Vampire Crush (Page 57)

Vampire Crush(57)
Author: A.M. Robinson

Think, Sophie. Think. If he disappeared with her before fourth period, he had to take her somewhere that would have been empty since approximately one o’clock. That nixes all the rooms of the front office and the teachers’ lounge, and the library would have at least had the librarian and a few indentured study hallers. All that’s left is the cafeteria, and when I think about it, it makes sense. Today was not a Student Council day, and so it would have been free of any desperate souls doing their best to pad their college application. The cafeteria ladies clear out mid-afternoon, and so it may be the one place in the school that would have been empty when Neal says they disappeared.

Heart pounding, I start to run, taking the corners so fast that I’m lucky the halls are deserted. I burst through the doors and into the closed-down cafeteria, my footsteps echoing across the checkerboard tile. The fluorescent lights are off, and while the safety ones hanging near the front flicker dimly, the entire back half of the cafeteria is shrouded in darkness. To the front is the alcove that contains the lunch lines and, beyond that, the swinging doors that lead to the kitchens. Is it my imagination, or is there a light on behind those nautical peepholes?

As if in answer to my question, a sound rumbles up from behind the doors. This is it, I think, and I take a deep breath. Then it occurs to me that if Vlad does have Caroline tied up next to the instant mashed potatoes, I have no intelligent plan of action.

A weapon, I can at least find a weapon. But what? The cafeteria switched to plastic utensils long ago. And anyway, should I be looking for something wooden? More and more, my question-and-answer session with James is proving to be woefully inadequate. Next time I am in a room with any vampire – one that does not harbor violent and/or marital feelings toward me, of course – perhaps I should spend less time crushing on them and more time asking them to list their weaknesses.

Ignoring the escalated bump-bumping of my heart, I spot a cart of washed dishes next to the back wall and rush to inspect it. After a moment of deliberation, I grab the wooden spoon and a knife and do my best to file it into a point. Two thousand years of folklore can’t be that wrong, right? And besides, at the luau showdown, Vlad chased after Neville with a shattered piece of door. He doesn’t seem much for meta jokes.

I approach the swinging doors with as much stealth as I can manage. Pressing my ear against it, I listen for furious whispers or the struggle shuffle, but only hear a steady, persistent dripping and the low buzz of a running dishwasher. I nudge it open with my toe and peek inside – it is empty except for gleaming sinks, long metal counters, and a few large pots that must be the source of the school’s mystery chili. The light I saw comes from the two windows across the way. In a flash, I realize that there’s something else I should be noticing. The light is pale and gray. There is no sun.

Sliding across the tile, I go to the window. Thunder rumbles in the distance, and I can hear the tinny drops of rain hitting the aluminum sill. They could be anywhere. Caroline could be anywhere. I tell myself to calm down, but my chest is constricting so fast that it is difficult to think rationally. He is using her as bait, so he will not want to kill her. He still thinks I’m his ticket to the Danae, so he won’t want to kill me, either. This will be fine – I just have to keep moving.

My next step should be to see if Vlad’s car is still here. Tucking the spoon down my shirt and into my waistband, I jog back to the swinging doors. In my rush, I hit them with an ungainly smack and wince. When I open my eyes, the twin forms of Devon and Ashley are standing in front of me, side by side like a double statue. The low light plays tricks with their features, giving me the eerie sensation that I am looking at one face, one body, split in two by a magic trick gone horribly wrong. They move forward in grotesque tandem.

I stumble backward through the doors until my tailbone hits the hard edge of a metal counter. It vibrates beneath my fingers, setting off a high hum that competes with the rhythmic thumping of the dishwasher, which is sounding more and more like the rush of blood now pounding in my ears. "Where is my sister?" I ask as my hand searches for the reassuring hardness of the spoon’s handle.

They step into the light. First I see their square chins, then their lips, leeched of color and drawn into a flat line, and finally, their eyes. They are just as dead as usual – four shiny black buttons.

"I said, where is my sister?" I ask again.

The one on the left lifts his arm, and for the first time I notice that he is clutching a crumpled piece of paper. When I make no move to grab it, they step forward again. Realizing that they will not move until the delivery is complete, I flatten the note against the counter. A line of flowers and hearts dances across the top. There is only one person I know who has the guts to turn in decorated assignments. The paper is Caroline’s. The handwriting is Vlad’s. Who the dark red smudge – blood? – at the corner belongs to is anyone’s guess. I feel like throwing up as I begin to read.

Sophochka,I would be most delighted if you would join me at our special place in the forest – your sister is already here and very eager to speak with you. However, please make haste. I fear I am impatient for your company, and night is coming fast.With warm regards,Vlad

I wad the note up into a ball and throw it toward the twin who carried the letter. He doesn’t even flinch. It bounces harmlessly off his chest, which does nothing to make me feel better or scare away the tears that are threatening. Leaning back, they beckon toward the exit in an eerie parody of an opening door. Inching forward, I start to move past them, only to feel two strong hands clamp around my arms and lift me up.

Chapter Eighteen

"Let go of me, you twin freaks! I’ll go with you," I yell as they drag me across the hallway and through the darkened gym, empty now that thunderstorms have cancelled all the practices and meets. We are moving faster now; the bleachers flash past to one side as we head to the exit that leads to the athletic fields that lay in back of the school. One second we are in the gym that smells of sweat and baby powder, and the next we are outside in the wind and stinging rain, trudging across the muddy soccer field as we approach the thick block of woods from the side. The ground squishes with each step, and a crack of thunder splits the dark sky overhead as drops soak my shoulders and back. The front of my shirt is still dry, and I pray that it will stay that way so as not to expose the spoon I’ve stashed. If we’re being entirely honest, a wooden spoon is a sucky secret weapon, but for the moment it is all that I have.

We hit the line of trees, plunging us into even deeper shadow. Devon and Ashley cut through the brush as though it is nothing, but branches whip across my face. Every so often my feet scrape hard against the ground, jarring my ankles and making me feel so shaken and battered that I don’t register that we’ve reached the clearing until they throw me to the ground. I manage to catch myself two seconds before my nose hits the sopping layer of rotting leaves, but my hands sink beneath me. I tug them out of the mud and then scramble to my feet, whirling around just in time to see Devon and Ashley’s eyes focus on a spot behind me.