Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(3)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(3)
Author: L.J. Smith

And then I heard it: a sound so faint I thought it was my imagination. One whimper, then another, from a warehouse several hundred yards away from where I stood. I rushed toward the building and found Samuel crouched against the wal , half obscured behind several discarded canvas ship sails. I pressed my back against the weathered wooden slats of the warehouse, priming my Power and readying myself to pounce, when I realized that the girl wasn’t the one letting out the strangled sobs.

It was Samuel.

His mouth hung open in an expression of agony. His victim, meanwhile, was propped on her elbows, gazing intently into his face. Her lips were moving, but no sound was coming out of them. The girl was no older than eighteen or nineteen, with wild brown hair matted around her head. Whatever incantation she was using had momentarily incapacitated her assaulter, but before I could react, Samuel regained the upper hand and lunged, his teeth bared and glittering in the moonlight, using his brute force to throw her against the brick wal of the warehouse.

Her head hit the wal with a sickening thud and she slumped to the ground in a heap.

Smiling, he pul ed a long silver dagger from a pocket in his waistcoat, and I realized that he wasn’t going to drink her blood. He was going to mutilate her the same way he’d defiled Jack the Ripper’s other victims. He was going to slice open her chest.

In that instant, I yanked the stake out of my boot and shoved it between his shoulder blades as hard as I could.

Samuel fel forward onto the girl, then tumbled onto his side on the dock. Blood soaked through his coat. The girl sprang up and darted to the other side of the warehouse.

My hands trembled. I’d staked Samuel. And if I staked him through the heart, it would al be over. But it wasn’t that easy. I needed him alive until he could take me to Damon.

He began to struggle to his feet, the wooden stake jutting unevenly from his back. I lunged forward to restrain jutting unevenly from his back. I lunged forward to restrain his hands, but he spun away from me before I could reach him.

“These attempts are getting tiresome,” he hissed as he yanked the stake from his flesh and threw it to the dock. I dove for it just as a police whistle sounded. The subsequent clattering of footsteps caused us both to freeze.

“Commotion at the warehouse!” cried a foghornlike voice from the top of the pier.

Samuel stole off into the shadows as three police officers rounded the corner. Instead of fol owing him, I calmly walked out of the al ey, humming the song I’d heard the drunk singing outside the Lamb and Sickle as though I, too, was just a common vagrant.

“What’s the trouble?” one red-faced officer wheezed as he valiantly attempted to catch his breath. A tal er policeman with a mustache appraised me suspiciously. I wondered where the girl had gone and whether she was in danger of Samuel doubling back for her.

“There is no trouble, sir,” I said, rising to my ful height.

“Just having a bit of fun.” I wavered from one foot to the other as I said it, pretending I was a whiskey-addled fool. I clenched my jaw, talking through my teeth to conceal my fangs, which always emerged when I was antsy.

The policeman glanced around, and I was thankful there were no gas lamps on the pier and he couldn’t see the bloodstains on my clothes.

The sound of a bottle breaking farther down the pier startled the policeman. He turned his head sharply over his shoulder. From the shouts and glass shattering, it was clear shoulder. From the shouts and glass shattering, it was clear a true brawl was brewing.

“I ain’t got time to deal with you,” he said. “Now see you get into a lodging house. Make any more noise tonight, and you’l be arrested. Are you clear?” he asked.

“Yes sir.” I nodded.

“Good.” The policeman hurried off to the scuffle while his short, red-faced partner struggled to keep up. As their footsteps faded, I realized I could hear the faint ba-da-bump, ba-da-bump of the mysterious girl’s terrified heartbeat.

The moon filtered through the mist, casting an eerie green glow on the slippery dock, now tinged red with Samuel’s blood. The ba-da-bump, ba-da-bump got louder and louder as I headed toward where I’d last seen the girl.

“Don’t get any closer!” The voice sounded weak. I remembered the terrible crack, loud as a thunderbolt, when her skul hit the brick wal . She was crouched behind a crate in an al ey next to the warehouse.

“Are you al right?” I asked, kneeling down so I was at eye level with her.

“I don’t know.” The girl hesitantly pushed the crate away.

Her eyes were catlike, the pupils more like keyholes than circles. I glanced away, nervous by how entranced I was by their unusual shape, only to see a slow but steady trickle of blood run from her temple and into her hair. “I think he meant to kil me,” she said shakily.

“You’re al right now,” I said in a soothing voice. “Do you know why he was after you?”

The girl laughed, one short bark. “Wel , it wasn’t because he liked me, I can tel you that much. No. When a vampire sets after you, you don’t ask why.”

I rocked back on my heels in surprise. “You knew he was a vampire?”

“Yes. And so are you,” she said. “But you saved me.

Why?”

“Why wouldn’t I? Do you know who that man was?” The girl shrugged. “I knew he wanted to kil me, so we never got around to making formal introductions. I was just minding my own business and then…” She shuddered.

“You’re safe now. I don’t drink human blood. I only want to protect you.”

The girl’s eyes blazed into mine, her pupils widening and contracting. And then, after a long moment, she nodded.

“Thank you for being honest,” she said. “I’m Mary Jane.

And I suppose you can tel that I’m more than I seem. You saw one of my tricks. I only wish it had worked better,” she said rueful y. She clearly knew how to control her power. But was she a witch? Or some other creature of darkness I’d never encountered? I leaned in, hoping to hear more about her trick. How had she pushed Samuel back?

Instead, she took a deep breath and said, “So, who are you, vampire?”

But before I could respond, she fainted, hitting the dock with a muffled thud.

3

Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed the unconscious girl and made my way back to the tunnel, staying in the shadows to avoid any suspicious glances. As expected, everyone on the pier was too involved in their own miseries to notice me, or the girl breathing shal owly in my arms.

When I final y managed to snake my way down to our makeshift camp, I was relieved to see Cora lying peaceful y next to a smal fire.

“Cora,” I said.

She started awake, her eyes widening as she took in the figure in my arms.

“Is that Damon? Is he dead?” Her voice was tinged with hysteria.

“No! No, it’s not Damon,” I said hurriedly, trying to assuage her fears. “It’s a girl Samuel attacked. I got there before he could kil her.” I slowly placed the girl on the ground. Instinctively, she curled her smal body toward the fire.

“He was trying to kil her?” Cora asked, wrinkling her nose. “But I don’t understand. He’s already framed Damon.

And he has al the blood he could want.”

“I know,” I said. Briefly, I tried to explain what I’d seen.

The odd words Mary Jane had been muttering to keep Samuel away. The way Samuel seemed intent on kil ing her with a knife, rather than his fangs. The fact she’d known we were both vampires. The fact that she’d known I hadn’t been lying when I’d said I wouldn’t hurt her.

The fire had burned down to its last embers, casting a flickering orange glow on Cora’s face.

“I think you were right. We need to talk to Ephraim,” she said in resignation.

I nodded in agreement, not able to tear my eyes off the sleeping girl. Was she a witch? An image of Margaret Sutherland swam into my mind. Margaret, sister of Bridget, the girl I’d married in New York, was a witch. She had always known when someone was lying. In fact, that trait had once saved Damon and me: When Margaret came home to find her family brutal y slaughtered, she’d been the only person who believed we hadn’t kil ed them. For my sake, I hoped this girl had the same skil .

“What can I do to help?” Cora asked, gently tucking a frayed flannel blanket around Mary Jane’s thin shoulders.

“I don’t think anything right now,” I said. “We’l see Ephraim at midnight tomorrow. There’s nothing we can do in the meantime.”

Cora nodded and settled back into her pile of blankets, turning to face the wal . I’m not sure how long I sat, silently keeping watch. Like Samuel would just burst in, I thought. If he wanted to, he could. But he wouldn’t. Here, in the dank tunnel, I felt safe. It was only out there—where Damon was right now—that was the problem.

I contemplated building up the fire, but didn’t. Eventual y, the sound of the girls’ even inhalations and exhalations lul ed me into a daze.

But I was startled out of my stupor when I heard the rustlings of Mary Jane coming to.

“Where am I?” she asked, in a panicked voice. The quaver in her voice hurt my heart.

“You’re safe,” I said, trying to calm her. “You fainted. I brought you here to protect you from Samuel. I saved you, remember?”

The girl nodded, relaxing. “You’re the vampire.”

“And you’re a witch.”

“That I am,” the girl said softly. “I’m Mary Jane Kel y. And you, vampire?” she asked pointedly.

“Stefan…” I paused. I was never sure whether to give my ful name. But it didn’t matter. She knew I was a vampire.

She knew when I was tel ing the truth. “I’m Stefan Salvatore.

And this is Cora Burns. She’s human,” I added, gesturing to Cora, who had awoken at the noise.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Cora said. “Stefan, can you start the fire?”

“Of course,” I said quickly, grabbing a match from the cold, wet earth and hoping it wasn’t too damp to light.

“A fire?” Mary Jane asked. “I can do that.” She closed her eyes. “Incendia.”

Immediately, a fire crackled in the fire pit, casting ghostly shadows on the earthen wal s. Cora’s eyes widened in surprise. Despite everything, a glimmer of a smile crossed Mary Jane’s face. It was clear she was pleased with her work.

“Can you tel me what you did to hold him back?” I asked, once we were al situated around the fire. “It’s asked, once we were al situated around the fire. “It’s important that we know. Because Samuel—the vampire who tried to kil you—has captured my brother.”

“Unfortunately, I’m much better at starting fires than staving off vampires,” Mary Jane said wryly. “And warding off vampires isn’t exactly a skil I’d like more practice in.”

“But you did something. He was trying to pin you down, but it was like you were pushing him back with your eyes.

What was it?” I asked urgently, thinking back to the scene. It was more than just pushing Samuel back. I glanced at her peculiar pupils again. What else could she do?

“To be honest, I’m not sure what I did to him. I just focused al my energy into hurting him, and that’s what happened,” Mary Jane said. “Thank goodness you found me. I’d be dead otherwise. Why were you down at the docks, anyway?”

“I was fol owing Samuel, hoping he would lead me to where he’s keeping my brother, Damon. Then I realized he’d captured you. Do you know why?”

“I think he was trailing me. This time, he got me,” Mary Jane said, knitting her eyebrows together. “I’ve seen him a few times around the East End, near the lodging house where I work as a maid. I only noticed him because he’s not the usual type that we see in those parts. And then when everyone was talking about how the Ripper may have been a count or something…wel , I paid attention. You can’t be too careful these days.”

“Did you know the girls who were kil ed?” Mary Jane shook her head. “No, I didn’t. I just keep my head down and do my work.”

“So why did Samuel attack you?” Cora asked.

“How would I know?” Mary Jane asked in exasperation.

“It wasn’t on my mind to ask him why when he was grabbing me right off the street.”

“It’s fine, Mary Jane,” I interjected. “Just tel us what happened.”

“I’d gotten off work early and was about to meet my friends for a pint,” she explained. “But as I walked by an al eyway, he came out of nowhere and snatched me up. I tried screaming and kicking, but we were going too fast for anyone to notice. At first, I thought I was being taken by Jack the Ripper. But he isn’t, is he? Because why would a vampire kil like that?”

“You just asked the mil ion-pound question,” Cora said, shrugging her shoulders.

Before I could further explain, a rat came out of its hiding spot. I reached for a stone, ready to attack. But Mary Jane held up a hand.

“I’ve got it,” she said, placing her fingers on the floor.

“Shh! Come here, love,” she cooed at the animal. The rat halted and cocked its head at her. “Right here,” Mary Jane urged. Quickly, the rat ran into her palm and stood on its hind legs. She raised her eyebrows at us and smiled crookedly. “See, they’re not so bad.”

“How did you learn to do that?” I asked.

Mary Jane shrugged. “I didn’t learn. I was born like this,” she explained.

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