Home > The Sacred Veil (The Last Vampire #9)

The Sacred Veil (The Last Vampire #9)
Author: Christopher Pike

PROLOGUE

I exist outside of time, for a time. It’s no dream. I’m closer to death than to sleep. Yet I’m experiencing only a memory of my death, of the days I spent separate from my body, lost and confused, after Matt shot me in the heart. At last the truth of what happened during that time has come back to me. I discover that I have attained my final goal, to be with Krishna.

I know because he stands before me.

Yet as I gaze into his unfathomable blue eyes, I realize I exist in another dimension as well. I’m still on earth, in a crummy motel in the middle of a waterless desert. My vision of Krishna is actually a month old. Yet it feels so real—he has always felt that way to me—and it’s painful to even consider returning to my endless life.

Have I not done enough for mankind?

Then I think of those close to me—Seymour, Matt, Paula, and John—those I love. And I know the answer to my question is no. The enemy has not been destroyed. My friends still need my help.

My internal decision is potent enough to alter my environment. My vision of Krishna wavers. The sweet perfume of his eternal realm evaporates as the dry air of the physical desert stings my skin.

My heart breaks as I struggle to say good-bye.

Krishna raises his hand. Our fingers touch, and he speaks.

“Don’t weep, Sita . . .”

But I fail to hear his final words.

My sorrow drowns them out. . . .

ONE

I’m back in the motel room, staring down at Shanti’s headless body and a mound of shattered glass. The glass is from the window that broke when I threw her head into the parking lot in a fit of rage.

Rage that was very close to pleasure.

“Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” I say to myself. The repetitive sounds constitute a famous mantra in India. It means “Peace, peace, peace.” It is similar to the Christian prayer “Peace be with you.” How ironic, I think, that the demon I have fought since I first became aware of the Telar and the IIC should have chosen to possess the body of a young woman with such a sacred name.

Yet I feel no pity for the original Shanti. The demon could not have penetrated her heart without her permission. Only at the end did Shanti reveal how much she enjoyed causing others pain, just like her master.

Well, she is dead now, thank God.

But is the enemy? Have I even scratched his armor? Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue. If only Umara were still alive. She was the world’s expert when it came to demons. But Matt’s mother sacrificed her life so I could destroy her people, the Telar, and the evil forces arrayed behind them. The cynical part of me wonders if her sacrifice was in vain. How does one destroy an evil that doesn’t have a physical body?

I hear approaching footsteps and know their source. There’s only one other in the miserable motel who has my hearing. Matt must have heard the breaking glass and come to investigate. He knocks lightly and I call to him. He pokes his head inside my door.

“Why is Shanti’s head sitting on the hood of our SUV?” he asks.

Matt has on white shorts, no shirt or shoes. His well-muscled body is deeply tanned, his dark hair a mess from jumping up from sleep. But even though I just woke him up, his eyes are highly alert. How his eyes remind me of his father, Yaksha, the first and most powerful of all vampires. Matt is half vampire, half Telar, an immortal coin from his head to his toes.

Looking at him, mostly naked in the room’s dim light, I feel heat stir down below. Despite the circumstances, the lust does not surprise me. My attraction to him has been there from the start.

“She was the one. She was the spy,” I reply.

Matt steps into the room. “You’re sure?”

“She told a few lies, and when I confronted her . . .” I shrug. “She confessed who she was before I killed her.”

“What does this mean?” Matt asks. His question appears simple but it is multilayered. Like me, he wants to know if we’ve finally destroyed the demon. He’s also asking if Shanti’s death means the computer program that was planted on the Internet by the Cradle—a group of psychic children—is going to stop hunting us.

We have been on the run since we blew up the IIC’s headquarters and supposedly killed every member of the Cradle except for one, Ms. Cynthia Brutran’s five-year-old daughter, Jolie. The two are asleep three doors away. I can only assume they failed to hear the breaking glass.

“I’m not sure,” I say. “But at least with Shanti out of the way what we talk about will no longer be heard by those who are trying to kill us.”

Matt’s puzzled. “You were close to her. You miss nothing. How was she able to fool you for so long?”

The question stings.

“She played me. It’s no excuse, it’s just . . .” I pause, searching for the key to her deception. “She made me care for her.”

Matt glances out the motel door, at the trickle of blood that runs over the SUV hood from the base of her severed skull. “You weren’t alone. You know Seymour loved her. This is going to kill him.”

“Let’s not tell him until morning.”

“Fine.”

“I don’t want him to see her like this.”

Matt nods. “Don’t worry, I’ll take the body and bury it in the desert. No one will find it.”

“Thank you.”

Matt reaches down and lifts Shanti’s headless torso with one hand. The blood of Yaksha and my daughter, Kalika, flows through my veins, which makes me almost invincible. Yet I know Matt is stronger than me, although I’m not sure of the extent of his power. He’s reluctant to show it, even to me, but I don’t take offense. In this way we are alike: He has a hard time trusting people. That’s why his question continues to sting. I was the first one in the group to meet Shanti, and trust her.

“While I’m taking care of the body, go through her things,” Matt says. “You never know what you might find.”

“Good idea.” I had already planned to do that. “Are you sure you don’t want help?”

“It’s not necessary. I have a shovel in the trunk.”

“What made you bring a shovel?”

“Times like this.”

Matt stuffs the torso and head into several large-size garbage bags and walks off into the desert. He doesn’t take the SUV; he doesn’t need it. I feel a wave of relief as he disappears into the dark. Seymour’s a night owl. There’s always a chance he’s up, watching TV or reading. He could even be writing a new book. He once told me he seldom went a whole day without writing a few pages.

   
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