“Well he must have a bladder like a ninety-year-old,” I winced, as she pulled the bandage tight across my chest. “Because he was out in the woods again last night. He just appeared out of nowhere.”

“What are you trying to say?” she asked over my shoulder as she knotted the two ends of the bandage together. And as she spoke, I could feel her warm breath against my neck and my whole body stiffened. I couldn’t be sure if she sensed this, but she spoke again, her mouth just inches from my left ear. “If you think Drake is involved in the killings at this place, you’re wrong,” she whispered.

The touch of her breath against my neck felt warm and my skin prickled. Again, my mind swam with those memories of Sophie whispering in my ear, asking me to take her. I gently shrugged Madison away.

“Are you okay?” she asked, coming to kneel beside me again. Then gently squeezing my shoulder, she added, “You seem so tense.”

Brushing her hand away, I said, “I’m fine, Madison.” And as I looked at her, I couldn’t help but notice that the shirt she was wearing was now open at the throat. Had it been like that before? I couldn’t be sure. But now, I could see down the length of her long, smooth neck. A silver chain hung around it and disappeared between her breasts.

“Do you want to have a look?” she suddenly offered, her voice soft, almost dreamy.

Realising that she had caught me looking down her shirt, I tore my eyes away and asked, “Sorry?”

Fixing me with her brilliant stare, she loosened another button on her shirt and placed her hand inside. However much I fought the urge, I glanced down at her long fingers as they disappeared between her breasts. I wondered what it would feel like to have my hand inside her shirt. Screwing my hands into fists, I placed them beneath the sleeping bag I was lying on. I looked back at her face and she had that smile playing on her lips and her eyes glistened. It was like she had placed me under some kind of spell.

“It’s beautiful, don’t you think?” she suddenly whispered.

“Huh?” I said, looking back at her hand, which she had now removed from inside her shirt. Dangling from the end of the silver chain was a crucifix. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand, but big enough to show the beautiful craftsmanship that had gone into making it. It was so detailed that you could clearly see the tiny figure of Christ stretched out upon it, the crown of thorns circling his head and the nails protruding from his wrists and ankles.

“My grandfather gave it to me,” she said, as if breaking the spell she had placed me under.

“Mmm?” I said, looking away from the crucifix and back at her.

“Don’t you think it’s just the most amazing thing?” she asked me.

As if finally coming back to my senses, I said, “It’s nice enough, but not my sort of thing.”

“My grandfather said it would protect me,” Madison mused, looking down as it glittered in the palm of her hand.

“From what?” I half-smiled, feeling myself again.

“Evil, I guess,” she grinned back, quickly placing the crucifix back beneath her shirt again. Fastening the top two buttons, she stood. “You should try and get some rest, Potter. We might have a long night ahead of us tonight.”

Taking the bowl and cloth, she headed towards the door. Once there, she looked back and said, “What is your name?”

“Potter,” I said back.

“Your Christian name?” she smiled. “I can’t keep calling you Potter, it’s not very friendly.”

Looking at her, I said, “I’m not here to make friends.”

“My first name is -” she started.

“I don’t want to know,” I told her, shutting my eyes. “Let’s just keep this professional.”

I heard the door creak open, then close again as she left my room.

13

I moved from one town to another with little direction. I’d left Sophie’s life three months ago and hadn’t heard from her since. At each new town, I wrote to her. I told her how much I loved her, if there was only some way she could accept me for who and what I was. In those letters I tried to convince her that I wasn’t a monster. I’d give her my temporary address in the hope she would write back, or even better, come and see me. But I heard nothing. So on the very last day in each of the towns, I would check the mail, then move on again.

Even though I was only eighteen, I looked older and managed to get myself work as security on the doors of seedy night clubs. I worked in bars, picked fruit on farms during the summer months, and even had a go at being a short-order cook in some rat-infested motorway café. I kept pretty much to myself and didn’t make friends. I wasn’t there to make friends, just to make enough money to pay for lodgings and enough food to get by on.

I had no plan. I couldn’t go back to The Hollows and face my father and his ridicule. I’d have to listen to how I was a failure, a ‘big fucking disappointment’ as he used to say. But he was the disappointment. What had he ever amounted to? He spent his days sweating away in the mines beneath The Hollows, and most of the night too, if he could get the overtime. He was always so fucking angry at everyone and everything. And when he wasn’t working, he was pissed on root juice and slapping me upside the head and beating on my mother. My mother left in the end, leaving us both behind. I was fifteen, I think. Never saw her again. Maybe she was living above ground and I hoped she was happier than I was.

No. Apart from the rare visit to The Hollows to sedate my cravings, I couldn’t go home. I would rather die. So I moved on and on and on. But the work just became harder to find as the clothes I stood in began to look scruffier and dirtier by the day and my skin hung off my bones. Without money, I couldn’t find lodgings and spent many nights sleeping rough. I fell in with a travelling band of hippies for a while, helping them set up for gigs that they performed at summer festivals, but it was all drugs and women and I didn’t want anything to do with either. So I split one night and I took their van with me. I got about sixty miles before the gas ran out, but it was a place to sleep for a night or two before the cops picked it up sitting abandoned beside the road.

But the winter nights were the worst. The winters can be unforgiving in the North of England, and I spent many nights huddled against the wall of some derelict farm house, outhouse, or any other kind of house I could find. But one night, my luck changed. I didn’t realise it at first, but things got better for me. I smashed the small glass panel with my fist and the blood that seeped from my knuckles warmed my frozen fingers. Reaching inside the factory window, I lifted the lock, swung open the window and climbed inside. My first piece of luck was that I’d broken into a bed factory and oh what joy! A bed to sleep on! But the joy was short-lived as lights from a set of headlamps blazed across the factory windows.

Realising that I must have tripped an alarm, I sprang from the bed and peered through the window out across the empty car park in front of the factory. There was a police car out there and a cop stood beside it. He looked old with his silver hair glistening beneath the stars and a pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth. All the same, he was a cop and I couldn’t risk getting caught in here. I’d be arrested for burglary, and that would mean being taken into custody and the risk of who and what I really was, was too great.

I raced across the factory floor towards a fire exit set into the far wall. Throwing myself against it, I spilled out into the night, tripping the fire alarm. Running as hard and fast as I could, I made my way around the opposite side of the building where the cop was. With my heart beating in my chest, I pushed on. Then, as if from nowhere, the cop was in front of me. Pulling up sharp, I wondered how such an old guy had managed to get ahead of me so quickly.

Spinning around, I raced back in the direction I had come.

“Stop!” the copper called out.

“No fucking chance!” I yelled over my shoulder, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he was gaining on me.

For an old boy, he was fast. I knew if I didn’t do something to get away from him, he would have me and it would be game over. In a desperate bid to be free of him, I released my claws and ripped away my coat. I really didn’t want to do this, but what other choice did I have? I didn’t want him to see my wings or to see me fly away like some giant crow, but who would believe him?

With my wings unfolding from my back, I leapt into the air and within seconds, I was soaring high above the factory. I looked down, expecting him to be staring up at me wide-eyed and mouth open in shock, but I couldn’t see him. Spinning through the air, I back-flipped and then I saw him. Except he wasn’t standing in the car park scratching his silver hair, he was racing through the air towards me.

Just like me, he had jet-black wings that flapped like two giant sails on either side of him. His arms were tucked beside him, his head pointing down. He looked like some freaky missile as he shot towards me. This cop knew how to fly, and I don’t mean he knew how to flap his wings. He had speed and agility far greater than anything I’d seen before. Somersaulting away from him, he banked right, then came swooping towards me again. I shot away, but he was on me, snatching at me with his claws and dragging me out of the sky. For an old guy, he was immensely strong, and he threw his arms so tightly about me that I thought my spine would snap.

I struggled against him. He then fixed me with a pair of icy blue eyes and barked, “Keep still, boy, or you’re going to ruin everything!”

“But -” I started.

“No buts!” he growled over the sound of the wind. “You’re not the only goddamn Vampyrus living in secret above ground, so stop drawing attention to us!”

Then we were falling so fast through the air that I thought we were going to crash straight into the…

14

I woke with a start. I was having one of those dreams where you fall off the edge of a cliff and wake up just before you smash into the razor-sharp rocks below. Except I hadn’t been falling from a cliff in my dream, I’d been falling through the sky with Murphy.




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