The limo bounces over the ruts in the dirt road that leads to Darkins' compound. I've done my best using a mirror in a flap over the passenger's seat to braid my hair and wipe the smudged makeup from my eyes. My hand is still aching, but it's a good ache, a reminder.

We turn into the driveway off the road. There's a bright light waving through the air like the shiny lure of an anglerfish. A man paces beside the drive in the moonlit shadow of a gnarled oak. As we get closer, I see the man is smoking a cigarette. I've seen the smelly things before, on the boardwalk. He wears a black leather jacket, black jeans, boots and dark mirrored sunglasses, despite the fact that the sun went down hours ago. "It's one of Darkins' guards. I hope the merfolk got freed and the werewolves managed to lay the explosives before the guards escaped the haunted house."

"I'm sure they did, Wave."

The guard makes a downward motion with his hand. Apparently this means he wants Pierce to bring down the window, because that's what Pierce does. The stink of the cigarette wafts into the limo. The man flings it to the ground and crushes it into the gravel drive with his boot.

"Evening, sir," says Pierce affably, but I see the twitch of a muscle in his jaw.

"I need to see your ID," says the guard, his mouth in a severe line.

"You don't need to see my identification," Pierce says.

The guard opens his jacket revealing a gun tucked into the waistband. "I think I do."

I wonder if Pierce can't do his freaky vampire mind control on someone in sunglasses?

"You do know this is Darkins' car, correct? The guy paying your salary? If I were you, I'd stop threatening the boss's driver, and let us pass. We don't want to be late."

I hope the guard doesn't ask to see Darkins who is quiet as a corpse in the back. I'm almost positive the privacy screen is raised all the way. I force myself not to turn around and check.

"Darkins' driver was found an hour ago wandering around the field in his underwear and muttering something about volunteering at a homeless shelter." The guard pulls out the gun and levels it at Pierce's heart. "I'm going to need you to exit the vehicle with your hands over your head. And the young lady as well."

Pierce turns off the car and makes a hand gesture indicating that I should stay where I am. I want to tell him I can take care of myself, thank you very much, but I am really tired of fighting right now. He opens the creaky limo door. Far off I hear music and the hum of a crowd.

Pierce puts one leg on to the graveled drive, then the other, his hands on his head as if in surrender. But I know Pierce, and he would never surrender. Ever! He steps out of the limo and stands in front of the guard, blocking me from his vision.

"Her too," the guard orders.

"I don't think so," says Pierce, the authority and menace in his voice sends chills down my spine. There is a flash, and the guard is relieved of his sunglasses. Pierce throws them into the car on the seat next to me. Then Pierce puts both his hands on the guard's jaw and stares into his eyes; it almost looks like he is going to kiss him, although the look on Pierce's face is hardly romantic. "You have not seen me or the limo or the young lady," says Pierce.

"I have not seen you or the limo or the young lady?" says the guard.

"Correct. And you, my friend, are to leave this place and never return. You will give up smoking and volunteer for the Ocean Conservancy doing trash cleanup."

"That is a very good idea," says the guard. "I am glad I thought of it."

"Good man," says Pierce. "Now hand me your gun. You won't be needing it any more."

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