Night World : Daughters of Darkness / Chapter 16

Chapter 16


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After that, things happened very fast, and at the same time with a dreamy slowness. Mary-Lynnette felt

her arms grabbed from behind. Something was pulling her hands together-somethingstrong. Then she felt

the bite of cord on her wrists, and she realized what was happening.

Tied up-I'm going to be helpless-I've got todosomething fast....

She fought, trying to wrench herself away, trying to kick. But it was already too late. Her hands were

secure behind her back-and some part of her mind noted distantly that no wonder people on cop shows

yell when they're handcuffed. Ithurt. Her shoulders gave a shriek of agony as she was dragged backward

up against a tree.

"Stop fighting," a voice snarled. A thick, distorted voice she didn't recognize. She tried to see

who it was, but the tree was in the way. "If you relax itwon't hurt."

. Mary-Lynnette kept fighting, but it didn't make any difference. She could feel the deeply furrowedbark

of the tree against her hands and back-and now she couldn't move.

Oh, God, oh, God-1 can't get away. Iwas alreadyweak from what Ash and I did-and now I can't move

at all.

Then stop panicking andthink, her inner voice said fiercely. Use your brain instead of getting hysterical.

Mary-Lynnette stopped struggling. She stood panting and tried to get control of her terror.

"I told you. It only hurts when you fight. A lot of things are like that," the voice said.

Mary-Lynnette twisted her head and saw who it was.

Her heart gave a sick lurch. She shouldn't havebeen surprised, but she was-surprised and infi nitely

disappointed.

"Oh, Jeremy," she whispered.

Except that it was a different Jeremy than the one she knew. His face was the same, his hair, his

clothes-but there was something weird about him, something powerful and scary and ...unknowable. His

eyes were as inhuman and flat as a shark's.

"I don't want to hurt you," he said in that distorted stranger's voice. "I only tied you up because I

didn't want you to interfere."

Mary-Lynnette's mind was registering different things in different layers. One part said, MyGod, he's

trying to be friendly, and another part said, Tointerferewith what? and a third part just kept saying Ash.

She looked at Ash. He was lyingverystill, andMary-Lynnette's wonderful new eyes that could seecolors

in moonlight saw that his blond hair was slowly soaking with blood. On the ground beside himwas a club

made of yew - made of the hard yellow sapwood. No wonder he was unconscious.

But if he's bleeding he's not dead-oh, God, please,he can'tbe dead-Rowan said that only staking and

burning kill vampires....

"I have to take dare of him," Jeremy said. "And then I'll let you go, I promise. Once I explain

everything, you'll understand."

Mary-Lynnette looked up from Ash to the strangerwith Jeremy's face. With a shock, she realized what

he meant by "take care of." Three words that were just part of life to a hunterto a werewolf.

So now I know about werewolves. They're killers and I was right all along. I was right and Rowan was

wrong.

"It'll only take a minute," Jeremy said-and hislips drew back.

Mary-Lynnette's heart seemed to slam violently inside her chest. Because his lips went farther up than

any human's lips could. She could see his gums, whitish-pink. And she could see why his voice didn't

sound like Jeremy's-it was his teeth.

White teeth in the moonlight. The teeth from herdream. Vampire teeth were nothing compared to this.

The incisors at the front were made for cutting fleshfrom prey, the canines were two inches long, the teeth

behind them looked designed for slicing and shearing.

Mary-Lynnette suddenly remembered-somethingVic Kimble's father had said three years ago. He'd

said that a wolf could snap off the tail of a full-grown cow clean as pruning shears. He'd been

complaining that somebody had let a wolf-dog crossbreed looseand it was going after his cattle....

Except that of course it wasn't a crossbreed, Mary-Lynnette thought. It was Jeremy. I saw him everyday

at school-and then he must have gone hometo look like this. Tohunt.

Just now, as he stood over Ash with his teeth all exposed and his chest heaving, Jeremy looked

completely, quietly insane.

"But why?" Mary-Lynnette burst out."Whydo youwant to hurt him?"

Jeremy looked up-and she got another shock. His eyes were different. Before she'd seen them flash

white in the darkness. Now they had no whites at all. They were brown with large liquid pupils. Theeyes

of an animal.

So it doesn't need to be a full moon, she thought. He can change anytime.

"Don't you know?" he said. "Doesn't anybody understand?This ismy territory."

Oh.Oh ...

So it was as simple as that. After all their brainstorming and arguing and detective work. In the end it

was something as basic as an animal protectingits range.

"For a hunting range, it is small," Rowan had said.

"They were taking my game," Jeremy said. "My deer, my squirrels. They didn't have any right to

dothat. I tried to make them leave-but they wouldn't.They stayed and they kept killing...."

He stopped talking-but a new sound came fromhim. It started out almost below the range of MaryLynnette's hearing-but the deep rumbling of itstruck some primal chord of terror in her. It was asuncanny

and inhuman as the danger-hum of an at tacking swarm of bees.

Growling. He was growling. And it wasreal.The snarling growl a dog makes that tells you to turn and

run. The sound it makes before it springs at yourthroat....

"Jeremy!" Mary-Lynnette screamed. She threwherself forward, ignoring the white blaze of pain in

her shoulders. But the cord held. She was jerked back. And Jeremy fell on Ash, lunging down, head

darting forward like a striking snake, like a biting dog, like every animal that kills with its teeth.

Mary-Lynnette heard someone screaming "No!"and only later realized that it was her. She was fight ing

with the cord, and she could feel stinging and wetness at her wrists. But she couldn't get free andshe

couldn't stop seeing what was happening in frontof her. And all the time that eerie, vicious growling that

reverberated in Mary-Lynnette's own head and chest.

That was when things went cold and dear. Some part of Mary-Lynnette that was stronger than the panic

took over. It stepped back and looked at the entire scene by the roadside: the car, which was still

burning, sending clouds of choking white smokewhenever the wind blew the right way; the limpfigure of

Ash on the pine needles; the blur of snarling motion that was Jeremy.

"Jeremy!" she said, and her throat hurt, but hervoice was calm-and commanding. "Jeremy-before

you do that-don't you want me tounderstand? You said that was what you wanted. Jeremy,help me

understand."

For a long second she thought in dismay that it wasn't going to work. That he couldn't even hear her. But

then his head lifted. She saw his face; she saw the blood on his chin.

Don't scream, don't scream, Mary-Lynnette toldherself frantically. Don't show any shock. You have to

keep him talking, keep him away from Ash.

Behind her back her hands were working automatically, as if trying to get out of ropes was something

they'd always known how to do. The slick wetness actually helped. She could feel the cords slide a little.

"Please help me understand," she said again, breathless, but trying to hold Jeremy's eyes. "I'm

your friend-you know that. We go back a long way."

Jeremy's whitish gums were streaked with red. He still had human features, but there was nothing at all

human about that face.

Now, though-slowly-his lips came down tocover his gums. He looked more like a person andless like an

animal. And when he spoke, his voicewas distorted, but she could recognize it as Jere my's voice.

"We do go back," he said. "I've watched you sincewe were kids-and I've seen you watching

me."

Mary-Lynnette nodded.She couldn'tgetany words out.

"I always figured that someday, when we wereolder-maybe we'd be together. I thought maybe I

could make you understand. About me. About everything. I thought you were the one person who might

not be afraid...."

"I'm not," Mary-Lynnette said, and hoped hervoice wasn't shaking too badly. She was saying it to

a figure in a blood-spattered shirt crouching over a torn body like a beast still ready to attack.

MaryLynnette didn't dare look at Ash to see how badly hewas hurt. She kept her eyes locked on

Jeremy's. "And I think I can understand. You killed Mrs. Burdock, didn't you? Because she was on your

territory."

"Nother; " Jeremy said, and his voice was sharpwith impatience. "She was just an old lady-she

didn't hunt. I didn't mind having her in my range. Ieven did things for her, like fixing her fence andporch

for free.... And that's when she told methey were coming. Those girls."

Just the way she told me, Mary-Lynnette thought, with dazed revelation. And he was there fixing the

fence-of course. The way he does odd jobs for everybody.

"I told her it wouldn't work." Mary-Lynnette couldhear it again-the beginnings of a snarling growl.

Jeremy was tense and trembling, and she could feel her self start to tremble, too. "Three more hunters in

thislittle place ... I told her, but she wouldn't listen. She couldn't see. So then I lost my temper."

Don't look at Ash, don't call attention to him,

Mary-Lynnette thought desperately. Jeremy's lips were drawing back again as if he needed something to

attack. At the same time the distant part of hermind said, So that's why he used a picket=Ash was right;it

was an impulse of the moment.

"Well, anybody can lose their temper," she said, and even though her voice cracked and there

were tears in her eyes, Jeremy seemed to calm a little.

"Afterward, I thought maybe it was for the best," he said, sounding tired. "I thought when the girls

found her, they'd know they had to leave. I waited for them to do it. I'm good at waiting."

He was staring past her, into the woods. Heart pounding, Mary-Lynnette grabbed the opportunity todart

a look at Ash.

Oh, God, he's not moving at all. And there's so muchblood....I've never seen so much blood....

She twisted her wrists back and forth, trying to find some give in the cords.

"I watched, but they didn't go away," Jeremy said.Mary-Lynnette's eyes jerked back to him.

"Instead youcame. I heard Mark talking to Jade in the garden. She said she'd decided she was going to

like it here. And then ... I got mad. I made a noise and they heard me."

His face was changing. The flesh was actually moving in front of Mary-Lynnette's eyes. His cheekbones

were broadening, his nose and mouth jutting. Hairwas creeping between his eyebrows, turning them into

a straight bar. She couldsee individual coarse hairs sprouting, dark against pale skin.

I'm going to be sick....

"What's wrong, Mary-Lynnette?" He got up and she saw that his body was changing, too. It was

stilla human body, but it was too thin-stretched out.As if it were just long bones and sinews.

"Nothing's wrong," Mary-Lynnette got out in a whisper. She twisted violently at her cords-and felt

one hand slide.

That's it. Now keep him distracted, keep him moving away from Ash....

"Go on," she said breathlessly. "What happenedthen?"

"I knew I had to send them a message. I cameback the next night for the goat-but you were there

again. You ran away from me into the shed." Hemoved closer again and the moonlight caught his

eyes-and reflected. The pupils shone greenish-orange. Mary-Lynnette could only stare.

That shadow in the clearing-those eyes I saw. Nota coyote.Him.He was following us everywhere.

The very thought made her skin creep. But there was another thought that was worsethe picture of him

killing the goat. Doing it carefully, methodically-as a message.

That was why he didn't eat the heart and liver,Mary-Lynnette realized. He didn't kill it for foodit wasn't a

normal werewolf killing. And he's not a normal werewolf.

He wasn't at all like what Rowan had described-a noble animal that hunted to eat. Instead he was ... a

mad dog.

Of all people,Ash had it right. Him and his jokes about rabies ...

"You're so beautiful, you know," Jeremy said suddenly. "I've always thought that. I love your

hair."

He was right in her face. She could see the individual pores in his skin with coarse hairs growing out of

them. And she couldsmellhim-the feral smell ofa zoo.

He reached out to touch her hair, and his handhad dark, thick fingernails. Mary-Lynnette could feelher

eyes getting wider. Say something ...say some thing ... don't show you're afraid.

"You knew how Mrs. Burdock's husband was killed," she got out.

"She told me a long time ago," Jeremy said almost absently, still moving his fingers in her hair.

He'd changed so much that his voice was getting hard to understand. "I used little sticks from my models

...you know I make models. And a black iris forhim.Ash." Jeremy said the name with pure hatred. "I saw

him that day with his stupid T-shirt. The Black IrisClub . . . my uncle belonged to that once. Theytreated

him like he was second-class."

His eyes were inches from Mary-Lynnette's; she felt the brush of a fingernail on her ear. Suddenlyshe

had the strength to give a violent wrench behind her back-and one hand came free. She froze, afraid that

Jeremy would notice.

"I threw the goat on the porch and ran," Jeremysaid, almost crooning the words as he petted

MaryLynnette. "I knew you were all in there. I was somad-I killed that horse and I kept running. I

smashed the gas station window. I was going to bum it downbut then I decided to wait."

Yes,and yes, and yes, Mary-Lynnette thought, even as she carefully worked her other wrist free,even as

she stared into Jeremy's crazy eyes andsmelled his animal breath. Yes, of course it was youwe heard

running away-and you didn't fall into the hole in the porch because you knew it was there, because you

were fixing it. And yes, you were the one who smashed the window-who else would hate the gas station

but somebody who worked there?

0Her fingers eased the cord off her other wrist. She felt a surge of fierce triumph-but she controlled her

expression and clenched her hands, trying to thinkof what to do. He was so strong and so quick ... if she

just threw herself at him, she wouldn't have a chance.

"And today you all came to town together," Jeremy said, finishing the story quietly, through a

mouth so inhuman it was hard to believe it could speak English. "I heard the wayhe was talking toyou. I

knew he wanted you-and he wanted to change you into one of them. I had to protect you from that."

Mary-Lynnette said almost steadily, "I knew youwanted to protect me. I could tell, Jeremy." She was

feeling over the furrowed hemlock bark behind her.How could she attack him when she didn't even have

a stick for a weapon? And even if shehad,wood was no good. He wasn't a vampire.

Jeremy stepped back. Relief washed over Mary-Lynnette-for one second. Then she saw with horror

that he was plucking at his shirt, pulling it off. And underneath ...there was no skin. Instead there was

hair. A pelt that twitched and shivered in the night air. "I followed you here and I fixed your car so you

couldn't leave," Jeremy said. "I heard you say youwanted to be a vampire."

"Jeremy-that was justtalk...."

He went on as if she hadn't spoken. "But that was a mistake. Werewolves are much better. You'll

understand when I show you. The moon looks so beautiful when you're a wolf."

Oh,Godand so that was what he meant by pro tecting her, by making her understand. He meant

changing her into something like him.

I need a weapon.

Rowan had said silver was harmful to werewolves,so the old silver-bullet legend must be true. But she

didn't haveasilver bullet. Or even a silver dagger ...

A silver dagger... a silverknife ...

Behind Jeremy the station wagon was almost invisible in the clouds of smoke. And by now the smoke

had the red glow of uncontrolled fire.

It's too dangerous, Mary-Lynnette thought. It'sabout to go. I'd never make it in and out....

Jeremy was still talking, his voice savage now."You won't miss the Night World. All their stupid

restrictions-no killing humans, no hunting too often. Nobody tells me how to hunt. My uncle tried,but I

took care of him-"

Suddenly the creature-it wasn't really a personanymore-broke off and turned sharply. Mary-Lynnette

saw its lips go back again, saw its teeth parted and ready to bite. In the same instant she sawwhy-Ash

was moving.

Sitting up, even though his throat was cut. Lookingaround dazedly. He saw Mary-Lynnette, and his eyes

seemed to focus. Then he looked at the thing Jeremy had become.

"You-get away from herl" he shouted in a voiceMary-Lynnette had never heard before. A voice

filledwith deadly fury. Mary-Lynnette could see himchange position in a swift, graceful motion, gathering

his muscles under him to jump

But the werewolf jumped first. Springing like ananimal-except that Jeremy still had arms, and onehand

went for the yew club. The club smashed sideways into Ash's head and knocked him flat. And then it fell,

bouncing away on the carpet of needles.

The werewolf didn't need it-it was baring itsteeth. It was going to tear Ash's throat out, like the horse,

like the hiker ...

Mary-Lynnette was running.

Not toward Ash. She couldn't help him barehanded. She ran toward the car, into the clouds of choking

smoke.

Oh, God, it's hot. Please let me just get there....

She could feel the heat on her cheeks, on her arms. She remembered something from an elementary

school safety class and dropped to her knees, scrambling and crawling where the air was cooler.

And then she heard the sound behind her. The most eerie sound there is-a wolf howling.

It knows what I'm doing. It's seen that knife everytime I pry off my gas cap. It's going to stop me....

She threw herself blindly into the smoke and heat,and reached the car. Orange flames were shooting

crazily from the engine, and the door handle burnedher hand when she touched it. She fumbled,

wrenching at it.

Open,open...

The door swung out. Hot air blasted around her. If she'd been completely human she wouldn't havebeen

able to stand it. But she'd exchanged blood withfour vampires in two days, and she wasn't completely

human anymore. She wasn't Mary-Lynnette any more ...but was she capable of killing?

Flames were licking up beneath the dashboard. Shegroped over smoking vinyl and shoved a hand under

the driver's seat.

Find it! Find it!

Her fingers touched metal-the knife. The silverfruit knife with the Victorian scrolling that she'd borrowed

from Mrs. Burdock. It was very hot. Her handdosed on it, and she pulled it from under the seatand

turned ... just as something came flying at her from behind.

The turning was instinctive-she had to face whatwas attacking her. But what she would always know

afterward was that she could have turned withoutpointing theknife at what was attacking her. There was

a moment in which she could have slanted it backward or toward the ground or toward herself. And if

she'd been the Mary-Lynnette of the old days,she might have done that.

She didn't. The knife faced outward. Toward the shape jumping at her. And when the thing landed on

top of her she felt impact in her wrist and all theway up her arm.

The distant part of her mind said, It went in cleanlybetween the ribs....

And then everything was very confused. Mary-Lynnette felt teeth in her hair, snapping for her neck. She

felt claws scratching at her, leaving welts on her arms. The thing attacking her was hairy and heavy and it

wasn't a person or even a half-person. It was a large, snarling wolf.

She was still holding the knife, but it was hard to keep her grip on it. It jerked around, twisting her wrist

in an impossible direction. It was buried in the wolf's chest.

For just an instant, as the thing pulled away, she got a good look at it.

A beautiful animal. Sleek and handsome, but withcrazy eyes. It was trying to kill her with its last panting

breath.

Oh, God, you hate me, don't you? I've chosen Ashover you; I've hurt you with silver. And now you're

dying. You must feel so betrayed....

Mary-Lynnette began to shake violently. She couldn't do this anymore. She let go of the knife and

pushed and kicked at the wolf with her arms andlegs. Half scrambling and half scooting on her back, she

managed to get a few feet away. The wolf stood silhouetted against a background of fire. She couldsee it

gather itself for one last spring at her

There was a very soft, contained poof. The entirecar lurched like something in agony-and then the

fireball was everywhere.

Mary-Lynnette cringed against the ground, halfblinded, but she had to watch.

So that's what it looks like. A car going up inflames. Not the kind of big explosion you hear in the

movies. Justa poof. And then just the fire, going up and up.

The heat drove her away, still crawling, but she couldn't stop looking. Orange flames. That was allher

station wagon was now. Orange flames shooting every which way out of a metal skeleton on tires.

The wolf didn't come out of the flames.

Mary-Lynnette sat up. Smoke was in her throat,and when she tried to yell "Jeremyl" it came out as a

hoarse croak.

The wolf still didn't come out. And no wonder, with a silver knife in its chest and fire all around it.

Mary-Lynnette sat, arms wrapped around herself,and watched the car bum.

He would have killed me. Like any good hunter. I had to defend myself, I had to save Ash. And thegirls

... he would have killed all of them. And thenhe'd have killed more people like that hiker.... He was crazy

and completelyevil, because he'd do anything to get what he wanted.

And she'd seen it from the beginning. Somethingunder that "nice guy" exterior-she'd seen it over and

over, but she'd kept letting herself get convinced it wasn't there. She should have trusted her feelingsin the

first place. When she'd realized that she'dsolved the mystery of Jeremy Lovett and that it wasn't a happy

ending.

She was shaking but she couldn't cry.

The fire roared on. Tiny sparks showered upward.

I don't care if it was justified. It wasn't like killingin my dream. It wasn't easy and it wasn't naturaland I'll

never forget the way he looked at me.... Then she thought,Ash.

She'd been so paralyzed she'd almost forgotten him. Now she turned around, almost too frightened to

look. She made herself crawl over to where he was still lying.

So much blood... how can he be all right? But if he's dead ... if it's all been for nothing ...

But Ash was breathing. And when she touched hisface, trying to find a clean place in the blood, he

moved. He stirred, then he tried to sit up.

"Stay there." Jeremy's shirt and jeans were on the ground. Mary-Lynnette picked up the shirt and

dabbed at Ash's neck. "Ash, keep still...."

He tried to sit up again. "Don't worry. I'll protectyou."

"Lie down," Mary-Lynnette said. When he didn't, she pushed at him. "There's nothing to do. He's

dead."

He sank back, eyes shutting. "Did I kill him?"

Mary-Lynnette made a choked sound that wasn't exactly a laugh. She was trembling with relief-Ash

could breathe and talk, and he even sounded like hisnormal fatuous self. She'd had no idea how good

thatcould sound. And underneath the swabbing shirt she could see that his neck was already healing.

Whathad been gashes were becoming flat pink scars.

Vampire flesh was incredible.

Ash swallowed. "You didn't answer my question."

"No. You didn't kill him. I did."

His eyes opened. They just looked at each other for a moment. And in that moment Mary-Lynnette

knew they were both realizing a lot of things.

Then Ash said, "I'm sorry," and his voice had never been less fatuous. He pushed the shirt awayand sat

up. "I'm so sorry."

She didn't know who reached first, but they were holding each other. And Mary-Lynnette was thinking

about hunters and danger and laughing at death. About all the things it meant to really belong to the night.

And about how she would never look in the mirror and see the same person she used to see.

"At least it's over now," Ash said. She could feel his arms around her, his warmth and solidity, his

support. "There won't be any more killings. It's over."

It was, and so were a lot of other things.

The first sob was hard to get out. So hard thatshe'd have thought there would be a pause beforethe

next-but, no. There was no pause between that one and the next, or the next or the next. She cried for a

long time. And the fire burned itself out and the sparks flew upward and Ash held her all the while.


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