“I’ve added in something that will make us a bit different than some of the other productions. After Down Once More, the cast of the opera Don Juan will run off stage and into the audience, searching for the Phantom. We will even take some audience members on stage, and enlist them into helping kill the phantom.”

“How about we kill one of them?”

“Each night, one person we choose will be killed by the Phantom. We can tell them when we take them backstage to costume them. Doesn’t have to be difficult, Phantom can just sweep in and kidnap them away.”

Katya’s eyes lit up, and she made a note in her program. “Yes, I love it! Alright, moving on…”

“I have to go.” I stood up suddenly, making everyone stare at me. I gathered the scene outline. “Sorry, I have a meeting… another meeting…” For someone who used to act on a regular basis, I couldn’t come up with a line to save myself this time. “This looks great, Katya. Add in that scene and we’re good to go. Bye!”

I darted out the door, putting my cell phone to my ear.

“Amy!” I said, when she picked up.

“Hey.” I could hear the smile in her voice. “I thought you weren’t done for a while. Do you have time to go out?”

“Better. Gather everyone up, I’ve got the plan.”

“Right. Gather everyone where?” she asked. “There’s so many of us, Liam. Where’s somewhere where we can all fit in secret?”

I faltered. This is why I needed Amy in my life, to think things through logically when those things were the last things on my mind.

“In the basement,” I said, after a moment. “I’ll be there in 10 minutes. But Amy, keep Sarah separate. She’s my trump card.”

I heard Amy laugh on the other end of the line. “You realize she heard every word of this, right?”

“It’s like I have two girlfriends,” I replied sarcastically and Sarah jumped in.

I rolled my eyes. “See you soon, girls.” I hung up.

I headed to my office. I unlocked the filing cabinet and pulled out a folder of admission forms and employee forms. Tucking them under my arm, I paused, looking around, and then opened my desk drawer. Inside, under a pencil case and a few CDs, was a Mickey of whisky. I unscrewed it, looking around to make sure the door was close. And then I took a shot and another for courage. Because God knows if I was going to pull this off, I needed courage.

I screwed the cap back on and made sure that I had all the papers I came for. I shut the door again, locking it behind me, and headed down to the basement.

Tell Sarah to wait at the emergency exit door until we call for her. And tell her to wear something red. A dress, perhaps.

Such drama Amy replied, with a smiley face. Perhaps it was a bit of a show, but if I wanted these vampires to get behind the crazy plan in my head, I had to make it spectacular. Maybe I could dazzle them with theatrics and they wouldn’t think too hard about how crazy it was.

Everyone was gathered in the basement by the time I got down there. I looked in horror at the chains and braces there. The vampires were standing in a circle around it, while Amy stood off to the side, texting on her phone. Giving her a smile, I walked in, clearing my throat.

“Those are for me,” I said, pointing at the chains and braces. “Every night. Like most of you, I have regard for human life and the restraints stop me for wandering the streets in blood lust. My grandfather, Peter, mostly does the honors although occasionally, my love, Amy…” I gave her a smile, “is here to assist me.”

I was now standing in front of them, and I could feel all eyes on me.

“As I’m sure all of you have noticed, Amy is human, and her blood is untempting. Amy’s life expectancy…” I took a breath, looking to her. She gave me the tiniest nod. “Is shortened, and I want nothing more than to live out life with her, to grow old, and eventually, to sleep with her for all eternity. But this curse that Selene has placed on me has taken that from me, and much more. My best friend, Porsche, was murdered at Selene’s hands. I’m sure many of you have other reasons for wanting Selene dead, and I sympathize with you, I do. We all our motivated internally, but we all want to come to the same conclusion. She must die. And that’s why we’ve come here for help. So…”

I looked around. Most of them looked young enough. I was concerned about a few of them being able to pull it off. Nina, for instance, could barely walk twenty minutes before needing to rest. And Isabelle didn’t speak a word of English.

“The school’s year-end show is Phantom of the Opera. Last year, Selene used the chaos of Beauty and the Beast to murder Porsche, who was the De Ritter’s active Shield. And if I’m not following her rules, not following her orders, I’m sure she’ll use this year’s chaos to come here and take my life as well. Which is what I want.”

I opened my folder, passing around the forms.

“But what she won’t know, when she’s sitting in the audience, is that each and every one of you, and hopefully more, will be on stage when she tries that. The stage weapons we use will be real. And the murder of a seemingly random audience member by the Phantom will not be an act at all. Selene will die on stage, murdered by us, in full view of the audience, the last thing she would expect.”

Outrage came from the crowd, as I had expected it would. It was a crazy plan, of course, and about as theatrical as you could expect. For those who were not performers, it must seem beyond insane. They protested, and called out, but I held up my hand for silence.

“Before you commit, I want to remind you what you’re playing for!” I said, and nodded to Amy.

Amy moved from her spot on the wall to open the door. The light from the emergency exit glowed down into the dark space, and Sarah emerged. Even I was impressed at what she had thrown together. Guessing at what kind of theatrics I wanted, she had donned a long red dress that dipped low and pooled around her feet. I held out my hand and she came to me, a smirk on her face.

The second she placed her hand in mine, I could feel it. A pain went through my heart as I compared her to Porsche’s strength but I continued my act.

“Porsche was a rebel Shield, it’s true. Shields are nature’s way of bringing balance to the universe. Porsche’s kind was outraged by her murder, and has agreed, for the first time in history, to collaborate with us to make sure Selene is dead.” I took a deep breath, leading Sarah to Nina. “But just in case they change their minds, it’s ok, we have a Shield of our own, a Shield who didn’t even know she existed until she came to me.” I placed Sarah’s hands in Nina’s tiny ones.

The change was almost instant, but for one so tiny and weak as Nina, I had expected that. That’s why I chose her, for the most theatrical value.

Nina gasped, her eyes opening wide. After a few short gasps, she began to breathe normally again, and I knew even in the back row, they could see the color coming back into her cheeks. She closed her eyes, smiling for the first time since I met her. Sarah seemed receptive to this, giving the tiny vampire a huge smile back. Finally, Nina’s eyes fluttered open and she turned to the small crowd.

One by one, Sarah walked through the crowd on her own, letting them touch her for themselves. If they had never felt a Shield before, and it was likely they hadn’t, then they would be impressed by her. If they had though, my bluff was called because they would know she was weak.

Amy came to my side, leaning against my arm as she watched Sarah bring the vampires such joy.

“Good job,” she whispered and kissed me on the cheek. “But next time, choreograph your crowd better. Stage looks messy.”

I laughed, kissing her back. “Aye aye. Maybe that senior thesis should be in directing?”

“Thought about it,” she answered. “But I love acting too much.”

“A woman after my own heart,” I said, as Sarah connected at last with Connor.

“It is spectacular,” he said, meeting both her eyes as both their hands clasped each other’s. “You truly are quite a remarkable woman.”

“Thank you.” Sarah blushed and I raised an eyebrow. Sarah was not normally a girl to blush. Beside Connor, Isabelle stood up a little straighter.

“You really think this is going to work?” Amy asked.

I exhaled. “I don’t know. But it’s all I’ve got.”

“It’ll work,” she said, lightly rubbing my back. “It will.”

I nodded and then pulled apart from her as Sarah came back from the throngs of the dead.

“The forms you have are admission forms. I suggest each of you fill them out, unless you actually have an arts expertise, in which case, you can fill out a staff form. I’ll enroll you or hire you, and you’ll be here the whole time. Selene is smart, and she will be watching, I know she will. However, what I’m counting on is the fact that she’s turned hundreds of vampires, and can’t remember who and what are hers anymore. For some of you, it’s easy, if she’s your grand-sire or farther removed. The others must be more careful. Classes only take place during the day, and if you choose to feed at night, you must leave this town to do so. You will have to be discreet, more discreet than you’ve ever been. And if you find cravings take you, Amy is a wonderful appetite killer. And Sarah can help you.”

With the girls on either side, I looked back at the crowd. They still looked doubtful, but more confident than when I had entered.

“Ok?” I asked, and finally got some positive responses. “Alright. Let’s do this.”

I handed out pens and let them fill out the forms.

“What about the actual Shields?” Sarah asked, as the three of us formed a huddle.

I shook my head. “I can’t trust them. I know they want Selene dead, and I’ll trust that they will do that. So they will be informed of the date and time of the show, and be seated around her to weaken her. Hopefully, it will be enough. And unnoticeable.”