I WAS in a cell no more than four metres by four, with a ceding maybe three metres high. There were no windows - apart from a small one set in the door - and no two-way mirrors. There were two surveillance cameras in the corners above the door, a long table with a tape recorder on it, three chairs, me - and three grim-looking police officers.

One of the officers was standing by the door, a rifle cradled tightly across his chest, eyes sharp. He hadn't told me his name - he hadn't spoken a word - but I could read it from his badge: William McKay.


The other two weren't wearing badges, but had told me their names: Con and Ivan. Con was tall, dark-faced and very lean, with a gruff manner and ready sneer. Ivan was older and thinner, with grey hair. He looked tired and spoke softly, as though the questions were exhausting him.

"Is Darren Shan your real name, like we've been told?" Ivan enquired for about the twentieth time since I'd been admitted to the holding cell. They'd been asking the same questions over and over, and showed no signs of letting up.

I didn't answer. So far I hadn't said anything.

"Or is it Darren Horston - the name you've been using recently?" Ivan asked after a few seconds of silence.

No answer.

"How about your travelling companion - Larten Crepsley or Vur Horston?"

I looked down at my hands, which were handcuffed, and said nothing. I examined the chain linking the handcuffs: steel, short, thick. I thought I'd be able to snap it if I had to, but I wasn't sure.

My ankles were cuffed as well. The chain linking my ankles had been short when I was arrested. The police left the short chain on while I was being fingerprinted and photographed, but took it off and replaced it with a longer chain soon after they locked me away securely in the cell.

"What about the freak?" the officer called Con asked. "That grey-skinned monster. What's?"

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"He isn't a monster!" I snapped, breaking my code of silence.

"Oh?" Con sneered. "What is he then?"

I shook my head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try us," Ivan encouraged me, but I only shook my head again.

"What about the other two?" Con asked. "Vancha March and Larten Crepsley. Our informants told us they were vampires. What do you have to say about that?"

I smiled humourlessly. "Vampires don't exist," I said. "Everyone knows that."

"That's right," Ivan said. "They don't." He leant across the table, as though to tell me a secret. "But those two aren't entirely normal, Darren, as I'm sure you already know. March disappeared like a magician, while Crepsley ?" He coughed. "Well, we haven't been able to photograph him."

I smiled when he said that, and looked up at the video cameras. Full-vampires have peculiar atoms, which make it impossible for them to be captured on film. The police could take snaps of Mr Crepsley from every angle they could dream of, with the best cameras available - to no visible effect.

"Look at the grin on him!" Con snapped. "He thinks this is funny!"

"No," I said, wiping the smile from my face. "I don't."

"Then why are you laughing?"

I shrugged. "I was thinking of something else."

Ivan slumped back in his chair, disappointed by my answers. "We've taken a blood sample from Crepsley," he said. "From the thing called Harkat Mulds too. We'll find out what they are when the results come back. It would be to your advantage to tell us now."

I didn't reply. Ivan waited a moment, then ran a hand through his grey hair. He sighed despondently, and began with the questions again. "What's your real name? What's your relationship to the others? Where ?"

More time passed. I wasn't able to judge exactly how long I'd been imprisoned. It felt like a day or more, but realistically it was probably only four or five hours, maybe less. The sun was most likely still shining outside.

I thought about Mr Crepsley and wondered how he was faring. If he was in a cell like mine, he'd nothing to worry about. But if they'd put him in a cell with windows ?

"Where are my friends?" I asked.

Con and Ivan had been discussing something under their breath. Now they looked at me, expressions guarded.

"You'd like to see them?" Ivan asked.

"I just want to know where they are," I said.

"If you answer our questions, a meeting can be arranged," Ivan promised.

"I just want to know where they are," I repeated.

"They're close," Con grunted. "Locked away nice and tight like you."

"In cells like this?" I asked.

"Exactly the same," Con said, then looked around at the walls and smiled as he realized why I was concerned. "Cells without windows," he chuckled, then nudged his partner in the ribs. "But that can be changed, can't it, Ivan? What say we move the 'vampire' to a cell with lovely round windows? A cell with a view of the outside - the sky - thesun ."

I said nothing, but locked gazes with Con and stared back angrily.

"You don't like the sound of that, do you?" Con hissed. "The thought of us sticking Crepsley in a room with windows terrifies you, doesn't it?"

I shrugged indifferently and averted my eyes. "I want to speak to a lawyer," I said.

Con burst out laughing. Ivan hid a smile behind a hand. Even the guard with the rifle smirked, as though I'd cracked the best joke ever.

"What's so funny?" I snapped. "I know my rights. I'm entitled to a phonecall and a lawyer."

"Of course," Con crowed. "Even killers have rights." He rapped the table with his knuckles, then turned off the tape recorder. "But guess what - we're withholding those rights. We'll catch hell for it later, but we don't care. We've got you walled up here and we won't let you take advantage of your rights until you give with some answers."

"That's illegal," I growled. "You can't do that."

"Normally, no," he agreed. "Normally our Chief Inspector would barge in and kick up a storm if she heard about something like this. But our Chief isn't here, is she? She's been abducted by your fellow killer, Vancha March."

I went white-lipped when I heard that and realized what it meant. With their Chief out of the way, they'd taken the law into their own hands, and were prepared to do whatever it took to find out where she was and get her back. It might cost their them careers, but they didn't care. This was personal.

"You'll have to torture me to make me talk," I said stiffly, testing them to see how far they were willing to go.

"Torture's not our way," Ivan said immediately. "We don't do things like that."

"Unlike some people we could mention," Con added, then tossed a photo across the table at me. I tried to ignore it, but my eyes flicked automatically to the figure in it. I saw that it was the vampet we'd taken hostage earlier that morning in the tunnels, the one called Mark Ryter - the one Vancha had tortured and killed.

"We're not evil," I said quietly. But I could see things from their point of view and understood how monstrous we must look. "There are sides to this you don't know about. We're not the killers you seek. We're trying to stop them, the same as you."

Con barked a laugh.

"It's true," I insisted. "Mark Ryter was one of the bad guys. We had to hurt him to find out about the others. We're not your enemies. You and I are on the same side."

"That's the weakest lie I've ever heard," Con snapped. "How dumb do you think we are?"

"I don't think you're dumb at all," I said. "But you're misguided. You've been tricked. You ?" I leant forward eagerly. "Who told you where to find us? Who told you our names, that we were vampires, that we were your killers?"

The policemen shared an uneasy glance, then Ivan said, "It was an anonymous tip-off. The caller rang from a public phone booth, left no name, and was gone when we arrived."

"Doesn't that sound fishy to you?" I asked.

"We receive anonymous tips all the time," Ivan said, but he looked fidgety and I knew he had his doubts. If he'd been alone, maybe I could have talked him round to my way of thinking, and persuaded him to grant me the benefit of the doubt. But before I could say anything more, Con tossed another photo across the table at me, then another. Close-ups of Mark Ryter, capturing even more of the grisly details than the first.

"People onour side don't kill other people," he said coldly. "Even when they'd like to," he added meaningfully, pointing a finger at me.

I sighed and let it drop, knowing I couldn't convince them of my innocence. A few seconds of silence passed, while they settled down after the exchange and composed themselves. Then they switched the tape recorder on and the questions started again. Who was I? Where had I come from? Where did Vancha March go? How many people had we killed? On and on and on and ?

The police were getting nowhere with me, and it was frustrating them. Ivan and Con had been joined by another officer called Morgan, who had pinpoint eyes and dark brown hair. He sat stiff-backed, his hands flat on the table, subjecting me to a cool, unbreaking gaze. I had the feeling that Morgan was here to get nasty, although so far he'd made no violent moves against me.

"How old are you?" Con was asking. "Where are you from? How long have you been here? Why pick this city? How many others have your murdered? Where are the bodies? What have?"

He stopped at a knock on the door. Turning away, he went to see who was there. Ivan's eyes followed Con as he went, but Morgan's stayed on me. He blinked once every four seconds, no more, no less, like a robot.

Con had a murmured conversation with the person outside the door, then stood back and motioned the guard with the rifle away. The guard sidestepped over to the wall and trained his weapon on me, making sure I wouldn't try anything funny.

I was expecting another police officer, or maybe a soldier - I hadn't seen anyone from the army since I'd been arrested - but the meek little man who entered took me by complete surprise.

"MrBlaws ?" I gasped.

The school inspector who'd forced me to go to Mahler's looked nervous. He was carrying the same huge briefcase as before, and wearing the same old-fashioned bowler hat. He advanced half a metre, then stopped, reluctant to come any closer.

"Thank you for coming, Walter," Ivan said, rising to shake the visitor's hand.

Mr Blaws nodded feebly and squeaked, "Glad to be of assistance."

"Would you like a chair?" Ivan asked.

Mr Blaws shook his head quickly. "No thanks. I'd rather not stop any longer than necessary. Rounds to do. Places to be. You know how it is."

Ivan nodded sympathetically. "That's fine. You brought the papers?"

Mr Blaws nodded. "The forms he filled in, all the files we have on him. Yes. I left them with a man at the front desk. He's photocopying them and giving the originals back to me before I leave. I have to hang on to the originals for the school records."

"Fine," Ivan said again, then stepped aside and jerked his head at me. "Can you identify this boy?" he asked officiously.

"Yes," Mr Blaws said. "He's Darren Horston. He enrolled with Mahler's on the ?" He paused and frowned. "I've forgotten the exact date. I should know it, because I was looking at it on the way in."

"That's OK," Ivan smiled. "We'll get it from the photocopies. But this is definitely the boy who called himself Darren Horston? You're sure?"

Mr Blaws nodded firmly. "Oh yes," he said. "I never forget the face of a pupil, especially one who's played truant."

"Thank you, Walter," Ivan said, taking the school inspector's arm. "If we need you again, we'll ?"

He stopped. Mr Blaws hadn't moved. He was staring at me with wide eyes and a trembling lip. "Is it true?" Mr Blaws asked. "What the media are saying - he and his friends are the killers?"

Ivan hesitated. "We can't really say right now, but as soon as we?"

"How could you?" Mr Blaws shouted at me. "How could you kill all those people? And poor little Tara Williams - your own classmate!"

"I didn't kill Tara," I said tiredly. "I didn't kill anybody. I'm not a killer. The police have arrested the wrong people."

"Hah!" Con snorted.

"You're a beast," Mr Blaws growled, raising his briefcase high in the air, as though he meant to throw it at me. "You should be - you should - should ?"

He couldn't say any more. His lips tightened and his jaw clenched shut. Turning his back on me, he started out of the door. As he was stepping through, I reacted to a childish impulse and called him back.

"Mr Blaws?" I shouted. He paused and looked over his shoulder questioningly. I adopted an innocent, dismayed expression. "This won't harm my grades, will it, sir?" I enquired sweetly.

The school inspector gawped at me, then glared furiously when he realized I was teasing him, turned up his nose, showed me a clean pair of heels and clacked away down the corridor.

I laughed aloud as Mr Blaws departed, taking absurd comfort in the annoying little man's irate expression. Con, Ivan and the guard with the gun smiled too, despite themselves, but Morgan didn't. He remained as steely-faced as ever, a terrible, unspoken menace in his sharp, mechanical eyes.

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