In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 10, 1993
Standing at the second floor window with Lucifer lolling between his feet, John watched the minivan back out of his driveway and disappear into the night. The place where Jared’s tooth had merged with his gum was puffy and sore, he ran his tongue over it again and again, sick with joy. All his life he’d always felt like a stranger looking in on Vlodek society always felt that the others saw him as a traitor or a cripple or both. Even his true name- Rungnir- that didn’t feel like him. He was John Sig, and he walked alone.
Jared had washed all that away with his simple ceremony of recognition. It told John that he may not have always lived like a Vlodek, but he still had a Vlodek soul.
Clenched in his hand were directions to Magwier’s house in Las Vegas, he was supposed to meet them there was soon as Angie was back on her feet. He crumpled the paper and let it fall to the floor for Lucifer to bat at idly. Magwier’s war against the Monarchs would have to go on without him.
Of course now he had to decide what to do about Violet Mendoza. She had to die, that was obvious, the question was how. The Hospital was probably crawling with police and he was in no condition to play the assassin.
A muffled choking sound disturbed him from his reverie.
“Angie!” he rushed to her room and fumbled for the key. It slipped from his hands and clattered to the floor. He could hear her heaving, struggling for breath. In his mind’s eye he saw Victor Kovach towering over her, cursing him all over again “Everything you were- Everything you are- Everything you could have had- All of it gone!”
He got the key only to drop it again as he tried to jam it into the lock. With a cry of frustration he threw himself against the door, splintering wood, smashing it open. Angie was thrashing on the bed, her face half-hidden under a caul of vomit, choking, gasping for air. The handcuff keys were in the top drawer of the dresser, but John wasn’t about to waste time. He threw himself at her, pulling at the dull metal of the restraints until they snapped; shifting her onto her stomach with her head hanging off the bed he slapped her on the back as hard as he dared.
So soft… so soft…
The broken handcuffs on her wrists rattled as she clawed at the underside of the bed. Unsure of what else to do John kept pounding on her back, terrified that at any moment he would hear bones breaking. It couldn’t end like this, he wouldn’t let it. With a wet cough the obstruction gave way and bile spattered onto the floor. John kept his hand on her warm back, feeling her heart beat, feeling her every exhausted breath. “Are you- “ the first time he tried to speak his voice came out as a whisper, “Are you all right?”
“FUCKER!” with savage cry she grabbed the bedpan from beneath the bed and smashed her captor across the face. The impact knocked John senseless, tasting blood he slid off the bed.
Struggling out of bed Angie made a break for the door only to have her rubbery legs betray her; withdrawal, malnutrition and too many hours of inactivity had robbed them of their strength. She stumbled and fell to her knees.
“...Human beings make two basic mistakes in life...” the memory of Victor’s voice became taunting, goading John to crawl after her. She screamed when his hand latched around her ankle, her skin squealed against the naked floorboards as he dragged her back into the room. “...The first is to believe that anyone can ever truly know us...And second is that anyone will ever truly love us...”
As he took her in his arms she fought like a wildwoman, kicking, screaming and biting. John held on, trying to soothe her, “It’s all right, I’m not gonna hurt you.”
“Let me go you fucking prick let me go!”
“It’s all right…it’s all right… no one’s gonna hurt you any more-”
“…fuckerfuckerfuckerfuckerfucker I hate you fuckerfuckerfucker…”
“-not while I’m around.”
Eventually her curses degenerated into sobs, “Please let me go, I won’t tell anyone.”
He shook his head, she had bitten him on the cheek, right below his left eye, the wound stung as it bled. “I can’t let you go yet, not until… not until…” he looked into her tear-streaked face, “not until I’ve made you see. Not until I’ve made you know.”
“Know? Know what?”
“A long, lonely year later Phelan found his way back to the cave and found the She-Wolf waiting for him.
“But she wasn’t alone, oh no. She had a brood of children, four boys and four girls. They were like wolves, they were like men- they were like nothing the world had ever seen before. Phelan recognized his children and knew that they were starving.
“Phelan’s children were too different, too outside the laws of the world and the world was retaliating. The sun blinded them so they could not hunt in the day, and the night used darkness to conceal their prey. The wind would change direction and blow their scents ahead of them to warn their quarry. The very earth made itself cold and barren no matter where they traveled.” John held Angie tighter in his arms as he spoke, the odor of her sickness, sweat and sex conspired to make him giddy. She was still speaking, begging him to let her go, but exhaustion and withdrawal had robbed her of the will to fight.
“Phelan cried out to the Moon-goddess Why have you forsaken us?
“The barren Moon-goddess answered I have not abandoned you Phalen the Hunter, but the earth and the night keep me from reaching you. The wind obscures my vision with clouds and the sea roars to keep me from hearing your cries for help.
“The She-Wolf howled for her children were starving and she was too weak to hunt, Phelan wept for he had no fresh kills to give. Be strong, the Moon-goddess said, Give me a day and a night and I will find a way to save your children.
“Phelan knew enough of the ways of men and beasts to know that his children would not live through the night without food. There was only one thing he could do. He took his great knife, fashioned from the long tooth of the last of the great cats and used it to split open his belly.
“They say that the Moon-goddess’ face dripped with tears of silver at Phelan’s deed, they say that the great She-Wolf died of grief, they say that his children sobbed with every bite. Only two things are truly known about that night, first- that Phelan’s sacrifice helped his offspring survive the night and second that they ate everything but his bones.”