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19. Requiem for the Lost

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We had our big get-together of sorts later on, sometime in the late night/early morning time of day. This way, the bar was closed and we could hang out as much as we wanted. Pandora had elected someone else in charge, just in case. Something was up – everyone knew it. You could feel the tension in the air, if you were lucky, you could cut it. The family was together.

The deal with Gothik…he was turning into Doyle. He was at the point where he didn’t care and he’d do whatever needed to be done. And he didn’t play fair. I don’t know what changed in him, when, why or how, or maybe if it was me. He was my other half most of the time. But as I got older, I found that I couldn’t stand to be around him. The thought of him sent shivers down my spine. He stood in the corner alone. Doyle had beaten him up for losing control. For hitting me. Doyle was protecting me from another version of himself.

Pandora stood opposite him. They were like columns, rigid in their composure; they weren’t expected to talk unless they absolutely had to. Serkis was curled up in Layne’s lap, as expected. Requiem was with Cassidy. Grey was lurking around, fidgeting like a child. He stayed near me most of the time. We all stood around and stared at each other for a while.

“So, what brings us to this pleasurable reunion?” Requiem questioned. She yawned and curled back up with Cassidy. He was holding her tighter than usual. Serkis got up slowly and moved to the center of the room, spinning to address everyone.

“A lot’s gone on lately. We’re all stressed. We’re all in some sort of pain. I figure that we should celebrate.”

“Celebrate?” Requiem sounded skeptical, but in a sing-song kind of way. She was asking questions because she was supposed to, not because she actually cared. A trip to the clouds would suit her just fine.

“Cassidy’s whipped up a fun batch of stuff, special for the occasion. And this is a new beginning. Being as how the kid’s all grown up, big and 18 and all now, we should restate the obvious.” Serkis stopped to look around. “Everybody gets fixed.”

I looked at the crew. This was their idea of proving devotion? No. This was trust. Getting screwed up and hanging out with your family in the hopes that they’ll protect you. I knew this game. I knew just what was going on. I didn’t want to play. From the look on Pandora’s face, I don’t think she wanted to either. Her and I were on the same wavelength – we didn’t take well to chemical persuasion. Serkis was smiling, there was more to this.

“Come on. And as a test of our good faith, nobody helps themselves. Family takes care of each other. We up for it?”

Nobody agreed or disagreed. We all knew without saying that Serkis would get her way, she always did. I felt uneasy, and I saw the others all shift as well. But it would get done. Everybody sat down in little groups, trying to get comfortable. Layne and Serkis. Cassidy and Requiem. Grey decided to stay with Pandora. And that left me with him. Gothik.

Cassidy went, got his tools, and came back. He smiled wide as he did it. He sat down behind Requiem, like he did with me. She was first. We weren’t going to start until he was through with her. I knew this game. Something was wrong here. He kissed her on the cheek and worked on her quietly. She smiled a little back at him with her head back against his shoulder. And he shot her up. She didn’t even flinch. Funny – the needle had come from one of Cassidy’s pockets, whereas the rest were kept in a little bag altogether. Cute.

We watched, one by one, overlapping. Requiem wasn’t gone enough yet to prevent her from handling Cassidy. Pandora and Grey got through without a hitch. Serkis got Layne. And I sat there with Gothik. I didn’t know what I was doing. Serkis wasn’t gone yet. She came over to us. She looked from one to the other, and finally consented to take care of Gothik herself. She pushed me away from him slowly, moving into a corner.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.”

I wanted to cry. I wanted to go away. I wanted this to be another world away. Another time and place. Another life. But I wasn’t that fortunate. Nobody is.

I shook my head resolutely. She hugged me close, despite the pain that we were both in. Layne had wandered over idly. I sat down on the ground. Layne sat down behind Serkis, who was curled up behind me. I stared straight ahead, trying to be above this. Serkis crept as close to me as she could.

“You’re sure?”

I shook my head. I don’t think she got the news flash about the events with Cassidy the first time around. She cut off the blood flow, being as gentle as she could. She was trying – I’d give her that. But there’s only so much you can do for the damned. And she shot me up.

I was still here when Layne got to her. She was the last to go. Of course she was, she was the most responsible. She was everybody else’s keeper. Even when she was on a cloud, she made sure that she or Layne were around me at all times. That I had someone to box me in. I had someone to protect me. This was set up. At all times, Gothik was kept far away. Layne held me for most of it. Serkis couldn’t be restrained. This we knew.

I lost track of time, as I usually tend to do. It happens when you’re on a cloud. I don’t know, chemicals and I don’t mix half as well as you’d think. Everybody else handled it just fine, Pandora included. I don’t think she was too supportive at first, but Serkis did have a good plan. We all needed to relax and just…breathe. Otherwise, we’d drown in this. This. Now.

I woke up at home. I remember slipping in and out of consciousness for a while. But I was really awake at home. Completely awake. The clouds were gone and there was nothing to deny – this was real. This was my life; there was no way out of the truth now. I rolled around to try and get comfortable, in a wasted effort to return to sleep. It was day. I think.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Serkis got up from her chair and came over to me. I was on the couch. This I realized now. “Because I got news.”

“News? What kind?”

“The bad kind, and there’s really no good to it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Now that’s fun.”

“Requiem’s gone.”

I fell off the couch, or almost did. She caught me and straightened me up. “What?”

“Dead.”

“How the hell did that happen?”

And Serkis smiled, that evil little grin of hers, eyes blazing. “I guess she just caught a bad fix. Oops.”

“Oops? She’s dead, you…you knew. You set this up, didn’t you?”

“Me?” she replied, her voice full of childish wonder. “Why would I want to kill dearest Requiem? Hmm? Family’s family, right?”

“She got too big and bad too fast. So you stopped her. She was a danger to everyone because she was irrational.”

And Serkis smiled, a hand on my shoulder. My good shoulder. “You are clever, I’ll give you that. You don’t miss a thing, do you?”

“Your own flesh and blood…” I muttered.

“Blood? I’m an only child, darling.”

“Layne told me different.”

And she stopped. Was she going to try and tell me that Layne lied? Was she going to try and prove to me that she wasn’t a fake, a fraud? Was she going to look me straight in the eye and tell me, honestly, that she had nothing to do with it? And better – would I believe her?

“Requiem killed your uncle, kid. I cleaned up her mess. And I screw up because guys are weak, and do you think she helped me out? She went running to Doyle with it. Almost got me buried. And I’m supposed to love her, as family? And she cleaned it up because that was the only way to stay in God’s favor. To serve him, absolutely. You have no idea.”

“No, because nobody would tell me!”

“You’re barely 18!”

“And I’ve been in this game with you for two years! I think it’s time you all came clean and stopped treating me like an infant!”

I was annoyed with her. I was annoyed with all of them – the lies, the games, the deceptions. I had enough. No more. The show could go to Hell. No more drama. No more.

Serkis’ eyes shot to the floor. “We were only trying to protect you.”

“From what?”

And she lifted her shirt in the front, standing to show me her battered rib cage. She turned to show me her bruised back. I could feel myself crying.

“From this. You grew up in the backyard of Hell. It was bound to come looking for you eventually. We tried to keep you safe from it long enough to teach you better, but it was too late. You’d been exposed, as we all were. We were only trying to protect you.”

“Did I ask for your protection? Do I need it?”

And she glared at me with such a look, and grabbed hold of my bad shoulder and dug her fingers in, twisting until tears were streaming down my face.

“God feels no compassion. He makes use of all that he has. He has compassion for none. Do you understand?”

“No,” I cried. I didn’t get it. She dug deeper.

“He’ll use you until you have nothing left. He likes to gamble. He likes to make deals. Don’t ever play the house – you’ll never win. Never. Do you understand? Gothik’s next.”

And she let go. I fell off the couch and rolled around on the floor. I wanted to beat her, but she’d already been beaten. I wanted to kick and scream and make this pain end. But it was merely beginning.

“And Cassidy?”

“He delivered the poison. He wanted to be part of the family. And now he is.”

“He’s the street boss, he doesn’t need us.”

She smiled. “You’re right, but we’re good backup.”

I was still on the floor, my words coming out in chokes and coughing gasps. I was in pain. She was in more pain. It hurt her to move, to stand or turn – to breathe. But she was still kicking. This was Miss Serkis Draft. Nothing could hold her back. Nobody could hold her down. Ever.

She curled up next to me on the floor. I didn’t want to look at her. She tried to calm me down, to be soothing. Like a mother with a child. In her eyes, I would always be the child. No matter how old I got. Or how big and bad I could be. Whether I could take care of myself or not was irrelevant. I’d always be hers.

“Why me?”

“What?”

“Why me?”

“What do you mean, kid?” She wasn’t condescending…she was real. But she was bigger – this was the ultimate big bad of the crew. She was everybody’s keeper. And nobody was hers. Even Layne couldn’t hold her leash tight enough to claim her.

“Why me? You walked into that bar with Layne on your arm and you picked me out. Why? Why not anybody else?”

“You lived this. You’re been through all kinds of stuff with your family. It’s the neighborhood, the place. This town is full of legends. And you’ve been witness to many of them, whether you want to believe it or not. Your uncle knew them all – he was friendly with all the demons. When he went kind of crazy, they tried to be supportive. You came up here. You know the stories. You know how things work. And you were young enough to care about it. They hadn’t killed you yet. You had life. You had spirit.”

“Spirit? Is that what you call it?”

“Yeah. It is.”

I tried to analyze the ideas in my mind; comprehend what brought us to this point. All I was left with was truth. She’d picked me because I was real. I wasn’t in denial. I wasn’t insane. But that’s not true. My uncle was insane. And I was in a lot of denial about it at the time. I don’t know. Maybe they’re right – maybe I’m not supposed to know. Maybe I’m supposed to always be sheltered. I just don’t understand – it seemed like a one-way situation. Like I was hers, she looked out for me, she dealt with me, she cared and worried and tried…and what did I do for her?

I gave her someone to care about. I gave her someone to look out for. I satisfied her maternal instincts. I don’t know. There had to be something more than this.

“Funeral?”

“Hmm? Oh, Requiem. No. That won’t be necessary. Who’d come?”

“We would.”

“Would we?”

Silence. Doyle would be fuming over this. Somebody would have to pay the piper. Unless it was Doyle’s command in the first place. Wouldn’t that be something? I don’t know. In my mind, things weren’t adding up. Gothik was a liability. But until Doyle gave the word, he wasn’t going anywhere. What was I supposed to think? What was I supposed to do? We were all relatives of legends – we were born and bred into this. We knew all the stories because most of us were part of them in some way. Everyone had started here – sure, the show traveled, but they belonged here. The show. Work. I hadn’t been at either in ages.

I got up off the floor abruptly. I went to my room and changed, despite pain, despite all else. My head felt like it was being torn apart. I wanted to scream out my resistance to this madness. But no scream came. Nothing but tension, nothing but stress and madness. And this. What was this? Where would we go now? Requiem…was dead.

All bets made in flesh.

All prices paid…in blood.

She made a gamble she couldn’t afford. And she cashed in. Lady Luck’s a bitch.

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