Shortly after dusk I put on my Emily the Strange sweatshirt hoodie and secured Henry's garage door opener safely inside the pouch pocket. I raced to the Mansion and tore up the broken cement stairs to the front door and anxiously rapped the serpent knocker.
Alexander opened the door. I was greeted by my handsome boyfriend, standing in a black-and-white bowling shirt and black jeans with hanging silver chains, wearing a smile that could melt any sixteen-year-old vampire-obsessed goth. Before he even had a chance to say hello, I blurted out, "I've got major news. I've found the coffins!"
"That's awesome! Where?"
"I'll show you," I said, grabbing his hand and leading him out of the Mansion and toward the Mercedes.
Alexander drove me to the edge of the Oakley Woods, and we hopped out of the car. "Jagger's hearse was right here," I said, pointing to a pile of wood chips.
We followed fresh tire marks leading out of the woods, which turned into muddy tracks heading up the street.
"They must have left in the hearse. If we move quickly, we can remove the coffins." Alexander parked the Mercedes outside Henry's house and we crept through the backyard.
"There it is," I said proudly, pointing to the treehouse.
Alexander and I watched for any signs that Jagger and Luna might still be inside. There were no candles flickering, or movement from the white-curtained windows.
"This is the pulley Henry used to hoist his furniture into the treehouse," I whispered, holding the dangling rope. "Jagger must have used it, too. This is how we'll get the caskets down."
"Stay here," Alexander said. "If you see anything, don't hesitate to take off. I can handle myself."
I glanced around. "But--"
When I turned back, Alexander was gone.
Once again Alexander was protecting me. Didn't he know we could move the coffins quicker if we both helped? I searched around the tree and found no signs of Luna or Jagger.
I tiptoed up the ladder and entered the treehouse.
"What are you doing up here?" Alexander asked. "I thought we had an agreement."
"We did. But I missed you," I said, giving him a quick hug. "Besides, I've been up here before and I can show you around."
Alexander shook his head, went to the window, and peered out.
"We don't have much time," he said. "Where are they hiding? In the petri dishes?" "No, silly." I pulled the black curtain open.
The darkened room was different from what I'd seen a few hours earlier--the coffin lids were open!
I peeked into Luna's casket. It held a neatly made pink satin comforter with a black lace border, a pink faux fur pillow, and a black Scare Bear plush.
The gravestone etchings Alexander and I had seen at the linen factory lining the rustic elevator were now tacked up to the slanting treehouse walls. The antique candelabra and pewter goblet Jagger had used at Dullsville's cemetery during his attempted covenant ceremony were resting on the floor. A black duffel bag and a Little Nancy Nightmare backpack were shoved in the corner. Next to them was an open box from the Coffin Club, loaded with blood-filled amulets from the mortal clubsters--the only way for the pair to survive without drawing attention or blood from Dullsville's mortals. Then I noticed a blood-red party-size cooler. I knelt beside it and fingered the edge of the white Styrofoam lid. What was being chilled inside? Packets or bottles of blood? Transplanted organs? A human head? I took a breath and began to lift the lid.
"Raven!" Alexander said.
I almost jumped out of my own pale skin.
"I need you to hold the door open for me," Alexander whispered. "I'll have to drag the coffins through."
"Let me help you," I offered.
"I'll do it," he said, always the gentleman. "I don't want you to hurt yourself."
Alexander started to close Jagger's coffin lid when we heard voices coming from outside.
"That might be Henry and Billy Boy," I said. "We can't let them up here." "Stay here. I'll divert them."
I hid in the shadows and, naturally curious, began to further search the teen vampires' hideout. A plastic end table was turned into a goth makeup counter. I examined Luna's neatly arranged pink and black eye shadows, gray lipsticks, and mud-colored glosses. I opened a small bottle of Cotton Candy nail polish.
"So how do you like being a vampire?"
I dropped the nail polish and quickly turned around.
Jagger, wearing a white "Bite Me, I'm Transylvanian" T-shirt and black army fatigues, was standing before me.
"What are you doing here?" I questioned.
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" he asked. His white hair hung in his face.
"I was just leaving--"
"I thought you'd be happy to see me. After all, haven't you been spending the last few days searching for me?"
I stepped back and looked away from his blue and green hypnotic eyes. I didn't want to return to Dullsville's cemetery with him again.
"Luna claimed she saw you reflected in the Fun House's Hall of Mirrors," he said, walking closer.
I paused. I could barely breathe. I looked at the white-curtained window, planning to make my escape.
"But I knew better," he continued. "You might fool her with those circus mirrors, but not me. I saw Alexander bite you and transform you right in front of my eyes. I regretted the day I didn't get to you first." I breathed again. But only for a moment as he inched toward me.
"Isn't Sterling fulfilling your darkest needs?" he whispered. "I thought you got what you wanted."
"Then you wouldn't be here, now would you? Sterling's not cut out for what you really desire, is he? That's why you are trying to find me."
I paused. I stepped past him, but he grabbed my hand.
He lifted it. "You have very long love veins," he said, running his finger along a skinny horizontal blue vein, his black painted fingernail in sharp contrast to my pasty skin. "See here, how it splinters off? As if you were pursuing a path with one love, but then you chose another."
"I used to be crazy about Marilyn Manson. Now I love Alexander," I said sharply.
He held my hand tighter. "We are the same now, you and I."
"We never were, nor will we ever be, the same," I argued.
Jagger didn't seem convinced.
"How about we share a drink together?" he asked, lifting my wrist to his mouth. "Then we will be closer than ever."
I quickly jerked my arm away. "Alexander quenches any thirst I have."
"Is it everything you thought it would be? Being a princess of the night?"
"Why don't you ask Luna."
Then it hit me: If Jagger was here, where was his twin sister? I raced past him, out to the deck of the treehouse, and looked out to the yard. Alexander was searching the poolside grounds.
A few yards from the treehouse, I thought I saw some long white hair poking out from behind one of the trees.
I turned around, expecting to find Jagger mischievously grinning. But he was no longer standing behind me.
Instead I saw Jagger and Luna darting from underneath the treehouse, through the backyard, toward my unsuspecting boyfriend.
"Alexander!" I called.
I was too far away to reach Alexander before they did. And what could I do against two real vampires, anyway? How could a mortal goth stop them?
Then I remembered. "Alexander--cover yourself! With a towel! Now!" I shouted.
He looked confused but snatched a folded beach towel from a lounge chair, crouched down, and enveloped himself with it.
I pulled my hoodie over my head and drew the strings tightly shut.
I grabbed the garage door opener from my pocket and pointed it at Henry's house.
I took a deep breath and pressed my finger on the silver button as hard as I could.
The lights burst on, illuminating the entire backyard, including Jagger and Luna.
The two vampires stopped dead in their tracks. The sudden burst of bright light was like kryptonite. They shielded their pale faces with their skinny bleach white arms. They each hissed and fled into the darkness. I flew down the ladder and raced to the pool deck. Breathless, I finally reached Alexander, still covered, on a lounge chair.
I aimed the garage door opener at the house again, pressed the silver button, and the once-illuminated backyard turned black.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I could see Alexander, his hair tousled, a towel by his side.
"Quick thinking," he complimented, and gave me a long kiss.
"We better get out of here--," I said.
"Jagger will be more determined than ever to get Trevor now that he knows we've found his hideout. They won't wait much longer."