And Finally, Diagnosis


The knapsack with the Kukri had slipped from my hands as we landed just in front of the empty elevator shaft on the top-most floor. If you could call it a floor with its mostly bare beams covered in sheets of plywood as a makeshift floor, with scaffolds on either side, filled with tied stacks of rebar, one of them with a cement mixer that looked way too heavy to be positioned there. I looked down into the shaft and apart from wire cable running its length, there weren’t any pieces of the elevator there yet.

It made perfect sense for Skovajsa to own a building in progress; he could oversee the construction and insert anything into the specs that would help him as a safe house. It would be his fortress in the making, maybe even his bachelor pad to lure back unsuspecting victims. With or without my interference, he and Jesper would find each other; two vampires in such close proximity could not play nice.

If dawn was coming, there was only one logic place that Skovajsa was going. He jumped us down and when we hit the ground floor, he let me go, causing me to I collapse to the dusty ground. I cried as I landed on my hip, scrapping up my leg.

Well, I guess there goes the last shred of manners.

I was about to try and push Darcie out of my head when Skovajsa snatched my arm, and began to drag me to another room. This construction site was the great shell of a condo complex and I’d noticed that the front of the first floor facing the street had already been completed. A wine shop. Likely another front business of Skovajsa’s. He’d turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, rat bastard.

We moved to a back room with a strangely covered floor. Skovajsa’s head darted around the room, sniffing. Something was wrong. The floor looked a tractor trailer had just groomed it.

“What…is…THIS?!” His voice was near panic as his shoe brushed aside the layer of wood chips. If I hadn’t been in such pain and unable to feel half of my face through the bruising, I would’ve smiled. Not just any wood chips. Cedar. One of the most ancient and deadly woods for Old World vamps. Especially the youngsters.

If he was angry at the changes to the floor, there was only one word for his reaction to the opening to the floor cellar with its doors broken off their hinges: Livid. He actually threw me towards the entrance as some sort of release of his rage. Needless to say, I was prepared and landed with my arms out in front of me to break my fall. But I stayed on the floor. My head peered over the threshold down the cellar steps as he flew down into the darkness.

My eyes adjusted and I saw it was only about ten steps down, not very deep, not a tall enough chamber that he could even stand but inside, there was nothing but rubble. The broken remnants of a rather large, thick, cement structure. It looked like a jackhammer had been at it and quite recently for the amount of dust still hanging in the air.

“No! NO!” Skovajsa bellowed and as if on cue, strong lights from the ceiling of the chamber switched on, blinding him.

That was when I saw it, right at the top of the stairs, glinting under the power of the UV lights. My infinity amulet, wrapped in a single black ribbon. Lucy. I looked around the chamber that had been Skovajsa’s coffin and realized that they had destroyed and booby trapped it. He would never be able to seek sanctuary here again.

Ma petit ange. The short, stout old aunt I had been clucked in my head.

This time, despite the pain, my mouth curved in a smile as I picked up the amulet a split second before Skovajsa sped out of the blinding room, grabbing my arm with one hand, the other arm shielding his eyes. Each successive room we entered in his retreat lit up like a spotlight with those same UV lights and he shrieked in cold fury the entire way.

At the bottom of the shaft, he made a power leap and flew up from the strength of it, past the other empty floors until reaching the top, where he was snatched out of the air. One moment, I was flying up with him, the next I was watching him smack into a concrete pillar across the floor from the safety of someone’s arms.

As stunned as I was to see Skovajsa go flying, I was even more stunned as I turned my face up to see Jesper holding me, his hair flaming auburn and windswept, his eyes the color of jasper. I blinked and felt that dark presence of Valerian, the one that had protected me from the Taint, take weary steps down into the recesses of my mind as all twelve previous versions of me thrilled to see this new savior.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.

My mouth moved but no sound came out. We both heard a menacing growl to which he gently set me down, stooping quickly and handing me the knapsack.

“You dropped this,” he announced before his fangs dropped, not the elegant thin ones but an entire mouthful of short, sharp teeth, like a snake.

Jesper raced across the plywood floor and charged full force into Skovajsa preempting an attack. He grabbed a hold of the Carpathian and slammed him back against the same pillar, which cracked. Jesper took a hold of the rebar behind Skovajsa and began to bend it around him as he struggled. Skovajsa laid him completely out with a right handed slap and then proceeded to simply rip the rebar right out of the concrete to free himself.

Jesper got up again only to have Skovajsa attack him first, driving the piece of rebar right through his shoulder. Jesper screamed. Skovajsa had been aiming for the heart but Jesper had turned just in time. He grabbed Skovajsa by the collar of his expensive suit and stabbed him in the abdomen with the end of rebar sticking out. The speed surprised Skovajsa who backed up a step as Jesper had to take a breath to recover. He took a few short, deep breaths before he yanked the rebar out and threw it aside.

Blood was now pouring out of both Jesper’s shoulder and Skovajsa’s belly but the latter only smiled. His hands had grown into gnarled claws and he swiped at Jesper, who whirled away but a little too slow. Skovajsa swiped at the back of his neck and again at his back, tearing deep into his flesh. Jesper arched his back away then spun around, grabbing Skovajsa in a tight grip. As he grappled him, he squeezed and Skovajsa snapped his mouth full of fangs at him.

Jesper jerked his head away, which relaxed his hold enough to let Skovajsa get an arm free. With that hand, he grabbed Jesper’s injured shoulder and wrenched it. Jesper screamed and his arms fell away. Skovajsa kept hold of the arm and twisted, the sound of bones cracking so terrifying that I wanted to cover my ears. Jesper fell to his knees, but Skovajsa still had his arm.

I dug out the Kukri and felt the metal come alive in my hand. My Indian past life roared up, whispering some ancient incantation that I had no idea how related to this weapon that seemed to know me. I was beyond caring about that. Jesper was in trouble. My fingers tightened and I stepped forward to do I know not what.

Skovajsa raised his other claw to swipe at Jesper’s throat when Jesper swung his head around to look up at him. His hair to seem to catch fire for an instant and I knew what was coming.

Neilza!” Searing rays burst from Jesper’s eyes, sending a burning Skovajsa staggering back into a pile of plywood. The plywood scattered, some dropping over the edge and down into the construction site below. The scaffolding just behind the pile also tottered precariously. Skovajsa slapped at himself as his expensive silk clothes burst into flames.

“Sophie,” Jesper called, pain and fatigue etched into his voice. “Get out of here!” He struggled to his feet.

The sky was getting lighter and another real fear hit me. I needed to get Jesper to shelter and right now, but there was nowhere to go. Dangerous vampire, rising sun…this was not good.

Skovajsa grabbed Jesper from behind and crushed him, bones creaking and popping, causing my eyes to tear up from the punishment Jesper was taking. It was obvious he couldn’t defeat Skovajsa who’d lost all semblance of humanity from his face. He was all vampire now.

He tossed Jesper aside like a ragdoll and laughed, his clothes still smoking. He was indeed burned, flesh crisped all over him but it did not impede him. He approached Jesper slowly, now seemingly at a point where he felt Jesper was no match for him.

Copil. What wonderful powers you possess! But you cannot think you can defeat me.”

He picked Jesper up, slamming him up against the scaffolding, slashing at his throat, blood beginning to pump out of him. Then, in a blur of speed, Skovajsa tied Jesper up in electrical cabling then grabbed Jesper’s chin in his clawed hand.

“You cannot heal when you cannot feed,” Skovajsa spat.

Jesper was bleeding from back, neck, head, shoulder, chest, his right arm hung nearly disconnected from his shoulder, a large gaping wound right above his heart. But they all oozed rather than bleed as uch as they should. It had all seemed to take place in slow motion but the entire fight had lasted nothing more than a minute, before I had finished taking a full step forward.

The movement drew Skovajsa’s attention. “This? This is what you would have over me?”

“Sophie, Sophie, get out of here,” Jesper panted, still struggling against the wiring, his left arm flexed and pulling. I couldn’t figure it out, why he couldn’t break free. Perhaps he was too weak.

Skovajsa punched him full in the face before walking calmly toward me. He clasped his hands together, like a schoolmaster or a priest before disciplining a child. “Now you have disappointed me enough, Sophie. You will submit. All of your knowledge, I will have it. After I make a snack of this rather mundane specimen. I’d had such high hopes for him but I obviously overestimated his specialness.” He stopped in the middle of the floor, spreading his arms wide like some player on a grand stage. “You will make me the most powerful vampire that ever lived!”

“Stupid little man, vampires aren’t alive. And that, that would be very bad for my business, betraying my clients. Not to mention bad karma.” I gripped the Kukri behind me. The sun was creeping up. I could feel it. The birds were chattering away sensing it too.

He dropped his arms. Suddenly, he’d rushed over to me, gripped me by my hair, forcing my head to look up. “As if you have a choice.”

That was when I saw it. The cement mixer. It jostled a bit as Jesper struggled to get free. Skovajsa twisted my head the other direction, taking in his bite handiwork from earlier.

“You still deny me? Have it your way. Such a nuisance that your blood is undrinkable. I so hate to waste a meal.”

The twist to my vision revealed something else. The other scaffolding. It seemed to be damaged by the impact. If a little more force was applied, oh, say like from some rolls of safety netting that were stacked just behind it, maybe it would teeter over.

He thrust his face into mine. “It’s so much easier for you to die in complete futility.”

Crazy thoughts, that some Rube Goldberg machinery would work its way to topple both scaffolds, manage to free Jesper, and allow him to get free while crushing Skovajsa. Futility indeed. Much easier to try and cut Jesper loose.

I looked Skovajsa dead in the eye. “Vasa Skoda, there are no refunds on treatment.”

He growled at me, striking me, sending me to the floor.

“You ruin it, the pleasure of killing you. You do not fear death.” He tossed a look back at Jesper. “But perhaps you just need the right incentive.” He walked a few steps, pausing to take in the sky. “I tire of this. If this one tried to save you, perhaps you would bargain for him.” Skovajsa strode over towards Jesper.

“Sophie, the Kukri. Do it now!” Jesper cried.

When I got my senses back, I caught Jesper’s gaze. His arms were burned red from fighting at the cabling but as we held that look, he started to speed up his breathing, shoring up his strength. He tilted his head back, started a primal groan that seemed to reach back through the ages.

“Skovajsa, the sunrise!” I called.

He paused but then turned, a little too nonchalantly saying, “You really think a few week rays of light would wound me?” He rushed over to Jesper, turning his head, exposing his neck. “Will you forfeit his life as you would your own just to keep your secrets?”

I stared open-mouthed. The truth was I hesitated. Maybe I would.

Skovajsa shrugged, “Very well. I’ll end him and gain his power, however meager it might be.” He then leaned into him for a bite. That one moment, everything cleared within my troubled soul. Yes, it was wrong to kill. It was wrong to take violence in hand and veer from the path. But it was also wrong not to fight for the weak, the poor, the impoverished… the injured. They deserved our stewardship, our protection, and…our love.

“Wait!”

Skovajsa turned his head as if he fully expected my interruption.

“You have a better offer?”

“More a diagnosis.”

Skovajsa looked curious, at least. Jesper had stored up his energies and was about to release it.

“You were made from the Taint, a wine infused with vampire blood. And you’re sun-starved, like many vampires before you, including the one whose blood tainted you.”

He shook his head, fully dismissive of my expertise. “And treatment?”

I gripped the Kukri hard in my hand as I stood. “Well, you’re also a fucking prick and unfortunately, there is no cure for that.” I drew back my arm and pitched the Kukri at him, willing it to take whatever course it might to save our friend.

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One Response to “And Finally, Diagnosis”

  1. Nice, great fight sequence. would be nice to see it in cinema. 🙂

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