The next evening, Kylie and Irene strolled on the beach.
Irene is looking really happy and excited, Kylie thought, studying her friend. I guess she’s made real progress with Nate. She probably thinks she’s going to win our bet.
Irene bent to pick up a horseshoe crab shell. She peered inside it, then tossed it back to the sand. “How is it going with Billy?” she asked.
Kylie sighed. “Billy has been a problem,” she admitted. “He keeps seeing vampires everywhere.”
Irene’s eyes lit up. “That is a problem!”
Both girls laughed.
“I’m meeting Nate later at Swanny’s,” Irene revealed. “I think tonight could be . . . delicious.” An evil grin spread over her face.
“I came so close last night,” Kylie told her. “So close I could taste the nectar. But . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“But what?” Irene demanded, brushing back her hair, letting the ocean wind flutter it.
Kylie shook her head. She frowned. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m so hungry, Irene. So hungry.”
Irene started to reply. But Kylie dove to the sand.
Kylie struck quickly—and grabbed a plump sea gull off the ground. She tightened her hand around its feathery throat.
The bird flapped its wings. It let out a sharp squawk.
Its cry was cut off by Kylie’s fingernails as they dug deep into its flesh and ripped out the bird’s throat.
As dark blood flowed over the white feathers, Kylie buried her face in the open wound. Slurping loudly. Drinking frantically. Pressing the warm bird over her face as she drank.
“Hey—how about sharing?” Irene demanded, reaching out her hand.
Kylie hungrily drank some more. Then she dropped the gull into Irene’s hand. Irene raised the bird’s torn body to her face and drank.
“Save some for April,” Kylie said, wiping blood off her cheeks with both hands.
“She can get her own,” Irene replied, her face buried in the dead sea gull.
• • • • •
“Jay, hi. It’s me,” Billy said, balancing the phone between his shoulder and ear. He bent over and tied his sneakers as he talked.
“How’s it going?” Jay asked dully.
“I’ve got to talk to you,” Billy replied. Jay still sounds tired, he thought with alarm. I hope I’m not too late.
“Can’t really talk now,” Jay said, so low Billy could barely hear him. “Got to meet April. I’ve got to—”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” Billy interrupted. He finished tying the sneaker and sat up, grabbing the phone.
“April?” Jay asked, confused.
“Yes. Listen to me, Jay. I know it’s hard to believe. But you’re in danger. Real danger.”
On the other end of the line, Jay let out a weak laugh.
“I’m totally serious,” Billy insisted. “Don’t laugh, Jay. Just listen to me.”
“I’m not feeling well,” Jay said, clearing his throat. “I’ve got to go, man. Really.”
“Just listen to me!” Billy insisted. “Don’t you wonder why you’re so tired? Don’t you wonder why you feel so weak? It’s because of April.”
A long silence on Jay’s end. Then, “Huh?”
“April is a vampire, Jay,” Billy declared heatedly. “I know it’s hard to believe. But she’s a vampire. She’s drinking your blood, a sip at a time. If you don’t watch out—”
“Cut it out!” Jay snapped. “I told you, I’m late. I’ve got to go. These dumb vampire jokes—”
“It’s not a joke,” Billy insisted desperately. “I told you what happened last summer. It’s happening again, Jay. You’ve got to listen. I’m trying to save your life. April will—”
“Billy, take a deep breath, man,” Jay interrupted. “Listen to me. I’m feeling tired because I have the flu or something. All this vampire talk—well . . . Are your parents there?”
“Well . . . yeah,” Billy replied.
“Have you talked with them about this vampire stuff?”
“No,” Billy told him.
“Maybe you should,” Jay urged. “Maybe you should tell them that you’re troubled by thoughts about vampires. They can help you, Billy. You really should give your parents a chance to help you.”
He thinks I’m crazy, Billy realized.
Here he is, in danger for his life—and he’s worrying about me.
“I’ve got to go,” Jay said. “April is here. At the condo. Maybe I’ll see you later, Billy.”
“No—!” Billy cried. “Don’t go! Don’t go with her, Jay! Please—!”
Billy heard a click. The phone went dead.
• • • • •
A raindrop hit Billy’s cheek. The icy bead of water trickled down his neck, making his skin tingle.
The fog seemed to be thickening. It blanketed the town, turning the street lamps into misty blurs of yellow light.
Billy turned down Main Street. He searched for Jay and April in the Pizza Cove. Not there.
Billy pushed open the door of Swanny’s ice cream parlor and arcade. The damp night disappeared immediately. Loud music blared around him. Kids were laughing and talking over the music. Bent over video games.
Nate and Irene sat on a low bench near the jukebox, clinging together. Irene had her arms around Nate’s shoulders. She was kissing him.
Billy walked quickly over to them. “Hey, do you guys know where Jay and April are?” he asked.
Irene turned. She had lipstick smeared over her mouth. Nate shot Billy an annoyed look. He signaled with both hands, as if to say, “Get lost.”
“Have you seen him?” Billy demanded.
“Not since yesterday,” Nate replied impatiently.
“I really need to find him,” Billy said. “He’s in danger.”
That caught Irene’s attention. She pulled away from Nate and raised her eyes to Billy. “Danger?”
“April is a vampire,” Billy blurted out. “I tried to warn Jay. But he won’t believe me. She’s a vampire and she’s—”
“Give it a rest, man,” Nate said impatiently. He scowled at Billy.
“No. Really—” Billy started.
Nate narrowed his eyes menacingly. “I mean it. Give this vampire stuff a rest. You’re starting to sound weird, Billy. You’re starting to sound really messed up.”
Nate turned back to Irene. She smiled at him and slid her hands behind his neck, pulling his face to hers.
No help there. Billy glanced around the arcade. He searched the crowd for Jay and April.
A familiar squeal of laughter caught his attention. Lynette. She was playing an old Ninja Turtles game at the back of the arcade, near the fire exit.
A lanky, older boy, dressed entirely in black, leaned over the game as Lynette played.
No! It’s impossible, Billy thought, recognizing the boy immediately.
A face I’ll never forget. Never.
The face of pure evil.
“Nate!” Billy cried. He grabbed Nate by the shoulder and tried to pry him away from Irene.
“Hey! Give me a break!” Nate protested angrily.
“Nate—your sister!” Billy cried. “There’s a guy over there with your sister—that guy in black—”
“Oh, that’s just Jon,” Nate told him. “I know him from last summer. He said he’d watch Lynette if I got him an early tee time tomorrow at the golf club.”
“Nate, you can’t leave Lynette with that guy!” Billy shrieked. He tugged Nate’s arm again. “He’s a vampire, Nate. I know he is! He’s a vampire! He’ll—”
“Whoa! Let go!” Nate jerked his arm away. He jumped to his feet, and loomed angrily over Billy, bumping him with his powerful chest. “Back off, Billy. I mean it.”
“Listen to me—” Billy wailed.
“You’re messed up, man,” Nate told him. “You’re seeing vampires everywhere you look. Get home, Billy. Get yourself home, okay? You’re really messed up.”
“Maybe we should help him home,” Irene suggested. “Or maybe we should get him to a doctor or something.”
“Nooo!” Billy cried. “I’m telling the truth! I’m not crazy!”
He spun away from them—in time to see the tall boy pull Lynette out the fire door in back.