Caitlin Paine sped down the West Side Highway, determined to reach the Cloisters before they closed. Her mind spun, as she reflected on all the troubles that were besieging Scarlet—troubles that no teenager should have. Scarlet was changing, Caitlin was sure of it. She was no mere human anymore, and each day, she was getting worse. Caitlin sensed that she was becoming what she, Caitlin, had once been herself: a vampire.
Of course, Caitlin had no direct memory of being a vampire herself; but from what she’d read in that journal she’d discovered in the attic—her vampire journal—she felt that it was all real. If the journal was true, and she sensed that it was, then at one time she had been one herself, back in time; somehow, she had ended up back here, in the present, with a normal life, a normal family, and no memory of it.
The only thing was, her family was far from normal. Her life was far from normal. Her daughter, somehow, was becoming what she had once been herself.
Caitlin wished, for the millionth time, that she had never found that journal. She felt that finding it was like opening Pandora’s box, was what had sparked this parade of nightmares. She wished desperately that she could just make everything go back to normal.
She had to have answers. She had to know for sure that this was all authentic. If she couldn’t force things back to normal, then she had to at least find out more about what was happening to Scarlet. And find out if there was any way to fix it.
As she drove, Caitlin thought again of the rare books she had found in her library. Most of all, she that of that one rare volume, and its torn page. She thought of its ancient ceremony, the one in Latin, with its cure for vampirism. She wondered again if it was real. Was that just passed down from folklore? An old wives’ tale?
Any serious scholar, of course, would say that it was. And a part of her wanted to dismiss it, too. But another part of her was clinging to it, clinging to this last possible hope to save Scarlet. For the millionth time, she wondered how she could ever find the other half of that page. It came from one of the most rare books in existence, and even if she could somehow manage to track down another existing copy, what were the chances of the other half of the page being inside? After all, the page had been torn out, likely as a way of hiding it. But from who? From what? The mystery only deepened in her mind.
She tried to focus instead on her own journal, her own handwriting from centuries ago, on her description of the vampire coven beneath the Cloisters. She had written of a secret chamber leading to the coven, down below, on a lower level. She had to know if it was real. If there was some sign, any sign at all, then it would validate all of this in her mind, would allow her to confidently go forth. But if there was no sign here, then it discredited her entire journal.
Caitlin got off the highway, wound through Fort Tryon Park, and drove into the main entrance of the Cloisters. She drove up a narrow, winding ramp, and finally parked before the massive structure.
As she got out, she stopped and looked up; for some odd reason, the place felt strikingly familiar to her, as if it had been an important place in her life. She could not understand why, because as far as she knew, she had only visited it once or twice. Unless, of course, everything in her vampire journal was true. Was what she was feeling real? Or was it all just wishful thinking?
She hurried through the arched front door, into the stone medieval structure, up a long ramp, and down a long, narrow corridor. She finally got to the main entrance, paid a fee, and headed down a corridor. She passed a small courtyard on her right with rows of stone arches, inside of which sat a medieval garden. The fall foliage shimmered. It was a weekday afternoon, and the place was nearly empty, and she felt as if she had all to herself.
That is, until she heard music. At first, it was just a voice—then several voices. Singing. Ancient singing from a small chorus. She could not fathom if it was live or a recording as she stood there, transfixed, listening to the heavenly voices echo throughout the small castle. She felt transported, as if she’d arrived in another place and time.
She knew she had a mission to accomplish, but she had to see where the music was coming from. She turned down another corridor and followed the sound. She entered through a small, arched medieval door, and found herself in a chapel, with soaring ceilings and stained-glass. Standing there, to her surprise, was a chorus of six singers, older men and women, dressed in all white robes. They faced an empty room, looking down at sheet music as they sang out.
Gregorian chants. Caitlin saw the sign, the huge poster advertising the afternoon concert. She realized she had stumbled into a live performance. Yet, she was the only one in the room. Apparently, no one else knew about it.
Caitlin closed her eyes as she listened to the music. It was so beautiful, so haunting, she found it hard to leave. She opened her eyes and looked around at the medieval walls and furniture, and it made her feel even more out of touch with reality. Where was she?
The song finally ended, and she turned and hurried from the room, trying to regain her sense of reality.
She hurried back down the corridor and came to a stone staircase. She descended, winding down to the lower levels of the cloisters, and as she did, her heart beat faster. This place felt so eerily familiar, as if she’d spent time here before. She could not understand it.
She hurried across the lower level, remembering its description from an entry in her journals. She remembered the mention of the doorway, the secret portal, that led downstairs to a subterranean level, to Caleb’s coven.
She got more excited as she saw, on her left, a roped off area. Behind the rope was a perfectly preserved, medieval staircase. It led up, but only into the ceiling. It didn’t go anywhere. It was just an artifact, on display. The same one described in her journal.
But the staircase also had a small, wooden gate hiding the lower half, and behind it, Caitlin could not tell if the steps led down, to another level. It was roped off, and she couldn’t get anywhere near it.
She had to know. If it led down, then everything she wrote about was true, not just a fantasy.
She looked both ways and spotted a security guard on the far side of the room, nodding off.
She knew that by crossing the rope in a museum she could get in big trouble—maybe even get arrested. But she had to know. She had to do this quick.
Caitlin suddenly stepped over the velvet rope, towards the staircase.
Immediately, an alarm went off, shrieking, piercing through the air.
“HEY LADY!” the guard screamed.