Kill the Dead Page 46


The end slips between her ribs and into her heart. Another flick and the na’at retracts. Koralin falls to the floor grunting like an animal in shock and pain. Her milk-pale skin crawls with patches of red. Her lips fade from deep blue to bright crimson as she draws her first choked and agonized breath since birth.


“Did you know that the cure for a zombie bite is a Savant’s blood? I learned that when Johnny Thunders gave me some of his. I used some to help out Brigitte and I put the rest on the na’at. Johnny must have been right because it looks to me like you’re breathing again. How does it feel to be alive after all these years? Just another pathetic mortal lowlife. Weird, I bet. Don’t worry. You won’t feel it for long.”


I pick up the Druj from where she dropped it, pull Candy from the sofa, and hand her Kasabian.


The Drifters crowd around Koralin. They move in slowly, a little uncertain of who or what she is. She was one of them a moment ago, but she must be starting to smell human. I wonder what her body temperature has to be before they know she’s food.


“If you want to go, you can go,” I tell Jan.


He stands there.


“I can’t leave her to this.”


“I’m giving you a break because of Eleanor.”


“Please.”


“No.”


He grabs the athame from the table and throws it. He’s good, too. He’s handled a knife before.


I duck it, but Candy is looking at Koralin, so she doesn’t see it coming. The knife hits her arm and goes in to the hilt. She drops Kasabian and I flick out the na’at, hitting Jan in the chest. It knocks him back onto the sofa and in a few seconds he’s staring through watery eyes filled with the shock and deep-down horror of being alive. A moment later he starts to breathe. As his lungs begin filling with air he reaches for my gun, but his body is still in shock and he’s too clumsy to reach it. I pick it up and put it in his hand. I help him steady it under his chin so he’ll get it right when he pulls the trigger. The sound of a gun going off inside hurts my ears and the back of Jan’s head explodes out in a red spray. The Drifters not heading for Koralin make a beeline for the gore. I take the gun back and put it in my jacket.


I tuck Kasabian under my arm, put my arm around Candy, and help her to the door.


“What about the boy?” she asks.


“He wants to be part of the family. Let him.”


We’re out in the hall when the screaming starts. I close the door and smash the grandfather clock to pieces, sealing the room. I grab Candy and Kasabian and step through a shadow and back to the old apartment.


I can see Brigitte through the bedroom door. She’s propped up on pillows and her eyes are open.


Allegra is coming toward us.


“I’m sorry to always show up with walking wounded. But we don’t have anywhere else to go anymore,” I tell her.


Allegra takes Candy, lays her out on the sofa, and goes for first-aid supplies.


“You know you are always welcome. Family is difficult, but having none is worse.”


Kasabian is still under my arm.


“Oh Christ. Put me back with the zombies, Strawberry Shortcake.”


I go back to the bedroom. Brigitte sits up and puts out her hand. I take it, but only to make her feel better. She’s still too weak to explain that the man she thinks she’s looking at is gone.


There’s a blast in the street. Then shouting. I look out the window and see a couple of girls and a young guy running from a pack of Lacunas. They have guns and are shooting. They’re getting some pretty good hits, but it’s not going to do them any good. They have to slow down when they aim. In a minute or two they’ll be out of bullets and the Lacunas will have gained on them enough that it will be over.


I turn to Brigitte.


“I’ll be back in a minute.”


I climb the stairs to the roof. When I get there I can still hear gunfire, but it’s less frequent. They know they’re running low on ammo.


From the edge of the roof I can see the whole city. It’s a patchwork of light and dead blacked-out areas and the whole thing has turned orange and bleached yellow from dozens of fires.


The shooters are out of bullets and the Lacunas close in.


Koralin must have known something extra about how the Druj works. I could make the Drifters nearby do what I want, but there’s no way I can control a whole city. She acted like she could. Maybe I should have asked her about that before letting the Drifters have her.


Even if I could control them all, would that save the day? Lucifer said not to rely on any one weapon. That I might not even be able to keep this one. Maybe that’s the point. The fatal flaw that will reveal itself at exactly the worst moment. When would that be? When I sneak Downtown and use the Druj to hunt Mason? Now, when I try to get the Drifters to march back to their caves?


When I was still in the arena, I stole a knife to kill another fighter I didn’t like. I tried stabbing him in the tunnel leading to the fighting floor, but the knife’s weight was odd and the blade wasn’t sharp enough. I found out later that it was a throwing knife, completely wrong for hand-to-hand fighting. It only had power when you threw it. To use it, you couldn’t keep it.


I take the Druj out of my pocket and throw it off the roof. It turns over and over in the air like a coin tossed on a bet. It takes forever to hit the ground.


The Lacunas have caught up with the shooters. They’re on them. I can hear them screaming.


The Druj hits the pavement and shatters into a million pieces.


The Lacunas freeze. For a moment they’re horrible dummies in a Hellion spook house. Then quietly, like wind on a roof, they fall apart. They’re dust before they hit the ground. The shooters, both girls and the boy, get up. They stagger, grab each other, and look around. When they see what’s happened, they run away as fast as they can. The same thing is happening farther down the street. Drifters are falling apart everywhere. In the distance, civilians are single dots running from packs of other dots. Then the pack disappears and the lone dot stops running.


The fires still burn. Half the city is still blacked out. Sirens scream and helicopters cut up the sky. I go back downstairs.


WHEN IT’S LIGHT out, I take Kasabian back to Max Overload to see what condition the place is in.


Downstairs is trashed. It doesn’t look like Drifters made it inside, but in the great tradition of all L.A. apocalypses, looters did. The windows and doors are smashed. The cartoons, action movies, and porn sections are pretty much cleared out. The cash registers are gone, too.


Upstairs, the lock on the door is broken, but the place is pretty much intact. There’s a big circle of dried blood on the bed.


“That’s where that crazy bitch got Kinski. I don’t know what happened to his body. Sorry, man. I know you two were tight.”


“Not really.”


I wad up the sheets, take them and the bed downstairs, and leave them by the curb with the broken glass and burned-out cars. I can’t remember the city ever being this quiet. Like a funeral on Christmas morning. I don’t see any single people go by. Everyone huddles together in twos and threes and more. Walking wounded. Piles of dust mark the places where Drifters fell. Garbage trucks and commandeered pickups lined with plastic sheets cruise Hollywood Boulevard shoveling up human remains.


I go back upstairs and sit on the bed frame. I don’t know what to do. An angel should have some idea of where to go from here. Stark would do something. Something stupid, but something. If I could keep him from drinking, he wouldn’t be bad to have around sometimes. But he’s gone.


“Are there any cigarettes?” asks Kasabian.


I look around, but can’t find any. I go back downstairs and find a half-smoked butt on the counter. I take it upstairs, light it with Mason’s lighter, and hold it out for Kasabian. He takes a couple of puffs.


“You don’t want any?”


“No.”


“You’re different, man. Not like depressed different. I’ve seen that. That bite fucked you all up.”


“I’m fine. I’m just not smoking or drinking. I’m better.”


“A lot of laughs, too. You usually would have made some stupid joke by now instead of sitting there like you just got electroshock.”


“It could have been ten.”


“What’s that mean?”


“It’s a Hellion joke. When God threw them from Heaven, they fell for nine days, so when everything goes to shit you say…”


“…It could have been ten. Nice. Now you’re doing some demon’s stand-up act. You’re going to be a riot clean and sober.”


“I wonder if anywhere still has food.”


“And beer. You might be Sister Mary Dry County, but some of us are still people and need booze.”


“I’ll see what I can do.”


I pull the door closed and go out through the front.


The boulevard is a ghost town. What a shock. There are patches of blood and a smoldering garage around the corner, but the worst seems to be over. I pass a dozen gutted stores, including some markets, but I can’t make myself go in. I’m hungry and not above stealing, but I don’t want to trip over any half-eaten bodies inside.


If I was a religious man (and no, knowing there’s a Heaven and Hell, God and devil and angels doesn’t help being religious one little bit), I might take what I see as a sign. There’s a line outside Donut Universe. The windows are shattered and some of the booths have been trashed, but they have power and they’re pouring coffee for a long line of shell-shocked civilians. Coffee would be nice, but if I get in line someone might try to talk to me. I keep walking.


“Hey!”


Someone is yelling, but it doesn’t sound scared, so I don’t turn around. There’s a hand on my arm. I turn, ready to punch or shoot.


It’s Janet, the donut girl. She’s pale and her hair is spiked and messy and her eyes are dark, like she hasn’t slept since Groundhog Day.


“You’re alive,” she says.


“So are you. How was the Chinese food?”


“The chow mein was greasy, but the mu shu pork was good. Here,” she says, and puts a bag in my hand.


“We’re out of fritters, so it’s just an assortment of what we have left. We haven’t made any new ones, so they’re a little stale. But the coffee is hot.”


“I think you just saved my life, Janet.”


“We’re even, then.”


“It’s really good to see you.”


“You, too.”


She kisses me on the cheek and runs back into Donut Universe. People in line glare at me, wondering why I rate special treatment.


I saved your lives, assholes. Let me have a fucking donut.


CANDY IS SITTING on the bed frame when I get back.


“Hi.”


“Hi yourself. Want a bear claw?”


“No thanks.”


“I guess you and Kasabian have met.”


“Yeah. We talked about movies and gossiped about you last night.”


I put the bags on Kasabian’s table and sit down next to Candy.


“I’m sorry about the doc.”


It takes her a while to say anything. She’s trying hard not to cry.


“Yeah. You know about him, right?”


“That he’s my father? Yeah. I heard.”


“I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you, but he wouldn’t let me. He wanted to do it when the time was right and it could just be you two for a while and you could talk or fight or whatever it is fathers and sons do.”


“I think I’ll miss him.”


“Yeah. Me, too.”


She leans against me. I put my arm around her because the angel knows I’m supposed to at a moment like this.


“I missed you, too,” she says. “I know you thought that doc and I were lovers, but it wasn’t like that. We were each fucked up in different ways and took care of each other, but doc never forgot what happened to the women he loved and what happened to the kids they had. He just didn’t have it in him anymore. You’re the only thing of his that survived.”


“He kept you alive, too.”


“Yeah, he did.”


We’re quiet for a minute, then she moves away and looks at me hard.


“You’re not you anymore, are you?”


“No. I’m not.”


“Are you in there somewhere?”


“If you mean Stark, I don’t think so. Stark was a drunk and a fool and he’s dead. Fuck him.”


“Who are you now?”


“No one. Nothing. I don’t know if I’m the end of something or the beginning. Let’s pretend it’s the beginning. You can name me, like a baby.”


She looks at her hands and takes a breath.


“Take the cure. Your friends wouldn’t want you like this. I don’t want you like this.”


“Stark is dead. He’s gone. Maybe you should do the same. Go away and don’t come back.”


She loses it and starts bawling.


“I don’t want Stark to be gone. Doc is gone and I don’t want you to be gone, too.”


“He’s dead. You don’t get a vote on dead.”


“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”


I get up.


“You should go now.”


She stands, but doesn’t move.


“I know you’re not Stark anymore and none of this means anything to you, but can you please just hold me for a minute before I go?”


This is why angels find it so easy to kill you people.


“All right.”


Candy grabs me hard like she’s fallen overboard and is holding on to the side of a boat to keep from drowning.

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