"You were very lucky," said Dr. Hafer. "Another minute or two and you wouldn't have made it."
You have no idea, Amber thought, but she just nodded silently.
"You're sure you don't know who attacked you?" he asked.
"Just some creep with plastic fangs," she lied. "I didn't get a very good look at him. It was dark, you know?"
Hafer nodded understandingly. "Well, if you see him again, be sure to let the police know. In the meantime, it would probably be best if you didn't go walking around condemned buildings."
"Oh, I won't," she assured him.
And I definitely won't be hanging around vampire bikers anymore, she added silently. It seemed so farfetched, so unreal; she would almost have thought it had all been just a very vivid dream--except for the bite mark on her neck.
Part of her wanted to tell the doctor the truth, but she was afraid the vampires would find out if she told anyone about them, and come back to finish the job. She was also afraid that Dr. Hafer would think she was crazy. After all, she could hardly believe it had happened, and she had been a part of it!
She was released from the hospital later that day, and took a cab back to the dilapidated one-room apartment where she lived. She had a little leftover chicken for lunch and flung herself down on the couch for a long nap.
The sun was already long set when she awoke, and the first stars were beginning to appear. She didn't dare leave her apartment, she was just sure that if she did she'd run into David and his boys again. So she stayed inside, had some buttered popcorn for dinner, and watched her now overdue copy of Back to the Future for the third time.
Amber was feeling a little bolder when she got off work the next evening. She could hardly remember what had happened with the gang she met on the Boardwalk, but she couldn't see any sign of there having been a bite mark on her neck at all, and she was starting to wonder if she hadn't just been mistaken about the whole vampire thing. She was glad she hadn't told Dr. Hafer she'd been attacked by vampires. He would definitely have thought she was delusional.
These thoughts, along with fact that she had a video overdue, encouraged her to venture out of her apartment. The sky was almost completely dark by the time she reached VideoMax, but the inside of the store was bright and welcoming. She walked inside, pausing for a moment to see what was playing on the overhead screen. She was just about to slip Back to the Future into the return slot when there was a jingle from the door, and in they came.
Amber felt the color drain from her face when she realized who it was. The only thing keeping her from bolting out the door right then was the fact that she'd have to get past them to do so, and even if she managed to do that, she would be more vulnerable outside, in the dark. So she remained standing beside the counter, watching them out of the corner of her eye.
David's trench coat disappeared from view, and she realized he was standing behind her. She turned around and found him right in front of her, staring into her face. There was a predatory gleam in his eyes, and a faint tinge of red around the edges, and it left no doubt in Amber's mind that he and the others really were vampires.
"Leave me alone," she told him. It was meant to be a command, but her voice came out thin and shaky.
"I'm not doing anything," he replied, smiling a little.
"Leave the young lady alone."
Amber felt the tension evaporate when she heard that voice. That was Max's voice, Max being the owner of the video store. Amber turned and saw him standing in the doorway to the back room, glaring at the vampires, mostly at David. His dog Thorn was at his side, hackles raised, teeth bared in a silent snarl.
"I'm not doing anything," David repeated.
"Get out of my store," Max ordered.
Amber was surprised to see the Lost Boys go. They left immediately, just climbed onto their bikes and rode away without so much as a glance backward.
"Are you all right?" Max asked her, concerned.
She realized her hands were trembling, and felt herself blush slightly.
"Oh... I'm okay."
"Those boys scared you, didn't they?"
She nodded, dropping her gaze to the cover of Back to the Future.
"I brought the movie back," she told him. "I'm sorry it's late. I had to go to the hospital."
"I'm so sorry to hear that," he responded, concerned. "I hope it was nothing serious."
"I'm okay. I'm just sorry I didn't get a chance to bring it back sooner."
"That's all right. We do have more than one copy."
Amber smiled a little. "Thanks."
The conversation should have ended there, but Amber remained standing beside the counter, and Max remained beside her.
"I guess I need to be going," she said finally.
"Business has been pretty slow tonight. I can drive you home, if you'd like," Max offered. "I can bring Thorn, too."
"Oh, that would be great," she replied, the relief evident in her eyes.
"Come on, Thorn," Max called.
Immediately, the white Shepherd bounded out from behind the counter, tail wagging. Amber petted his head and the three walked out the door together.
"Still worried about those boys?" Max asked, noticing the way she was looking around.
"Yeah," she admitted.
"Well, don't worry, they can't get you. Not when I'm around." He smiled.
Amber smiled back and watched as Thorn bounded into the back seat.
"Do you walk all the way here?" Max asked.
"Why not?" Amber shrugged, climbing into the passenger seat. "It's warm enough. Besides, I spend all day cooped up at work. By the time I get off, I need the fresh air."
"Where do you work?"
"One of the clothes stores on Pacific Avenue," she replied.
He nodded, smiling slightly.
They spent the rest of the ride in silence. Amber kept expecting to see the boys watching her from inside one of the buildings they passed on the way, but she didn't see any sign of them.
"Well, this is it," Max said at last.
She looked up and realized they had come to a stop in front of her apartment building.
"I guess it is. Thank you for the ride."
"Don't mention it."
Amber climbed out of the car and made her way up the steps to her apartment. She stepped inside, locked the door behind her, and sighed with relief.
Max pulled up outside the video store just as the boys were coming out the door. David gave him a purposeful look, as though he had something to say and this was his way of demanding Max's attention, and then all four boys slipped into the alley behind the store. Max pretended not to notice as he let Thorn out of the passenger's seat and they walked into the store. He let Thorn off his leash and said hello to Maria before coming out the back door, to the alley.
"You need to talk to me?" he asked.
"It's that girl who was in the store earlier, Amber," David told him.
"David--" Max began, in a warning tone.
David interrupted. "I know what you said about customers, but she knows about us."
Max stopped whatever he'd been about to say, looking surprised. "You're sure?"
Max sighed. No wonder she'd been so afraid of them.
"I'm not going to ask how she found out," he told David, "but how long has she known?"
"A couple days." David angled his head a little. "What do you want us to do?"
Max pursed his lips, looking thoughtful. "She can't have talked to the police yet, or we'd have noticed by now. Just keep an eye on her. Don't take action unless it's clear she plans on telling someone."
David nodded and turned to leave.
He stopped, looking back questioningly.
"Try not to frighten her so much. She may tell someone simply because she thinks you're out to get her."
David looked perplexed with this order. "Do you plan on turning her?"
David nodded again, expression thoughtful, and led his gang out onto the sidewalk. Max watched them go and sighed.
It was a shame Amber had gotten involved. He suspected that somehow it was the boys' fault, but there was nothing they could do about it now. Sooner or later they would have to turn her, for her safety as well as theirs. He just hoped she wouldn't fight them when the time came.
When Amber came home from work a few days later, she went straight to the kitchen, only to realize that she didn't have anything to eat. She glanced outside at the rapidly setting sun, mentally cursed her work schedule for putting her life in danger, and set to work making a grocery list. Hamburger, pasta, canned fruit. That should be enough until the weekend, when she could go out and buy groceries during the day.
She reached the store without incident and found the aisle with the canned fruit in record time. It was the pasta section where disaster struck.
"Whatcha doin'?" someone asked.
She jumped a little, accidentally dropping the box of pasta she'd been looking at. It fell out of her hand, by chance landing in her basket. Looking up, she found herself face to face with Paul. The others stood behind him, chuckling at her surprise.
Amber's head snapped back down and she was overcome by a sense of terror. Here they were, probably still out to get her, and no doubt just waiting for her to step out of the store so they could drag her off and murder her. But when she finally mustered the courage to meet Paul's eyes, she felt her fear begin to dissolve. Somehow, she felt that they weren't going to hurt her. Not now, anyway.
David angled his head to look into the basket. "Canned peaches and Tortellini?"
"Yeah," Amber muttered, not really sure what to make of the vampires' sudden interest in her diet.
Paul snatched the shopping list out of her pocket and held it up. Marko and Dwayne stepped up on either side of him and the three examined it closely.
"Ham-buh, pasta, fruit," Paul read out loud. "That's all?" He looked disappointed in her.
"Yeah," Amber repeated, unsure of how to react. How was one supposed to react to grocery list criticism from a vampire?
"Naw, man, you need some of this!"
He grabbed a bag of potato chips and tossed it into her basket.
"Don't," she protested.
"We're only trying to help you, Amber," David told her.
She opened her mouth to reply, then heard a low giggle behind her, and turned to see Marko and Dwayne carrying her basket off.
"Hey!" she yelped.
She took the handles in one hand, attempting to pull it away from them, only to find herself being pulled along. Marko and Dwayne barely seemed to notice the extra weight. And then Paul decided to join in, and before she knew it the three boys were racing down various aisles, throwing things into the basket while she still struggled to hold on. It was like some nightmarish parody of Supermarket Sweep.
"I think that ought to do it," Paul said at last.
He and Marko and Dwayne all looked immensely pleased with themselves. David chuckled. Amber just stared mournfully into her hand basket, which was now overflowing with various food items.
"I can't pay for all of this," she protested.
"We're paying," David replied.
She would have objected, but their eyes met for a brief second, and she felt the words die on her lips.
"Thank you," she mumbled instead, feeling slightly confused.
Dwayne and Paul worked together to lug the basket to the checkout stand, while David and Marko made sure Amber stayed with them. There was a small line waiting behind them by the time the cashier was done ringing everything up. She read the total off the cash register--it came to almost one-eighty in total--and David handed her a wad of bills. It took four bags to hold all the groceries, and even then they were full almost to bursting.
"You'll need help carrying it all home," David explained to Amber, as Marko, Paul and Dwayne took the bags.
She expected them to head for their bikes once they were out the door, but as they passed through the parking lot, she realized the bikes were nowhere to be seen. She couldn't say she was disappointed by that fact.
"No hard feelings about before?" David asked her.
She gave a slight shake of her head. She didn't understand why they were acting like this, but she was grateful that they weren't trying to kill her. She just wondered how long it would last.
It wasn't long before they reached her apartment, and the boys remained below as she climbed the stairs. She opened the door and turned back, only to find them all standing right behind her. She blinked in surprise and motioned mechanically inside.
"That's all right," David said quickly, before she could speak. "We need to get going. Nice seeing you again."
They turned to leave. Then there was a powerful blast of air, and they just... disappeared, leaving the bags at the top of the stairs.
"Bye," was all she could think to say.
It could have been her imagination, but she thought she heard a faint laugh in the distance.