by Tamara Sheehan
Table of Contents|
appeared in issue 215.
Tenth Man Contest page
|Chapter 25: conclusion|
[Tenth Man has been withdrawn at the author’s request.]
Saul got to his feet, clutching the hand rail for support. “Howie.” He coughed, catching the other man’s face in his hands. “Okay? Okay?”
Saul stumbled down the steps, coughing, slipping through the blood and gore that was what remained of the incubus, to where Bridget stood rooted, staring at the stamping machine.
She nodded, looked up at Howie with her mouth slightly agape. Saul caught her in a hard embrace, breathed out noisily into her hair. “Good. Good.” His throat was constricting, he wondered how long he would be able to speak.
Audel got away... he thought, but could find neither the mind nor summon the energy to send the golem. Something nagged at him, made it impossible to focus. He leaned on Bridget, coughing. Dust was settling on her, covering the welts and scrapes on her arms and face. Someone’s missing...
“Toven.” He whispered, horrorstruck. He lurched away from Bridget, slipping through the mounds of red dust to where Toven lay. “I said I... I said we’d look after him.”
Howie was already there, cradling the other man’s head in his lap. Toven’s mouth was open, his lips white, soft breath moving his chest as if he slept despite the chaos and cacophony that had taken place. He couldn’t feel thought or memory, his head felt heavy and useless.
“Oh God.” Saul heard the sound of his voice as if it belonged to another. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s all right.” Howie looked up at him. “He’s been knocked out, that’s all.”
Saul sagged against Bridget’s shoulder, a soft noise issuing from his lips. She let him slip to the floor. “Howie, we have to get out of here.”
He raised his head, nodded. “Saul, can you walk?”
“Good, because I’m only going to carry one of you.” He got to his feet, looked around him. “There’s a western door that goes down to the waterfront.” He turned over his wrist to look at his watch. “Should be low tide. We can probably walk out.”
He led them, silent, from the warehouse.
Cool air washed over them like water. Saul gulped in the darkness, reveled in the exhausted silence of the minds around him. He held Bridget’s small hand as she guided him over sea-rounded rocks, through knee-deep sea water that was numbingly cold.
Soon they were trudging across the wet lawns of the park, and then the yellow light of Saul’s apartment enveloped them. Mister Familiar crackled and purred and rubbed against Saul despite the sodden state of his clothes. Saul knew he reeked of magic, the energy was coming off him like static. He let the familiar take it and followed Bridget into the living room.
Toven’s eyes flicked open, he looked around him and struggled upright on the couch.
“Done.” Howie said.
Somewhere a siren rose over the city and sped away, all of them tensed at the sound. Howie got to his feet, wrenched the curtains shut and pulled closed the rumbling balcony door. Toven watched him with his head in his hands.
“What now?” He asked.
Howie was shivering, his hands clenched to fists at his sides. “Now we sit here and wait for the police to come and arrest our sorry asses.”
Beside him, Bridget gave a little sob and covered her face. Toven touched her arm consolingly.
“It’s all right. He won’t.”
Saul looked over at Toven. The other man’s face was earnest, pale and battered but serious. “No, he wouldn’t dare. Piss you off again after what happened tonight?” He shook his head. “No way.”
Bridget looked up from her hands at him. “You think that?” she asked.
He nodded, looked over to Saul. “It’s done then. For real.”
Toven smiled and got to his feet. He pushed aside the curtains and slid open the balcony door just enough to squeeze his narrow frame through. Saul got up and followed him. It was nearing dawn, and the city was coming to life.
Copyright © 2006 by Tamara Sheehan