Vampyrs Anonymous Chapter Six
Barnard to the Rescue
Guitar strings. A soft, classical melody, clean and clear like from a CD player or a computer. There was no voice, just the instruments. The darkness was comforting and the music helped James disconnect the pain as a firm but gentle hand snapped his shoulder back into place. Other than a strange tingling sensation in his lower body there was hardly any pain.
“It's your body's natural instinct to repair itself quickly,” someone responded as he cried out in pain. Certain tones of the voice seemed familiar but it was like trying to hear someone while your head was under water. “If your bones are out of place it will heal improperly and do more damage.”
Hands probed his bare chest and stomach then moved down to his legs. In a more alert state James would have protested but he felt strangely complacent. He remembered the last few hours. Or were they days? Man it sure felt like days. Not in a bad way, but in a-time-has-no-meaning kind of way.
Am I high? James wondered. What did that tiger's blood do to me?
Then James remembered Balki feeding him werebeast blood and it all came back to him. The pain, the poison sensation, wondering when he would die but instead just drifting off into a calm stupor and losing track of the time. Barnard jumping in like a scene from a Batman movie.
“I'm here James.”
“Barney, Barney the Batman.”
“I see the scotch is working.”
“Scotch?” James raised an eyebrow. His vision was normal so he couldn't actually see Barnard bit he knew it was his friend that sat there in the darkness.
“Morphine and anesthetics don't work on our kind,” Barnard explained. “When we got to my place you were quite delirious from your ordeal. I had you drink a few shots of scotch to get you to sleep so I could work on setting your broken arm. Since you never eat food the alcohol went right through you.”
Well that explained the tingling sensation.
“I think I have to pee.”
There was rustling and movement. Barnard turned a light on and handed James a small container.
“Um..” James stared at it. “I know it's been a while but I assumed there was a toilet you wanted me to do this in.”
“You're not stable enough to make it,” Barnard said. “And I am quite fond of my carpet.”
James balked but he had such a strong urge that accepted the urinal. It was an awkward movement trying to get everything into place but he managed to use it without issue. In eighty years he rarely ate human food but he occasionally drank liquids like water, soda, and the rare stiff drink so his bladder muscles were still strong enough to control. When he was finished Barnard took it to another room and returned a moment later.
A new track started. James thought he recognized the melody and he fell back to sleep as the the room, the bed, and the time dissolved in a haze of memory.
“Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord/He is Trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored/He hath loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on.”
Sister Goyette played the guitar like an angel played the harp and her voice was heavenly and soothing. The economy was taking a turn for the worse, or so Mr. Plumber from math class kept telling everyone and the school couldn't afford to hire a music teacher. So every Wednesday afternoon Sister Goyette would come to school with her guitar in tow.
Music class was the only time James ever felt relaxed. He was fascinated with the instrument and with the way the sister belted out tunes from her childhood and songs she wrote herself with ease.
Mom's birthday was coming up in a month and he didn't have enough money for a present. He thought back to his birthday and the cake she had bought at Wilken's Bakery. Whenever he looked at the brand new satchel she had got him his tears welled up at the thought of how awful he had been towards her. Not once had he hugged or kissed her since that day when touching her made him wince. James made his mind. When music class was over he waited for the other kids leave the room and approached Sister Goyette.
She was at her desk putting some papers in a folder when she realized he was standing there, waiting for her.
“Hello James,” she greeted him warmly. “You're going to be late for your next class.”
James returned her smile with a slightly nervous version of his own. He rarely asked adults for anything and when he did they usually gave him a long list of reasons why it couldn't be done.
“I-I have a question.” He said.
“Well then I'll do my best to answer it.”
/James looked from Sister Goyette to the guitar which leaned against the chair where she left it. He looked her straight in the eye and mustered up all of his courage.
“Can you teach me how to play?” He asked.
“Teach you to play?”
“The guitar, ma'am. Please. I want to learn how to play the guitar for my mother,” James looked down as he added, “Her birthday is coming up and I don't have any money. I want...I want to write her a song.”
Sister Goyette came around the desk and knelt to be at eye level with James. She placed a loving hand on his shoulder and gently lifted his chin. He had never been this close to a person before. Sister Goyette smelled like the flowers people sold at vendor carts on the way home. Her face was plump with rosy round cheeks and her mouth was small and perfect when she smiled. A few strands of sandy brown hair stuck out from beneath her habit.
“James,” she said, softly. “The most wonderful present you can give anyone is the one you make yourself. I'd happy to help you learn but it will be a lot of hard work.”
“I can do it,” James promised.
Over the next four weeks James spent lunch and recess studying notes, scales, rhythms and how to tune the guitar. Sister Goyette taught him how to play simple melodies like Polly Wolly Doodle and Mary had a Little Lamb. During class she devoted time to voice lessons, which James paid extra attention to.
“Four weeks isn't enough.”
James rubbed his eyes and looked around the windowless room that served as Barnard's office space and emergency bedroom. The door was open and light came in from the living room. He was laying on a cot, covered with a warm blanket. His head rested on a memory foam pillow. Judging from the IV bag feeding blood into his arm and the supply closet where Barnard kept a cache of medical supplies, he figured he was in Barnard's apartment or in an unusually luxurious MASH unit.
“Cow's blood?” He asked, curious.
“Pig.” Barnard answered. He was sitting at his desk reading from an old book and writing notes onto a pad with a live scribe pen. “I had to forgo my usual run out to Henry's and buy out Shaw's supply of pork roasts early this morning once I was sure you were asleep.”
James carefully removed the IV tube and sat up slowly. There were no marks on his body and no pain on his back from where Balki struck him. Aside from a hangover, the first since the second year of his metamorphosis, he barely felt any pain. He knew he could heal faster than a human but it took longer than a day to heal claw marks. He pushed away the covers and saw that his pants and shirt had disappeared sometime in the night.
“Do you have my clothes?” James asked, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
“The shirt got pretty torn up,” Barnard said. He the pen town and went into the living room. He came back in with a new pants, a shirt, socks and a new pair of shoes. “The police conducted a very thorough investigation into the allegations of some of the witnesses. Fortunately only one or two people saw you and the weretiger 'jump across the street almost like they were flying' and they were ruled off as being somewhat inebriated.”
James raised an eyebrow. “Did you have anything to do with that?”
Barnard shook his head and handed James the clothes.
“There would be no point. The only other accounts were of two men shouting and a few more reports of a man screaming further down the road but there was nothing more to suggest it was that unusual. I did have to convince an aspiring young reporter not to turn his findings over to the Boston Globe, but when I suggested a few websites that would pay him for the story he decided to wait for something more substantial.”
Barnard was trying to lighten the mood but James wasn't an idiot. There was something in his tone that made him realize that the shit storm was far from over.
I should never have gone into that damned bar. And yet in spite of last night going from bad to worse he couldn't see Felicity being a part of the bad.
James went into the bathroom to wash up and change into the clothes Barnard bought for him him. The shoes, socks, black khakis and gray sweater came from the Fifth Avenue department store at the Prudential Shopping Center and when he saw himself in the mirror hanging on the bathroom door, he looked like he was getting ready to give a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The fuck?” James took a second look at the mirror. He saw a very clear reflection of himself in the mirror, along with everything else in the bathroom. He was confused until he looked at the mirror over the bathroom sink and saw the usual blurriness that came from reflective surface and he realized that Barnard owned a video mirror. He saw the brand name “VisiSoft” etched into the brass framework at the bottom of the mirror. He threw his towel in the hamper and left the bathroom. “Hey Barney, does that electronics store in the mall sell vampire -designed technology now?”
“No, I got the mirror at Eros.” Barnard answered from the kitchen.
Eros was a chain of islands located in the Tropic of Capricorn, owned by a Greek vampire named Aldritch Elswyer, the self-proclaimed king of the vampires. Although in reality he only had power on the islands themselves and the people who lived there.
James grabbed the IV bag from the side room and finished the rest of the blood before going back into the living room. The curtains were drawn and there was a clear view of the Charles River Basin and the Hatch Shell. He could see the lights on at the Yacht club and a group of people drinking what he guessed was hot cocoa or some warm beverage but all of the boats docked there were covered and locked up. In the middle of November there wouldn't be many boaters on the river, except for the occasional patrol by the police or the National Guard.
He was grateful for Barnard's help but he really hated being in Boston for longer than necessary. He wasn't particularly fond of this part of the city either. With an unobstructed view of MIT across the river and the sound of traffic below it served to remind him he was far from home. And with two major colleges and a gaggle of tourists and shoppers lining the streets late into the evening it made the prospect of hunting uncomfortable.
James couldn't kill anyone without risking witnesses, not to mention that apparently he needed to check to make sure he wasn't pissing anyone off by basically trying to get something to eat. Heaven forbid he kill a scalper near Fenway Park only to find that the Red Sox were owned by a family of WereBears.
He turned from the window and went into the kitchen. Immediately the heat made him uncomfortable, with the stove top and oven on at full blast, forcing James to raid Barnard's refrigerator for something cold to drink. Barnard was on the other side of the counter that separated the stove and cupboards from the actual dining area. While a roast sat in the oven he was adding bits of chopped pork to pot of stew on the back stove top.
“How do you stand working in this?” James asked.
“Two tours of service in Jerusalem,” Barnard answered quickly. “This is a meat locker compared to years of Crusading in the hot desert.”
James opened the refrigerator and let the cold air wash over him for a few minutes before selecting a Pepsi for himself and a Crush at Barnard's request. Barnard didn't stock his fridge with much more than drinks so the pounds of wrapped up pork were hard to miss. James popped open the freezer and sure enough Barnard was getting the best value for his money.
“I'm sorry man,” he said.
“For what?” Barnard asked, accepting the Crush and popping the can open.
James nodded to the fridge. “You buying all that just to feed me a pint of blood. You didn't have to do that, man.”
“Believe it or not James, I did have some choice in the matter.” Barnard gestured to the bistro style dinner table and they sat down. “Now why don't you tell me your side of what happened last night.”