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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:17

Little Henry was already up and yelling for fresh clothes when we went back into the room. The hospital gown, which would have wrapped around me three times and tied twice, didn't reach his knees, and gaped in the back badly. The view was a nice one, but I looked away, because he wasn't mine to gape at. I'd worked too hard to not ardeur his ass to look at it now. Either Henry didn't realize he was flashing us, or he didn't care.

'Mr Crawford, you didn't have any when you came in,' the small blond nurse told him, finally raising her voice back, just this side of yelling at him. She'd been the one he tossed across the room, though he probably didn't remember it.

'I've got an extra T-shirt in my tac bag that will fit you,' Nicky said.

Henry turned, his long, long hair in a tangle around him. 'Thank you.'

'But your inseam isn't going to fit in my extra pair of pants.'

I turned to the nurse, who was glaring at him. 'Can you find some scrub pants that will fit him?'

'I can try,' she said, and stalked past him.

I touched her arm as she went past, and she turned the glare on me. 'Thank you.'

'For what?' she asked.

'Doing your job. Henry doesn't remember throwing you across the room.'

Her eyes softened a little.

Henry said, 'I did what?'

'You fought the nice doctors and nurses when you were under vampire influence,' I said.

He looked at the nurse, who was my size but not as muscular. 'I am so sorry, did I hurt you? And I'm sorry I yelled just now.'

She shook her head. 'Not really hurt, no, bruised. Apology accepted, and I'll see about getting you some pants; we can't have you leaving in just a shirt.' She laughed at some inside joke.

'They won't have shoes either,' I said.

'What size do you wear?' Nicky asked.

'You're in luck; I got an extra pair in the car.'

'Not a problem,' Nicky said.

'You know, not to put too fine a point on it, but you're a civilian and we'll be riding with SWAT on this one.'

'I know most of the cops in town, Marshal Blake. My dad and I were the ones who led them out on survival searches and helped them do wilderness training around here.'

I nodded. 'Okay, but when they arrive, if you're not ready to go, we can't wait.'

'I'll be ready, but you can't leave without me anyway.'

'SWAT is bringing a map of our search grid.'

'I saw the same image you saw, but I know the place where he's holed up.'

'I told them about it.'

'Tell me and I'll tell the others.'

'You'll never find it without me.' His face grew very serious. 'They were right to kill us; we'd find them anywhere in the mountains here.'

I wanted to correct him on his pronoun choice, but I didn't think it had been accidental, and if it had been it was too big a Freudian slip for me to deal with, I'd leave it to the professionals when he started therapy for the fresh PTSD.

'If you get the shirt and boots, he can at least be that much dressed,' I said.

Nicky shook his head. 'I'm your only bodyguard right now, so you have to come with me, or we take him down to the car in the scrubs they're looking for.'

'If I said I'll be fine until you get back, you would say what?'

He just looked at me, that one blue eye giving me attitude, and since it was Nicky it was a lot of attitude. 'That if this were a scary movie, I'd leave, and you'd be gone or dead when I come back, so we stay together.'

'Because it would be the kiss of death in a horror flick?' I asked.

'Because I'm your bodyguard.' He said it flat with no return of the humor I'd been trying for.

Henry said, 'I heard you two talking about how the zombies needed so much food and where they're going to get more.'

I looked at him. 'Sorry, I didn't think until too late that you might hear us the way people do when they're coming out of anesthesia.'

'It's okay, it helped wake me up. He'll start with Boulder and the surrounding towns.'

'Start how?' I asked.

'He's just going to keep raising the dead until they consume the living.'

'He's going to raise an undead army?' I asked.

Henry shook his head, sending his long golden-brown hair swinging as much as the tangles would allow. 'Not an army, more like undead locusts. He just wants them to kill as many people as possible, and he'll feed off each death. He feeds on fear and death.'

'I knew he originally fed on death, but I didn't know he was one of the night hags.'

'You mean nightmares?'

'Not exactly; night hags is a nickname for vampires that can cause fear in people and then feed on it from a distance. They can cause and feed on nightmares. Maybe that's where the idea of a nightmare comes from, but it's a vampire trick.'

'He showed me what he meant to do to the city.'

'He put it in my head. At first I just saw it in my dreams, but then I started seeing it when I was awake anytime that I wasn't bespelled by his puppet.'

'The female vampire,' I said.

He nodded and suddenly looked very unhappy. 'She mind-fucked me, and then she was beautiful and I couldn't help but want her. She mind-fucked me with his help, and then she fucked me for real, or made me fuck her.' He gave a bitter laugh.

'You had no choice, Henry; you were under their spell, literally.'

'Please call me Little Henry. Straight Henry was my dad.'

'Okay, Little Henry. Vampires can make humans do anything they want once they have your mind thoroughly rolled.'

'I remember pieces of what they did to me, and that was bad, but what they made me do was worse, and Pop, he ...' He looked away, shoulders hunching as if the memory were a blow.

'Don't try to remember today,' Nicky said.

Henry looked at him. 'The real stuff is hazy, or missing, but the dreams are crystal clear. They were his wish, his goal. He wants to turn everyone into a walking corpse like him. He wants to fill the city streets with walking dead that are faster, smarter, than regular zombies. You know how they say some people just want to watch the world burn?'

'Well, he wants to watch it die.'