Ambrose watched the vampire run out of sight.
I could chase him and pummel him into the pavement.
He deserves it on so many levels. Low-life punk.
Maybe I will.
John pulled up next to him and lowered his window. “Hey.”
Ambrose relaxed and walked over to the car. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry. Have a good night.”
“You too. Could you do me a favor?”
“Depends on what it is.”
Ambrose smiled. “Good answer. Could you please take Barbara to your place? Just for tonight.”
“That vampire who attacked you was watching her. I’d feel better if she weren’t alone.”
“Not a problem. You stay out of trouble, okay? Don’t get yourself staked.”
“I’ll do my best, sir. Good night.”
As John’s car pulled out of the parking lot and drove away, Ambrose felt the pull to run after them.
If anything happens to her…
If that vampire hurts you, I’ll tear his jaw off.
He zipped up his coat collar and headed towards Kevin’s house.
A bad bout of nervousness frazzed up his nerves.
How far gone will he be tonight?
Will he even look human?
If he’s in bad shape, how will I tell her? I’ll have to tell her, but it will hurt her to hear it.
Whatever it may be.
He stopped in the middle of the street and nearly got run down by a Plymouth Prowler.
What if the smell in his room is even worse than before? How am I going to go in there? How am I going to stay in there all night?
He thought about Barbara and resumed walking.
I’ll do it for her. If I vomit all over him, well. Tough. It’s his fault for having such a wretched scent.
Kevin sat in a crouch by the bonfire, watching ribbons lined with pictures flare out of the fire.
Many of the ribbons featured a woman with wavy honey-blonde hair. Some involved a man with shaggy black hair. The rest involved a young man with long bangs.
He tried to catch those memories, but his arms’ range of motion was limited. So, he gave up. He let the ribbons ripple into the sky and disappear.
Kevin crept over to the Night Folk. They stood silent and still as always, awaiting his approach. There seemed to be more than last time, but he couldn’t say how many more. Numbers no longer had any meaning to him.
He approached the leader and groveled at its feet, hoping for a reprieve.
The leader held out its hands.
Kevin had to obey.
He sat back on his haunches and struggled to offer the leader his hands.
The leader took them and held them tight.
Kevin woke with a whimper.
He lay flat on his side.
His ribcage rose and fell – sharp, hard, and fast – with each breath.
Nothing hurt, but he knew that blessing wouldn’t last for long.
He could feel the movement of time. The ticking of the seconds and minutes before the pain would come.
In a series of tremors and convulsions, it came and his body started to change again.
Ambrose walked through the front door.
The scent punched him as hard as ever, making him reel back.
I have to do this.
He covered his nose and mouth with his hands and headed upstairs.
His breathing was the only sound.
Why does he have to stink SO bad?
His stomach tightened up on him.
I can do this.
For Barbara, I can do this.
He stopped outside Kevin’s bedroom door. The scent of rotten, maggotted garbage curled around the door’s edges.
Even with his nose and mouth covered, he still coughed and gagged.
I can’t go in there. I can’t go in there can’t go in there can’t go in there. I’m going to be sick. I can’t go in there. I’ll get sick if I go in there. I’ll DIE from being sick if I go in there.
He closed his eyes.
And Barbara looked up at him.
Barbara’s counting on me.
I can’t let her down.
God, help me get through this night.
He opened his eyes.
He uncovered his face.
He opened the door.
The scent hit him like a fire’s backdraft.
He doubled over, coughing and gagging and retching and panting.
I can do this.
I can do this. For you.
Just for you.