Chapter 16

James and Vincent backed up and screamed as they unexpectedly bumped into someone. They turned and found themselves face to face with a police constable.

“Now then lads, what’s going on here?” he asked with hands on hips.

Behind the policeman people were running from run-down housing blocks to see if they could help at the scene of the explosion. Three uniformed nurses from the free clinic walked at a brisk pace along the docks to tend to the wounded. As quickly as it had started the docks had turned into a mad-house dealing with wounded from the burning hotel and organizing itself into a bucket chair hauling water from the quayside to douse the fires.

Magdalena grunted in pain as she tried to haul the metal bed frame off Patrick. It didnt move. She was too weak – the influx of life had been too little, too late. She needed more. Never had a crewmate looked more like a tasty meal than at this point. She could feel herself salivating at the thought of sinking teeth into Patrick’s neck. He’d lost an arm, lost a lot of blood, but she thought he would survive. Not so if she gave in to temptation. Desires were at war within her. The desire to feed and to survive. The desire to see his incriminating data buried forever. She was

As she watched him his sensor net flickered through a series of lighter grey shades. Full stealth mode established itself and his body looked like nothing more than fallen masonry. Then she heard them. Voices, worried, calling to people.

“We’ve got another one here.” a woman’s voice said.

“Careful of that leg, it looks broken. Oh, looks like she lost her presthetic in the rubble. Poor lass!” a man said.

Strong hands lifted her, “You’ll be alright now luv. We’ll get you to the clinic.”

With that she blacked out.

Vincent and James were ushered into the makeshift hospital that had been set up. A nurse sat them down in a corner out the hustle and bustle promising that the doctor would be along shortly. The explosion had thrown them both to the ground pretty hard. James rubbed the back of his head where a good size knot was forming. So much for the theory that drunks fall down and never hurt themselves. He looked at Vincent sitting next to him to see if there was any sign of damage. His hair was cross-cropped and showed no sign of bumps. He was leaning against the wall next to him with hands in his lap and slack jaw, asleep.

“You’ll sleep anywhere you brute.” James said with a grin.

“Mmmm” Vincent grunted.

James watched as burn victims were brought in, the acrid smell of charred person stinging his nostrils. A crippled woman, missing half her right leg to begin with and her only good leg looked broken beyond repair, was brought in and laid out waiting for the doctor. Above the smell of charred person James caught another aroma, the smell of death, the smell that had accompanied the dark haired monster of a man. It was faint, wasnt moving, so he pushed it out of his mind opting instead to follow Vincent’s lead and grab a few moments of shut-eye.

Magdalena woke up in the makeshift hospital to see an older man staring down at her. His fingerips lightly brushed across the sides of her neck as he counted off a pulse. He nodded and made a note on a clipboard. He turned to speak to a nearby nurse and send her about other duties, and Magdalena saw he was wearing a threadbare white lab-coat. His fingers probed the broken bones of her left leg and played lightly across the healed stump of her right before he turned to speak to her.

His eyes were a piercing blue and his voice sounded exotic. She tried to place it, was it European? Perhaps Germanic? She frowned and he stopped speaking, she’d missed everything he’d said.

“Sorry? What?” she asked.

“You’re not like the rest, are you?” he asked. The question was a statement, not a question. There was steel in his gaze.

“I … I dont know what you’re talking about.” Magdalena stammered, “I was doing my usual rounds and suddenly the building landed on me.”

The doctor laughed, “The silk of your dress gives you away my dear, you’re anything but a common streetwalker. But even then, you are _different_ arent you?” he said, emphasis on the “different”.

Magdalena opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again.

“Lay there and rest my dear. I ran the tests, I know your true nature. Given the right medication your legs will be better in no time, wont they?” he said, “… someone will be along later tonight when the hubbub has died down. You’ll get your medication. Then you and I will talk.”

James walked along a well tended garden path. There were roses to both sides of him planted in beds, with white stones edging the path itself. Behind him was a stately home and the path lead him toward a copse of trees. The sun shone with the warmth of a summer afternoon. The roses gave way to smaller bedding plants and they eventually gave way to plain grass. As he approached the trees, the edging stones lost their white hue and became common rocks. The path’s transition from regal and stately to common felt familiar. His life had been spent walking up the path, one hard-earned step at a time. He fought for every inch he took along the path from trees to the stately home. Looking behind him he could see confetti part way along the path. Yes, Sarah’s help he’d vaulted all the way to the goal. How easily he was walking back along the path!

The path lead him deeper into the trees. There were depths to his fall from grace that went deeper than his previous life? Could that be so? Ahead he saw discarded whiskey bottles. He ran forward and knelt down. Yes, his favourite brand of liquor. What did this mean? He reached for one and pulled his hand back, a deep gash from one of the broken bottled bleeding profusely.

He looked up and the trees melted and reformed as men’s legs. James looked from his sliced hand to the people around him, back to himself … suddenly realizing that he was back to his childhood again. This was the waiting room of the clinic! He spun around. Yes, the clinic. He looked around in panic. Where was his Daddy? He couldnt see him! It was all legs, all around! He held his sliced left hand close to himself and began to cry.

“Jimmy! Do I need to give you something to really cry about?” his Dad asked.

James looked up through tears and fought to get the emotion under control. He was still choking back tears when he was lead into the doctor’s room. It smelled strange. Musty. Like an old, old room filled with old wooden furniture and rotting papers. It smelled like grand-da’s attic. James remembered rummaging through the piles and finding a dead bird – it had flowing in and never found its way back out. The doctor’s room smelled like that, musty and old, with a hint of dead-bird.

“What seems to be the problem young man?” the doctor asked.

James looked up at him. He was tall, old, piercing blue eyes that looked like they were made of stone. James extended his hand.

“Let’s take a look…” the doctor said, reaching to poke and prod around the cut, mumbling to himself.

James knew what was to come next … the stitches … the ointment and the talk about keeping active while it was healing. Sure enough the doctor played his part and dutifully said everything James remembered. Then he left and came back.

“James. Do you know why you cut yourself?” he asked.

James shook his head.

“You cut yourself because you dont know how to handle a blade. When I was your age I had mastered the art of the blade. I got a trophy, want to see?”

James nodded.

The doctor reached inside his shirt and pulled out a leather thong. Hanging from the thong against his chest was a plain silver ring. It looked old … really, really old. It was returned almost as soon as it was displayed.

“That was my prize for using a knife and my wits correctly. Now, I want you to have something. I want you to learn to use a knife correctly so you wont come back here with another cut like that. Do you understand me?”

James nodded, a little confused but willing to go along with things.

“Here.” the doctor produced a straight-edge razor from his pocket, “This has been with me a long time, waiting for its new owner. I think we both know who that is, dont we James?”

James managed to stammer, “Yes sir.”

The doctor folded the razor. The blade slid into the handle with a neat little _swish_. He smiled and handed it to James.

“Now, while you have that razor, I dont want to see you back in here, got that?”

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