Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Chapter 45: Medical Room

The medical room in Hartley House used to be a banquet hall. Statesmen and the local well-to-do would spend many an evening feasting on suckling pig while dozens of servants buzzed around them.

That had been a long time ago. Now all the furniture was piled in the corner, covered by a thick layer of dust and the priceless paintings that hadn’t seen the light of day for years were protected by white sheets. The table that used to seat thirty aristocrats and playboys had been moved to another hall to make room for Doctor Owen’s equipment.

Detective Ryder’s cold, pale body arrived in the medical room tied to a wheeled stretcher pushed by two very uneasy-looking soldiers. Doctor Owen was waiting, already suited up with a surgical mask over his face.

Everywhere Agent Simpson looked she could see soldiers holding rifles, with their fingers hovering over the triggers. They were nervous about having a bite victim at the outpost. Agent Simpson wondered how many of them had actually seen a live vampire before.

An attack had never happened at this outpost but the soldiers had all heard the horror stories about what can happen. Every outpost that had been infiltrated by a vampire had sustained heavy losses within minutes of the attack. They all knew it could happen to them at any time but now they were face to face with their fears.

The man in front of them could turn into a real life vampire at any moment and rip their bodies to pieces with his bare hands. The more recent recruits were all desperately running through their training in their minds, trying to find the tactics that would help them stay alive if this unfortunate half-dead man in front of them suddenly developed the desire to suck their blood.

In the time she had been a member of the Brotherhood, Agent Simpson was aware of only one time in recent history when an outpost was infiltrated by a vampire. Captain Stein had been in charge of the outpost and had lost many good men: thirty-five soldiers were either killed or reborn and he was the only survivor.

He swore he would never let that happen again. Now he was standing over the bed holding a rifle loaded with silver bullets. One squeeze of the trigger would unload them all into Detective Ryder’s body and rid them all of the immediate threat.

‘You’ll have to back off if I’m going to treat him,’ Doctor Owen said as he approached the bed. Captain Stein eyeballed the doctor and reluctantly took a step back.

‘Can you help him?’ asked Agent Simpson.

‘I’m not sure,’ said Doctor Owen, ‘the wound has stopped bleeding but his heart is still beating. You did good work on his neck to stop the flow. He is unconscious, which is common for a bite victim. How long is it since he was bitten?’

‘About twenty minutes’, she said, ‘How long before he turns?’

‘It depends. It can be minutes or hours but he may not even turn. Not every bite victim turns into a vampire. Some get lucky.’

‘You have to work on him under the assumption that he could turn at any minute,’ said Captain Stein.

‘I know, Captain,’ Doctor Owen said.

Doctor Owen unzipped a small case containing ten small syringes, each containing a bright yellow liquid. He took one out of the case, wiped down a spot of Detective Ryder’s right arm with alcohol and injected the liquid into his vein.

‘Now all we can do is wait for him to wake up,’ said Doctor Owen.

‘Is that it?’ asked Agent Simpson, ‘Isn’t there anything else we can do?’

‘Nothing at all. I’d give him a fifty-fifty chance of waking up human. We’ll just have to wait and see.’ Doctor Owen’s words contained no compassion or sympathy. It became clear to Agent Simpson that the doctor had no more feelings for Detective Ryder than he did for the rats in his lab.

Captain Stein turned to the two least nervous-looking soldiers. ‘You two stay here.’

‘And do what sir?’ asked one of them.

Captain Stein rolled his eyes sighed with exasperation. These young recruits were dedicated but some of them were really dumb.

‘If he wakes up and shows any sign of being one of them,’ said Captain Stein, ‘shoot him in the head. That’s the big round thing at the end of his body. Do you want me to draw you a map?’

‘No, sir.’

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