Chapter 56: Okay, Panic
No. Lenora hit her once. Her own strength surprised her. Giselle was flung against the wall, and grasped at her head where the crowbar had made contact.
Before she could even get a good look at her assailant, Lenora was there, and the crowbar came down again.
I said no. No. No, no, no! She sobbed, bringing the crowbar up and down again, up and down. The first two times hit Giselle’s forearms as she tried to defend against the strikes. The third one clipped her on the temple. The fourth one slammed her there and put her down. She lost count after six, and only stopped when the woman’s head and shoulders were bloodied, and she moved no more.
“No, no, no, no you can’t have him, YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM!” Lenora shouted as her last blow landed and the crowbar fell from her fingers.
Her breathing came in shallow gasps, and she felt tears pouring down her cheeks. A few drops splattered to the floor, mixing with the blood that had pooled there. She took a frightened step back, bare toes almost touching the slowly spreading pool.
The room was very quiet. She stared at Giselle for a long moment before a flickering light caught her eye. It was her alarm clock. It was blinking on 12am.
Lenora’s hands came up to her mouth as the dawning realization of what she had done dropped on her.
I just killed someone. I just killed someone. I hit Mr. Jones in the head with a plaque, he could be dead too, if he isn’t he knows my name, oh my god.
“L-Len...” A gurgle.
Lenora pried her eyes from her handiwork and looked at the bed.
Shirtless, nearly pantless and handcuffed to her radiator was X-XIII. And he had a blade in his chest.
Lenora moved to his side without thinking. Some blood trickled out of his mouth and she wiped it away with the gentle care of wiping the chin of a toddler. His eyes danced behind closed lids, and his breath was in gurgling rattles.
What can I do?
“X? X please, X, don’t die.” She begged him. She looked at the blade helplessly, hands fluttering around it like nervous moths near a candle.
A voice from the door forced her to look up and away from him, but she nearly flung herself over him like a protective wild cat.
“I can help.” Renee said from the door.
Behind her was David, uncomfortably pressed between her sister’s back and Francis’ barrel chest.
“Mrow.” Trap insisted as he wove through their legs and hopped awkwardly onto the bed. Without so much as a warning, the cat smacked Lenora on the nose.
Lenora flinched backwards, wide helpless eyes on her collection of intruders.
“Renee, I -”
“No.” Renee held up a hand and entered the room. She rolled up her sleeves. “We’ll talk later.”
When Renee fixed her with a stare next, Lenora felt something inside wither and die. She had never seen her friend’s eyes so cold and angry.
“David, big guy, get rid of that whore in the corner, would you?”
David blanched, ocular opening and closing. “Renee, but ...are you insane?”
“Just about as fucking insane as all of you were for keeping this shit from me! Don’t give me any more of your goddamn protests and just do what you’re fucking told!” Renee’s voice cracked as she knelt on the opposite side of the bed from Lenora.
Lenora watched Francis pull David into the room, and they both started wrapping Giselle in one of Lenora’s fluffy comforters.
Lenora’s eyes drifted back to X’s face. More blood had trickled out and she wiped it away with her thumb. She pushed some hair out of his face, and her breath caught at just how boyish he looked. Couldn’t be a day over twenty five.
Had she done the right thing?
“Lenora, I’ll need your help.” Renee brought her back to the present, and Lenora looked over at her friend.
One of the truest friends anyone could ever hope to have, Lenora realized. David too. Even the big guy.
Trap bumped Renee on the hand then waved a paw at the blade. He let out several mechanical ‘mrow’ sounds, and started kneading the bed next to X’s face.
Renee sighed. “I think Trap needs us to keep the blade in.”
“But... He’ll need surgery. He’s bleeding, his breathing is...”
“I know.” Renee snapped. She fixed Lenora with another cold stare.
“Mrow!” Trap leaped off of the bed and circled to Lenora, bumping her knee and then pacing towards the door. He made impatient batting noises.
“Big guy said the CAT is smart. Go.” Renee dismissed Lenora, and started to prod the blade.
By that time, David and Francis had disappeared with Giselle’s body. Lenora stepped around the blood and went into the kitchen, following Trap. He made the same motions he had made to use the vid screen, and Lenora obliged. After a minute of pantomiming and pushing buttons, Lenora managed to dial a number.
As it Rang, Lenora hugged herself uncomfortably, realizing just too late how she looked.
The vid screen was answered by an elderly man with a horseshoe of grey hair and a pair of lopsided spectacles. He was wearing a bathrobe and he peered at the screen.
“Hello? Oh – Oh dear, I’m not interested in any red-house subscriptions -” He started, waving irritated hands at the screen.
“N-no, wait, please.” Lenora cried.
“Mrow!” Trap yowled over them both, waving his paws in the air.
“What - what is that there? A CAT II? What the hell is going -”
A strange recognition came over the man’s face. His eyes widened and he blanched at the screen. Lenora saw him stumble closer and peer at Trap with a mix of horror and shock.
“Excuse me, Dr...” Lenora checked the name at the bottom of the screen. “Doctor Wrede. We... we need your help and for some reason this CAT is telling me to dial you, and I’m sorry if this isn’t …. I don’t know...” Lenora began to ramble. Her hands were trembling as she brought them up to her face. “My friend... my friend has been badly hurt and he’s going to die, please....”
The doctor blinked, pushing his glasses up and nodding mutely. “Uh... Oh my God. Oh my God, this is...”
“MROW” Trap insisted, letting out an electrical hiss that was surely supposed to be a growl.
’Where did you get that CAT?” The doctor insisted.
Lenora sniffled. “He... he came to me. My friend found him... Oh...” Lenora stumbled away from the vid screen and fumbled for her purse, still discarded on her island table. She had never taken it with her to the club – she hadn’t wanted anyone to know who she really was. She dumped the whole thing out and rifled around while Trap mrowed and hissed in annoyance.
Finding what she was looking for she went back to the screen and read off the card.
“I found this in his fur, a business card for a Dr. Ahren...”
“Good Merciful Jesus.” Dr. Wrede looked from Lenora to Trap and back again and then he exploded into activity. “That means he found him. Oh God. Who is injured? You said someone was injured?”
“My friend -” Lenora began.
“I need a name, tell me who!” Dr. Wrede all but shouted.
“I call him X. X-XIII.” Lenora felt tears brimming in her eyes.
“Thank God.” Dr. Wrede let out a breath and then spoke again, quickly and with urgency. “You need to get to sector three. Go to 77 Nihlis Avenue, the Blue Building and go to the service entrance around the back.” Dr. Wrede was changing his shirt right there. “I will meet you there. What are the injuries?”
The certainty of the doctor’s voice seemed to help calm Lenora down a bit and she found that she could breath without the sobbing hitch to her voice. “T-there’s a blade in his chest. About... a foot long. He’s bleeding from the m-mouth and he had a r-rattle in his chest.” She blinked back more tears.
“Did the blade go clean through?”
Lenora shook her head. “I... I don’t know.”
“Almost” She heard Renee behind her and jumped. Her friend put a hand on her shoulder “It’s only about an inch away though, if I’m any judge.”
Dr. Wrede nodded. “All right. All of you make sure to jostle him as little as possible. Wrap him in something and leave the blade in for God’s sake. Take it out and he may bleed to death. Get here as soon as you can.”
For the first time since he started giving instructions he looked at the screen. He seemed to take in that another person had joined the group – and as they were all silently staring in that moment, David and Francis returned to lurk in the background.
Dr. Wrede let out a breath and shook his head. “Listen. Whoever … whoever takes X-XIII to my building is going to be implicated in a great deal of things. I can save him. But I won’t be able to save you. Do you understand? Anyone who has something to lose should stay home. And don’t bother calling this number again, It will be changed as soon as I hang up and you will never be able to find me.”
Dr. Wrede spouted the last in a defensive, frightened tone that gave Lenora the shivers. Without hesitation, Lenora spoke first.
“I’ll bring him to you.”
David made a noise of protest.
“I will carry him.” Francis chimed in. Lenora looked over surprised, and he shrugged his great shoulders. “You... killed my boss.”
“Lenora don’t. What does he matter?” David said, taking Lenora’s arm and turning her to face him.
It pained her to see the hurt in his eye. She swallowed another lump in her throat. “I... I have to David. I can’t... I can’t let him die.”
David dropped her arm and shook his head.
“This is the stupidest thing....” Renee muttered. She still had a hand on Lenora’s shoulder, and she gave it a squeeze.
“Well fuck, I can’t just let you walk into this alone. No offense big guy.” David threw his hands up and Lenora saw Renee’s eyes widen in shock.
He pointed a finger in Lenora’s face and waggled it angrily. “You aren’t brushing us off this time. Oh, no. If this is what it takes to have you around then fuck me, I’m going with you.” He crossed his arms.
Renee gave her shoulder another squeeze and she growled, “And I am not about to let my brother go off and do something stupid without me.” She looked back at David. “We are talking later.”
Lenora couldn’t believe it. She didn’t have time to believe it.
“Great, great that’s beautiful but I have to go, and someone is dying I think, so let’s hurry up, shall we?” Dr. Wrede reached out to the screen and repeated “Sector 3, 77 Nihlis Avenue, Blue building service entrance. Hurry.” And the screen returned to advertisements.
The apartment burst into unthinking action. Without prompting or hesitation, Renee took control.
“Big guy and David come with me, we have to wrap up the psychopath in her sheets. Lenora, go put some clothes on and pack whatever you think is worth the time into a bag. Shit. Go.”
They all filed into her bedroom and buzzed about wildly. In a haze, Lenora pulled a duffel bag out of her closet and started throwing things in it. Then she pulled on a sweater and a pair of pajama pants to cover up the lingerie she was wearing.
“All right, nice and tight – watch that knife, David” Renee said.
Lenora heard this as she stuffed the bag.
“I can see it, Ren.”
“Big Guy, can you lift his feet – ok good, David – Good. Now here, carefully...”
Lenora fled the room and went to the bathroom. She threw everything on the counter into the bag, then emptied the sparse cabinet into a side pocket. She practically tore the living room up for the first aid kit and pushed everything down with it.
“All right. Carefully now. Ok. Nora!” Renee called.
Lenora poked her head in and saw X-XIII tightly wrapped in her sheets, with the handle of the blade poking out. It would have looked comical if there hadn’t been a bloodstain on her mattress.
“I’m going to start the car – give me the bag. Lock up when you guy get out the door.” She brushed past Lenora without another word, and she was left to coach David and Francis out of the apartment and down the stairs.
If felt like every time they moved, the lights flickered on and then died. He strobe effect was making her ill.
When all of them had finally made it outside, they managed to cram X into the back seat with his head on Lenora’s lap, Renee driving. Just like the first time.
Renee leaned out the window to David, Francis and the CAT. “We’re going to have to take it easy if we don’t want to fuck up that knife thing in his chest. David, take the big guy to our place and grab as much shit as you can. The floatboard too, then meet us at the address. With any luck with your crazy driving we’ll get there around the same time.”
With no further words they split apart and disappeared down separate streets.
Lenora studied X’s face from where she sat in silence. His eyes were moving still behind his lashes, and tension had drained from his face since they moved him. He was looking pale, and the gurgling had gotten worse.
Renee said nothing as they drove, but Lenora could feel her friend’s mood. Tension between them was so thick Lenora had to struggle to lift her head.
She found Renee staring at her in the rear-view.
“Thank you.” Lenora whispered.
Renee turned her attention forward and didn’t say a word.
The night turned even darker around them as they drove. The districts blurred by. People scurried out of doors and down streets like rats in basements, and all manner of things transpired under the veil of darkness. All through the worry and the fear and the anger and the regret and the pain, there was a buzz of energy.
And in that energy, X-XIII dreamed on the edge of death.
Not yet, X. Not yet.