Ambrose ran past the other exhibits – cages, moated enclosures, and mysterious exhibits hidden behind well-made doors. They all stood close together, tightly packed together with no space for him to slip through and hide.
Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed.
Footsteps. Splashing through puddles – loud, hard, and unrelenting.
They’ll find me. They’ll catch me. They’ll lock me up in that hell-hole. I can’t go back to that. I can’t. I can’t.
Another wave of dizziness crashed over him. The world spun tipsy-side up and down. He stumbled and almost fell.
And the footsteps kept coming.
He clenched his teeth and pushed himself to run faster. He swerved like a drunk on roller skates, but he kept running.
The front gates loomed up ahead.
The front gate was so close. Just a few more steps. Just a few more steps.
He ran up to the door and tried to open it.
The door was locked.
“Rrraah!” He kicked the door with all of his strength.
It swung open.
And his dizziness sent him reeling again.
He pressed his face against the door frame’s metal and wood. “I don’t want to go back.”
Footsteps. Closer. Closer. Closer.
Ambrose side-glanced at the other man.
He stood there – a stranger in a drenched black raincoat – with a silver crossbow in his hands. “I don’t want to kill you. But I will if you don’t cooperate.”
“Cooperate? With who?” Ambrose closed his eyes, which only made his dizziness worse. He moaned softly.
“My name is Hildreth Mayhew. I’ve been a vampire hunter most of my life. This job here is temporary. I could explain why. I could tell you so much about me.”
“And I could tear you to shreds. So, I’d say we’re about even.”
Metal chinked and chimed in the air until it landed in the puddle by Ambrose’s feet.
He opened his eyes and carefully slid down to investigate the unknown object. He picked it up.
At first, it didn’t make much sense. Just a connected jumble of buckles and metal bars and leather straps.
“Put that on and then we’ll be even.”
His eyes widened as he recognized the contraption. A series of images flashed in his mind:
Sitting against the Gondola of Doom.
Wearing the muzzle.
No way to eat.
Sunlight heating the metal.
The hot metal burning his skin.
He stumbled up to his feet.
Hildreth raised his weapon. “Put it on, vampire.”
“Put it on yourself.” He flung it at Hildreth and ran out the door.
Hildreth shot bolt after bolt, but he was too late.
Ambrose disappeared into the storm.