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Cirque Du Freak: Tunnels of Blood
Book 3 in the Saga of Darren Shan
By Darren Shan
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- Trade Paperback $11.99
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Darren Shan, the Vampire's Assistant, gets a taste of the city when he leaves the Cirque Du Freak with Evra and Mr. Crepsley. When corpses, drained of blood, are discovered, Darren and Evra are compelled to confront a foul creature of the night who may prove to be the end of them all…
Copyright © 2002 by Darren Shan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
First eBook Edition: August 2008
Also in the Saga of Darren Shan:
CIRQUE DU FREAK (Book 1)
THE VAMPIRE'S ASSISTANT (Book 2)
One month earlier . . .
MY NAME'S DARREN SHAN. I'm a half-vampire.
I used to be human, until I stole a vampire's spider. After that, my life changed forever. Mr. Crepsley — the vampire — forced me to become his assistant, and I joined a circus full of weird performers called the Cirque Du Freak.
Adapting was hard. Drinking blood was harder, and for a long time I wouldn't do it. Eventually I did, to save the memories of a dying friend (vampires can store a person's memories if they drain all their blood). I didn't enjoy it — the following few weeks were horrible, and I was plagued by nightmares — but after that first blood-red drink there could be no going back. I accepted my role as a vampire's assistant and learned to make the best of it.
Over the course of the next year, Mr. Crepsley taught me how to hunt and drink without being caught; how to take just enough blood to survive; how to hide my vampire identity when mixing with others. And in time I put my human fears behind me and became a true creature of the night.
A couple of girls stood watching Cormac Limbs with serious expressions. He was stretching his arms and legs, rolling his neck around, loosening his muscles. Then, winking at the girls, he put the middle three fingers of his right hand between his teeth and bit them off.
The girls screamed and fled. Cormac chuckled and wriggled the new fingers that were growing out of his hand.
I laughed. You got used to stuff like that when you worked in the Cirque Du Freak. The traveling show was full of incredible people, freaks of nature with cool and sometimes frightening powers.
Apart from Cormac Limbs, the performers included Rhamus Twobellies, capable of eating a fullgrown elephant or an army tank; Gertha Teeth, who could bite through steel; the wolf-man — half man, half wolf, who'd killed my friend Sam Grest; Truska, a beautiful and mysterious woman who could grow a beard at will; and Mr. Tall, who could move as fast as lightning and seemed to be able to read people's minds. Mr. Tall owned and managed the Cirque Du Freak.
We were performing in a small town, camped behind an old mill inside which the show was staged every night. It was a run-down junkyard, but I was used to that type of venue. We could have played the grandest theaters in the world and slept in luxurious hotel rooms — the Cirque made a ton of money — but it was safer to keep a low profile and stick to places where the police and other officials rarely wandered.
My appearance hadn't changed much since leaving home with Mr. Crepsley almost a year and a half before. Because I was a half-vampire, I aged at only a fifth the rate of humans, which meant that though eighteen months had passed, my body was only three or four months older.
Although I wasn't very different on the outside, inside I was an entirely new person. I was stronger than any boy my age, able to run faster, leap farther, and dig my extra-strong nails into brick walls. My hearing, eyesight, and sense of smell had improved vastly.
Since I wasn't a full vampire, there was lots of stuff I couldn't do yet. For example, Mr. Crepsley could run at a superquick speed, which he called flitting. He could breathe out a gas that knocked people unconscious. And he could communicate telepathically with vampires and a few others, such as Mr. Tall.
I wouldn't be able to do those things until I became a full vampire. I didn't lose any sleep over it, because being a half-vampire had its bonuses: I didn't have to drink much human blood and — better yet — I could move around during the day.
It was daytime when I was exploring a garbage dump with Evra, the snake-boy, looking for food for the Little People — weird, small creatures who wore blue hooded capes and never spoke. Nobody — except maybe Mr. Tall — knew who or what they were, where they came from, or why they traveled with the Cirque. Their master was a creepy man called Mr. Tiny (he liked to eat children!), but we didn't see much of him at the Cirque.
"Found a dead dog," Evra shouted, holding it above his head. "It smells a little. Do you think they'll mind?"
I sniffed the air — Evra was a long way off, but I could smell the dog from here as well as a human could up close — and shook my head. "It'll be fine," I said. The Little People ate just about anything we brought.
I had a fox and a few rats in my bag. I felt bad about killing the rats — rats are friendly with vampires and usually come up to us like tame pets if we call them — but work is work. We all have to do things we don't like in life.
There were a bunch of Little People with the Cirque — twenty of them — and one was hunting with Evra and me. He'd been with the Cirque since soon after me and Mr. Crepsley joined. I could tell him apart from the others because he had a limp in his left leg. Evra and me had taken to calling him Lefty.
"Hey, Lefty!" I shouted. "How's it going?" The small figure in the blue hooded cape didn't answer — he never did — but he patted his stomach, which was the sign we needed more food.
"Lefty says to keep going," I told Evra.
"Figures," he sighed.
As I prowled for another rat, I spotted a small silver cross in the garbage. I picked it up and brushed off the dirt. Studying the cross, I smiled. To think I used to believe vampires were terrified of crosses! Most of that stuff in old movies and books is crap. Crosses, holy water, garlic: none of those matter to vampires. We can cross running water. We don't have to be invited into a house before entering. We cast shadows and reflections (though a full vampire can't be photographed — something to do with bouncing atoms). We can't change shape or fly.
A stake through the heart will kill a vampire. But so will a well-placed bullet, or fire, or a heavy falling object. We're harder to kill than humans, but we aren't immortal. Far from it.
I placed the cross on the ground and stood back. Focusing my will, I tried making it jump into my left hand. I stared hard for all of a minute, then clicked the fingers of my right hand.
I tried again but still couldn't do it. I'd been trying for months, with no success. Mr. Crepsley made it look simple — one click of his fingers and an object would be in his hand, even if it was several feet away — but I hadn't been able to copy him.
I was getting along pretty well with Mr. Crepsley. He wasn't such a bad guy. We weren't friends, but I'd accepted him as a teacher and no longer hated him like I did when he first turned me into a half-vampire.
I put the cross in my pocket and proceeded with the hunt. After a while I found a half-starved cat in the remains of an old microwave oven. It was after rats, too.
The cat hissed at me and the hair on its neck raised. I pretended to turn my back on it, then spun quickly, grabbed it by the neck, and twisted. It gave a strangled little cry and then went limp. I stuck it in the bag and went to see how Evra was doing.
I didn't enjoy killing animals, but hunting was part of my nature. Anyway, I had no sympathy for cats. The blood of cats is poisonous to vampires. Drinking from one wouldn't have killed me, but it would have made me sick. And cats are hunters, too. The way I saw it, the less cats there were, the more rats there'd be.
That night, back in camp, I tried moving the cross with my mind again. I'd finished my jobs for the day, and the show wouldn't be starting for another couple of hours, so I had lots of time to kill.
It was a cold late-November night. There hadn't been any snow yet, but it was threatening. I was dressed in my colorful pirate costume: a light green shirt, dark purple pants, a gold-and-blue jacket, a red satin cloth around my waist, a brown hat with a feather in it, and soft shoes with toes that curled in on themselves.
I wandered away from the vans and tents and found a secluded spot around the side of the old mill.
I stuck the cross on a piece of wood in front of me, took a deep breath, concentrated on the cross, and willed it into the palm of my outstretched hand.
I shuffled closer, so my hand was only inches away from the cross.
"I command you to move," I said, clicking my fingers. "I order you to move." Click. "Move." Click. "Move!"
I shouted this last word louder than I meant to and stomped my foot in anger.
"What are you doing?" a familiar voice asked behind me.
Looking up, I saw Mr. Crepsley emerging out of the shadows.
"Nothing," I said, trying to hide the cross.
"What is that?" he asked. His eyes missed nothing.
"Just a cross I found while Evra and me were hunting," I said, holding it out.
"What were you doing with it?" Mr. Crepsley asked suspiciously.
"Trying to make it move," I said, deciding it was time to ask the vampire about his magic secrets. "How do you do it?"
A smile spread across his face, causing the long scar that ran down the left side to crinkle. "So that is what has been bothering you." He chuckled. He stretched out a hand and clicked his fingers, causing me to blink. Next thing I knew, the cross was in his hand.
"How's it done?" I asked. "Can only full vampires do it?"
"I will demonstrate again. Watch closely this time."
Replacing the cross on the piece of wood, he stood back and clicked his fingers. Once again it disappeared and turned up in his hand. "Did you see?"
"See what?" I was confused.
"One final time," he said. "Try not to blink."
I focused on the small silver piece. I heard his fingers clicking and — keeping my eyes wide open — thought I saw the slightest blur darting between me and the cross.
When I turned to look at him, he was tossing the cross from hand to hand and smiling. "Figured me out yet?" he asked.
I frowned. "I thought I saw . . . it looked like . . ." My face lit up. "You didn't move the cross!" I yelled excitedly. "You moved!"
He beamed. "Not as dull as you appear," he complimented me is his usual sarcastic manner.
"Do it again," I said. This time I didn't look at the cross: I watched the vampire. I wasn't able to track his movements — he was too fast — but I caught brief glimpses of him as he darted forward, snatched up the cross, and leaped back.
"So you're not able to move things with your mind?" I asked.
"Of course not." He laughed.
"Then why the click of the fingers?"
"To distract the eye," he explained.
"Then it's a trick," I said. "It's got nothing to do with being a vampire."
He shrugged. "I could not move so fast if I were human, but yes, it is a trick. I dabbled with illusions before I became a vampire, and I still like to practice."
"Could I learn to do it?" I asked.
"Maybe," he said. "You cannot move as fast as I can, but you could get away with it if the object was close to hand. You would have to practice hard — but if you wish, I can teach you."
"I always wanted to be a magician," I said. "But . . . hold on. . . ." I remembered a couple of occasions when Mr. Crepsley had opened locks with a click of his fingers. "What about locks?" I asked.
"Those are different. You understand what static energy is?" My face was a blank. "Have you ever brushed a comb through your hair and held it up to a thin sheet of paper?"
"Yeah!" I said. "The paper sticks to it."
"That is static energy," he explained. "When a vampire flits, a very strong static charge builds up. I have learned to harness that charge. Thus I am able to force open any lock you care to mention."
I thought about that. "And the click of your fingers?" I asked.
"Old habits die hard." He smiled.
"But old vampires die easy!" a voice growled behind us, and before I knew what was happening, someone had reached around the two of us and pressed a pair of razor-sharp knives to the soft flesh of our throats!
I FROZE AT THE TOUCH of the blade and the threatening voice, but Mr. Crepsley didn't even blink. He pushed the knife gently away from his throat, then tossed the silver cross to me.
"Gavner, Gavner, Gavner." Mr. Crepsley sighed. "I always could hear you coming from half a mile away."
"Not true!" the voice said resentfully, as the blade drew back from my throat. "You couldn't have heard."
"Why not?" Mr. Crepsley said. "Nobody in the world breathes as heavily as you. I could pick you out blindfolded in a crowd of thousands."
"One night, Larten," the stranger muttered. "One night I'll surprise you. We'll see how smart you are then."
"Upon that night I shall retire in disgrace." Mr. Crepsley chuckled.
Mr. Crepsley cocked an eyebrow at me, amused to see I was still stiff and half afraid, even though I'd figured out our lives weren't in danger.
"Shame on you, Gavner Purl," Mr. Crepsley said. "You have frightened the boy."
"Seems all I'm good for." The stranger grunted. "Scaring children and little old ladies."
Turning slowly, I came face to face with the man called Gavner Purl. He wasn't very tall, but he was wide, built like a wrestler. His face was a mass of scars and dark patches, and the rims around his eyes were extremely black. His brown hair was cut short, and he was dressed in an ordinary pair of jeans and a baggy white shirt. He had a broad smile and glittering yellow teeth.
It was only when I glanced down at his fingertips and spotted ten scars that I realized he was a vampire. That's how most vampires are created: vampire blood is pumped into them through the soft flesh at the ends of their fingers.
"Darren, this is Gavner Purl," Mr. Crepsley introduced us. "An old, trusted, rather clumsy friend. Gavner, this is Darren Shan."
"Pleased to meet you," the vampire said, shaking my hand. "You didn't hear me coming, did you?"
"No," I answered honestly.
"There!" he boomed proudly. "See?"
"Congratulations," Mr. Crepsley said dryly. "If you are ever called upon to sneak into a nursery, you should have no problems."
Gavner grimaced. "I see time hasn't sweetened you," he noted. "As cutting as ever. How long has it been? Fourteen years? Fifteen?"
"Seventeen next February," Mr. Crepsley answered promptly.
"Seventeen!" Gavner whistled. "Longer than I thought. Seventeen years and as sour as ever." He nudged me in the ribs. "Does he still complain like a grumpy old woman when he wakes up?" he asked.
"Yes," I giggled.
"I could never get a positive word out of him until midnight. I had to share a coffin with him once for four whole months." He shivered at the memory. "Longest four months of my life."
"You shared a coffin?" I asked in awe.
"Had to," he said. "We were being hunted. We had to stick together. I wouldn't do it again, though. I'd rather face the sun and burn."
"You were not the only one with cause for complaint." Mr. Crepsley grunted. "Your snoring nearly drove me to face the sun myself." His lips were twitching, and I could tell he was having a hard time not smiling.
"Why were you being hunted?" I asked.
"Never mind," Mr. Crepsley snapped before Gavner could answer, then glared at his ex-partner.
Gavner made a face. "It was nearly sixty years ago, Larten," he said. "I didn't realize it was classified information."
"The boy is not interested in the past," Mr. Crepsley said firmly. (I most certainly was!) "You are on my soil, Gavner Purl. I would ask you to respect my wishes."
"Stuffy old bat," Gavner grumbled, but he gave in with a nod of his head. "So, Darren," he said, "what do you do at the Cirque Du Freak?"
"Odd jobs," I told him. "I gather food for the Little People and help the performers get ready for —"
"The Little People still travel with the Cirque?" Gavner interrupted.
"More of them than ever," Mr. Crepsley answered. "There are twenty with us at the moment."
The vampires shared a knowing glance but said no more about it. I could tell Gavner was troubled by the way his scars knit together into a fierce-looking frown.
"How goes it with the Generals?" Mr. Crepsley enquired.
"Usual old routine," Gavner said.
"Gavner is a Vampire General," Mr. Crepsley told me. That sparked my interest. I'd heard of the Vampire Generals, but nobody had told me exactly who or what they were.
"Excuse me," I said, "but what's a Vampire General? What do they do?"
"We keep an eye on scoundrels like this," Gavner laughed, nudging Mr. Crepsley. "We make sure they're not up to mischief."
"The Vampire Generals monitor the behavior of the vampire clan," Mr. Crepsley added. "They make sure none of us kill innocents or use our powers for evil."
"How do they do that?" I asked.
"If they discover a vampire who has turned bad," Mr. Crepsley said, "they kill him."
"Oh." I stared at Gavner Purl. He didn't look like a killer, but then again, there were all those scars. . . .
- On Sale
- Aug 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers