12 A DRUDGE’S LOYALTY
HENRY DROPPED HIS VOICE to a horrified, but confused, whisper. “A knife? Or a dagger?”
They’d been talking the entire walk to school about Vlad’s recent rash of nightmares. Doing so had somehow brought Henry out of his weird shell, something that Vlad was enormously grateful for. Maybe Henry had been flaking out lately, but when Vlad needed him, his drudge was there. Vlad had told him all about Eddie’s accusations last week, and Henry had been absolutely sympathetic. Things seemed completely back to normal.
Vlad wrinkled his forehead in uncertainty. “What’s the difference?”
Henry shrugged, as if it were obvious. “One’s for eating; one’s for stabbing.”
“I don’t… know. It was a blade, double-edged with a cylindrical handle. I think it was ivory or bone or something.” The image of the weapon glinting in the candle’s low light flitted through Vlad’s imagination, sending a shiver down his spine.
“ That’s a dagger. No question about it.”
“Whatever. Anyway… then he stabbed me in the thigh. But the weird thing is, before I woke up, my leg really hurt.”
“Huh.” Henry pulled the door to the school open and held it for Vlad. After they entered, he said, “Are the nightmares always the same?”
“Pretty much.” Vlad hesitated, then moved down the hall, offering Henry a one-shouldered shrug. “Well, I mean, it’s always some guy torturing me with a knife-”
“Whatever. Like I was saying, the dreams are about a guy torturing me with some dagger-”
“-but not always the same kind of torture.”
Henry was quiet until they reached their lockers. His insightfulness was astounding. “Dude. That’s messed up.”
Vlad bit his bottom lip for a second. If it were anyone else, he wouldn’t even consider sharing his theory. But this was Henry. “Do you think maybe it could be a glimpse of the future or something?”
Henry seemed to mull this possibility over for a moment, then shrugged. “Weirder things have happened. At least, they have to you.”
He punched Vlad lightly in the shoulder. “But Vlad, who would want to tie you to a table and torture you? Aside from Snelgrove, I mean.”
After exchanging brief glances, they sighed simultaneously and said, “D’Ablo.”
Henry tossed his backpack in his locker rather roughly. “Man, what is that guy’s problem, anyway? It’s like he got picked last for dodgeball when he was a kid and is taking it out on you for the rest of your life.”
Vlad shook his head and reached for his health book. “I don’t know. He mentioned some ritual last year, some crazy idea of how he could become the Pravus by killing me. Otis and Vikas both said he was nuts, but just in case, they’re looking for the ritual pages he spoke of.”
Henry closed his locker and twisted the lock. “No offense, Vlad, but your life sucks.”
Vlad sighed and muttered, “ Tell me about it.”
Henry nodded and gestured behind Vlad with his eyes. Vlad turned and met Eddie’s crooked smile with a glare. Eddie raised his camera and snapped a picture. He’d been photographing Vlad at every opportunity since they had detention together, no longer bothering to lurk in the shadows. It was getting really, really annoying.
Luckily, Nelly had been understanding about why Vlad had ditched detention that day and explained to Snelgrove that he had been feeling under the weather. But that didn’t stop her from grounding him for two weeks after the little closet meeting with Meredith. His prison sentence was lifted as of this afternoon, and he wasn’t about to have it ruined by a close encounter of the obnoxious kind.
Vlad squeezed the book in his hands. “Eddie, when are you gonna knock it off and leave me alone?”
Eddie smirked, looking somewhat anxious. “When are you just going to admit what you are?”
Henry stepped between them, looking Eddie in the eye. Offering a nonchalant shrug, he said, “What, a vampire?”
Vlad’s heart stopped. He was pretty certain he’d died of shock and that only the aid of his locker was keeping him in a standing position.
Eddie looked almost as surprised as Vlad felt.
Henry put an arm around Eddie’s shoulders and coaxed him away from Vlad. “It’s not exactly a secret that Vlad’s the equivalent of a giant mosquito, Eddie. In fact… he’s not the only one. The whole school is full of them. And you’re their next meal.”
Eddie had grown even paler than Vlad was. Henry whipped open a classroom door and shoved Eddie inside, closing the door behind him.
Vlad threw Henry a glance. “What the hell are you doing?”
Henry smirked. “Just trust me, Vlad. Maybe we’ll scare some sense into the little weasel. Nobody messes with my friend.”
“When did you set this up?” Whatever this was. Vlad cast a nervous glance at the door after Eddie’s screams echoed into the hall.
Henry shrugged. “Dude. I’m a McMillan. It’s not like it takes a lot to get people to help me out. Especially when it comes to messing with a worm like Eddie.”
Eddie burst back out the door. The students in the room, each of whom had donned a pair of cheap plastic fangs, laughed loudly at Eddie’s abrupt exit. Eddie, realizing he’d been had, shoved Henry as hard as he could. Henry barely moved. Eddie looked furious. “What makes you so loyal to him? You know what he is!”
Henry set his jaw and tightened his muscles-he’d never liked being shoved. “Yeah, he’s a monster. Just like Dracula and Frankenstein. Just like the boogeyman in your closet, Eddie.”
Eddie lowered his voice to a growl, but didn’t retreat. If anything, he moved closer until he was right in Henry’s face. “Why are you protecting him?”
Henry cracked his knuckles, dropping all of the joking tone from his voice. “He bit me when we were eight-we bonded.”
Eddie paused, then tilted his head and smiled. “So what? Now you’re some kind of vampire’s pet?”
Henry’s shoulders lowered slightly. For a moment Vlad thought that Henry was about to walk away, that he was going to let Eddie win. But then Henry grabbed two handfuls of Eddie’s shirt and slammed him into the lockers. “Listen to me very carefully, you little speck. Vlad isn’t the dangerous one here. I am. And unless you back off and stop harassing my friend, you’re gonna find out just how dangerous I can be. You got me?”
Henry pulled him away from the lockers and slammed him against them again. When he spoke, it was more of a growl than actual words. “I’m nobody’s pet. Now get lost before you make me angry.”
After Eddie disappeared out the front doors with wide, terrified eyes darting back to Henry with every step he took, Vlad gave Henry’s shoulder a squeeze. “Dude, that was awesome. Thank-”
Henry shook him off. “Yeah, don’t mention it. Just leave me alone.”