likely to kill me if I told you I had a family. I didn’t recognize you at first.”
Hearing this, Simone looked so sad that he couldn’t help himself: he reached out and put his palm on her cheek. She winced at first, then leaned into his caress. It wasn’t so much him, he sensed, as that she simply craved human contact. Her eyes started to well up, and he dared to take her in his arms and hug her.
After she had cried herself out, she leaned away from him and ran her hands across her eyes, wiping away the tears. “Do you really want to help?” she asked. Her voice was all business again.
“Anything,” Rod said. He meant it. All thoughts of escape had vanished.
“Go to the neighbors. Tell them you’ve rented this house. See if they’ll sell you any of their livestock, anything at all. My sisters… I mean, Laura and Patty… need some raw flesh to eat, or… or I’m not sure what will happen.”
“OK,” he said. “I have a little money in the car. I’ll see what I can do.”
Simone started to get up, then sat back down and took his hand. “If you can’t help us, then you must leave. I can’t be sure that we can control our hunger much longer. Promise me you won’t come back unless you can bring us some meat.”
He nodded. He noticed that she hadn’t asked him not to call the authorities. She trusted him, it was clear. She gave him back his phone and led him out of the closet. It was dawn, and a small amount of light had infiltrated the hallway. As they stood outside the door before joining the others, they turned to each other and hugged. Rod resisted the urge to try to kiss her, though he’d never wanted something so much in his whole life. She kept her head down during the hug, as if afraid he’d try it. When they broke apart, she gave him a grateful smile.
He spent the next few hours going door to door in the neighborhood until he found an old man who was willing to sell him one of his goats. It was a scrawny thing, on its last legs, but Rod bought it.
When he got it back to the house, he was alarmed at how the three girls tore into the unfortunate animal. He went back to his closet so he wouldn’t have to watch. He took out his cellphone. That morning, he’d only had ten percent power left, but once Simone had given him the freedom to move around, he’d used the recharger in the van.
The previous evening, Rod had come across The Testament of Michael , which was all over the Internet. It had given him an idea.
He called up his blog, his Facebook page and every other site he could think of, and he told the story of the three girls who had been abducted, abused and were in need of help. He knew he was broadcasting it to the world, to both the good guys and the bad guys, but he didn’t think he had any choice. In fact, he thought he’d be lucky if anyone noticed and took it seriously.
“To Terrill…” it began.
“Master, why were we created?”
“Please, call me Terrill,” he said. He looked down at his followers, who were arrayed around him. They were staring up at him with adoring eyes.
Ridiculous. What he really wanted to do was run far, far away.
“This isn’t about us,” Terrill said.
“Not about us?”
“We sprang from man,” Terrill said. “We are manifestations of mankind’s hopes and fears. What is evil but the darkness in the human heart? And no matter where a human goes, his heart goes with him.”
He was sitting on the picnic table, surrounded by a couple of dozen vampires. Most had taken the Sacrament of the Blood of Gold, but a few were holding back, uncertain or undecided. So far, almost everyone had survived the test, for a vampire had to be pretty committed to make the long journey through the High Desert of Eastern Oregon and up the narrow, winding roads into the Strawberry Mountains from John Day. By the time they finished that journey, there weren’t too many doubters left.
Even when they thought they were ready, though, Sylvie and