There were vampires out in the daytime. Claire figured that was unusual, but she realized just how unusual when Richard Morrell, slowing the police car to a crawl, whistled.

"Olivers called out the troops," he said. "Not good for your friend. Or his father. "

The streets around the massive bulk of the old hospital were lined with carsbig cars, dark-tinted windows. Lots of police cars, too, but it was those other autos that lookedmenacing.

As did the people standing in shadows, surrounding the building. Some wore heavy coats and hats, even in the oppressive heat. There had to be at least a hundred gathered, and a lot of them were vampires.

And right in the center, standing right at the edge of the border of sunlight and shadow, stood Oliver. He was wearing a long black leather coat, and a leather broad-brimmed hat, and his hands were cased in gloves.

"Oh, man. I dont think you guys are going to do any good here," Richard said. Olivers head turned toward them, and he stepped out into the sunlight. The vampire approached, moving at a slow, leisurely pace. "Maybe I ought to take you on home."

In less time than it took to tell Richard no, Oliver had crossed the open space and jerked open the back door of the police cruiser. "Maybe you should join us instead," Oliver said, and bared his teeth in a smile. "Ah, Michael. Out of the house at last, I see. Felicitations on your birthday. I would suggest, for your own safety, that you stay strictly in the shadows this morning. Not that youll have the strength to do anything else."

And he grabbed Claire, who was sitting nearest the door, by the throat.

Claire heard Michael and Eve yelling, and felt Eve trying to hold on to her, but there was no way Eve could match Olivers strength. He simply pulled Claire out of the car like a rag doll, his fingers wrapped cruelly tight around her throat, and dragged her out into the street.

"Shane! Shane Collins!" he shouted. "I have something for you! I want you to watch this very carefully!"

Claire grabbed at his hand with both of her own, trying to pry his grip free, but it was no good. He knew just how tightly to hold on without quite crushing her throat or cutting off her breathing. She fought back another panicked bout of coughing, and tried to think of something, anything, to do.

"Im going to kill this girl," Oliver continued, "unless she swears herself to me and my service, in front of all of these witnesses. Shane, you can save her by making the same deal. You have two minutes to consider your decision."

"Why?" Claire whispered. It came out as a mouse squeak, barely audible. Oliver, who was staring at the decaying facade of the old hospital, with its weather-stained weeping angels and molding baroque stonework, turned his attention briefly to her. The morning was warm and cloudless, the sun a hot brass penny in a bright blue sky. It seemed wrong for a vampire to be out here.

He wasnt even sweating.

"Why what, Claire? Its an imprecise question. You have a better mind than that."

She fought for breath, helplessly clawing at his fingers. "Why kill Brandon?"

He lost his smile, and his eyes turned wary. "Clever," he said. "Cleverness may not be good for you after all. The question you should be asking is, why do I want your service?"

"All right," she wheezed. "Why?"

"Because Amelie has some use for you," he said. "And I am not accustomed to giving Amelie what she wants. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with history. But, sadly, Im making it your problem. Cheer up; if your boyfriend swears on your behalf, Ill keep him alive. Let you see him from time to time. Star-crossed lovers are so entertaining."

Amelie didnt seem to have much of a use for her, Claire reflected, but she didnt argue about it. Couldnt, in fact. Couldnt do much of anything but stand on tiptoe, gag for each breath, and hope that somehow, shed figure a way out of this stupid situation that shed gotten herself into. Again.

"One minute!" Oliver called. There was movement inside of the building, flickers at the windows. "Well. It appears we have a domestic disturbance."

What he meant was, Shanes dad was kicking the crap out of him. Claire struggled to see what was going on, but Olivers grip was too tight. She could see only from the corner of her eye, and what she could see wasnt good. Shane was in the doorway of the hospital, trying to get free, but someone dragged him back.

"Thirty seconds!" Oliver announced. "Well, this is coming down to the wire. Im a bit surprised, Claire. The boy really is fighting for the chance to save you. You should be very impressed."

"You should take your hands off of her, Oliver," said a voice from behind them, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a shotgun being pumped. "Seriously. Im not in a good mood, Im tired, and I just want to go home."

"Richard," Oliver said, and turned to regard him. "You look like hell, my friend. Dont you think you should go be with your family, instead of worrying about these outcasts?"

Richard stepped forward and put the shotgun under Olivers chin. "Yeah, I should. But I owe them." he said

Oliver backhanded him. Richard went flying and rolled to a limp stop on the pavement, the shotgun clattering to the ground.

"I heard you the first time," Oliver said mildly. "My, you do make friends in strange places, Claire. I suppose youll have to tell me all about that later." He raised his voice. "Times up! Claire Danvers, do you swear your life, your blood, and your service to me, now and for your lifetime, that I may command you in all things? Do say yes, my dear, because if you dont, Ill simply close my hand. Its a very messy way to go. Takes minutes for you to choke to death, and Shane gets to watch the whole thing."

Claire closed her eyes giving up "Fine, but let him go. Shane doesn't get hurt." She said

A smile spread acrossed Oliver "very good" he said then tossed Claire to the side "You hear that Shane? You're free to go, return to the glass house. I might just let you see Claire again, I know how hard you fought to save her." He then turned to Claire who was helping Richard up "Come now, Claire. I'm bored with this" He said glabbing hold of Claire "Say good bye to your friends" He said

"Bye guys, tell Shane. I'm Sorry" Claire said then was pulled of by Oliver.