Sunday, February 26, 2006

Roundabout editings pt 3

Dawn touched the city hesitantly, frightened of what she might feel. The errant sunbeams of the morning traced lightly over the tops of the buildings, and morbidly curious fingers of light probed the darkness. Slowly, warily, it crept up the sides of buildings, reluctantly illuminating the city.
Upon finding a familiar pane of glass, the morning dove in excitedly, pouring into the small apartment. Flooding across the thick, white carpet, it rose to cover the low couch, the faux-wood shelves, the lamps, and the handful of bookshelves stuffed to the brim. The door creaked open with a peculiar rhythm, and in stepped Roundabout.
Plain, brown eyes made a quick inspection of the room from under messy black hair. The windows were all firmly locked, and the faint glint of light in the glass told that the silvery-dust was still in effect. No footprints crossed the carpet, in fact, the only impressions on it were two, parallel lines running from one end of the room to the other. Everything else was in place, no sign of a struggle, no broken shelves, no pillows strewn across the room. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
Roundabout breathed a sigh of relief and stepped in, firmly closing the door behind him. Latching it, he turned to face the room and took two large steps before falling face-forward on the couch, the satchel at his side thumping to the floor.
Opening his eyes slightly, he could see the field of white fabric that was the couch pressed up against his face. Glowing in the early-morning sun, it made his tired eyes ache, but he didn’t have the energy to close them. Instead, he laid there, the light of a new day slowly bleaching his sight.
“Or, you could get up and shower off whatever gunk is on you from last night before you lie down on my new couch,” came a voice from the apartment’s small kitchen.
“Mmmrphgrl . . .” was the only response from the couch.
“I swear, I’m totally behind all this night-hunting and all, but do you have to leave it all over my furniture?” asked the voice in an exasperated tone. There was a faint whisper of wheels on carpet as the owner of the voice moved in front of Roundabout.
“Lady, I am tired. You try exterminating a vampire and see how you feel in the morning,” came Roundabout’s voice, muffled by the couch. “Exterminating” that was the word he used—in his mind, you couldn’t kill something that wasn’t alive.
“Kid, Vinnie was 17-year-old with barely a month of vampire under his belt. You’d have had a harder time blowing your nose.” From his position on the couch, Roundabout could only see one leg and a wheel.
“Wanna see me try?” He took a deep breath and turned face-down on the couch cushion.
“Enough, kid,” said the woman. There was a heavy thump as a Sunday edition smacked into the back of his head.
“It’s not like you use the couch much anyway,” said Roundabout with a groan, pushing himself up to a sitting position. “You don’t leave that chair that often.”
The woman shot him a withering look. In her mid-thirties, she looked all the older with the severe ponytail that tied back her blonde hair. Crystal-clear blue eyes glared at him from behind thin, wire-framed glasses. “Kid, I went through all the trouble of clearing out that junk-room for you to sleep in—so don’t do it on my couch.” Putting the paper down in her lap, she gripped the wheels of her chair inexpertly and turned, moving back toward the kitchen.
Blinking blearily, Roundabout watched her go. It had taken her a month to get really used to the chair, but she was slowly getting the hang of it. Rubbing his eyes, he was caught unawares as the newspaper caught him in the face.
“You can take a look at it while I finish breakfast.”
“Hard-hitting news,” muttered Roundabout, opening the paper. There, on the front page, was the triumphant picture of the mayor holding aloft the head of Vinnie Conners by the hair. “Mayor Puts the Bite on Vampire Menace,” read Roundabout aloud, “City Safer By The Day.” He stood up and moved to the table, sitting down at the only chair.
“Mayor Songel addressed the press today with evidence that one more vampire was ‘off the streets and back in hell.’ His city-wide imperative, dubbed “Daybreak” began two months ago in response to the outbreak of the vampire menace. So far, they have shown evidence of four vampires obliterated and one contained for study. Project Daybreak plans to double their extermination rate by next month, eliminating twice as many vampires by next month,” read Roundabout.
“And in the meantime, the vampires are multiplying at a rate of about five per week,” said the woman, plunking a plate down in front of Roundabout. Wheeling herself over to the other side of the table, she set her plate down and spread a napkin across her lap.
“Six,” corrected Roundabout, still scanning the paper. “I’m reading the obituaries now, and if I’m right, then there have been eight vampire-related deaths in the past week.”
“Then why six?”
“Two of them are too mangled to rise up again. Looks like there’s a messy-eater active, Abby,” said Roundabout, his eyes still fixed on the paper. Without shifting his gaze, he reached over to grab the bottle of ketchup and slopped it on the plate of eggs in front of him.
The woman called “Abby” winced at the flood of ketchup over Roundabout’s plate. “I honestly don’t understand how you can do what you do all night and then eat your food like that.”
“Like what?” asked Roundabout through a mouthful of ketchup-soaked eggs.
“Nevermind. Just tell me, kid, are you planning to stake out all six of them tonight?” Abby asked, between mouthfuls.
“Why d’you keep calling me that?”
“Calling me ‘kid.’ I thought we agreed ‘Roundabout’ was a good name.”
“No, you said ‘Roundabout’ was a good name. I argued that it was a good adjective in general, and sounded more like a comic-book-hero’s name than a real person’s,” said Abby, gesturing pointedly with her fork.
“Nothing wrong with that,” said Roundabout. “Besides, it sounds good.”
She stared curiously at him for a second. “Still nothing?” she asked, her voice shifting in tone.
He met her gaze, sad eyes on an expressionless face. “Nothing.”
Abby wondered, not for the first time, the name of this kid that had come leaping into her life. When the vampires had come to the city two months ago, they’d attracted other things, other beings of the night. It was one of those things, and incubus that had caught Abby in an alley. The man-shape made of out liquid night had beaten her to a pulp and likely would have done worse if this kid hadn’t come whirling out of the darkness like a bat out of hell. He’d smashed a beer-bottle full of holy water in the thing’s face, and as it reeled back the kid had ricocheted off of the alley wall. The kid was small, but at the speeds be was bouncing around at, his weight was enough to shove the demon back into a twisted chunk of metal. Impaled, the incubus would have gotten back up if the kid hadn’t then picked up a rusted bicycle and proceeded to relentlessly, methodically beat the demon over the head with it, until nothing remained but liquid darkness seeping from lifeless shoulders.
With a grimy face and matted hair, he looked up at her, with tears in his eyes. “Do you know me?” he asked before collapsing in her arms, sobbing.
“Well, then stop staring, Abby,” said the kid, snapping her out of her flashback. “Fuck, you’d think you’d never seen me before.”
“Hey, kid—what did I say about that kind of language in this apartment? You live here, you watch your mouth,” she said, waving her fork warningly at him.
“Sorry,” said Roundabout, returning to his breakfast.
Half an hour later, Roundabout cleared away the dishes as Abby threw a plastic sheet over the table top. “You got them, right?” she asked, as he walked back, drying his hands on his pants.
“You bet,” said Roundabout. In one jump, he leapt over the table and landed next the couch. Scooping up his satchel, he slid into his chair. Grinning, he unzipped the bag, and its contents spilled out. In two, small plastic baggies were a pair of vampire fangs and closet-monster horns. Two wads of bills fell out with them along several small bottles and eight bulbs of garlic. Last of all came a fluttering of small papers.
Abby picked up the baggy with the vampire fangs in it, and held it up to the light. “Kid, get me my kit,” she said, her attention focused on the fangs.
“Can do, Abby,” said Roundabout, leaping from his chair, bounding off the couch and into her room.
When he came back, toting the large, metal case, she was already examining the scraps of paper. “Receipts for the rewards on the closet-monster and the vampire, and letters from the families?”
Roundabout nodded. “They like to know personally. It doesn’t bring back their kids, but it helps them get closure.” He yawned expansively and stretched, depositing the case on the table.
“Kid, get some rest—you’ve been out all night, and I’m gonna be at this for a while,” said Abby, flipping open the case. Roundabout nodded and wandered away to his room, stretching.
Reaching into the case, she slipped on a pair of rubber gloves, and used a sterilized pair of tweezers to remove one of the fangs from the baggie. Using a cotton-swab in the other, she swabbed the fang. Putting the fang in and old-fashioned flip-top jar, she swabbed the cotton swab inside a previously-prepared petri-dish. Lifting out a row of multi-colored chemicals in test tubes, she set them down in front of her, and took a deep breath.
“Okay, let’s get started.”

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