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The Chosen (Chapter 7)

By the time Rashel intercepted the girl, the truck was already braking to turn around. Someone was

shouting, "She's out! We lost one!"

"This way!" Rashel said, reaching toward the girl with one hand and gesturing with the other.

Up close, she could see that the girl was small, with disheveled blond hair falling over her forehead. Her

chest was heaving. Instead of looking grateful, she seemed terrified by Rashel's arrival. She stared at

Rashel a moment, then she tried to dart away.

Rashel snagged her in midlunge. 'Tm your friend! Come on! We've got to go between streets, where the

truck can't follow us."

The truck was finishing its turn. Headlights swept toward them. Rashel looped an arm around the girl's

waist and took off at a dead run.

The blond girl was carried along. She whimpered but she ran, too.

Rashel was heading for the area between two of the warehouses. She knew that if there really were

vampires in that truck, her only chance was to get herself and the blond girl to her car. The vampires

could run much faster than any human.

She'd picked these two warehouses because the chain-link fence behind them wasn't too high and had

no barbed wire at the top. As they reached it, Rashel gave the girl a little shove. "Climb!"

"I can't!" The girl was trembling and gasping. Rashel looked her over and realized that it was probably

the literal truth. The girl didn't look as if she'd ever climbed anything in her life. She was wearing what

seemed to be party clothes and high heels.

Rashel saw the truck's headlights in the street and heard the engine slowing.

"You have to!" she said. "Unless you want to go back with them." She interlocked her fingers, making a

step with her hands. "Here! Put your foot here and then just try to grab on when I bounce you up."

The girl looked too scared not to try. She put her foot in Rashel's hand-just as the headlights switched

off.

It was what Rashel had expected. The darkness was an advantage to the vampires; they could see much

better in it than humans. They were going to follow on foot.

Rashel took a breath, then heaved upward explosively as she exhaled. The blond girl went sailing toward

the top of the fence with a shriek.

A bare instant later, Rashel launched herself at the top of the fence, grabbed it, and swung her legs over.

She dropped to the ground almost noiselessly and held her arms up to the blond girl.

'Let go! I'll catch you."

The girl, who was clambering awkwardly over the top, looked over her shoulder. "I can't-"

"Do it!"

The girl dropped. Rashel broke her fall, set her on her feet, and grabbed her arm above the elbow.

"Come on!"

As they ran, Rashel scanned the buildings around them. She needed a corner, someplace where she

could get the girl behind her and safe. She could defend a corner-if there weren't more than two or three

vampires.

"How many of them are there?" she asked the girl.

"Huh?" The girl was gasping.

"How-many-are-there?"

"I don't know, and I can't run anymore!" The girl staggered to a halt and bent double, hands on her

knees, trying to get her breath back. "My legs… are just like jelly."

It was no use, Rashel realized in dismay. She couldn't expect this bit of blond fluff to out-sprint a

vampire. But if they stopped here in the open, they were dead. She cast a desperate look around.

Then she saw it. A Bostonian tradition-an abandoned car. In this city, if you got tired of your car you

just junked it on the nearest embankment. Rashel blessed the unknown benefactor who'd left this one.

Now, if only they could get in….

"This way!" She didn't wait for the girl to protest, but grabbed her and dragged her. "Come on, you can

do it! Make it to that car and you don't have to run anymore."

The words seemed to inspire the girl into a last effort. They reached the car and Rashel saw that one of

the back windows was broken out cleanly.

"In!"

The girl was small-boned and went through the window easily. Rashel dove after her. Then she shoved

her down into the leg space in front of the seat and hissed, "Don't make a sound."

She lay tensely, listening. She barely had time to breathe twice before she heard footsteps.

Soft footsteps, stealthy as a prowling tiger's. Vampire footsteps. Rashel held her breath and waited.

Closer, closer… Rashel could feel the other girl shaking. She watched the dark ceiling of the car and

tried to plan a defense if they were caught.

The footsteps were right outside now. She heard the grate of glass not ten feet from the car door.

Just please don't let them have a werewolf with them, she thought. Vampires might see and hear better

than humans, but a werewolf could sniff its prey out. It couldn't possibly miss the smell of humans in the

car.

Outside, the footsteps paused, and Rashel's heart sank. Eyes open, she silently put her hand on her

sword.

And then she heard the footsteps moving quickly-away. She listened as they faded, keeping utterly still.

Then she kept still some more, while she counted to two hundred.

Then, very carefully, she sat up and looked around.

No sight or sound of vampires.

"Can I please get up now?" came a small whimpering voice from the floor.

"If you keep quiet," Rashel whispered. "They still may be somewhere nearby. We're going to have to get

to my car without them catching us."

"Anything, as long as I don't have to run," the girl said plaintively, emerging from the floor more

disheveled than ever. "Have you ever tried to run in four-inch heels?"

"I never wear heels," Rashel murmured, scanning up and down the street. "Okay, I'll get out first, then

you come through."

She slid out the window feet-first. The girl stuck her head through. "Don't you ever use doors?"

"Sh. Come on," Rashel whispered. She led the way through the dark streets, moving from shadow to

shadow. At least the girl could walk softly, she thought. And she had a sense of humor even in danger.

That was rare.

Rashel drew a breath of relief when they reached the narrow twisting alley where her Saturn was

parked. They weren't safe yet, though. She wanted to get the blond girl out of Mission Hill.

"Where do you live?" she said, as she started the engine. When there was no answer, she turned. The

girl was staring at her with open uneasiness.

"Uh, how come you're dressed like that? And who are you, anyway? I mean, I'm glad you saved me-but

I don't understand anything."

Rashel hesitated. She needed information from this girl, and that was going to take time-and trust. With

sudden decision she unwound her scarf, one-handed, until her face was exposed. "Like I said, I'm a

friend. But first just tell me: do you know what kind of people had you in that truck?"

The girl turned away. She was already shivering with cold; now she shivered harder. "They weren't

people. They were… ugh."

"Then you do know. Well, I'm one of the people that hunts down that kind of people."

The girl looked from Rashel's face to the sheathed sword that rested between them. Her jaw dropped.

"Oh, my God! You're Buffy the Vampire Slayer!"

"Huh? Oh." Rashel had missed the movie. "Right. Actually, you can call me Rashel. And you're… ?"

"Daphne Childs. And I live in Somerville, but I don't want to go home."

"Well, that's fine, because I want to talk to you. Let's find a Dunkin' Donuts."

Rashel found one outside of Boston, a safe one she knew had no Night World connections. She pulled a

coat on over her black ninja outfit and lent Daphne a spare sweater from the trunk of her car. Then they

went inside and ordered jelly sticks and hot chocolate.

"Now," Rashel said. "Tell me what happened. How did you end up in that truck?"

Daphne cupped her hands around her hot chocolate. "It was all so horrible…"

"I know." Rashel tried to make her voice soothing. She hadn't had much practice at it. "Try to tell me

anyway. Start at the beginning."

"Okay, well, it started at the Crypt."

"Uh, as in 'Tales from the…'? Or as in the Old Burial Ground?"

"As in the club on Prentiss Street. It's this underground club, and I mean really underground. I mean,

nobody seems to know about it except the people who go there, and they're all our age. Sixteen or

seventeen. I never see any adults, not even DJs."

"Go on." Rashel was listening intently. The Night People had clubs, usually carefully hidden from humans.

Could Daphne have wandered into one?

"Well. It's extremely and seriously cool-or at least that's what I thought. They have some amazing music.

I mean, it's beyond doom, it's beyond goth, it's sort of like void rock. Just listening to it makes you go all

weird and bodiless. And the whole place is decorated like this post-apocalypse wasteland. Or maybe

like the underworld…." Daphne stared off into the distance. Her eyes, a very deep cornflower blue

under heavy lashes, looked wistful and almost hypnotized.

Rashel poked her and chocolate slopped onto the table. "Reminisce about it later. What kind of people

were in the club? Vampires?"

"Oh, no." Daphne looked shocked. "Just regular kids. I know some from my school. And there's lots of

runaways, I guess. Street kids, you know."

Rashel blinked. "Runaways…"

"Yeah. They're mostly very cool, except the ones who do drugs. Those are spooky."

An illegal club full of runaway kids, some of whom would probably do anything for drugs. Rashel could

feel her skin tingling.

I think I've stumbled onto something big.

"Anyway," Daphne was going on, "I'd been going there for about three weeks, you know, whenever I

could get away from home-"

"You didn't tell your parents about it," Rashel guessed flatly.

"Are you joking? It's not a place you tell parents about. Anyway, my family doesn't care where I go. I've

got four sisters and two brothers and my mom and my step-dad are getting divorced… they don't even

notice when I'm gone." "Go on," Rashel said grimly. "Well, there was this guy." Daphne's cornflower eyes

looked wistful again. "This guy who was really gorgeous, and really mysterious, and really just-just

different from anybody I ever met. And I thought he was maybe interested in me, because I saw him

looking at me once or twice, so I sort of joined the girls who were always hanging around him. We used

to talk about weird things."

"Like?"

"Oh, like surrendering yourself to the darkness and stuff. It was like the music, you know-we were all

really into death. Like what would be the most horrible way to die, what would be the most awful torture

you could live through, what you look like when you're in your grave. Stuff like that."

"For God's sake, why?" Rashel couldn't disguise her revulsion.

"I don't know." All at once, Daphne looked small and sad. "I guess because most of us felt life was

pretty rotten. So you kind of face things, you know, to try to get used to them. You probably don't

understand," she added, grimacing.

Rashel did understand. With a sudden shock, she understood completely. These kids were scared and

depressed and worried about the future. They had to do something to deaden the pain… even if that

meant embracing pain. They escaped one darkness by going into another.

And am I any different? I mean, this obsession I've got with vampires… it's not exactly what you'd call

normal and healthy. I spend my whole life dealing with death.

"I'm sorry," she said, and her voice came out more gentle than when she'd been trying to soothe Daphne

before. Awkwardly, she patted the other girl's arm once. "I shouldn't have yelled. And I do understand,

actually. Please go on."

"Well." Daphne still looked defensive. "Some of the girls would write poetry about dying… and some of

them would prick themselves with pins and lick the blood off. They said they were vampires, you know.

Just pretending." She glanced warily at Rashel.

Rashel simply nodded.

"And so I talked the same way, and did the same stuff. And this guy Quinn just seemed to love it-hey,

look out!" Daphne jerked back to avoid a wave of hot chocolate. Rashel's sudden movement had

knocked her cup over.

Oh, God, what is wrong with me? Rashel thought. She said, "Sorry," through her teeth, grabbing for a

wad of napkins.

She should have been expecting it. She had been expecting it; she knew that Quinn must be involved in

this. But somehow the mention of his name had knocked the props from under her. She hadn't been able

to control her reaction.

"So," she said, still through her teeth, "the gorgeous mysterious guy was named Quinn."

"Yeah." Daphne wiped chocolate off her arm. "And I was starting to think he really liked me. He told me

to come to the club last Sunday and to meet him alone in the parking lot."

"And you did." Oh, I am going to kill him so dead, Rashel thought.

"Sure. I dressed up…" Daphne looked down at her bedraggled outfit. "Well, this did look terrific once.

So I met him and we went to his car. And then he told me that he'd chosen me. I was so happy I almost

fainted. I thought he meant for his girlfriend. And then…" Daphne trailed off again. For the first time

since she'd begun the story, she looked frightened. "Then he asked me if I really wanted to surrender to

the darkness. He made it sound so romantic."

"I bet," Rashel said. She rested her head on her hand. She could see it all now, and it was the perfect

scam. Quinn checked the girls out, discovered which would be missed and which wouldn't. He

kidnapped them from the parking lot so that no one saw them, no one even connected them with the

Crypt. Who would notice or care that certain girls stopped showing up? Girls would always be coming

and going.

And there had been nothing in the newspaper because the daylight world didn't realize that girls were

being taken. There probably wasn't even a struggle during the abduction, because these girls were willing

to go-in the beginning.

"It must have been a shock," Rashel said dryly, "to find out that there really was a darkness to surrender

to."

"Uh, yeah. Yeah, it was. But I didn't actually find that out then. I just said, sure, I wanted to. I mean, I'd

have said the same thing if he asked me did I really want to watch Lawrence Welk reruns with him. He

was that gorgeous. And he was looking at me in this totally soulful way, and I thought he was going to

kiss me. And then… I fell asleep." Daphne frowned at her paper cup.

"No, you didn't."

"I did. I know it sounds crazy, but I fell asleep and when I woke up I was in this place, this little office in

this warehouse. And I was on this iron cot with this pathetic lumpy mattress, and I was chained down. I

had chains on my ankles, just like people in jail. And Quinn was gone, and there were two other girls

chained to other cots." Without warning, Daphne began to cry.

Rashel handed her a napkin, feeling uncomfortable. "Were the girls from the Crypt, too?"

Daphne sniffed. "I don't know. They might have been. But they wouldn't talk to me. They were, like, in a

trance. They just lay there and stared at the ceiling."

"But you weren't in a trance," Rashel said thoughtfully. "Somehow you woke up from the mind control.

You must be resistant like me."

"I don't know anything about mind control. But I was so scared I pretended to be like the other girls

when this guy came to bring us food and take us to the bathroom. I just stared straight ahead like them. I

thought maybe that way I would get a chance to escape."

"Smart girl," Rashel said. "And the guy-was it Quinn?"

"No. I never saw Quinn again. It was this blond guy named Ivan from the club; I called him Ivan the

Terrible. And there was a girl who brought us food sometimes-I don't know her name, but I used to see

her at the club, too. They were like Quinn; they each had their own little group, you know."

At least two others besides Quinn, Rashel thought. Probably more.

"They didn't hurt us or anything, and the office was heated, and the food was okay-but I was so scared,"

Daphne said. "I didn't understand what was going on at all. I didn't know where Quinn was, or how I'd

gotten there, or what they were going to do with us." She swallowed.

Rashel didn't understand that last either. What were the vampires doing with the girls in the warehouse?

Obviously not killing them out of hand.

"And then last night…" Daphne's voice wobbled and she stopped to breathe. "Last night Ivan brought

this new girl in. He carried her in and put her on a cot. And… and… then he bit her. He bit her on the

neck. But it wasn't a game." The cornflower-blue eyes stared into the distance, wide with remembered

horror. "He really bit her. And blood came out and he drank it. And when he lifted his head up I saw his

teeth." She started to hyperventilate.

"It's okay. You're safe now," Rashel said.

"I didn't know! I didn't know those things were real! I thought it was all just…" Daphne shook her

head. "I didn't know," she said softly.

"Okay. I know it's a big shock. But you've been dealing with it really well. You managed to get

away from the truck, didn't you? Tell me about the truck."

"Well-that was tonight. I could tell day from night by looking at this little window high up. Ivan and the

girl came and took the chains off us and made us all get in the truck. And then I was really scared-I didn't

know where they were taking us, but I heard something about a boat. And I knew wherever it was, I

didn't want to go."

"I think you're right about that."

Daphne took another breath. "So I watched the way Ivan shut the door of the truck. He was in back

with us. And when he was looking the other way, I sort of jumped at the door and got it open. And then

I just fell out. And then I ran-I didn't know which way to go, but I knew I had to get away from them.

And then I saw you. And… I guess you saved my life." She considered. "Uh, I don't know if I

remembered to say thank you."

Rashel made a gesture of dismissal. "No problem. You saved yourself, really." She frowned, staring at a

drop of chocolate on the plastic table without seeing it.

"Well. I am grateful. Whatever they were going to do to me, I think it must have been pretty awful." A

pause, then she said, "Uh, Rashel? Do you know what they were going to do to me?"

"Hm? Oh." Rashel nodded slowly, looking up from the table. "Yes, I think so."

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