Undead Chaos, page 6
“I may have found something, but it’s faint. Almost like an echo.”
“Echo, echo, echo,” I repeated softly. Simeon ignored me, but Quinn snickered.
“You’re weird,” she said.
“I was going for charming.”
“Perhaps.” A mischievous grin spread over her lips.
“Please, stop flirting,” Simeon begged. “It’s distracting.”
We quieted, trading smirks as if we’d been caught passing notes in class. Simeon, however, focused harder on his task.
“Come on,” he muttered. “Who are you?”
His breathing grew heavier as he directed more energy to the spot he’d discovered. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and his brows knit together. His Skill pressed against my senses, pulsating with an intensity that told me he could easily kick down all my mental defenses and stomp my pathetic powers into jelly.
I definitely wanted to stay on his good side.
Suddenly he cried out and pulled away. He staggered backward, slamming into the refrigerator units, then sinking to the floor with a groan. Smoke rose from his palms and he doubled over in agony.
“Daddy!” Quinn cried as we rushed to him.
I knelt beside him. “What happened?”
He gritted his teeth. “Something was there.”
Simeon shook his head. “An alarm.”
“What do you mean?”
He winced. “Someone put defenses around whatever imprint is buried in there.”
“But why would—” My words were cut off by a loud clatter and wet thud.
I turned and froze. Banks was on the floor, struggling to get up. He raised his head and turned toward me. His eyes widened, then his lips curled into a feral sneer.
“Oh hell,” I said, as fear and adrenaline filled my veins.
Banks snapped to his feet with surprising speed, grabbed the end of the metal table, and heaved it in my direction. I dove out of the way and it crashed into the space between me and the pair on the floor. I rolled over just in time to see the flapping meat of his butt bolt through the doors. A second later there was a shout of surprise from LaDell.
“Stay with your father!” I said to Quinn as I scrambled to my feet.
“Where are you going?”
“To kill that jackass. Again!”
I raced out the doors and nearly collided with LaDell.
“What did you do?” he demanded.
“Wait!” he yelled, but I was already in the hallway, hot on the heels of a man who’d died twice.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
For a dead man, Banks moved like a cheetah. A fat, naked cheetah. He mounted the stairs from the basement level two at a time and blasted through a set of doors onto the main floor. I was ten paces behind him and leaped over one of the nurses he knocked down.
If I had any worries about losing him, they were dashed immediately. All I had to do was follow the screams.
I skidded past an empty gurney as Banks plowed through a group of people in a waiting room. There was no way to hit him with magic without hurting bystanders, so I continued after him on foot.
Banks made for an exit, but reversed course at the sight of an armed guard. The man cursed and started weaving through patients. Banks quickly outpaced him, brushing past me as he burst through a stairwell door. I followed, tearing up the stairs behind him. My legs protested, but I pushed the burning sensation out of my mind.
As I reached the top, Banks paused long enough to pull a fire alarm. A piercing klaxon shrieked throughout the building and people began pouring into the hallway in droves. I squeezed through them as best I could, growling with frustration. The crowd would make magic nearly impossible.
The zombie put a lot of distance between us and I cursed myself for leaving my weapons in the car. It’d seemed wrong to bring instruments of death into a hospital. Chasing Banks, I swore to never make that mistake again.
The pursuit finally led to an empty hallway.
I solidified the air in front of me into a sphere and shot it forward like a fastball. It connected with Banks’s right shoulder, lifting him into the air. He sailed ten feet, crashing into the far wall so hard that it cracked the sheetrock. He thumped to the ground but recovered immediately.
“Quit running!” I fired another air-ball spell. Banks rolled out of the way and the sphere punched a hole in the wall where his head had been. A startled woman looked back out, her hands frozen in the application of lipstick.
“Sorry,” I said through the hole as I slowed to navigate the shattered remains of the wall. The lady stared wide-eyed back at me. Several shards of mirror broke loose and tinkled into pieces at her feet.
As I turned the corner, Banks dove into an open doorway. I was moving so fast that I blew past the door. I skidded to a halt, then doubled back after the zombie.
I exploded into the room and ducked instinctively at a flash of silver in my peripheral vision. There was a whiff of air and Banks missed crushing my skull with a bedpan by inches. My move, however, threw me off balance. I fell, landing hard on my tailbone. The floor was slippery with wax, so my momentum carried me across the room and into a set of cabinets on the far side. The doors rocked open and surgical instruments rained down. I covered my head as they bounced off, thankful that the scalpels were hermetically sealed in sterile packages.
Banks heaved the bedpan at me and I scrambled out of the way. It bounced off my left bicep with a clang and pain shot up my arm. I cursed, grabbing my arm.
The zombie attacked again, this time with a beeping machine. I caught it midair with a redirection spell, flinging it sideways into the wall. It shattered into several parts. I winced. Someone would have to replace it. Hopefully not me.
As Banks grabbed another makeshift weapon, I searched with my Skill for any tangible force and found some electricity in a wall socket. I willed the voltage to me and hurled it at the zombie. The white bolts arced across the room, catching Banks in the chest. He staggered backward as electricity popped and sizzled over his dead flesh. The room filled with the stench of scorched meat.
I felt for the outlet again, but Banks dove back through the doorway. Releasing my hold on the electricity, I grabbed several scalpels and ripped them out of their packaging. They were no substitutes for my sword, but they’d do in a pinch.
Properly armed, I raced out of the room and followed Banks up another set of stairs. The third floor was relatively empty, so I reared back and threw one of the scalpels. It sailed through the air like a silver missile and, aided by a slight manipulation from my Skill, buried itself deep into Banks’s side.
The zombie barely acknowledged the wound.
I cursed and flung two more scalpels at him as he crashed through a set of double doors. Both found their mark and made as much difference as the first one.
“Oh, come on!” I groaned, continuing after him. Ahead of me the scalpels glinted in the harsh white light as they jiggled against the gray flesh. The few remaining people on the floor yelped and scattered as we passed.
We turned down a new corridor, and Banks ripped a fire extinguisher off the wall. He removed the safety pin and started spraying the sprinklers overhead. A new alarm joined the one already filling the halls, followed by a sudden shower of water. It soaked everything within seconds and made the tile floors as slick as ice. I lost my footing and landed hard on my back. Banks slipped as well, but recovered immediately.
As I came to my feet, he hurled the fire extinguisher at me. It missed and collided with a fleeing woman. She collapsed and her head bounced off the floor with a crack.
Banks turned, but was knocked off his feet by a huge black blur. T
Banks rolled to his feet as I arrived. In front of him was LaDell, soaking wet and crouching defensively. Several parents and their crying children backed away from them in horror.
“I told you to wait,” LaDell said to me. Before I could respond, he jumped Banks and knocked him to the floor. They grappled, but LaDell’s hands slid over the zombie’s wet loose skin.
I searched for an opening. “LaDell, let me at him.”
“Nobody leaves my morgue,” he snarled, rolling Banks over and giving me a disgusting, yet open shot at the undead’s back.
“Close their eyes!” I yelled to the stunned parents. Then I raised one of my two remaining scalpels. I infused the instrument with all the energy I could muster and plunged the orange glowing blade downward. There was a squish and I felt something give beneath the surface.
Banks bellowed and jerked his arm upward. His elbow caught me in the stomach, and I fell to my knees, gasping for breath.
The zombie pulled himself off of LaDell, grabbed the big man by the wrist, then yanked him to his feet. There was a sickening pop as Banks spun my friend and heaved him into the nearest wall. The coroner grunted on impact, but managed to stay on his feet. His right arm hung loose and he clutched his ribcage, but even injured, LaDell was ready for another round.
Anger bubbled into my chest, filling me with a surge of energy. The final scalpel’s blade exploded with blinding white light as I ripped electricity from a nearby machine. I formed a small sphere of charged ions that sparked and popped in front of me.
Before I completed the spell, Banks dove to his left and scooped up a child. Her mother screamed, but Banks silenced her with an uppercut to the chin. The woman’s eyes rolled into her head and she collapsed to the ground. The little girl, who was five, maybe six, cried out and reached for her mother. Banks held her tight against him and glared at me.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway. The hospital security personnel staggered across the wet floor and screeched to a halt around us. They drew their weapons and trained them on the undead.
“Wait!” I released my hold on the electricity, allowing it to dissipate.
Everyone froze, surprised by the power of my magically amplified voice. Water continued to pour down on the small crowd while the alarms assaulted our ears. In the distance I could hear the wail of sirens.
Banks growled menacingly at the new arrivals.
“Doctor Edgars,” one of the guards said. “What the hell is going on?”
“Got ourselves an unhappy corpse,” LaDell replied.
“Banks,” I said in a calm voice, returning my attention to the undead. “Banks, listen to me.”
His eyes darted from me to the guards. He hissed and slowly eased himself backward, away from the group and toward the far wall. He bumped against a large table and slid around the side of it. The guards followed his progress with their weapons.
“Anthony Banks!” I called in a commanding voice, “I made you an oath once before and will make you another. Release the girl and we’ll talk.”
“Are you nuts?” the security man from the first floor asked. “As soon as he drops the girl, we’re drilling him.”
“You’re not helping,” I snapped.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” the guy replied.
“He’s the dude who can actually kill this thing.” LaDell pointed at Banks with his good arm. “All your peashooters will do is just piss it off.”
The guard started to say something, but LaDell’s glare shut him up.
“Anthony, look at me,” I said. Banks’s eyes darted around, glancing at each person before locking on me.
Finally, a connection.
“Your beef is with me, not that little girl. I’m the one who banished you last time. I give you my Word once again that if you release her, you and I will settle this. Just the two of us.”
Banks blinked and grunted, but with less animalistic fury.
“Tony,” I said in a low voice, “she’s a child. A child.”
His attention shifted to the small package in his arms. The girl’s red hair was pulled into pigtails and she wore a cute purple cotton dress that was soaking wet. Her lower lip quivered and tears joined the water that streaked down her chubby cheeks. Banks stared at her, then back at me. He mewled like a lonely kitten and slowly knelt down. He stroked the girl’s hair, mumbled something in her ear, and released her.
The instant she was free, she raced to her mother’s unconscious side. She fell on top of the motionless form and sobbed into the woman’s blouse. The guard next to me glanced at her, then opened fire. The bullet plowed into Bank’s chest, jerking him sideways.
“No!” I yelled.
Another guard opened fire, but missed, blasting a hole in the wall behind his target. Banks’s face twisted in rage and he bellowed incoherently at me. He turned and, as two more rounds barely missed him, lifted the heavy wooden table off the floor. He emitted a loud roar and heaved the table through the window behind him. He leaped through the opening as several more bullets slammed into his back.
I stumbled to the damaged window in time to see him land on a sedan three stories below. The roof caved in and there was an explosion of glass. Banks rolled off the top, dropping to the pavement next to the remains of the table. He took off into the woods behind the hospital at a full sprint.
I tried to perform a trapping spell, but there was no response from the earth below. I made several more ineffective attempts before the gray body plunged into the trees and vanished.
As he disappeared, a wave of nausea swept over me. I knelt down, panting while the world spun on its axis. LaDell came up beside me.
“I made a mess of things, didn’t I?” I asked, breathing heavily.
“It could have gone better.”
LaDell grimaced. “That zombie packs a punch, but I can live with a dislocated shoulder and a couple busted ribs.”
“We need to contact the Council and get a Hunter on Banks.” I struggled to keep lunch down.
“Hunter?” LeDell asked.
“Professional tracker. They specialize in finding people or paranormal things that try to stay hidden.” I wiped sweat off my brow with a shaky hand. “We also need to get Simeon some medical attention. The burns on his hands were awful.”
“He’s gone, dude.”
I blinked in surprise. “What?”
“Up and left. He and that hottie took off right after you did. They were terrified.”
“Dammit,” I muttered. Not only was an undead corpse on the loose, but the best person to help was gone.
The scene around me collapsed into madness. Medical personnel tended to the injured mother and the guards screamed profanities at LaDell and me for our interference. I stared out the window as defeat sank in. LaDell and several other innocent people had been hurt by Banks and hundreds of others endangered during our chase. Worse of all, I’d jeopardized the life of a little girl.
Everything that had happened was my fault.
Then it dawned on me that wasn’t entirely true. Out of all the asinine events at the hospital, one of them had nothing to do with me.
Adrenaline shot through my veins. I stood, marched up to the shouting guard that had fired the first shot at Banks. I drove my fist into his face, silencing him instantly. He flopped onto the hard wet ground. I winced and flexed my hand.
“That was stupid,” LaDell said, gazing at the limp guard.
“Yeah, he’ll probably press charges.”
“No, I mean the way you hit him. You should have used the bottom part of your palm, not your fist. You could have broken the teeny bones in your sissy
I stared at my large friend, then chuckled. Best to enjoy the laughs while I could—things were going to get a lot worse.
A Not-So-Brief Debrief
As it turned out, “worse” was an understatement.
“...and then Banks vanished into the woods,” I finished wearily.
I was seated in Dad’s study with him, Mom and Healer Jenkins. All of them insisted on being with me for moral support. Two members of the Delwinn Council joined us—sent to investigate the matter.
The first, Wizard Bennet, was a tall, bony man with round spectacles and a gaunt face. He had thinning gray hair and a wispy, bookish air about him. I’d seen him around the Homestead once or twice, but didn’t know him very well. Dad, however, had a lot of good things to say about the man, which made me more willing to open up to him.
The second council member was a stranger named Witch Cerrus. She was short and round with buggy eyes and a tiny nose. Her thick brown hair was pulled into a tight bun, and her sausage-like fingers were covered with ornate rings. She wore a smug, self-assured sneer on her wide face and waddled around like she owned the place.
“You just let him go?” Cerrus asked as I swirled the scotch in my glass, then downed it. Unlike her counterpart, she hadn’t taken any notes. “You didn’t think to trap him with a spell or chase after him?”
I bristled, but kept my voice calm. “I tried to trap him, but he was out of range.”
“And you’d drained your Skill,” the Witch added with a sneer. It wasn’t a question.
I clenched my jaw. “That too. I would have pursued him, but felt it my duty to wait for the authorities.”
“Your duty,” Cerrus hissed, “was to stop the monster. Or at the very least, prevent Simeon Fawkes from escaping.”
“Easy now, Candace,” Dad replied with a slight edge to his voice. “Marcus is not to blame here.”
Cerrus leaned forward and ticked off on her plump fingers.
“First, he engaged an undead in an affluent, residential neighborhood and used a Normal weapon before a Council-approved banishing procedure.” She said the word “Normal” as if it was coated in salt and chalk. “Then he took a known criminal into the heart of temptation and even encouraged him to practice his evil.”