Thursday, 17 May 2007

Chapter 56: Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last

The doctor and I stepped outside Hartley House to see many soldiers running around, stacking equipment into piles on the drive. Captain Stein was coordinating the efforts, shouting at anyone and everyone.

His coercive approach appeared to work. He gave the nod to approve the completion of the soldiers’ tasks then sent them off to stand guard over the patch of grass where the helicopters were expected to land.

I spotted three wooden towers, each housing two soldiers armed with rifles and swords. The sunscreen painted on their faces was illuminated by the ultraviolet lamps hanging above them.

‘How safe is it up there?’ I asked the doctor, ‘If any vampires attacked, wouldn’t they just chop the towers down?’

‘The vampires attack in small numbers,’ he said, ‘they’re fairly easy to pick off from up there and the UV light provides enough protection.’

‘Why do they attack in small numbers?’

‘All evidence points towards a small population. We suspect their numbers are low. There hasn’t been a large scale attack on a human population for over fifty years.’

I was still worried about the soldiers in the tower and it must have shown on my face.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Doctor Owen, ‘we’ll be out of here in no time. Look, here they come.’

In the distance I could see two helicopters flying towards us, the same kind of gunships that had picked up Captain Stein from the shootout earlier that day.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a friendly voice in my ear. ‘How are you feeling, Detective?’ I spun round and was faced with Agent Simpson. She was definitely a sight for sore eyes.

‘Not too bad, considering I might be one of the Lost Boys.’ Not the funniest line to emerge from my lips but it got a wry smile at least.

‘You’ve been through a lot today,’ she said, ‘once we get you back to regional headquarters, you’ll be able to get some rest. The compound is heavily guarded and very secure. You can feel safe there.’

‘You mean you don’t feel safe with those guys up there in the wooden sun beds?’ I asked.

‘They’ve fought off plenty of attacks before. Don’t worry, Detective,’ she said. I suspected she was lying about the level of experience these soldiers had, but she was only trying to ease my worries.

‘That’s what he said,’ I replied, thumbing in the direction of Doctor Owen, ‘And please, call me Tom. I’m not a detective any more, remember?’

‘So you’ve decided to stay?’ she asked, with a sparkle in her eye.

‘I don’t have much choice, do I Jane?’

‘You’ve always got a choice,’ she said, ‘they didn’t all decide to stay.’

‘Who’s they?’ I asked, knowing exactly who she was talking about.

‘The guinea pigs before you. There have been quite a few but not all of them decided to stay.’

‘What happened to them?’

‘We’re not sure but it’s safe to assume they either died or joined the vampire clan.’

‘And what about the ones that stayed? I take it they all made a remarkable recovery and are now living happy and fulfilling lives?’ I asked in a tone both hopeful and sarcastic.

Agent Simpson smiled. ‘As far as you know, Tom, yes they did.’

Her positive attitude made me think about the motivational speakers I’ve listened to down the years at police functions. Every story had the same moral: live each day as if it was your last. I had no option but to take that advice from now on.

If Doctor Owen was going to find a cure, we would need these soldiers and more to hold off all the vampires in the world for as long as his work would take. Having seen the vampires in action already, I hoped Captain Stein had enough new recruits waiting to sign up. If the vampires decided to attack, there would surely be a high turnover of recruits.

I watched the helicopters moving towards us, in anticipation of the secure environment we would soon find ourselves in. Then I noticed a bright flash from one of the helicopters.

Captain Stein ran out of Hartley House onto the front steps, shouting into a radio. ‘How many of them?’

‘Just one,’ was the frantic reply.

‘What’s the damage?’ he shouted.

‘He set off a grenade. They’re going down, Captain.’

‘What happened to him?’

The only reply was machine gun fire, which matched more bright flashes from the helicopter in the distance. Agent Simpson grabbed my arm and dragged me back inside Hartley House as one of the approaching helicopters slowly fell out of the sky.

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