Authors: Abigail Drake
“Yes. He’s knocking on the door.”
I felt my temper rise. “Let me talk to him.”
Brooke hiccupped. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Put him on the phone.”
I heard their conversation, Brooke’s frightened pleading and Leo’s angry cursing. Finally, he took the phone.
“Emerson? Is this really you?” Something in his voice frightened me. He sounded like a strung-out junkie, a person on the edge.
“It’s me, Leo. What are you doing with Brooke?”
“You hurt me. You were supposed to come tonight and apologize.”
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I’d dealt with low-level crazy people before, but Leo ranked much higher. I had to handle this well, or things would turn out very poorly for Brooke.
“You have a boyfriend. I read your journal.”
I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid. I should never have written all that stuff down. I had to think fast. “You were in there, too, Leo.”
That seemed to pacify him. “There’s something between us, Emerson. You know that as much as I do. You shouldn’t fight it.”
“I thought you liked Brooke. If you don’t, just send her home. I’ll come and meet you in a few minutes.”
Leo let out a harsh laugh. “I don’t think so, Emerson. This is the plan. You come here, alone, and I’ll let this little bitch leave. If you don’t show up in thirty minutes, I am not responsible for what might occur.”
“Leo…” I began, but he hung up on me.
With wide eyes, Margaret asked, “What happened?”
I stared at my phone. “Crap. I have to go help Brooke.”
“You can’t,” said Margaret. The other girls began crowding around us.
“He’s just a Dweller, but he’s crazy. If I don’t go, he’ll hurt her.”
I tried to call Michael, but he didn’t answer, so I left a message. Margaret called Patrick, and she left a message as well. The clock ticked as time ran out quickly for, Brooke.
“Are any of the boys off tonight?” Desperately, I tried to come up with a solution that wouldn’t end up making Michael furious with me. I didn’t think there was one. Right now, the idea of Leo hurting Brooke took precedence over the idea of a Moktar coming after me on my internal fear scale.
“Sean is off,” said Audrey. “Everyone else went out.”
I groaned. This would put Sean, the youngest of the warriors, in a mighty tough position, but I didn’t have a choice. “Where is he?”
Sean was eager to help, and probably would have been eager to help with anything Audrey asked him to do, but he wanted to go out by himself. I refused.
“If Leo even sees you, he might hurt her. He can’t even know you’re there. I have to go into the pub alone.”
“I’m coming, too.” Margaret began strapping on one of Sean’s weapons belts. She wore black yoga pants, a tight black t-shirt, and tennis shoes. She’d dressed that way for our martial arts lesson, otherwise she would have had on a short skirt and hoochie-mama shoes. I tried to take the weapons belt away from her.
“You can’t. It’s too dangerous.”
Margaret gave me a stern look. “You know I can fight, Emerson, and you need my help. Remember what Sun Tzu said, ‘Our strength is in our unity.’ “
“Oh, God. You actually listened to me.”
“Yes, I did, and you were right.”
I thought about it for a second. She was an excellent fighter, and I had no idea what kind of stunt Leo might pull. With her long hair and curvy body, she could create enough of a diversion to buy me some time.
“Patrick will kill me.”
Margaret handed me a belt. It held an assortment of knives, as well as some sticks, chains, and other fun things. I took a second to get familiar with it, and then strapped it over my jeans.
“Patrick will kill me.
will kill you.” Margaret gave me a little grin.
Sean shook his head. “You’re both wrong, ladies. Patrick and Michael will kill
And it’ll be a slow, painful, and terrible death. Let’s go. We’re running out of time.”
I grabbed a black jacket from a hook on Sean’s wall, and we took off, slipping through the door of the compound and walking quickly through the dark streets of York. My heart raced. Brooke didn’t have much time left.
I traced my fingers nervously over the weapons on my belt. “Maybe I should take this off?”
Sean shook his head. “Dwellers can’t see it. It’s charmed. Keep it on, Emerson.”
I zipped up my jacket just to be sure, not wanting to risk Brooke’s life over a careless mistake. Then I took my phone out of my pocket and called the police, giving them a description of Brooke and Leo and timing it so I arrived at the pub just before they did. I also decided to describe Sean, Margaret, and myself to them. If the police saw Sean, he might get into trouble just because he looked like trouble. Safer to cover all the bases.
“That was clever,” said Sean.
I gave him a nervous smile. “I have my moments.”
The night was quiet. Most people had work or school the next day, so the King’s Head was not hopping. I peeked through the window. Brooke and Leo sat at a table in the corner. Brooke cried softly, her shoulders shaking. Leo stared at his watch. I reached for the door handle, and Margaret grabbed my arm.
“Good luck, Emerson.”
I took a deep breath, and opened the door. The inside of the pub was quaint and comfortable. I’d often come here for meat pies and beer with my friends. Tonight, only a few customers filled the booths. Most were eating. A few old men played darts. Some watched a television hanging over the bar. No one even looked at Brooke and Leo.
As soon as Brooke saw me, her face lit up. She tried to stand, but Leo pulled her back into her seat. When he saw me, he let go of her arm.
I approached the table slowly, trying to buy a bit of time. Leo seemed less like the handsome, charming guy I’d known and more like an addict. His hair was messy. He didn’t look clean. He had dark circles under his eyes and hollows in his cheeks. Something was definitely wrong with him.
I maintained eye contact, trying to calm him.
He closed his eyes briefly at the sound of my voice, like it was the sweetest thing he’d ever heard. “Emerson.” He gave me a shaky smile. “I didn’t think you’d come.”
I pulled Brooke’s arm, never breaking eye contact with Leo. She stood up, and I sat down in her chair. “Of course I came. I wanted to see you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Brooke slowly backing toward the door. Once she was outside, my body almost sagged with relief. Margaret and Sean would take care of her now.
Leo leaned forward, his hands grasping mine. “I needed to see you. I didn’t mean to frighten you the other day. I would never hurt you.” His grip tightened on my hands and I winced.
“You’re hurting me now.”
Immediately, he let go. “I’m sorry,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “I had to talk with you. There is so much I need to explain.”
“We have plenty of time.”
I lied through my teeth. I already heard the faint whine of a police siren. Leo didn’t seem to notice. His golden eyes narrowed as he stared at my face. “There’s something different about you. What is it?”
I shrugged. I had no idea what he was talking about. He leaned closer, almost like trying to smell me. He grabbed the sleeve of my leather jacket.
“Where did you get this?” His voice was a growl.
I looked at him in confusion. “It belongs to a friend. I didn’t have a coat with me when Brooke called.”
His fist clenched around my wrist. “Does it belong to
Thankfully, Leo held my left wrist. I used my right hand to slide a knife out of the weapons belt.
He came so close his nose was mere inches from mine. I almost gagged. His body reeked.
“I know what is different about you. You’ve been with
You aren’t a virgin anymore.”
Spittle from his mouth hit my cheek, and I flinched. “How could you know that?”
Leo’s eyes grew sad. He suddenly looked very old and tired. “It’s written all over your pretty face. It was supposed to be me, Emerson. I should have been the first.”
He stood up just as the police came through the door. He looked at them in surprise, letting go of my arm long enough to fling over the table and block their path. As soon as the table hit the floor with a crash, he reached for my arm again, but I’d already shot to the opposite side of the room, out of his grasp. His eyes met mine, full of pain, before he turned and ran toward the back of the pub, the police right behind him. I went out the front to find my friends.
As soon as my shoes hit the cobblestones outside, I heard something that sent shivers through my heart. The roar of a Moktar echoed through the empty streets. Sean heard it, too. His face paled in the light of the streetlamp. It came from the roof of one of the buildings across the street. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
“Melo must have tracked you. Run, Emerson.”
I shook my head. Margaret and I assumed a defensive posture with our backs to Sean. I pulled Brooke behind me, the safest spot for her at the moment.
In minutes, Moktar fell from the sky like a rain made of monsters. It hadn’t been just one Moktar on the roof. It was an entire herd. They slid down gutter pipes and walls, the sound of their claws scraping against metal and stone filled the quiet night. I counted half a dozen at least, but didn’t recognize Melo among them.
“What’s going on?” Brooke breathed in short little gasps as her eyes darted around in alarm, on the verge of losing it.
“Just stay behind us, Brookie. It’ll be fine.” My voice was soft croon, as I tried to calm her. It didn’t work.
“What are those things? Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
As Brooke worked herself into a panic, I had more important things to worry about. The Moktar approached us slowly, grinning, six of them in all. They were bigger, scarier, and smellier than I remembered, but I had no time to be frightened. Brooke apparently disagreed. She screamed and tried to run away wearing heels and a silly little dress. She wouldn’t make it far.
“No, Brooke. Come back.”
I shouted her name as a Moktar grabbed her, staring at me with his creepy yellow eyes, and laughing. Brooke screamed and flailed her arms, but it had no effect. He threw her over his shoulder, smacked her once on the bottom, and disappeared up a drain spout. My eyes scanned the rooftops, desperate to catch a glimpse of her, but she was gone.
I took a deep breath and stood a little taller. I couldn’t do anything for Brooke, but I could save Margaret and Sean. There were only five Moktar left to fight. I pulled a knife from my belt and held it high. When the first Moktar attacked, I slashed him through the chest, as easy as slicing through soft butter. I grinned as he fell to the ground. I felt no remorse at all, only delight; one down, four to go.
The remaining four decided to attack at once. We were outnumbered, but only slightly. It didn’t worry me. A surge of confidence spread throughout my entire body. I didn’t know where it came from, but I knew we would win.
One of the Moktar struck, knocking Sean to the ground. Unconscious, he bled from a wound to his forehead. Margaret stood over his body protectively, and I jumped in front of her. Suddenly, two knives appeared in my hands. I didn’t remember pulling a second knife out of the belt, but there it was. I slashed and kicked, and my body moved automatically, fighting to ward off blows and cause as much harm as possible.
Pretty soon, I was no longer on the defensive. I was the aggressor, killing each Moktar so effortlessly it was almost fun. When the last one tried to run away, I chased him down the street, jumped on his back as he shimmied up a drainpipe and stabbed him in the throat before he made it past the first floor. He fell to the ground with a thud. I landed gracefully on my feet, crouched and ready to fight, but my opponents were all dead or mortally wounded. I grinned. I’d never felt so happy or so alive in my entire life.
I heard a gurgling sound from the Moktar dying at my feet. He tried to speak. I leaned closer to hear him.
“It’s too late. He’ll kill you all.”
I almost laughed. “Who?”
The Moktar’s eyes were closing, but he forced out the words. “He who can walk in the sun.”
A chill went through my body as the Moktar let out a rattling breath and died. I cleaned my bloody knife on my jeans, and turned back to the pub.
Margaret and Sean weren’t the only ones waiting there for me. Michael, Sampson, Patrick, Ryan and several other Traveller men stood next to them, watching me in disbelief. I gave them a little wave. They didn’t respond.
Michael, his hands clenched in fists and a muscle working in his jaw as he fought for control, was ten shades of furious. I’d have to deal with him later, but had more pressing concerns at the moment. We needed to move fast.
“I took care of five of them, but one got away with Brooke. We might be able to catch him if we’re quick.”
Sean shook his head. He looked woozy. “They have nests, and they’re well hidden. There’s no way we could find her. She’s gone.”
My shoulders sagged. I’d come here to save her from Leo, but failed miserably. The sad truth was she wouldn’t have even been here if it weren’t for me.
“Did you kill Melo?”
Michael’s voice was tight. He stared at a spot just above me, unable to meet my eyes. I shook my head as I checked the other weapons on my belt. I’d used almost every one of them, judging by the blood, but didn’t really have a memory of it. It had happened so fast.
Ryan jogged around from the back of the pub. “There are two dead policemen back there.”
I closed my eyes, horrified. “It’s my fault. I called them here.”
Margaret patted my arm. “If it weren’t for you, Sean and I would both be dead.”
“Was Leo killed, too?” I asked.
Ryan shook his head. “I didn’t see another body.”
Michael took charge once again. “Ryan, call the authorities. Let them know what happened. We’ll clean up the Moktar, but they’ll need to take care of the policemen.”
Sampson stared at the carnage, shaking his head. “She killed five Moktar. I’ve never heard of such a thing.”