In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 8, 1993
Uncuffing Angie from the bed, John took her unconscious form in his arms. She was so light, no heavier than a child. He cradled her gently, afraid that the slightest mishandling might cause her to break. Even in sleep her features were pinched and troubled. What nightmare was she reliving now? Rage boiled in his breast, he had been a party to enough cruelty in his lifetime to be able to guess at what she might have endured at their hands. Why hadn't she come to him? He could have protected her.
But how could she have come to him? He'd never told her how he felt. He'd locked his feelings away like a coward, in love with the idea of pining away, in love with the idea of grieving so nobly. Angie had suffered because she'd had no one to turn to; John cursed himself again and again for being so weak and stupid.
A thunderous crash sounded from downstairs, he heard a chorus of screams and the staccato of gunfire. That was his cue, holding her close John headed out the door. He made his way down the stairs, all he had to do was get out the door, Magwier’s van was waiting at the curb. The air was heavy with the smell of gunpowder and blood, from his vantage point on the stairs he could see the carnage taking place in the waiting room. None of the girls, customers or guards were being spared, there could be no witnesses. John's steps slowed at the sight of the High-Born, he'd never seen one in its Myrmidon form before.
The lissome form darted silently from one victim to the next. The slender, sexless body had a head that was completely featureless save for a pair of dull silver eyes. Blood streaked the High-Born's smooth, opalescent skin as he turned his attention to another cowering guard. The guard had a pistol gripped in his shaking hands, he fired as Jared leapt. John shouted with alarm and descended the remaining steps as quickly as his burden allowed him. Shoulder bleeding from a bullet wound, Jared tore the guard's esophagus out with a single swipe of his razor-keen talons.
John breathed a sigh of relief, ever since his arrival here he had felt a subtle sense of unease growing in the back of his mind. Almost as though he was being watched, he had begun to wonder if perhaps the room he was in had been bugged.
Violet Mendoza tackled him from behind. She was screaming at him, cursing in Spanish. All John could do was worry that the fall had somehow injured Angie. He didn't even realize he'd been stabbed until Violet tore the seven-inch blade from his arm and plunged it down hard between his shoulderblades.
Hunched down on all fours, Jared turned from the dozen corpses to see Violet Mendoza straddling John's prone form. He didn’t move, he shielded the unconscious girl with his body. She yanked the knife free, an arc of blood trailing through the air in its wake, and stabbed down again. Jared sprung, knocking her against the wall. The gory knife tumbled from her hands.
He slashed at her but she caught the strike with the meat of her forearm. Before Jared could attack again she had him in a bear hug, his arms pinned to his sides.Violet Mendoza began to squeeze, her teeth gritted, her muscles bulging. Slowly, one by one, Jared's ribs began to break.
Groggily, John raised himself up. He looked down at Angie and felt his heart catch with horror, thick streaks of red covered her face and neck. Phelan’s bones! Why had he bothered if he was only going to get her killed anyway? Why hadn't he just-
Stop it! Stop it! It's just your blood you damn fool!
The High-Born thrashed in Violet Mendoza's grip. Jared was too young and too unskilled to use the Metastasis to escape her. Hard as it was to believe, she just might kill him. John charged forward, his every movement an agony. Violet didn’t notice him until his hands were on her neck and chin.
A swift twist and he was the familiar pop of a breaking neck. She exhaled sharply and fell backwards.
Jared tottered free of her grip and managed a few steps back into the gore-spattered waiting room before collapsing. Magwier pulled his van up onto the curb and began beeping the horn wildly. Gritting his teeth John made his way back to Angie and hefted her over one aching shoulder. A wave of nausea washed over him, he leaned against the wall and waited for it to pass. He found himself slumping down to the floor, his blood streaking the plaster. Nausea begot weariness, a weariness that was bone deep. His eyelids began to flutter; darkness closed in on him, painless and comforting.
The High-Born was a few feet away, lying amid the corpses, lying so very still. There was a figure standing nearby, an ashen silhouette. Shaking his head John tried to focus on the shape but it moved too swiftly, passing out of his range of vision. He tried to turn his head, to follow the movement, but the darkness reared up to claim him.
This wasn’t the result he’d wanted, but at least Angie was free of this place. The police would take her away and get her the help she needed. She would have a life of her own, she would have the happiness she deserved.
But she would never know it was him, she would never know what she’d meant.
The thought was a saddening one, but alone in the all-consuming blackness he felt the hurt slipping away. This was a good death, a death worthy of his birthright.
“…John! Jared!…What have you done?…”
The voice was like an itch, goading him back up from the inky depths. It wasn’t fair, he wanted to rest- he deserved to rest.
“John! Wake up! This wasn’t the plan! What…”
He opened his eyes to see Jason Magwier’s face inches from his. How long had he been unconscious for?
“Oh, thank goodness!” Magwier tired to help John to his feet only to be pushed away, “Hey!”
“Get- “ he stood on his own, holding Angie, “Jared.”
Stepping gingerly around the corpses, Magwier knelt beside Jared and checked his pulse. John stood woozily in the doorway, “Come on!”
Magwier lifted the slender form and carried it past the old man and out the door. Turning to follow John paused, a shiver running up his spine.
You’re going into shock fool!
But it wasn’t shock, he was being watched. Turning slowly, John tensed in anticipation of a fresh attack. What would it be? Some forgotten guard? Or perhaps the figure in gray he’d half-seen before fainting?
All John’s feverish senses found were bodies.