Tom had spent his entire life waiting for his pack. He dreamed of them when he was young, of other werewolves like him and his dad: boys and girls, mums, other dads. He’d have brothers and sisters, a family, friends. He’d meet a nice girl, McNair had always promised. He’d settle down, raise a family of his own. They’d live in a house with beds and running water. The pack looked out for their own and it meant he’d have time to concentrate on other things. It wouldn’t be all about survival anymore. It wouldn’t be all about vampires.
His whole life he’d waited for them, fell asleep dreaming of them, stared up at the stars and wished for them, and then he met George and Nina in the woods and it all came crashing down.
Tom smiled at the baby. He let her grip his finger in her tiny hand. He leaned over her, kissed her forehead. When he pulled back his eye caught on the floor and he found himself staring at that spot by the window.
McNair had died in here.
He’d been lying there by the wall, unmoving. There’d been no one around when Tom arrived. No one living anyway, except Nina, and her just barely. Once he’d made the phone call, once he did all he could for Nina, he knew he didn’t have a lot of time. He had to drag McNair down the stairs himself, had to get him to the van, then to the clearing. McNair wouldn’t have wanted to end up in a morgue.
Tom thought of McNair a lot those first few days in Annie’s house, but it didn’t matter. Thinking about him didn’t change anything. They were dead and gone. All of them. McNair, George and Nina, the vampire Mitchell. Even the vampire that had killed McNair was gone. Herrick, he was called. Tom would never forget his name. He’d never forget how Mitchell had stopped Tom from killing Herrick himself. He’d wanted to. There were few things he’d ever wanted more.
Anyway, it didn’t matter now. McNair was still gone.
Annie stared at the walls. She seemed lost without the others and Tom wasn’t sure what to do. George had worried after Mitchell and Nina that Annie might fade. He’d said so once when Tom came to visit him in the attic. He feared that Annie would fade and leave George with the baby, alone. Now it was Annie who stood alone with the baby in George’s place.
“It’s just me and Eve now,” Annie said. She was in the corridor with Eve cradled to her chest, just staring at all the doors when Tom came bounding up the stairs.
Tom wasn’t sure what to say for a moment, just stood there. If Annie faded now, what would Tom do, just him and a baby? How would he protect Eve on his own?
“And me,” he said, finally.
Annie nodded and reached out to touch his shoulder.
“And you,” she agreed, but her smile wasn’t real. It didn’t reach her eyes.
There was no werewolf pack. McNair had lied about that. There’d never been any pack and Tom’s family name wasn’t really McNair at all. There was no one else.
But he had Annie. He had Eve. And now, for better or worse, he had Hal too.
The first night without Leo and Pearl, Tom waited in his room. He strained and he listened, but there were no sounds from the other side of his wall, from George’s old room. It was Hal’s room now, wasn’t it? Hal’s room, right next door to his own. There was a vampire living next door, George and Nina’s baby in the attic.
He heard no movement during the night. There came no surprise attack. Tom was prepared; he had three stakes next to the bed. He’d set some magazines over them so that Annie wouldn’t notice and he had one more hidden underneath his pillow. If Hal passed by his room, if he tried to sneak out of the house – or even worse, upstairs – Tom was going to be prepared.
It was easy, killing vampires. It would be easy killing Hal.
Tom remembered how Leo had pressed the clipping into Tom’s palm, pressed it there and covered Tom’s hand with both of his own. Leo’s wrists were covered in marks, red and raw in spots. They looked painful, but his hands felt warm and fatherly. The pressure of his grasp made the clipping seem so important. It made it seem like gold.
“I’m not a wealthy man,” Leo said. “But there is some money in my jacket pocket.” He released Tom’s hand and gestured to the wardrobe. Tom stood and crossed the room. He opened the wardrobe and searched around until he found the notes and coins in Leo’s pocket. He slipped them into his own and then nodded.
“How did it happen for you?” Leo asked.
Tom shrugged. “I was just a baby,” he said. “I don’t remember.”
“A baby!” Leo repeated, surprised. “Why you’ve never known anything else.” He said it as though he wasn’t sure if that was better or worse.
“Nah,” Tom said, though he wasn’t sure either. “It’s okay.” McNair had done the best he could. Tom was all right.
Leo’s eyes searched the room and then settled back on Tom. “What you did outside when we arrived –“ Leo started, but his voice trailed off before he finished the thought.
“We don’t get a lot of vampires at the door,” Tom explained. “Unless – “
“Of course,” Leo said, his hand shaking a little as he held it up. “But Hal – “
Tom cut in. He had to know. “Is he safe?”
Eve was crying.
Hal sat at the front table with a newspaper spread out in front of him when Tom returned from his shift at the café. Hal had one of those dominoes in his hand, but he wasn’t turning it like Tom had seen him do before. He wasn’t moving at all, was just sitting there with his eyes squeezed shut and his hand clenched in a fist around the tile.
“You all right?” Tom asked as he removed his coat. He’d decided, when Hal stayed safely in his room that first night, that there was no reason not to be polite. Not now while they were still pretending this could ever work out, anyway.
Upstairs the baby stopped crying. Hal’s shoulders fell just a bit.
“Yes,” Hal said a moment later. The word sounded choked, strained. Hal’s hand unclenched a little and his fingers worked at the domino, turning it once before pausing again.
Well, that’s great, Tom thought. All that fuss over what? A tiny crying baby? It was like having a bomb sitting there, just waiting to go off. What happened if Tom stepped wrong? What happened if he tripped over a stool, just now as he came around the bar? Would Hal snap and break his neck?
Tom knew then that he needed more stakes. He’d hide them around behind books and things, or underneath cushions. Annie didn’t need to know, not unless Tom had to use them, and then what would she do? She’d thank him, that’s what. She’d thank him.
On the second night of Hal’s stay, Tom stood with his ear against his bedroom wall and waited. He could hear Hal counting on the other side. Sixty-five. Sixty-six. Tom listened until eighty-two and then pushed away from the wall. There were no rules against counting, were there? Counting was better than killing anyway. It was better than attacking Tom or kidnapping defenseless babies.
Tom collapsed onto his bed and curled on his side, facing the wall. He stared as though he might be able to bore through it with his eyes, past the wardrobe and right into Hal’s room. He wished Hal would stop the counting, would just go to bed so that Tom could get some sleep too.
Minutes later Tom was losing his battle to stay awake when he heard Hal’s door open. Tom bolted upright in bed, was at his own door in a second, less. He threw it open just as he heard the door to the bathroom click shut.
Tom sighed and felt stupid for a second.
It wasn’t stupid though, was it? It wasn’t stupid when Annie had asked a vampire to move right in.
Tom stepped into the hall, moved slowly down the corridor. Hal’s bedroom door was open just a crack. He heard Hal start the water in the bathroom. It sounded like the shower and Tom relaxed, pushed the door open a bit more with the tips of his fingers.
He didn’t know what he thought he’d find. He’d expected to find the room transformed, to find it darker, more sinister. It looked the same except for Hal’s things – the leather bag resting on the chest at the end of his bed, the box of dominoes propped beside the sofa. The radio was on, the voices low and dull. There was a photograph of Leo in a frame beside the bed.
Tom had liked Leo. He was a good man, Tom could tell. And Leo had trusted Hal. He’d lived with Hal for more than fifty years.
But perhaps Hal was different then. Maybe he never threatened babies or shopkeepers. He didn’t look like he might explode at the slightest touch.
The water in the bathroom stopped and Tom pulled Hal’s door shut, turned just as Annie appeared in the corridor beside him. He jumped, his back to the wall.
“Tom?” she asked, one eyebrow arched. He was glad he’d resisted the urge to bring a stake into the corridor with him, just in case. Annie was against staking vampires, but Tom kept thinking, well, yeah, but what did Annie have to worry about there? Annie was already dead. What about Tom? And what about Eve? What if they found Hal like Tom had before, hunched over Eve’s cot, his shoulders tense and his eyes dark? What then?
“He sleeps like the dead,” Tom said. It didn’t make sense, what with Hal awake and in the bathroom, but he’d been put on the spot, and he thought it was true anyway. He’d been up for hours the night before and he didn’t hear Hal so much as snore. Anyway, Hal was dead, so there was that. It was spot on, really.
Annie was squinting at him now, suspicious, and Tom shrugged. He slid past her and rushed back to his room.
As evening approached on Hal’s third night at the house, Hal said, “I can’t sleep another night on that bed.”
Tom frowned from his chair, Eve warm and asleep in his arms. It seemed like Hal was sleeping just fine to him. Tom turned to Annie for her reaction.
Annie’s eyes flashed and then she said, “It’s the best of the beds in the house, Hal.”
“No,” Hal said. He swallowed and closed his eyes for a moment before he continued. He did that a lot. “It’s not that. I was thinking I might take one of the single beds instead. I could use – I could use the space for my routines.”
“Oh,” Annie said. “Oh, of course.” Her nose wrinkled when she smiled. It was how Tom could tell she was still a bit annoyed. It was one of the things he’d learned about her. “It’s your home now too.”
Tom wondered what McNair would think of it all; of Tom sharing his home with a vampire. But McNair was dead. He’d left Tom even before Mitchell had left Annie and George. Maybe McNair knew what he’d been leaving Tom with. Tom just ended up with a different vampire, that was all. And Hal seemed – compared to Mitchell, Hal almost seemed downright stable.
Tom watched as Hal took in Annie’s response. Finally he nodded, his hands sliding down his thighs to his knees before he stood and they fell to his sides.
Tom stood too. “Hold on,” he said as he carefully transferred Eve to Annie. “I’ll help ya.”
Hal stared at the two single beds. Tom stared at the spot on the wall where Leo’s door had appeared, Pearl’s right there beside it. They loved each other all those years and never knew. It made his chest feel all tight. He’d never been present for anything like that before. He’d never been asked to help with anything like that. He’d never seen anything like that except in films.
Tom wasn’t sure why Hal had come in here. If Tom was Hal he wouldn’t want anything to do with this room where his best mate died.
Hal made a noise beside him and Tom turned back to the beds, cleared his throat.
“Which one?” Tom asked. He pointed. “I tested ‘em both and they feel the same. And this one’s closer to the door.”
Hal shook his head, but said nothing. Tom shrugged.
“I’d keep the big bed,” Tom admitted. “Room to stretch out and that.”
“I don’t want to stretch out,” Hal said tightly.
“There was never room to stretch out in the campervan, not unless I slept outside, but it wasn’t safe McNair said, what with vampires around and all, so I didn’t much.” He did get to stretch out a bit during the full moon, but it wasn’t really – “Except when it was time for my change and even then, that was mostly waking up with sticks poking at my back and –“
“Excuse me,” Hal cut in, looking at Tom for the first time since they’d come upstairs. “Campervan?”
“Yeah,” Tom said. “It was where we lived before I moved in here with Annie and Eve.”
Hal took this in, looked Tom up and down and then finally, he nodded.
“Well, it explains a lot,” Hal said, his eyebrows raised.
Tom shrugged again, unsure how he was supposed to react to that.
“There’s another bed in the attic,” Tom said. “Might be less –“
He stopped, unsure how to word what he wanted to say. It would be less sad, but sad didn’t feel like the right word, not to say out loud. It was like how Tom tried not to look at that spot on the floor in the attic.
“I don’t need your help,” Hal said in response.
Well, that was nice.
“Come on,” Tom said and left the room.
“Hal’s been dry for over 55 years,” Leo had said in response to Tom’s question. That same line over and over again, but that wasn’t what Tom had asked, was it? That wasn’t the same thing.
Tom crossed the room to sit back on the edge of Leo’s bed. Annie had asked Hal to move in here. She’d asked Hal and Pearl and it was her house, she could do what she liked, but Tom thought – well, he obviously thought she was making a mistake. And Hal -
“He’s not safe though, is he. Not really. No vampire is.”
“You’ve known a lot of vampires,” Leo guessed.
“I’ve killed a lot of vampires,” Tom said. He unfolded Leo’s clipping, looked at the picture of the ring, the drawing of the woman, the smile on her face. “Guess I’ve known some. Mostly someone had to kill them too.”
Leo chuckled at that, though even Tom knew that it wasn’t very funny. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was just the truth.
“I like you,” Leo said. “You have a good head on your shoulders. I think Hal will grow to be very fond of you."
Tom felt his face tighten at that, felt his forehead knit up. His fingers smoothed the creases on the paper.
“Maybe with time you’ll grow to be fond of him too,” Leo said. “I did.”
Doubt it, Tom thought. He wanted to say it, but Leo was nice. He seemed like a good man, and he seemed to want to believe that his friends would be welcome here.
“What’s this for?” Tom asked instead.
“It’s nothing,” Leo said with a shake of his head. He reached out to press the clipping again. It felt so special when Leo touched it like that. “It’s – what do the ghosts call it? Unfinished business. That’s all.”
They heard Pearl and Annie talking then, their voices getting closer as they came up the stairs.
“Go on now,” Leo said. “It’s getting late.”
Tom stood to leave, but Leo reached out, caught his wrist.
“Take Hal with you.”
Tom was about to protest, but before he could say anything, Pearl was turning into the room, her skirt swirling past him. Leo released Tom and shooed him away.
Hal followed Tom up to the attic but he paused in the corridor and opened the door opposite Eve’s room. From what Tom gathered, Annie used the room for storage. It was dark and cramped, full of things that they didn’t have any use for anymore. Hal stepped into the dark. Tom stood in the corridor and waited.
“This is a house of scraps,” Hal muttered from within. He moved out of the room and shut the door again, but not before he paused beside an old stationary bicycle, touching the seat and tipping it slightly with his hand.
“It used to be a B&B,” Tom offered from behind Hal, though he thought that was something Hal probably already knew, what with the sign out front and the reception desk and the keys and all.
Hal made a sort of snorting noise and then crossed the corridor into Eve’s room. He gestured to the drum set in the corner.
“Not just the trappings,” Hal said. He passed Annie’s chair and Eve’s empty cot and set his hand on the frame of the single bed by the window. “Don’t you see? Everything here is abandoned. Us too. We’re the scraps. We’re the leftovers.”
Tom wasn’t sure how he felt about that, being called scraps.
“Maybe,” Tom said. He hung back by the door and watched as Hal looked down at the bed.
The last time they’d been in this room together Tom had stood right where he was now. He’d found Hal hunched over Eve’s cot, his shoulders tense, just like Hal’s shoulders looked now. He’d wanted nothing more than to stake Hal and get it over with. The way he’d been leaning over Eve, it could only have meant one thing.
Hal had returned Eve to her cot. He’d jerked as though Tom had pulled him from a trance or something, and when he turned and approached Tom the air between them felt electric. Tom had felt his heart pick up in anticipation of the fight. He wanted it. He’d hoped that Hal would make the first move, give Tom an excuse to fight back.
He didn’t have a stake on him, but all he had to do was get Hal down the stairs. He could feel Hal itching for it too, for some kind of release. If Tom had started it, that would have been it, it would have been over. But once Hal turned his attention away from Eve, Tom stepped down.
He couldn’t anger Annie, not if he wanted to stay. Protect Eve, yes, but he couldn’t kill Hal. Not until Hal actually moved against them. Then Tom would just have to hope he wasn’t too late. Not this time.
“My dad died here,” Tom said now and nodded at the floor by Hal’s feet.
Hal looked up, surprised, then down at the place that Tom had indicated.
“A vampire?” Hal asked, remembering their conversation on the pavement outside the shop.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed.
“I’m sorry,” Hal said.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed again. He wasn’t sure what else there was.
“Jesus,” Hal breathed. His face twisted a little. Tom stepped further into the room until he came to stand by Eve’s cot. He clutched at the rail.
“This house is full of ghosts,” Hal choked out. He swallowed then and seemed to regain some of his composure. If Hal was normal, Tom would have reached out, tried to reassure him with a pat on the back, something. Hal wasn’t normal though, and Tom stood there at a loss.
“Nah,” Tom said, eventually. “Annie’s the only ghost here.”
A smile tugged at the edge of Hal’s mouth, and then he exhaled, a puff of breath that sounded almost like the start of a laugh.
There’d been a moment at the shop that second time, when Hal returned to kill the rude shopkeeper. Tom had been standing there with a stake pressed to Hal’s chest, a gun pushed up against his own. Annie was trying to talk them down, but Tom wasn’t listening, not really. He was watching Hal. He was ready. He’d known this was how it would go, that this was how it all had to end.
Tom could see the tips of Hal’s fangs when Hal spoke and all he wanted was to stake Hal and rip one of those fangs from his mouth, add it to his collection. He could feel it snapping off in his hand as Hal started to disintegrate. He’d done this so many times before.
And then it happened.
Hal’s eyes grew wet and as Tom watched, Hal’s face began to fall. Hal’s chin shook and his mouth trembled around his fangs. Tom had never seen that before. He’d never seen a vampire, fangs out, break like that. He hadn’t known they could do that. It always seemed all monster then to Tom, once the teeth were out. He never thought that they could feel in those moments, not really.
In the end, Tom was the one who lowered his weapon first.
Tom stood in Hal’s doorway, tired after an evening of helping Hal rearrange the furniture. It was finished now. The big bed was in Annie’s room. The bed from the attic was here in Hal’s.
He watched Hal move a chair just slightly. Hal stood back to get a better look at it, then moved in to shift it just a bit more. Tom could hardly see the difference, but he didn’t say anything. After a few arguments while they wrestled with mattresses, things had settled between them for a bit. Hal hadn’t said anything harsh or cold in going on an hour now. Tom wasn’t ready to give him a reason to shut the door in Tom’s face just quite yet.
Hal stood in the center of the room again, the line of his mouth pulled down in a concentrated frown. This time when he moved it was to pick up the photograph of Leo from the bedside table and set it on the mantel instead.
“So do you like it?” Tom asked. He was starting to feel just a little impatient. Hal had been adjusting things for at least twenty minutes.
Hal moved back to stand at the base of the bed. He scanned the space once more before he answered.
“Yes,” he said. His fingers curled and clenched and stretched at his side. “It feels – it feels better. Safe.”
Safe. It reminded Tom of his conversation with Leo days earlier.
He wondered, suddenly, if Leo had ever tried to stake Hal. He wondered if there had been a moment like at the shop, where Leo had stood there with a point of wood pressed over Hal’s heart. He wondered if Leo had ever had to defend himself. Had Hal ever tried to kill Leo? Fifty-five years was a long time. Longer than Tom could even imagine, really. A lot could happen.
Tom thought it was an important question, one that he wished he’d asked Leo, but he wasn’t ready to ask it of Hal. Not yet. Maybe he didn’t really want to know.
The truth was, Tom looked at Hal now, standing in George’s old bedroom – Hal’s new room – and he didn’t really want to stake him at all. He would, of course, if he had to, and he thought he probably would have to in the end, but for now Hal just seemed lost and sad. He seemed just like Tom and Annie and even baby Eve.
“Maybe you’re right,” Tom said. He leaned against the frame of the door.
There was no werewolf pack. Never had been. But there was him and McNair. There was Annie, Mitchell, George, and Nina. There was Leo and Pearl and Hal. And now there was this. There was Annie, Eve, Tom, and Hal. Maybe they were the scraps. Maybe that’s what brought them together. But maybe that would make them strong.
As long as Hal didn’t try to kill them all first, anyway.
Tom wasn’t stupid. He was going to sharpen the stakes, just in case. He was going to keep sleeping with one under his pillow. But until then, they had this.
“Right about what?” Hal asked.
Tom shrugged. “Maybe we are just the leftovers.”
Hal looked up at him. His eyebrows were furrowed and he shook his head just slightly, like he wished he could take back what he’d said in the attic. He didn’t though. He pressed his lips together and then he agreed.
“Nowt wrong with that though, is there?”
“No,” Hal said. “I suppose you just make do.”
“Yeah,” Tom said. He nodded. “Yeah.”