Stargazer Page 18

Some of that was his vampire ability, but some of it was Lucas’s skill as a tracker. It was a revelation to me. All this time, I’d thought Black Cross only taught him how to fight, but they’d given him skills I hadn’t imagined before. That plus vampire power—it was a formidable combination.

He didn’t lack for weaponry either. When I saw something glinting at his belt, I said, “What have you got there?”

“My best knife,” Lucas said, almost fondly. He tugged back his jean jacket to show me the knife strapped to his side. The blade was nearly as broad as a meat cleaver. “Had it since I was twelve.”

“Is that really necessary?”

His dark-green eyes met mine, wary now. “I’d rather have it and not need it than not have it if we do need it. That girl might not actually be trouble, but when she was scared—you remember how it was.”

I did remember. We vampires might not be the crazed killers Black Cross imagined us to be, but anybody could be deadly if backed to the wall.

When we turned onto a more commercial street, Lucas started to relax. “Less chance she’d come around here.”

“I’m not so sure,” I said. He stared at me, and I pointed to the sign I’d just seen, a glowing cross-and-shield insignia that obviously belonged to a hospital. The cross burned in my vision. “Hospitals have blood banks.”

“Of course. It’s like a snack cart—I can’t believe we never thought of this before.” Lucas grinned at me like I’d worked a miracle. “Let’s go.”

Once we reached the hospital, the glass doors slid open automatically to admit us. A guard peered at us—two teenagers sauntering in before dawn—and barked, “What are you kids doing here?”

“It’s Grandma,” Lucas said, so sincerely and tragically I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. “There’s—there’s not much time.”

The guard waved us on, and we hurried. It was fairly quiet; hospitals never close, but at this hour, not much was going on. A few nurses and orderlies walked by us in aqua scrubs, and a few glanced at us warily, but as long as Lucas and I walked with purpose, nobody seemed to question that we belonged here.

“Blood bank,” Lucas muttered. “Where would a hospital keep a blood bank?”

“Let’s check the elevators. Usually they have signs that say what departments are on what floors.” Sure enough, the laminated panel next to the elevator bank informed us that blood donations could be given on the lowest level, in the basement.

The basement floor didn’t really look different from the main floor, but it felt different. The lighting was slightly more subdued, maybe because a couple of fluorescent bulbs were starting to fade. The smell of disinfectant hung in the air, strong enough to make me wrinkle my nose. And down here it was even quieter. Lucas and I seemed to be the only two people around.

“Isn’t the basement where most hospitals put the morgue?” I whispered.

“You’re not about to start freaking out about dead people, are you?” Lucas walked down the corridor, peering into each room. “You go to school with them every day.”

“I’m not freaking out.” I was thinking.

The area for blood donations was closed—not surprising, this early in the morning. The door next to it had been forced open.

“Bingo.” Lucas put one hand on the broad knife in his belt.

We stepped inside the blood bank, which basically was mostly a big room full of freezers. A few microscopes and various medical devices lined one wall, maybe to run medical tests, but this place was clearly mostly for storage. In one corner sat a couple of large refrigerators. The door of one fridge was ajar; inside I could see bags and bags of blood—probably the immediate supply, the stuff meant for emergency transfusions. The bags were in disarray, some of them on the floor, and several had been ripped open and drained. Droplets and smudges of blood marked the linoleum and gleamed wetly.

“The blood hasn’t dried,” I said. “She was here not long ago.”

“Well, she’s gone now,” Lucas said. “Dammit.”

“Maybe not. Maybe she wanted to rest afterward.”


“Even humans like to nap after a big meal sometimes. Besides, when I saw her, she was exhausted. Like she’d been on the run for days. If that’s true, and she’s just gotten a chance to eat—she’ll be calm. We can talk to her.”

“We need to be absolutely positive she’s harmless before we let her go,” Lucas said. “It’s not that I don’t trust your judgment, okay? We should just, well, make sure.”

“So we’ll talk to her.” I was confident that Lucas would quickly see in her what I’d seen—how lost and lonely she really was. “Let’s get started.”

“You say that like we know where she is.”

“I think we do. She’s someplace where she can rest undisturbed. Someplace nobody would be surprised to see her, if she were found. Think about it, Lucas.”

“Oh, no.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Okay, I might’ve spent pretty much my whole life surrounded by dead people, including my own parents, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t find the morgue a bit creepy. I wasn’t panicking or anything, but there’s something incredibly sad about the place: all those lives and emotions and hopes reduced to scrawled labels on small steel doors. Lucas and I stood in the doorway for a few seconds, just taking it in.

On three long tables, spread the length of the morgue, were three body bags. I walked toward them slowly. The first was way too big; the person inside must be heavy. The last looked too short. So the one in the middle was our best bet.

Hesitantly, I reached for the zipper. The tab was heavier than I expected, and cold to the touch—they kept the morgue chilly. Lucas took his place beside me, his broad knife at the ready. I tugged the zipper down, feeling each separating tooth like a jolt through my wrist.

Her hand shot out of the bag and grabbed mine, hard. I shrieked; I couldn’t help it. Lucas lunged forward, but I threw out my arm to hold him back.

The vampire sat upright, staring at us. She looked less pale than before, and the port-wine mark on her throat was less pronounced; feeding had rejuvenated her. She’d loosened her fair hair for her nap, and the mussed curls framed her face. Her wide eyes remained fixed on Lucas, but it was me she spoke to: “Why did you bring him here?”

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