Ron and Savannah both gasped out Anne's name. Clearly Ron hadn't realized his girlfriend would try to rescue Carrie and Michelle on her own and get caught in the process.
"I have no idea what these Keepers are talking about," Mr. Williams said. "I never told them to kidnap any humans. Perhaps they misunderstood me in an overeagerness to help the Clann-"
"Why are you lying about the Clann's allies now?" Ron shouted as he stepped into the light of the clearing where other Keepers, both in human and panther form, stood gathered together. They'd arrived so silently that I hadn't even seen or heard them. Too bad most of them were on the wrong side, because they definitely had some impressive skills.
I hoped I wouldn't have to kill any of them tonight.
Ron continued. "Keepers, search each others' minds. Who of you received his orders to go after these innocent humans and interrogate them for knowledge of Tristan and Savannah's location?"
Several Keepers in human form raised their hands, including the three guarding the girls.
"Descendants, check our minds for yourselves," Ron said. "See the truth. Your leader is lying to all of you about so many things."
"Why should we listen to you, a traitor to your own people? Haven't you broken your own Keeper laws by helping these bloodsuckers escape earlier tonight?" Mr. Williams's eyes narrowed.
Ron's parents gasped and stepped forward to look past the other Keepers at their son. "Ron, you didn't!" his mother whispered. "Sweetie, you know the oath and its consequences if it is broken. You'll lose your shifter abilities."
Ron's chin rose. "I haven't forgotten my help defend and protect the Clann against outside enemies." He stressed the last two words. "But obviously the law doesn't consider Tristan or Savannah to be outsiders of the Clann, or I couldn't still do this." Scraps of clothing exploded outward as he rapidly shifted into panther form.
Mr. Abernathy took a deep breath then turned to face the Keepers. "Ron's right. We never agreed to help the Clann wage a civil war against its own members. And I for one am sick of being used to hunt down and terrorize innocent people, human or otherwise." He turned toward the Circle. "I will keep my oath to protect the Clann against outsiders. But that is all."
Mrs. Abernathy took her husband's hand and they walked along the edge of the Circle back toward the Coleman house. As they passed their son, Mrs. Abernathy paused.
"Son, please come home with us now. This is no longer the Keepers' fight."
I can't, Mom, he thought. My friends need me here.
Mr. Abernathy hesitated, glancing from his son to the human prisoners to us and finally to his wife. "He's right again, hon. We can't leave these innocents to who knows what fate. We Keepers are more honorable than that."
Murmurs rose within the Keepers' ranks. The Keepers standing on either side of Carrie, Michelle and Anne let go of the girls and stepped back.
Then all the Keepers, human and panther, turned and stared at Mr. Williams.
Emily cleared her throat. "I know none of you have any reason to believe me. But I have one more thing to show you that will reveal just what kind of leader you've got running the show around here lately. This is what really happened the night of my mother's murder...."
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then sent her mental shield crashing so everyone present could read everything within her mind.
I was so shocked that it took me a few seconds to believe I was really seeing it. My sister, the queen of the mental shield, had purposely allowed everyone here total and complete access to every thought and memory within her mind. This from a girl who wouldn't even allow her little brother to read her thoughts. Ever.
I saw what others saw...Mom's plans for dinner that night, telling Emily she was going to apologize to me and admit she'd acted too hastily in casting me out of the Clann.
Mom had been planning to invite me to rejoin the Clann. She'd believed that, by sharing my idea for creating synthetic blood to sell to vampires and thus give the Clann an enormous amount of leverage over vamps worldwide, I'd proven I was still her son deep inside.
"Oh, Tristan," Savannah whispered, squeezing my hand.
Everyone else saw what I'd witnessed for myself later that night. I didn't need to read Emily's thoughts or memories any further. She'd already answered the one question that had haunted me for over half a year now.
My mother had still loved me, regardless of what I'd turned into.
Everyone else present finished reading Emily's memories.
Including Mr. Williams. "You've twisted that memory! Your mother called me for help when Tristan and Savannah showed up at your house and attacked her. My friends and I tried to save her, even at the near cost of my own son's life- at his hands." He pointed a finger at me, then turned back to Emily. "Everyone knows now that you are a vamp lover and a traitor to the Clann. You would say and do anything to save your brother, despite the fact that he killed your mother."
"I show the truth," Emily murmured, her voice shaky as a bead of sweat trickled down one side of her face. "I only wish I had been downstairs so that I could also show them that you killed my mother, not Tristan or Savannah."
Mr. Williams slowly smiled. "As you say, you did not see her actual death so..." He spread his hands out palms up in open question.
"I'd suggest they read your memories, but we all know what a liar you are now," Emily said.
"Read Dylan's." The words blurted out of me, completely unplanned.
Dylan froze and Mr. Williams went pale. "Leave my son out of this-"
"Like you said, he was there," I said.
"But he didn't see who killed Nancy Coleman, either," Mr. Williams said, and I could tell from his wide smile that this was the very fact he had been counting on.
And why he probably hadn't bothered to alter his son's memories.
"No, but he can verify whether my mother actually called you for help," I said.
Everyone in the Circle slowly turned to stare at Dylan.
I didn't have to join them in reading his mind. I knew what they would find.
A ripple of movement and low-level noise spread across the descendants as they read the truth then turned to stare at their leader, murmuring to themselves or their neighbors in growing distrust and anger.
"He's lying to us," someone muttered within the crowd. "It's right there in his own son's mind. He planned to attack the Coleman house that night. Nancy never called him for help at all!"
Growing murmurs spread like tiny spots of wildfire within the Clann's ranks and were echoed on the laptop Emily held out.
"I call for a vote to remove Jim Williams as Clann leader!" someone on the conference call shouted from the laptop and was echoed by several others, both online and in person, who seconded the vote.
But I remembered the rules. Clann law stated that leaders couldn't be voted in or out unless all the adult descendants took part in the vote and a majority were in agreement. There was no way to legally do this over a conference call.
Thankfully Emily remembered this. "I recommend that we meet here in one week's time to hold an official vote to remove Jim Williams as our leader. Does anyone second this recommendation?"
Hands shot up throughout the Circle, prompting Mr. Williams to leap to his feet.
"No!" he shouted. "We have to stick together against the vampires or we'll be too weak to survive them."
"The only threat the Clann really has to fear is you," Emily said.
Mr. Williams didn't even raise his hands, yet two blue orbs shot out from them, knocking the laptop out of Emily's hands.
And then chaos erupted as his white-haired line of friends joined in, shooting energy orbs at the Keepers.
"Dylan, take him out!" Mr. Williams screamed at his son.
I didn't need to read anyone's mind to figure out who he was referring to.
But I was too busy blocking spells from Mr. Williams's friends to worry about Dylan for now. If he wanted me, he'd have to get through an entire clearing full of fighting first.