Edward prowled the streets of Forks, a shadow unseen, a monster in waiting. He knew his friends did the same, each taking a corner of the small town, hovering near the highways, monitoring what they could.
The beast would come, and Edward hoped they caught him in time.
He sat on a curbside and smoked, and he thought. He thought too much about where he'd been these last few months, what he'd done, how many he had killed.
He checked his shotgun once again and thought about what the world had become, but he made no apologies for how he had dealt with it. If surviving meant he had to kill, so be it. All the better if those who crossed him were the kind of people who made the world worse simply by existing. Fighting for his own survival, he knew, sometimes had the side benefit of making the world a better place.
Still, death clung to him more tightly than his old black coat. He laughed. The coat. Meant to make it easier for him to hide, blend in, remain in the background as he went about his business by himself.
But he was by himself no more, now that he'd found Bella. And yet, it did not feel unnatural. Anything but. The idea of spending eternity with her seemed as normal to him as the reality that the earth was round, that the world had always been a complicated place, that it would remain so forever.
Midnight was coming. Edward wondered what the others were up to at this lonely hour. He found Alice and Charlie with his mind. He had no choice but to assume Bella would be OK. He knew he shouldn't worry about her, but he couldn't help himself. He was glad Charlie had insisted she be armed, despite her impressive abilities.
Gunfire interrupted his thoughts. Screams. He feared for Bella.
Edward ran toward the sound, coming from the other end of town. More shots erupted. A flurry. It came so quickly it sounded like an automatic, firing in bursts. None of his people were armed with automatics; they'd each taken a police-issue shotgun and the rest of the armor-piercing ammo in the police locker.
He passed the police station and saw a cruiser headed out, toward the screaming and the gunfire.
Charlie was the first to arrive. Edward scanned his mind. Good, Charlie was safe. Alice arrived soon after, and both Alice and Charlie greeted Bella when she arrived. The trio stayed back, but Edward knew what they saw.
He found them behind a strip mall that included a movie theater, surveying the damage.
"The fucking coward," Bella said. A severed arm lay on the ground before her, a lone tennis shoe nearby. Blood covered the walls.
"He came here for us," she said. "Why did he have to do this? To these people? They never did a fucking thing to him. Too much of a pussy to face us. To face me again."
She spat on the ground and pulled Edward's Zippo from her pocket, lighting up and blowing smoke into the air.
"There's likely more to it than that," Charlie said. "Don't-"
"The fucker," Bella said.
Edward saw Alice close her eyes and concentrate. "What do you see?"
"It's a crowd," she said. "They're surrounding us, but we're not afraid. We're smiling. Wait." She opened her eyes and smiled. "Come. This way."
She ran around to the front of the strip mall and crossed the street, stopping in front of Jimbo's Hunting Supplies. "They're in here. Come on."
She pulled the front door open, and it fell from its hinges, already destroyed. Shell casings of every shape and size littered the ground, catching the moonlight as the four vampires stepped over broken glass and a corpse and entered the shop.
Edward looked down at the dead body and realized that it was one of the Brazilian's men, decapitated. He sensed thoughts, nearly everywhere.
Bella flipped the lights on, and they all realized that they were surrounded by what looked like two to three dozen people. Each of them had a firearm pointed at the vampires. Powell, the new police chief, stood at the crowd's center.
"Thank god," the new chief said, lowering his weapon. "We thought you'd never come." The rest of the crowd lowered their weapons, too.
Edward smiled and surveyed the scene, slowly moving his eyes around the room. Each wall was covered in bullet holes, three more decapitated vampires lay on the floor, and there were cloves of garlic and crosses spread across each counter.
"Garlic doesn't work. Neither do crosses," he said.
"Yeah, we figured that out," said the chief. He lifted his rifle. "These do, though. At least for a while. It ain't 'till Becky gets 'em with the machete that they're dead, though."
Becky, Edward assumed, was the woman in the corner with arms the size of tree stumps and an eighteen-inch blade in her hands. She smiled when she saw Edward looking at her.
"Mike," Charlie said, nodding at his replacement. "You did well here."
"We lost almost a dozen men," the chief said. "It would have been worse had you all not showed up. They scattered right before you arrived."
"They're not gone," Edward said. Though he could not read the Brazilian, he felt his troops nearby. It was as if they were waiting for something.
That's it. They'd set a trap.
"They're waiting outside," Charlie said. "In the woods."
"There are at least twenty of them," Edward said.
"I'll take this," Bella said. She grabbed a pair of bandoliers from behind the counter and began stuffing it with the shells she had in her pockets. She cocked her shotgun and turned to go.
Edward went for her as she raced away, but Charlie put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
"She needs this, Edward."
Edward stopped. He knew Bella could defeat twenty vampires, no matter how ridiculous that seemed. He'd seen what she'd done in the Volturi's compound. But then, the beast had seen it too.
"Why?" he said. "If this isn't a trap, then why are they here. Why are they waiting?"
"They're learning," Charlie said. "That Brazilian? Sure, he saw what Bella did. He knows she's something special, something like him, a Shield. But he doesn't know enough. If I'm right, he'll be hiding in the shadows as Bella slaughters his men.
"The next time," Charlie said, "he'll have a better idea what he's dealing with."
Edward shook his head. "You knew?" He turned to Alice before Charlie could answer. "And you, too? You both knew this was coming?"
"Edward," Alice said. "We-"
He stopped her cold. "We could have been here to head them off."
"Get your head out of your ass, boy," Charlie said. He took Edward by the shoulders and turned him so he was facing the broken window, the street littered with dead bodies.
"You see that? Those corpses? That's nothing compared to what's coming. Nothing. If we don't stop him, he'll destroy the world, Edward. Now that the secret's out, he has no reason to hide anymore. The only thing between him and the end of the human race is us. Don't you get that?"
"So you let them attack? When you know we could have stopped it?"
"Dammit, Edward. Things may have been black and white for you these past hundred years, but that's not the way the world works. Alice and I maybe could have figured out where they'd attack, maybe when, too. And maybe, if we were lucky, we could have been here to stop it.
"But what then? Another attack in another town, and then another somewhere else. Next thing you know, all we've accomplished is weakening ourselves to keep the status quo. That's not how you change the world. That's not how you defeat evil.
"Do you think for one second that I would have let this happen in my town, to my friends, if I thought there was a single thing I could have done about it? Do you really?"
Edward stood there in silence, gritting his teeth. He knew Charlie was right, but he'd be damned if he was going to say so out loud.
"That's my dad."
Bella stood in the doorway, a cigarette dangling from her lips and black vampire blood coating her arms. Edward saw that she'd used nearly half the shotgun shells.
"Always looking at the big picture," Bella said, nodding at her father. "Always two moves ahead."
"Ok. So what's the next move, Charlie?" Edward said, unable to keep the contempt out of his voice. "And the one after that?"
"We bury these people proper," Charlie said.
"Of course," Edward said. "But what I meant -"
"I know what you meant." He looked Edward up and down, and he smiled.
"You want to know what's next? A shave and a haircut, for starters. We need to get you some fangirls."