Black Heart – Chapter I Part IX
by Steppen Sawicki
The gamma didn’t strike that night, and the rest of Bryan’s work was uneventful, if uneventful could include twenty-one deaths. He told Andrade the details of finding the girl – the new possible Possessed – and she went back to the Office to file yet another report. The girl herself had been whisked away in an ambulance, only just starting to come to her senses. Four other civilians had been found in the back rooms of the Jewel, managing to hide from the demons, psychologically altered but alive.
As Bryan entered his apartment and flung his bag beside the door he thought again of the beta inside it. It hadn’t bothered him again that night, settled in the bottom of the bag, but it had been watching him. Nine more nights until he could relocate it to the Office as a fully bound capture. If the Office didn’t demand he keep it on himself longer to make doubly sure it wouldn’t escape the card. Bureaucracy at its finest.
He turned on the tv and sure enough the attack from last night was everywhere on every morning news. As he ate dinner-breakfast he listened to the anchors prattle on about how the Office dropped the ball on this one. They were crowding outside the Office, attacking with questions anyone who looked like they might enter the building. Bryan wondered how Andrade had fared getting back in there.
The police’s news conferences contained a lot of We-don’t-have-all-the-information-yets. And even Bryan wasn’t sure how much the Office’s police liasons were letting on to the cops. But probably a battle was raging there. Chief Marchette wouldn’t appreciate thirty-two dead cops and SWAT with no explanation.
But nothing about tonight. The gamma seemed to have gone into hiding. Scared? Or just full from last night’s feast?
He switched the channel to Nickelodeon and fell asleep on the couch to the sound of Spongebob. But he was plagued by nightmares of a cabin with a demon somewhere inside. He could sense it but couldn’t tell where it was, and went running from room to room – too many rooms – trying to find his sister. But all he found before waking in a cold sweat was a girl with dark eyes who convulsed on a bedroom floor and screamed when she saw him.
“Another night spent together. They’re trying to tell us something.”
“Trying to tell us how much we can annoy each other, Ivers,” Andrade quipped as he got into the passenger seat. She could probably tell that he was irritated. He couldn’t keep it out of his voice even as his own quip tried to cover it up – even as it pointed out the situation – and she had his aura to read. He didn’t like this idea of the Office having Andrade babysit him for the third night in a row. She did look a little too long at the shadows under his eyes, but had the grace not to mention anything.
They were also assigned to the west side again, in a futile attempt to keep Bryan out of harm’s way. With a night past with no sign of the gamma it was anyone’s guess where it could be now. Hell, it could be in the Jewel Bryan was in last night for all anyone knew.
Bryan knew why he was here in Andrade’s car for the third night in a row, something unheard of among Possessed and Spotters unless a Spotter had a specific role. Only part of Andrade’s report on last night would have been about the girl in the Jewel. The other part of it would have been about a short moment in time in which Bryan had very nearly allowed a beta to possess him without his knowledge, about him gasping and dropping a card and shrinking back from it in terror of what could have been.
He couldn’t blame Andrade for reporting it, but he could be angry, and he was.
“So how’s that girl from last night?” he asked, trying to be civil but not entirely happy with the topic of conversation he came up with.
Andrade looked at him in surprise. “They didn’t tell you?”
Panic gripped him. “They told me I was partnering with you tonight. That’s all.” He braced himself for bad news: she died after all, went crazy, killed herself…
“She wants to talk to you,” Andrade said. “That’s why we’re on the west side again.”
“To me? Why?”
She shrugged. “The Office psychologists went to see her in the hospital – she is doing alright – and she said she wanted to talk to you. Before committing to anything I guess.”
“Then why isn’t Hussein going? He usually deals with anybody on the fence.”
“He’s kinda busy.” She gave him a sideways Duh look.
“Oh. Yeah.” He looked out the window at the passing apartment buildings, offices, shops, and his mind automatically jumped to how to defend them, where he would enter, the path of hallways and stairs he would take, where the demons might be. He had to intentionally shut off the thoughts and think instead of the girl. The Girl – he didn’t even know her name and she wanted to talk to him about hunting demons. The Girl that had looked at his eyes and screamed at what she saw. What would he tell her? He wasn’t Hussein; this wasn’t his job.
He took a deep breath. Don’t get angry over this too, he told himself, though he wasn’t sure if he was angry or just nervous.