Chapter III: Morphine for MercurioI made my way back down the rusted walkway from the beach-house, intent on getting a closer look at the pier. On my way there, I noticed the dark vampire watching me. I moved towards her, opening my mouth to ask her again how she knew what I was looking for. She took a step back, hand covering her eyes as if she suddenly felt a blinding headache.
'You have been...no...you are going to China.' She intoned the words, looking up. She seemed to look at me, but her eyes were unfocused, as if whatever she saw was far in front of her. I shrugged uncomfortably, glancing over my shoulder. The small radio the thin-bloods had on the beach sang a maudlin accompaniment in a crackly voice.
'What are you talking about?' I asked her.
'In the violent silence of a dream within a dream...'
'I don't follow. Whose father? Standing behind who?'
I grabbed the woman, shaking her roughly. I'd had enough of this bullshit.
'What are you talking about?'
'See things? Like a fortune teller?' I raised an eyebrow. I wasn't sure I believed in this stuff.
This morning, you wouldn't have believed in vampires either. She did know about the men in the beach-house...
'Please. Tell me about it. I'm willing to pay you. C'mon, tell me my fortune.'
'And I, I could have died last night, but I heard the voice of a smaller god and I...'
The music droned on, eerily, making me think back to my rebirth...is that what we were now? Smaller gods?
'Hundred? Forget it, here's twenty.'
'Your absence in the morning, your presence in the night, I'm searching your dark hallways, trying to find the light...
'Who can I trust?' I had a feeling that this was going to be an important question in my immediate future.
The man on the couch must be Mercurio. The wolf...the wolf was a puzzle for another time. Two people. Out of everyone I had met, would meet, I could trust two. Even then...could I trust the words of this half-crazy thin-blood?
'Alright then...well, who are my enemies?'
A remarkable foe? Me? Who was born this evening and doesn't know his ass from his extra-sensory perception? Some of these guys must have been around decades...maybe centuries...
'Thanks, I guess.' I sighed, rubbing my temple. 'Stick around, I might have some more questions for you later.'
I made my way towards the side stairs to the pier, which thankfully weren't blocked off.
The treacherous climb was illuminated by one solitary lamp. Ominous shadows clung to either side of the steps, the cliffs surrounding the beach closing in, making me feel as if I was walking up to my own elevated tomb. I shrugged aside such thoughts, and made my way up to the top, following the flashing red and blue lights.
The man, or what was left of him, hung from a steel cable hung over the pier. The face was unrecognisable, a mess of oozing gashes and missing flesh, one eye ruined, the other a pinprick of terror. The arms were missing, almost looking as if they had been torn off, the torso missing, intestines falling in coils to the pavement. The amount of blood spraying this corner of the pier was stunning; the spread, the distance, the sheer volume. Anyone would imagine the guy had been attacked by a hungry bear...except bears weren't able to look a steel cable around a man's throat. That suggested dexterity. That suggested vampires.
Or am I seeing vampires in every shadow now? The guy that filled my car up with gas every night, maybe he was a vampire. Or the homeless guy across from the bar. Or maybe my brother. Yeah, he never emerged from his room until the sun had been down a few hours, maybe he was a vampire too.
Frustration gnawed at me. I'd never been one to enjoy being clueless. What you didn't know could screw you over. It seemed now that what I didn't know could kill me.
I walked back through the carpark, heading back to Mercurio's. Then I paused, ticking off items on my list.
I felt the reassuring weight in my pack, wondering how volatile it was. Maybe I could drop it somewhere til I needed it.
'Mercurio's wallet. Check.'
What was that other thing? I looked up the road.
'Time to find my patient some medicine.'
I trotted up to the doors of the medical centre, already planning my story. Wouldn't be the first time I sneaked into an emergency room. Or out of one, for that matter. As I began to open the door, I was halted by a high-pitched, nasal voice.
I passed a wary eye over the individual, taking in his boyish enthusiasm, the pulse I could see in his jugular. An inbuilt ability to sense other undead combined with my astonishing leaps of logic led me to believe this wasn't another vampire, just a slightly unhinged mortal.
'What in God's name are you talkin' about kid? Get lost.'
I let the handle fall from my grip as I turned to glare at the kid. My brow furrowed as I sneered.
'Talk? About what?'
'Pleasure's all yours. Who are you, and what do you think you know?'
'A ghoul?' More fairytale bullshit?
'Oh, so you're a thrall that does all the dirty work for a fix. Tell me Knox, you like being a junkie?'
'Yeah, I bet that's how all whores feel. Empowered. So why are you hanging around here rather than sucking at the nasty guy's...wrist?'
'Yeah. Great.' Idiot.
I stepped inside the building, and casually surveyed the scene.
The woman looked up in frustration, tiredness and the calibre of clientele taking the edge off her barely patient voice. I leaned forwards slightly and crooned into her ear, my innate charm once again on overload.
'Hi there miss. I hate to distract you from the esteemed gentlemen you have here, but you looked so sad and I just had to see if I could make you smile.'
Sure. Roll your eyes, make sounds of disgust if you will. It worked though. She smiled despite herself, her features becoming softer, more warm.
'One of my friends is a doctor here, and he asked me if I could drop by with some stuff he left at my place the other day. Would you mind terribly if I just headed over to his office, dropped it off and left again? In and out in a few seconds, I swear.' I smiled again, winking at her. She looked around furtively, then nodded.
'Alright then, go on back. Quickly though, I don't want to get fired.'
'You're a real treasure', I murmured. 'Maybe I could get your number as well?'
Not that I particularly wanted it. For some reason, some things just didn't seem so important anymore. But when you're putting on an act, stick to it.
As I walked towards the doctors offices down the hall, I heard the sound of feeble coughing and wretching coming from the door to my left. I paused, wondering what on earth was happening in there. Eyeing each side of the corridor, I gingerly pushed the door open.
The girl lay writhing in a pool of blood, moaning. She seemed far gone, both in terms of mental capacity and life. She looked young...maybe 19-20, pretty. Not unlike the kinda girls I'd been going for. I felt a stirring of sympathy, and in a way, loneliness.
She's not gonna live long. Such a shame, to die so young. Look at me...play my cards right, and I could live half an eternity. Her life...it'd be like a candle, lit and snuffed out in an instant. Maybe she can have another chance.
Remembering what Knox had said earlier, I made a small cut on my wrist with my teeth, allowing a small drop of blood to well out. Maybe the mental midget was useful for something afterall...
The girl regained consciouness and looked at me in wonder and confusion.
'Nothing', I replied gently, placing my hand on her shoulder. 'Rest, you're still not 100%, although you will be soon.'
'Nothing. Like I said. Forget this ever happened. For your sake.' I willed the girl to sleep, then left the room, shutting the door behind me. Did I do the right thing? I don't know. Maybe this isn't so much about right and wrong anyway...
...maybe it all just balances out. A little breaking and entering and petty theft here, saving a life there. Time to see Mercurio.
Mercurio lay silently on the couch, face down. The bleeding had slowed, stopped in places, and his breathing was less laboured than when I had first arrived. The wounds on his face were slowly healing. Not as well as mine did, but much faster than would be expected from someone who looked like he needed to be in ICU for a few months.
'Damn it Mercurio, did you die on me? When I went to all the effort of getting you a present?'
Mercurio stirred, starting to push himself up to face me. I firmly held him down, taking the plastic covering off a syringe with my teeth, opening one of the morphine bottles.
'Hold still, this'll sting a bit.'
'I'll bet. I have the astrolite, you'll be pleased to hear.'
I smiled from ear to ear. 'Didn't leave enough to be identified.'
'Ta-daa', I deadpanned, throwing him the wallet. 'You've really got to keep a better hold on your things Merc, I found this in some guy's coat.'
'That's good, those seem to be leaking bloo...' I sniffed. 'Mercurio, that's not blood. Show some self-control! So, what do I do with this astrolite?'
'And where is this building which must go boom?'
Fucking typical. One thing after the next.
I looked at Mercurio with smoking eyes, fingers clenching hard enough to make the empty morphine bottle squeak. 'Why is he hiding?'
'Perfect', I fumed. Merc looked up apologetically with his non-swollen eye. I know how you feel man, his expression seemed to say. Working for these guys is one pain in the ass after the next, but it's not like either of us have a choice. I relented. It wasn't his fault. Besides, the woman on the beach told me I could trust him, and I needed a few allies.
'So, where do I find her?'
'Ok, so sister vamps running The Asylum nightclub. Fitting. What can you tell me about them both?'
Mercurio actually looked embarrassed. 'Go on', I urged.
I puzzled over this. True, the urge seemed to have left me the second I woke up again, but whose to say it would stay like that? I guess I'd have to see the pair for myself.
'What about you Merc, where do you fit in with all this?'
'Now how's about that. Happen to know where I can get some guns? Seems everyone here is packing except me.'
'Thanks, I appreciate it. Rest up, I'll handle the warehouse. See you later.'
I walked out, closing the door behind me. Sure, he'd fucked up, but Merc was growing on me. Besides...always nice when someone with connections owes you a favour...