* * *
The rosy light of dawn arrived long after, heralding Tuesday, June 25, 1929. Around that time, they saw Wilbur Mayo exit his lean-to, still looking under the weather. He hitched the horse up to the wagon and then loaded ice into the vehicle. It took him until well after sunup before he headed down the road.
â€œJust like I say every time I disasterfully fail at something, â€˜At least you canâ€™t say we didnâ€™t try,â€™â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI mean, heâ€™s not dead,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œThese two are,â€ Teddy said. â€œAt least you didnâ€™t steal your dadâ€™s gun.â€
â€œYes, weâ€™d better get you home,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œYou two had better â€¦ do something. I donâ€™t know. Youâ€™re on your own. Iâ€™m very scared.â€
â€œFlee the town,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œLetâ€™s play a game where I go to your house and try to talk down your father, and you go to my house and try to talk down mine,â€ Teddy said.
â€œYou donâ€™t wanna play that game!â€ Jebidiah said. â€œYouâ€™ll lose. Nobody wins that game.â€
â€œDoes anybody want to check on Vanzant again, now that itâ€™s been a night?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œIâ€™ll go,â€ Richard said.
â€œWhy do you keep wanting to look at that dead body!?!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œInvestigation!â€ Billy squeaked. â€œScience! We need to know!â€
â€œWe need to find the other ones!â€
â€œWe need to know if it worked!â€
â€œI know where they are!â€ Richard said.
â€œWe need to treat that one as taken care of until itâ€™s proven it has not been,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWe gotta prove whether it has or hasnâ€™t!â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œIf youâ€™ve already cut off the head and staked him, I think weâ€™re probably good,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œAnd if that doesnâ€™t kill him then what are we going to do?â€ Teddy said.
â€œYeah, weâ€™re screwed anyways if that doesnâ€™t work,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œLeave town?â€ Billy squeaked. â€œWe run away!â€
â€œIf we see Vanzant again â€¦â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œThose two are up **** creek,â€ Billy squeaked, pointing at Ella-Marie and Michael.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œDo you have enough money for train tickets for all of us?â€ Teddy said.
Billy did math in his head.
â€œEither way, before your father wakes up, we need to get that gun back where it belongs,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œHeâ€™s already awake,â€ Teddy said. â€œHe checks on that gun throughout the night.â€
â€œLord, if we go home now, weâ€™re gonna get our asses kicked,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWe could go to the plantation,â€ Richard said.
â€œBut I need sleep,â€ Michael said.
â€œOh, the plantation is the best place to be!â€ Jebidiah said sarcastically. â€œWe found Vanzant. We still need to find where Tommy and Christopher are during the day.â€
â€œI think I know where they are,â€ Richard said.
â€œBecause Match is digging holes in the thing and I know where they are and he was putting coffins in. They probably have bodies in them.â€
â€œDo you know â€¦ remember â€¦ where they were buried?â€
â€œYeah. It wouldnâ€™t be hard.â€
â€œMaybe thatâ€™s where we should check next. My own concern about that plan is we donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s for concurrent vampires or for future, to-be.â€
â€œWell, there was four. Assuming that Mayo is next, thatâ€™d be the fourth one.â€
â€œThat is assuming that that assumption is correct.â€
â€œUnless thereâ€™s another fourth one we donâ€™t know about.â€
â€œThere were three vampires currently,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œVanzant does not have a grave yet because I found him in his house. Three vampires currently could get three more vampires made. Thus, four graves plus Vanzant. Math. Billy.â€
â€œBilly, Vanzant couldnâ€™t have moved during the day and he was digging during the day,â€ Richard said. â€œSo, we killed them.â€
â€œNo, youâ€™re talking about Match, sir.â€
â€œAnyway, Vanzant couldnâ€™t have moved to that grave until last night.â€
â€œIâ€™m saying they were digging it for him.â€
â€œYes, but heâ€™s not in there.â€
â€œI know! Weâ€™re saying these could be graves for new vampires that are not the current breed. Not Tommy or Christopher. With three vampires, you can make three vampires more. They donâ€™t have to make one new vampires every night.â€
â€œBut how many vampires can six vampires make?â€ Teddy asked.
â€œTwelve,â€ Billy said. â€œKeep going. Iâ€™ve checked.â€
â€œDo we want to reconvene and make a plan once we are all back to the tree house?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œAssuming we all get to the tree house,â€ Teddy said.
â€œDo you want to bring the gun back?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œDo you want to encounter your father? Or just leave it?â€
â€œI think itâ€™s time I faced him,â€ Teddy said.
â€œI think thatâ€™s a bad idea, actually, sir,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œIâ€™ll take care of Isaac Newton if you donâ€™t make it out.â€
â€œFor all we know, Vanzant was the one visiting the ice man, and thatâ€™s why no one showed up,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œIs because that was Vanzantâ€™s target.â€
â€œThat makes sense,â€ Richard said. â€œWe should go check out Vanzant.â€
â€œAnd that would mean Christopher would have a target, and Jill would be Tommyâ€™s target,â€ Billy said. â€œIâ€™m just assuming.â€
â€œAssuming she let him in,â€ Richard said.
â€œWhich I highly doubt that she would,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œBut still a target,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œBecause theyâ€™re trying to make more. Thatâ€™s what the graves are for.â€
Richard was up for checking on Vanzantâ€™s body. Jebidiah, Billy, and Teddy went with him. Michael and Ella-Marie headed back towards town.
* * *
Richard and Billy crept to the window of the abandoned house. The decapitated body still lay in the dirt, the somewhat burnt head nearby. The smell of burnt meat and hair was still strong in the room. Nothing looked different.
They headed back to town.
* * *
Michael had walked through the woods, avoiding town, and went to the tree house where he flopped down on the floor and soon fell asleep.
* * *
Ella-Marie had crept into town, trying to stay hidden as best she could, and went to Spearmanâ€™s house. She saw Jill on the front porch on a blanket, laying on her belly and drawing on a piece of paper with colored wax crayons. She was wearing another nice shirt and skirt. She didnâ€™t even notice Ella-Marie.
Billy biked by Spearmanâ€™s and spotted Jill on the front porch, coloring.
â€œHey Jill, whatcha doing?â€ he squeaked at her, stopping in front of the house.
â€œBilly?â€ she said.
She stood up very quickly and brushed herself off
â€œIâ€™m drawinâ€™,â€ she said. â€œWhatchu doinâ€™?â€
â€œIâ€™m kicking around,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œHm. Well. Gossip has it that people are in trouble.â€
â€œOh yeah, you know it.â€
â€œI heard somebody tried to burn down the train station.â€
Billy made small talk, trying to see if Jill was pale or seemed under the weather, but she seemed like Jill: a little snobbish and standoffish. When Billy brought up Richard, Jill perked up a little bit and he guessed she liked the boy despite the fact that she acted like she didnâ€™t.
* * *
Teddy didnâ€™t want to go home so he, Jebidiah, and Richard met at the train station.
â€œWe need to figure out where Tommyâ€™s and â€¦ this other personâ€™s bodies are,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œItâ€™s possible theyâ€™re at the Bennett Farm and we can go there but itâ€™s big trouble if we go there, especially if we get caught, because of that shotgun, and becauseâ”€â€
â€œWell â€¦ we have a shotgun â€¦â€ Richard said.
â€œTwo shotguns doesnâ€™t make the danger of getting shot any less!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œIâ€™m probably a better shot,â€ Richard said.
â€œIncreases it, I would think,â€ Teddy said.
â€œI could go get the Springfield,â€ Richard said. â€œMy dadâ€™s Springfield.â€
â€œCould you?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI got it once!â€ Richard said.
â€œLetâ€™s just take all of the guns out of our parentsâ€™ houses,â€ Teddy mused.
â€œDo we want to check at Bennett Farm first or do we want to check on other places we think Tommy might be?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHe could be where his treasure was, I think, or he could have tried to go to the swimming hole. We havenâ€™t checked Creek Creek.â€
He mentioned looking at the train station and Richard went over to the window and peeked in. He saw the ticket booth and the waiting room. There was a door in one wall that led to a room without windows, as far as he could make out, possibly a place to store freight.
â€œI know thereâ€™s coffins on Bennett Farm,â€ Richard said.
â€œAnd if theyâ€™re recently buried, thatâ€™s a good lead,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œWe just need to be careful about being spotted.â€
â€œOr sure that Match isnâ€™t around or canâ€™t stop us.â€
â€œOther than when he was in town, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve seen him leave, ever.â€
â€œWe could ask the grocer if he knows anything. Heâ€™s seen them around.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think heâ€™ll have said anything very meaningful. And weâ€™ll just have only a window of time. It takes a while to dig up a grave too. How long did it take them to bury them?â€
â€œExactly. If that is where our vampires are then â€¦ itâ€™s going to be a very difficult time to get up in there. Weâ€™re going to have to get Match out of the way somehow and even then have a lot of time to dig up a grave. I donâ€™t know how useful thatâ€™s going to be. Thatâ€™s going to be dangerous.â€
â€œWe can check around some other places.â€
â€œIâ€™ve checked everything! Thereâ€™s nothing thatâ”€â€
â€œWe havenâ€™t checked the swimming hole or Creek Creek. He could be buried where he found the treasures.â€
â€œWhy would he be buried by the swimming hole?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. He said it was someplace that was very hard to find.â€
â€œOr it could be under somewhere heâ€™s already been.â€
â€œI mean the problem is, if heâ€™s already buried somewhere, itâ€™s going to be nigh-impossible to find him unless we know the general area heâ€™s buried in.â€
They talked about going to Creek Creek and the swimming hole though Richard didnâ€™t think someone would be buried there. Teddy didnâ€™t think they should go to the plantation until they were all together.
They were all very hungry and tired. Jebidiah suggested gathering everyone together.
* * *
Billy had gone by his house and found his grandfather there, sorting pills and such. The old man wore a scarf and Billy remembered he often got chills and put on heavier clothing, even in the summer. He got some breakfast and headed out again, going to Mrs. Pinesâ€™ house.
Mrs. Pines was looked sickly and pale.
â€œIâ€™m not feeling well, Billy,â€ Mrs. Pines said. â€œBut thank you so much for stopping by.â€
She gave him a pat on the shoulder.
â€œLet me get you some cookies,â€ she said.
When she returned with a handful of chocolate chip cookies, he saw the marks on her neck. She was very pale and her hands shook. He made some small talk.
â€œI need to go back to bed, Billy,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m not feeling well.â€
â€œHave you had any company over lately?â€ he squeaked.
â€œNo,â€ she said. â€œNope.â€
She went in and he noticed the other boys heading into the soda shop.
* * *
Ella-Marie went to the soda shop. Mr. Hicks wasnâ€™t there and Randall Spearman stood behind the soda fountain. He nodded at the girl when she came in, asking if she wanted anything. She said â€œnoâ€ and sat down at a table. He went back to his motorcar magazine and talking to himself.
She had not been there long when Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard entered. She seemed deep in thought.
â€œThis is - this is a bold move, Iâ€™d say,â€ Jebidiah said to her.
She just glared at him.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t wanna go home yet,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œâ€˜Cause I know whatâ€™s waiting for me there.â€
â€œSo, you decided on a public place where someone could verify that you were here?â€ Jebidiah said.
She frowned at him.
â€œYou boys want anything?â€ Randall Spearman said.
â€œYes,â€ Teddy said.
He asked for ice cream and candy and the other boys were very hungry as well, each of them getting some candy or ice cream. Ella-Marie had some as well. The food was quite sweet and delicious.
Jebidiah told her the only lead they had on where the other two vampires might be was the Bennett Farm. He noted they had only seen sick people but feared to let more time pass. Teddy chimed in that soon there would be too many for them to handle. Jebidiah noted they should all be together when they went to the Bennett Farm though. Ella-Marie said sheâ€™d have to get Michael.
â€œWhere is Mike?â€ Jebidiah asked.
â€œTree house,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œAh,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you go get Mike and meet us at the plantation,â€ Teddy said. â€œSee where this goes.â€
Jebidiah suggested they take shovels. Teddy thought there would be some at the plantation. Ella-Marie left to go get Michael, avoiding her mother, who was calling her from around town, apparently looking for her.
* * *
Billy headed over to the Red Bridge to look around. He was curious to see if there was any chance of someone being there. He looked for patches where someone might be buried, but didnâ€™t find anything. He looked in the Red Bridge too, without seeing anything out of the ordinary. He followed the road back to town, looking for places where a body might have been buried.
He ran into Mrs. Slayton as he came back into town. She told him she was looking for Michael and Ella-Marie. She had a couple of pieces of paper in her hand. It looked like sheâ€™d been crying.
â€œHave you seen Michael and Ella-Marie?â€ she asked again.
â€œNo maâ€™am,â€ he squeaked.
â€œI think they ran away,â€ she said. â€œI think they ran away.â€
She grabbed him by the shoulder.
â€œAre you sure, Billy?â€ she said.
â€œIâ€™m positive,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œIf you see â€˜em, just tell â€˜em to come home. Tell â€˜em to come home, please. Just please tell â€˜em to come home.â€
â€œI think the best place probably would be to wait at home in case they come theyâ€™ll find you.â€
â€œNo, but I gotta look. I been waiting all morning. I gotta look. I gotta look for â€˜em.â€
â€œIâ€™ll look for you.â€
â€œShe left me this note. And she left me this other note and I donâ€™t what this even means. This is confusing me.â€
â€œCan I see it?â€
She handed Billy the note and he read it.
â€œShe left that note,â€ Mrs. Slayton said. â€œShe left this note. Billy, if you see them, please tell them to come home. Please tell them to come home. Please tell them Iâ€™m looking for them. Just â€¦â€
She took back the note and walked away, calling for the two.
He went on to the train station and found the board nailed over the broken window. He looked around carefully but no one was around, so he used the knife to pry the board, being careful to keep his eyes open. He got the board open enough to get his arm in but the handle only rattled. It was one of those kinds of locks that needed a key to open from both sides.
He took his shirt off and used it to muffle his breaking of the next pane of glass in the door. He thought it might be enough room for him to squeeze in.
* * *
Ella-Marie found Michael asleep in the tree house.
â€œWakey wakey,â€ she said.
He moaned but didnâ€™t awaken so she slapped him in the face several times.
â€œMike, wake up,â€ she said. â€œI know youâ€™re tired but we need to meet the rest of them at the plantation.â€
As they climbed down out of the tree house, Ella-Marie noticed Billy near the train station in town. She pointed it out to Michael. The two of them headed into the woods.
* * *
The other children all met in the woods not far from the plantation. Richard led them around the building to his hiding place where he could see the graves. Match was there, digging another. It looked like he was working on the fifth grave and was about three feet in. They didnâ€™t see any sign of the shotgun.
Richard suggested sneaking into the house and getting the shotgun. Jebidiah suggested they could see if the coffin he brought out was empty but Richard pointed out he would be digging graves all day, most likely. He said once it was dark, Christopher would come by to say hello and bite all of them. Richard was adamant about trying to get the shotgun. Jebidiah asked if he even knew where it was, suggesting it might be in his room.
Eventually, Richard left them to sneak in.
* * *
Richard crept into the front door, seeing no one, and quietly crept up the stairs, avoiding the trapped step. He got up to the second floor and crept to Matchâ€™s room, where he found no shotgun. He crept back into the hallway and thought he heard a creaking noise in the room where theyâ€™d seen the horrible dead man a few days before. He went to one of the other bedrooms to hide and found there was no coffin there anymore. All was quiet.
He crept to the bedroom with the hanging man and pushed open the door. The body hung there once again, tongue black, face purple. The dead manâ€™s eyes opened once again and it reached for Richard, its arms seeming to stretch across the room at him. Then it was gone. Somehow Richard managed to keep from screaming.
He went in the room and found it completely empty. He closed the door and headed up the steps to the third floor.
* * *
Billy broke the other pane and put his shirt back on. He crawled through the hole but the broken glass on the bottom shredded his shirt and cut his belly pretty badly. He looked around and found the door to the storage room locked. He fiddled with the lock but couldnâ€™t figure out a way to get it open.
* * *
Michael suggested confronting Match. Jebidiah pointed out if they confronted him, he would just tell them they were trespassing.
â€œHe still has to explain,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œNo, he doesnâ€™t,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œBecause this is his place.â€
â€œMaybe if we can intimidate him.â€
â€œHe did seem very intimidate-able, but I donâ€™t know what weâ€™re going to get out of him.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to do anything if weâ€™re not in agreement,â€ Ella-Marie said.
Jebidiah suggested he try to get to Match and talk to him, trying to distract him. Ella-Marie said they had to do something and Jebidiah was at a loss as to where to look besides the farm and the station. Teddy thought they needed to know if there was anything in the buried caskets. Jebidiah said heâ€™d go up and try to distract the man, letting the others have some time to dig.
â€œThatâ€™s not gonna work,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œLet me - let me do it,â€ Teddy said. â€œHe wouldnâ€™t hurt a crippled kid.â€
â€œYou go down there?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYeah,â€ Teddy said. â€œLet me go talk to him.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œIf youâ€™re okay with this. Weâ€™ll have your back if he tries to do anything to you.â€
â€œI also have a topic that can probably stall him for a while.â€
Jebidiah asked if he was going to try to get him into the house or just talk to him. Teddy said heâ€™d talk to him in the house.
* * *
Teddy rolled quietly towards Match who didnâ€™t notice his approach. As Teddy got close to the edge of the hole Match was digging, he saw that Match was covered in sweat and dirt. He dug with his back to Teddy.
â€œOne of them for me?â€ Teddy said.
Match screamed. He flung the shovel straight ahead and it slammed into the side of the hole and fell at his feet. He followed it, rushing forward and crashing into the dirt before turning and putting his back to the far side of the hole. He looked up at Teddy.
â€œYou need to get outta here!â€ he said.
He scrambled up out of the hole.
â€œAnd why is that?â€ Teddy said.
Match looked around, terrified.
â€œJust go away!â€ he said. â€œGo away! Mr. â€¦ Mr. St. Jordan â€¦ he doesnâ€™t like anybody around here, and â€¦ and â€¦ and he doesnâ€™t like me when I let people around here.â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t let me around here,â€ Teddy said. â€œI just rolled on up.â€
â€œNo. You need to get out of here. You need to get out of here before you end up in the ground like the rest of â€˜em.â€
â€œWhat if thatâ€™s what I want?â€
â€œNo, you donâ€™t! You donâ€™t want that. You donâ€™t want it. Itâ€™s awful. Itâ€™s terrible. You-you-you donâ€™t want that. You donâ€™t want. It seems right. It seems good. But itâ€™s not. Itâ€™s wrong.â€
Teddy noticed the man had the bite marks on his neck but they were long scabbed over.
â€œYou-you-you-you need to go,â€ Match said. â€œWhereâ€™s that other boy? Whereâ€™s that boy?â€
â€œIâ€™m alone,â€ Teddy said.
â€œThat boy! That one! That mad boy? Where is he?â€
Match looked around desperately and described Michael.
â€œI came out here because I saw what yâ€™all did for Tommy and â€¦ I could be into that,â€ Teddy said.
â€œNo!â€ Match said.
He came around the grave towards Teddy. He grabbed the boy by the shoulders.
â€œNo!â€ he said again. â€œYou donâ€™t wanna be like him. Donâ€™t be like - you donâ€™t want - just go - just hide - donâ€™t go in the house.â€
â€œLook at my legs,â€ Teddy said.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter! No! No! No! No!â€
â€œDonâ€™t tell me my legs donâ€™t matter!â€
â€œNo! Theyâ€™re undead! Theyâ€™re not even alive. Theyâ€™re awful! Itâ€™s just terrible! Itâ€™s just terrible!â€
â€œI could be a person.â€
â€œYou are a person!â€
â€œWithout sunlight? Without warmth?â€
â€œI would count legs over sunlight.â€
â€œOh my God! Oh my God! Heâ€™s gonna hear you. He knows everything! He knows everything thatâ€™s happening! He knows who you all are and where you live!â€
â€œLet me talk to him then!â€
â€œNo no no no no no!â€
â€œWhatâ€™d you say his name was? St. Jordan!â€
â€œNo no no no no! Donâ€™t call him! Donâ€™t call him!â€
â€œIs he in the house?â€
Teddy started rolling over the uneven soil towards the house, heading for the north courtyard. Match grabbed the wheelchair, stopping him.
â€œNo no no no no!â€ he said. â€œYou donâ€™t â€¦ you donâ€™t know what itâ€™s like!â€
Teddy flopped forward out of the wheelchair and continued crawling into the courtyard. Match seemed to want to grab the youth but didnâ€™t want to touch him either.
â€œHeâ€™s not in there!â€ Match said. â€œHeâ€™s not in there. Heâ€™s not in there.â€
He shushed the boy.
â€œNo no!â€ he said as Teddy kept crawling towards the house. â€œStop! Please! Please! Please!â€
They were soon inside.
* * *
â€œLetâ€™s go!â€ Jebidiah said.
He, Ella-Marie, and Michael ran across to the graves. Jebidiah suggested they go to the first one and, as Michael started digging. Jebidiah went to the new grave and found Matchâ€™s shovel there, bringing it back to the others and handing it off to Ella-Marie. She gave him Teddyâ€™s shotgun. He held it carefully.
The other two dug as quickly as they could.
* * *
Inside, Match begged Teddy to leave, telling the boy heâ€™d send St. Jordan to his house if he did so.
â€œI donâ€™t want him coming to my house,â€ Teddy said. â€œI wanna be where heâ€™s at.â€
He refused to leave and Match seemed afraid to touch him. It was an impasse.
When Teddy thought he heard some kind of banging coming from outside, he raised his voice.
â€œSt. Jordan!â€ he called. â€œSt. Jordan!â€
Match tried to quiet him.
* * *
They dug as quickly as they could and it wasnâ€™t too terribly long, in the loose dirt, before they got down to the coffin. There were three hasps and staples upon it held closed with three padlocks. Michael climbed out and got the axe, which was on the ground next to the grave. He climbed back down and set to work chopping open the top of the coffin. It only took a few minutes, but the coffin, like the rest, proved empty.
â€œI say we go confront him now!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYep!â€ Michael said.
The two of them headed for the house, going right up onto the back porch and into the back door. Jebidiah headed for the courtyard where he thought Teddy had gone.
* * *
There was a crash as the back door of the house burst open.
â€œOh finally,â€ Teddy said. â€œHeâ€™s shown up.â€
Match wailed in terror.
Michael and Ella-Marie came into the foyer from the back while Jebidiah came from the north wing. When Match saw Michael, he screamed and ran away from them all, heading towards the south wing. All three of the children followed him, leaving Teddy behind.
Match ran through a corridor and out into the southern courtyard with Michael and Ella-Marie on his heels. Jebidiah had to stop after he passed through the courtyard at the edge of the house as he felt his lungs and his throat close up. He was having an asthma attack.
Match ran towards the graves, fleeing towards the newest one, and stooping in the tall grass there. He picked up the shotgun and pointed it at Michael. Michael flung the axe and Match fired. The blast went high, over Michaelâ€™s head. The axe struck Match in the right shoulder, cutting him and spinning up and over. The man shrieked in pain and terror.
* * *
Billy had fiddled with the lock for the room in the train station for a very long time, trying to get it open. Then he heard what sounded like a shotgun blast from out in the woods. Without a thought, he drew his daddyâ€™s pistol and blasted the door jamb where the latch met it.
* * *
Match aimed the shotgun at Michaelâ€™s head, screaming at him to go away.
Near the house, Jebidiah, unable to breathe, fired Teddyâ€™s shotgun. The blast struck Match in the right hand, blasting his hand away and striking him in the chest. He was flung backwards and crashed to the ground.
Jebidiah dropped the shotgun.
Ella-Marie ran to Match, who was gasping for breath on the ground. There was so much blood. She tried to stop the bleeding.
â€œLook, just help us!â€ she said. â€œHelp us, please!â€
Michael went to the dying man as well, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket and screaming in his face.
â€œWhere are they!?!â€
Match didnâ€™t even seem to see him.
Michael tried to help the man without luck. Ella-Marie was still trying to talk to him.
â€œPlease!â€ she said. â€œPlease. God! God, Mike! We just need to know what to do! Please, please just tell us what to do!â€
Jebidiah stumbled over to the group and pushed Michael aside. Ella-Marie still begged the man to talk to them.
Gasping horribly, Jebidiah told the dying man he knew he didnâ€™t want to be working for St. Jordan and now he had a chance to help. He said they knew how to destroy the vampires with stakes and crosses. Matchâ€™s eyes seemed to focus upon the boys own and he grabbed Jebidiah with his good arm and pulled himself up to whisper in the boyâ€™s ear.
â€œPlantation a decoy,â€ he said. â€œSt. Christopher in town. Ask â€¦ Tommy â€¦â€
The man breathed his last and loosened his grip, falling back to the ground in death. Jebidiah fell backwards and got his aerosol delivery device. He put the end in his mouth, dripped the medicine in, and pumped and pumped. He looked completely and utterly defeated. Ella-Marie put her arm on the boyâ€™s shoulder.
â€œThe plantationâ€™s a damned decoy!â€ he finally said. â€œSt. Jordanâ€™s in town somewhere. He said to ask Tommy. I donâ€™t know what the hell that means because heâ€™s a vampire now. But, if we see him again â€¦â€
He realized he had murdered a man.
* * *
Billy put his shoulder to the door and shoved it open, the latch snapping to pieces. He found a trail leading through the dust and a few crates. Then he found a large object covered with a tarp. When he pulled the tarp off, he found a coffin with hasps and staples upon it held closed with three padlocks.
He was certain Tommy was there.
He left the train station, heading for the plantation where he thought the gunfire had come from.
* * *
Richard and Teddy came out of the back of the plantation. Jebidiah told them Match had gone crazy, probably because Michael came at him with an axe. Luckily he was about to get something out of him: the plantation was all a farce. There was nothing there. St. Jordan was in town somewhere. He said Match had told him to ask Tommy. He said they needed to look every place they hadnâ€™t been town. He guessed they should search the train station.
â€œWho killed Match?â€ Teddy muttered when he saw the body. â€œWho killed him?â€
â€œItâ€™s sort of between me and Jebidiah,â€ Michael said. â€œPrimarily Jebidiah.â€
â€œYou shot him, Jebidiah?â€ Teddy said, appalled.
â€œHe did a good job!â€ Michael said smugly. â€œYou did a good job.â€
Jebidiah had put more medicine to his machine and pumped it into his lungs.
â€œHe saved my life,â€ Michael added.
He found the wood axe, which was covered in blood. Richard got Matchâ€™s shotgun, also covered in blood. They also recovered Teddyâ€™s shotgun. Jebidiah wanted to get to the train station and, if they couldnâ€™t get in, find Tim Bowman and convince him to let them in because somebody got in there. They all headed back to town. Richard headed off towards the Tallapoosa River to clean off the shotgun. The rest of them ran into Billy on the way to town. His shirt was bloody.
â€œBilly, what happened?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI found Tommy!â€ Billy squealed. â€œIâ€™m a vampire hunter!â€
â€œWhere?â€ Teddy said.
â€œHeâ€™s at the train station,â€ Billy said.
â€œThat might be â€¦â€ Jebidiah said. â€œDid you open the coffin?â€
â€œThe train station,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œNo,â€ Billy said.
â€œThatâ€™s where we need to go,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWe think that might be St. Jordan!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI thought it was Tommy,â€ Billy said. â€œThatâ€™s the last place Iâ€™d â€¦ well, thatâ€™s not the last place Iâ€™d look for him â€˜cause I went there.â€
â€œBut itâ€™s someplace itâ€™d be really hard for us to get!â€
â€œEither way. The plantation is a decoy. Thereâ€™s no reason to go back there. Itâ€™s just to fool us.â€
â€œWe got the axe? I came back to get the axe.â€
â€œAll right, letâ€™s go,â€ Jebidiah said.
They all headed back to the train station.
â€œWhatâ€™s all the blood?â€ Billy said to them.
â€œMatch,â€ Michael said.
â€œYou killed Match?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œJebidiah killed him,â€ Michael said.
â€œIâ€™m a vampire hunter,â€ Billy squeaked to Michael. â€œYouâ€™re a murderer.â€
â€œNo, Jebidiahâ€™s a murderer,â€ Michael said.
They reached the train station. The hole Billy had made was very, very small. Only Billy and Teddy could get through. Teddy put the blanket over the broken glass on the bottom of the window. Michael slid the axe in.
â€œMake sure you have stakes and crosses if youâ€™re going in,â€ Jebidiah suggested.
Billy went in first and then helped Teddy into the building as well. Ella-Marie and Michael said theyâ€™d stand guard but Jebidiah pointed out they were wanted in town by their mother. They could hear Mrs. Slayton calling to the children somewhere. Jebidiah said heâ€™d watch and try to stop anybody from coming around. He went around to the side of the station that faced the town and saw Mrs. Slayton. As she walked up, he realized he stunk of gunpowder. She didnâ€™t seem to notice.
â€œJebidiah!â€ she said. â€œJebidiah!â€
She wiped her eyes.
â€œHave you seen Michael and Ella-Marie,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m-Iâ€™m thinking Iâ€™ll have to call the sheriff. Theyâ€™re gone. I think they ran away.â€
* * *
On the other side of the building, Michael and Ella-Marie could hear every word between their mother and Jebidiah.
* * *
â€œElla-Marie left me two notes,â€ Mrs. Slayton went on. â€œI donâ€™t understand one of them at all. Have you seen either of them? Youâ€™re a good boy, Jebidiah.â€
â€œWell, I mightâ€™ve seen them around town recently,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œLast night.â€
â€œWhere?â€ Mrs. Slayton said. â€œWhere?â€
She grabbed Jebidiah by the shoulders and looked into his eyes.
â€œWhere were they?â€ she said. â€œPlease. Just tell me where they were. When was this?â€
â€œThis was around last night,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œI think it was â€¦ I think â€¦â€
â€œOh my goodness.â€
â€œI think they went out near the ice house. I only saw itâ”€â€
Ella-Marie came around the side of the building.
â€œOh!â€ Mrs. Slayton said. â€œElla-Marie!â€
â€œOh God!â€ Jebidiah said, startled.
Mrs. Slayton went to the girl and grabbed her in a hug as she started crying.
â€œMom, mom, I knowâ”€â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œDonâ€™t run away, Ella-Marie!â€ her mother cried out. â€œWe were hard on you but we were just trying to teach you to be good!â€
â€œI know, I know, I know!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œIâ€™m so sorry, ma! I left you a note. Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
She took the two notes from her mother, who just held her and cried and cried and cried.
â€œCome home,â€ she said. â€œCome home. Please just come home. Whereâ€™s Michael? Whereâ€™s Michael? Please just tell me where Michael is, Ella-Marie.â€
Michael walked around the corner and their mother called his name and pulled Ella-Marie towards the boy, embracing him as well.
Ella-Marie was engrossed in the second note. She had not written it. Jebidiah had also gotten close enough to surreptitiously read it as well. It read:
I came by to see you. Youâ€™re parents are relly mad at you. I could give you a hint about
hide and seek if you giv me food.
P.S. I kno whar Mr. SJ is too!
P.S.S. I got suck a gud hiding plac.
â€œItâ€™s a miracle!â€ Jebidiah cried out.
* * *
Billy and Teddy could hear the whole scene taking place outside.
â€œWhat a bunch of crybabies,â€ Teddy whispered.
Billy carried Teddy to the freight room and showed him the coffin.
â€œOpen it,â€ Teddy said.
Billy raised the axe up. Then he heard a train whistle in the distance and realized if he waited just a minute or so, he could use the sound of the train to muffle their breaking into the coffin.
* * *
â€œWhere did you get this letter?â€ Ella-Marie asked her mother.
â€œIt was in your room,â€ Mrs. Slayton said. â€œIt was on the floor near the window.â€
Mrs. Slayton cried and apologized and justified the punishment all at once as a train passed by the station.
â€œIf you can talk with Tommy, he might be the only one who knows,â€ Jebidiah whispered to Ella-Marie.
â€œI know that!â€ she whispered back.
â€œDo you have anything to bargain with him?â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t recommend that. That seems like a poor idea. If you have a farm animal â€¦ or something you donâ€™t mind losing â€¦â€
* * *
Billy brought the axe down on the hasps and staples, tearing each free with a single blow.
â€œBillyâ€™s the best!â€ he squeaked. â€œBillyâ€™s the best!â€
He flung the lid open to reveal another empty coffin.
Both boys looked down and the train went by. There was only a little dirt in the coffin.
* * *