Excerpt – V-SQUAD: A NOVEL by Pamela Marcantel

The vampires at the kitchen’s entrance glanced about uncertainly.  Now that they were here, they didn’t quite know what to do.  John opened his mouth to ask Henry what the next step should be when Eddie started and said, “Hey, did you hear that?”

The others listened intently. A soft whimper came from behind a hedge a few feet away.  Too loud to be any kind of noise a vampire might make, it came from a human, and one who unquestionably was frightened.

John crept warily to the hedge and pulled aside the branches, revealing a young kitchen maid cowering on her knees, her terrified face stained with tears.

She screamed at the sight of the vampires.

The sound shattered the otherwise silent evening, and the vampires flinched at its shrillness.  John knew instinctively that upon the roof George no doubt froze at the sound and listened, all his attention fixed on the source of the disturbance.  If he heard it, there was no telling who else did as well.

With a single swift movement, John pulled the girl from the hedge before she could call out again and covered her mouth with his hand.  She tried to scream once more, but with his hand clamped over half her face she could only whimper desperately.  John looked into her wide, panicked eyes, and with a vampire’s intensity spoke beguilingly, entrancing her with the power of his voice.

“Do not be afraid. I am not going to harm you.  Do you understand?”

Already falling under his influence, the girl gave him a barely detectable nod.

“Good.  Now, you will hear nothing but the sound of my voice. When I remove my hand, you will answer me calmly and without any fear whatever.  Is that clear to you?”

Her head bobbed up and down again, and now apprehension was gone from her eyes. John removed his hand from her mouth, and asked gently, “What is your name, child?”

“Jane, sir.  Jane Lowry.”

“Delighted to meet you, Jane.  My name is John.  I’m your friend.”

Jane smiled dreamily.

“I’m also Mr. Churchill’s friend.  Is he here?”

“Yes, he is, sir.”

“Can you tell me where he is?”

“I don’t know, sir.”  Her eyes suddenly darkened and she started to become agitated all over again.  “Bad men—they—horrible-–!”

“Shh! It’s all right, Jane.  They can’t harm you.  All is well.  Are the bad men inside the house?”

She gave him a zombie-like nod.  He paused for a moment to look at his watch and gather his thoughts.

4:17.

They had lost some time leaving Southampton and what with the disturbance on the road, the trip here to the North had taken longer than the five hours he had anticipated at the outset.  Now dawn was just a little more than two hours away.  God only knew what they would find inside the house.  If they intended to survive past sunrise, they’d have to find shelter from the sun, and soon.

“Is there any place in the house that is closed off,” he wondered aloud, “where the light of day cannot enter?”

“The pantry,” Jane murmured.

“Any other place?  Think carefully.”

“They say there’s a secret room behind the fireplace in the Great Hall.”

“Do you know how to enter it?”

“No, sir.”

“One more thing, Jane.  May my friends and I enter the house?”

She nodded again.

“Would you invite us to come inside?”

“Yes, sir.  Won’t you please come into the house?”

“And my friends as well?  All of us?”  He had no way of knowing where Phil and the others were but hopefully they would have the good sense to locate a resting place rather than forge on ahead to Aylsdon.  In the event that they did make it here before the lethal dawn, they’d also need entry into the house.

As he hoped she would, Jane answered, “Yes, all of you.”

“We shall, Jane, thank you. You’re a good girl, and you’ve been a great help to us.  Now you’re going to lie down behind the verge where you were earlier, and you’re going to sleep peacefully, straight through the night.  When you awaken in the morning, you’ll remember none of the night’s events.  Do you understand?”

Another nod.  Without hesitation she returned to the hedge and reclined behind it, falling asleep immediately. The night was chilly and perhaps by morning there would be frost everywhere.  John removed his coat and placed it over her, then arranged the foliage so that she was completely hidden.

He went to the kitchen door where Eddie and Henry waited for him.  “There’s no telling where Longchamps’ men are, so when we get in there, we must maintain silence.  If we need to communicate, let’s do it by hand.”

The others nodded in agreement.  “Right, John,” said Henry.

“Eddie, I want you to get on the ceiling and move along with us.  Keep an alert eye for anyone we might not be able to see.  Understood?”

“Yeah.”

“One more thing.  If Henry senses that humans are hiding anywhere, let’s leave them where they are.  We don’t want to help Longchamps find them if he hasn’t already.”

They were with him.  Commitment shone within the eyes that stared at him through the shadows.

“Let’s go.”

He grasped the door handle and turned it.  The vampires quickly slipped inside, swords at the ready.

There to greet them was the overpowering smell of blood.

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