Back at the warehouse we move to the back. At some point in the past a landscaper had tried to make the area into a greener environment. The result is a series of trees with few leaves and branches that look like skeletal hands. Colin points at them and I realise that he is hoping to use the little cover they will give us in order to reach the door. It isn’t the same one the two men used. The plan is a decent one, but only if we use all the gifts that Max has given us.
Taking a deep breath I look around, especially at the roof. It’s late morning now and the sun is shining directly onto that area. There are no tell-tale flashes and I’m about to tell Colin when he dashes past me. I can track him, but a human wouldn’t. Sighing, I follow.
The speed is invigorating, the wind whips my hair from my face and I can’t help but grin at the sheer joy of the movement.
Colin has reached the door and is turning the handle. He pushes the door open slowly. I reach his side as he starts to step through. I wait a moment, but when there are no gunshots I follow. He is standing at the end of a corridor and has his head on one side, listening. He holds up a hand to stop me and then waves me forward. Carefully I close the door and as we are plunged into darkness I’m glad that I can see in the dark.
I stand alongside him and he taps his ear. I listen.
Faintly I can hear the tinny sound of a radio. It is playing some sort of music and I ignore it. Instead I focus on any voices. I can hear two men. One is from outside the warehouse and the other in Ricky.
“He isn’t dying,” the man says.
“I know,” Ricky says.
There is no sound for a moment. “He might have taken the vaccine.”
“But it kills…”
“I know,” Ricky says, harshly. I have known the man all my life and I can hear the doubt in his voice. I picture him, the man I used to live with, his dark hair and easy smile. Except he sounds harder now, less like himself.
“What do we do?”
“I’m going to contact headquarters.”
Colin touches my arm and points at the room we are standing next to. It is an office and is empty except for a plastic chair and an old beat-up table. What is on the table gets my attention; a radio and a funny looking phone.
“Satellite phone,” Colin whispers in my ear.
That means that Ricky is coming this way. In answer we hear footsteps. Colin pushes me through the door and we hide behind it. A large part of me giggles at this and wonders if it will still work. I haven’t hid behind a door since I was a child. I can’t question Colin’s logic, as Ricky walks into the room and reaches for the phone.
Colin leaps out and grabs him in a bear hug, his front to Ricky’s back. I softly close the door. For a minute I watch the two men.
Colin has Ricky in a hold that he won’t escape. I can tell that Ricky is still human, but from the grunt that Colin is making he appears to be stronger.
“Ricky?” I call and walk into his view.
He freezes and behind him Colin smiles.
I smile back and I know that it is sad. I had forgotten that it had been Ricky who had given me the nickname.
“So he was lying,” he says with a tight jaw.
He nods. “Told us you were dead.” He looks away then and I can tell it is with shame. He has hurt Max far more than he ought.
“Jealousy?” I ask.
Ricky looks at me sharply. Up to this point I have kept to the shadows. He can see me but not clearly. Now I walk forward at a faster pace than a human and I let my eyes go black.
“You have no right to be jealous. You left me.”
Ricky takes a huge breath in. “You have taken the vaccine.”
I don’t say anything, but I lean in and smell him. He goes ridgid with fear.
“It will kill you,” he says.
“Yes. You will feed and it will be poison.”
“Feed?” I think of the crackers from the canteen and the others, but I don’t know which he is talking about.
“Human blood. You will need it and it will kill you.”
I step back and drop the otherness. I know I know appear like the woman he left. “I don’t want human blood,” I say.
Colin shakes his head. He doesn’t want me to tell him. I agree. “I would like to chat. In fact, I’d like to know why you left me, but right now I want Max. What have you done with my Max?”
I notice that he winces at the ‘my’ and inside I smile. He doesn’t smell right. He isn’t my Ricky and I may have questions about what he has been doing and why he faked his death, but they are just for curiosity.
“What do you mean you don’t want human blood?”
I lean forward and extend my fangs. “Where is Max?”
He says nothing.
Colin shrugs. “We can just use scent to find him.”
I nod and look around the room. “Don’t kill him,” I say absently as I search for something.
I see it in the corner of the room, a roll of electrical wire. Picking it up I motion to the chair. Colin picks him up as if he were a child and places him in the chair. Ricky watches me with narrow eyes.
“What happened to you?” he asks.
“I was left alone in the world.”
He looks away. “You can’t win,” he says.
I tie his hands behind him and then start to secure him to the chair. “Neither can you,” I say.
Colin has gone to the radio and phone. In astonishing speed he dismantles both. I had expected him to smash them, but I guess it would make too much noise. I look at Ricky. As soon as we leave he will start yelling.
I had once seen a film where the hero had to tie up the villain, but he hadn’t got a gag. The hero had improvised. I smile and start to unlace Ricky’s boot. He hasn’t had a shower in a while and I wrinkle my nose at the smell.
“That’s nasty,” Colin says. “If you need a reminder take something less smelly.”
“Oh,” I say innocently. “This isn’t for me.”
I slip off the sock and look at the discoloured article. I wonder how many days he’s been wearing it. Ricky is looking at me warily. I push the noxious material in a ball and then moving fast I shove it into his open mouth. I think he may have been about to ask me what I’m doing. Using a piece of the electrical wire I tie it in place.
Ricky gags, but he can breathe.
Behind me Colin is making an odd noise. I turn and find that he is trying to laugh silently. I shake my head and turn back to Ricky. If he could read my emotions earlier then I can read his now. He hates me.
I run a finger down his face and he tries to jerk away. “I know you had reasons for leaving me. For putting me through your death and funeral. But it doesn’t mean I understand or forgive you.”
Turning, I motion for Colin to lead. He does, but as he passes he catches my hand and gives it a squeeze.
We leave; behind me I can hear Ricky as he starts to fight his bonds.
“We don’t have much time,” I whisper.
Colin nods and we walk slowly in the direction Ricky had come from. The warehouse starts to open out, but what catches my eye is the man sitting outside a door. He is lounging in a chair with his head leant back on the door. Colin pulls me into an alcove, but before I can ask what he’s doing he has gone. Using his fast speed he looms over the man and hits him. The man slumps. I recognise him; he is the smoker from outside.
It means that there is one more. Colin has opened the door and is looking inside. I see him step back. I don’t think, I just run forward and into the room.
Max is there. He is suspended at the back, his arms and legs making a cross, the limbs stretched taught. I make a small moaning noise and his head slowly lifts. Someone has cut him. None of the cuts are deep but he is losing a lot of blood. It is dripping steadily off him and into the large puddle at his feet.
I go over and start untying him.
“Run,” he whispers.
I place a hand against his face, noticing bruising that suggests he was beaten before they did this. Before Ricky did this.
Colin is working on the other side and in seconds we have him free. Colin lifts him as if he weighed no more than a kid. Max tries to stand but there is no way he can.
“Did they give you human blood?” Colin asks him as he puts him into a fireman’s lift.
“No,” his voice cracks and is very soft.
Colin nods to me to take the lead. I do. “We go fast.”
Then I fly out of the room. I monitor Colin’s pace, but he is still able to move faster than a human, despite carrying Max.
We run past the radio room and I see that the door is closed. I can’t remember if I closed it. Along the hall and to the door to the outside. I reach for the handle but it doesn’t turn.
“Do you think it would be that easy?” Ricky says from the corridor in front of me. He is holding a gun, but I don’t hesitate. I simple leap onto him and elbow him in the face as I reach for his gun. He immediately goes limp. I grab the weapon and leave him on the floor.
I can hear the steady beat of his heart so I know he is alive. Back at the door Colin is looking behind us. He seems relaxed so I guess there is no one there. Taking hold of the door I pull it toward me with all my strength. The door crashes open and we are in the sunlight.