French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 13
New York City, 2010
“What the hell was that?” At least, that was what Dylan tried to say. But the sounds were barely recognizable as words, accompanied by a splutter of thick crimson-black blood. Dylan struggled to pull himself to his hands and knees, but his body refused to listen. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Angelus rolling the kid to his lap, and Jason quickly running over to them.
The unknown boy’s chest and belly were slashed and he was bathed in his own gore. His dark features were overlaid by a deathly pallor, his thick kinky curls hung into half-open eyes. He couldn’t be more than fifteen or so; Dylan was surprised he was still alive.
The pistol was still clenched in one hand, and the bloodied fingers of the other seized Angelus’ arm. “Se los mató! La bestia! Debe matado! Para mis amigos!”
“I got him, Jason. Get Dylan,” Angelus said, looking over to the cop. To the boy, “it’s okay, kid, I’m here, I got you! You did good, it’s gone.”
What happened next was a blur. Angelus, his blood and that of the kid all mixed in a hideous mess. Jason, letting Angelus take from one of his veins before helping the two to his car. Sensations of someone carrying him, and his own inability to make his body do anything useful. Dylan remembered Angelus talking to him as paramedics loaded him on a gurney. Across from him, the boy was also laid on one with a bloody blanket over him. The child hadn’t moved or spoken since the one outburst of Spanish.
After taking the blood from Jason, Angelus looked okay, but was unsteady on his feet and like the boy and Dylan ended up being loaded into the ambulance, with two attendants whose features were shadowy.
“I’ll follow in my patrol car.” A voice, Jason’s voice, said from the threatening darkness.
His mind wandered, and he suddenly wondered if Jason had remembered to arrange for his truck to be moved back to the café. The last thing he needed was to get the thing towed; New York City fines were hell.
Of course, you had to live through everything first before the fines would matter. The world seemed to want to just gray out on him, and it took an effort to shake that feeling off.
Angelus’s attention was on the body of the boy as the ambulance attendant set up an IV. “Shashar, I gave him some of my blood, but he’s bleeding a lot.” The vampire’s voice was vexed.
“IV will help boost the regeneration, if he’s going to heal.” Said the voice belonging to a darkening brown face. Shashar, Dylan seemed to recall the name belonging to one of the hospital’s emergency paramedics.
“Sit down, Angie.” A bulky form eased the injured vampire back from the boy and took its place at the boy’s side. They was the living and they always took precedence over the undead the man’s face leaned low, listening and sniffing. “His vitals’ are dropping.”
Even in his weakened condition, the revenant smelled the stench of death in the air. Angelus’s mahogany face paled as he craned his neck to see over the paramedics told him everything he need. “No! He can’t die! The kid has a mother! His dad just died in Iraq last month! Damn it! She needs him!”
The world vanished on his words, just as Shashar removed paddles and pads from the jostling ambulance walls.
“Dude, don’t be a hypocrite and die. You promised Skeletor’s pooch we’d come back and break it! I’m keeping that promise, bro! You better fuckin’ keep yours!” The voice shifted. “You are fucked up! You’d make a Ghoulie Girl centerfold for hottie of the year! But this isn’t enough to take you out, bro. I’ve seen your blackened bones before, this should be easy to regenerate!”
Conscious slowly returned with the realization that it was Angelus’ voice. His friend sat grimly at his side. The boy on the gurney next to him was still covered with a sheet, and his IV was still hooked up. His chest wasn’t moving.
The Ambulance lurched around a corner. Dylan wanted to tell his friend he appreciated the pep talk, and that Angelus tried his best to save the kid but he couldn’t even speak; was his jaw even attached?
“Hey? Rufus! I think we’re losing Dyl! He’s all gray! Why is he gray? Why isn’t he moving? I thought revenants got all bloodthirsty and attacked when they got this far down! He shouldn’t be dying!”
Angelus’s voice was strangely calm.
Rufus, that’s the big guy. Why couldn’t I sense skinchanger?
I’ll be fine, part of him tried to say, but nothing came out. But he was sure it was true. Anna’s vampire blood coursed through his veins. He wasn’t an ordinary revenant. He was something different, something far more monstrous. That overgrown dog couldn’t kill him. Why was everything fading in and out?
“You can’t die, you dumbass!” Angelus grabbed his shoulders roughly. “You’re a disorganized micromanaging asshole, Louis, Filipe and Qui would never be able to sort through the Cafe’s paperwork without you!”
He was exaggerating. Louis understood the books better than anyone. He had 200 years’ worth of accounting experience. They were meticulously disorganized in a cluttered mess both men understood. Especially Louis, as the musician was also a pen and paper accounting genius who once said, “Computers were for kids who couldn’t do basic sums.”
The panicked pleas faded away, and Dylan found the world shading over, receding into a cold murky nothingness.
Awareness sluggishly returned again in a glare of white fluorescent lights. He tried to move, but his body refused; he couldn’t feet it, it was numb, as if it didn’t exist at all. Voices blurred and echoed as if far away, and he saw Jason looking down at him saying something, but he couldn’t make out the words. Bunny was there too; she hurriedly hooked up an IV blood drip, and touched Jason’s arm.
Even his thoughts were muddled. What had happened? What was he doing here? He faintly recalled something about a barghest, Angelus, and a boy, but he couldn’t quite recall the details.
“Stay with me, kid, you can’t die on me yet,” Jason was saying. “What would Anna say? Jesus, she’d kill me! I’m supposed to be looking out for you!”
The words him like an anvil. Looking out for him? He was supposed to be looking out for Angelus. Instead he’d brought the kid along on one of the most dangerous hunts he’d ever tried, and got Angelus and some kid with more balls than sense trashed against a barghest. The revenant winced, and Dylan strained, trying to see. All he could see was hall; his vampire friend was nowhere to be seen. “Angie?”
Another shift; he must have blacked out again. He was on a gurney. Rufus, a burly skinchanger nurse, helped Bunny run the bed down the hall. “Angie?” he repeated, the words still mangled by his nearly-ruined jaw.
“Doctor Smith is with him, he’s arranging transfusions,” Bunny answered, as soothingly as though he’d been a child. “His mother is here too. He’ll be okay, Dylan, we’ve been through this before.” Her hand touched his cheek. “But you — you’re a mess! It’s going to take time to patch you up.”
She glanced behind her to the police officer. “Jason, you’re gonna have to wait outside,” she said firmly. She and Rufus pushed the gurney into a glass walled operating room. “Ruf, if you could get the sutures and bandages ready, I’ll arrange an IV.”
“My blood is better than the stuff in the bag.” Jason said, pushing his way into the room. He rolled up his sleeve and pulled up the chair. “I’m older than you, Bunny, and he can’t donate.” He nodded to Rufus.
Rufus glanced back momentarily as he placed bandages, suture threads on a stainless-steel tray. “Not unless you want to really change things up,” he said with a touch of humor.
“Oh, very well,” Bunny said, with a sort of fond exasperation. “Sit down then, Jason, while I prep you.”
The room faded to gray again, and Dylan found he couldn’t open his eyelids. His body was shutting down again. Damn barghest, it had torn his spirit, ripped his soul, and his essence was leaking out, just like blood from a real wound. Jason was right; things like him needed more than just blood to heal soul injuries. If he couldn’t find something… alive to feed on, he’d just lie there and fade away.
The world blackened again, and Dylan’s awareness only returned in spurts of brief intervals of light, fragments of sound and flashes of movement behind closed lids. Unlike earlier, though, the feeling in his limbs returned. He felt pain, all over, his chest, face, head, legs, gut, throbbed and pulsed. Even if he could move, the thought of doing so was instantly dismissed.
“You’ve given him what you can, Patrick,” It was Doctor Smith’s voice; only he and Liam called Jason by his real name. “Susan wants to know what happened to Angelus. She is absolutely livid. I told her you’d be happy to explain things to her, since he’s your charge.”
“How thoughtful of you, Doc.” Jason said, voice dripping with sarcasm. The rustle of cloth was followed by a few footfalls. “They’ll be okay?”
“Angelus is young and quite strong; he will recover in time, as will his new child,” Smith said. “I’m afraid I am not finished with Dylan yet; you will have to leave now.” He heard his friend hesitate, then leave as another set of footsteps paused at the door.
Child? What the hell were they talking about? Dylan struggled to piece together the doctor’s words but couldn’t quite grasp what he meant. None of Angelus’s charges were with them that night; they were either with their parents, or living safely above the coffee house.
“Do you need my assistance?” Bunny asked politely.
“You’ve done all you could, my dear; I trust he won’t spring a leak,” Doctor Smith said cheerfully. “We have things well under control now.”
The woman’s footfalls tapped around the bed and vanished out the door.
We? What did he mean by we? How much time had he lost? Dylan struggled to open his eyes. It was an effort but the ceiling’s bright lights blinked into focus.
He gave a disgruntled hiss, and tried to move an arm to cover his eyes, but both pain and weakness kept it down.
“Oh, you’re awake! Your resilience is most impressive!” Doctor Smith’s delighted face appeared before him. Despite his pedestrian Western name, “Doctor Smith” was a dark-haired Englishman of Japanese descent, with glasses and a head of long dark hair pulled back in a long ponytail. He was dressed in a lab coat and a stylish yet out of date dark blue pinstriped silk Edwardian waistcoat and slacks. “Barghests are known to tear creatures like you apart; not much substance to most revenants from the point of view of a thing like that. But not you, no indeed!”
He straightened and glanced over his shoulder, the manic expression fading. “We made the right decision keeping him alive. He has provided infinite hours of entertainment.”
“As you say, Smith.” The soft footfalls of a tall dark-haired man made their way around the bed. Dylan didn’t need to focus to know who it was. He knew the voice. It was Liam.
“Your dedication to protecting upper Manhattan is admirable, revenant.” As he spoke, the blue eyed, golden-chestnut skinned Celt leaned on the bed rail, his hands curling around it slowly, with the same deliberation Liam used in everything. “According to my friend Yoshi, you will not survive the evening. Perhaps, however, you will surprise us. You have in the past, but I do not like gambling with my knights. You’ve done well with the young people here.”
Liam’s presence brought back the thing that drove him most strongly. “Anna. Bring back Anna.” The words were barely comprehensible through his broken jaw and battered lips, but he could tell Liam heard, and nodded.
“Anna was our first, you know. She was brought to me, and I adopted her, and the Center was born with her.” As he spoke, he lowered the rail. “Finding her is important to me, Dylan. I know how important she is to you.”
With careful deliberation Liam sat on the edge of the bed. He was dressed in a simple button-up shirt and jeans. The ancient vampire never seemed to care about impressions or displaying his wealth. The only thing he valued was strength, and there was never a time that Dylan could recall him showing weakness.
Doctor Smith turned away, a thin smile on his face. “I will leave this to you. Will you need any refills when you are finished?”
“I plan a trip to the opera with Douglas,” Liam told him. “That should suffice.”
The doctor nodded, and closed the door behind him. It was just Dylan and the old fossil.
He wanted to tell Liam he planned to go with him when they found Anna, but as he drew a breath to speak again, he became aware of the ancient vampire’s scent. He had only been this close to Liam once before, and that was when Liam had rescued him from his own rage, using his mental power to quiet the berserker and restore Dylan’s mind.
He inhaled, fighting the rise of hunger. He thought of Filipe’s gazpacho, it was more his speed, after all, and civilized too. He didn’t want Liam’s blood; it would bind him to the older vampire. In most cases, that meant mindless slavery. That was the last thing he wanted with this old Celt.
“You have done much for my city.” Liam said. He loosened a button on his sleeve and rolled it up. “In return, I shall offer you some of my life. It will heal you.” He turned to face Dylan. “I have no intentions of using this against you.”
With a fingernail, he slit his own wrist. It took all of Dylan’s willpower not to lunge at the arm in a berserk frenzy. The sweet iron nectar was overwhelming and his will ebbed. Different. He’s not like the others, that smell, it’s like nothing else.
The revenant stirred. He was starved, and needed flesh. Dylan’s eyes rolled and he felt his teeth sharpen. The pain hammered at his thoughts, and the revenant found himself forcing his weakened broken body up, reaching for the arm.
Liam lifted the limb to Dylan’s lips. Gently, he eased the revenant to rest against him. “You will have to wait for flesh, but I have made those arrangements as well. There are enough vermin in this city that will suit your needs. They… will not be missed.”
Dylan barely heard or even understood the words. He let his teeth sink into the limb presented to him, and tore into it. Red, sweet bliss overwhelmed him as the revenant within took over.