Countess Ambrus Borsala felt her senses returning. There was a rush of pain coming from her chest. She tried to gasp, but found herself choking on blood. Her heart had resumed beating, but her left lung was still collapsed. There was a sharp twinge of pain as the point of the stake pulled back through her breast.
On a second attempt, she finally pulled in a staggering, wet breath. “Mr. Uzor,” she said. “Thank you.” Then she opened her eyes. “Oh no,” she said. “Not you.”
Jack smiled his now gap-toothed smile. “Happy to help,” he responded. “But it does look like you owe me one.”
“You could have left me.”
“I'd never do a thing like that It's already been a whole day ye been pinned there. I couldn't leave ye forever. Next time I have a chance, I'll come by your castle, and we can settle up.”
“A whole day? Where is Mr. Uzor?”
“The police took him,” William said. “They started trying to take your body down, and he wouldn't let them. There was a fight, and then they took him away in handcuffs. Then things got really nuts out there. Some kind of call came in, and they all went running to their cars. They just had the place sealed up with tape since then.”
The countess still appeared to be trying to catch her breath.
“I'm sorry, Ms. Borsala,” William told her. “I didn't want anything bad to happen. I didn't want you to get hurt, but I didn't want you to hurt my dad, either.”
“That was your father? He is very strong.”
“There's something about this Samuels family,” Jack interjected. “That man's a born monster killer if ever I seen on”
Ignoring him, William asked., “Are you really okay, Ms. Borsala?”
“I will be. Tonight I will rest, and tomorrow night, I will return to my homeland. I have done my work here. My children will free Mr. Uzor and carry out the Harvest, according to their nature.”
“Your children? Do you mean the 13. . .”
“Thirteen vampires set loose on the city streets. Tomorrow night they will dine on those who are foolish enough to be out of doors. That police call you heard must have been their doing last night. Upon my death, they awoke and set to sewing terror. Thanks to the actions of that woman. . . and your father, the Harvest has started early.”
The front door banged open, and the scarecrow suddenly came bounding in. “Goodness!” he said, looking at the chaos around him.
“Where were ye?” asked Jack.
“I was overseeing things at the graveyard. The ghouls' work is coming along nicely. However, I see things have gone to chaos without my presence.”
“It's thanks to the wee boy's da.”
William looked ashamed.
“It's alright,” Jack comforted. “A monster killer's just what we need now, isn't it, wee lad?”
The boy didn't answer.
“Have ye had any time to think about me deal?”
“Hold on now, what deal is this?” the scarecrow asked.
“I can offer the boy protection from Old Scratch,” replied Jack. “I've made him a fair deal in exchange.”
“I can protect you, William,” the scarecrow said. “Don't make any hasty choices.”
“How can you protect me?” William asked.
“I'll think of a plan.”
“Tell me now! I don't have much time. I saw him last night. He took the spirit of that asylum guy away.”
“The madman?” the scarecrow mused. “It seems that course of action has been doomed from the start.”
“Perhaps if I had put better people in charge of it,” Borsala suggested.
“Perhaps, indeed,” the scarecrow replied. “Regardless, our duty now is to protect young William.”
“I offer no protection!” the countess protested. “Tomorrow night I leave this land. Jack, come to my castle when you have time. I will repay you so that my debt will be settled, but do not expect a long stay. Hospitality has not rewarded me lately.” Then she was gone, disappearing down into the cellar where her coffin awaited.
“See ya then, Amy,” Jack chuckled.
“So,” said the scarecrow, “We need a plan for this Scratch situation.”
“I've started work already,” Jack said. “Me plan is already moving ahead.”
“What?” asked William. “I never agreed yet!”
“I knew ye'd have to eventually, boy. Ye don't want to spend eternity in that black hole.” Then he knelt down and winked at the boy, “'Sides, I weren't going to let that old man get his hands on ye either way. I done some research on ye and yer family, especially after I saw how yer ol' da handled himself last night. A letter has been dispatched.”
“What do I need to do?” William asked.
“All ye have to do is wait at the church by the cemetery. Wait in the bell tower. Old Jack's taken care of everything.”
The scarecrow turned and strode from the room, away from the conversation. He banged through the front doors once more on his way out.
“Where are you going?” William called out.
“To work out a plan that will work after Jack's fails,” the scarecrow replied. “You can count on me, William.”
William tried not to think about the fact that his fate lay in the hands of two horrendous murderers.