“I’ve been wondering about that. Maybe it was a test to see if a crime scene was covered up well enough. Maybe I’m being set up to be the fall guy if it wasn’t demons back there.”
“I have tools with me that will tell us if revenants were present.”
We go to the room where Enoch Springheel was chewed up like human jerky. I keep an eye on Brigitte when I flip on the light. The Vigil tidied up a bit, but Springheel’s sex magic altar is still there and the bloodstain on the floor is as wide as a king-size bed. Brigitte doesn’t flinch. Her heart and breathing are rock steady. She’s walked into a lot bigger messes than this. That means she’s been telling the truth. Also it means that whatever we find, I won’t have to babysit her.
“What sort of demons do this damage?”
“This wouldn’t be the first time someone has confused demons and revenants. Or used one to cover up the other.”
“It would be a first for me and it better be the last.”
Brigitte sees Springheel’s altar and heads right for it.
“These things are for very dark magic. Do what you are going to do. I want to watch.”
“It’s not hard, but it’s messy. You might want to step back.”
She goes and stands by the door. I get out a plastic bag of dry skin I scraped off Kasabian’s Hand of Glory and use the black blade to cut my palm and let a few drops of blood fall into the bag. I squeeze the bag to work the blood into the skin, pour the mess into my hand, and then scatter it over the magic hexagon. I take the bottle of whiskey off Springheel’s altar, get a mouthful, and spit it onto the Hand of Glory dust and wait. In a few seconds green and black smoke curls up from the floor like miniature prairie fires.
I look over at Brigitte and shrug. “I wasted your time. I was right. There were demons here.”
Brigitte takes a glass vial about the size of a lipstick container from her pocket. She shakes it and says, “Turn off the light.”
She throws the container as I hit the switch. The vial crashes somewhere on the other side of the room and something begins to glow. Pale blue spots glimmer on the floor like blood spatter. They’re all over the hexagon and extend away into the dark room.
“What is that?”
“The essence left behind by a revenant.”
“Demons and Drifters were both in here? Can you tell how long ago it was?”
Brigitte kneels beside the glowing pattern and smudges some onto her fingers.
“A few days. Less than a week. That’s as close as I can judge.”
“Same thing with the demon marks.”
I flip the light on.
“I’d like to know which was here first and who came after.”
“Does it matter? You have proof now that you were right,” says Brigitte.
I take a shot of the smoke with my phone.
“But I was wrong, too. Demons fade to the immaterial world when they’re not summoned, but if Drifters were in here, where are they?”
“They could have wandered out or been led away.”
“What the hell is going on? None of this makes any damned sense.”
“Let’s discuss it somewhere else.”
“Somewhere more comfortable. We’re done here, but Simon won’t be up for hours. Take me home. I want to see where you live.”
She reaches down and grabs my cock through my jeans, gets up on her toes, and kisses me. I lean down to her, slip my hand around her ass, and pull her into me.
I see Kasabian’s beer bottle crashing into the wall and me yelling, “Don’t say her name.”
No. I’m not going to feel bad every time I touch another human being. I’m the one who’s still alive on this rock. I won’t apologize for wanting to feel like a person every now and then.
But this is pretty fucked up even for me, making out in the room where someone was ripped to pieces and eaten a few days ago. We’re standing where his blood was pooled like black custard.
“I can’t do this here.”
“Are you sure you’re the man who lived in Hell for all those years? You’re awfully delicate sometimes.”
“And you’re pretty hard core. Does anything get to you?”
“Not this. I was helping my father hunt when I was seven. I’ve seen bodies in every state imaginable.”
“Well, I’ve been the guy torn up on the floor. I don’t want to kiss you here. Let’s get out. I’ll get Kasabian some beer and smokes and he can spend the night in the closet.”
I loop my arm around Brigitte’s shoulder and steer her toward the door. We’re just about clear when she stops.
“I want to see something on the wall.”
She swings the door half closed and doesn’t move for a moment.
“This is a very old sigil. A revenant clan. People who took revenants into their families with dreams of immortality.”
“Let me see.”
I step around and there’s the sigil. The writing is different, but the design looks a lot like Eleanor’s belt buckle. But the paint job isn’t right. Everything else in the room, as screwy as it might be, is put together well. The big, toothy monster face on the wall was spray-painted fast and sloppy, like a kid tagging his school at lunch.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
I push the door closed to get a better look. When it shuts, there’s a sharp metallic click. Brigitte gives me a funny look. A thin metal strand leads from the top of the door frame across the ceiling. A tripwire rigged to go off when the village idiot closed the door to look at the wall. This is why I hate working with other people. They see things. I don’t look, so I don’t set off traps. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Other people did.
There’s a grinding and the floor vibrates as a section of the far wall slides away. Fluorescent lights blink on in the deep black. It’s just a basement. Springheel’s secret room. The walls look like they’re carved out of solid rock. Someone’s been working down there. A wall is open and fresh dirt and rocks are scattered on the floor.
I hold up my phone to get a shot of the room, but someone gets in the way and it’s not Brigitte.
I don’t have to look to know who. I can smell them.
Zeds pour out of the basement like army ants protecting their territory. There’s just enough time to get out the na’at and collapse it to a couple of feet, leaving the thorns exposed so that when I swing it, it’s like a morningstar.
I catch the first one on an upstroke, crushing its face and jamming its jaw up into the bones around its eyes. The second gets it on a downstroke. One of the barbs catches his skull just above his forehead, his head opens up, and everything inside spills out. After that, I don’t notice individual blows anymore. I’m swinging the na’at like a street sweeper, trying to clear some room on the floor so that I can actually fight. With each swing, the na’at sends bone and meat flying.
“Get the door open,” I tell Brigitte.
There are just too many of them and more pour from the room. I could slash and smash all day and I’d end up right where I am.
I yell, “Get down!” and bark some Hellion arena hoodoo.
All the air in the room gets sucked into a central point above our heads, pulling the Drifters back with it. I knew it was coming, so I leaned the other way, and when the vacuum lets up, I drop to the floor. Brigitte is already down.
“Cover your eyes and hold your breath.”
Above us, all the oxygen sucked up to the top of the room explodes. A fireball blows down from the ceiling, frying everything that’s more than a couple of feet off the ground.
Even with my eyes closed, the flash leaves me seeing spots. The Drifters are a pile of crispy, twitching Manwich meat. I look around for Brigitte. She’s on the floor where she dropped. She shoots me a sooty killer’s smile. She never sees the little girl coming up behind her.
The girl looks like she’s around five or six. She’s in a long pink-and-yellow party dress and there’s a wilted pink rose in her tangled hair. When Brigitte pushes herself up to her knees, she’s just level with the princess’s head.
I’m running, but I know I won’t make it. The princess is too close. She opens wide and digs her rotten teeth into the back of Brigitte’s neck like a dog trying to break a rat’s spine. Brigitte falls and screams with the little girl on top of her.
I swing the na’at like a baseball bat. The princess rears up growling and the na’at slams into her mouth, snapping her head back and shearing it off at the upper jaw. The top of her head rolls away, but the rest of her hangs on to Brigitte. That doesn’t work out so well for her. Brigitte braces her legs against the floor and slams her back into the wall, pinning the headless princess. She spins and pulls her CO2 gun, locks the kid’s writhing body against the wall with her knee, and fires a bolt straight down into the baby Drifter’s spine. Her back blows out and she stops moving.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that more Drifters are stumbling out of the basement. Some trip over their friends’ burned bodies. Some fall to their knees and gnaw on them. Some of the crispy critters on the floor start to move. Charred arms and legs pull away from the pile of scorched bodies and haul themselves across the floor like spiders. This is why fighting corpses sucks. They’re too dumb to know when they’ve lost and dead enough not to care.
“She bit me.”
“She fucking bit me, James. She’s killed me.”
“We’ve got to get out of here.”
I say it really reasonably, but Brigitte’s mind has gone bye-bye. She wades into the Drifters, kicking and pistol-whipping the ones walking point. She catches others as they come out of the basement, blasting bolt after bolt into their heads. I let her blow up a few skulls figuring it’ll calm her down, but the falling bodies just make her crazier, so I grab her shoulders and pull her to the door. She shoots until her gun is empty.
I get her as far as the living room before she faints. She’s bleeding bad. There’s a kind of shawl on the back of an old chair. I tear off a long section, wrap it around Brigitte’s neck like a scarf, pick her up, and head for a shadow. But there’s no door there. Just wall. Fucking Springheel must have put an antihoodoo cloak on the house. I carry her out through the kitchen.
Extra-crispy and original-recipe Drifters shamble from the back into the living room. Most of them get lost in the furniture and bounce around like pinballs, but some of the smart ones that can follow a straight line stumble after us. Eventually, the pinballs will bounce their way out of the front door, too. Nothing I can do about that now. I get Brigitte to the Lexus, put her in the passenger seat, and buckle her in. I get to the driver’s side cursing Kinski for being gone. We could use you and your magic glass right now, you prick.
Maybe a dozen Drifters are wandering around the vacant lot and there are more behind them. This neighborhood is all warehouses and pretty deserted even in the middle of the day, but it won’t take them long to wander into populated neighborhoods. Someone left them there like a land mine. It was going to go off sometime and I’m the asshole lucky enough to have set it off. How many more bombs did whoever spray-painted behind the door leave around the city?
Brigitte moans. I hit the gas and point the Lexus in the direction of Vidocq and Allegra’s.
I BEACH THE Lexus half on the curb outside the building, run to Brigitte’s side, and pull her out. The streetlight casts a fat shadow on one wall. I step through and come out in the apartment.
I don’t know what time it is. Probably three or four. All the lights are off. In my head, the room is still the same as when I left it eleven years ago, but it’s not my place and Vidocq has changed everything. I want to put Brigitte down on the couch, but I keep stumbling over chairs and piles of books. Fuck it. I start kicking anything that makes noise.
“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
A light comes on in the bedroom. Allegra wanders out in an extra-extra-large Max Overload T-shirt. Vidocq follows, tying his robe.
“What time is it? What’s going on?” asks Allegra, rubbing her eyes.
Now that I can see, I carry Brigitte over to where they’re standing.
“She’s hurt and she’s lost a lot of blood.”
“Who is she? If she needs blood take her to an emergency room.”
“She isn’t hospital hurt. She’s Kinski hurt, but he’s gone, so you’re Kinski tonight.”
“What happened to her?”
“There was a metric assload of Drifters. One of them bit her.”
“What the hell? What’s a Drifter?”
“A High Plains Drifter.”
Vidocq clears his throat.
“He means revenants. Zombies.”
Allegra’s forehead creases in a frown.
“There really are zombies? Why doesn’t anyone tell me these things?”
“They’re extremely rare. I’ve only seen an outbreak once in this country and it was put down quickly.”
I say, “History later. A chunk of her neck is missing.”
Allegra points past me.
“Put her on the kitchen counter.”
She and Vidocq grab plates, utensils, and a cutting board and toss them on a nearby table. When there’s a clean spot, I lay out Brigitte, facedown. Allegra pushes the hair back from Brigitte’s wound. I put a kitchen towel under her so her face isn’t right on the tile.
“Eugène, get the first-aid kit from the bathroom. And the pharaoh grubs.”