?" he smiled nervously. "It's
not as much excitement as you might think. This is the first time I've
encountered a real live vampire hunter."
Sharon thought about it for several heartbeats before responding.
"You're one hell of a first date," she said. "Let's see what you can
come up with for an encore."