In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Sixty Two
BY AL BRUNO III
Friday December 3rd 1996
“Sig!” Isobel knocked on the door again, “Sig please let me in. I'm starting to get really worried.”
Worried wasn't the half of it. A day and a half ago Angie had begun to throw up and she had kept throwing up until her stomach was empty, then she found herself unable to hold down even the blandest of food, even a sip of water kept her on the verge of retching. Fever had come next, a fever strong enough to leave her pale and delirious.
Each of them dealt with this in their own way; Zeth and Magwier observed from a distance, Roxanne stayed in her room, Warren wandered the halls of Laurel House with a helpless look on his face, Jack and Hao brought clean sheets and towels. Isobel found herself playing nursemaid while Bodivar offered what medical advice he could but he kept complaining that his knowledge was generations out of date. He suspected that some kind of a virus was at work, that their only option was to let its run its course and hope for the best.
That was the last thing Sig wanted to hear.
Now it was hours later and Sig had locked the door to his room and wouldn’t answer. No one even knew if Angie was dead or alive. Everyone was waiting now, even the phantom windchimes were silent.
Isobel had tried to get Galen involved, if he was a kind of royalty wouldn’t that make Sig more likely to listen to him? But Galen said he couldn’t get involved that he needed to respect Sig's honor.
“Please let me know you’re all right,” Isobel knocked on the door again, “I just want to know that you’re both alright.”
Still no answer. Isobel had already demanded one of Jack’s skeleton keys so she could barge right in but Hao had cautioned “You do that and he’ll go for your throat.”
Would Sig? Would he really? Isobel found it a little hard to imagine, not when the old man always seemed to have a little smile for her and he was so gentle with Angie.
“Please!” She knocked again, everyone else had retreated to their rooms or to the library but Isobel had to try again, there had to be something she could say or do, “I just want to make sure you’re OK.”
Isobel leaned her forehead against the door, she felt sick with possibilities, with what ‘what ifs’.
What if this was more than just a virus? What if there wasn’t anything that could be done? What if it was too late and another one of her friends was already dead?
When she spoke again she wasn’t sure who she was addressing, “I’m scared.”
The lock clicked open but for a moment Isobel was certain she’d imagined it, that her hopeful thinking had gotten the better of her.
The door creaked open, just a few inches, a wave of hot, sick-smelling air assaulted her. The room was dark, Isobel walked inside.
“Close the door behind you,” Sig said.
“Sure,” she did as he asked and stood still waiting for her eyes to adjust. The air smelled more than sick, it smelled of more than puke and shit and sweat, it smelled of deathbed despair.
“Don’t be scared,” he said, “you are not someone I would ever try to hurt. But that isn’t always enough is it?”
The room was starting to resolve itself out of the darkness, she could see him now, crouching beside the bed. Angie was curled up on the bed. She was sleeping, her breaths fevered and miserable.
Isobel began “I can get some clean sheets...”
He shushed her, “There’s time for that later. Watch your step.”
The room was a battlefield; the chairs and bureau had been smashed to pieces, holes had been punched in the walls, the elegant paintings torn from their moorings and snapped out of their frames.
“I... lost my composure.”
Treading carefully Isobel thought to take Angie’s pulse. Bodivar had taught her how but she wasn’t sure if she remembered.
“The House gives us what we need,” Sig murmured, “food, books, wine and ice cream. All stolen. Stolen from other places.”
“I don’t understand...” Isobel touched Angie’s forehead, she was burning up.
“Galen never told you? The house steals. Even our time here is stolen.”
Is he... Isobel realized, He’s naked! The sight of him wasn't what she imagined, he was thin but folds of loose skin hung here and there hinting at sudden weight loss.
She spoke calmly, “What can I do? What do you need me to do?”
“Bodivar thinks we can wait it out. I don’t think we can. She needs antibiotics.”
“Why do you...”
“She has,” Sig paused, “she has AIDS.”
“HIV... AIDS... whatever it is. She needs antibiotics,” Sig reached under the bed and pulled out a worn duffel-bag, “there is a man in town, a pharmacist I do business with. You can trust him.”
He zipped the bad open and dumped thick, bound wads of bills out at Isobel’s feet, “I can’t leave her so I need you to go into town for me.”
“I don’t think I could find the town.”
“I know but you can ask one of the others to take you there- any of them but Magwier- but I would feel...” Sig paused, “...safer if you were the one there in my place. As a reward you can keep as whatever money is left over, whatever you want.”
“I don’t want your money,” she said, “But why me?”
“Because you’re the only one of us that isn’t tainted,” Sig returned to Angie's bedside, “the rest of are lost already and just waiting for oblivion to claim us.”
“I don't understand.”
“I know,” Sig nodded, “Take the money and leave now. I need some time alone. I will see you before you leave.”
The light of the hallway was dazzling after the murk of the room. She held the duffel-bag of money to her chest, it was bank bound piles of fifties and hundreds, more money than she ever imagined seeing in one place. She walked down the hallway wondering how she should talk to first. Hao? Jack? Her brother? Galen?
“...you’re the only one of us that isn’t tainted...”