The Vampire Diaries #4: Dark Reunion (1992)

发表于 2016-9-13 13:46 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式


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Author: L.J. Smith

Category: Young Adult , Fantasy

As a psychic, Bonnie has dreams of Elena in the Other World.

But the dreams quickly turn frightening, which then causes the death of one of their friends.

A source of power has infiltrated Fells Church, putting its inhabitants in danger.

Not knowing what to do, Meredith, Matt, and Bonnie use a summoning spell to call for Stefan and Damon — but whose side is Damon on?

This novel greatly expands Bonnie and Meredith as characters.

Bonnie takes the leading role as she writes in the diary. She also finds a possible romance with Matt Honeycutt.

After some research in the library Stefan realizes Tyler Smallwood is a werewolf.

They concoct a plan and lure Tyler into the graveyard.

After threatening him, Tyler reveals startling information about the killer.......

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发表于 2016-9-13 13:47 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter One

"Things can be just like they were before," said Caroline warmly, reaching out to squeeze Bonnie's hand.

But it wasn't true. Nothing could ever be the way it had been before Elena died. Nothing. And Bonnie had serious misgivings about this party Caroline was trying to set up. A vague nagging in the pit of her stomach told her that for some reason it was a very, very bad idea.

"Meredith's birthday is already over," she pointed out. "It was last Saturday."

"But she didn't have a party, not a real party like this one. We've got all night; my parents won't be back until Sunday morning. Come on, Bonnie-just think how surprised she'll be."

Oh, she'll be surprised, all right, thought Bonnie. So surprised she just might kill me afterward. "Look, Caroline, the reason Meredith didn't have a big party is that she still doesn't feel much like celebrating. It seems-disrespectful, somehow-"

"But that's wrong. Elena would want us to have a good time, you know she would. She loved parties. And she'd hate to see us sitting around and crying over her six months after she's gone." Caroline leaned forward, her normally feline green eyes earnest and compelling. There was no artifice in them now, none of Caroline's usual nasty manipulation. Bonnie could tell she really meant it.

"I want us to be friends again the way we used to be," Caroline said. "We always used to celebrate our birthdays together, just the four of us, remember? And remember how the guys would always try to crash our parties? I wonder if they'll try this year."

Bonnie felt control of the situation slipping away from her. This is a bad idea, this is a very bad idea, she thought. But Caroline was going on, looking dreamy and almost romantic as she talked about the good old days. Bonnie didn't have the heart to tell her that the good old days were as dead as disco.

"But there aren't even four of us anymore. Three doesn't make much of a party," she protested feebly when she could get a word in.

"I'm going to invite Sue Carson, too. Meredith gets along with her, doesn't she?"

Bonnie had to admit Meredith did; everyone got along with Sue. But even so, Caroline had to understand that things couldn't be the way they had been before. You couldn't just substitute Sue Carson for Elena and say, There, everything is fixed now.

But how do I explain that to Caroline? Bonnie thought. Suddenly she knew.

"Let's invite Vickie Bennett," she said.

Caroline stared. "Vickie Bennett? You must be joking. Invite that bizarre little drip who undressed in front of half the school? After everything that happened?"

Caroline stared. "Vickie Bennett? You must be joking. Invite that bizarre little drip who undressed in front of half the school? After everything that happened?"

For a moment Caroline looked helplessly frustrated. Bonnie thrust her chin out, put her hands on her hips, and waited. Finally Caroline sighed.

"All right; you win. I'll invite her. But you have to take care of getting Meredith to my house Saturday night. And Bonnie-make sure she doesn't have any idea what's going on. I really want this to be a surprise."

"Oh, it will be," Bonnie said grimly. She was unprepared for the sudden light in Caroline's face or the impulsive warmth of Caroline's hug.

"I'm so glad you're seeing things my way," Caroline said. "And it'll be so good for us all to be together again."

She doesn't understand a thing, Bonnie realized, dazed, as Caroline walked off. What do I have to do to explain to her? Sock her?

And then: Oh, God, now I have to tell Meredith.

But by the end of the day she decided that maybe Meredith didn't need to be told. Caroline wanted Meredith surprised; well, maybe Bonnie should deliver Meredith surprised. That way at least Meredith wouldn't have to worry about it beforehand. Yes, Bonnie concluded, it was probably kindest to not tell Meredith anything.

And who knows, she wrote in her journal Friday night. Maybe I'm being too hard on Caroline. Maybe she's really sorry about all the things she did to us, like trying to humiliate Elena in front of the whole town and trying to get Stefan put away for murder. Maybe Caroline's matured since then and learned to think about somebody besides herself. Maybe we'll actually have a good time at her party.

And maybe aliens will kidnap me before tomorrow afternoon, she thought as she closed the diary. She could only hope.

The diary was an inexpensive drugstore blank book, with a pattern of tiny flowers on the cover. She'd only started keeping it since Elena had died, but she'd already become slightly addicted to it. It was the one place she could say anything she wanted without people looking shocked and saying, "Bonnie McCullough!" or "Oh, Bonnie."

She was still thinking about Elena as she turned off the light and crawled under the covers.

She was sitting on lush, manicured grass that spread as far as she could see in all directions. The sky was a flawless blue, the air was warm and scented. Birds were singing.

"I'm so glad you could come," Elena said.

"Oh-yes," said Bonnie. "Well, naturally, so am I. Of course." She looked around again, then hastily back at Elena.

"More tea?"

There was a teacup in Bonnie's hand, thin and fragile as eggshell. "Oh-sure. Thanks."

Elena was wearing an eighteenth-century dress of gauzy white muslin, which clung to her, showing how slender she was. She poured the tea precisely, without spilling a drop.

"Would you like a mouse?"

"A what?"

"I said, would you like a sandwich with your tea?"

"Oh. A sandwich. Yeah. Great." It was thinly sliced cucumber with mayonnaise on a dainty square of white bread. Without the crust.

The whole scene was as sparkly and beautiful as a picture by Seurat. Warm Springs, that's where we are. The old picnic place, Bonnie thought. But surely we've got more important things to discuss than tea.

"Who does your hair these days?" she asked. Elena never had been able to do it herself.

"Do you like it?" Elena put a hand up to the silky, pale gold mass piled at the back of her neck.

"It's perfect," said Bonnie, sounding for all the world like her mother at a Daughters of the American Revolution dinner party.

"Well, hair is important, you know," Elena said. Her eyes glowed a deeper blue than the sky, lapis lazuli blue. Bonnie touched her own springy red curls self-consciously.

"Of course, blood is important too," Elena said.

"Blood? Oh-yes, of course," said Bonnie, flustered. She had no idea what Elena was talking about, and she felt as if she were walking on a tightrope over alligators.

"Yes, blood's important, all right," she agreed weakly.

"Another sandwich?"

"Thanks." It was cheese and tomato. Elena selected one for herself and bit into it delicately. Bonnie watched her, feeling uneasiness grow by the minute inside her, and then- And then she saw the mud oozing out of the edges of the sandwich.

"What-what's that?" Terror made her voice shrill. For the first time, the dream seemed like a dream, and she found that she couldn't move, could only gasp and stare. A thick glob of the brown stuff fell off Elena's sandwich onto the checkered tablecloth. It was mud, all right. "Elena... Elena, what-"

The air was no longer warm and scented; it was hot and sickly sweet with the odor of rotting garbage. There were black pits in the green grass, which wasn't manicured after all but wild and overgrown. This wasn't Warm Springs. She was in the old graveyard; how could she not have realized that? Only these graves were fresh.

"Another mouse?" Elena said, and giggled obscenely.

Bonnie looked down at the half-eaten sandwich she was holding and screamed. Dangling from one end was a ropy brown tail. She threw it as hard as she could against a headstone, where it hit with a wet slap. Then she stood, stomach heaving, scrubbing her fingers frantically against her jeans.

"You can't leave yet. The company is just arriving." Elena's face was changing; she had already lost her hair, and her skin was turning gray and leathery. Things were moving in the plate of sandwiches and the freshly dug pits. Bonnie didn't want to see any of them; she thought she would go mad if she did.

"You're not Elena!" she screamed, and ran.

The wind blew her hair into her eyes and she couldn't see. Her pursuer was behind her; she could feel it right behind her. Get to the bridge, she thought, and then she ran into something.

"I've been waiting for you," said the thing in Elena's dress, the gray skeletal thing with long, twisted teeth. "Listen to me, Bonnie." It held her with terrible strength.

"You're not Elena! You're not Elena!"

"Listen to me, Bonnie!"

It was Elena's voice, Elena's real voice, not obscenely amused nor thick and ugly, but urgent. It came from somewhere behind Bonnie and it swept through the dream like a fresh, cold wind. "Bonnie, listen quickly-"

Things were melting. The bony hands on Bonnie's arms, the crawling graveyard, the rancid hot air. For a moment Elena's voice was clear, but it was broken up like a bad long-dis-tance connection.

"... He's twisting things, changing them. I'm not as strong as he is..." Bonnie missed some words. "... but this is important. You have to find... right now." Her voice was fading.

"Elena, I can't hear you! Elena!"

"... an easy spell, only two ingredients, the ones I told you already..."


Bonnie was still shouting as she sat bolt upright in bed.
发表于 2016-9-13 13:48 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Two

"And that's all I remember," Bonnie concluded as she and Meredith walked down

Sunflower Street between the rows of tall Victorian houses.

"But it was definitely Elena?"

"Yes, and she was trying to tell me something at the end. But that's the part that wasn't clear, except that it was important, terribly important. What do you think?"

"Mouse sandwiches and open graves?" Meredith arched an elegant eyebrow. "I think you're getting Stephen King mixed up with Lewis Carroll."

Bonnie thought she was probably right. But the dream still bothered her; it had bothered her all day, enough to put her earlier worries out of her mind. Now, as she and Meredith approached Caroline's house, the old worries returned with a vengeance.

She really should have told Meredith about this, she thought, casting an uneasy sideways glance at the taller girl. She shouldn't let Meredith just walk in there unprepared...

Meredith looked up at the lighted windows of the Queen Anne House with a sigh. "Do you really need those earrings tonight?"

"Yes, I do; yes, absolutely." Too late now. Might as well make the best of it. "You'll love them when you see them," she added, hearing the note of hopeful desperation in her own voice.

Meredith paused and her keen dark eyes searched Bonnie's face curiously. Then she knocked on the door. "I just hope Caroline's not staying home tonight. We could end up stuck with her."

"Caroline staying home on a Saturday night? Don't be ridiculous." Bonnie had been holding her breath too long; she was starting to feel lightheaded. Her tinkling laughter came out brittle and false. "What a concept," she continued somewhat hysterically as Meredith said, "I don't think anybody's home," and tried the knob. Possessed by some crazy impulse Bonnie added, "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Hand on doorknob, Meredith stopped dead and turned to look at her.

"Bonnie," she said quietly, "have you gone completely through the ozone?"

"No." Deflated, Bonnie grabbed Meredith's arm and sought her eyes urgently. The door was opening on its own. "Oh, God, Meredith, please don't kill me..."

"Surprise!" shouted three voices.

"Smile," Bonnie hissed, shoving the suddenly resistant body of her friend through the door and into the bright room full of noise and showers of foil confetti. She beamed wildly herself and spoke through clenched teeth. "Kill me later-I deserve it -but for now just smile."

There were balloons, the expensive Mylar kind, and a cluster of presents on the coffee table. There was even a flower arrangement, although Bonnie noticed the orchids in it matched Caroline's pale green scarf exactly. It was a Hermes silk with a design of vines and leaves. She'll end up wearing one of those orchids in her hair, I'll bet, Bonnie thought.

There were balloons, the expensive Mylar kind, and a cluster of presents on the coffee table. There was even a flower arrangement, although Bonnie noticed the orchids in it matched Caroline's pale green scarf exactly. It was a Hermes silk with a design of vines and leaves. She'll end up wearing one of those orchids in her hair, I'll bet, Bonnie thought.

"Nothing I can't break with an iron crowbar," Meredith replied. But she smiled back with wry warmth and Bonnie relaxed. Sue had been a Homecoming Princess on Elena's court, along with Bonnie, Meredith, and Caroline. She was the only girl at school besides Bonnie and Meredith who'd stood by Elena when everyone else had turned against her. At Elena's funeral she'd said that Elena would always be the real queen of Robert E. Lee, and she'd given up her own nomination for Snow Queen in Elena's memory. Nobody could hate Sue. The worst was over now, Bonnie thought.

"I want to get a picture of us all on the couch," Caroline said, positioning them behind the flower arrangement. "Vickie, take it, will you?"

Vickie Bennett had been standing by quietly, unnoticed. Now she said, "Oh, sure," and nervously flicked long, light brown hair out of her eyes as she picked up the camera.

Just like she's some kind of servant, Bonnie thought, and then the flashbulb blinded her.

As the Polaroid developed and Sue and Caroline laughed and talked around Meredith's dry politeness, Bonnie noticed something else. It was a good picture; Caroline looked stunning as ever with her auburn hair gleaming and the pale green orchids in front of her. And there was Meredith, looking resigned and ironic and darkly beautiful without even trying, and there she was herself, a head shorter than the others, with her red curls tousled and a sheepish expression on her face. But the strange thing was the figure beside her on the couch. It was Sue, of course it was Sue, but for a moment the blond hair and blue eyes seemed to belong to someone else. Someone looking at her urgently, on the verge of saying something important. Bonnie frowned at the photo, blinking rapidly. The image swam in front of her, and a chilling uneasiness ran up her spine.

No, it was just Sue in the picture. She must've gone crazy for a minute, or else she was letting Caroline's desire for them "all to be together again" affect her.

"I'll take the next one," she said, springing up. "Sit down, Vickie, and lean in. No, farther, farther-there!" All of Vickie's movements were quick and light and nervous. When the flashbulb went off, she started like a scared animal ready to bolt.

Caroline scarcely glanced at this picture, getting up and heading for the kitchen instead. "Guess what we're having instead of cake?" she said. "I'm making my own version of Death by Chocolate. Come on, you've got to help me melt the fudge." Sue followed her, and after an uncertain pause, so did Vickie.

The last traces of Meredith's pleasant expression evaporated and she turned to Bonnie. "You should have told me."

"And that makes it all worthwhile?"

"Well, it helps," Bonnie said, with an air of being reasonable. "And really, it probably won't be so bad. Caroline's actually trying to be nice, and it's good for Vickie to get out of the house for once..."

"It doesn't look like it's good for her," Meredith said bluntly. "It looks like she's going to have a heart attack."

"Well, she's probably just nervous." In Bonnie's opinion, Vickie had good reason to be nervous. She'd spent most of the previous fall in a trance, being slowly driven out of her mind by a power she didn't understand. Nobody had expected her to come out of it as well as she had.

Meredith was still looking bleak. "At least," Bonnie said consolingly, "it isn't your real birthday."

Meredith picked up the camera and turned it over and over. Still looking down at her hands, she said, "But it is."

"What?" Bonnie stared and then said louder, "What did you say?"

"I said, it is my real birthday. Caroline's mom must have told her; she and my mom used to be friends a long time ago."

"Meredith, what are you talking about? Your birthday was last week, May 30."

"No, it wasn't. It's today, June 6. It's true; it's on my driver's license and everything. My parents started celebrating it a week early because June 6 was too upsetting for them. It was the day my grandfather was attacked and went crazy." As Bonnie gasped, unable to speak, she added calmly, "He tried to kill my grandmother, you know. He tried to kill me, too." Meredith put the camera down carefully in the exact center of the coffee table. "We really should go in the kitchen," she said quietly. "I smell chocolate."

Bonnie was still paralyzed, but her mind was beginning to work again. Vaguely, she remembered Meredith speaking about this before, but she hadn't told her the full truth then. And she hadn't said when it had happened.

"Attacked-you mean like Vickie was attacked," Bonnie got out. She couldn't say the word vampire, but she knew Meredith understood.

"Like Vickie was attacked," Meredith confirmed. "Come on," she added, even more quietly. "They're waiting for us. I didn't mean to upset you."

Meredith doesn't want me to be upset, so I won't be upset, Bonnie thought, pouring hot fudge over the chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. Even though we've been friends since first grade and she never told me this secret before.

pouring hot fudge over the chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. Even though we've been friends since first grade and she never told me this secret before.

Then Bonnie shook her head determinedly. She couldn't think about this right now; she had a party to think about. And I'll make sure it's a good party and we all get along somehow, she thought.

Strangely, it wasn't even that hard. Meredith and Vickie didn't talk much at first, but Bonnie went out of her way to be nice to Vickie, and even Meredith couldn't resist the pile of brightly wrapped presents on the coffee table. By the time she'd opened the last one they were all talking and laughing. The mood of truce and toleration continued as they moved up into Caroline's bedroom to examine her clothes and CDs and photo albums. As it got near midnight they flopped on sleeping bags, still talking.

"What's going on with Alaric these days?" Sue asked Meredith.

Alaric Saltzman was Meredith's boyfriend-sort of. He was a graduate student from Duke University who'd majored in parapsychology and had been called to Fell's Church last year when the vampire attacks began. Though he'd started out an enemy, he'd ended up an ally-and a friend.

"He's in Russia," Meredith said. "Perestroika, you know? He's over there finding out what they were doing with psychics during the Cold War."

"What are you going to tell him when he gets back?" asked Caroline.

It was a question Bonnie would have liked to ask Meredith herself. Because Alaric was almost four years older, Meredith had told him to wait until after she graduated to talk about their future. But now Meredith was eighteen-today, Bonnie reminded herself-and graduation was in two weeks. What was going to happen after that?

"I haven't decided," Meredith said. "Alaric wants me to go to Duke, and I've been accepted there, but I'm not sure. I have to think."

Bonnie was just as glad. She wanted Meredith to go to Boone Junior College with her, not go off and get married, or even engaged. It was stupid to decide on one guy so young. Bonnie herself was notorious for playing the field, going from boy to boy as she pleased. She got crushes easily, and got over them just as easily.

"I haven't seen the guy so far worth remaining faithful to," she said now.

Everyone looked at her quickly. Sue's chin was resting on her fists as she asked, "Not even Stefan?"

Bonnie should have known. With the only light the dim bedside lamp and the only sound the rustle of new leaves on the weeping willows outside, it was inevitable that the conversation would turn to Stefan-and to Elena.

Stefan Salvatore and Elena Gilbert were already a sort of legend in the town, like Romeo and Juliet. When Stefan had first come to Fell's Church, every girl had wanted him. And Elena, the most beautiful, most popular, most unapproachable girl at school, had wanted him too. It was only after she'd gotten him that she realized the danger. Stefan wasn't what he seemed-he had a secret far darker than anyone could have guessed. And he had a brother, Damon, even more mysterious and dangerous than himself. Elena had been caught between the two brothers, loving Stefan but drawn irresistibly to Damon's wildness. In the end she had died to save them both, and to redeem their love.

Stefan Salvatore and Elena Gilbert were already a sort of legend in the town, like Romeo and Juliet. When Stefan had first come to Fell's Church, every girl had wanted him. And Elena, the most beautiful, most popular, most unapproachable girl at school, had wanted him too. It was only after she'd gotten him that she realized the danger. Stefan wasn't what he seemed-he had a secret far darker than anyone could have guessed. And he had a brother, Damon, even more mysterious and dangerous than himself. Elena had been caught between the two brothers, loving Stefan but drawn irresistibly to Damon's wildness. In the end she had died to save them both, and to redeem their love.

"I still can't believe she's gone," Sue said quietly, shaking her head and shutting her eyes. "She was so much more alive than other people."

"Her flame burned brighter," said Meredith, gazing at the patterns the rose-and-gold lamp made on the ceiling. Her voice was soft but intense, and it seemed to Bonnie that those words described Elena better than anything she'd ever heard.

"There were times when I hated her, but I could never ignore her," Caroline admitted, her green eyes narrowed in memory. "She wasn't a person you could ignore."

"One thing I learned from her death," Sue said, "is that it could happen to any of us. You can't waste any of life because you never know how long you've got."

"It could be sixty years or sixty minutes," Vickie agreed in a low voice. "Any of us could die tonight."

Bonnie wriggled, disturbed. But before she could say anything, Sue repeated, "I still can't believe she's really gone. Sometimes I feel as if she's somewhere near."

"Oh, so do I," said Bonnie, distracted. An image of Warm Springs flashed through her mind, and for a moment it seemed more vivid than Caroline's dim room. "Last night I dreamed about her, and I had the feeling it really was her and that she was trying to tell me something. I still have that feeling," she said to Meredith.

The others gazed at her silently. Once, they would all have laughed if Bonnie hinted at any-thing supernatural, but not now. Her psychic powers were undisputed, awesome, and a little scary.

"Do you really?" breathed Vickie.

"What do you think she was trying to say?" asked Sue.

"I don't know. At the end she was trying so hard to stay in contact with me, but she couldn't."

There was another silence. At last Sue said hesitantly, with the faintest catch in her voice, "Do you think... do you think you could contact her?"

It was what they'd all been wondering. Bonnie looked toward Meredith. Earlier, Meredith had dismissed the dream, but now she met Bonnie's eyes seriously.

"Is that the only way to communicate with dead people? What about a Ouija board or something?" Sue asked.

"My parents have a Ouija board," Caroline said a little too loudly. Suddenly the hushed, low-key mood was broken and an indefinable tension filled the air. Everyone sat up straighter and looked at each other with speculation. Even Vickie looked intrigued on top of her scaredness.

"Would it work?" Meredith said to Bonnie.

"Should we?" Sue wondered aloud.

"Do we dare? That's really the question," Meredith said. Once again Bonnie found everyone looking at her. She hesitated a final instant, and then shrugged. Excitement was stirring in her stomach.

"Why not?" she said. "What have we got to lose?"

Caroline turned to Vickie. "Vickie, there's a closet at the bottom of the stairs. The Ouija board should be inside, on the top shelf with a bunch of other games."

She didn't even say, "Please, will you get it?" Bonnie frowned and opened her mouth, but Vickie was already out the door.

"You could be a little more gracious," Bonnie told Caroline. "What is this, your impression of Cinderella's evil stepmother?"

"Oh, come on, Bonnie," Caroline said impatiently. "She's lucky just to be invited. She knows that."

"And here I thought she was just overcome by our collective splendor," Meredith said dryly.

"And besides-" Bonnie started when she was interrupted. The noise was thin and shrill and it fell off weakly at the end, but there was no mistaking it. It was a scream. It was followed by dead silence and then suddenly peal after peal of piercing shrieks.

For an instant the girls in the bedroom stood transfixed. Then they were all running out into the hallway and down the stairs.

"Vickie!" Meredith, with her long legs, reached the bottom first. Vickie was standing in front of the closet, arms outstretched as if to protect her face. She clutched at Meredith, still screaming.

"Vickie, what is it?" Caroline demanded, sounding more angry than afraid. There were game boxes scattered across the floor and Monopoly markers and Trivial Pursuit cards strewn everywhere. "What are you yelling about?"

"It grabbed me! I was reaching up to the top shelf and something grabbed me around the waist!"

"No! From inside the closet."

Startled, Bonnie looked inside the open closet. Winter coats hung in an impenetrable layer, some of them reaching the floor. Gently disengaging herself from Vickie, Meredith picked up an umbrella and began poking the coats.

"Oh, don't-" Bonnie began involuntarily, but the umbrella encountered only the resistance of cloth. Meredith used it to push the coats aside and reveal the bare cedarwood of the closet wall.

"You see? Nobody there," she said lightly. "But you know what is there are these coat sleeves. If you leaned in far enough between them, I'll bet it could feel like somebody's arms closing around you."

Vickie stepped forward, touched a dangling sleeve, then looked up at the shelf. She put her face in her hands, long silky hair falling forward to screen it. For an awful moment Bonnie thought she was crying, then she heard the giggles.

"Oh, God! I really thought-oh, I'm so stupid! I'll clean it up," Vickie said.

"Later," said Meredith firmly. "Let's go in the living room."

Bonnie threw one last look at the closet as they went.

When they were all gathered around the coffee table, with several lights turned off for effect, Bonnie put her fingers lightly on the small plastic planchette. She'd never actually used a Ouija board, but she knew how it was done. The planchette moved to point at letters and spell out a message-if the spirits were willing to talk, that is.

"We all have to be touching it," she said, and then watched as the others obeyed. Meredith's fingers were long and slender, Sue's slim and tapering with oval nails. Caroline's nails were painted burnished copper. Vickie's were bitten.

"Now we close our eyes and concentrate," Bonnie said softly. There were little hisses of anticipation as the girls obeyed; the atmosphere was getting to all of them.

"Think of Elena. Picture her. If she's out there, we want to draw her here." The big room was silent. In the dark behind her closed lids Bonnie saw pale gold hair and eyes like lapis lazuli.

"Come on, Elena," she whispered. "Talk to me."

The planchette began to move.

None of them could be guiding it; they were all applying pressure from different points. Nevertheless, the little triangle of plastic was sliding smoothly, confidently. Bonnie kept her eyes shut until it stopped and then looked. The planchette was pointing to the word Yes.

Vickie gave something like a soft sob.   Bonnie looked at the others. Caroline was breathing fast, green eyes narrowed.

Sue, the only one of all of them, still had her eyes resolutely closed. Meredith looked pale.

"Keep concentrating," Bonnie told them. She felt unready and a little stupid addressing the empty air directly. But she was the expert; she had to do it. "Is that you, Elena?" she said.

The planchette made a little circle and returned to Yes. Suddenly Bonnie's heart was beating so hard she was afraid it would shake her fingers. The plastic underneath her fingertips felt different, electrified almost, as if some supernatural energy was flowing through it. She no longer felt stupid. Tears came to her eyes, and she could see that Meredith's eyes were glistening too. Meredith nodded at her.

"How can we be sure?" Caroline was saying, loudly, suspiciously. Caroline doesn't feel it, Bonnie realized; she doesn't sense anything I do. Psychically speaking, she's a dud.

The planchette was moving again, touching letters now, so quickly that Meredith

barely had time to spell out the message. Even without punctuation it was clear. CAROLINE DONT BE A JERK, it said. YOURE LUCKY IM TALKING TO YOU AT ALL

"That's Elena, all right," Meredith said dryly. "It sounds like her, but-" "Oh, shut up, Caroline," Bonnie said. "Elena, I'm just so glad..." Her throat

locked up and she tried again.

BONNIE THERES NO TIME STOP SNIVELING AND GET DOWN TO BUSINESS And that was Elena too. Bonnie sniffed and went on. "I had a dream about you last night."


"Yes." Bonnie's heart was thudding faster than ever. "I wanted to talk to you, but things got weird and then we kept losing contact-"


"All right." That answered her question, and she was relieved to hear it.



"Like what?" Bonnie leaned closer to the board. "Like what?"


The planchette seemed to add the exclamation point. It was jerking violently from letter to letter as if Elena could barely contain her impatience.

"Danger?" Vickie repeated, looking as if she might jump off the chair and run.


"What do we do?" said Meredith instantly.


Without warning, the planchette jerked away from the letters and flew around the board wildly. It pointed at the stylized picture of the moon, then at the sun, then at the words Parker Brothers, Inc.


The planchette bobbed back to the letters.


"What's happening?" Sue cried, eyes wide open now.

Bonnie was frightened. The planchette was pulsing with energy, a dark and ugly energy like boiling black tar that stung her fingers. But she could also feel the quivering silver thread that was Elena's presence fighting it. "Don't let go!" she cried desperately. "Don't take your hands off it!"


The planchette jerked furiously, whipping out from under Bonnie's fingers and beyond her reach, flying across the board and through the air as if someone had thrown it. Vickie screamed. Meredith started to her feet.

And then all the lights went out, plunging the house into darkness.
发表于 2016-9-13 13:49 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Three

Vickie's screams went out of control. Bonnie could feel panic rising in her chest.

"Vickie, stop it! Come on; we've got to get out of here!" Meredith was shouting to be heard. "It's your house, Caroline. Everybody grab hands and you lead us to the front door."

"Okay," Caroline said. She didn't sound as frightened as everybody else. That was the advantage to having no imagination, Bonnie thought. You couldn't picture the terrible things that were going to happen to you.

She felt better with Meredith's narrow, cold hand grasping hers. She fumbled on the other side and caught Caroline's, feeling the hardness of long fingernails.

She could see nothing. Her eyes should be adjusting to the dark by now, but she couldn't make out even a glimmer of light or shadow as Caroline started leading them. There was no light coming through the windows from the street; the power seemed to be out everywhere. Caroline cursed, running into some piece of furniture, and Bonnie stumbled against her.

Vickie was whimpering softly from the back of the line. "Hang on," whispered Sue. "Hang on, Vickie, we'll make it."

They made slow, shuffling progress in the dark. Then Bonnie felt tile under her feet. "This is the front hall," Caroline said. "Stay here a minute while I find the door." Her fingers slipped out of Bonnie's.

"Caroline! Don't let go-where are you? Caroline, give me your hand!" Bonnie cried, groping frantically like a blind person.

Out of the darkness something large and moist closed around her fingers. It was a hand. It wasn't Caroline's.

Bonnie screamed.

Vickie immediately picked it up, shrieking wildly. The hot, moist hand was dragging Bonnie forward. She kicked out, struggling, but it made no difference. Then she felt Meredith's arms around her waist, both arms, wrenching her back. Her hand came free of the big one.

And then she was turning and running, just running, only dimly aware that Meredith was be-side her. She wasn't at all aware that she was still screaming until she slammed into a large armchair that stopped her progress, and she heard herself.

"Hush! Bonnie, hush, stop!" Meredith was shaking her. They had slid down the back of the chair to the floor.

"Something had me! Something grabbed me, Meredith!"

"I know. Be quiet! It's still around," Meredith said. Bonnie jammed her face into Meredith's shoulder to keep from screaming again. What if it was here in the room with them?

Seconds crawled past, and the silence pooled around them. No matter how Bonnie strained her ears, she could hear no sound except their own breathing and the dull thudding of her heart.

Bonnie started to nod miserably, then abruptly lifted her head. "Where's Vickie?" she whispered hoarsely.

"I don't know. I had to let go of her hand to pull you away from that thing. Let's move."

Bonnie held her back. "But why isn't she screaming?"

A shudder went through Meredith. "I don't know."

"Oh, God. Oh, God. We can't leave her, Meredith."

"We have to."

"We can't. Meredith, I made Caroline invite her. She wouldn't be here except for me. We have to get her out."

There was a pause, and then Meredith hissed, "All right! But you pick the strangest times to turn noble, Bonnie."

A door slammed, causing both of them to jump. Then there was a crashing, like feet on stairs, Bonnie thought. And briefly, a voice was raised.

"Vickie, where are you? Don't-Vickie, no! No!"

"That was Sue," gasped Bonnie, jumping up. "From upstairs!"

"Why don't we have a flashlight?" Meredith was raging.

Bonnie knew what she meant. It was too dark to go running blindly around this house; it was too frightening. There was a primitive panic hammering in her brain. She needed light, any light.

She couldn't go fumbling into that darkness again, exposed on all sides. She couldn't do it.

Nevertheless, she took one shaky step away from the chair.

"Come on," she gasped, and Meredith came with her, step by step, into the blackness.

Bonnie kept expecting that moist, hot hand to reach out and grab her again. Every inch of her skin tingled in anticipation of its touch, and especially her own hand, which she had outstretched to feel her way.

Then she made the mistake of remembering the dream.

Instantly, the sickly sweet smell of garbage overwhelmed her. She imagined things crawling out of the ground and then remembered Elena's face, gray and hairless, with lips shriveled back from grinning teeth. If that thing grabbed hold of her...

I can't go any farther; I can't, I can't, she thought. I'm sorry for Vickie, but I can't go on. Please, just let me stop here.

It was a whole series of sounds, actually, but they all came so close together that they blended into one terrible swell of noise. First there was screaming, Sue's voice screaming, "Vickie! Vickie! No!" Then a resonant crash, the sound of glass shattering, as if a hundred windows were breaking at once. And over that a sustained scream, on a note of pure, exquisite terror.

Then it all stopped.

"What was it? What happened, Meredith?"

"Something bad." Meredith's voice was taut and choked. "Something very bad. Bonnie, let go. I'm going to see."

"Not alone, you're not," Bonnie said fiercely.

They found the staircase and made their way up it. When they reached the landing, Bonnie could hear a strange and oddly sickening sound, the tinkle of glass shards falling.

And then the lights went on.

It was too sudden; Bonnie screamed involuntarily. Turning to Meredith she almost screamed again. Meredith's dark hair was disheveled and her cheekbones looked too sharp; her face was pale and hollow with fear.

Tinkle, tinkle.

It was worse with the lights on. Meredith was walking toward the last door down the hall, where the noise was coming from. Bonnie followed, but she knew suddenly, with all her heart, that she didn't want to see inside that room.

Meredith pulled the door open. She froze for a minute in the doorway and then lunged quickly inside. Bonnie started for the door.

"Oh, my God, don't come any farther!"

Bonnie didn't even pause. She plunged into the doorway and then pulled up short. At first glance it looked as if the whole side of the house was gone. The French windows that connected the master bedroom to the balcony seemed to have exploded outward, the wood splintered, the glass shattered. Little pieces of glass were hanging precariously here and there from the remnants of the wood frame. They tinkled as they fell.

Diaphanous white curtains billowed in and out of the gaping hole in the house. In front of them, in silhouette, Bonnie could see Vickie. She was standing with her hands at her sides, as motionless as a block of stone.

"Vickie, are you okay?" Bonnie was so relieved to see her alive that it was painful. "Vickie?"

Vickie didn't turn, didn't answer. Bonnie maneuvered around her cautiously, looking into her face. Vickie was staring straight ahead, her pupils pinpoints. She was sucking in little whistling breaths, chest heaving.

Shuddering, Bonnie reeled away. Meredith was on the balcony. She turned as Bonnie reached the curtains and tried to block the way.

"Don't look. Don't look down there," she said.

Down where? Suddenly Bonnie understood. She shoved past Meredith, who caught her arm to stop her on the edge of a dizzying drop. The balcony railing had been blasted out like the French windows and Bonnie could see straight down to the lighted yard below. On the ground there was a twisted figure like a broken doll, limbs askew, neck bent at a grotesque angle, blond hair fanned on the dark soil of the garden. It was Sue Carson.

And throughout all the confusion that raged afterward, two thoughts kept vying for dominance in Bonnie's mind. One was that Caroline would never have her foursome now. And the other was that it wasn't fair for this to happen on Meredith's birthday. It just wasn't fair.

"I'm sorry, Meredith. I don't think she's up to it right now."

Bonnie heard her father's voice at the front door as she listlessly stirred sweetener into a cup of chamomile tea. She put the spoon down at once. What she wasn't up to was sitting in this kitchen one minute longer. She needed out.

"I'll be right there, Dad."

Meredith looked almost as bad as she had last night, face peaked, eyes shadowed. Her mouth was set in a tight line.

"We'll just go out driving for a little while," Bonnie said to her father. "Maybe see some of the kids. After all, you're the one who said it isn't dangerous, right?"

What could he say? Mr. McCullough looked down at his petite daughter, who stuck out the stubborn chin she'd inherited from him and met his gaze squarely. He lifted his hands.

"It's almost four o'clock now. Be back before dark," he said.

"They want it both ways," Bonnie said to Meredith on the way to Meredith's car. Once inside, both girls immediately locked their doors.

As Meredith put the car in gear she gave Bonnie a glance of grim understanding.

"Your parents didn't believe you, either."

"Oh, they believe everything I told them-except anything important. How can they be so stupid?"

Meredith laughed shortly. "You've got to look at it from their point of view. They find one dead body without a mark on it except those caused by the fall. They find that the lights were off in the neighborhood because of a malfunction at Virginia Electric. They find us, hysterical, giving answers to their questions that must have seemed pretty weird. Who did it? Some monster with sweaty hands. How do we know? Our dead friend Elena told us through a Ouija board. Is it any wonder they have their doubts?"

"They're forgetting already," Meredith replied softly. "You predicted it yourself. Life has gone back to normal, and everybody in Fell's Church feels safer that way. They all feel like they've woken up from a bad dream, and the last thing they want is to get sucked in again."

Bonnie just shook her head.

"And so it's easier to believe that a bunch of teenage girls got riled up playing with a Ouija board, and that when the lights went out they just freaked and ran. And one of them got so scared and confused she ran right out a window."

There was a silence and then Meredith added, "I wish Alaric were here."

Normally, Bonnie would have given her a dig in the ribs and answered, "So do I," in a lecherous voice. Alaric was one of the handsomest guys she'd ever seen, even if he was a doddering twenty-two years old. Now, she just gave Meredith's arm a disconsolate squeeze. "Can't you call him somehow?"

"In Russia? I don't even know where in Russia he is now."

Bonnie bit her lip.

Then she sat up. Meredith was driving down Lee Street, and in the high school parking lot they could see a crowd.

She and Meredith exchanged glances, and Meredith nodded. "We might as well," she said. "Let's see if they're any smarter than their parents."

Bonnie could see startled faces turning as the car cruised slowly into the lot. When she and Meredith got out, people moved back, making a path for them to the center of the crowd.

Caroline was there, clutching her elbows with her hands and shaking back her auburn hair distractedly.

"We're not going to sleep in that house again until it's repaired," she was saying, shivering in her white sweater. "Daddy says we'll take an apartment in Heron until it's over."

"What difference does that make? He can follow you to Heron, I'm sure," said Meredith.

Caroline turned, but her green cat's eyes wouldn't quite meet Meredith's. "Who?" she said vaguely.

"Oh, Caroline, not you too!" Bonnie exploded.

Her eyes came up and for an instant Bonnie saw how frightened she was. "I can't take any more." As if she had to prove her words that minute, she pushed her way through the crowd.

"Let her go, Bonnie," Meredith said. "It's no use."

"She's no use," said Bonnie furiously. If Caroline, who knew, was acting this way, what about the other kids?

She saw the answer-in the faces around her. Everybody looked scared, as scared as if she and Meredith had brought some loathsome disease with them. As if she and Meredith were the problem.

"I don't believe this," Bonnie muttered.

"I don't believe it either," said Deanna Kennedy, a friend of Sue's. She was in the front of the crowd, and she didn't look as uneasy as the others. "I talked with Sue yesterday afternoon and she was so up, so happy. She can't be dead." Deanna began to sob. Her boyfriend put an arm around her, and several other girls began to cry. The guys in the crowd shifted, their faces rigid.

Bonnie felt a little surge of hope. "And she's not going to be the only one dead," she added. "Elena told us that the whole town is in danger. Elena said..." Despite herself Bonnie heard her voice failing. She could see it in the way their eyes glazed up when she mentioned Elena's name. Meredith was right; they'd put everything that had happened last winter behind them. They didn't believe anymore.

"What's wrong with you all?" she said helplessly, wanting to hit something. "You don't really think Sue threw herself off that balcony!"

"People are saying-" Deanna's boyfriend started and then shrugged defensively. "Well-you told the police Vickie Bennett was in the room, right? And now she's off her head again. And just a little bit earlier you'd heard Sue shouting, 'No, Vickie, no!'?"

Bonnie felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her. "You think that Vickie- oh, God, you're out of your mind! Listen to me. Something grabbed my hand in that house, and it wasn't Vickie. And Vickie had nothing to do with throwing Sue off that balcony."

"She's hardly strong enough, for one thing," Meredith said pointedly. "She weighs about ninety-five pounds soaking wet."

Somebody from the back of the crowd muttered about insane people having superhuman strength. "Vickie has a psychiatric record-"

"Elena told us it was a guy!" Bonnie almost shouted, losing her battle with self-control. The faces tilted toward her were shuttered, unyielding. Then she saw one that made her chest loosen. "Matt! Tell them you believe us."

Matt Honeycutt was standing on the fringe with his hands in his pockets and his blond head bowed. Now he looked up, and what Bonnie saw in his blue eyes made her draw in her breath. They weren't hard and shuttered like everyone else's, but they were full of a flat despair that was just as bad. He shrugged without taking his hands from his pockets.

Bonnie, for one of the first times in her life, was speechless. Matt had been upset ever since Elena died, but this...

"He does believe it, though," Meredith was saying quickly, capitalizing on the moment. "Now what have we got to do to convince the rest of you?"

"Channel Elvis for us, maybe," said a voice that immediately set Bonnie's blood boiling. Tyler. Tyler Smallwood. Grinning like an ape in his overexpensive Perry Ellis sweater, showing a mouthful of strong white teeth.

"It's not as good as psychic e-mail from a dead Homecoming Queen, but it's a start," Tyler added.

Matt always said that grin was asking for a punch in the nose. But Matt, the only guy in the crowd with close to Tyler's physique, was staring dully at the ground.

"Shut up, Tyler! You don't know what happened in that house," Bonnie said.

"Well, neither do you, apparently. Maybe if you hadn't been hiding in the living room, you'd have seen what happened. Then somebody might believe you."

Bonnie's retort died on her tongue. She stared at Tyler, opened her mouth, and then closed it. Tyler waited. When she didn't speak, he showed his teeth again.

"For my money, Vickie did it," he said, winking at Dick Carter, Vickie's ex-boyfriend. "She's a strong little babe, right, Dick? She could have done it." He turned and added deliberately over his shoulder, "Or else that Salvatore guy is back in town."

"You creep!" shouted Bonnie. Even Meredith cried out in frustration. Because of course at the very mention of Stefan pandemonium ensued, as Tyler must have known it would. Everyone was turning to the person next to them and exclaiming in alarm, horror, excitement. It was primarily the girls who were excited.

Effectively, it put an end to the gathering. People had been edging away surreptitiously before, and now they broke up into twos and threes, arguing and hastening off.

Bonnie gazed after them angrily.

"Supposing they did believe you. What did you want them to do, anyway?" Matt said. She hadn't noticed him beside her.

"I don't know. Something besides just standing around waiting to be picked off." She tried to look him in the face. "Matt, are you all right?"

"I don't know. Are you?"

Bonnie thought. "No. I mean, in one way I'm surprised I'm doing as well as I am, because when Elena died, I just couldn't deal. At all. But then I wasn't as close to Sue, and besides... I don't know!" She wanted to hit something again. "It's just all too much!"

Bonnie thought. "No. I mean, in one way I'm surprised I'm doing as well as I am, because when Elena died, I just couldn't deal. At all. But then I wasn't as close to Sue, and besides... I don't know!" She wanted to hit something again. "It's just all too much!"

"Yes, I'm mad." Suddenly Bonnie understood the feelings she'd been having all day. "Killing Sue wasn't just wrong, it was evil. Truly evil. And whoever did it isn't going to get away with it. That would be-if the world is like that, a place where that can happen and go unpunished... if that's the truth..." She found she didn't have a way to finish.

"Then what? You don't want to live here anymore? What if the world is like that?"

His eyes were so lost, so bitter. Bonnie was shaken. But she said staunchly, "I won't let it be that way. And you won't either."

He simply looked at her as if she were a kid insisting there was so a Santa Claus.

Meredith spoke up. "If we expect other people to take us seriously, we'd better take ourselves seriously. Elena did communicate with us. She wanted us to do something. Now if we really believe that, we'd better figure out what it is."

Matt's face had flexed at the mention of Elena. You poor guy, you're still as much in love with her as ever, thought Bonnie. I wonder if anything could make you forget her? She said, "Are you going to help us, Matt?"

"I'll help," Matt said quietly. "But I still don't know what it is you're doing."

"We're going to stop that murdering creep before he kills anybody else," said Bonnie. It was the first time she'd fully realized herself that this was what she meant to do.

"Alone? Because you are alone, you know."

"We are alone," Meredith corrected. "But that's what Elena was trying to tell us. She said we had to do a summoning spell to call for help."

"An easy spell with only two ingredients," Bonnie remembered from her dream. She was getting excited. "And she said she'd already told me the ingredients-but she hadn't."

"Last night she said there were corrupting influences distorting her communication," Meredith said. "Now to me that sounds like what was happening in the dream. Do you think it really was Elena you were drinking tea with?"

"Yes," Bonnie said positively. "I mean, I know we weren't really having a mad tea party at Warm Springs, but I think Elena was sending that message into my brain. And then partway through something else took over and pushed her out. But she fought, and for a minute at the end she got back control."

"Okay. Then that means we have to concentrate on the beginning of the dream, when it was still Elena communicating with you. But if what she was saying was already being distorted by other influences, then maybe it came out weird. Maybe it

wasn't something she actually said, maybe it was something she did..."


"Hair! I asked her who did hers, and we talked about it, and she said, 'Hair is very important.' And Meredith-when she was trying to tell us the ingredients last night, the first letter of one of them was H!"

"That's it!" Meredith's dark eyes were flashing. "Now we just have to think of the other one."

"But I know that too!" Bonnie's laughter bubbled up exuberantly. "She told me right after we talked about hair, and I thought she was just being strange. She said, 'Blood is important too.' "

Meredith shut her eyes in realization. "And last night, the Ouija board said 'Bloodblood-blood.' I thought it was the other thing threatening us, but it wasn't," she said. She opened her eyes. "Bonnie, do you think that's really it? Are those the ingredients, or do we have to start worrying about mud and sandwiches and mice and tea?"

"Those are the ingredients," Bonnie said firmly. "They're the kind of ingredients that make sense for a summoning spell. I'm sure I can find a ritual to do with them in one of my Celtic magic books. We just have to figure out the person we're supposed to summon..." Something struck her, and her voice trailed off in dismay.

"I was wondering when you'd notice," Matt said, speaking for the first time in a long while. "You don't know who it is, do you?"
发表于 2016-9-13 13:50 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Four

Meredith tilted an ironic glance at Matt. "Hmm," she said. "Now, who do you think Elena would call in time of trouble?"

Bonnie's grin gave way to a twinge of guilt at Matt's expression. It wasn't fair to tease him about this. "Elena said that the killer is too strong for us and that's why we need help," she told Matt. "And I can think of only one person Elena knows who could fight off a psychic killer."

Slowly, Matt nodded. Bonnie couldn't tell what he was feeling. He and Stefan had been best friends once, even after Elena had chosen Stefan over Matt. But that had been before Matt found out what Stefan was, and what kind of violence he was capable of. In his rage and grief over Elena's death Stefan had nearly killed Tyler Smallwood and five other guys. Could Matt really forget that? Could he even deal with Stefan coming back to Fell's Church?

Matt's square-jawed face gave no sign now, and Meredith was talking again. "So all we need to do is let some blood and cut some hair. You won't miss a curl or two, will you, Bonnie?"

Bonnie was so abstracted that she almost missed this. Then she shook her head. "No, no, no. It isn't our blood and hair we need. We need it from the person we want to summon."

"What? But that's ridiculous. If we had Stefan's blood and hair we wouldn't need to summon him, would we?"

"I didn't think of that," Bonnie admitted. "Usually with a summoning spell you get the stuff beforehand and use it when you want to call a person back. What are we going to do, Meredith? It's impossible."

Meredith's brows were drawn together. "Why would Elena ask it if it were impossible?"

"Elena asked lots of impossible things," Bonnie said darkly. "Don't look like that, Matt; you know she did. She wasn't a saint."

"Maybe, but this one isn't impossible," Matt said. "I can think of one place where Stefan's blood has got to be, and if we're lucky some of his hair, too. In the crypt."

Bonnie flinched, but Meredith simply nodded.

"Of course," she said. "While Stefan was tied up there, he must have bled all over the place. And in that kind of fight he might have lost some hair. If only everything down there has been left undisturbed..."

"I don't think anybody's been down there since Elena died," Matt said. "The police investigated and then left it. But there's only one way to find out."

I was wrong, Bonnie thought. I was worrying about whether Matt could deal with Stefan coming back, and here he is doing everything he can to help us summon him.

"Matt, I could kiss you!" she said.

"All the girls say that," he replied calmly at last, with a shrug of mock resignation. It was as close as he'd gotten to lightheartedness all day.

Meredith, however, was serious. "Let's go. We've got a lot to do, and the last thing we want is to get stuck in the crypt after dark."

The crypt was beneath the ruined church that stood on a hill in the cemetery. It's only late afternoon, plenty of light left, Bonnie kept telling herself as they walked up the hill, but goose-flesh broke out on her arms anyway. The modern cemetery on one side was bad enough, but the old graveyard on the other side was downright spooky even in daylight. There were so many crumbling headstones tilting crazily in the overgrown grass, representing so many young men killed in the Civil War. You didn't have to be psychic to feel their presence.

"Unquiet spirits," she muttered.

"Hmm?" said Meredith as she stepped over the pile of rubble that was one wall of the ruined church. "Look, the lid of the tomb's still off. That's good news; I don't think we would have been able to lift it."

Bonnie's eyes lingered wistfully on the white marble statues carved on the displaced lid. Hon-oria Fell lay there with her husband, hands folded on her breast, looking as gentle and sad as ever. But Bonnie knew there would be no more help from that quarter. Honoria's duties as protector of the town she'd founded were done.

Leaving Elena holding the bag, Bonnie thought grimly, looking down into the rectangular hole that led to the crypt. Iron rungs disappeared into darkness.

Even with the help of Meredith's flashlight it was hard to climb down into that underground room. Inside, it was dank and silent, the walls faced with polished stone. Bonnie tried not to shiver.

"Look," said Meredith quietly.

Matt had the flashlight trained on the iron gate that separated the anteroom of the crypt from its main chamber. The stone below was stained black with blood in several places. Looking at the puddles and rivulets of dried gore made Bonnie feel dizzy.

"We know Damon was hurt the worst," Meredith said, moving forward. She sounded calm, but Bonnie could hear the tight control in her voice. "So he must have been on this side where there's the most blood. Stefan said Elena was in the center. That means Stefan himself must have been... here." She bent down.

"I'll do it," Matt said gruffly. "You hold the light." With a plastic picnic knife from Meredith's car he scraped at the encrusted stone. Bonnie swallowed, glad she'd had only tea for lunch. Blood was all right in the abstract, but when you were actually confronted with so much of it-especially when it was the blood of a friend who'd been tortured...

And then, thought Bonnie, she faked her own death to get Stefan and Damon to stop fighting over her. But it didn't work. They hated each other more than ever, and she hated both of them for that. She'd gone back to the vampire who made her, and over the years she'd turned as evil as he was. Until at last all she wanted to do was destroy the brothers she had once loved. She'd lured them both to Fell's Church to kill them, and this room was where she'd almost succeeded in doing it. Elena had died stopping her.

"There," Matt said, and Bonnie blinked and came back to herself. Matt was standing with a paper napkin that now held flakes of Stefan's blood in its folds. "Now the hair," he said.

They swept the floor with their fingers, finding dust and bits of leaves and fragments of things Bonnie didn't want to identify. Among the detritus were long strands of pale gold hair. Elena's-or Katherine's, Bonnie thought. They had looked much alike. There were also shorter strands of dark hair, crisp with a slight wave. Stefan's.

It was slow, finicky work sorting through it all and putting the right hairs in another napkin.

Matt did most of it. When they were through, they were all tired and the light sifting down through the rectangular opening in the ceiling was dim blue. But Meredith smiled tigerishly.

"We've got it," she said. "Tyler wants Stefan back; well, we'll give him Stefan back."

And Bonnie, who had been only half paying attention to what she was doing, still lost in her own thoughts, froze.

She'd been thinking about other things entirely, nothing to do with Tyler, but at the mention of his name something had winked on in her mind. Something she'd realized in the parking lot and then forgotten afterward in the heat of arguing. Meredith's words had triggered it and now it was suddenly all clear again. How had he known! she wondered, heart racing.

"Bonnie? What's the matter?"

"Meredith," she said softly, "did you tell the police specifically that we were in the living room when everything was going on upstairs with Sue?"

"No, I think I just said we were downstairs. Why?"

"Bonnie, if you're trying to suggest Tyler was the murderer, it just won't wash. He's not smart enough to organize a killing spree, for one thing," Meredith said.

"But there's something else. Meredith, last year at the Junior Prom, Tyler touched me on my bare shoulder. I'll never forget it. His hand was big, and meaty, and hot, and damp." Bonnie shivered at the recollection. "Just like the hand that grabbed me last night."

But Meredith was shaking her head, and even Matt looked unconvinced.

"Elena's sure wasting her time asking us to bring back Stefan, then," he said. "I could take care of Tyler with a couple of right hooks."

"Think about it, Bonnie," Meredith added. "Does Tyler have the psychic power to move a Ouija board or come into your dreams? Does he?"

He didn't. Psychically speaking, Tyler was as much a dud as Caroline. Bonnie couldn't deny it. But she couldn't deny her intuition, either. It didn't make sense, but she still felt Tyler had been in the house last night.

"We'd better get moving," Meredith said. "It's dark, and your father's going to be furious."

They were all silent on the ride home. Bonnie was still thinking about Tyler. Once at her house they smuggled the napkins upstairs and began looking through Bonnie's books on Druids and Celtic magic. Ever since she'd discovered that she was descended from the ancient race of magic workers, Bonnie had been interested in the Druids. And in one of the books she found a ritual for a summoning spell.

"We need to buy candles," she said. "And pure water-better get some bottled," she said to Meredith. "And chalk to draw a circle on the floor, and something to make a small fire in. I can find those in the house. There's no hurry; the spell has to be done at midnight."

Midnight was a long time coming. Meredith bought the necessary items at a grocery store and brought them back. They ate dinner with Bonnie's family, though no one had much of an appetite. By eleven o'clock Bonnie had the circle drawn on the hardwood floor of her bedroom and all the other ingredients on a low bench inside the circle. On the stroke of twelve she started.

With Matt and Meredith watching, she made a small fire in an earthenware bowl. Three candles were burning behind the bowl; she stuck a pin halfway down the one in the center. Then she unfolded a napkin and carefully stirred the dried flakes of blood into a wineglass of water. It turned rusty pink.

She opened the other napkin. Three pinches of dark hair went into the fire, sizzling with a terrible smell. Then three drops of the stained water, hissing.

Swift on the heel thou comest,

Thrice summoned by my spell,

Thrice troubled by my burning.

Come to me without delay.

She read the words aloud slowly, three times. Then she sat back on her heels. The fire went on burning smokily. The candle flames danced.

"And now what?" Matt said.

"I don't know. It just says wait for the middle candle to burn down to the pin."

"And what then?"

"I guess we'll find out when it happens."

In Florence, it was dawn.

Stefan watched the girl move down the stairway, one hand resting lightly on the banister to keep her balance. Her movements were slow and slightly dreamlike, as if she were floating.

Suddenly, she swayed and clutched at the banister more tightly. Stefan moved quickly behind her and put a hand under her elbow.

"Are you all right?"

She looked up at him with the same dreaminess. She was very pretty. Her expensive clothes were the latest fashion and her stylishly disarrayed hair was blond. A tourist. He knew she was American before she spoke.

"Yes... I think..." Her brown eyes were unfocused.

"Do you have a way to get home? Where are you staying?"

"On Via dei Conti, near the Medici chapel. I'm with the Gonzaga in Florence program."

Damn! Not a tourist, then; a student. And that meant she'd be carrying this story back with her, telling her classmates about the handsome Italian guy she'd met last night. The one with night-dark eyes. The one who took her back to his exclusive place on Via Tornabuoni and wined her and dined her and then, in the moonlight, maybe, in his room or out in the enclosed courtyard, leaned close to look into her eyes and...

Stefan's gaze slid away from the girl's throat with its two reddened puncture wounds. He'd seen marks like that so often-how could they still have the power to disturb him? But they did; they sickened him and set a slow burning in his gut.

"What's your name?"

"Rachael. With an a." She spelled it.

"All right, Rachael. Look at me. You will go back to your pensione and you won't remember anything about last night. You don't know where you went or who you saw. And you've never seen me before, either. Repeat."

"Good. Do you have money to get back? Here." Stefan pulled a fistful of crumpled lire-mostly 50,000 and 100,000 notes-out of his pocket and led her outside.

When she was safely in a cab, he went back inside and made straight for Damon's bedroom.

Damon was lounging near the window, peeling an orange, not even dressed yet. He looked up, annoyed, as Stefan entered.

"It's customary to knock," he said.

"Where'd you meet her?" said Stefan. And then, when Damon turned a blank stare on him, he added, "That girl. Rachael." "Was that her name? I don't think I bothered to ask. At Bar Gilli. Or perhaps it was Bar Mario. Why?"

Stefan struggled to contain his anger. "That's not the only thing you didn't bother to do. You didn't bother to influence her to forget you, either. Do you want to get caught, Damon?"

Damon's lips curved in a smile and he twisted off a curlicue of orange peel. "I am never caught, little brother," he said.

"So what are you going to do when they come after you? When somebody

realizes, 'My God, there's a bloodsucking monster on Via Tornabuoni'? Kill them all? Wait until they break down the front door and then melt away into darkness?" Damon met his gaze directly, challengingly, that faint smile still clinging about his lips.

"Why not?" he said.

"Damn you!" said Stefan. "Listen to me, Damon. This has got to stop."

"I'm touched at your concern for my safety."

"It isn't fair, Damon. To take an unwilling girl like that-"

"Oh, she was willing, brother. She was very, very willing."

"Did you tell her what you were going to do? Did you warn her about the consequences of exchanging blood with a vampire? The nightmares, the psychic visions? Was she willing for that?" Damon clearly wasn't going to reply, so he went on. "You know it's wrong."

"As a matter of fact, I do." With that, Damon gave one of his sudden, unnerving smiles, turning it on and off instantly.

Damon tossed away the orange. His tone was silky, persuasive. "Little brother, the world is full of what you call 'wrong,' " he said. "Why not relax and join the winning side? It's much more fun, I assure you."

Stefan felt himself go hot with anger. "How can you even say that?" he flashed back. "Didn't you learn anything from Katherine? She chose 'the winning side.' "

"Katherine died too quickly," said Damon. He was smiling again, but his eyes were cold.

"And now all you can think about is revenge." Looking at his brother, Stefan felt a crushing weight settle on his own chest. "That and your own pleasure," he said.

"What else is there? Pleasure is the only reality, little brother-pleasure and power. And you're a hunter by nature, just as much as I am," Damon said. He added, "I don't remember inviting you to come to Florence with me, anyway. Since you're not enjoying yourself, why don't you just leave?"

The weight in Stefan's chest tightened suddenly, unbearably, but his gaze, locked with Damon's, did not waver. "You know why," he said quietly. And at last he had the satisfaction of seeing Damon's eyes drop.

Stefan himself could hear Elena's words in his mind. She'd been dying then, and her voice had been weak, but he'd heard her clearly. You have to take care of each other. Stefan, will you promise? Promise to take care of each other? And he had promised, and he would keep his word. No matter what.

"You know why I don't leave," he said again to Damon, who wouldn't look at him. "You can pretend you don't care. You can fool the whole world. But I know differently." It would have been kindest at this point to leave Damon alone, but Stefan wasn't in a kind mood. "You know that girl you picked up, Rachael?" he added. "The hair was all right, but her eyes were the wrong color. Elena's eyes were blue."

With that he turned, meaning to leave Damon here to think it over-if Damon would do anything so constructive, of course. But he never made it to the door.

"It's there!" said Meredith sharply, her eyes on the candle flame and the pin.

Bonnie sucked in her breath. Something was opening in front of her like a silver thread, a silver tunnel of communication. She was rushing along it, with no way to stop herself or check her speed. Oh, God, she thought, when I reach the end and hit -

The flash in Stefan's head was soundless, lightless, and powerful as a thunderclap. At the same time he felt a violent, wrenching tug. An urge to follow- something. This was not like Katherine's sly subliminal nudging to go somewhere; this was a psychic shout. A command that could not be disobeyed.

Inside the flash he sensed a presence, but he could scarcely believe who it was.

this was a psychic shout. A command that could not be disobeyed. Inside the flash he sensed a presence, but he could scarcely believe who it was.

Stefan! It's you! It worked!

Bonnie, what have you done?

Elena told me to. Honestly, Stefan, she did. We're in trouble and we need- And that was it. The communication collapsed, caving in on itself, dwindling to a pinpoint. It was gone, and in its aftermath the room vibrated with Power. Stefan and his brother were left staring at each other.

Bonnie let out a long breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and opened her eyes, though she didn't remember closing them. She was lying on her back. Matt and Meredith were crouched over her, looking alarmed.

"What happened? Did it work?" Meredith demanded.

"It worked." She let them help her up. "I made contact with Stefan. I talked to him. Now all we can do is wait and see if he's coming or not."

"Did you mention Elena?" Matt asked.


"Then he's coming."
发表于 2016-9-13 14:01 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Five

Monday, June 8, 11:15 p.m.

Dear Diary,

I don't seem to be sleeping very well tonight, so I might as well write you. All day today I've been waiting for something to happen. You don't do a spell like that and have it work like that and then have nothing happen.

But nothing has. I stayed home from school because Mom thought I should. She was upset about Matt and Meredith staying so late Sunday night, and she said I needed to get some rest. But every time I lie down I see Sue's face.

Sue's dad did the eulogy at Elena's funeral. I wonder who's going to do it for Sue on Wednesday?

I've got to stop thinking about things like this.

Maybe I'll try to go to sleep again. Maybe if I lie down with my headphones on, I won't see Sue.

Bonnie put the diary back in her nightstand drawer and took out her Walkman.

She flipped through the channels as she stared at the ceiling with heavy eyes.

Through the crackle and sputter of static a D.J.'s voice sounded in her ear. "And here's a golden oldie for all you fabulous fifties fans. 'Goodnight Sweetheart' on the Vee Jay label by The Spaniels..."

Bonnie drifted away on the music. The ice cream soda was strawberry, Bonnie's favorite. The jukebox was playing 'Goodnight Sweetheart' and the counter was squeaky clean. But Elena, Bonnie decided, would never have really worn a poodle skirt.

"No poodles," she said, gesturing at it. Elena looked up from her hot fudge sundae. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. "Who thinks of these things anyway?" Bonnie asked.

"You do, silly. I'm only visiting."

"Oh." Bonnie took a pull at the soda. Dreams. There was a reason to be afraid of dreams, but she couldn't think of it just now.

"I can't stay long," Elena said. "I think he already knows I'm here. I just came to tell you..." She frowned.

Bonnie looked at her sympathetically. "Can't you remember either?" She drank more soda. It tasted odd.

"I died too young, Bonnie. There was so much I was supposed to do, to accomplish. And now I have to help you."

"This isn't easy, you know. I don't have that much power. It's hard getting through, and it's hard keeping everything together."

"Gotta keep it together," Bonnie agreed, nodding. She was feeling strangely lightheaded. What was in this soda?

"I don't have much control, and things turn out strange somehow. He's doing it, I guess. He's always fighting me. He watches you. And every time we try to communicate, he comes."

"Okay." The room was floating.

"Bonnie, are you listening to me? He can use your fear against you. It's the way he gets in."


"But don't let him in. Tell everyone that. And tell Stefan..." Elena stopped and put a hand to her mouth. Something fell onto the hot fudge sundae.

It was a tooth.

"He's here." Elena's voice was strange, indistinct. Bonnie stared at the tooth in mesmerized horror. It was lying in the middle of the whipped cream, among the slivered almonds. "Bonnie, tell Stefan..."

Another tooth plunked down, and another. Elena sobbed, both her hands at her mouth now. Her eyes were terrified, helpless. "Bonnie, don't go..."

But Bonnie was stumbling back. Everything was whirling around. The soda was bubbling out of the glass, but it wasn't soda; it was blood. Bright red and frothy, like something you coughed up when you died. Bonnie's stomach convulsed.

"Tell Stefan I love him!" It was the voice of a toothless old woman, and it ended in hysterical sobs. Bonnie was glad to fall into darkness and forget everything.

Bonnie nibbled at the end of her felt pen, her eyes on the clock, her mind on the calendar. Eight and a half more days of school to survive. And it looked as if every minute was going to be misery.

Some guy had said it outright, backing away from her on the stairs. "No offense, but your friends keep turning up dead." Bonnie had gone into the bathroom and cried.

But now all she wanted was to be out of school, away from the tragic faces and accusing eyes-or worse, the pitying eyes. The principal had given a speech over the P.A. about "this new misfortune" and "this terrible loss," and Bonnie had felt the eyes on her back as if they were boring holes there.

When the bell rang, she was the first person out the door. But instead of going to her next class she went to the bathroom again, where she waited for the next bell.

Then, once the halls were empty, she hurried toward the foreign language wing. She passed bulletins and banners for end-of-the-year events without glancing at them. What did SATs matter, what did graduation matter, what did anything matter anymore? They might all be dead by the end of the month.

Oh, my God, I forgot how gorgeous he is, she thought. Elena, forgive me; I'm going to grab him.

"Stefan!" she said.

Then her mind wrenched her back into reality again and she cast a hunted look around. No one was in eyeshot. She grabbed his arm.

"Are you crazy, showing up here? Are you nuts?"

"I had to find you. I thought it was urgent."

"It is, but-" He looked so incongruous, standing there in the high school hallway. So exotic. Like a zebra in a flock of sheep. She started pushing him toward a broom closet.

He wasn't going. And he was stronger than she was. "Bonnie, you said you'd talked to-"

"You have to hide! I'll go get Matt and Meredith and bring them back here and then we can talk. But if anybody sees you, you're probably going to get lynched. There's been another murder."

Stefan's face changed, and he let her push him toward the closet. He started to say something, then clearly decided not to.

"I'll wait," he said simply.

It took only a few minutes to find Matt in auto tech and Meredith in economics class. They hurried back to the broom closet and bustled Stefan out of school as inconspicuously as possible, which wasn't very.

Someone's bound to have seen us, Bonnie thought. It all depends on who, and how much of a blab they are.

"We have to get him someplace safe-not to any of our houses," Meredith was saying. They were all walking as fast as they could through the high school parking lot.

"Fine, but where? Wait a minute, what about the boarding house... ?" Bonnie's voice trailed off. There was a little black car in the parking slot in front of her. An Italian car, sleek, svelte, and sexy looking. All the windows were tinted illegally dark; you couldn't even see inside. Then Bonnie made out the stallion emblem on the back.

"Oh, my God"

Three sets of eyes turned to him in shock. "Damon's?" Bonnie said, hearing the squeak in her own voice. She hoped Stefan meant Damon had just loaned it to him.

But the car window was rolling down to reveal black hair as sleek and liquidy as the car's paint job, mirrored glasses, and a very white smile. "Buon giorno," said Damon smoothly. "Anybody need a ride?"

"Oh, my God," Bonnie said again, faintly. But she didn't back away.

Stefan was visibly impatient. "We'll head for the boarding house. You follow. Park behind the barn so nobody sees your car."

Meredith had to lead Bonnie away from the Ferrari. It wasn't that Bonnie liked Damon or that she was ever going to let him kiss her again as he had at Alaric's party. She knew he was dangerous; not as bad as Katherine had been, maybe, but bad. He'd killed wantonly, just for the fun of it. He'd killed Mr. Tanner, the history teacher, at the Haunted House fund-raiser last Halloween. He might kill again at any time. Maybe that was why Bonnie felt like a mouse staring at a shining black snake when she looked at him.

In the privacy of Meredith's car Bonnie and Meredith exchanged glances.

"Stefan shouldn't have brought him," said Meredith.

"Maybe he just came," Bonnie offered. She didn't think Damon was the sort of person who got brought anywhere.

"Why should he? Not to help us, that's for sure."

Matt said nothing. He didn't even seem to notice the tension in the car. He just stared through the windshield, lost in himself.

The sky was clouding up.


"Just leave it alone, Bonnie," said Meredith.

Wonderful, thought Bonnie, depression settling like a dark blanket over her. Matt and Stefan and Damon, all together, all thinking about Elena.

They parked behind the old barn, next to the low black car. When they went inside, Stefan was standing alone. He turned and Bonnie saw that he'd taken off his sunglasses. The faintest chill went through her, just the lightest prickling of the hairs on her arms and neck. Stefan wasn't like any other guy she'd ever met. His eyes were so green; green as oak leaves in the spring. But just now they had shadows underneath.

There was a moment of awkwardness; the three of them standing on one side and looking at Stefan without a word. No one seemed to know what to say.

Then Meredith went over to him and took his hand. "You look tired," she said.

"I came as soon as I could." He put an arm around her in a brief, almost hesitant hug. He never would have done that in the old days, Bonnie thought. He used to be so reserved.

"I came as soon as I could." He put an arm around her in a brief, almost hesitant hug. He never would have done that in the old days, Bonnie thought. He used to be so reserved.

Stefan and Matt were looking at each other. Here we go, thought Bonnie. It was almost funny; the same expression was on both their faces. Hurt and tired, and trying not to show it. No matter what, Elena would always be between them.

At last, Matt stuck out his hand and Stefan shook it. They both stepped back, looking glad to have it over with.

"Where's Damon?" said Meredith.

"Poking around. I thought we might want a few minutes without him."

"We want a few decades without him," Bonnie said before she could stop herself, and Meredith said, "He can't be trusted, Stefan."

"I think you're wrong," Stefan said quietly. "He can be a big help if he puts his mind to it."

"In between killing a few of the locals every other night?" Meredith said, her eyebrows up. "You shouldn't have brought him, Stefan."

"But he didn't." The voice came from behind Bonnie, behind and frighteningly close. Bonnie jumped and made an instinctive lunge for Matt, who gripped her shoulder.

Damon smiled briefly, just one corner of his mouth up. He'd taken off his sunglasses, but his eyes weren't green. They were black as the spaces between the stars. He's almost better looking than Stefan, Bonnie thought wildly, finding Matt's fingers and hanging on to them.

"So she's yours now, is she?" Damon said to Matt casually.

"No," Matt said, but his grip on Bonnie didn't loosen.

"Stefan didn't bring you?" prompted Meredith from the other side. Of all of them, she seemed least affected by Damon, least afraid of him, least susceptible to him.

"No," Damon said, still looking at Bonnie. He doesn't turn like other people, she thought. He goes on looking at whatever he wants no matter who's talking. "You did," he said.

"Me?" Bonnie shrank a little, uncertain who he meant.

"You. You did the spell, didn't you?"

"The..." Oh, hell. A picture blossomed in Bonnie's mind, of black hair on a white napkin. Her eyes went to Damon's hair, finer and straighter than Stefan's but just as dark. Obviously Matt had made a mistake in the sorting.

They took seats on the decaying bales of hay, all except Damon, who remained standing. Stefan was leaning forward, hands on knees, looking at Bonnie.

"You told me-you said that Elena spoke to you." There was a perceptible pause before he got the name out. His face was tense with control.

"Yes." She managed a smile for him. "I had this dream, Stefan, this very strange dream..."

She told him about it, and about what had happened after. It took a long time. Stefan listened intently, his green eyes flaring every time she mentioned Elena. When she told about the end of Caroline's party and how they had found Sue's body in the backyard, the blood drained from his face, but he said nothing.

"The police came and said she was dead, but we knew that already," Bonnie finished. "And they took Vickie away-poor Vickie was just raving. They wouldn't let us talk to her, and her mother hangs up if we call. Some people are even saying Vickie did it, which is insane. But they won't believe that Elena talked to us, so they won't believe anything she said."

"And what she said was 'he,' " Meredith interrupted. "Several times. It's a man; someone with a lot of psychic power."

"And it was a man who grabbed my hand in the hallway," said Bonnie. She told Stefan about her suspicion of Tyler, but as Meredith pointed out, Tyler didn't fit the rest of the description.

He had neither the brains nor the psychic power to be the one Elena was warning them about.

"What about Caroline?" Stefan asked. "Could she have seen anything?"

"She was out front," Meredith said. "She found the door and got out while we were all running. She heard the screams, but she was too frightened to go back in the house. And to be honest, I don't blame her."

"So nobody actually saw what happened except Vickie."

"No. And Vickie's not telling." Bonnie picked up the story where she had left off. "Once we realized nobody would believe us, we remembered Elena's message about the summoning spell. We figured it must have been you she wanted to summon, because she thought you could do something to help. So... can you?"

"I can try," Stefan said. He got up and walked a little distance away, turning his back on them. He stood like that in silence a while, unmoving. At last he turned back and looked Bonnie in the eyes. "Bonnie," he said, quiet but intense, "in your dreams you actually spoke to Elena face to face. Do you think if you went into a trance you could do it again?"

Bonnie was a little frightened by what she saw in his eyes. They were blazing emerald green in his pale face. All at once it was as if she could see behind the mask of control he wore. Underneath was so much pain, so much longing-so much of that intensity that she could hardly bear to look at it.

"Then we'll do it. Right here, right now. And we'll see if you can take me with you." Those eyes were mesmerizing, not with any hidden Power, but with the sheer force of his will. Bonnie wanted to do it for him-he made her want to do anything for him. But the memory of that last dream was too much. She couldn't face that horror again; she couldn't.

"Stefan, it's too dangerous. I could be opening myself up to anything-and I'm scared. If that thing gets hold of my mind, I don't know what might happen. I can't, Stefan. Please. Even with a Ouija board, it's just inviting him to come."

For a moment she thought he was going to try to make her do it. His mouth tightened in an obstinate line, and his eyes blazed even brighter. But then, slowly, the fire died out of them.

Bonnie felt her heart tear. "Stefan, I'm sorry," she whispered.

"We'll just have to do it on our own," he said. The mask was back on, but his smile looked stiff, as if it hurt him. Then he spoke more briskly. "First we have to find out who this killer is, what he wants here. All we know now is that something evil has come to Fell's Church again."

"But why?" said Bonnie. "Why would anything evil just happen to pick here? Haven't we been through enough?"

"It does seem a bit of a strange coincidence," Meredith said drolly. "Why should we be so singularly blessed?"

"It's not coincidence," said Stefan. He got up and lifted his hands as if unsure how to start. "There are some places on this earth that are... different," he said. "That are full of psychic energy, either positive or negative, good or evil. Some of them have always been that way, like the Bermuda Triangle and Salisbury Plain, the place where they built Stonehenge. Others become that way, especially where a lot of blood has been shed." He looked at Bonnie.

"Unquiet spirits," she whispered.

"Yes. There was a battle here, wasn't there?"

"In the Civil War," Matt said. "That's how the church in the cemetery got ruined. It was a slaughter on both sides. Nobody won, but almost everyone who fought got killed. The woods are full of their graves."

"And the ground was soaked with blood. A place like that draws the supernatural to it. It draws evil to it. That's why Katherine was attracted to Fell's Church in the first place. I felt it too, when I first came here."

"And now something else has come," Meredith said, perfectly serious for once. "But how are we supposed to fight it?"

"We have to know what we're fighting first. I think..." But before he could finish, there was a creak and pale, dusty sunlight fell across the bales of hay. The barn door had opened.

Mrs. Flowers, who owned the boarding house, smiled at them, her little black eyes crinkling into wrinkles. She was carrying a tray.

"I thought you children might like something to drink while you're talking," she said comfortably.

Everyone exchanged disconcerted glances. How had she known they were out here? And how could she be so calm about it?

"Here you go," Mrs. Flowers continued. "This is grape juice, made from my own Concord grapes." She put a paper cup beside Meredith, then Matt, then Bonnie. "And here are some gingersnap cookies. Fresh." She held the plate around. Bonnie noticed she didn't offer any to Stefan or Damon.

"You two can come round to the cellar if you like and try some of my blackberry wine," she said to them, with what Bonnie would swear was a wink.

Stefan took a deep, wary breath. "Uh, look, Mrs. Flowers..."

"And your old room's just like you left it. Nobody's been up there since you went. You can use it when you want; it won't put me out a bit."

Stefan seemed at a loss for words. "Well-thank you. Thank you very much. But -"

"If you're worried I'll say something to somebody, you can set your mind at ease. I don't tend to run off at the mouth. Never have, never will. How's that grape juice?" -turning suddenly on Bonnie.

Bonnie hastily took a gulp. "Good," she said truthfully.

"When you finish, throw the cups in the trash. I like things kept tidy." Mrs. Flowers cast a look about the barn, shaking her head and sighing. "Such a shame. Such a pretty girl." She looked at Stefan piercingly with eyes like onyx beads. "You've got your work cut out for you this time, boy," she said, and left, still shaking her head.

"Well!" said Bonnie, staring after her, amazed. Everyone else just looked at each other blankly.

" 'Such a pretty girl'-but which?" said Mere-dith at last. "Sue or Elena?" Elena had actually spent a week or so in this very barn last winter-but Mrs. Flowers wasn't supposed to know that. "Did you say something to her about us?" Meredith asked Damon.

"Not a word." Damon seemed amused. "She's an old lady. She's batty."

"She's sharper than any of us gave her credit for," Matt said. "When I think of the days we spent watching her potter around that basement-do you think she knew we were watching?"

days we spent watching her potter around that basement-do you think she knew we were watching?"

"And grape juice, don't forget that." Matt grinned at Stefan. "Want some?" He proffered the leaky cup.

"Yeah, you can take your grape juice and..." But Stefan was almost smiling himself. For an instant Bonnie saw the two of them the way they used to be, before Elena had died. Friendly, warm, as comfortable together as she and Meredith were. A pang went through her.

But Elena isn't dead, she thought. She's more here than ever. She's directing everything we say and do.

Stefan had sobered again. "When Mrs. Flowers came in, I was about to say that we'd better get started. And I think we should start with Vickie."

"She won't see us," Meredith replied instantly. "Her parents are keeping everyone away."

"Then we'll just have to bypass her parents," Stefan said. "Are you coming with us, Damon?"

"A visit to yet another pretty girl? I wouldn't miss it."

Bonnie turned to Stefan in alarm, but he spoke reassuringly as he guided her out of the barn. "It'll be all right. I'll keep an eye on him."

Bonnie hoped so.
发表于 2016-9-13 14:02 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Six

Vickie's house was on a corner, and they approached it from the side street. By now the sky was filled with heavy purple clouds. The light had an almost underwater quality.

"Looks like it's going to storm," Matt said.

Bonnie glanced at Damon. Neither he nor Stefan liked bright light. And she could feel the Power emanating from him, like a low thrum just under the surface of his skin. He smiled without looking at her and said, "How about snow in June?" Bonnie clamped down on a shiver.

She had looked Damon's way once or twice in the barn and found him listening to the story with an air of detached indifference. Unlike Stefan, his expression hadn't changed in the slightest when she mentioned Elena-or when she told about Sue's death. What did he really feel for Elena? He'd called up a snowstorm once and left her to freeze in it. What was he feeling now? Did he even care about catching the murderer?

"That's Vickie's bedroom," said Meredith. "The bay window in the back."

Stefan looked at Damon. "How many people in the house?"

"Two. Man and woman. The woman's drunk."

Poor Mrs. Bennett, thought Bonnie.

"I need them both asleep," Stefan said.

In spite of herself, Bonnie was fascinated by the surge of Power she felt from Damon. Her psychic abilities had never been strong enough to sense its raw essence before, but now they were. Now she could feel it as clearly as she could see the fading violet light or smell the honeysuckle outside Vickie's window.

Damon shrugged. "They're asleep."

Stefan tapped lightly on the glass.

There was no response, or at least none Bonnie could see. But Stefan and Damon looked at each other.

"She's half tranced already," Damon said.

"She's scared. I'll do it; she knows me," said Stefan. He put his fingertips on the window. "Vickie, it's Stefan Salvatore," he said. "I'm here to help you. Come let me in."

His voice was quiet, nothing that should have been heard on the other side of the glass. But after a moment the curtains stirred and a face appeared.

Bonnie gasped aloud.

Vickie's long, light brown hair was disheveled, and her skin was chalky. There were huge black rings under her eyes. The eyes themselves were fixed and glassy.

Her lips were rough and chapped.

"She looks possessed," Bonnie whispered back, unnerved.

Stefan just said, "Vickie, open the window."

Mechanically, like a windup doll, Vickie cranked one of the side panels of the bay window open, and Stefan said, "Can I come in?"

Vickie's glazed eyes swept over the group outside. For a moment Bonnie thought she didn't recognize any of them. But then she blinked and said slowly, "Meredith... Bonnie... Stefan? You're back. What are you doing here?"

"Ask me in, Vickie." Stefan's voice was hypnotic.

"Stefan..." There was a long pause and then: "Come in."

She stepped back as he put a hand on the sill and vaulted through. Matt followed him, then Meredith. Bonnie, who was wearing a mini, re-mained outside with Damon. She wished she'd worn jeans to school today, but then she hadn't known she'd be going on an expedition.

"You shouldn't be here," Vickie said to Stefan, almost calmly. "He's coming to get me. He'll get you too."

Meredith put an arm around her. Stefan just said, "Who?"

"Him. He comes to me in my dreams. He killed Sue." Vickie's matter-of-fact tone was more frightening than any hysteria could have been.

"Vickie, we've come to help you," Meredith said gently. "Everything's going to be all right now. We won't let him hurt you, I promise."

Vickie swung around to stare at her. She looked Meredith up and down as if Meredith had suddenly changed into something unbelievable. Then she began to laugh.

It was awful, a hoarse burst of mirth like a hacking cough. It went on and on until Bonnie wanted to cover her ears. Finally Stefan said, "Vickie, stop it."

The laughter died into something like sobs, and when Vickie lifted her head again, she looked less glassy eyed but more genuinely upset. "You're all going to die, Stefan," she said, shaking her head. "No one can fight him and live."

"We need to know about him so we can fight him. We need your help," Stefan said. "Tell me what he looks like."

"I can't see him in my dreams. He's just a shadow without a face." Vickie whispered it, her shoulders hunching.

"But you saw him at Caroline's house," Stefan said insistently. "Vickie, listen to me," he added as the girl turned away sharply. "I know you're frightened, but this is important, more important than you can understand. We can't fight him unless we know what we're up against, and you are the only one, the only one right now who has the information we need. You have to help us."

Stefan's voice was unyielding. "I have a way to help you remember," he said. "Will you let me try?"

Seconds crawled by, then Vickie gave a long, bubbling sigh, her body sagging. "Do whatever you want," she said indifferently. "I don't care. It won't make any difference."

"You're a brave girl. Now look at me, Vickie. I want you to relax. Just look at me and relax." Stefan's voice dropped to a lulling murmur. It went on for a few minutes, and then Vickie's eyes drooped shut.

"Sit down." Stefan guided her to sit on the bed. He sat beside her, looking into her face.

"Vickie, you feel calm and relaxed now. Nothing you remember will hurt you," he said, his voice soothing. "Now, I need you to go back to Saturday night. You're upstairs, in the master bedroom of Caroline's house. Sue Carson is with you, and someone else. I need you to see-"

"No!" Vickie twisted back and forth as if trying to escape something. "No! I can't -"

"Vickie, calm down. He won't hurt you. He can't see you, but you can see him. Listen to me."

As Stefan spoke, Vickie's whimpers quieted. But she still thrashed and writhed.

"You need to see him, Vickie. Help us fight him. What does he look like?"

"He looks like the devil!"

It was almost a scream. Meredith sat on Vickie's other side and took her hand. She looked out through the window at Bonnie, who looked back wide eyed and shrugged slightly. Bonnie had no idea what Vickie was talking about.

"Tell me more," Stefan said evenly.

Vickie's mouth twisted. Her nostrils were flared as if she were smelling something awful. When she spoke, she got out each word separately, as if they were making her sick.

"He wears... an old raincoat. It flaps around his legs in the wind. He makes the wind blow. His hair is blond. Almost white. It stands up all over his head. His eyes are so blue-electric blue." Vickie licked her lips and swallowed, looking nauseated. "Blue is the color of death."

Thunder rumbled and cracked in the sky. Damon glanced up quickly, then frowned, eyes narrowed.

"He's tall. And he's laughing. He's reaching for me, laughing. But Sue screams 'No, no' and tries to pull me away. So he takes her instead. The window's broken, and the balcony is right there. Sue's crying 'No, please.' And then I watch him-I watch him throw her..." Vickie's breath was hitching, her voice rising hysterically.

"Oh, please, no-Sue! Sue! Sue!"

"Vickie, stay with me. Listen. I need just one more thing. Look at him. Tell me if he's wearing a blue jewel-"

But Vickie was whipping her head back and forth, sobbing, more hysterical each second. "No! No! I'm next! I'm next!" Suddenly, her eyes sprang open as she came out of the trance by herself, choking and gasping. Then her head jerked around.

On the wall, a picture was rattling.

It was picked up by the bamboo-framed mirror, then by perfume bottles and lipsticks on the dresser below. With a sound like popcorn, earrings began bursting from an earring tree. The rattling got louder and louder. A straw hat fell off a hook. Photos were showering down from the mirror. Tapes and CDs sprayed out of a rack and onto the floor like playing cards being dealt.

Meredith was on her feet and so was Matt, fists clenched.

"Make it stop! Make it stop!" Vickie cried wildly.

But it didn't stop. Matt and Meredith looked around as new objects joined the dance. Everything movable was shaking, jittering, swaying. It was as if the room were caught in an earthquake.

"Stop! Stop!" shrieked Vickie, her hands over her ears.

Directly above the house thunder exploded.

Bonnie jumped violently as she saw the zigzag of lightning shoot across the sky. Instinctively she grabbed for something to hang on to. As the lightning bolt flared a poster on Vickie's wall tore diagonally as if slashed by a phantom knife. Bonnie choked back a scream and clutched tighter.

Then, as quickly as if someone had flicked a power switch off, all the noise stopped.

Vickie's room was still. The fringe on the bedside lamp swayed slightly. The poster had curled up in two irregular pieces, top and bottom. Slowly, Vickie lowered her hands from her ears.

Matt and Meredith looked around rather shakily.

Bonnie shut her eyes and murmured something like a prayer. It wasn't until she opened them again that she realized what she had been hanging on to. It was the supple coolness of a leather jacket. It was Damon's arm.

He hadn't moved away from her, though. He didn't move now. He was leaning forward slightly, eyes narrowed, watching the room intently.

"Look at the mirror," he said.

On the glass surface of the bamboo mirror two words were scrawled in Vickie's hot coral lipstick.

Goodnight, Sweetheart.

"Oh, God," Bonnie whispered.

Stefan turned from the mirror to Vickie. There was something different about him, Bonnie thought-he was holding himself relaxed but poised, like a soldier who's just gotten confirmation of a battle. It was as if he'd accepted a personal challenge of some kind.

He took something out of his back pocket and unfolded it, revealing sprigs of a plant with long green leaves and tiny lilac flowers.

"This is vervain, fresh vervain," he said quietly, his voice even and intense. "I picked it outside Florence; it's blooming there now." He took Vickie's hand and pressed the packet into it. "I want you to hold on to this and keep it. Put some in every room of the house, and hide pieces somewhere in your parents' clothes if you can, so they'll have it near them. As long as you have this with you, he can't take over your mind. He can scare you, Vickie, but he can't make you do anything, like open a window or door for him. And listen, Vickie, because this is important."

Vickie was shivering, her face crumpled. Stefan took both her hands and made her look at him, speaking slowly and distinctly.

"If I'm right, Vickie, he can't get in unless you let him. So talk to your parents. Tell them it's important that they don't ask any stranger inside the house. In fact, I can have Damon put that suggestion in their mind right now." He glanced at Damon, who shrugged slightly and nodded, looking as if his attention was somewhere else. Self-consciously, Bonnie removed her hand from his jacket.

Vickie's head was bent over the vervain.

"He'll get in somehow," she said softly, with terrible certainty.

"No. Vickie, listen to me. From now on, we're going to watch your house; we're going to be waiting for him."

"It doesn't matter," Vickie said. "You can't stop him." She began to laugh and cry at the same time.

"We're going to try," Stefan said. He looked at Meredith and Matt, who nodded. "Right. From this moment on, you will never be alone. There will always be one or more of us outside watching you."

Vickie just shook her bent head. Meredith gave her arm a squeeze and stood as Stefan tilted his head toward the window.

When she and Matt joined him there, Stefan spoke to all of them in a low voice. "I don't want to leave her unguarded, but I can't stay myself right now. There's something I have to do, and I need one of the girls with me. On the other hand, I don't want to leave either Bonnie or Meredith alone here." He turned to Matt. "Matt, will you..."

Everyone looked at him, startled.

"Well, it's the logical solution, isn't it?" Damon seemed amused. "After all, what do you expect one of them to do against him anyway?"

"They can call for me. I can monitor their thoughts that far," Stefan said, not giving one inch.

"Well," Damon said whimsically, "I can call for you too, little brother, if I get into trouble. I'm getting bored with this investigation of yours anyway. I might as well stay here as anywhere."

"Vickie needs to be protected, not abused," Stefan said.

Damon's smile was charming. "Her?" He nodded toward the girl who sat on the bed, rocking over the vervain. From disheveled hair to bare feet, Vickie was not a pretty picture. "Take my word for it, brother, I can do better than that." For just an instant Bonnie thought those dark eyes flicked sideways toward her. "You're always saying how you'd like to trust me, anyway," Damon added. "Here's your chance to prove it."

Stefan looked as if he wanted to trust, as if he were tempted. He also looked suspicious. Damon said nothing, merely smiled in that taunting, enigmatic way. Practically asking to be mistrusted, Bonnie thought.

The two brothers stood looking at each other while the silence and the tension stretched out between them. Just then Bonnie could see the family resemblance in their faces, one serious and intense, the other bland and faintly mocking, but both inhumanly beautiful.

Stefan let his breath out slowly. "All right," he said quietly at last. Bonnie and Matt and Meredith were all staring at him, but he didn't seem to notice. He spoke to Damon as if they were the only two people there. "You stay here, outside the house where you won't be seen. I'll come back and take over when I'm finished with what I'm doing."

Meredith's eyebrows were in her hair, but she made no comment. Neither did Matt. Bonnie tried to quell her own feelings of unease. Stefan must know what he's doing, she told herself. Anyway, he'd better.

"Don't take too long," Damon said dismissively.

And that was how they left it, with Damon blending in with the darkness in the shadow of the black walnut trees in Vickie's backyard and Vickie herself in her room, rocking endlessly.

In the car, Meredith said, "Where next?"

"I need to test a theory," said Stefan briefly.

"That the killer is a vampire?" Matt said from the back, where he sat with Bonnie. Stefan glanced at him sharply. "Yes."

"That's why you told Vickie not to invite anyone in," Meredith added, not to be outdone in the reasoning department. Vampires, Bonnie remembered, couldn't enter a place where humans lived and slept unless they were invited. "And that's why you asked if the man was wearing a blue stone."

"An amulet against daylight," Stefan said, spreading his right hand. On the third finger there was a silver ring set with lapis lazuli. "Without one of these, direct exposure to the sun kills us. If the murderer is a vampire, he keeps a stone like this somewhere on him." As if by instinct, Stefan reached up to briefly touch something under his T-shirt. After a moment Bonnie realized what it must be.

Elena's ring. Stefan had given it to her in the first place, and after she died he'd taken it to wear on a chain around his neck. So that part of her would be with him always, he'd said.

When Bonnie looked at Matt beside her, she saw his eyes were closed.

"So how can we tell if he's a vampire?" Meredith asked.

"There's only one way I can think of, and it isn't very pleasant. But it's got to be done."

Bonnie's heart sank. If Stefan thought it wasn't very pleasant, she was sure she was going to find it even less so. "What is it?" she said unenthusiastically.

"I need to get a look at Sue's body."

There was dead silence. Even Meredith, normally so unflappable, looked appalled. Matt turned away, leaning his forehead against the window glass. "You've got to be kidding," Bonnie said.

"I wish I were."

"But-for God's sake, Stefan. We can't. They won't let us. I mean, what are we going to say? 'Excuse me while I examine this corpse for holes'?"

"Bonnie, stop it," Meredith said.

"I can't help it," Bonnie snapped back shakily. "It's an awful idea. And besides, the police already checked her body. There wasn't a mark on it except the cuts she got in the fall."

"The police don't know what to look for," Stefan said. His voice was steely. Hearing it brought something home to Bonnie, something she tended to forget. Stefan was one of them. One of the hunters. He'd seen dead people before. He might even have killed some.

He drinks blood, she thought, and shuddered.

"Well?" said Stefan. "Are you still with me?"

Bonnie tried to make herself small in the backseat. Meredith's hands were tight on the steering wheel. It was Matt who spoke, turning back from the window.

Bonnie tried to make herself small in the backseat. Meredith's hands were tight on the steering wheel. It was Matt who spoke, turning back from the window.

"There's a viewing of the body from seven to ten at the funeral home," Meredith added, her voice low.

"We'll have to wait until after the viewing, then. After they close the funeral home, when we can be alone with her," said Stefan.

"This is the most gruesome thing I've ever had to do," Bonnie whispered wretchedly. The funeral chapel was dark and cold. Stefan had sprung the locks on the outside door with a thin piece of flexible metal.

The viewing room was thickly carpeted, its walls covered with somber oak panels. It would have been a depressing place even with the lights on. In the dark it seemed close and suffocating and crowded with grotesque shapes. It looked as if someone might be crouching behind each of the many standing flower arrangements.

"I don't want to be here," Bonnie moaned.

"Let's just get it over with, okay?" Matt said through his teeth.

When he snapped the flashlight on, Bonnie looked anywhere but where it was pointing. She didn't want to see the coffin, she didn't. She stared at the flowers, at a heart made of pink roses. Outside, thunder grumbled like a sleeping animal.

"Let me get this open-here," Stefan was saying. In spite of her resolve not to, Bonnie looked.

The casket was white, lined with pale pink satin. Sue's blond hair shone against it like the hair of a sleeping princess in a fairy tale. But Sue didn't look as if she were sleeping. She was too pale, too still. Like a waxwork.

Bonnie crept closer, her eyes fixed on Sue's face.

That's why it's so cold in here, she told herself staunchly. To keep the wax from melting. It helped a little.

Stefan reached down to touch Sue's high-necked pink blouse. He undid the top button.

"For God's sake," Bonnie whispered, outraged.

"What do you think we're here for?" Stefan hissed back. But his fingers paused on the second button.

Bonnie watched a minute and then made her decision. "Get out of the way," she said, and when Stefan didn't move immediately, she gave him a shove. Meredith drew up close to her and they formed a phalanx between Sue and the boys. Their eyes met with understanding. If they had to actually remove the blouse, the guys were going out.

Bonnie undid the small buttons while Meredith held the light. Sue's skin felt as waxy as it looked, cool against her fingertips. Awkwardly, she folded the blouse back to reveal a lacy white slip. Then she made herself push Sue's shining gold hair off the pale neck. The hair was stiff with spray.

"No," said Stefan oddly. "But there's something else. Look at this." Gently, he reached around Bonnie to point out a cut, pale and bloodless as the skin around it, but visible as a faint line running from collarbone to breast. Over the heart. Stefan's long finger traced the air above it and Bonnie stiffened, ready to smack the hand away if he touched.

"What is it?" asked Meredith, puzzled.

"A mystery," Stefan said. His voice was still odd. "If I saw a mark like that on a vampire, it would mean the vampire was giving blood to a human. That's how it's done. Human teeth can't pierce our skin, so we cut ourselves if we want to share blood. But Sue wasn't a vampire."

"She certainly wasn't!" said Bonnie. She tried to fight off the image her mind wanted to show her, of Elena bending to a cut like that on Stefan's chest and sucking, drinking...

She shuddered and realized her eyes were shut. "Is there anything else you need to see?" she said, opening them.

"No. That's all."

Bonnie did up the buttons. She rearranged Sue's hair. Then, while Meredith and Stefan eased the lid of the casket back down, she walked quickly out of the viewing room and to the outside door. She stood there, arms wrapped around herself.

A hand touched her elbow lightly. It was Matt.

"You're tougher than you look," he said.

"Yes, well..." She tried to shrug. And then suddenly she was crying, crying hard. Matt put his arms around her.

"I know," he said. Just that. Not "Don't cry" or "Take it easy" or "Everything's going to be all right." Just "I know." His voice was as desolate as she felt. "They've got hair spray in her hair," she sobbed. "Sue never used hair spray. It's awful." Somehow, just then, this seemed the worst thing of all.

He simply held her.

After a while Bonnie got her breath. She found she was holding on to Matt almost painfully tightly and loosened her arms. "I got your shirt all wet," she said apologetically, sniffling.

"It doesn't matter." Something in his voice made her step back and look at him. He looked the way he had in the high school parking lot. So lost, so... hopeless.

"Matt, what is it?" she whispered. "Please."

"I'm not so sure." Bonnie didn't even think she wanted to. It was too scary. But she was overwhelmed by an urge to comfort him, to wipe that lost look from his eyes. "Matt, I-"

"We're finished," Stefan said from behind them.

As Matt looked toward the voice the lost look seemed to intensify. "Sometimes I think we're all finished," Matt said, moving away from Bonnie, but he didn't explain what he meant by that. "Let's go."
发表于 2016-9-13 14:02 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Seven

Stefan approached the corner house reluctantly, almost afraid of what he might find. He half expected that Damon would have abandoned his post by now. He'd probably been an idiot to rely on Damon in the first place.

But when he reached the backyard, there was a shimmer of motion among the black walnut trees. His eyes, sharper than a human's because they were adapted for hunting, made out the darker shadow leaning against a trunk.

"You took your time getting back."

"I had to see the others home safe. And I had to eat."

"Animal blood," Damon said contemptuously, eyes fixed on a tiny round stain on Stefan's T-shirt. "Rabbit, from the smell of it. That seems appropriate somehow, doesn't it?"

"Damon-I've given Bonnie and Meredith vervain too."

"A wise precaution," Damon said distinctly, and showed his teeth.

A familiar surge of irritation welled up in Stefan. Why did Damon always have to be so difficult? Talking with him was like walking between land mines.

"I'll be going now," Damon continued, swinging his jacket over one shoulder. "I've got business of my own to take care of." He tossed a devastating grin over his shoulder. "Don't wait up."

"Damon." Damon half turned, not looking but listening. "The last thing we need is some girl in this town screaming 'Vampire!' " Stefan said. "Or showing the signs, either. These people have been through it before; they're not ignorant."

"I'll bear that in mind." It was said ironically, but it was the closest thing to a promise Stefan had ever gotten from his brother in his life.

"And, Damon?"

"Now what?"

"Thank you."

It was too much. Damon whipped around, his eyes cold and uninviting, a stranger's eyes.

"Don't expect anything of me, little brother," he said dangerously. "Because you'll be wrong every time. And don't think you can manipulate me, either. Those three humans may follow you, but I won't. I'm here for reasons of my own."

He was gone before Stefan could gather words for a reply. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. Damon never listened to anything he said. Damon never even called him by name. It was always the scornful "little brother."

And now Damon was off to prove how unreliable he was, Stefan thought.

Wonderful. He'd do something particularly vicious just to show Stefan he was capable of it.

It was no use. He couldn't keep his mind on the puzzle. He was tired and lonely and in desperate need of comfort. And the stark truth was that there was no comfort to be had.

Elena, he thought, you lied to me.

It was the one thing she'd insisted on, the one thing she'd always promised. "Whatever happens, Stefan, I'll be with you. Tell me you believe that." And he had answered, helpless in her spell, "Oh, Elena, I believe it. Whatever happens, we'll be together."

But she had left him. Not by choice maybe, but what did that matter in the end? She had left him and gone away.

There were times when all he wanted was to follow her.

Think about something else, anything else, he told himself, but it was too late. Once unleashed, the images of Elena swirled around him, too painful to bear, too beautiful to push away.

The first time he'd kissed her. The shock of dizzy sweetness when his mouth met hers. And after that, shock after shock, but at some deeper level. As if she were reaching down to the core of himself, a core he'd almost forgotten.

Frightened, he'd felt his defenses tear away. All his secrets, all his resistance, all the tricks he used to keep other people at arm's length. Elena had ripped through them all, exposing his vulnerability.

Exposing his soul.

And in the end, he found that it was what he wanted. He wanted Elena to see him without defenses, without walls. He wanted her to know him for what he was.

Terrifying? Yes. When she'd discovered his secret at last, when she'd found him feeding on that bird, he had cringed in shame. He was sure that she'd turn away from the blood on his mouth in horror. In disgust.

But when he looked into her eyes that night, he saw understanding. Forgiveness. Love.

Her love had healed him.

And that was when he knew they could never be apart.

Other memories surged up and Stefan held on to them, even though the pain tore into him like claws. Sensations. The feel of Elena against him, supple in his arms. The brush of her hair on his cheek, light as a moth's wing. The curve of her lips, the taste of them. The impossible midnight blue of her eyes.

But Bonnie had reached Elena. Elena's spirit, her soul, was still somewhere near.

Of anyone, he should be able to summon it. He had Power at his command. And he had more right than anyone to seek her.

He knew how it was done. Shut your eyes. Picture the person you want to draw near. That was easy. He could see Elena, feel her, smell her. Then call them, let your longing reach out into the emptiness. Open yourself and let your need be felt.

Easier still. He didn't give a damn about the danger. He gathered all his yearning, all his pain, and sent it out searching like a prayer.

And felt... nothing.

Only void and his own loneliness. Only silence.

His Power wasn't the same as Bonnie's. He couldn't reach the one thing he loved most, the one thing that mattered to him.

He had never felt so alone in his life.

"You want what?" Bonnie said.

"Some sort of records about the history of Fell's Church. Particularly about the founders," Stefan said. They were all sitting in Meredith's car, which was parked a discreet distance behind Vickie's house. It was dusk of the next day and they had just returned from Sue's funeral-all but Stefan.

"This has something to do with Sue, doesn't it?" Meredith's dark eyes, always so level and intelligent, probed Stefan's. "You think you've solved the mystery."

"Possibly," he admitted. He had spent the day thinking. He'd put the pain of last night behind him, and once again he was in control. Although he could not reach Elena, he could justify her faith in him-he could do what she wanted done. And there was a comfort in work, in concentration. In keeping all emotion away. He added, "I have an idea about what might have happened, but it's a long shot and I don't want to talk about it until I'm sure."

"Why?" demanded Bonnie. Such a contrast to Meredith, Stefan thought. Hair as red as fire and a spirit to go with it. That delicate heart-shaped face and fair, translucent skin were deceptive, though. Bonnie was smart and resourceful-even if she was only beginning to find that out herself.

"Because if I'm wrong, an innocent person might get hurt. Look, at this point it's just an idea. But I promise if I find any evidence tonight to back it up, I'll tell you all about it."

"You could talk with Mrs. Grimesby," Meredith suggested. "She's the town librarian, and she knows a lot about the founding of Fell's Church."

"Or there's always Honoria," Bonnie said. "I mean, she was one of the founders."

Stefan looked at her quickly. "I thought Honoria Fell had stopped communicating with you," he said carefully.

Stefan was surprised. He didn't entirely like the idea of Elena's journal on display. But Honoria's records might be exactly what he was looking for. Honoria had not just been a wise woman; she had been well versed in the supernatural. A witch.

"The library's closed by now, though," Meredith said.

"That's even better," said Stefan. "No one will know what information we're interested in. Two of us can go down there and break in, and the other two can stay here. Meredith, if you'll come with me-"

"I'd like to stay here, if you don't mind," she said. "I'm tired," she added in explanation, seeing his expression. "And this way I can get my watch over with and get home earlier. Why don't you and Matt go and Bonnie and I stay here?"

Stefan was still looking at her. "Okay," he said slowly. "Fine. If it's all right with Matt." Matt shrugged. "That's it, then. It might take us a couple of hours or more. You two stay in the car with the doors locked. You should be safe enough that way." If he was right in his suspicions, there wouldn't be any more attacks for a while-a few days at least. Bonnie and Meredith should be safe. But he couldn't help wonder what was behind Meredith's suggestion. Not simple tiredness, he was sure.

"By the way, where's Damon?" Bonnie asked as he and Matt started to leave.

Stefan felt his stomach muscles tighten. "I don't know." He had been waiting for someone to ask that. He hadn't seen his brother since last night, and he had no idea what Damon might be doing.

"He'll show up eventually," he said, and closed the door on Meredith's, "That's what I'm afraid of."

He and Matt walked to the library in silence, keeping to the shadows, skirting areas of light. He couldn't afford to be seen. Stefan had come back to help Fell's Church, but he felt sure Fell's Church didn't want his help. He was a stranger again, an intruder here. They would hurt him if they caught him.

The library lock was easy to pick, just a simple spring mechanism. And the journals were right where Bonnie had said they would be.

Stefan forced his hand away from Elena's journal. Inside was the record of Elena's last days, in her own handwriting. If he started thinking about that now...

He concentrated on the leather-bound book beside it. The faded ink on the yellowing pages was hard to read, but after a few minutes his eyes got accustomed to the dense, intricate writing with its elaborate curlicues.

It was the story of Honoria Fell and her husband, who with the Smallwoods and a few other families had come to this place when it was still virgin wilderness. They

had faced not only the dangers of isolation and hunger but of native wildlife. Honoria told the story of their battle to survive simply and clearly, without sentimentality.

With a prickling at the back of his neck, he reread the entry carefully. At last he leaned back and shut his eyes.

He'd been right. There was no longer any doubt in his mind. And that meant he must also be right about what was going on in Fell's Church now. For an instant, bright sickness washed over him, and an anger that made him want to rip and tear and hurt something. Sue. Pretty Sue who had been Elena's friend had died for... that. A blood ritual, an obscene initiation. It made him want to kill.

But then the rage faded, replaced by a fierce determination to stop what was happening and set things right.

I promise you, he whispered to Elena in his own mind. I will stop it somehow. No matter what.

He looked up to find Matt looking at him.

Elena's journal was in Matt's hand, closing itself over his thumb. Just then Matt's eyes looked as dark a blue as Elena's. Too dark, full of turmoil and grief and something like bitterness.

"You found it," Matt said. "And it's bad."


"It would be." Matt pushed Elena's journal back into the case and stood. There was a ring almost of satisfaction in his voice. Like somebody who's just proved a point.

"I could have saved you the trouble of coming here." Matt surveyed the darkened library, jingling change in his pocket. A casual observer might have thought he was relaxed, but his voice betrayed him. It was raw with strain. "You just think of the worst thing you can imagine and that's always the truth," he said.

"Matt..." Sudden concern stabbed at Stefan. He'd been too preoccupied since coming back to Fell's Church to look at Matt properly. Now he realized that he'd been unforgivably stupid. Something was terribly wrong. Matt's whole body was rigid with tension lying just under the surface. And Stefan could sense the anguish, the desperation in his mind.

"Matt, what is it?" he said quietly. He got up and crossed to the other boy. "Is it something I did?"

"I'm fine."

"You're shaking." It was true. Fine tremors were running through the taut muscles.

"I said I'm fine!" Matt swung away from him, shoulders hunched defensively. "Anyway, what could you have done to upset me? Besides taking my girl and getting her killed, I mean?"

This stab was different, it was somewhere around Stefan's heart and it went straight through. Like the blade that had killed him once upon a time. He tried to breathe around it, not trusting himself to speak.

"It was the truth." Stefan waited a moment and then added, levelly, "But it's not the whole problem, is it?"

Matt didn't answer. He stared at the floor, pushing something invisible with the side of one shoe. Just when Stefan was about to give up, he turned with a question of his own.

"What's the world really like?"

"What's... what?"

"The world. You've seen a lot of it, Stefan. You've got four or five centuries on the rest of us, right? So what's the deal? I mean, is it basically the kind of place worth saving or is it essentially a pile of crap?"

Stefan shut his eyes. "Oh."

"And what about people, huh, Stefan? The human race. Are we the disease or just a symptom? I mean, you take somebody like-like Elena." Matt's voice shook briefly, but he went on. "Elena died to keep the town safe for girls like Sue. And now Sue's dead. And it's all happening again. It's never over. We can't win. So what does that tell you?"


"What I'm really asking is, what's the point? Is there some cosmic joke I'm not getting? Or is the whole thing just one big freaking mistake? Do you understand what I'm trying to say here?"

"I understand, Matt." Stefan sat down and ran his hands through his hair. "If you'll shut up a minute, I'll try to answer you."

Matt drew up a chair and straddled it. "Great. Take your best shot." His eyes were hard and challenging, but underneath Stefan saw the bewildered hurt that had been festering there.

"I've seen a lot of evil, Matt, more than you can imagine," Stefan said. "I've even lived it. It's always going to be a part of me, no matter how I fight it. Sometimes I think the whole human race is evil, much less my kind. And sometimes I think that enough of both our races is evil that it doesn't matter what happens to the rest.

"When you get down to it, though, I don't know any more than you do. I can't tell you if there's a point or if things are ever going to turn out all right." Stefan looked straight into Matt's eyes and spoke deliberately. "But I've got another question for you. So what?"

Matt stared. "So what?"

"Yeah. So what."

"Yeah, so what?" Stefan leaned forward. "So what are you going to do, Matt Honeycutt, if every bad thing you've said is true? What are you going to do personally? Are you going to stop fighting and swim with the sharks?"

Matt was grasping the back of his chair. "What are you talking about?"

"You can do that, you know. Damon says so all the time. You can join up with the evil side, the winning side. And nobody can really blame you, because if the universe is that way, why shouldn't you be that way too?"

"Like hell!" Matt exploded. His blue eyes were searing and he had half risen from his chair. "That's Damon's way, maybe! But just because it's hopeless doesn't mean it's all right to stop fighting. Even if I knew it was hopeless, I'd still have to try. I have to try, damn it!"

"I know." Stefan settled back and smiled faintly. It was a tired smile, but it showed the kinship he felt right then with Matt. And in a moment he saw by Matt's face that Matt understood.

"I know because I feel the same way," Stefan continued. "There's no excuse for

giving up just because it looks like we're going to lose. We have to try-because the other choice is to surrender."

"I'm not ready to surrender anything," Matt said through his teeth. He looked as if he'd fought his way back to a fire inside him that had been burning all along. "Ever," he said.

"Yeah, well, 'ever' is a long time," Stefan said. "But for what it's worth, I'm going to try not to either. I don't know if it's possible, but I'm going to try."

"That's all anybody can do," Matt said. Slowly, he pushed himself off the chair and stood straight. The tension was gone from his muscles, and his eyes were the clear, almost piercing blue eyes Stefan remembered. "Okay," he said quietly. "If you found what you came for, we'd better get back to the girls."

Stefan thought, his mind switching gears. "Matt, if I'm right about what's going on, the girls should be okay for a while. But you go ahead and take over the watch from them. As long as I'm here there's something I'd like to read up on-by a guy named Gervase of Tilbury, who lived in the early 1200s."

"Even before your time, eh?" Matt said, and Stefan gave him the ghost of a smile. They stood for a moment, looking at each other.

"All right. I guess I'll see you at Vickie's." Matt turned to the door, then hesitated. Abruptly, he turned again and held out his hand. "Stefan-I'm glad you came back."

Stefan gripped it. "I'm glad to hear it" was all he said, but inside he felt a warmth that took away the stabbing pain.

And some of the loneliness, too.
发表于 2016-9-13 14:03 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Eight

From where Bonnie and Meredith sat in the car, they could just see Vickie's window. It would have been better to be closer, but then someone might have discovered them.

Meredith poured the last of the coffee out of the thermos and drank it. Then she yawned. She caught herself guiltily and looked at Bonnie.

"You having trouble sleeping at night too?"

"Yes. I can't imagine why," Meredith said.

"Do you think the guys are having a little talk?"

Meredith glanced at her quickly, obviously surprised, then smiled. Bonnie realized Meredith hadn't expected her to catch on. "I hope so," Meredith said. "It might do Matt some good."

Bonnie nodded and relaxed back into the seat. Meredith's car had never seemed so comfortable before.

When she looked at Meredith again, the dark-haired girl was asleep.

Oh, great. Terrific. Bonnie stared into the dregs of her coffee mug, making a face. She didn't dare relax again; if they both fell asleep, it could be disastrous. She dug her nails into her palms and stared at Vickie's lighted window.

When she found the image blurring and doubling on her, she knew something had to be done.

Fresh air. That would help. Without bothering to be too quiet about it, she unlocked the door and pulled the handle up. The door clicked open, but Meredith went on breathing deeply.

She must really be tired, Bonnie thought, getting out. She shut the door more gently, locking Meredith inside. It was only then that she realized she herself didn't have a key.

Oh, well, she'd wake Meredith to let her back in. Meanwhile she'd go check on Vickie. Vickie was probably still awake.

The sky was brooding and overcast, but the night was warm. Behind Vickie's house the black walnut trees stirred very faintly. Crickets sang, but their monotonous chirping only seemed like part of a larger silence.

The scent of honeysuckle filled Bonnie's nostrils. She tapped on Vickie's window lightly with her fingernails, peering through the crack in the curtains.

No answer. On the bed she could make out a lump of blankets with unkempt brown hair sticking out the top. Vickie was asleep too.

As Bonnie stood there, the silence seemed to thicken around her. The crickets weren't singing anymore, and the trees were still. And yet it was as if she was straining to hear something she knew was there.

None of her ordinary senses told her this. But her sixth sense, the one that sent chills up her arms and ice down her spine, the one that was newly awakened to the presence of Power, was certain. There was... something... near. Something... watching her.

She turned slowly, afraid to make a sound. If she didn't make any noise, maybe whatever it was wouldn't get her. Maybe it wouldn't notice her.

The silence had become deadly, menacing. It hummed in her ears with the beat of her own blood. And she couldn't help imagining what might come screaming out of it at any minute.

Something with hot, moist hands, she thought, staring into the darkness of the backyard. Black on gray, black on black was all she could see. Every shape might be anything, and all the shadows seemed to be moving. Something with hot, sweaty hands and arms strong enough to crush her-

The snap of a twig exploded through her like gunfire.

She spun toward it, eyes and ears straining. But there was only darkness and silence.

Fingers touched the back of her neck.

Bonnie whirled again, almost falling, almost fainting. She was too frightened to scream. When she saw who it was, shock robbed all her senses and her muscles collapsed. She would have ended up in a heap on the ground if he hadn't caught her and held her straight.

"You look frightened," Damon said softly.

Bonnie shook her head. She didn't have any voice yet. She thought she still might faint. But she tried to pull away just the same.

He didn't tighten his grip, but he didn't let go. And struggling did about as much good as trying to break a brick wall with bare hands. She gave up and tried to calm her breathing.

"Are you frightened of me?" Damon said. He smiled reprovingly, as if they shared a secret. "You don't need to be."

How had Elena managed to deal with this? But Elena hadn't, of course, Bonnie realized.

Elena had succumbed to Damon in the end. Damon had won and had his way.

He released one of her arms to trace, very lightly, the curve of her upper lip. "I suppose I should go away," he said, "and not scare you anymore. Is that what you want?"

Like a rabbit with a snake, Bonnie thought. This is how the rabbit feels. Only I don't suppose he'll kill me. I might just die on my own, though. She felt as if her legs might melt away at any minute, as if she might collapse. There was a warmth and a trembling inside her.

Elena wouldn't like it, she thought, just as his lips touched hers. Yes, that was it. But the problem was, she didn't have the strength to say it. The warmth was growing, rushing out to all parts of her, from her fingertips to the soles of her feet. His lips were cool, like silk, but everything else was so warm. She didn't need to be afraid; she could just let go and float on this. Sweetness rushed through her...

"What the hell is going on?"

The voice broke the silence, broke the spell. Bonnie started and found herself able to turn her head. Matt was standing at the edge of the yard, his fists clenched, his eyes like chips of blue ice. Ice so cold it burned.

"Get away from her," Matt said.

To Bonnie's surprise, the grip on her arms eased. She stepped back, straightening her blouse, a little breathless. Her mind was working again.

"It's okay," she said to Matt, her voice almost normal. "I was just-"

"Go back to the car and stay there."

Now wait a minute, thought Bonnie. She was glad Matt had come; the interruption had been very conveniently timed. But he was coming on a little heavy with the protective older brother bit.

"Look, Matt-"

"Go on," he said, still staring at Damon.

Meredith wouldn't have let herself be ordered around this way. And Elena certainly wouldn't. Bonnie opened her mouth to tell Matt to go sit in the car himself when she suddenly realized something.

This was the first time in months she'd seen Matt really care about anything. The light was back in those blue eyes-that cold flash of righteous anger that used to make even Tyler Smallwood back down. Matt was alive right now, and full of energy. He was himself again.

Bonnie bit her lip. For a moment she struggled with her pride. Then she conquered it and lowered her eyes.

"Thanks for rescuing me," she murmured, and left the yard.

Matt was so angry he didn't dare move closer to Damon for fear he might take a swing at him. And the chilling darkness in Damon's eyes told him that wouldn't be a very good idea.

But Damon's voice was smooth, almost dispassionate. "My taste for blood isn't just a whim, you know. It's a necessity you're interfering with here. I'm only doing

what I have to."

Contemptuously he said, "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size, then?"

Damon smiled and the air went colder. "Like you?"

Matt just stared at him. He could feel muscles clench in his jaw. After a moment he said tightly, "You can try."

"I can do more than try, Matt." Damon took a single step toward him like a stalking panther. Involuntarily, Matt thought of jungle cats, of their powerful spring and their sharp, tearing teeth. He thought of what Tyler had looked like in the Quonset hut last year when Stefan was through with him. Red meat. Just red meat and blood.

"What was that history teacher's name?" Damon was saying silkily. He seemed amused now, enjoying this. "Mr. Tanner, wasn't it? I did more than try with him."

"You're a murderer."

Damon nodded, unoffended, as if he'd just been introduced. "Of course, he stuck a knife in me. I wasn't planning to drain him quite dry, but he annoyed me and I changed my mind. You're annoying me now, Matt."

Matt had his knees locked to keep from running. It was more than the catlike stalking grace, it was more than those unearthly black eyes fastened on his. There was something inside Damon that whispered terror to the human brain. Some menace that spoke directly to Matt's blood, telling him to do anything to get away.

But he wouldn't run. His conversation with Stefan was blurred in his mind right now, but he knew one thing from it. Even if he died here, he wouldn't run.

"Don't be stupid," Damon said, as if he'd heard every word of Matt's thoughts. "You've never had blood taken from you by force, have you? It hurts, Matt. It hurts a lot."

Elena, Matt remembered. That first time when she'd taken his blood he'd been scared, and the fear had been bad enough. But he'd been doing it of his own volition then. What would it be like when he was unwilling?

I will not run. I will not look away.

Aloud he said, still looking straight at Damon, "If you're going to kill me, you'd better stop talking and do it. Because maybe you can make me die, but that's all you can make me do."

"You're even stupider than my brother," Damon said. With two steps he crossed the distance to Matt. He grabbed Matt by his T-shirt, one hand on either side of the throat. "I guess I'll have to teach you the same way."

Everything was frozen. Matt could smell his own fear, but he wouldn't move. He couldn't move now.

Damon's teeth were a white glitter in the dark. Sharp as carving knives. Matt could almost feel the razor bite of them before they touched him.

I will not surrender anything, he thought, and closed his eyes.

The shove took him completely off balance. He stumbled and fell backward, his eyes flying open. Damon had let go and pushed him away.

Expressionless, those black eyes looked down at him where he sat in the dirt. "I'll try to put this in a way you can understand," Damon said. "You don't want to

mess with me, Matt. I am more dangerous than you can possibly imagine. Now get out of here. It's my watch."

Silently, Matt got up. He rubbed at his shirt where Damon's hands had crumpled it. And then he left, but he didn't run and he didn't flinch from Damon's eyes.

I won, he thought. I'm still alive, so I won.

And there had been a kind of grim respect in those black eyes in the end. It made Matt wonder about some things. It really did.

Bonnie and Meredith were sitting in the car when he got back. They both looked concerned.

"You were gone a long time," Bonnie said. "Are you okay?"

Matt wished people would stop asking him that. "I'm fine," he said, and then added, "Really." After a moment's thought he decided there was something else he should say. "Sorry if I yelled at you back there, Bonnie."

"That's all right," Bonnie said coolly. Then, thawing, she said, "You really do look better, you know. More like your old self."

"Yeah?" He rubbed at his crumpled T-shirt again, looking around. "Well, tangling with vampires is obviously a great warm-up exercise."

"What'd you guys do? Lower your heads and run at each other from opposite sides of the yard?" asked Meredith.

"Something like that. He says he's going to watch Vickie now."

"Do you think we can trust him?" Meredith said soberly.

Matt considered. "As a matter of fact, I do. It's weird, but I don't think he's going to hurt her. And if the killer comes along, I think he's in for a surprise. Damon's spoiling for a fight. We might as well go back to the library for Stefan."

Stefan wasn't visible outside the library, but when the car had cruised up and down the street once or twice he materialized out of the darkness. He had a thick book with him.

"Breaking and entering and grand theft, library book," Meredith remarked. "I wonder what you get for that these days?"

"You mean you found it? You figured it out? Then you can tell us everything, like you promised," Bonnie said. "Let's go to the boarding house."

Stefan looked slightly surprised when he heard that Damon had turned up and stationed himself at Vickie's, but he made no comment. Matt didn't tell him exactly how Damon had turned up, and he noticed Bonnie didn't either.

"I'm almost positive about what's going on in Fell's Church. And I've got half the puzzle solved, anyway," Stefan said once they were all settled in his room in the boarding house attic. "But there's only one way to prove it, and only one way to solve the other half. I need help, but it isn't something I'm going to ask lightly." He was looking at Bonnie and Meredith as he said it.

They looked at each other, then back at him. "This guy killed one of our friends," said Meredith. "And he's driving another one crazy. If you need our help, you've got it."

"Whatever it takes," Bonnie added.

"It's something dangerous, isn't it?" Matt demanded. He couldn't restrain himself. As if Bonnie hadn't been through enough...

"It's dangerous, yes. But it's their fight too, you know."

"Darn right it is," said Bonnie. Meredith was obviously trying to repress a smile. Finally she had to turn away and grin.

"Matt's back," she said when Stefan asked her what the joke was.

"We missed you," added Bonnie. Matt couldn't understand why they were all smiling at him, and it made him feel hot and uncomfortable. He went over to stand by the window.

"It is dangerous; I won't try to kid you about that," Stefan said to the girls. "But it's the only chance. The whole thing's a little complicated, and I'd better start at the beginning. We have to go back to the founding of Fell's Church..."

He talked on late into the night.

Thursday, June 11, 7:00 a.m.

Dear Diary,

I couldn't write last night, because I got in too late. Mom was upset again. She'd have been hysterical if she'd known what I was actually doing. Hanging out with vampires and planning something that may get me killed. That may get us all killed.

Stefan has a plan to trap the guy who murdered Sue. It reminds me of some of Elena's plans-and that's what worries me. They always sounded wonderful, but

lots of the time they went wrong.

Anyway, we're going to do it after graduation. We're all in on it except Damon, who'll be watching Vickie. It's strange, but we all trust him now. Even me. Despite what he did to me last night, I don't think he'll let Vickie get hurt.

I haven't had any more dreams about Elena. I think if I do, I will go absolutely screaming berserk. Or never go to sleep again. I just can't take any more of that.

All right. I'd better go. Hopefully, by Sunday we'll have the mystery solved and die killer caught. I trust Stefan.

I just hope I can remember my part.
发表于 2016-9-13 14:04 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter Nine

"... And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the class of '92!"

Bonnie threw her cap into the air along with everyone else. We made it, she thought. Whatever happens tonight, Matt and Meredith and I made it to graduation. There had been times this last school year when she had seriously doubted they would.

Considering Sue's death, Bonnie had expected the graduation ceremony to be listless or grim. Instead, there was a sort of frenzied excitement about it. As if everyone was celebrating being alive-before it was too late.

It turned into rowdiness as parents surged forward and the senior class of Robert E. Lee fragmented in all directions, whooping and acting up. Bonnie retrieved her cap and then looked up into her mother's camera lens.

Act normal, that's what's important, she told herself. She caught a glimpse of Elena's aunt Judith and Robert Maxwell, the man Aunt Judith had recently married, standing on the sidelines. Robert was holding Elena's little sister, Margaret, by the hand. When they saw her, they smiled bravely, but she felt uncomfortable when they came her way.

"Oh, Miss Gilbert-I mean, Mrs. Maxwell-you shouldn't have," she said as Aunt Judith handed her a small bouquet of pink roses.

Aunt Judith smiled through the tears in her eyes. "This would have been a very special day for Elena," she said. "I want it to be special for you and Meredith, too."

"Oh, Aunt Judith." Impulsively, Bonnie threw her arms around the older woman. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "You know how much."

"We all miss her," Aunt Judith said. Then she pulled back and smiled again and the three of them left. Bonnie turned from looking at them with a lump in her throat to look at the madly celebrating crowd.

There was Ray Hernandez, the boy she'd gone to Homecoming with, inviting everybody to a party at his house that night. There was Tyler's friend Dick Carter, making a fool of himself as usual. Tyler was smiling brazenly as his father took picture after picture. Matt was listening, with an unimpressed look, to some football recruiter from James Mason University. Meredith was standing nearby, holding a bouquet of red roses and looking pensive.

Vickie wasn't there. Her parents had kept her home, saying she was in no state to go out. Caroline wasn't there either. She was staying in the apartment in Heron. Her mother had told Bonnie's mother she had the flu, but Bonnie knew the truth. Caroline was scared.

And maybe she's right, Bonnie thought, moving toward Meredith. Caroline may be the only one of us to make it through next week.

Look normal, act normal. She reached Meredith's group. Meredith was wrapping the red-and-black tassel from her cap around the bouquet, twisting it between elegant, nervous fingers.

"Be careful with that; you'll ruin it," she said aloud.

Meredith's look of thoughtful melancholy didn't change. She went on staring at the tassel, kinking it up. "It doesn't seem fair," she said, "that we should get these and Elena shouldn't. It's wrong."

"I know; it's awful," Bonnie said. But she kept her tone light. "I wish there was something we could do about it, but we can't."

"It's all wrong," Meredith went on, as if she hadn't heard. "Here we are out in the sunlight, graduating, and there she is under that-stone."

"I know, I know," Bonnie said in a soothing tone. "Meredith, you're getting yourself all upset. Why don't you try to think about something else? Look, after you go out to dinner with your parents, do you want to go to Raymond's party? Even if we're not invited, we can crash it."

"No!" Meredith said with startling vehemence. "I don't want to go to any party. How can you even think of that, Bonnie? How can you be so shallow?"

"Well, we've got to do something ..."

"I'll tell you what I'm doing. I'm going up to the cemetery after dinner. I'm going to put this on Elena's grave. She's the one who deserves it." Meredith's knuckles were white as she shook the tassel in her hand.

"Meredith, don't be an idiot. You can't go up there, especially at night. That's crazy. Matt would say the same thing."

"Well, I'm not asking Matt. I'm not asking anybody. I'm going by myself."

"You can't. God, Meredith, I always thought you had some brains-"

"And I always thought you had some sensitivity. But obviously you don't even want to think about Elena. Or is it just because you want her old boyfriend for yourself?"

Bonnie slapped her.

It was a good hard slap, with plenty of energy behind it. Meredith drew in a sharp breath, one hand to her reddening cheek. Everyone around them was staring.

"That's it for you, Bonnie McCullough," Meredith said after a moment, in a voice of deadly quiet. "I don't ever want to speak to you again." She turned on her heel and walked away:

"Never would be too soon for me!" Bonnie shouted at her retreating back.

Eyes were hastily averted as Bonnie looked around her. But there was no question that she and Meredith had been the center of attention for several minutes past. Bonnie bit the inside of her cheek to keep a straight face and walked over to Matt, who had lost the recruiter.


"Do you think the slap was too much? We didn't really plan that; I was just sort of going with the moment. Maybe it was too obvious..."

"It was fine, just fine." Matt was looking preoccupied. Not that dull, apathetic, turned-in look of the last few months, but distinctly abstracted.

"What is it? Something wrong with the plan?" Bonnie said.

"No, no. Listen, Bonnie, I've been thinking. You were the one to discover Mr. Tanner's body in the Haunted House last Halloween, right?"

Bonnie was startled. She gave an involuntary shiver of distaste. "Well, I was the first one to know he was dead, really dead, instead of just playing his scene. Why on earth do you want to talk about that now?"

"Because maybe you can answer this question. Could Mr. Tanner have got a knife in Damon?"


"Well, could he?"

"I..." Bonnie blinked and frowned. Then she shrugged. "I suppose so. Sure. It was a Druid sacrifice scene, remember, and the knife we used was a real knife. We talked about using a fake one, but since Mr. Tanner was going to be lying right there beside it, we figured it was safe enough. As a matter of fact..." Bonnie's frown deepened. "I think when I found the body, the knife was in a different place from where we'd set it in the beginning. But then, some kid could have moved it. Matt, why are you asking?"

"Just something Damon said to me," Matt said, staring off into the distance again. "I wondered if it could be the truth."

"Oh." Bonnie waited for him to say more, but he didn't. "Well," she said finally, "if it's all cleared up, can you come back to Earth, please? And don't you think you should maybe put your arm around me? Just to show you're on my side and there's no chance you're going to show up at Elena's grave tonight with Meredith?"

Matt snorted, but the faraway look disappeared from his eyes. For just a brief instant he put his arm around her and squeezed.

D..j. vu, Meredith thought as she stood at the gate to the cemetery. The problem was, she couldn't remember exactly which of her previous experiences in the graveyard this night reminded her of. There had been so many.

In a way, it had all started here. It had been here that Elena had sworn not to rest until Stefan belonged to her. She'd made Bonnie and Meredith swear to help her, too -in blood. How suitable, Meredith thought now.

And it had been here that Tyler had assaulted Elena the night of the Homecoming dance. Stefan had come to the rescue, and that had been the beginning for them. This graveyard had seen a lot.

This graveyard had been the beginning, and the end as well. And maybe there would be another end tonight.

Meredith started walking.

I wish you were here now, Alaric, she thought. I could use your optimism and your savvy about the supernatural-and I wouldn't mind your muscles, either.

Elena's headstone was in the new cemetery, of course, where the grass was still tended and the graves marked with wreaths of flowers. The stone was very simple, almost plain looking, with a brief inscription. Meredith bent down and placed her bouquet of roses in front of it. Then, slowly, she added the red-and-black tassel from her cap. In this dim light, both colors looked the same, like dried blood. She knelt and folded her hands quietly. And she waited.

All around her the cemetery was still. It seemed to be waiting with her, breath held in anticipation. The rows of white stones stretched on either side of her, shining faintly. Meredith listened for any sound.

And then she heard one. Heavy footsteps.

With her head down, she stayed quiet, pretending she noticed nothing.

The footsteps sounded closer, not even bothering to be stealthy.

"Hi, Meredith."

Meredith looked around quickly. "Oh-Tyler," she said. "You scared me. I thought you were-never mind."

"Yeah?" Tyler's lips skinned back in an unsettling grin. "Well, I'm sorry you're disappointed. But it's me, just me and nobody else."

"What are you doing here, Tyler? No good parties?"

"I could ask you the same question." Tyler's eyes dropped to the headstone and the tassel and his face darkened. "But I guess I already know the answer. You're here for her. Elena Gilbert, A Light in Darkness," he read sarcastically.

"That's right," Meredith said evenly. " 'Elena' means light, you know. And she was certainly surrounded by darkness. It almost beat her, but she won in the end."

"Maybe," Tyler said, and worked his jaw meditatively, squinting. "But you know, Meredith, it's a funny thing about darkness. There's always more of it waiting in the wings."

"Like tonight," Meredith said, looking up at the sky. It was clear and dotted with faint stars. "It's very dark tonight, Tyler. But sooner or later the sun will come up."

Just like he showed Elena, Meredith thought. In a way she was enjoying this verbal fencing, but she never lost sight of what she had come here for. Her cold fingers dipped into her jacket pocket and found the tiny sprig of vervain there. "That's all right, Tyler. I think I'd prefer to stay here."

"You sure about that? A cemetery's a dangerous place to be alone."

Unquiet spirits, Meredith thought. She looked right at him. "I know."

He was grinning again, displaying teeth like tombstones. "Anyway, you can see it from here if you have good eyes. Look that way, toward the old graveyard. Now, do you see something sort of shining red in the middle?"

"No." There was a pale luminosity over the trees in the east. Meredith kept her eyes on it.

"Aw, come on, Meredith. You're not trying. Once the moon's up you'll see it better."

"Tyler, I can't waste any more time here. I'm going."

"No, you're not," he said. And then, as her fingers tightened on the vervain, encompassing it in her fist, he added in a wheedling voice, "I mean, you're not going until I tell you the story of that headstone, are you? It's a great story. See, the headstone is made of red marble, the only one of its kind in the whole graveyard. And that ball on top-see it?-that must weigh about a ton. But it moves. It turns whenever a Smallwood is going to die. My grandfather didn't believe that; he put a scratch on it right down the front. He used to come out and check it every month or so. Then one day he came and found the scratch in the rear. The ball had turned completely backward. He did everything he could to turn it around, but he couldn't. It was too heavy. And that night, in bed, he died. They buried him under it."

"He probably had a heart attack from overexertion," Meredith said caustically, but her palms were tingling.

"You're funny, aren't you? Always so cool. Always so together. Takes a lot to make you scream, doesn't it?"

"I'm leaving, Tyler. I've had enough."

He let her walk a few paces, then said, "You screamed that night at Caroline's, though, didn't you?"

Meredith turned back. "How do you know that?"

Tyler rolled his eyes. "Give me credit for a little intelligence, okay? I know a lot, Meredith. For instance, I know what's in your pocket."

Meredith's fingers stilled. "What do you mean?"

Meredith backed away a step.

"You think that's going to help you, don't you? But I'm going to tell you a secret."

Meredith's eyes measured the distance between herself and the path. She kept her face calm, but a violent shaking was beginning inside her. She didn't know if she was going to be able to pull this off.

"You're not going anywhere, babe," Tyler said, and a large hand clasped Meredith's wrist. It was hot and damp where she could feel it below her jacket cuff. "You're going to stay right here for your surprise." His body was hunched now, his head thrust forward, and there was an exultant leer on his lips.

"Let me go, Tyler. You're hurting me!" Panic flashed down all Meredith's nerves at the feel of Tyler's flesh against hers. But the hand only gripped harder, grinding tendon against bone in her wrist.

"This is a secret, baby, that nobody else knows," Tyler said, pulling her close, his breath hot in her face. "You came here all decked out against vampires. But I'm not a vampire."

Meredith's heart was pounding. "Let go!"

"First I want you to look over there. You can see the headstone now," he said, turning her so that she couldn't help but look. And he was right; she could see it, like a red monument with a shining globe on top. Or-not a globe. That marble ball looked like... it looked like...

"Now look east. What do you see there, Meredith?" Tyler went on, his voice hoarse with excitement.

It was the full moon. It had risen while he'd been talking to her, and now it hung above the hills, perfectly round and enormously distended, a huge and swollen red ball.

And that was what the headstone looked like. Like a full moon dripping with blood.

"You came here protected against vampires, Meredith," Tyler said from behind her, even more hoarsely. "But the Smallwoods aren't vampires at all. We're something else."

And then he growled.

No human throat could have made the sound. It wasn't an imitation of an animal; it was real. A vicious guttural snarl that went up and up, snapping Meredith's head around to look at him, to stare in disbelief. What she was seeing was so horrible her mind couldn't accept it...

"I told you it was a surprise. How do you like it?" Tyler said. His voice was thick with saliva, and his red tongue lolled among the rows of long canine teeth. His face wasn't a face anymore. It jutted out grotesquely into a muzzle, and his eyes were yellow, with slitlike pupils. His reddish-sandy hair had grown over his cheeks and down the back of his neck. A pelt. "You can scream all you want up here and nobody's going to hear you," he added.

Every muscle in Meredith's body was rigid, trying to get away from him. It was a visceral reaction, one she couldn't have helped if she wanted to. His breath was so hot, and it smelled feral, like an animal. The nails he was digging into her wrist were stumpy blackened claws. She didn't have the strength to scream again.

"There's other things besides vampires with a taste for blood," Tyler said in his new slurping voice. "And I want to taste yours. But first we're going to have some fun."

Although he still stood on two feet, his body was humped and strangely distorted. Meredith's struggles were feeble as he forced her to the ground. She was a strong girl, but he was far stronger, his muscles bunching under his shirt as he pinned her.

"You've always been too good for me, haven't you? Well, now you're going to find out what you've been missing."

I can't breathe, Meredith thought wildly. His arm was across her throat, blocking her air. Gray waves rolled through her brain. If she passed out now...

"You're going to wish you died as fast as Sue." Tyler's face floated above her, red as the moon, with that long tongue lolling. His other hand held her arms above her head. "You ever hear the story of Little Red Riding Hood?"

The gray was turning into blackness, speckled with little lights. Like stars, Meredith thought. I'm falling in the stars...

"Tyler, take your hands off her! Let go of her, now!" Matt's voice shouted.

Tyler's slavering snarl broke off into a surprised whine. The arm against Meredith's throat released pressure, and air rushed into her lungs.

Footsteps were pounding around her. "I've been waiting a long time to do this, Tyler," Matt said, jerking the sandy-red head back by the hair. Then Matt's fist smashed into Tyler's newly grown muzzle. Blood spurted from the wet animal nose.

The sound Tyler made froze Meredith's heart in her chest. He sprang at Matt, twisting in midair, claws outstretched. Matt fell back under the assault and Meredith, dizzy, tried to push herself up off the ground. She couldn't; all her muscles were trembling uncontrollably. But someone else picked Tyler off Matt as if Tyler weighed no more than a doll.

"Just like old times, Tyler," Stefan said, setting Tyler on his feet and facing him.

Tyler stared a minute, then tried to run.

He was fast, dodging with animal agility between the rows of graves. But Stefan was faster and cut him off.

Stefan was dragging Tyler back. "I always knew you were a jerk," he said, shoving Tyler against a headstone, "but I didn't know you were this stupid. I'd have thought you would have learned not to jump girls in graveyards, but no. And you had to brag about what you did to Sue, too. That wasn't smart, Tyler."

Meredith looked at them as they faced each other. So different, she thought. Even though they were both creatures of darkness in some way. Stefan was pale, his green eyes blazing with anger and menace, but there was a dignity, almost a purity about him. He was like some stern angel carved in unyielding marble. Tyler just looked like a trapped animal. He was crouched, breathing hard, blood and saliva mingling on his chest. Those yellow eyes glittered with hate and fear, and his fingers worked as if he'd like to claw something. A low sound came out of his throat.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to beat you up this time," Stefan said. "Not unless you try to get away. We're all going up to the church to have a little chat. You like to tell stories, Tyler; well, you're going to tell me one now."

Tyler sprang at him, vaulting straight from the ground for Stefan's throat. But Stefan was ready for him. Meredith suspected that both Stefan and Matt enjoyed the next few minutes, working off their accumulated aggressions, but she didn't, so she looked away.

In the end, Tyler was trussed up with nylon cord. He could walk, or shuffle at least, and Stefan held the back of his shirt and guided him urgently up the path to the church.

Inside, Stefan pushed Tyler onto the ground near the open tomb. "Now," he said, "we are going to talk. And you're going to cooperate, Tyler, or you're going to be

very, very sorry."

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