“Repeat that again,” Sister Michael said.
“Erin and James were sucking each other’s faces,” Michelle said.
“I meant the part about Kathy McGuire showing up outside the school,” Sister Michael said.
“We didn’t see her, but Orla saw her aura, or traces of it?” Clare said.
“Okay, but seriously, I think they might be possessed,” Michelle said, jabbing a thumb at Erin and James.
“Do you know how recently she was here?” Sister Michael said to Orla. “An hour ago? A half hour? 10 minutes?”
“I mean, you should have seen it,” Michelle said. “I really thinking they were trying to eat each other’s faces. Is there a demon that does that?”
“Right,” Sister Michael said, slamming her hands on her desk. “Miss Mallon, I get that you’re clearly going through something, but I need you to shove those feelings deep down inside where they can fester into what I can only assume will be a psychological problem for a therapist.”
“Mx. McCool, how recently was Kathy here?”
“I think 10 minutes?” Orla said.
“Right,” Sister Michael said. “Miss Quinn, you and I are going to see Peter.”
Erin felt her stomach twist.
“Why now?” Clare said.
“Before, I thought being near the man who nearly murdered her would unnerve Miss Quinn at a time when she needed her wits about her.”
“You were protecting me?” Erin said, surprised.
“I prefer to think of it as keeping you on your mission objective,” Sister Michael said. “And now that Kathy McGuire has shown up again in Derry, it’s time for Miss Quinn to talk with Peter. I made some truth potion and asked him every question I could think of, but I still wasn’t prepared for Kathy to show up in Derry. Maybe if you talk with him, he’ll reveal something more.”
“Like Silence of the Lambs,” Michelle whispered.
“Oh Jesus,” Sister Michael said, rubbing her temples.
“I’m coming too,” James said.
“Aye, like you’ll be able to stop him if Sister Michael and a trained Slayer can’t?” Michelle said.
“For emotional support,” James said.
“Jesus,” Michelle said, rolling her eyes. “Is this what you’re going to be like all the time?”
“Supportive of someone’s feelings?” James said.
“I’m gonna boke,” Michelle muttered. “Well, if he gets to come, I want to come too.”
“This is NOT a group event,” Sister Michael said. “It will be me, Miss Quinn, and no one else.”
“Actually Orla might be useful,” Clare said. “Since they’re psychic and all.”
Sister Michael sighed, rubbing her temples. After she minute she looked at them. “Well, come on then.”
“Grand,” Michelle said, a devious smile on her face.
As a Slayer, Erin was no stranger to dark, disturbing places. Moldy cellars, tunnels crawling with bats, the sewers, for feck’s sake. But the graveyard underneath Derry was the place that scared her the most.
James held been held hostage here. She had died here.
Kathy had betrayed them here.
“Is it just me, or did this place get creepier?” James said.
“Not just you,” Erin said. James took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. She felt her cheeks warm, giving him a shy look.
The moment was ruined by Michelle screaming in the background. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Erin turned around, watching as Michelle slowly floated to the ground. Behind her, Clare was making rapid arm motions like she was trying to swim through the air, and Orla was simply stretched out, enjoying themself.
“It’s okay,” James said. “The levitation spell won’t let you fall.”
“I…don’t…give a fuck,” Michelle growled. She was clawing the air, eyes fixed on the ground.
“What if it wears off?” Clare stammered.
“Honestly,” Sister Michael said, drifting gracefully to the ground, “you’ve been through this before.”
“And I still fucking hate it,” Michelle said. She grabbed a tombstone, pulling herself to the ground.
“I always wondered how you managed to get down here before,” Erin said.
“Yeah, you’re welcome,” Clare screeched. She finally made her way to the ground, waving her arms and legs frantically.
“All right,” Sister Michael said. “Let’s get going.” She set off through the graveyard.
“Right,” Erin said. “Orla, stop playing around!” Orla was still in the air, spinning over and over in a ball.
Orla pouted, but floated to the ground. “Can I punch Peter if he tries to bite you?” they asked.
“If he tries to bite her, you can hit him over the head with a tombstone,” Michelle said.
“Good,” Orla beamed, linking their arm through Erin’s.
Erin had to give it to Sister Michael – she certainly had a sense of irony.
Peter had been locked in the same mausoleum James had been kept in. A silver chain kept the cage door closed, and Erin felt that odd, staticky sensation she always did around a spell, reminding her of the air before a thunderstorm.
“Capture spell?” she said.
“Not its name, but close enough,” Sister Michael said. “Spell reinforces the structure. He’d have an easier time trying to break through a steel wall.”
They walked up to the mausoleum, Erin’s stomach twisting into a knot as a she passed the bloodstained ground. Her blood, blood that had been spilled weeks ago but still somehow had left a mark. She swallowed hard, concentrating instead on the captured vampire.
“Miss Quinn,” Peter said. “This is a surprise.” He leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers together.
“Christ,” Michelle said, “are you trying to be a Bond villain?”
Peter dropped his hands, glaring at her. He snarled, revealing his fangs. Orla snarled back, and Sister Michael had to restrain Michelle from throwing a vial of holy water.
“Peter,” Sister Michael said. “Kathy McGuire is back in town. We need to talk.”
“I’m not sure if I want to talk,” Peter said, looking away.
“Like hell you don’t, what the fuck else are you going to do?” Michelle snapped.
“There’s some interesting mold growing on the walls,” Orla said.
Peter tapped his foot, looking around. He was clearly irritated, knowing he would eventually talk, but not wanting to give a bunch of 16 year old girls the upper hand. Finally he sighed, rolling his eyes.
“It started with a dead Slayer,” Peter said.
James hand tightened on Erin’s.
“The last Slayer had the misfortune to walk into a vampire nest,” Peter said. “She was ripped to pieces, of course.”
Erin’s heart sped up. Behind her, Sister Michael didn’t so much as twitch, but Erin knew she just as tense. This story sounded familiar.
“Unfortunately, the vampires were killed afterwards in revenge, but one of them managed to escape.” Peter leaned back in his chair. “After a little while, word went around the vampire community that a new Slayer had been found. This vampire went to Northern Ireland, where he heard the next Slayer was. Once there, he told the vampires that they had to get their hands on the Slayer.”
See, he had noticed that back in France, after…dealing with the last Slayer, that he had enhanced strength and speed. Vampires are already more strong and fast than a human, but when he consumed a Slayer’s blood, he was even more powerful than before.”
So he gathered his fellow vampires together, telling them of what they could gain if they captured a Slayer: to be stronger than ever before and with no Slayer to stop them. They could hold the Slayer captive, drinking her blood to gain strength.”
“And then you stuck your nose in it,” Michelle said.
“In my search for a god, I wandered off the beaten path. And after you exposed the existence of vampires to me - ”
“You mean after a vampire attacked us and you ran away?” Michelle said.
“I went in search of more information about mythical creatures,” Peter said, glaring at Michelle. “I stumbled into vampires, and was turned. The best thing that ever happened in my miserable life.”
“And death, I guess?” Clare said. “You know, cause you’re technically dead now…” She trailed off as Peter glared at her too.
“Once I was changed, the vampires let me know it wasn’t just a benevolent gesture. An exchange had to be made. I lived in Derry, had interacted with the Slayer. She knew me, trusted me.”
“Eh,” Erin said.
“’Trust’ is a strong word,” Clare said.
“’Put up with’ is more accurate,” Sister Michael muttered.
“I was to get close to her, and when the time was right, attack,” Peter said.
“And you thought the best time to do that was five seconds after you saw us again, did you?” Michelle said. “You didn’t wait to start throwing punches.”
Peter hissed at Michelle again. Orla hissed back again. Sister Michael rubbed her temples.
“Just finish the story,” she said.
“I was to attack and incapacitate the Slayer, and bring her to a waiting nest of vampires. We would imprison her in a secret location, and drink her blood. We could live in a world even stronger than before, with no Slayer to stop us.”
Erin knew all about his plan, but it still chilled her blood to hear it again.
“How’d you get my mum get involved?” James asked quietly.
Peter grinned, finally starting to enjoy himself.
“As you know, the first kidnap attempt did not go well, due to certain…interference,” Peter said, glaring at Michelle, who glared right back. “And I tried again on Prom Night.” He sighed. “Where there was more interference.”
Orla gave James a thumbs up.
“I noticed in both fights that the Slayer had been particularly protective of James. And he’d been protective of her. Speaking of,” he said, nodding to Erin and James’ clasped hands, “are you two finally dating?”
“NO,” Michelle said.
“We…haven’t really talked about it,” Erin said, looking at James (who looked back, equally confused).
“Their auras are pretty together,” Orla said.
“Good for you two,” Peter said. “Anyways, I knew I’d found the Slayer’s weak spot. And because word gets around fast in this town, I already knew quite bit about James. Including the fact that he’d been abandoned by his mother.”
Erin squeezed James’ hand.
“So I popped around to London and told Kathy everything,” Peter said.
“Except you twisted the details,” Erin said, remembering how Kathy thought Slayers were murderers, how she was “helping” Father Peter.
Peter shrugged. “A bit. But honestly, it didn’t take much to get her on my side. All I had to do was dangle the possibility of eternal life in front of her. Didn’t even mind we’d have to kidnap you,” he said, nodding to James.
“We all know she’s a shit mom, get on with it,” Michelle said. She looked angrier than before, and Erin remembered how furious she had been when Peter had kidnapped James.
James’ grip on Erin’s handed tightened, and her heart hurt. She wanted to do something, comfort him, but she didn’t want to do anything in front of Peter.
“’Course, she wasn’t that dedicated to the cause, since she left the second things got tough.”
“You mean after you stabbed Erin?” Clare said.
“It wasn’t meant to be in the chest,” Peter said. “Just a little wound to the shoulder, something to throw her off balance.”
“I mean, you shouldn’t be stabbing her AT ALL,” Clare said.
“What’s going to happen to my mum?” James asked quietly.
“Well, she made a deal with vampires,” Peter said. “Just because I’m locked up in here doesn’t mean the rest of the vampires will give up. And they won’t be happy that she ran away instead of continuing to capture you.”
“Is that why she came back?” Erin said. “To try and grab me?”
Peter shrugged. “Maybe. She’s in a desperate spot – if the vampires find her, they’ll kill her for letting them down.”
“And she’s not exactly welcome here,” Michelle muttered.
“She’s got nowhere to go,” Peter said. “And desperate people make desperate decisions.” He smiling, showing his fangs. “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
“So that wasn’t much help at all,” Michelle grumbled. They were walking back home, thoroughly dejected by the lack of help Peter had given them. Sister Michael had promised to try and think of more questions for Peter, but even she hadn’t sounded too hopeful.
“At least we know a bit more about Kathy,” Clare said. She patted James’ shoulder. “Sorry James.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything, eyes on the ground. Erin’s felt a twinge in her heart, and wanted to take his hand again. However, she was slightly terrified that Michelle would start screaming about demon possession again if she did so.
“If the vampires are after her too, maybe she won’t want to attack us anymore?” Orla said. No one else, even James, looked very hopeful.
“I wonder if Ms. De Brún knows,” Erin said, “about the fact that the vampires got the idea from killing her Slayer.” She hadn’t talked about it much, but Erin knew that Ms. De Brún had taken her Slayer’s death really hard.
“Probably not,” Clare said, “I mean, even Sister Michael didn’t know until Peter told us.”
“I can’t see her liking that,” Michelle said. “Hell, she’ll probably try to stake all the vampires herself.” She snorted. “Maybe we won’t have to do anything at all.”
“Oh, like you’d like that,” Erin said. “You’re chuffed about the idea of taking out a group of vampires.”
“Oh aye, I’m sorry that I’m so dedicated to saving my community,” Michelle said. “Trying to keep people from vampires sucking their blood, what am I thinking?”
“Well I don’t want to do it,” Clare said, looking miserable. “I mean, I will, cause otherwise, you know,” she looked at Erin, “but I don’t like idea of taking on a bunch of vampires.”
“Maybe we could give them something else and they’ll go away,” Orla said, then looked down at their bag of crisps.
“They won’t go away for crisps, Orla,” Erin said.
“We haven’t asked them yet,” Orla said.
They reached Erin’s house, and made to go in, when James leaned against the fence. “I think I’ll take a breath of air,” he said.
The rest of the group paused. “Oh c’mon ballache, let’s just get inside,” Michelle said, although in less harsh of a tone than she normally used. She clearly thought James was upset at his mother being brought up again. Erin thought so too, until James caught her eye.
“Let’s just get inside,” she said, trying to push the rest of them up the walk. She got halfway to the door, and then swore. “I left my dagger at the school.”
“So what, you’ve got fifty,” Michelle said. “I’ve got five measly ones –“
“It’s the one with the silver blade,” Erin said. “Listen, I’ll run up to get it –“
“We should go with you!” Clare said. “It’s not safe to be out by yourself!”
Erin shook her head. “Kathy won’t try to nab me again today, not with everyone already looking out for her. I’ll go get it real quick and be back in a bit –“
Michelle narrowed her eyes, looking back and forth between Erin and James a few times before finally nodding. “If you ain’t back in 20 minutes we’re coming after you.”
“Good,” Erin said, jogging off down the street. “See you in a bit!”
Five minutes later, she had doubled back around to her house, where James was still leaning against the fence, waiting for her. “We’ve got fifteen minutes,” she said, grinning. Then she realized she had no clue what to say next. Abruptly, she felt awkward. Everything she did - standing, breathing, staring - seemed weird.
James seemed to be feeling the same way. He fidgeted a bit before finally taking a deep breath (oh thank God, he was going to go first, Erin thought).
“I…I like you Erin,” he said. She had to hold back a smile. His voice sounded scared, excited, shy. “I’d like to, you know, I’d like to date you,” he continued. “That is, if you feel the same way?”
Erin couldn’t help herself and launched towards him. For the second time in as many hours, they were kissing.
Finally, needing air, Erin pulled back. James smiled down at her, looking a bit like he’d been hit over the head. (And she should know, considering that time Clare had tried to club a vampire but had hit James instead.)
“So I’m guessing you feel the same?” he said, smiling.
“Aye,” Erin said, feeling shy now, despite having kissed him just a moment ago.
James nodded, his smile growing bigger. Then it suddenly faded. Erin instinctively looked around for demons.
“Michelle,” James said. “She’s not going to be happy when she finds out about this.”
“Ah.” That was a bigger problem than demons.
“It’s ridiculous,” James said. “You want to date me, and I want to date you. And…and Michelle’s not going to stop me.”
“I mean, she does have access to A LOT of weapons,” Erin said.
“And I can do magic,” James said.
“Aye, that’s true,” Erin said, although she secretly still put her money on Michelle.
“Maybe we should break it to her gently,” James said.
“I mean, she did catch us kissing earlier,” Erin said. “I think that clued her in.”
“Yeah,” James said. He thought for a second. “Maybe I should stab myself now and get it over with.”
“We could tell her tonight during patrol,” Erin said. “She could take all her frustrations out on the vampires.”
“That’s a good idea,” James said. Then he checked his watch. “We’ve got 2 minutes left,” he said. He looked around, and then they were kissing again.
When the crash came, both took a second to snap out of their daze. Erin looked around James’ shoulder to see a bin lying on the ground.
“What was that?” she said, belatedly remembering that she should probably be reaching for a weapon.
James looked up and down the street, but no one was around. “Maybe a cat knocked it down?” he said. Then he frowned. “Or it could be someone cloaked in an invisibility spell.”
“Can you reveal them?” Erin asked.
James shook his head. “It depends on how powerful the spell is,” he said. “And they might have just run away by now anyway.”
Erin nodded, but suddenly felt exposed. Her skin crawled, and she said, “We should probably get inside before Michelle kills us. And we’ll tell her tonight.”
“Tonight,” James said, nodding. Erin grinned at the nervous look on his face.
They walked back into the house, not seeing the slight glimmer in the air, the sure sign of magic. As though someone, covered by an invisibility spell, was watching them.
Despite the looming worry of talking to the group about James, Erin actually had a fairly good day. She spent the afternoon with her friends, raiding the Christmas cupboard and watching tv. It felt almost normal. But of course, that lasted only until the sun went down, and then it was time to hunt.
Her anxiety came back, and by the time they were walking through Derry, Erin was considering just running back to the house and dealing with everything on another day.
“Why are you panicking about Kathy?” Michelle asked. “Don’t look so worried. We’ve got your back,” she said, giving her baseball bat a swing.
Erin’s stomach flipped, unsure how to break it to Michelle that she wasn’t upset because of Kathy, but because she wanted to talk to her about James.
Her anxiety increased when they arrived at the first graveyard and a familiar figure was waiting for them.
“You’re late,” Sister Michael said.
“Why are you here?” Michelle said. “Did you come to bring us more weapons?” Her face brightened. “Maybe that cracker spinny ball thing with the spikes?”
James’ face went pale at the thought of Michelle getting her hands on a mace.
“I thought I’d accompany you tonight, considering the events of this morning,” Sister Michael said.
“Any luck since?” Erin asked.
Sister Michael shook her head. “I really think he doesn’t know who is behind the whole scheme. He’s given me a few names, but I’ve heard of them, and none of them have the brains or balls to think this up.”
“So whoever it is, they’re sticking to the shadows,” Clare said. “Making sure we can’t trace it back to them.”
“That’s what I think,” Sister Michael said.
“Do you think…would my mum know more?” James asked quietly.
Sister Michael shook her head. “I don’t know. I’d be inclined to say ‘no’, since Peter doesn’t know who’s behind it and he’s a vampire. But Peter’s also been locked up, and in his absence, they might have thought Kathy was their best shot at getting to Erin. They could have given her more information if they thought it would help her.”
“Sooooo, we know nothing,” Michelle said, swinging her sword. “Does this mean we have school tomorrow?” After their interview with Peter, Sister Michael had judged it safer to temporarily shut down the school, rather than have students there in the event of a vampire attack.
Sister Michael shot her an irritated look. “As far as Derry knows, the school has been closed temporarily due to mold being found in the locker room.”
“Class,” Michelle said. “How long do you think it’ll be? A week? Two weeks?”
“May I remind you that the school is closed because a group of vampires are out for your friend’s blood?”
“I’m worried!” Michelle said, looking offended. “I just think no school is a nice way to make up for that.”
Sister Michael rolled her eyes, and then gestured towards the graveyard. “Well, shall we get started? I’ve been wanting a drink since 8 AM.”
“You’re not the only one,” Michelle muttered.
They set off into the graveyard, Erin and James purposefully hanging in the back of the group.
“Should we still tell everyone we’re dating?” James whispered.
“With Sister Michael here? Are you insane?” Erin whispered back.
“I mean, there’s less of a chance Michelle will attack us if she’s here.”
“That’s a good point,” Erin said. “Fine, let’s take our chance.” She cleared her throat. “Um, can I have everyone’s attention?”
“What the fuck are you doing?” Michelle said. “Leading a class?”
“I don’t want to do any more school, Erin,” Orla said.
“I’m not...” Erin sighed. “I just wanted to say something real quick.” She glanced at James. “I mean, we wanted to say something.
“Oh fuck no,” Michelle said.
“Erin and I are…dating,” James said.
“Oh Christ,” Sister Michael said.
“That’s nice,” Orla said. They wore such a calm look that Erin suspected they had figured it out earlier from their auras or something.
Michelle looked as though she was about to explode.
“I think it’s nice too,” Clare said. “I mean, it’s a bit weird, cause we’re all friends and – you’re not going to snog all the time we’re hanging out, right?”
“I mean,” Erin said, “if the urge to snog –“
“Please stop talking,” Sister Michael said.
“Uh Michelle,” James said. “Are you okay?”
Michelle was pacing around. She looked furious, but Erin also thought she looked a bit…frightened.
“This can’t happen,” Michelle said.
“Why not?” James said.
In response, Michelle threw a stake towards James.
James flung himself to the ground. “You can’t murder me for dating someone!” he said.
“I’m not trying to kill you, dickface,” she said, taking out a dagger. “I’m trying to kill the vampire!” She gestured to the vampire that had appeared behind him. “And THEN I’m going to kill you.”
James leapt to his feet and faced the vampire, hands glowing with the start of a spell. Erin drew her sword. Orla took out a candy bar and began to eat it.
The vampire, clearly realizing it was outnumbered, backed away.
“Oh no you don’t, fucko,” Michelle growled. But before she could move forward, another vampire appeared behind the first.
Erin tensed, eyes darting to the tombstones, the trees, trying to find more hidden vampires. The vampire looked between the group and the newly arrived vampire, and then darted to the side, taking off through the graveyard.
“Fuck,” Erin said. She took off through the graveyard. Out of the corner of her eye, she say the other vampire running as well. The vampire, however, didn’t run towards Erin, but rather in the same direction, towards the fleeing vampire.
Erin realized that maybe the second vampire wasn’t a vampire at all, right as they took out a dagger and threw it at the vampire running away. The running vampire ducked, and the dagger slammed into a tree.
The vampire changed course, quickly reversing and attempting to run past Erin with the element of surprise. Erin stopped, skidding in the dirt and falling to her knees. The possible vampire/mysterious figure jumped into the air, nimbly turning around with what Erin assumed was some kind of ballet jump.
The figure raced after the vampire, and Erin scrambled to her feet and ran after them both. They raced through the graveyard, coming to another sudden stop when the vampire caught sight of Erin’s friends waiting for him.
The figure continued to run forward, pulling out another dagger, and threw itself at the vampire. They wrestled briefly, and Erin stopped, holding her breath. She wanted to help, but was afraid that the pair were too close together – if she tried to aim at the vampire, she might hit the figure instead. Her friends had clearly come to the same conclusion, and were watching the fight.
Finally, the figure seemed to get the upper hand. They kicked the vampire to the ground, and raised the dagger. Erin squinted, but even with her enhanced vision, she couldn’t see who was in the shadows.
The vampire suddenly slammed a foot into one of the figure’s ankles. The figure fell to their knees.
“Dirty fighting,” Michelle called out.
“He’s a VAMPIRE, Miss Mallon,” Sister Michael said.
Erin saw her opening and darted forward, pulling out a stake. While the vampire was focused on the figure, she leapt forward and rammed the stake into their back. The vampire exploded in a cloud of dust.
“Well, this was fun.” The figure got to their feet, holding out a hand to help Erin. She took it, finally close enough to see who the person was.
“Ms. De Brún!” She couldn’t keep herself from hugging her former teacher. The last time Erin had seen her, she had been lying on the floor, dead.
“Hello, Slayer.” She gave Erin a quick hug back. If I was your Watcher, you wouldn’t have let that vampire sneak up on you,” she said, smirking at Sister Michael.
“We had it in hand,” Sister Michael said, not rising to the bait.
“We thought you’d be by,” Michelle said.
“Yes, Michael called me this morning, right after you met with Peter.” Ms. De Brún’s mouth flatted into a thin line.
“We’re gonna figure out who did it,” Erin said. She wanted to say something, anything, to help Ms. De Brún. She knew that her Slayer’s death weighed heavily on her.
“We will,” Ms. De Brún said, twisting a knife between her fingers. “Last time I left, I missed all the excitement. This time, I’m going to stay until we’ve found the vampire who hunted you and killed Camille.”
Michelle chortled. “Between two Watchers, a Slayer, a psychic, a witch, me, and…” She jerked her head towards Clare. “Whatever the hell you are.”
“I do research!” Clare said. “And I fight!”
Erin raised an eyebrow.
“Sometimes!” Clare said. “When we really need it!”
“It’s just a shame you’re a shitty witch,” Michelle said to James. And then, widening her eyes, she screeched, “AND YOU’RE DATING!”
“Oh really?” Ms. De Brún said. “Grand so.”
“Thanks,” Erin said, face turning red.
“All right, time to head home,” Sister Michael said.
“But we just got here!” Erin said. “And we’ve got more graveyards to go through!”
“It’s true, but I can’t handle any more of this,” Sister Michael, waving her hand at the group. “We’ll hunt more tomorrow, after you’ve gotten all this relationship shite sorted. Saoirse, I’ve got a bottle of brandy waiting in my study.”
“Delightful,” Ms. De Brún said.
“C’mon then,” Sister Michael said. “We’ll make sure you lot get home safely first.”
They walked out of the graveyard. Erin felt James’ fingers brush against hers, and she took his hand. She bit back a smile.
“I’m gonna boke,” Michelle said.