A Rush Of Blood To The Head

I open my eyes to find myself in a murky darkness, disturbed only by irregular slashes of red lightning that have the rhythm of a strained heartbeat. There is a distant thunder of voices but I can’t tell who is speaking or where. Sweat drips from my body like a thick spring rain; it feels particularly viscous around my left hamstring.

Something about my left leg tickles a flash of silver memory but it vanishes before I can make sense of it. Pain – there was definitely pain involved.

My chest tightens with an urgent need to warn the others, to make them safe, but I can’t say where it originates from. I have to take care of Emma and Puppy, I know that much – this is all my fault and I need to make things right.

My eyelids slide closed and I push them open again, this time to be greeted by a view of rotting wooden beams criss-crossing the ceiling. I begin to wonder where I am when the pain returns and all other concerns are discarded like an empty spray can. A groan that dreams of being a scream dribbles from my lips.

“Ah, you’re awake at last,” an unfamiliar voice says from my left. Or is that my right? Now she’s hovering over me and I can’t stop myself from staring.

“That… must have been… one hell… of a car crash,” I tell the painted metal lady with dark eyes. She’s rather pretty, in an exotic, warped kind of way, particularly if one had a piercing fetish. But then she’s shoved violently aside and replaced by a beauty that needs no qualifications.

“Red! How are you feeling? You’ve lost a lot of blood but you’re all sewn up now and Dysnomia, the woman with the… the woman who took care of your wound, says that you should be fine but you might need a transfusion to replace what you’ve lost and you'll probably need crutches for a while and what the hell happened to you at city hall?” Despite the worry engraved in the lines across her forehead and around her eyes, and the sincerity and urgency of her questions, I can’t stop myself from offering Emma a weak smile. “Oh God, he’s delirious from all the -”

“Emma B,” I say in a weak sing-song. “Emma B, the enig… matic Emma B. Oh what a true beau… tee, the lovely Emma B. Oh if only you… could see, Emma B, just what you mean…”

I can feel my eyes rolling their way to the back of my head as I trail off and I wonder just how much blood I’ve lost. A cold towel is placed on my forehead by a shaking hand and I think I hear a sob. Maybe this is what being alive for your own funeral is like.

“We need to get him to a hospital,” Emma says with what sounds like the last vestiges of her courage. A rustle of fabric, a click. “I’m calling Joel – he’ll know the best way to handle this.”

Without turning my head I snatch the phone from her hand and hold it by my side in a loose, trembling grip. The silence in the room is shocked and apprehensive; I can feel it like a stone on my chest.

“Joel… cannot be trusted.” Every word requires as much effort as scaling the side of a rain-slicked building. Each pause brings with it the danger of falling into forever.

“Now is not the time for those boyish games Red,” Emma says as she pries open my fingers and takes back her phone. “Forget your pride and let him help you.”

“No,” I say and close my eyes so I don’t have to see the doubt and disapproval in her eyes. I try again. “No… Neck… did… this.” A weak gesture in the direction of my howling leg.

“What? No, all that blood loss is making you confused,” she says but the phone remains closed. I can feel the last fragments of her ability to cope crumbling away from her and I wish I wasn’t the cause.

“Joel sent him… tried to kill me in the mayor’s office… now he’s dead… I picked his lock…” The laugh has a hysterical edge to it, like a madman cackling in an asylum. It stops suddenly when I realize it’s coming from my lips. The mayor’s office… there was something else about the mayor’s office.

“You killed one of Joel’s men – in the mayor’s office?” It’s not quite a shriek but it’s travelling in that direction in a hurry, scratching my nerves like a DJ torturing a record. Funny how DJ’s are the only ones who use vinyl these days; now it’s all digital or on CDs or…

“Found something… in office,” I say and fumble in my coat pocket, struggling to push my head away from the table so that I can see what I’m doing. Puppy appears out of nowhere to help me retrieve the unmarked disc and I grunt my gratitude. “Dirty little secrets, maybe.”

Puppy spins the CD on the end of a finger before passing it to Emma. She stares at it for several moments, trying to regain her composure. I want to close my eyes but I’m worried that it might be days before I open them again.

“It’s sure to be encrypted, but I know someone who can help us discover what’s on this,” she says. Her pale cheeks color, she looks away. “But I haven’t heard from him since this situation spiralled out of control.”

I think she says something about Q and I yell at her that this isn’t a Bond movie, this is real life, but even in my head the words tumble together incoherently as the black storm begins to sweep me back under. A final thought surfaces in desperation but the words of warning fail to coalesce and I’m unable to tell them to destroy the phones, to get us out of here before Joel realizes his lackeys have gone rogue.

Maybe it’s too late and his men are closing in on this room already…

The End

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