They had left Father Purgeon’s car back at the rectory. They couldn’t use it; the police would trace it.
Sarah and Avalyn weren’t far, half a block ahead and across the street, within eyesight. Father Purgeon made sure they stayed that way. At night, the streets were dark, due to energy conservationism, and the city only provided one lucent lamppost per city block. For this reason, most of the populace remained indoors during the evening. When venturing out, denizens would hurry to their destinations before day departed, or, if nightfall trapped them, hailed cabs to whisk them through darkened streets. More venturous souls risked riding the subways.
Father Purgeon’s heart almost stopped when he thought he’d lost them, but when they emerged from the shadows and came within the vicinity of a lone lamppost’s glare, he relaxed. They were walking hand in hand, Avalyn’s oversized boots periodically tripping her up.
Father Purgeon thought about the two police officers. What had she done to them? What had they seen?
The night was cold and it would only get colder. A light drizzle added to the chill. Father Purgeon threw up his pea coat’s collar.
A few blocks later, he saw Avalyn and Sarah turn down the avenue. He followed a safe distance behind. After another couple of blocks, he saw them enter Neville’s. A few minutes later, he followed them inside.
A bell tinkled overhead as he walked in, startling him. Looking up at the bell depending from the ceiling, he smiled. Neville’s was an old-fashioned diner. Built like a trailer. Narrow and long. Curved ceilings. Every surface paneled with stainless steel. A service counter with floor-mounted stools. A row of booths. Sarah and Avalyn sat in the last booth by the preparation area against the back wall. Besides Sarah, Avalyn, and now Father Purgeon, the place was empty.
Father Purgeon slid into the booth. Avalyn was sitting by the window. The server came over to the table as the priest settled in. Before the waitress asked, Father Purgeon said, “A pot of coffee and a hot chocolate for the young lady.” She took the order and left. He didn’t care what they got. He just wanted the waitress gone. “Sorry if I seem paranoid,” he said.
“Don’t be sorry, Father. You should be,” Avalyn said.
“We’ve got to stay off the streets. I took their guns. They’ll think I killed them.”
“They’re the least of our concerns now, Father,” Sarah said. She was looking out the window. The priest caught her meaning.
“Yeah, I know,” he said, knowing what came with the night. “But just to be on the safe side, we still have to avoid the law. We don’t know if the two we left back at the rectory are the only ones under vampiric influence. We have to assume they’re not.”
“We could go to my place,” Sarah said. “They don’t know about me.”
A viable option. Still, he wasn’t entirely convinced. “I don’t know, Sarah. What makes you so sure they don’t?”
“I’m not. But I’m not suggesting anything long-term. Just for now. A couple of days at most. We could get some rest. Wash up. Pack some clothes. Buy some time.” Sarah looked at Avalyn, who nodded back in agreement.
The waitress returned with their orders. She was a middle-aged woman, once curvy now lumpy. Her silver streaked black hair, looked like dust trails coursing through a dense, bleak forest. She set down Avalyn’s hot chocolate and two empty mugs. Avalyn reached for her drink. The waitress was about to pour coffee into the mugs when Father Purgeon said, “We can take it from here.” A flash of annoyance crossed the waitress’s eyes, but she obliged and put down the carafe, “Are you guys gonna order something? Cause if not, you can’t stay here too long. There’s a minimum for sitting in the booth.”
“Don’t worry, Miss. We won’t be here long,” Father Purgeon said. He turned back to the ladies as the waitress left. “Where were we?”
“We need Roman. More than ever now,” Avalyn said.
“Obviously, we can’t go back to the rectory. Meeting him there is now impossible. How are we supposed to find him? How…”
Avalyn cut him off. “He’ll find us.”
“Really? Is that so?” Father Purgeon asked, unable to keep the notes of incredibility from his voice. “Alright. We head to Sarah’s. We’ll take the train. Not around here, though. We’ll walk a bit. Get out of the neighborhood and put some distance between ourselves and the rectory. You okay with that, Sarah?”
Avalyn looked out the window. Rain pelted the glass and streaked it. The world blurred behind it and made everything beyond the glass look opaque and distorted. Surreal and alien. Past the divide, pedestrians shuffling by looked like ghosts haunting a dead street, wavering phantoms, stretched and pulled.
“Something wrong, Avalyn?” Father Purgeon asked.
“I wasn’t supposed to do what I did to Sarah, to those two men, but I didn’t see any other way.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I showed them, what I showed Sarah, is supposed to be learned during life’s journey. What I’ve done is considered cheating to some. There are other things out there besides vampires, Father.”