I skidded on a patch of ice as I rounded the corner onto
Lafayette, only years of experience saving me as I tottered
in the bare twelve inches between a shuttered horse-drawn
hansom and Model-T. The white-gloved matron behind the
wheel had clearly come to regard her motor vehicle the way
one might a pet cat that always vanished at the full moon,
and the sight of my bicycle sliding gracefully past broke
her little remaining self-control. I canâ€™t imagine what she
found so terrifying about me. Unless it was the grin I
couldnâ€™t keep from my face as I dared the January ice.
Daddy always did say I was too reckless in winter.
The matron shrieked and discovered the purpose of that
curious little button in the middle of her steering wheel.
Her car swervedâ€“thankfully away from the horses, which were
even now whinnying and snorting in agitation. I made it
past the hansom and auto moments before one of the horses
reared and whacked the Model-Tâ€™s gleaming rear fender. I
winced. Two more seconds and that would have been my
Damn Tammany, I fumed. Like it would kill those bastards to
do something useful like fixing roads in between winning
elections? Tonight, of course, the criminally narrow
streets were relatively clear. No one respectable wanted to
be out after sundown on a new moon. I checked my watchâ€“
quarter â€™til eightâ€“and pedaled faster. It wouldnâ€™t do for
the teacher to be tardy to her own class. Especially not
this class. And especially not on a new moon.
Thatâ€™s when I saw it, of course. Just a huddled shadow on
an unspeakably dirty street that hundreds of people had
probably passed by today without comment. I sailed past it,
too, before something made me dig my heels into the ground
and turn around to ride back. It wasnâ€™t as though the back
of my neck prickled, or I felt a tell-tale shiver crawl up
my skin. I canâ€™t do anything like that, no matter what my
students might whisper about me. But I do have a knack for
noticing. Itâ€™s a skill my Daddy cultivated, since I canâ€™t
shoot fish in a barrel and he needed his eldest to be good
I had to kick the spokes to turn the handlebar hard right,
then jigger them back out again so I could straighten the
wheel. I crashed over the drainage ditch and slid on the
worn soles of my boots over the sidewalk. I was deep in the
shadow of a monolithic, grimy tenementâ€“the kind that put me
in mind of hollow-eyed immigrant children chained to beds
by unscrupulous landlords so they wonâ€™t escape. They hired
vampire guards in those kinds of hell-holes. I shuddered
and looked, suddenly, back at the street. Deserted. I think
the hair on the back of my neck would have risen then, if
it werenâ€™t already smothered by the respectable starch of
my shirt collar.
I walked closer to the crawlspaceâ€“too small to even be an
alleyâ€“between the tenement and a former munitions
warehouse. A rat, startled by my approach, scrambled over a
gray heap that was barely distinguishable from the other
refuse and shot into the gutter by my bicycle. My eyes
adjusted to the gloom. I could finally see the faint
outline of the innocuous little hump that had so firmly
caught my attention. It was covered in a child-sized pea
coat that smelled of damp wool. Shaking, because by God
there is no way to get used to this, no matter how long
Iâ€™ve lived in this city, I pulled back the cloth. I saw a
boy, with hair much redder than my own ochre-tinged brown.
His skin was so pale beneath a shock of freckles that I
knew what had happened even before I spotted the telltale
punctures on his neck.
I sat back on my heels and clenched my teeth. His neck held
seven separate woundsâ€“shallow and rough, like theyâ€™d been
teasing him. Iâ€™d bet that if I pulled down the collared
shirt and suit jacketâ€“finely made, but wornâ€“Iâ€™d see more
along his back and arms. It looked like some sort of hazing
ritual, and maybe a bit of revenge. It looked like the Turn
Boys, and was just one more reason for me to despise them.
The young vampire gang ran roughshod over their chosen
kingdom of Little Italy and the greater Lower East Side.
This poor kid was rather far down Lafayette for their
activities, but I didnâ€™t doubt for a minute who had done
this. Iâ€™d seen enough of their work to know.
A solitary car sped behind me on the road, sending a spray
of icy mud over my bicycle and splashing onto my blue tweed
skirt. I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes â€™til eight. Damn.
I had just enough time to speed down to the police station,
report the body and get to class. But I also knew what the
police would do when they got him. They didnâ€™t take any
chancesâ€“especially not with the anonymous immigrant
children. Too many kids went missing to waste the precious
time hunting in one of the hundreds of lower Manhattan
tenements for a distraught mother who probably didnâ€™t speak
any English. So they took them to the morgues, turned up
the electric lights, and staked them. Sometimes they cut
off their heads for good measure, if turning looked likely.
This boy wouldnâ€™t keep his head.
He reminded me a bit of my little brother Harry, back in
Montana. The same freckles and shock of red hair. He wore
one forlorn blue mittenâ€“the other must have fallen off in
â€śZephyr,â€ť I told myself sternly, attempting to speak some
sense to my paralyzed brain, â€śHarry still laughs about
putting a beehive in your knickers. It ainâ€™t him.â€ť
At which good, rousing inducement to sanity I discovered
myself scooping the pathetically light body from the ground
and toting it back to my bicycle. I always knew the
situation was serious when I resorted to country grammar.
I didnâ€™t know what I was doing. I swear I almost never doâ€“I
operate on nothing but horrible instincts and a dash of
self-preservation. I draped the boy around my shoulders,
wrestled the handlebar straight and started back down the
street. I could leave him in the school building. It ought
to be safe.
I huffed and pedaled faster, sweating now with the
exertion. The boy wasnâ€™t heavy, but Iâ€™ve never been that
strong and Iâ€™d just come back from a crisis across the
bridge in Brooklyn. A Russian immigrant with a husband and
kids, turned a week ago, had apparently missed the warning
about alcohol. Or maybe sheâ€™d heard it, and dismissed it
along with the rest of the Temperance Unionâ€™s hand-wringing
hogwash. I might have had little personal experience with
Demon Alcohol, but there was no comparison between what it
did to my little sister when she found her way into Daddyâ€™s
stash, and what it did to Others unfortunate or reckless
enough to imbibe. A fit of the giggles and a morning
headache was nothing compared toâ€¦well, that.
The Russian vampireâ€™s skin had turned red, they told me.
Not just flushed, like your average speakeasy drunk. Oh no,
blood red. It started to bead on her skin, like sweat. It
dribbled from her mouth. Her children were terrified, of
course. No one had told them what had happened to their
motherâ€“only that she was sick. A weekâ€™s legally-acquired
blood puddled onto the floor, burning through the wood with
its foul-smelling venom. The oldest child and the father
ran away. The youngest must have frozenâ€“with shock, fear,
disbelief, God-only-knowsâ€“because he stayed behind. The
father didnâ€™t realize until it was too late. The motherâ€“
blood starved, drunk, newly-turned and not a little crazedâ€“
turned upon her child and fed. She realized what she had
done when she was sated. Too late.
Troyâ€™s pack of Defenders got to her first. He told me the
woman begged them to stake her. They obliged, along with
the boy. Kids are too dangerous to let turn. Or so
Defenders like Troy claim. I know him from way back. Even
before New York. Heâ€™d met my Daddy for some big, legendary
Yeti hunt up in north Montana, and when I came down here I
worked with his group for a while. I may not be much of a
shot, but you canâ€™t be the oldest daughter of the best
demon hunter in Montana without learning a few tricks. I
pulled my weight, but I had to leave. The Others might not
be human, but theyâ€™re still people, you know? Troy never
seemed to get that.
He called me in during the clean-up to deal with the new
widower and his son. Said it called for a â€śdelicate hand.â€ť
Troy thinks a strong jaw makes up for a lousy personality.
So Iâ€™d been on my bicycle all day and my tailbone felt like
someone had been smashing it with a mallet and I had a dead
boyâ€“the kind youâ€™re never supposed to let turn, if youâ€™re
an ignorant Other-phobe like Troyâ€“who could double as a
vampire pincushion draped across my neck and damn if I
wasnâ€™t getting some odd looks as I huffed my way through
the busy Canal Street intersection. Why did things like
this always happen to me?
I had to laugh, and saw my breath float away in the glare
of the electric lamps. Because Iâ€™m certifiable.
* * *
Two minutes to eight, I shot past a snarl of traffic on
Bowery and stopped at the corner of Rivington and Chrystie.
Sweat dripped down my neck and made my shirt cling to my
back. My buttocks were still quite wet. My toes seemed to
have lost all feeling. I leaned, trembling, over the
handlebars and panted. Behind me rose the ragged edifice of
Chrystie Elementary, smog-crusted and sporadically heated.
Only three of its classrooms are equipped with electric
lighting, and even that is about as reliable as a succubus
in heat. An immigrant schoolâ€“with quite a few Others, no
lessâ€“was not a high priority for our delightful city
The boy on my neck started to groan. Not a normal groanâ€“you
know, made of air and vocal chords and wholesome biology. A
distinctly otherworldly one that should have been
impossible for such a small child to make. It was too loud,
for one thing, like a shipâ€™s foghorn in my ears. Aside from
his mouth, his body lay perfectly still. No air entered and
exited his chest. I shuddered.
â€śVampires are people,â€ť I said quietly, to steady myself. I
had not been present at many Awakenings, but I knew enough
to realize that I had very little time to put the boy
safely away. He looked barely eleven years oldâ€“heâ€™d be
wilder than most. I struggled off the bicycle just as the
boy began to stir in earnest. The motion put me off balance
and I found myself sprawling on the ice underneath the
schoolâ€™s shadow, grappling with a weakly flopping vampire.
â€śOh, bloody Christ,â€ť I muttered. Okay, one thing at a time.
Get up, Zephyr. Youâ€™ve got class in a minute. Grimacing, I
planted my right foot on a patch of sidewalk that looked
miraculously ice-free and wobbled into a crouch. I started
to hum a lullaby my mama liked to sing when I was growing
upâ€“maybe it worked on little vampires, too? But the boy was
getting stronger, his groan turning into a kind of
strangled roar. The few people left on the streets in this
shaded, ill-lit area hurried past me, their eyes firmly
fixed on the sidewalk.
â€śI could be dying, you know!â€ť I shouted after them. Right.
Bloody heartless city. Gripping the squirming boy with my
left hand, I pulled my bicycle out of the gutter with my
right and hauled them both to the school steps.
â€śHaving some trouble, Miss Hollis?â€ť
I froze momentarily, white-knuckled on the handlebars. I
knew that voice. And I canâ€™t say I was entirely pleased to
hear it. I turned to face him with a smile I suspected was
more than a little harried.
He was leaning on the stone railing halfway up the steps,
his arms crossed nonchalantly. Amir, he had said his name
was, when he first appeared in my class last week. No last
name, or at least none he would give me.
He reminded me of Rudolph Valentino in The Sheikâ€“foreign,
handsome, dangerousâ€“but darker, his features broader and a
little more attractive. His English was impeccable, if
oddly accented. Except after class, when I questioned what
possible use he had for a course in Basic Literacy and
Elocution. Then heâ€™d given a pitch-perfect impression of a
Russian immigrant, two months off the boat.
â€śThat boy is freshly turned,â€ť he said, nodding at the child
but not moving.
I grit my teeth. â€śI am aware of that, Amir.â€ť
â€śThe situation is under control, then?â€ť
At that precise, cosmically aligned moment, the boy gave a
bone shuddering snarl and latched his pre-pubescent fangs
into the (now quite wilted) collar of my shirt.
â€śYou canâ€™t bleed a shirt, you idioticâ€“â€ť I was forced to cut
off my tirade, for the boyâ€“with a speed I could hardly
creditâ€“had wrapped his legs around my torso and forced me
to fall. Amir reached me a second later and attempted to
remove the boy, who clung to me like an otherworldly leech.
â€śWhat time is it?â€ť I shouted over the mewling growls the
boy made as he fumbled for the location of my actual neck.
Ah, the untold benefits of conservative shirts.
Amir paused. He looked quite nonplussed, which, despite the
exacerbating circumstances, pleased me inordinately. â€śAre
you serious?â€ť he said.
I swatted the boyâ€™s mittened hand away when it wandered
over my breasts and pressed my back up against the stone
He had managed to grip one of the boyâ€™s arms, and so had to
reach awkwardly with his left hand to pull out a pocket
watch I imagine would not have looked out of place on
President Coolidge himself.
â€śA minute past eight,â€ť he said. â€śShall we tell the blood-
crazed vampire that youâ€™re late? Maybe heâ€™ll be polite
enough to resume his mauling after youâ€™ve finished.â€ť
I glowered at him, but was prevented from coming up with an
appropriately dry retort by the sensation of gums and fast-
sharpening teeth rasping across my suddenly exposed throat.
I cursed and struggled away from his mouth. Amir now had
him gripped by the waist and was slowly prying him off of
â€śDid he bite you?â€ť Amir gasped. To my distant amusement, he
seemed quite concerned.
â€śVampire gums are not known to be fatal.â€ť
â€śOh, should I just let him go, then? Since you find this so
â€śI am perfectly capable of dealing with this myself, Amir,â€ť
I heard myself saying, despite the copious evidence to the
With an odd, dangerous smile, Amir lowered his brush-thick
eyelashes and let the boy go. With noise like a cat
strangling to death on a hairball, the boy launched himself
at my neck. The fangs, dull as they were, were good enough
to break my skin at a direct attack. I shriekedâ€“still more
out of annoyance than fearâ€“and reached deep into my pocket
for my switchblade. Pure blessed silver, that blade, a gift
from Daddy before I left home. Iâ€™d never used it after I
left Troy. Iâ€™d almost forgotten it was there.
With a practiced movement, I laid the dull edge of the
blade against the exposed, pallid flesh of his collarbone.
He flinched away from the burning touch of blessed metal.
The hesitation was enough to allow Amir to yank him off of
me fully. For a moment I had the absurdly funny view of a
little vampire struggling like an upturned cockroach.
I stood up. Only a little blood had escaped the tiny
puncture wounds on my neck, but I wiped it away carefully
and adjusted my wilting collar.
â€śIt bit you?â€ť Amir asked, his voice quiet. The vampireâ€™s
noises were gentler in Amirâ€™s grip. Apparently, it did not
regard him as quite so tasty a meal.
I shrugged. â€śBarely a scratch,â€ť I said. Still, my heart was
â€śEven less can turn a person.â€ť
My, how serious he sounded. It made me smile. â€śOh, donâ€™t
worry about me. What time is it?â€ť
Warily, he reached for his watch, hanging freely from his
waistcoat. â€śThree minutes past.â€ť
I cursed, and picked up my bicycle. â€śI must go. Would youâ€¦
please, thereâ€™s a room in the basement I think will hold
him. Could you take care of him for me? Just until Iâ€™m
done. I wouldnâ€™t normally ask this, butâ€¦â€ť
He smiled, but it didnâ€™t quite reach those dark
eyes. â€śYouâ€™re late. Go ahead. Iâ€™ll just have to miss dear
Mr. Hamilton tonight.â€ť
I barely registered his gently mocking tone, as I was
already up the stairs and opening the door to the school. I
knew The Federalist Papers wasnâ€™t the most popular choice
as a learning text, but Iâ€™ve always felt recent immigrants
to this country should at least be aware of the ideals of
its foundingâ€“even when they did not live up to the reality.
â€śThank you,â€ť I said to him, awkwardly, from where he still
stood on the steps. The vampire seemed to hardly trouble
him at all, now. Not for the fist time, I wondered what
precisely Amir was. Surely not human.
â€śZephyr,â€ť he said, just before I shut the door behind
me. â€śHow do you know you wonâ€™t turn?â€ť
His voice was so strange and devoid of mockery that I
paused and, to my surprise, answered him.
â€śWhy, because I canâ€™t turn, of course. Iâ€™m immune.â€ť
â€śIs thatâ€¦normal, for humans?â€ť
I shrugged. â€śIâ€™ve never met anyone else with it.â€ť And Iâ€™d
long ago given up asking my parents how it had happened.
â€śOh,â€ť was all he said. Since moving to the city, Iâ€™d
managed to keep that peculiarity of mine from everyone
except my roommate. I would have wondered why Iâ€™d so
blithely revealed it to Amir if I werenâ€™t already so late.
* * *
â€śGood evening, everyone,â€ť I said as I opened the door.
A few responded with a strained, â€śGood evening, Miss
Hollis.â€ť I hardly counted it as rudeness. It was a new
moon, after all.
â€śWeâ€™ll continue with Federalist #10 today,â€ť I said, hoping
that work would distract them from noticing that I looked
like a drowned mongoose. Papers rustled and the electric
lamps above us flickered. Had he taken the boy to the
basement? Could he manage alone? Class had never seemed so
long, and nearly half my students wanted to talk to me
after. I could hardly rein in my impatience when Sarra, a
solidly human Russian who attended my night classes because
of her late hours at the sewing factory, insisted on
quizzing me about the proper interpretation of the
â€śSo it says only the selling is illegal?â€ť she repeated,
with determined emphasis. Clearly, this issue had been
weighing upon her ever since she discovered this nationâ€™s
draconian stance on her home countryâ€™s national beverage.
â€śBecause,â€ť she continued, â€śBoris has cousin, Naum, maybe
you heard of him? Came here two years ago, and has aâ€¦you
know, method with potatoes in a bathtubâ€¦â€ť
She paused here, as though she expected me to beg for the
recipe. Internally, I shuddered, but made the appropriate
noises of appreciation. My solitary experience with a
professional liquor (scotch, and possibly the foulest
potion Iâ€™ve had the displeasure of drinking) made me more
than wary of bathtub gin, let alone potato vodka.
â€śBut, Miss Hollis, Naum is family and it is just a little
â€śItâ€™s a gift, right?â€ť I said quickly. â€śYou wonâ€™t give him
She pursed her lips, but seemed happy enough to
nod. â€śGifts, maybe. Gifts okay, yes?â€ť
I smiled slightly. â€śItâ€™s not illegal to drink alcohol,
Sarra. Just to sell it.â€ť A curious loophole that provided
the semi-legal rationale behind a hundred gin joints. â€śYou
donâ€™t have anything to worry about.â€ť
She nodded, satisfied. â€śGood. I bring you some next time.
Have a nice day, Miss Hollis.â€ť
She handed me back the tattered classroom copy of The
Federalist Papers, and turned to leave. I put it back with
the others on the shelf and mentally steeled myself to
discover what had happened to Amir and the vampire boy.
However, when I turned back around to leave, I saw
Giuseppe, a vampire who lived in a basement tenement in
Little Italy and had been attending my classes for the past
year, standing quietly by the door. I had never known him
to linger after classâ€“his family was large and his wife
absent, which left him with little time. Curious, I put the
last of my papers into my bag and slung it over my
shoulder. Giuseppe spoke English very well, but he still
had difficulty reading.
â€śMiss Hollis,â€ť he said, when I was halfway to the door. I
paused. His skin was pallid under the yellow electric
lights. Not a hint of blood tinged his lips or fingertips.
It had clearly been a long time since his last feeding.
Concerned, I stepped closer. Was there a polite way of
asking where he got his supplies? I knew of a few who would
help him, if he could no longer afford the street corner
â€śYes, Giuseppe?â€ť I said.
â€śIâ€¦have a problem. I would not have bothered you with it,
only Iâ€™m afraid for my family and youâ€™re the only one I
know who can help.â€ť He raised his eyes. â€śOr, perhaps, will
I walked the rest of the way towards him and gripped his
hand briefly. â€śOf course, Giuseppe. You must know that Iâ€™ll
do anything I can.â€ť
He smiled, relieved. â€śYes, I had hopedâ€¦see, Miss Hollis,
when I first came to this country, I was not like this. I
had a wife. She had given me three children, and carried
our fourth. It was hard, but we were happy. And then one
night, when I left the factory late, they found me.â€ť
My throat felt dry. I had heard too many such tales, but
each one hit me with the force of fresh tragedy. Daddy says
I feel too much, but I donâ€™t. Heâ€™s a demon hunter. He just
feels too little.
â€śWho?â€ť I asked.
â€śThat little gang of young vampiri, the ones Rinaldo lets
Oh god. That little boy, covered in bites and mad in the
basement. â€śThe Turn Boys.â€ť I said.
It wasnâ€™t a question, but he nodded. â€śThey turned me. My
wife, she tried, but in a year she ran away. Thatâ€™s what I
get for not marrying a good Italiano, they said. I needed
blood, and money. The tunnel workâ€¦â€ť He shrugged.
I had forgotten he did work on the new tunnel that would
soon run from Canal Street into New Jersey. A good job for
a vampire, even one as young (and proportionately sun-
resistant) as Giuseppe. But it wouldnâ€™t pay nearly enough
for his four children.
â€śSo, I went to Rinaldo,â€ť he continued. â€śI delivered for
him. Just a few times a week. And he gave me blood and
money. It worked, for a while. But last weekâ€¦I was
delivering a little outside his territory. Some boys from
another gang jumped me. The Westies, I think, but cannot
prove. They took everything. Rinaldo says he doesnâ€™t care,
that I owe him the money.â€ť
How I hated these mob bosses, self-styled kings of the
neighborhood, who could destroy one manâ€™s life so
callously. As if it were his fault that some rival gang had
stolen the delivery.
â€śHow much?â€ť I asked, dreading the answer.
â€śTwo hundred dollars.â€ť
I sucked in air, sharply, between my clenched teeth. That
was more than I made in three months of teaching.
â€śI have one hundred,â€ť he said, â€śbut I need to borrow the
rest. He says he willâ€¦my childrenâ€¦â€ť
Giuseppe looked close to tears and I realized I had never
seen a vampire cry. With hardly a thought, I put my hand
over his again and looked firmly into his unnaturally
clear, bloodless eyes.
â€śYouâ€™ll get through this, I promise.â€ť I reached deep into
my pocket and pulled out the small stash of folded bills I
had received just that morning from the local Citizenâ€™s
Council, which paid my meager teaching salary each
month. â€śHere,â€ť I said, pressing it into his hand, â€śthis is
fifty dollars. If you need help in the future, I hope
youâ€™ll ask me or the Citizenâ€™s Councilâ€¦even Tammany Hall
would be better than Rinaldo.â€ť
I couldnâ€™t imagine what would have possessed him to get
involved with the notorious bootlegger, Other-exploiter and
gangster. He let the Turn Boys run wild, after all, and the
Turn Boys had destroyed Giuseppeâ€™s life.
Giuseppe pressed the bills briefly against his cheek and
then turned away, as if to wipe his eyes.
â€śI have no words,â€ť he said, finally. â€śI swear, I will pay
you back, Zephyr.â€ť
The sound of my first name brought my thoughts back,
abruptly, to Amir. â€śOnly what you can,â€ť I said. Suddenly I
was desperate to leave. How long had I lingered here?
Thankfully, Giuseppe only pressed my hand briefly before
leaving. I waited to hear him exit the front doors before I
shut the lights, and then made my way by memory through the
deserted school halls and into the basement.
As I did so, it slowly dawned on me that I had, in a moment
of impulsive pity, given away my entire monthâ€™s salary. My
rent would be due at the boarding house in three daysâ€“a
full twelve dollars, paid in cash and upfront. Mrs. Brodsky
would hardly be sympathetic. Indeed, I could be assured of
being soundly turned out in the middle of a New York winter
with my belongings strewn about me on the sidewalk. I
shuddered at the thought. Mrs. Brodsky was willing enough
to serve me dinners without meatâ€“who was she to complain if
her boarders wanted cheaper food for the same price?â€“but
she was decidedly lacking in basic human compassion.
â€śWell,â€ť I said to myself, as cheerfully as I could, â€śyou
have at least three more days of that lumpy bed.â€ť
â€śDo most do-gooders talk to themselves as frequently as
He was below me on the basement steps, carrying an oil lamp
and looking quite as good as he had two hours before, when
he hadnâ€™t been wrestling with a freshly turned vampire in
an abandoned school basement. This bothered me more than it
should. I felt positively dowdy beside him.
â€śDo most wastrels accost innocent women on staircases?â€ť I
said. It was uncharitable of me, seeing as how heâ€™d just
risked life and limb for my sake. No matter that it didnâ€™t
seem to show.
He laughedâ€“it was rich and warm and made me blink in the
weak light. â€śA wastrel, am I? What kind of a wastrel
attends immigrant night school?â€ť
I crossed my arms over my chest and forced myself to
breathe. â€śI havenâ€™t figured that out, yet.â€ť
He laughed again. I had never heard anything quite like it
before. â€śAre you coming down, or will we just argue on the
steps all night?â€ť
Feeling decidedly silly, I followed the wavering light of
his lamp down the stairs.
â€śAre you all right?â€ť I made myself ask, when the silence
had lasted for half a minute. I was surprised by how keenly
I meant the question.
He shrugged. â€śThe boy canâ€™t hurt me. Iâ€™m surprised you
lasted as long with him as you did.â€ť
I took this as a compliment. â€śHow is he?â€ť
He paused before a closed door a few feet away from the
steps. â€śSleeping. I brought him a few pints.â€ť
He had an odd look on his face, wistful and angry all at
once. I almost touched the sleeve of his gray wool sweater,
but some self-preserving instinct stopped me. I somehow
knew that touching Amir would not be the innocent gesture
of sympathy and friendship it had been with Giuseppe. He
was feral and mysterious and Other, a combination I found
too fascinating to be safe.
â€śWhy such a small child?â€ť he asked softly. â€śWhat possible
His question seemed so strangely naive. â€śSport,â€ť I
said. â€śThe Turn Boys play with humans like cats play with
mice. And far more cruelly.â€ť
â€śWhat will you do with him?â€ť he asked.
I glanced up at Amir, startled. â€śIâ€¦I suppose I hadnâ€™t
thought of it. I just saw him, and I couldnâ€™t leave him
The sudden realization of my dilemma cut off my words. What
in hell could I do? I could hardly bring him back to my
boarding house and risk him running wild amongst the other
girls. I could leave him here, but what if he broke out
during school hours? I would have given him to one of the
charitable groups that deal with newly turned vampires, but
they had a policy to stake anyone under sixteen. And if
even they were afraid of the children, what good was I?
I sighed and leaned against the wall by the door. I felt a
prodigious headache roaring into the space behind my
temples. It had been a long day.
Amir looked at me. I mean looked at me, with his
dangerously dark eyes and ridiculous eyelashes, just
canvassing my face until I could feel the blush radiating
from my cheeks. It felt impudent and entirely
inappropriate, yet I could not say a word.
â€śIâ€™ll take him,â€ť he said, just when I thought I might melt
from the intensity of his gaze. â€śI know a place where heâ€™ll
be safe. Heâ€™ll come back to himself. It might take the
children longer, but they all do, eventually.â€ť
God, how I wished I knew what he was. Or even just who. He
was all mysteries, and yet so very physical, a mere foot
from me in this damp, freezing basement.
â€śButâ€¦why?â€ť I was proud of myself for managing to get even
that much out.
He smiled. â€śMy own reasons. And I need to ask you a favor.â€ť
Itâ€™s just a smile. â€śLike what?â€ť
â€śI gather do-gooding does not always come with vast
monetary rewards? Well, itâ€™s a simple request, and I can
offer you a lot of money. Itâ€™s what wastrels have, you see,
to make up for their lack of sense and moral fortitude.â€ť
I couldnâ€™t tell if he was mocking himself or me. It was
hardly a surprise to learn that he had money. No one who
dressed as well and as carelessly as he could be lacking in
â€śWhat do you need?â€ť I asked. This, at least, was familiar
â€śI need you to find me a vampire.â€ť
I blinked, slowly. He was still there. â€śAnd why do you
think Iâ€™m a good person to ask?â€ť
â€śBecause youâ€™re immune, somehow. And no one would ever
suspect you. Your perverse love of blood suckers is well-
known in this town.â€ť
Just in time, I started to feel angry. â€śAnd why on earth
would I help you hurt an innocent fellow-creature?â€ť
His smile could have cut diamonds. â€śSomehow I donâ€™t think
youâ€™ll mind. Do you want to know who it is?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t imagine I have a choice.â€ť
He cocked his head in acknowledgment. â€śTrue enough.â€ť