Blood Red Chapter 13


Mark didn't dare take ’’Nefertiti’’ to Montresse House-there was no way he would invite her into the home where Lauren and her friends had found safety. Nor could he take her out to Sean's house, for the same reason. He would never risk the lieutenant and his fam ily's safety by bringing such a creature in.

At least she seemed to have decided that he was dangerous to her, and she was quiet and well-behaved, accepting his lead as he moved down the street, trying to find a cafe with a courtyard and plenty of room-and sunlight.

She protested when he chose a place and picked ouut a table. His chair was in shadow. Hers was not.

’’Sit,’’ he commanded.

’’I'm sitting.’’

’’Talk.’’

’’What do you want me to say?’’

’’I want to know where you go to sleep.’’

’’I sleep...different places.’’

’’Who did this to you?’’ he asked her.

She waved a hand in the air dismissively. ’’Who knows? Someone with money.’’

He leaned back, shaking his head. ’’You're a liar. You never worked in that club until you became a vampire. And you go somewhere in particular at night.’’

She stared at him sulkily just as a waitress came to their table and looked enquiringly at Mark. ’’Order,’’ he said with a shrug. Nefertiti smiled at the waitress. ’’He's so rude. But he's so good in bed that I don't care,’’ she said sweetly.

The waitress, an older woman with graying hair, stared at the two of them as if she'd just been faced with the dregs of society.

’’An ice tea, please,’’ he said.

’’I'm hungry,’’ Nefertiti whined.

’’Then eat.’’

’’He really is so commanding,’’ she told the waitress. ’’I'll have a hamburger.’’

’’Medium? Medium-well?’’ the waitress asked.

Nefertiti offered her a sugary smile. ’’Raw, please.’’

’’You mean...rare? The health code suggests-’’

’’Not rare. Raw. No bun, thanks.’’

’’I can't give you a raw hamburger. The health code-’’

Mark slapped a large bill on the table. ’’Please just bring her a raw hamburger.’’

With a disapproving look, the waitress left them.

’’Where are you from?’’ Mark demanded, leaning closer to her.

’’Bourbon Street.’’

’’Where are you from?’’ he repeated.

She smiled. ’’Houma, originally. But now I'm from Bourbon Street.’’

’’So you were created on Bourbon Street?’’

’’Ooh. Smart fella.’’

’’So where do you go at night?’’

’’Wherever I choose.’’

He had the water pistol aimed at her beneath the table and let go with a short spray. She nearly jumped out of the chair. ’’Bastard!’’ she hissed at him.

The waitress returned with a plate holding a raw hamburger. It was barely on the table before Nefertiti was digging into it with her fingers. The waitress made a soft sound, clearly not intended for them to heard, that was filled with disgust.

’’Maybe you can be helped,’’ Mark suggested when the waitress had gone.

Nefertiti stopped eating for a moment and stared at him, then shook her head. ’’No. I died, and I rose. There is no help.’’

He realized suddenly that she was looking past him, over his shoulder. He turned around but saw nothing. In that split second, she was up and running.

’’Stop!’’ he shouted.

She only kept running. He followed, practically leaping over a table to keep up with her. She turned down a side street, then into an alley. ’’Stop!’’ he yelled again.

At that moment a toddler came running out of a door onto the sidewalk in front of her.

Nefertiti stared, then grabbed the child and turned to look Mark straight in the eye.

The little boy started to cry. From inside the house, they could hear a woman's voice calling, ’’Ryan? Ryan! Where are you?’’

Nefertiti shook her head at Mark with a curious, almost wistful smile.

’’Don't!’’ he cried.

She opened her mouth and began to lower it, fangs extended, to the crying toddler's throat.

He shot her with a long, continuous spray. She let out a screech of agony and dropped the boy. Smoke and steam rose from her skin, and she fell, hardly recognizable anymore as a human being but instead a writhing, shifting form, wretchedly decayed.

He heard the sound of police sirens.

Disgusted, Mark turned and quickly escaped the alley. He heard the mother shouting, calling the boy's name, then screaming in bone-chilling horror, no doubt as she stumbled onto Nefertiti's remains..

As he turned onto Delphine Street, Mark saw a police cruiser, lights flashing, pass him.

And he heard the flutter of wings overhead.

As he walked quickly away, he thought over what had happened and realized that the woman who called herself Nefertiti had preferred extinction at his hands to facing her master and being branded a traitor.

As he walked, he remembered hanging up on Sean back at the club. Cursing, he drew out his phone and punched in the lieutenant's cell number.

Lauren was torn. The scream demanded-self-preservation demanded-that she run. At the same timer, she needed to know why someone was screaming. But most of all, she knew that if Deanna were to have a chance, she couldn't leave her alone again.

That last option won out. She rushed over to Deanna's bed, wondering if whatever was happening was only a ruse to trick everyone into leaving her friend alone and vulnerable.

Deanna's IV was still connected to her arm. She still lay on her white pillow and sheets as she had for what seemed like forever. The princess. Unmoving.

Swallowing, her fear nearly paralyzing her, Lauren picked up Deanna's hand and fumbled for the pulse in her wrist.

It was there, regular and strong. She breathed a sigh of relief.

But what the hell was going on?

Lauren had been concentrating so hard on Deanna that it was several seconds before she realized that someone had come into the room behind her.

As she turned around, wary and tense, she heard the door to the room slam shut.

He was there.

Stephan. Stephan Delanskiy. Standing now at the foot of the bed. Ink dark hair fell over his forehead, contrasting with the doctor's white coat he was wearing. ’’How is my patient?’’ he asked very softly.

Lauren looked toward the open window. Shouts and cries were coming from the hallway;the hospital seemed to have turned into Bedlam. But Stephan Stephan Delanskiy seemed oblivious to all that. She didn't know where he had come from, if he had stepped into the room from the hall, or if he had come through the window.

But it didn't really matter. All that mattered was that he was there.

She stared at him and flipped the cross she was wearing out from under her shirt.

He smiled. ’’That will not stop me, you know.’’

’’Maybe so, but you're there, and I'm here.’’

’’Because you must come to me.’’

’’I will never come to you.’’

’’Eventually, you will.’’ He laughed softly. ’’I have my ways of doing things. Methods. Even madness, you might say. You see, this is a war. Whatever skirmish I may lose to my enemy, in the end, it is a war, and I will win. And you will come to me, because I know you.’’

’’You cause suffering and death,’’ she told him. ’’You hurt people. You nearly killed my friend. You're evil, and you will not win.’’

He smiled and shook his head, as if explaining things to a small child. ’’What in life has ever led you to believe that what you call 'evil'cannot win? Take that silly cross around your neck. I have seen it before, and it failed to stop me then, just as it will now. He is not the salvation you think he is. And I am not death, but rather, eternal life.’’

’’Tell that to the women you've beheaded,’’ she said softly.

He made a dismissive sound. ’’They did not deserve to live.’’

’’You're wrong. They didn't deserve to be murdered.’’

They could both hear footsteps then;someone was running down the toward Deanna's room.

’’You will come to me,’’ he told her again, his smile cold and certain.

There was the sound of something slamming heavily against the door. Instinctively, Lauren looked in that direction just as the door burst open.

Mark was there, stranding in the doorway, his gaze quickly darting around the room. He rushed over to her, drawing her close to him, his arms around her.

’’He was here,’’ he said huskily, his tone certain.

’’Yes.’’ She couldn't help it. She was trembling, even though Stephan had vanished as suddenly as he'd appeared.

’’Deanna?’’

’’She seems to be all right.’’

’’And...you?’’

’’I'm fine, too.’’

He let out a sigh of relief. For a moment he seemed so weary that she longed to hold him forever, but now, more than ever, she was afraid to leave Deanna's side.

’’What's happening here?’’ she demanded.

As if in answer, another scream echoed from down the hall.

Even between them, Sean realized, he and Bobby couldn't manage to hold the woman.

Leticia Lockwood was slim and delicately built, but at this moment her strength was unimaginable.

’’I can't hold her!’’ Bobby cried.

Sean had gotten off the elevator just in time to see Bobby trying to wrench Leticia away from a gurney, where she was rabidly attacking a bag marked Type O Positive that was attached to a line transfusing into an apparently post-op gentleman of advanced years. Bobby was already sporting a swollen jaw, and hospital employees were scurrying just to get out of the way.

’’Hey,’’ Sean said firmly, grabbing hold of Leticia's shoulder as she writhed like an animal beneath Bobby.

She screamed, a bloodcurdling sound that was horrible to hear. Then, with astounding ease, she threw Bobby clear across the hall.

’’Damn it, stop! I don't want to shoot you!’’ Sean roared.

He might as well not have bothered. Leticia was up and flying at a hapless intern who was standing by, aghast.

’’Shit!’’ Sean swore and went tearing after her.

He tackled her, and they hit the floor together.

She shoved him, and he fared no better than Bobby.

She was off again, this time making a leap for the frozen and panic-stricken head nurse, who was standing behind the desk.

Wincing, Sean drew his weapon and fired a warning shot.

Everyone screamed-except Leticia, who didn't even pause.

Before Sean had a chance to shoot again, Mark Davidson came running out of Deanna's room. He saw Leticia, saw her intended victim, and took a flying leap over the desk. He caught Leticia by the shoulders and shoved her forward, crashing into a rolling cart filled with medications. Bottles and vials went flying everywhere.

Sean waited, expecting Davidson to go flying just as he and Bobby had, but there was only silence.

Nothing.

He strode to the desk and looked over. Mark was straddling the girl, staring down at her and talking soothingly. ’’Someone get her something quickly-a major league tranquilizer,’’ Sean said.

The head nurse, who had appeared almost catatonic with fear, suddenly sprang to life. She fumbled on the floor, searching through the wrapped needles and the different vials. In a second she was at Mark's side. Leticia began to thrash again, forcing her back, but Mark seized the hypodermic from her, and quickly inserted the needle. In a second, Leticia's wild and frantic eyes closed, and she went limp.

Mark stayed as he was for several long seconds. Then he eased back.

Sean strode over to him. ’’You all right?’’

’’Yeah.’’

Suddenly hospital personnel were everywhere.

’’I can't believe it,’’ the head nurse said, stricken. ’’It's Leticia. She's one of our finest nurses.’’

’’She went insane,’’ one of the interns said.

’’Like a rabid dog!’’ another claimed.

’’Let's get her into a bed,’’ an intern said.

’’You're going to find that she needs a transfusions, and she needs it fast,’’ Mark said.

’’Are you a doctor, young man?’’ the head nurse demanded.

Mark looked up at her. ’’I know what she needs,’’ he said quietly. The nurse frowned as Mark rose and lifted Leticia into his arms. ’’A room?’’ he said.

The head nurse just nodded. The young intern who had first suggested that she needed a bed followed Mark into an empty room and spoke quickly to the nurse. ’’Pull up her chart. Her blood type must be on record.’’

The nurse stared at him.

’’Do it. Now.’’

She jumped, shooting a disapproving glance at Mark, and hurried back out to the hall.

Sean stood in the door, watching, then felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see Bobby standing behind him.

’’Lauren is here, in Deanna's room. I'll be with her.’’

’’Thanks, Bobby.’’

Sean looked at Mark, who was standing next to the bed where Leticia now lay, completely out. ’’Will the transfusion do it?’’ he asked quietly.

Mark shook his head, his uncertainty clear.

The intern, who was checking Leticia's pulse, said, ’’I think she'll be all right. She must have been under the influence of some heavy duty drug. We'll do a tox screen and find out what the hell is going on. She's one of our best nurses. I can't imagine Leticia...she never even smoked pot, sings in her church choir...’’

A commotion in the hallway began to grow into a din. Sean stepped out to see what was going on and found patients milling around curiously and the staff trying to get them calmed down and back into their rooms.

’’Folks, it's all over. Everything's all right,’’ Sean said.

A middle-aged woman in a hospital gown that left her more than a little exposed, suddenly pointed and started screaming.

Sean turned toward the gurney with the post op patient. The man was still unconscious, but

Leticia had apparently gotten her teeth into the blood bag, because blood was sprayed all over the man and the wall.

’’It's all right. It's all right, Mrs. Ruben,’’ a nurse assured her.

An orderly quickly went over to the gurney. ’’I need help here,’’ he called.

’’People, please,’’ Sean said. ’’Get back into your rooms. Let the hospital staff get things cleaned up.’’

’’Someone stabbed him!’’ Mrs. Ruben screamed.

’’He wasn't stabbed,’’ Sean said patiently. ’’It's just a spill.’’

’’A spill like murder! Blood red murder!’’ the woman shouted.

’’Murder!’’ someone else repeated.

Sean groaned. ’’Stop it!’’ he snapped, using all his authority. ’’There's been no murder,’’ he said, all the while knowing the words might well be a lie. ’’Get back to your rooms.’’

To his relief, the patients began to obey.

With Mark in with Leticia Lockwood and the staff suddenly finding both courage and their senses, Sean strode across to Deanna's room.

Lauren was perched by her friend's side.

Bobby was standing, hands on his hips, looking like a crouched tiger ready to spring in any direction.

Sean walked over to the bed. ’’She all right?’’ he asked Lauren.

’’No change,’’ she told him.

As he nodded, Mark Davidson returned to the room. ’’We have to get Deanna out of here,’’ he said flatly. ’’Sean, there's a Judy Lockwood across the hall with Leticia. She wants to talk to you.’’

Sean walked to the door, pausing on the way to ask Mark, ’’And what the hell do I tell her?’’

Mark took a deep breath. ’’I have absolutely no idea,’’ he admitted, then smiled. ’’Hey, you're the cop.’’ Then he turned serious again. ’’But we have to get Deanna out of this place.’’

Sean, wincing, strode across the hall.

What the hell was he going to say to the woman? Your niece, your decent, sweet, God-fearing niece, was possessed by a vampire?

He just hoped he wouldn't end up having to stake her.

Lauren wasn't quite sure how Mark managed to convince Deanna's doctors that she would be better cared for her at home. At first the doctor in charge-called back in from a day's fishing excursion, wearing a cap with a bouncing bass-was adamant that she wasn't ready to be released, not while she was still in a coma.

Lauren swore she could care for her, but the doctor kept shaking his head.

Then Mark began to talk. He didn't say anything she hadn't said herself, but somehow he was more convincing. Maybe it was a guy thing.. She usually hated that. But at the moment she couldn't be too upset, because she was getting what she wanted.

The release papers were signed, and arrangements made for a registered nurse to come by three times a day. An ambulance was hired to transport her from the hospital to the house on Bourbon Street.

Lauren rode in the ambulance with Deanna. Sean, Bobby and Mark followed by car. The paramedics helped settle Deanna in, then left.

Heidi was still upset and on edge, but she was behaving normally again, and she was ready to be a little mother hen, clucking over Deanna. She assured Stacey and Bobby that she would be taking over Deanna's care and would make sure they didn't impose on anyone, and that she would protect her friend against any evil.

Lauren noticed that Mark seemed to find that final claim, especially, doubtful. He had a hushed conversation with Stacey in the hallway, and Lauren suspected Stacey was assuring him that she had gotten Heidi to understand the danger facing them.

’’I really think Heidi is going to be okay,’’ she whispered to Mark, as he came back into the room. She kept her voice down because Heidi was close by, concentrating on making sure that Deanna's pillow was properly plumped.

He stared at her as she spoke, seeming distant and tense.

’’Really,’’ she said, catching his arm and leading him toward the door. ’’She's herself again.’’

Mark sighed, shaking his head. ’’And Sean told me about Judy Lockwood saying Leticia wouldn't stay out all night or miss work. Don't you see? He gets to the people he uses. He literally gets into their blood.’’

Sean Canady came up the stairs, staring at Mark. ’’We've got another corpse,’’ he said.

’’Headless?’’ Lauren asked, swallowing.

’’No. And found in a courtyard, not the Mississippi.’’ He turned back to Mark. ’’They're having a hard time discerning how she originally met her demise. She's pretty well decayed. Apparently she's been dead for months.’’

’’A fraternity prank?’’ Lauren asked, hoping against hope. But then she saw the way Sean and Mark were looking at one another.

’’Vampires only explode and turn to dust if they've been dead long enough that their body would have decayed already. Apparently we have a few fairly fresh kills on our hands.’’

’’I think Lauren's idea of a fraternity prank makes sense. At least, that's the story I'd go with for the press,’’ Mark told Sean.

’’Hell,’’ Sean groaned.

’’We should go, don't you think?’’ Mark said to him.

’’To the morgue?’’ Sean asked.

’’To the hospital. We've got to see if we can talk to Leticia.’’ He turned to Lauren. ’’Stay here. And please, Don't leave this house.’’

’’I won't. Deanna and Heidi are both here,’’ she said.

’’And Bobby and Stacey,’’ Sean told her. ’’And I'm going to tell Big Jim that the band will have to do without him for a few nights. Call me if anything, anything at all, happens.’’ ’’Absolutely,’’ she swore.

She nodded, turned and took a seat on the bed next to Deanna, as if to show both men that she wasn't going anywhere.

Sun streamed in from the balcony. The air-conditioner hummed.

The only odd thing at all was the fact that Stacey had strung cloves of garlic all the way around the windows and the French doors that led to the balcony.

The room smelled like a pizzeria. But there were far worse scents, Lauren had discovered.

Like blood.

Sean was quite a helpful guy, Mark noted dryly to himself. The cop was his passage into the places he needed to go.

Like Leticia's room, where Sean had stationed an officer by the door while Deanna's release was being handled.

When they entered, Mark saw that Leticia was shackled to the bed, and Judy Lockwood was still there, seated by her niece's side in the big hospital chair that turned into a bed. She was hummed as she knitted a sweater.

Mark noticed that Judy had brought her own kind of defense. The window sill was littered with a bit of dirt, which he knew was some kind of mojo Judy thought might work to keep her niece safe. There was also a huge cross on the bedside stand.

’’How's she doing?’’ Sean asked.

’’Sleeping like a baby,’’ Judy told him. She didn't miss a stitch as she answered, then smiled at Sean. ’’Thank you for listening to me.’’

Sean nodded. ’’This is a friend of mine, Ms. Lockwood. Mark Davidson. I think you met him earlier’’

Judy studied him. ’’All right,’’ she said after a moment. ’’Are you going to help us, then, Mr. Mark?’’

’’I'm going to do my best. I'll need to speak with Leticia when she wakes up. I'm hoping she can tell me something about where she's been.’’

Judy nodded. ’’You may take a seat, young man.’’

’’I'll leave you, Mark, and get down to the mor-station,’’ Sean said. ’’Judy, feel free to call me any time.’’

’’I will, Lieutenant,’’ she said firmly, her eyes on Mark. ’’And I thank you again,’’ she added softly.

Sean left with a nod to Mark, who turned to Judy

’’Ms. Lockwood, are her clothes in the closest?’’

She nodded.

’’May I look at them?’’

She stared at him for a long time. ’’They say you calmed her down. The cops couldn't hold her. No one could. You calmed her down.’’

’’Um...yes.’’

He was startled when she reached out and grabbed him. ’’Is she going to be all right?’’ she demanded tensely.

This woman was somehow in the know, Mark thought. Maybe she didn't even know what she understood;maybe she just had special instincts. But somehow she knew that more was going on here than it seemed.

’’I sincerely hope so,’’ he said.

’’I love this girl,’’ Judy said with quiet vehemence. ’’Understand this: I love this girl more than my own life. I love her enough to kill her if need be. Do you understand what I'm saying, young man?’’

’’She needs a lot of blood,’’ he said softly. ’’A lot.’’

Judy leaned back, eyeing him warily. ’’She's been getting that.’’

’’She needs to be...watched.’’

’’I won't leave her side.’’

He hesitated. ’’You have to be very careful. You have to...watch whoever comes in here.’’

’’I can do that,’’ Judy assured him.

He nodded.

’’Her things are all in the closet,’’ Judy told him.

He thanked her.

Judy's uniform gave him little to go on;it was splotched with blood, but he had expected that. Then he checked her shoes. The soles were thickly caked with dark muck and swamp grass.

He set the shoes back where they'd been. He was surprised that Stephan hadn't made a clean kill of the nurse. A small miracle, he thought, then winced, thinking about the day.

About the decaying corpse that was now at the morgue.

Nefertiti.

’’I'll be praying for my girl,’’ Judy said, her fingers busy at her knitting once again. ’’I'll be praying for her. You'll be praying, too, won't you, Mark?’’ She stared straight at him.

’’Yes,’’ he said simply.

’’You go on now,’’ she told him. ’’I'll be here. Day and night. Come what may. You can count on me,’’ she said.

He smiled then walked over to the table, found paper and pen, and scribbled down his number. ’’If she wakes up...’’

’’I'll call you.’’

’’Thank you.’’

Mark left the hospital. As he did, he saw night was coming.

His cell phone rang. It was Sean.

’’Meet me at the morgue.’’

’’Now?’’

’’It's as good a time as any.’’

’’Lauren.’’

Lauren jumped. She had dozed off in a chair.

She looked across the room, thinking Heidi, who was relaxing in another chair, had spoken.

Heidi stared at her.

Then they both stared at Deanna.

Lauren blinked.

This time it seemed Deanna really was conscious. Lauren and Heidi both leaped up, almost crashing into each other in their rush to reach Deanna's side.

’’Hey!’’ Heidi said.

’’Deanna,’’ Lauren breathed.

’’'m thirsty,’’ Deanna murmured.

’’I've got it,’’ Heidi immediately said.

Lauren smiled and lifted Deanna's head so Heidi could hold the glass in place. Deanna took an eager sip.

’’Go slow,’’ Lauren warned.

Deanna nodded, drank, and sagged back against her pillow.

Her eyes closed for a minute, then flew open again.

’’Jonas,’’ she said.

’’Jonas,’’ Lauren repeated blankly. Then she frowned. Where was Jonas? He had stayed by Deanna's side for so long, but today...

Deanna had been alone, all alone, while Bobby had battled with Leticia, while pure madness had broken out....

Where had Jonas been?

’’He's been with me, hasn't he?’’ Deanna asked softly.

’’Yes, honey, he hung around,’’ Heidi assured her, smoothing back her hair.

Deanna stared at Lauren. ’’Jonas is good,’’ she said firmly.

Then why the hell had he disappeared right when Deanna needed him most? Lauren wondered.

Bernie Gibbs was on night duty at the morgue. His job was to sit at the desk and deal with whatever the doctors might need help with, and sign the paperwork for whatever dear souls might depart this world in the darkness. Since the doctors never needed help at night, mainly he read books and signed for bodies when they were brought in.

He was often on night duty. Actually, he liked it, liked the silence. He'd gotten through three years at Tulane by working here. He heard about some weird stuff now and then, but it didn't bother him any. He'd always been the kind of kid who could sit through the most gruesome horror movie. Now that he was premed, he'd already seen a hell of a lot worse anything Hollyweird could come up with.

Tonight he was in pretty good shape. He had borrowed a popular new spy thriller from the library, and it was just as engrossing as the reviews had promised. He was actually glad to be at work, where the stiffs never interrupted him just when he was at the best part of a book.

He gotten one call from Lieutenant Canady, who'd said he would be coming by. He hadn't explained why, just told Bernie to keep an eye out for him. But that was cool. Canady was a good guy. He was hell on wheels if you were a crook, but if you were just an average Joe, schlepping along, he didn't mind what you did with your free time. But Canady hadn't shown yet.

There was a sudden noise-right when his spy was meeting up with his Asian nemesis. It startled him from his concentration on the book, and he cocked his head to listen.

Nothing.

He wondered what the hell the noise had been. Something must have fallen in back. He turned his attention back to his book, but he couldn't help wondering what could have fallen?

He set his book down, swearing softly. Had a door been left open? Or did they have rats or something?

Shit.

He decided he'd better check it out.

He stood, and looked around. He didn't have a weapon. Attendants at the morgue didn't usually have problems with their...charges. But what if some jerk had broken in? He looked around and saw his book. ’’Great,’’ he muttered aloud. He could just see the headline. Courageous Night Attendant at Morgue Foils Thief with Spy Novel

No, the book wasn't good enough.

There were all kinds of scalpels and saws in the autopsy rooms, but he didn't want to take a chance of coming across an intruder before he could get to a weapon. He opened the drawer to his desk. Aha! A letter opener.

Clutching it in his hand, he stood. He looked toward the door to the street and noted that it was securely locked. He started down the hallway.

A glance into the first room showed him that everything was sterile and pristine.

And smelling...sanitized.

Like a morgue.

A place of death.

Hardly a surprise, he thought with a shrug, and he moved on.

He found nothing. At last he came to the large insulated stainless steel doors that led to the morgue's current occupants.

He opened the door to what was essentially a giant refrigerator and looked around. Nothing. No, wait.

Something.

Shit!

There was movement on one of the gurneys. Damn it, they did have rats! Big rats, if the movement he was seeing gave any clue.

Rats-or a frat brother, trying to freak him out, he thought. He shook his head and walked to the gurney.

’’Asshole,’’ he said, pulling back the sheet.

But no frat brother was waiting to leap up and yell ’’Boo!’’

He'd seen the corpse earlier. It was the one that had been discovered by a woman chasing after her kid, and it was months dead and decaying. The eyes were...gone. Eaten by insects or who knew what. Most of the flesh had been rotted away, and what was left clinging to the bones looked as if it had been burned. In fact, the smell of burning flesh had hovered around the body. She-because it was a she-had scarcely been recognizable as a human being.

But now...

A sound like...like insects gnawing on flesh and bone was coming from the corpse, but that wasn't the cause

It was flesh and bone, all right. Flesh and bone that appeared to be repairing themselves. As he stared, watching blood vessels appear, muscles take form....

Her eyes-eyes that hadn't been there at all earlier-suddenly opened, and she stared at him.

Stared at him.

And then she smiled.

Smiled, only it wasn't a smile, it was like a snarl, and she was baring her teeth, but they weren't teeth at all, they were fangs. She looked like a huge asp, her horrid maw of a mouth opening, and he knew that she meant to sink those fangs into his jugular.

He screamed.

And he struck, batting at her face with his hand and trying to stab her with the letter opener. But those teeth were still coming....

Then, suddenly, he felt something heavy smash down on his head. Stars burst before his eyes, and he crashed to the floor.

He thought vaguely that he heard someone groan ’’Son of a bitch,’’ but he wasn't sure. And then the world went quiet, as if a black curtain had fallen from the sky, and all seemed to be eternal darkness.

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