He gave a tiny, almost inscrutable nod, and I relaxed. Kanin knew what was happening, what had to be done. He would take care of both Jackal and Zeke, and they could figure out what was happening in Eden, as well.
Turning back to the soldiers, I raised my hands to show they were empty and stepped forward. They surrounded me, keeping their guns trained at my center. The lead soldier eyed my companions over my shoulder, his mouth pulled into a grim line.
“You three wait right here,” he told Zeke and the others.
“Don’t move until we return.” Turning to me, he motioned us forward with his gun. “Let’s go.”
They escorted me down the road, where it became clear that something was terribly wrong in Eden.
Rows of makeshift tents and buildings lined the street, filled with humans reeking of pain, blood and fear. Lean-tos made of corrugated metal, wood or tarp had been hastily constructed into crude shelters, and people crowded together for warmth and body heat. Sometimes, a family or group didn’t even have shelter; they huddled in blankets around a lamp or fire pit, their lips blue with cold. When I’d first come here with Zeke, this had been a sparsely populated outpost, with a few long cement buildings that held military units and the checkpoint clinic, where they tested you for infection before you were allowed into Eden. That was as far as I’d gotten; a well-meaning doctor had tried treating my injuries, only to discover I didn’t have a heartbeat. I’d left immediately after, not thinking I’d ever see this place again.
“What happened here?” I asked the lead soldier. “Are all these people from Eden? What’s going on?”
“Not at liberty to say, bloodsucker.” The soldier’s voice was clipped; he was obviously on edge. People stared at us as we walked by, eyeing me with suspicion. This was probably not the best time for a vampire to arrive at Eden’s gates; nerves were shot, and tempers were already frayed thin with the chaos.
The soldiers ushered me to one of the long cement buildings, down a flight of steps, and into a small underground room. Two cells stood opposite each other in the dim light, small and cramped, and already occupied. A pair of scruffylooking men looked up from the bench in one cell, their eyes going wide when they fixed on me. The lead soldier marched to a cell, unlocked it, and yanked open the door.
“Out,” he snapped, glaring at the men in distaste. “Go on, then. Back to your zones, and stay out of trouble this time.
No one is happy, but we’re working on the problem as fast as we can. I swear, if I have to break up any more fights, I’ll start tossing people over the wall, you got that?”
“What, you mean you’re not going to let the girl stay with us?” one of the rougher-looking men drawled, peering through the bars at me. “She must be pretty special, to get a whole cell block to herself.” He leered at me, showing broken yellow teeth. “You can throw her in here with us, Sarge, we’ll be good, I promise.”
The monster perked at this, and I swallowed the sudden excitement…and fear. That would be a very, very bad idea.
Me, in a tiny cell with a pair of humans, locked in, nowhere to go. Even if these men didn’t try anything, I wasn’t sure I could control my instincts. The soldiers might come back to a massacre.
“Funny.” The soldier’s voice was cold; apparently he was thinking the same thing. Stepping back from the cell, he jerked his thumb at the stairs, glaring fiercely. “Out,” he barked again. “Both of you, get out. Now.”
The men complied. Filing out of the cells, they shuffled toward the stairs, shooting me looks that ranged from curious to hungry. One of the soldiers jabbed a gun in my direction and backed me against the wall, away from the humans passing us. They kept their guns trained on me until the men clumped up the steps, and then the lead soldier pulled back the cell door with a groan, motioning me inside.
“Move, bloodsucker.” A gun poked me in the ribs, and I went. Passing the sergeant, who watched me carefully, as if I might turn on him at the last moment, I stepped into the cell, and the door clanged shut behind me.
I took in the space in one quick glance: cement walls, heavy iron bars, no windows. That was something, at least.
I wouldn’t have to worry about the sun slinking across the floor, with me huddled in the corner, desperate to get away from it. I didn’t think I’d be able to break out of here even if I got the chance; the door and bars seemed pretty heavyduty. Kanin could probably bend them, no problem, but I wasn’t a Master vampire and didn’t have his strength. I might be stuck in here for a while.
I gazed back at the sergeant. “How long will I have to stay here?”
“Not my call, vampire.” The men seemed a little more at ease, now that iron bars separated us. “We’ll alert the proper authorities, but it’s up to them to decide what to do. I suggest you get comfortable, and don’t get any ideas. You poke one fang out of this room without authorization, I’ll have every soldier in this place shoot you full of holes. You got that?”
“Yeah.” I sighed, walking to the bench on the far wall. “I got it.”
“Good. Make sure you don’t forget.” He strode away, barking orders to his men. “Lewis, Jackson, watch this room. No one comes down here without my say-so, and if the bloodsucker so much as sneezes, I want to know about it.”
“And check out the other three—the kid and the two strangers. I want to know who they are, where they came from, everything.”
Their footsteps clomped up the stairs, their voices fading away, and I was alone in the room.
Great. I’d been afraid it would come to this, locked in a cell while I waited for the humans to decide what to do with the vampire. I hoped that, when I woke next, I wouldn’t be strapped to a bed while scientists in white coats milled around, poking me with needles and taking my blood. Like they’d done to Sarren, and all those other vampires sixty years ago.
The ones they’d turned into the rabids.
Shivering, I hugged my arms to my chest and sat on the hard metal bench, trying not to think about that. This had been a bad idea; I should’ve known not to trust the humans.
I hoped Zeke, Kanin and Jackal were all right, that they’d be smart enough not to wait for the soldiers to return. I worried most for Zeke. Would he be able to control himself in the presence of so many humans, many of them weak and vulnerable? I trusted Kanin would be able to keep him sane, but I also had my doubts that my sadistic blood brother wouldn’t say or do something that would send him over the edge.