Oh, holy crap. It wasn’t Myrnin. In a straight-out fight, Michael could have probably taken Claire’s boss, but Pennyfeather was something else-something worse.
Pennyfeather drew back for a blow that would probably have decapitated Michael, except that I leaped forward and planted a boot in his side, slammed him off-balance, and shot him with my newest, sweetest toy. It had been made to tranquilize big game animals, like lions and tigers, and I figured it would do just fine for vampires. Especially if, instead of using sedatives, the darts were filled up with silver in suspension.
And it worked. Pennyfeather thought he had me; he rolled up and focused his rage right in my face, and yeah, that was scary, but I saw the first flicker as it passed over his face. Confusion. Then pain. Then shock.
"What-?" he said, and then he col apsed to his knees. He grabbed the dart I’d buried in his neck and yanked it out. I saw a wisp of smoke curl out from the blackened hole in his skin. "What did you-"
"You tried to kil my girlfriend and my best friend," I said. "Suck it, fangboy."
There wasn’t enough silver in the dart to kil him, but it was more than enough to make him deeply unhappy for a long time-and, most important, stuck right there, unable to move.
Just the way I wanted him.
I held out a hand to Michael, who hadn’t moved from where he’d landed, and he took it and managed to stand. His leg was broken, and I winced when I saw how not-straight it was, but he just shook his head, hopped on one foot, and kicked out, hard. The bones slid back together. He managed not to scream. I would have. A lot. But he did clamp his hand on my shoulder and hold on with brutal strength.
"You good?" I asked, which was a weird thing to say, admittedly; he’d just reset a broken leg, vampire-style, which was gross and cool at the same time.
"Nothing that can’t heal," he said. "Damn, he’s fast. I mean, really fast. I was expecting Myrnin gone wild. Not him."
"Want to go kick him a few more times?"
"With a broken leg?"
"Okay, fair point." I made sure he could stand on his own, then went back to my dropped bag. It was ful of interesting things. I sorted through, slowly, because I knew Pennyfeather was still conscious and watching me. "Hmmm. So, should I go with something fast, like the silver stake through the heart? It’s a classic, I’ll admit, but I was hoping for something he’d really appreciate. One thing I know about this jackhole is that he really likes his quality pain."
"He’s not getting out of here again," Michael agreed. "But you don’t have to go allMarquis de Sade on him, either. Just kil him. Or let me."
"You’re not a kil er," I told him. "Fangs aside, I know you, man. You’ve got a nice-guy streak a mile wide. Now me…" I pulled out a big silver- coated knife, suitable for skinning deer, presuming I ever hunted any vampire deer, and held it up so it caught the light. "Me, I’m more of a ‘Welcome to the dark side’ kind of person."
Michael’s leg was fixed well enough that he hobbled over to me and took the knife away. I let him, of course. "You’re not a stone-cold murderer," he said. "And Pennyfeather’s just lying there waiting for it. You’l kil somebody in self-defense, or defending someone else, but not like this."
"And you wil ? Give me my knife."
"Are you going to use it, or just pose for pictures? Because you know we can’t leave him alive." Those last words were said quietly, in a voice that was a whole lot darker than the Michael Glass I’d known most of my life, the one who’d always had my back and been ready to kick a*s if necessary.
But neither one of us killed. Not in the sense of cold-blooded murdering.
"He tried to kil Claire," I said. "I guess-"
"He tried to kil Eve, too," Michael said, "and wife trumps girlfriend just a little. So it’s my job." His blue eyes looked dark now, almost like a night-sky color, and I would have actually felt better if he’d been vamping out in some way. But he wasn’t. It was just regular Michael, talking about murder, with my knife in his hand.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I stood up slowly, watching his face, and he nodded.
"Guess I’ll get it done."
Ignoring me, he limped over to Pennyfeather, who was still lying prone on the floor where the tranquilizer had taken him out. I had to admit, that one had worked way better than I’d expected.
Which raised the important question of why it had worked better than expected-because nothing ever did. In fact, I was always surprised when any of the things I invented worked at all. And Pennyfeather was one hard-to-kil fanger.
Al of a sudden, I had a black, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"I’ve got this," he said. He looked pale but determined. "He tried to kil Eve, and Claire, and if we let him go, he’s going to do worse. You know that."
Out, I was going to say, but I didn’t get the chance, because Pennyfeather wasn’t allthat tranquilized after all. He wasn’t fully healed, though, and that was allthat saved Michael from having his arm ripped off as the other vamp came up off the floor, grabbed his wrist, and yanked hard enough to break the knife free. It clattered to the stone floor and bounced, and I scrambled after it as Michael punched Pennyfeather in the face a couple of times to try to break his grip, without success. Pennyfeather’s eyes had gone ful -on red, and his fangs were down; he was trying to pul Michael down into biting range, and managed to score a long red scrape down his forearm before Michael wrenched backward. I grabbed the knife and headed back, and Pennyfeather knew the rules had changed; maybe it was the look on my face, and the fact that however much I might hesitate at knifing a helpless enemy, I wasn’t even going to hesitate when he was a threat to my friend.
He shoved Michael hard into a table behind him, but Mike was ready for it; he bounced forward again, directly into Pennyfeather, and body-slammed him flat into the floor.
"Shane!" he yel ed. "Hurry up. I can’t hold him!"
I was hurrying, and that was a mistake, because one of Myrnin’s stupid always-scattered books slid under my foot and threw me off-balance, and during the second or two it took me to grab my balance again, Pennyfeather heaved Michael off him and almost levitated up to a standing position. He was by no means well ; he was swaying in place, but somehow that made him seem more menacing, more inhuman, like some sinister demonic puppet with glowing eyes.
Instead of coming for me, he leaped backward, up onto a table, where he sent glass crashing and flying to the ground, and ful -on hissed at us. He was still woozy, and maybe he really would come down for good from the silver, but not yet. Obviously.
Attacking a vampire who had the higher ground wasn’t smart, and I slowed my rush and stood shoulder to shoulder with Michael. If he decided to come at us from up there, we’d be fighting for our lives in earnest, and although the knife would help, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly.
"You know," I said to Michael, "my girlfriend took him down with a broken tree branch."
"Too bad she isn’t here," he said. "Watch-"
He was probably going to say out, but Pennyfeather did something neither of us was ready for: he backflipped off the table to the floor, and ran, zigzagging through the land mines of Myrnin’s lab, off into the shadows.
"Dammit," I said. "What the hel do we do now? We can’t leave him here, not if the portals still work. He could show up in our house. And where the hel is Myrnin?"
"I don’t know," Michael said, "but definitely not here. We have to get him. Once and for all."
"We may not have much time." I pointed toward the black doorway, which was still shimmering. Maybe Claire was holding it open for us, but it was starting to get an uneven look to it. I looked toward the stairs, where the other, non-magical exit was, and for a long moment couldn’t figure out why I was seeing a wal . "Um, Mikey?"
"Where’s the regular door out of here?"
He turned and looked, too, and saw exactly what I did: a rough-poured mass of concrete that filled and blocked the stairs that led up and out.
"What the-?" He didn’t waste time on it, though, just turned back to the portal. "That’s our way out. Our only way."
"Like I said, time’s ticking, man." I was watching the portal nervously, because it seemed to be vibrating, rippling like silk in a strong wind. Not good, or at least I assumed it wasn’t good. "Either we go now or we’re stuck here, and my odds aren’t so good with two hungry vampires and no blood bank."