"What a motivational speech, Myrnin," Amelie said sardonically. "I do hope everyone in this room who heard that can recognize what a tragic thing betrayal is." There was a note of seriousness in her voice when she said that. "However, I would like you to know that I see it as a personal affront that you kept your secretive, juvenile operation from me."
Myrnin had tact enough to look embarrassed for a fraction of a second, but then his face became smug and he seemed entirely confident. "Well, Amelie, it wouldn't have been a secret if we had told you." He looked thoughtful for a moment and then mumbled to himself, "Nor would it have been juvenile, I suspect."
She scowled, silently chastising him with all the grace of a vampire who had lived for centuries. Now Claire thought that she'd seemed angry with Myrnin, but it became irrelevant when the Founder turned on Oliver, her eyes flashing silver. "You, on the other hand, I will deal with later."
Amelie stood at the right hand of Myrnin's armchair he was in, clasping her hands in front of her. She looked sophisticated in her icy blue pantsuit with her silver hair washing down her back in soft waves. Unfortunately, the cold glare she was giving Oliver made Claire have to suppress a shudder.
Oliver's eyebrows rose.
"Oliver was not at fault." It was—to everyone's surprise—Myrnin. "All he is responsible for is getting captured by a maniac and attacking two humans as well as your fledgling because he could not control his bloodlust." Oh. So he hadn't actually been trying to be a decent person. Claire noticed Myrnin throw a taunting wink at Oliver from the side so that Amelie couldn't notice.
"Classy," Claire muttered sarcastically in Myrnin's direction. He smirked.
"Myrnin," Amelie said in warning, "you are one of the last who should be discussing self-control with me." That certainly wiped the smugness from his face, but what replaced it was shame and something darker. He must have been thinking of Ada. Claire felt a pang in her chest.
Oliver had moved next to Amelie. Beside her, he practically looked homeless. Blood—Claire's blood, which made her grossed out beyond belief—was drying down the front of his shirt, his hair was unruly, and there were visible signs of his physical injuries marked around his body in the form of bruises and burns. Still, he had the composure to make himself appear intimidating.
"Mr. Price," Amelie said, turning on the captive who had remained silent this whole time. He straightened up a bit and his indifferent expression made him look like a child who had not been paying attention during class when the teacher called on him. "It is time for us," she continued, "to come to a consensus on what your future holds and I, personally, have no qualms with bringing about your long-awaited end."
"I would be more than happy to do it, Founder," Oliver added blackly; it was the first thing he'd said out loud.
Amelie smiled humorlessly. "I have no doubt, Oliver. Myrnin? Do you have any say in the matter?"
Myrnin looked up from his distracted thinking. "Pardon?"
"Don't kill him."
Everyone's heads turned and Michael was sitting up, rubbing his temple. He looked much better than he had in the abandoned grocery store. He seemed perfectly fine again, just a little tired. But what he had said caused Claire to think that maybe he'd received some kind of brain damage. He stood up and walked over to where Price was sitting, leaving enough of a safe distance between them.
Claire frowned. "Michael?"
"At least—not yet."
Price's eyebrows rose as he gained a sudden and carefully measured amount of interest in the conversation.
"You have no word in this, child," Oliver said to Michael, glaring at him and Claire. "What makes you think that you—"
"Be silent," Amelie said to Oliver, though her eyes were trained on Michael Glass. "I wish to hear what the boy has to say."
Michael swallowed, uncertain. "Well, he's sick. He's sick and he needs help. I noticed in the store that his hands shake and twitch occasionally. He hasn't killed anyone, though, has he? I mean, there's something wrong with him up here"—he tapped the side of his head for emphasis—"but I think the bullet he took to his brain really messed him up. So was it really his fault?" He ended his argument, looking lost yet firm in his belief. "Claire? Back me up."
She frowned. "Michael, I don't think—"
He looked at her with incredulity. "What?"
"He's not okay," Claire said. "You're right, he's messed up. But it's because of a physical disability that screwed up some part of his mind."
"Myrnin's 'not okay,'" Michael said, using her words against her. "He's sick too and you help him. Why can't Price be the same?"
"Myrnin's never done anything like this!" Claire said, exasperated.
"He killed his girlfriend!" he argued, matching her tone. "Three different times!"
Claire gaped at him with disbelief. "That's not at all fair," she replied quietly.
The person in question sank low in his chair and mumbled what Claire thought was, "I would prefer to be kept out of this."
Behind Michael, Shane and Eve stirred. Eve opened her eyes first and then her hand covered her eyes. "Whoa, what's going on?"
Shane sat up. "Why are you guys fighting? Where are we?"
Claire ignored both of them and turned to Amelie, expecting to see condescension in her expression. But she was smiling at Michael—not skeptically, either. It was kind and there was something warm in it that no one in the room was used to seeing.
"I find Michael Glass' opinion worth taking into account. In fact, the argument is very weighty if you consider it." She directed her gaze toward Price and the musing smile disappeared entirely, her cold glare snapping back into place. "Mr. Price, I suggest you realize the extent of the favor the Glass boy has just done you."
Price's smile was a front, Claire saw, but he nodded without saying a word. Oliver looked surprised at Amelie's decision, bordering on angry. Myrnin just seemed relieved to no longer be the subtopic of discussion.
"You will be held in Morganville's high-security prison with visits from Dr. Goldman," Amelie continued to Price. Michael looked astonished to see that Amelie had actually listened to him. Claire knew why the Founder had, though: he had reminded her too much of Sam. "Morganville has decided to spare you."
"So, what was that back there?" Michael asked as they stepped out of the portal into the Glass House.
Claire had been thinking about it too. Price's words rang through her mind as she helped Eve. She has you on a tight leash. "I don't know."
Michael eyed her, but let it drop when he saw the internal struggle apparent on her face. Claire didn't know why she'd sided with Amelie. Maybe because losing her friends to a lunatic had scared her out of her mind and she thought he'd deserved to die. But that was extreme. Maybe she had just agreed with Amelie because it had been an easy end to the situation.
She didn't want that. Claire didn't want herself to turn into one of Amelie's mindless followers because it was easy.
"So," Eve said, cutting off Claire's thoughts, "that was intense." She looked down at her bandaged wrist and rubbed it gingerly.
"Are you guys okay?" Claire asked, looking at her friends who were pale and exhausted.
Shane kissed her cheek lovingly on his way to the kitchen. "Other than missing about two pints of blood each—" she heard the sound of the coffee pot being filled with water "—we're fine."
She let out a breath of relief that mixed with a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry that you were involved."
"It's not your fault, CB," Eve said, giving her a hug. "It would have happened anyway. I mean, we are the most popular kids in school. It makes sense that the bullies would want to get at us."
Claire tried laughing, but it sounded hollow.
Claire came into the lab today without her backpack. She went over to the workbench that Myrnin was standing over, examining a black box with a red button in the center and an antenna sticking out at the end of it. He set it on the table and frowned down at it. "Hello, Claire," he muttered, concentrating on the device in his hands.
"Is that the paralysis inducer?" she asked.
He nodded. "Price short-circuited it," he said, troubled.
"He got into your weapons room?" Myrnin nodded again, the frown deepening. "Will you be able to fix it?"
"If I can find about three new fifteen-Ohm resistors somewhere in this pile of garbage, yes." Myrnin held up a tangle of wires, resistors, clamps, and switches that was on the workbench. He set the mess back down on the table and looked up at her. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Hey," she said, her tone becoming serious, "I'm sorry about what I said in the house. For, you know, making you leave."
He gave her a smile. "You have no reason to apologize to me, dear Claire. I should be apologizing to you for making you go through that ordeal alone."
"No, it was my fault for kicking you out. I shouldn't have done that when… when I needed you."
"Then let us agree that we were both at fault and forgive ourselves for our own mistakes over the course of today." He laughed. "And just for today; if I were to try and think of all my past wrongs, I could probably never come to terms with them." Myrnin meant it lightly and was most likely referring to the terrible things he'd done to Amelie and Morganville in general (such as ordering nine waterslides and hiring construction workers to connect the pieces in a way so that there was only one slide and the entire thing was six blocks long). But Claire ignored the cheery veneer and her thoughts led her to Ada.
"Then I'm sorry that Michael said all of those things about, um, you and Ada."
His smile disappeared and his lips twisted downwards as he recalled painful memories until he remembered she was watching him. He tried to grin again, but the result of his attempt was so poor that it just broke her heart. "Yes, well, he is pardoned," he said. "We can't all be saints like you, Claire; existence would have no appeal."
She knew it wasn't much of a consolation, but Myrnin had a lot of self-hatred that she didn't think he would ever get rid of. A silence fell between them and Claire searched desperately for something to talk about so that the weight of the tension could be lifted. Maybe it was the pressure to find a thing to say, or maybe it was actually her need to discuss it, but she had to get it off her chest.
"Myrnin, I'm not one of her 'dogs,'" she said, eager for him to understand. "I'm not something she can move around on a chessboard."
He looked up at her, amusement flashing across his face. "Your main concern at the moment as far as Price is the fact that he called us dogs?" He saw her face and then forgot his pleasure at hearing her so worried. "First of all, Price had not directed the comment at you; it was to Oliver and myself. Second, even if he had fired that shoddily thought out insult at you, you would have had nothing to be fretting over. You're often the only one who has enough gall to argue with Amelie. She may not like it the majority of the time, but she certainly appreciates it—believe me, I can tell."
"But today it was Michael. He argued with her and I was just going to let her kill Price." Claire clenched her hands into fists in order to keep her voice even. "Morganville is turning me into a murderer."
Myrnin looked genuinely upset at how distressed she was. "Claire, there is no shame in letting your emotions control your actions. You're human; it is understandable. And," he added, "you could never become something as unfeeling as a murderer—you have too much heart."
Myrnin placed his hands on her shoulders affectionately. She gave him a small smile and he reciprocated the gesture. "Good then. It ails me to see you so disturbed." He picked up the tangle of circuit supplies. "Now help me with this mess of cords."
Eve was sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa that Shane was hogging as he napped on it. She was eating spaghetti that Michael had made her, listening to her boyfriend strum away on his guitar. Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door set the perfect mood to wind down to after a stress-filled day.
Claire came through the front door and Michael's A minor chord went flat as he stopped playing and watched her come in. "Hey," he said, "how is Myrnin?" Perfect manners as always, Eve thought.
The familiar feel of a portal opening coursed through the room and Eve looked over at the wall where portals usually manifested in the Glass House.
It was the Founder.
Eve punched Shane in the leg and he shot up, looking around wildly with dark unkempt hair in his eyes. He caught sight of Amelie and a curse fell out of his mouth before he could control it and, knowing Shane, he probably hadn't tried to. Claire stood up abruptly and Michael followed soon after, setting his guitar in an empty chair for the time being.
"Please, seat yourselves," Amelie said primly. She was still wearing that blue outfit from the cave under Myrnin's lab. Once Michael and Claire were in chairs, Amelie continued, "I wish to thank you all for your services in helping the town catch Price."
It was another of those Gratitude Visits, as Eve liked to call them. Gross.
"However"—Eve's eyebrows rose as she wondered what kind of twist the Ice Bitch had given this game of hers—"I demand that you contact me the next time your minds jump to the conclusion that Morganville requires you to save it from peril." Eve was impressed with her use of sarcasm, but she paused, hearing the undertone of seriousness in her voice.
So, Queen B didn't like being left out. It must have killed her to see someone like Myrnin swooping in to save the day instead of her.
Eve saluted her lazily from her spot on the floor. "Aye aye, captain. Next time Morganville does require us to save it from 'peril,' we'll definitely give you a ring." Michael shot her a warning look and she toned down her sarcasm levels.
"Claire?" Amelie said, turning to Eve's friend. "Do you understand?"
Claire nodded, looking nervous. "Yes." She went quiet for a second, but then said, "What's going to happen to Price? What exactly, I mean."
"He is to be held in the strongest cell Morganville possesses for the next decade. Theo Goldman will assist Price in adjusting to Morganville society and he will live in this town while on what you humans call probation. Should he ever decide to act out in the future as seriously as he has today, he will be put to death; two chances is one more than anyone should ever have. Leo Price will not be receiving another."
Leo Price. War veteran. Vampire. Criminal. Insane.
He was sitting in a brightly lit room on top of the small cot in the corner. Price's shirt practically glowed in juxtaposition to the stark whiteness of his cell. He leaned against the wall, trying to relax his muscles that were twitching erratically.
He had been so close. So damned close. Amelie had been standing right in front of him. And still, she was not dead. Now he was just one of her untrained pooches in a cage.
Leo bashed his head into the wall in a sudden fit of rage. He pounded his fists on the ground. He yelled wordless curses at the woman who had brought his demise. He was so angry, he wanted to slaughter every last resident in her godforsaken town. He wanted their blood dripping down his arms as he ripped out their throats and laid them in rows to bleed out—it would be an aboveground cemetery where he decided who to put to rest.
He laughed, reveling in his imagined massacre. Manic and desperate for salvation, he cackled and snickered and guffawed until he was the emptiest person in the world, void of everything but his weakening façade.
He had been molded and shaped by insanity and he was its finest result.
Leo Price. War veteran, vampire, criminal.
Please review with a final thought on this story. Thank you so much for reading.