Home > The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(7)

The Asylum (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #5)(7)
Author: L.J. Smith

“Oh, and Beatrice?” Damon called.

“Yes?” The girl whirled around.

“My favorite dance is the waltz,” he said with a wink. “Remember that.” Beatrice practically skipped back into the estate.

“So now what’s the plan?” I asked impatiently. I’d last encountered Henry during our battle atop the train, and I had no desire ever to see him again.

“I guess you’ll find out,” Damon said, his fingers twitching as if he were craving a fight. I watched him nervously. Part of me wanted to tell him I wanted nothing to do with this half-baked scheme, wish him luck and then walk away. But I couldn’t. At this point, there was no turning back.

Before I could second-guess my commitment to Damon, Henry and Beatrice stumbled outside. Henry was trying to pull Beatrice in for a kiss. His red hair was neatly slicked back, but his shirt was coming untucked, a sign that he’d been enjoying the party. When I’d first met him, I imagined him to be eighteen, an oversize schoolboy on the lookout for fun. Knowing his true nature made his youthful appearance all the more disconcerting.

“Come on, sweetheart, just a little taste,” Henry said to Beatrice, oblivious to our presence.

Beatrice just laughed. “Sorry, my dance card for tonight is already full,” she teased as she slipped back into the party, giving Damon a parting flirtatious smile.

Just then, Damon flew toward Henry at vampire speed. He grabbed Henry by his broad shoulders and shoved him against the wall of what seemed to be an abandoned stable. Henry writhed in Damon’s grasp, his fangs growing and flashing in the moonlight.

“I need a stake!” Damon growled. I grabbed the first branch I could find on the ground and cracked it over my knee. It was willow, not nearly as substantial as I’d hoped, but it would do. It would have to do.

I charged toward them, the stake in my hand. In my mind’s eye, I remembered the way Henry had charged toward me during our bloody fight on board the train to Ivinghoe. I remembered the proprietary way he’d allowed his hands to roam down Violet’s curves during a party at the warehouse. I remembered the way he’d eagerly clapped Damon’s back at a park picnic, as though they were nothing but loyal friends. He had betrayed us.

“This ends now,” I hissed, holding the stake inches from the snow-white shirt that covered Henry’s chest. I imagined what the fabric would look like, pierced by the willow branch and stained with Henry’s blood. I’d never really staked a vampire before. At Gallagher’s circus, I’d once been forced to run a vervain-laced stick through Damon, but I’d deliberately missed his heart. This was different.

“Don’t kill him yet,” Damon said, wrapping his fingers around the branch. “He needs to talk first.”

I held the stake out toward Damon. It may have been my battle, but it was my brother’s war, and I wouldn’t stand in his way.

“I don’t talk to trash,” Henry said petulantly. Instantly, Damon launched the branch forward and pierced Henry’s throat. Blood bubbled at his throat, but the wound quickly healed when Damon removed the stick. Henry must have fed recently.

“You disgust me,” Damon spat.

“Well, I can assure you the feeling’s mutual,” Henry gurgled, hate evident in his eyes. “And you wanted me to talk, so I’ll talk. You and your brother are both stupid and impulsive, and have no idea who you’re facing. Is that what you wanted to discuss?” He smiled as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the blood off his neck. An owl hooted in the distance. Where were Samuel’s bodyguards? Could this be a trap?

As I was about to voice my fears, Henry twisted out of Damon’s grasp.

“You think you can kill me? That’s rich,” he said as he smiled at us. “You boys will try anything, won’t you? It’s the American way, I suppose.” He circled around us like a dog, sniffing a stranger that crossed his path. I watched every step, my entire being ready to attack, should it be necessary. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Although I think, in your case, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and die again’ might be a bit more accurate.” Henry chuckled at his own joke.

“What does Samuel have to do with Katherine?” Damon asked, his voice low. I could see him struggling to control his temper. I wanted nothing more than to pick up where he left off and fight Henry to the death.

But Henry continued, unconcerned. “It is unfair to be hunted without knowing why, isn’t it? After all, it’s so much more enjoyable if your victims can take some time to ruminate on their choices. So, why do my brother and I hate you?” He paused and pretended to think. “Well, for one, you two are awfully pushy. In this country, we value people who respect our social rules. And that does not include elbowing one’s way in with compulsion and lies. So there’s that.”

“What about Katherine?” I interrupted.

“Katherine,” Henry said, chuckling to himself. “Well, Katherine’s a category unto herself. One of a kind. The type of girl you see once and remember forever. Which is why my brother can’t forgive either of you for killing her.”

“I didn’t…” Damon sputtered.

“That’s not what we heard,” Henry said in a low voice. “I knew the move to America wouldn’t be good for Katherine. Samuel knew. But she was insistent, and when that girl got an idea…” He shook his head and snickered ruefully. “It was supposed to be temporary. She called it her ‘Grand Tour,’ a chance to see the world and live a bit before she settled down,” Henry said, glancing toward the main house. “My brother was devastated when she didn’t return. He loved her. And I love him, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to help him take his revenge. Is that clear?”

“She would never have returned to Samuel,” Damon said, disgust evident in his voice.

“Oh, but she would have,” Henry said, a sly smile on his face. Was it true? Had Katherine simply been biding her time in Virginia? Every statement Henry made brought up more questions. “She was going to make her name in America, and he was going to lay claim to London. Then, they’d combine their fortunes. But of course, they’d also have their fun. United, the two of them were unstoppable. You couldn’t tie them down. They were ambitious, beautiful, and powerful.” Henry sighed. “And then you ruined it.”

“How about I help you both by putting you out of your misery? I’ll kill Samuel, so he can join Katherine in hell,” Damon growled, his eyes narrowing. They were pacing around each other as I looked on, forgotten for the moment. This truly was Gallagher’s circus ring all over again: two vampires pitted against each other, and only one would survive. As much as I hated to admit it, Damon’s odds didn’t look good.

“Don’t you want to hear more? I haven’t told you how Katherine used to write letters to my brother, laughing about the two country bumpkin boys she’d met in Virginia,” Henry taunted.

Damon lunged at Henry and threw him to the ground. “Katherine loved me,” he screamed into Henry’s face. But Henry only chuckled. Then, with incredible force, he pushed Damon off him and against a tree. In a flash, Henry had Damon’s wrists pinned to the trunk. He reared his head back and spat in Damon’s face.

“Katherine would have killed you eventually, you know. That was always her plan. And now, it seems I have to finish her job.”

Gathering my strength, I surged forward and pushed Henry away from Damon, intending to get him to the ground. But he was stronger than me, and shrugged out of my grasp as easily as slipping out of a cloak. The two of us stood facing each other, panting with exertion. His arm hung limp by his side, and I felt a jolt of surprised satisfaction. At least I’d managed to injure him.

“I’m not wasting my time with you right now,” Henry hissed, cradling his elbow. He turned to head back into the party. “Try to have better manners next time. And that, of course, includes not staking your hosts,” he called over his shoulder.

Damon stood. “Coward. Let’s go, brother. I’m not going to waste my energy on that twit.”

Together, we turned and walked into the darkness. Damon strode ahead, clenching and unclenching his fists. I knew he was deeply disturbed by Henry’s story. He’d loved Katherine. He still did. Saying her name was the only thing that could bring a far-off expression to his eyes and stop him in the middle of a sarcastic diatribe.

“Are you all right?” I asked, putting my hand tentatively on his shoulder.

He shrugged me off. “I will be. Once Samuel’s dead.”

6

Katherine Pierce was a gruesome vampire, never hesitating to drink from a stranger—or a lover. So why could I still remember the feel of her lips against mine? And why was I suddenly obsessed with whether or not she and Samuel had been together? Katherine had such a hold on my brother and me, even with her body long since charred and buried. Which one of us would have to die for her spell to finally be broken?

Lately, I’ve been remembering things I thought were lost long ago. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started dreaming of a girl. The dream always took place in a verdant field that looked like the far corner of Veritas, where the rolling green hills met the forest. She always seemed a few paces beyond my reach, separated from me by a dark, murky cloud. The girl’s face was always hazy, but I could see her straight, long, brown hair and her olive skin. Even unable to see her clearly, I knew she was beautiful.

When I met Katherine, I thought I’d finally found her, the girl I’d been dreaming of. The one who filled me with unrelenting desire and longing. But as I slowly came to discover the monster Katherine truly was, I knew in my heart she wasn’t the one.

I still held out hope. Maybe, right now, I was being tested. Maybe when I finally found her, I would be worthy of her love, that girl of my dreams.

I didn’t speak to Damon during our walk back to the tunnel, and he didn’t speak to me. Tension lay thick between us, and I knew we were both thinking of Katherine. There was nothing to distract us from our memories. The streets were deserted; most people were staying inside after dark, afraid of meeting the Ripper. The clock had struck midnight along our walk. I used to love this time of night. It was a time to hunt, a time to let my thoughts unpack themselves, a time to feel the world slowing down. Now, I felt like we were the ones being hunted. After all, Samuel would retaliate—it was inevitable. But when?

Finally, we reached the embankment.

“Home sweet home,” Damon wisecracked as he stepped onto the ladder and began the climb down into the tunnel.

My mood turned as soon as I reached the bottom and saw firelight dancing on the opposite wall. A petticoat was strung across the tunnel, creating a makeshift wall, and a rusty, dented teakettle was balanced precariously over the fire.

“Welcome home!” Cora said, spreading her arms wide. Kohl rimmed her eyes and she’d pulled her red hair into a high bun on top of her head. She wore one of the dresses I’d brought, which made the most of her small frame.

For the first time that evening, I felt like things might actually be all right. Cora’s hard work reminded me of a fairy tale my mother used to read to us, about Snow White, a beautiful princess forced into hiding amid dwarves. This version was much more sinister, but Cora played her part admirably: the kind woman trying to tame our savage tendencies.

“Did you see Violet?” Cora asked urgently. “I asked around at the Ten Bells but Alfred hadn’t seen her. And then I wanted to come back in case you had found her. I wanted to be here to greet her,” she said, shrugging sadly.

Damon nodded. “She’s safe,” he said shortly.

“Oh, good!” Cora said, her hands flying to her face in relief. She turned her eyes up as if in prayer. “Thank you. And is she…”

“We didn’t speak to her,” I said. “We weren’t able to get inside Samuel’s house.”

“What happened?” Cora asked.

I settled onto the ground and began telling her what we’d found at Samuel’s. Occasionally, Damon would chime in with his own observations. Cora nodded, but I could tell all of it—revenge, staking, a beautiful, centuries-old vampire controlling myself and Damon and inspiring Samuel’s hatred of us—was beyond her comprehension. It was beyond anyone’s rational comprehension.

“Ultimately, we’ve gotten almost nowhere,” I said, discouraged.

“Not exactly,” Cora said, hopefully. She pulled a paper from her dress pocket and began to unfold it. “I found this in Whitechapel. It’s an advertisement for a benefit for the Magdalene Asylum in just a few days. And look what it says at the bottom: ‘Hosted by Samuel Mortimer, Vote Samuel for Councilor of London,’” Cora read out loud. “He’s throwing another party, giving us another chance to get to Violet.”

“The Magdalene Asylum?” I asked, taking the advertisement and reading it for myself. “What is that?”

“It’s for unwed mothers and wayward girls,” Cora said knowingly.

“Wayward girls?” Damon repeated.

“Yes. And when some girls can’t make rent, the Magdalene Asylum will take them in. One of the girls from the Ten Bells had to go when she became pregnant,” Cora trailed off. “Jenny went in back in May. She had her baby in August, but we haven’t heard anything about either of them since,” Cora said.

“Do you think…” I paused, wondering at the enormity of what I was going to ask her.

“I think we should find out more about the Asylum, about how Samuel is involved,” Cora said. It was true; if we could get closer to Samuel from another angle, maybe we’d have more clues. And more leads to Violet. We’d have to be smarter this time around, not reveal ourselves too soon.

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