“Easy,” a rough voice soothes and a pair of strong arms pins me into place as I attempt to sit up. “Stay put or you’re going to rip your stitches.”
I open my eyes slowly and take in my surroundings. Pale walls, rhythmically buzzing machines and a chemical smell.
I am in the hospital.
Axel stands over me, his eyes flitting nervously towards the door as he presses the ‘call nurse’ button on the remote dangling over me.
A tall, dark-skinned woman rushes into the room, smiling at the sight of me awake and moving. “Well, it’s about time you join the rest of us. We were starting to worry that the scans might have missed something. You gave us quite a scare, Miss Peak. Now, I hate to do this so soon after your regaining consciousness, but there are some officers in the hall that wish to speak with you.”
No sooner has she finished her sentence than two officers, Umphrey and McDaniels, come shuffling into my room. Neither of them looks happy and I can’t tell if it is because they hate the hospital or how many times they are called here because of my family.
“How are you feeling, Miss Peak?” Officer McDaniel questions solemnly.
Axel and Umphrey move to the door, mumbling amongst themselves.
He takes a seat in the chair next to my bed, pulling out his notepad as he crosses one leg over the other. “I have just a few questions for you. I know that you are probably not in the mood for this but the sooner I get it done the better, okay?”
“Yeah, I get it.” Just speaking makes my throat ache.
He flips to a blank page in the notebook. “The EMTs who arrived on the scene and treated you on the way here stated that you suffered some pretty serious injuries. It looks as if you were unconscious when they arrived, suffering from multiple lacerations, exhaustion and a nasty blow to the head. Can you please recap the events that lead to you obtaining these injuries?”
“We were dancing, Axel and I, and then I saw my mom. She was just there, walking out the doors of the gym. I didn’t even know she’d left the hospital or woken up. I chased her down outside and, when I saw her in her hospital gown, I knew something was wrong with her. She looked sick and her arms were all bloody.” I fidget with my own IV, hesitant about what to say. “I tried to talk to her but she seemed out of it. She attacked me and then things get a little blurry. I don’t know.”
“That’s fine. I was informed that it might take a little time and prompting for your memories to come back. Eveline, it seems that sometime last night your mother came out of her coma, removed her IVs, stole some medical supplies, and then left the hospital without being seen. Were you aware that she had been experimenting with drugs?”
I shake my head. “No, you’re wrong. There is no way that is true. You didn’t know my mother, she would have never. Seriously, she had me drug tested because my eating habits changed just a little. Trust me, if you knew her, you would know how crazy that question is.”
“The doctors ran a blood test when she was admitted into the hospital and she tested positive for ‘Frenzy’. We have spoken with her employer and they confirmed that she was working on a story about the drug. He thinks that she might have gotten too deep into the story and found herself hooked. I spoke with Axel earlier and he confirmed that a man arrived with your mother. Is that correct? Also, had you ever seen him before?”
I wish Axel would quit talking to Umphrey so he could give me a sign as to what I can and cannot say. “I don’t remember another guy but, if there was one with her, I wouldn’t have recognized him. My mother didn’t bring men home.”
“Well, I believe it might have been her dealer. Frenzy makes people do unspeakable things and, if your mother was taking it, then that might explain her erratic behavior. Axel stated that at one point during the altercation, your mother became aware of what was going and tried to get the man to leave you alone. He then k-”
“Killed her,” I finish for him. “I remember, he killed her. I don’t know who he was but he broke her neck.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he apologizes, resting his hand on mine. “I wish we could say we located him but it seems that he has vanished. I wouldn’t have come here today but the drugs have begun to travel across state lines and we were hoping you knew if your mother had any left. We still have no in-person sample to compare with other drugs, only the analysis from the labs runs when the users end up in the hospital. I can see that you’re not in the state of mind to answer these questions, so I will leave my card with Axel. Just give me a call if you remember anything else.”
I nod, tears streaming down my cheeks.
McDaniels gives Axel’s shoulder a squeeze as he passes by, leading Umphrey from the room.
Axel watches them leave, wandering by the door as he runs his fingers through his hair. His tux is a wreck and I can tell that he hasn’t been home yet.
I wonder where Lillian and Alyssa are.
“Eveline, are you...” His voice trails off and he shakes his head, not even bothering to finish his pointless question.
“He killed her, right in front of me. He turned her into this monster, made her attack me, and then killed her.” I stare blankly out the window. “Then I killed him. She is gone and I still have no answers.”
He is by my side in seconds. “I am so sorry. Eveline, there is something we need to talk about.”
“Of course there is,” I scoff, letting out a small but inappropriate laugh. “And I know what you’re going to say. Don’t worry, I am not going to freak out or be mad. I know it’s too dangerous and I understand. This, us, whatever was happening, there is no point to it now. I wish we could have talked about it later but I know thing are going to get busy with my mom’s passing and whatnot, so I am glad you aren’t waiting. I get it though, I really do. I am what I am and that will never change.”
He kisses my cheek. “Never that, so don’t think it. I don’t care how dangerous you are or will become, I’m in this. I will never stop fighting for you or us. Eveline, we need to talk about what happened last night. I know you know more than you told that cop. I know you remember everything. We need to talk about that Reaper and what happened after.”
“I killed him. He killed my mother, I got this crazy rush of power, and then I killed him.”
“It’s not just that,” he rebuts. “You didn’t just kill him, you burned him alive. The fire that turned him into ash, it came from your hands. I watched the whole thing happened and I saw it, I saw the fire start from inside of you. Then, after he was dead, you just stared at your mom. I don’t know how but I felt it, I felt you let go. You caused a storm so powerful it took out a few houses and almost tore down the school. You put a six-foot crater in the ground with your fists. The damage, well, they are still around town trying to fix it. A lot of houses are still without power.”
I blink once and then twice, wondering if doing it a third time will force things to make sense. “Huh? I did what?”
“Your mother tested positive for a gene that less than three percent of the population has,” Dr. Driggers comments as he walks into the room, a large clipboard tucked under his arm. “I spoke with Axel while you were unconscious and, after speaking with his mother and she confirmed that I was who I said I was, he filled me in on a few things about you.”
“Confirmed who you are? What?”
“Eveline, he’s Nexxus,” Axel comments. “One we didn’t know about. Some still keep a low profile and here, among all these patients, Dr. Driggers can keep his identity to himself. A Reaper couldn’t feel him in here with everything that is going on. I called my mother who called a few friends of hers and she confirmed that he is Nexxus, from a family in South Carolina. I think you should listen to what he has to say.”
I nod but remain silent. Thanks to all the drugs I have been given, my Reaper side is as docile as it can get.
“I recognized the signs of a draining when your mother arrived,” Dr. Driggers continues. “But I didn’t want to make any assumptions, especially since you seemed naive of her condition. I thought that maybe she was just some poor human who had got caught in a Reaper’s crossfire, but then I saw her maiden name in her records. Her family, the ones who share the Meeks last name, were friends of my parents years ago. They relocated when I was a teenager but I remember meeting their daughter a few times. I tested her blood and, once it was confirmed she was Nexxus, I knew it was her. I tested your blood when you arrived here and I found the same gene inside of it as well. I have been doing some research all night but I have located no information to help me. Something like this has never happened before and shouldn’t have happened at all. Genetically speaking, it makes no sense.”
I jerk up in the bed, wincing as pain rushes through me. “Wait. Hold the hell up. You’re saying my mother was Nexxus this whole time and I didn’t know?”
Dr. Driggers. “Yes.”
“Which makes me?”
“Both Nexxus and Reaper,” he confirms.