Home > The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak #2)(8)

The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak #2)(8)
Author: Darren Shan

"Come in, boys,"Mr. Tiny welcomed us, as though it was his van and not Mr. Tall's. "Sit down, make yourselves at home."

"I'll stand if that's okay,"Evra said, trying not to let us hear the chatter of his teeth.

"I'll stand, too,"I said, following Evra's lead.

"As you wish,"Mr. Tiny said. He was the only one sitting.

"I've been hearing a lot about you, young Darren Shan,"Mr. Tiny said. He was rolling something between his hands: a heart-shaped watch. I could hear it ticking whenever there was a pause in his speech.

"You're quite the boy, by all accounts,"Mr. Tiny went on. "A most remarkable young man. Sacrificed everything to save a friend. There aren't many who would do as much. People are so self-centered these days. It's good to see the world can still produce heroes."

"I'm no hero,"I said, blushing at the compliment.

"Of course you are,"he insisted. "What is a hero but a person who lays everything on the line for the good of somebody else?"

I smiled proudly. I couldn't understand why Evra was so afraid of this nice, strange man. There was nothing terrible about Mr. Tiny. I kind of liked him.

"Larten tells me you're reluctant to drink human blood,"Mr. Tiny continued. "I don't blame you. Nasty, repulsive stuff. Can't stand it. Apart from young children, of course. Their blood is scrump-dilly-icious."

I frowned. "You can't drink blood from them,"I said. "They're too small. If you took blood from a young child, you'd kill it."

His eyes widened and so did his smile.

"So ?"he asked softly.

A chill ran down my spine. If he had been joking, it would have been in really poor taste, but I could have overlooked it (hadn't I just been laughing about poor Bradley Stretch?). But I could tell from his expression that he was totally serious.

All of a sudden I knew why this man was so feared. He was evil. Not just bad or nasty, but pure demonic evil. This was a man I could imagine killing thousands of people just to hear them scream.

"You know,"Mr. Tiny said, "your face seems familiar. Have we met before, Darren Shan?"

I shook my head.

"Are you certain?"he asked. "You look very familiar."

"I... would have... remembered,"I stuttered.

"You can't always trust memory."Mr. Tiny smiled. "It can be a deceptive monster. Still, no matter. Maybe I'm confusing you with someone else."

By the way his lips twisted into a grin (how did I ever think that was a nice smile?), I could see he didn't think that. But I was sure he was wrong. There's no way I would have forgotten meeting a creature like him.

"Down to business,"Mr. Tiny said. His hands tightened on the heart-shaped watch and for a second they seemed to glow and melt into its ticking face. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. When I looked again, the illusion - which it must have been - was gone.

"You boys saw me arrive with my Little People,"Mr. Tiny said. "They're new converts to my cause and are a little unsure of the ropes. Normally I'd stick around and teach them how to work, but I have business elsewhere. Still, they're smart and I'm sure they'll learn.

"However, while they're learning, I'd like it if you two fine, young men would help ease them into the swing of things. You won't have to do much. Mainly I want you to find food for them. They have such big appetites.

"How about it, boys? I've got the permission of your guardians."He nodded at Mr. Tall and Mr. Crepsley, who didn't seem happy about the arrangement, but looked resigned. "Will you help poor old Mr. Tiny and his Little People?"

I looked at Evra. I could see he didn't want to do it, but he nodded his head anyway. I did the same.

"Excellent!"Mr. Tiny boomed. "Young Evra Von knows what my darlings like, I'm sure. If you have any problems, report to Hibernius and he'll help you out."

Mr. Tiny waved a hand to let us know we could leave. Evra began edging backward immediately, but I held my ground.

"Excuse me,"I said, summoning all my courage, "but why do you call them Little People?"

Mr. Tiny turned around slowly. If he was surprised by my question, he didn't show it, though I could see the mouths of Mr. Tall and Mr. Crepsley dropping.

"Because they're little,"he explained calmly.

"I know that,"I said. "But don't they have another name? An official name? If somebody mentioned 'Little People' to me, I'd think they were talking about elves or leprechauns."

Mr. Tiny smiled. "They are elves and leprechauns,"he said. "All around the world, you will find legends and stories of small, magical people. Legends have to start somewhere. These legends started with my short, loyal friends."

"Are you telling me those dwarfs in blue capes are elves ?"I asked disbelievingly.

"No,"he said. "Elves don't exist. Those dwarfs - as you so rudely put it - were seen, long ago, by ignorant people, who invented names for them: elves or fairies or sprites. They made up stories about what they were and what they could do."

"What can they do?"I asked.

Mr. Tiny's smile slipped. "I heard you were quite the one for asking questions,"he growled, "but nobody told me you were this nosy. Remember, Darren Shan: Curiosity killed the cat."

"I'm not a cat,"I said boldly.

Mr. Tiny leaned forward, and his face darkened. "If you ask more questions,"he hissed, "you might find yourself turned into one. Nothing in life is forever, not even the human form."

The watch in his hands glowed again, red like a real heart, and I decided it was time to leave.

"Go to bed now and get a good night's sleep,"Mr. Crepsley told me before I left. "There will be no lessons tonight."

"And rise early, boys,"Mr. Tiny added, waving goodbye. "My Little People are always hungry in the mornings. It's not wise to let their hunger go unattended. You never know what they might set their minds - and teeth - on if they go unfed for too long."

We hurried out the door and raced back to our tent, where we fell to the floor and listened to our hearts beating loudly.

"Are you crazy?"Evra asked when he could speak. "Talking to Mr. Tiny like that, asking him questions, you must be out of your mind!"

"You're right,"I said, thinking back on the encounter, wondering where I'd gotten the nerve from. "I must be."

Evra shook his head in disgust. It was early, but we crawled into bed anyway. We lay awake for hours, Staring at the ceiling of the tent. When I finally fell asleep I dreamed of Mr. Tiny and his heart-shaped watch. Only, in my dreams, it wasn't a watch. It was a real human heart. Mine. And when he squeezed it...

Agony.

Chapter FIFTEEN

Igot up early and went hunting for food for the Little People. We were tired and cranky, and it took time for us to come to life.

After a while I asked Evra what the Little People liked to eat.

"Meat,"he replied. "Any kind of animal, they don't care."

"How many animals will we need to catch?"I asked.

"Well, there's twelve of them, but they don't eat a lot. I guess one rabbit or hedgehog between two of them. A larger animal - a fox or a dog - might feed three or four."

"Can you eat hedgehogs?"I asked.

"The Little People can,"Evra said. "They're not fussy. They'd eat rats and mice, too, but we'd have to catch a lot to feed so many, so they're not worth bothering with."

We each took a sack and headed off in different directions. Evra told me the meat didn't have to be fresh, so if I found a dead badger or squirrel, I could stick it in the bag and save some time.

I spotted a fox a couple of minutes into the hunt. It had a chicken in its mouth and was on its way home. I tracked it until the moment was right, then jumped on it from behind a bush and dragged it to the ground.

The dead chicken flew out of its mouth and the fox turned, snarling, to bite me. Before it could attack, I moved quickly, grabbed its neck, and twisted sharply to the left. There was a loud crack, and that was the end of the fox.

I chucked the chicken into the bag - a nice bonus - but hung on to the fox for a few minutes. I needed blood, so I found a vein, made a small cut, and started sucking.

Part of me hated this - it seemed so inhuman - but I reminded myself that I wasn't human anymore. I was a half-vampire. This was how my kind acted. I'd felt bad killing foxes and rabbits and pigs and sheep the first few times. But I got used to it. I had to.

Could I get used to drinking human blood? That was the question. I hoped I could avoid feeding on humans, but by the way I was running out of energy, I knew eventually I'd have to... or die.

I tossed the fox's corpse into the bag, then went on hunting. I found a family of rabbits washing their ears in a nearby pond. I crept as close as I could, then struck without warning. They scattered in fear, but not before I got my sharp fingernails into three of the little ones.

I added them to the contents of the bag and decided that was enough for this trip. I figured the fox, chicken, and rabbits would easily feed six or seven of the blue-hoods.

I met Evra back at camp. He'd found a dead dog and a badger and was feeling pretty pleased with himself. "The easiest day of hunting I've ever had,"he said. "Plus I found a field full of cows. We'll go there tonight and steal one. That'll keep the Little People going for a day or two at least."

"Won't the farmer who owns them notice?"I asked.

"There are at least a hundred of them,"Evra said. "By the time he gets around to counting them, we'll be long gone."

"But cows cost money,"I said. "I don't mind killing wild animals, but stealing from a farmer is different."

"We'll leave money for him,"Evra said with a sigh.

"Where will we get it?"I asked.

Evra smiled. "The one thing we're never short of at the Cirque Du Freak is money,"he assured me.

Later, our chores finished, we teamed up with Sam again. He'd been waiting in the bushes for hours.

"Why didn't you come into the camp?"I asked.

"I didn't want to interrupt,"he said. "Besides, I thought somebody might have let the wolf-man out. He didn't seem to like me when I saw him yesterday."

"He's like that with everyone,"Evra told him.

"Maybe,"Sam said, "but I figure it's best not to take chances."

Sam was in a questioning mood. He'd obviously been thinking about us a lot since the day before.

"Don't you ever wear shoes?"he asked Evra.

"No,"Evra said. "The soles of my feet are extra tough."

"What happens if you step on a thorn or a nail?"Sam asked.

Evra smiled, sat down, and gave Sam his foot. "Try scratching it with a sharp twig,"he said.

Sam broke off a branch and poked Evra's sole. It was like trying to make a hole in tough leather.

"A sharp piece of glass might slice me,"Evra said,

"but that doesn't happen very often, and my skin's getting tougher every year."

"I wish I had skin like that,"Sam said enviously. Then he turned to me. "How come you wear the same suit all the time?"he asked.

I looked down at the suit I'd been buried alive in. I'd meant to ask for some new clothes but had forgotten.

"I like it,"I said.

"I've never seen a kid wearing a suit like that before,"Sam said. "Not unless they were at a wedding or a funeral. Are you forced to wear it?"

"No,"I said.

"Did you ask your parents if you could join the Cirque?"Evra said then, to distract Sam's attention.

"No,"Sam sighed. "I told them about it, of course, but I figured it would be best to take it slowly. I won't tell them until just before I leave, or maybe not until I'm gone."

"So you still plan to join?"I asked.

"You bet!"Sam said. "I know you tried scaring me away, but I'll get in somehow. You wait. I'll keep coming around. I'll read books and learn everything there is to know about freak shows, and then I'll go to your boss and state my case. He won't be able to turn me down."

Evra and I smiled at each other. We knew Sam's dream would never lead to anything, but we didn't have the heart to tell him.

We went to see an old, deserted railroad station, about two miles away, which Sam had told us about.

"It's great,"he said. "They used to work on trains there, repair and paint them and stuff like that. It was a busy station when it was open. Then a new station opened closer to the city and this place went bankrupt. It's a great place to play. There are rusty old railroad tracks, empty sheds, a guardhouse, and a couple of ancient train cars."

"Is it safe?"Evra asked.

"My mother says it isn't,"Sam told us. "It's one of the few places she tells me to stay away from. She says I could fall through the roof of one of the cars or trip on a rail or something. But I've been there lots of times and nothing's ever happened."

It was another sunny day, and we were walking slowly under the shade of the trees when I smelled something strange. I stopped and sniffed the air. Evra could smell it, too.

"What is that?"I asked.

"I don't know,"he said, sniffing the air next to me. "Which way is it coming from?"

"I can't tell,"I said. It was a thick, heavy, sour smell.

Sam hadn't smelled anything and kept walking ahead of us. Then he realized we weren't beside him, Hopped, and turned to see what was going on.

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