Halfway to the Grave

Page 80

"I hope those men catch that monster and kill him once and for all," she went on. "Then you won't be tormented by his control anymore."

My head snapped up. "Who? What are you talking about?"

She stared at me with defiance. "I told them the truth, the men who just left here. Told them you'd been led astray by one of those creatures, and that he'd run away from the house last night. The older man knew about vampires. They're looking for him. I hope they slaughter him. Then you'll be free."

"Don! Get in here!"

Now I jumped off the bed and flung open the door. The guard made as if to pull his gun at seeing me unrestrained, but Don quickly blocked him in his straight-legged wheelchair, with Tate following close behind.

"It's okay, Jones. We have it under control."

"But she...she..." Jones gaped at the bed rail dangling from my right handcuff, mouth opening and closing.

"Just watch the door," Bradley snapped, and pushed past him with his good arm.

"Did you ladies have a nice chat?" Don inquired.

"You smug son of a bitch. What game do you think you are playing?"

Don looked as unruffled as if he were sipping tea at a luncheon. "Ms. Crawfield, would you excuse us and let us have a few moments alone with your daughter? The guard will see you back to your room."

She didn't say goodbye and neither did I. Both of us were furious and felt deceived. Unlike her, however, I knew I could never stop loving her. She was my mother, no matter what occurred. I could forgive her even this.

"So, your mother told you she informed us about your...relationship with a vampire? She thinks he put some kind of spell on you. Is that true? Are you under his thrall?"

"Only if you count sex," I countered without batting an eye. Let them think it was merely physical.

Bradley gave me a look of thinly veiled disgust. I'd had enough of that.

"Oh, shove it up your ass, if you can fit anything in that tight GI shit-shoot!" My mother's judgment I had to take, but I didn't have to put up with his.

His face actually colored with indignation. Don hid a smile behind a cough.

"Be that as it may, I find it notable you didn't bring up your close association with a vampire earlier. Perhaps you lean more towards their side than appearances dictate?"

"Look, Don, who I choose to f**k is not anyone's business but my own. He and I had similarities in our goals. Did my mother tell you he killed vampires as well? She probably left that out in her haste to see him dispatched. We had a commonality of purpose and it led to some extra attention. It's not like it was serious, he was just passing through."

"Just passing though?" Skeptically. "This would be the vampire who crushed Danny Milton's hand at a bar in November? The police might think it's impossible to cripple someone with a handshake, but then they've never been aware of a vampire's work before."

"Well, well, aren't you Mr. Smarty Pants? In case you haven't heard it from the horse's mouth, that creep Danny used and abused me when I was sixteen. I asked my friend to teach him a lesson. Now his hand won't be feeling up any underage skirts for a while." Again the lies slid smoothly off my tongue. "And in case you didn't realize, a vampire's idea of just passing through is staying a few months. They calculate time a little different than we do."

"Then you'll fill us in on the details of where he is." This from Bradley, still smarting from my earlier comment.

Laughing, I shook my head. "Sure. Great idea. Rat on a vampire who doesn't have a grudge against me, pissing him off when I haven't the slightest notion if you could protect me afterwards. I'm half human, but I'm not all stupid."

"Do you know what I think, Catherine? I think you're not stupid at all."

Don spoke quietly, with that same pleasant half smile. "No, I think you're very, very smart. You'd have to be, wouldn't you, to hide what you are all of these years and sneak out at night to kill the living dead. My God, you're only twenty-two, and you've seen more combat than most of the soldiers in uniform. I think you'll try to run away. Take your mother and leave, with or without your vampire lover. But there's a small problem with that, as you just found out. She won't go. You see, she hasn't accepted you for what you are. After finding out about your unusual sex life, she's even more upset. You'll have to leave her behind in order to disappear, and when you do, how many things will come crawling out of the ground to use her to get to you? How many vampires have you killed? I bet they had friends. Oliver did, too. And all of your cajoling won't change what she sees in you. She sees you now as a vampire, and she will never leave with one of them. You may as well kill her yourself before you go, it would be kinder."

"You bastard!"

I launched out of bed, slamming Bradley in the head when he moved to block me. He dropped like a stone onto the floor. Then I grabbed Don by his shirt collar and hauled him out of his wheelchair, lifting him until his feet dangled in the air.

"You can kill us both now, Catherine," he panted. "We can't stop you. Maybe you'd make it out the window without getting shot. Maybe you'd make it to her room and fling her over your shoulder and carry her off, kicking and screaming for help. Maybe you'd get a car and a false passport, meet up with your lover and try to skip the country. Maybe you would get away with all of that. But how long before she left you? How long before she ran away out of fear of her own daughter? And then how long before someone found her and made her pay for what you've done?"

Don held my eyes as tightly as I gripped his shirt. In his stare I could see the truth. See my mother fighting every moment to escape, probably trying to kill herself out of misery, and then getting stolen away again because of me or Bones. We would try to rescue her, of course, and then what if she died and Bones did as well? It was one thing to risk my relationship with her if she didn't accept me because of the man I loved. But I couldn't demand her life in return for my happiness, and I couldn't risk his for the same reason. We could run all over the world, but we wouldn't be able to escape what was inside us, and eventually it would destroy all of us.

I relinquished my grip on Don. He crumpled to the ground, his shattered knees unable to hold him. There was a way to ensure the safety of both Bones and my mother, and it only required one sacrifice. Mine.

I knew then that I had to take Don's offer. It tore at my heart, but to do any less would be to condemn either Bones or my mother. Her hatred of vampires was so great, she would get herself or him killed if we tried to run away, and we'd have to, with so many different people chasing us. We couldn't run from Hennessey and Oliver's remaining friends, the police, plus a secret U. S. government agency as well! One of them would catch us. It would only be a matter of time. If I went with Don, I'd be eliminating two out of the three threats against us, so the odds of Bones and my mother being safe more than doubled. How could I refuse, if I claimed to love them? Love wasn't doing only what was best for me, after all. It was doing what was best for them.

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