Chapter 3

 Scott Westerfeld

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Chapter 3
Okay, let's clear up some myths about vampires.
First of all, you won't see me using the V-word much. In the Night Watch, we prefer the term parasite-positives, or peeps, for short.
The main thing to remember is that there's no magic involved. No flying. Humans don't have hollow bones or wings - the disease doesn't change that. No transforming into bats or rats either. It's impossible to turn into something much smaller than yourself - where would the extra mass go?
On the other hand, I can see how people in centuries past got confused. Hordes of rats, and sometimes bats, accompany peeps. They get infected from feasting on peep leftovers. Rodents make good "reservoirs," which means they're like storage containers for the disease. Rats give the parasite a place to hide in case the peep gets hunted down.
Infected rats are devoted to their peeps, tracking them by smell. The rat brood also serves as a handy food source for the peep when there aren't humans around to hunt. (Icky, I know. But that's nature for you.)
Back to the myths:
Parasite-positives do appear in mirrors. I mean, get real: How would the mirror know what was behind the peep?
But this legend also has a basis in fact. As the parasite takes control, peeps begin to despise the sight of their own reflections. They smash all their mirrors. But if they're so beautiful, why do they hate their own faces?
Well, it's all about the anathema.
The most famous example of disease mind control is rabies. When a dog becomes rabid, it has an uncontrollable urge to bite anything that moves: squirrels, other dogs, you. This is how rabies reproduces; biting spreads the virus from host to host.
A long time ago, the parasite was probably like rabies. When people got infected, they had an overpowering urge to bite other humans. So they bit them. Success!
But eventually human beings got organized in ways that dogs and squirrels can't. We invented posses and lynch mobs, made up laws, and appointed law enforcers. As a result, the biting maniacs among us tend to have fairly short careers. The only peeps who survived were the ones who ran away and hid, sneaking back at night to feed their mania.
The parasite followed this survival strategy to the extreme. It evolved over the generations to transform the minds of its victims, finding a chemical switch among the pathways of the human brain. When that switch is thrown, we despise everything we once loved. Peeps cower when confronted with their old obsessions, despise their loved ones, and flee from any signifier of home.
Love is easy to switch to hatred, it turns out. The term for this is the anathema effect.
The anathema effect forced peeps from their medieval villages and out into the wild, where they were safe from lynch mobs. And it spread the disease geographically. Peeps moved to the next valley over, then the next country, pushed farther and farther by their hatred of everything familiar.
As cities grew, with more police and bigger lynch mobs, peeps had to adopt new strategies to stay hidden. They learned to love the night and see in the dark, until the sun itself became anathema to them.
But come on: They don't burst into flame in daylight. They just really, really hate it.
The anathema also created some familiar vampire legends. If you grew up in Europe in the Middle Ages, chances were you were a Christian. You went to church at least twice a week, prayed three times a day, and had a crucifix hanging in every room. You made the sign of the cross every time you ate food or wished for good luck. So it's not surprising that most peeps back then had major cruciphobia - they could actually be repelled by the sight of a cross, just like in the movies.
In the Middle Ages, the crucifix was the big anathema: Elvis and Manhattan and your boyfriend all rolled into one.
Things were so much simpler back then.
These days, we hunters have to do our homework before we go after a peep. What were their favorite foods? What music did they like? What movie stars did they have crushes on? Sure, we still find a few cases of cruciphobia, especially down in the Bible Belt, but you're much more likely to stop peeps with an iPod full of their favorite tunes. (With certain geeky peeps, I've heard, the Apple logo alone does the trick.)
That's why new peep hunters like me start with people they used to know, so we don't have to guess what their anathemas are. Hunting the people who once loved us is as easy as it gets. Our own faces work as a reminder of their former lives. We are the anathema.
So what am I? you may be asking.
I am parasite-positive, technically a peep, but I can still listen to Kill Fee and Deathmatch, watch a sunset, or put Tabasco on scrambled eggs without howling. Through some trick of evolution, I'm partly immune, the lucky winner of the peep genetic lottery. Peeps like me are rarer than hens' teeth: Only one in every hundred victims becomes stronger and faster, with incredible hearing and a great sense of smell, without being driven crazy by the anathema.
We're called carriers, because we have the disease without all the symptoms. Although there is this one extra symptom that we do have: The disease makes us horny. All the time.
The parasite doesn't want us carriers to go to waste, after all. We can still spread the disease to other humans. Like that of the maniacs, our saliva carries the parasite's spores. But we don't bite; we kiss, the longer and harder the better.
The parasite makes sure that I'm like the always-hungry snail, except hungry for sex. I'm constantly aroused, aware of every female in the room, every cell screaming for me to go out and shag someone!
None of which makes me wildly different from most other nineteen-year-old guys, I suppose. Except for one small fact: If I act on my urges, my unlucky lovers become monsters, like Sarah did. And this is not much fun to watch.
Dr. Rat showed up first, like she'd been waiting by the phone.
Her footsteps echoed through the ferry terminal, along with a rattling noise. I left Sarah's side and went out to the balcony. Dr. Rat had a dozen folding cages strapped to her back, like some giant insect with old-lady hair and unsteady metal wings, ready to trap some samples of Sarah's brood.
"Couldn't wait, could you?" I called.
"No," she yelled up. "It's a big one, isn't it?"
"Seems to be." The brood was still behind me, quietly attending to its sleeping mistress.
She looked at the half-fallen staircase with annoyance. "Did you do that?"
"Um, sort of."
"So how am I supposed to get up there, Kid?"
I just shrugged. I'm not a big fan of the nickname "Kid." They all call me that at the Night Watch, just because I'm a peep hunter at nineteen, a job where the average age is about a hundred and seventy-five. All peep hunters are carriers. Only carriers are fast and strong enough to hunt down our crazy, violent cousins.
Dr. Rat's usually pretty cool, though. She doesn't mind her own nickname, mostly because she actually likes rats. And even though she's about sixty and wears enough hair-spray to stick a bear to the ceiling, she plays good alternative metal and lets me rip her CDs - Kill Fee hasn't made a dime off me since I met Dr. Rat. And mercifully, she falls well off my sexual radar, so I can actually concentrate in the Night Watch classes she teaches (Rats 101, Peep Hunting 101, and Early Plagues and Pestilence).
Like most people who work at the Night Watch, she's not parasite-positive. She's just a working stiff who loves her job. You have to, working at the Night Watch. The pay's not great.
With one last look at the crumpled staircase, Dr. Rat began to set out her traps, then started laying out piles of poison.
"Isn't there enough of that stuff around already?" I asked.
"Not like this. Something new I'm trying. It's marked with Essence of Cal Thompson. A few swabs of your sweat on each pile and they'll eat hearty."
"My what?" I said. "Where'd you get my sweat?"
"From a pencil I borrowed from you in Rats 101, after that pop quiz last week. Did you know pop quizzes make you sweat, Cal?"
"Not that much!"
"Only takes a little - along with some peanut butter."
I wiped my palms on my jacket, not sure how annoyed to be.
Rats are great smellers, gourmets of garbage. When they eat, they can detect one part of rat poison in a million. And they can smell their peeps from a mile away. Because I was Sarah's progenitor, my familiar smell would cover the taint of poison.
I supposed it was worth having my sweat stolen. We had to kill off Sarah's brood before it fell apart and scattered into the rest of Hoboken. A hungry brood that has lost its peep can be dangerous, and the parasite occasionally spreads from rats back into humans. The last thing New Jersey needed was another peep.
That's the interesting thing about Dr. Rat: She loves rats but also loves coming up with new and exciting ways to kill them. Like I said, love and hatred aren't that far apart.
The transport squad arrived ten minutes later. They didn't wait for sunset, just cut the locks off the biggest set of doors and backed their garbage truck right up to them, its reverse beep echoing through the terminal to wake the dead. Garbage trucks are perfect for the transport squad. They're like the digestive system of the modern world - no one ever thinks twice about them. They're built like tanks and yet are completely invisible to regular people going about their regular business. And if the guys who ride on them happen to be wearing thick protective suits and rubber gloves, well, nothing funny about that, is there? Garbage is dangerous stuff, after all.
Rather than chance the ruined staircase, the transport guys reached into their truck for rope ladders with grappling hooks. They climbed up, then lowered Sarah to the ground floor in a litter. They always carry mountain-rescue gear, it turns out.
I watched the whole operation while I did my paperwork, then asked the transport boss if I could come along in the truck with Sarah.
He shook his head and said, "No rides, Kid. Anyway, the Shrink wants to see you."
"Oh," I said.
When the Shrink calls, you go.
By the time I got back into Manhattan, darkness had fallen.
In New York City, they grind up old glass, mix it into concrete, and make sidewalks out of it. Glassphalt looks pretty, especially if you've got peep eyesight. It sparkled underfoot as I walked, catching the orange glow of streetlights.
Most important, the glassphalt gave me something to look at besides the women passing by - trendy Villagers with chunky shoes and cool accessories, tourists looking around all wide-eyed and wanting to ask directions, NYU dance students in formfitting regalia. The worst thing about New York is that it's full of beautiful women, enough to make my head start spinning with unthinkable thoughts.
My senses were still at the pitch that hunting brings them to. I could feel the rumble of distant subway trains through my feet and hear the buzz of streetlight timers in their metal boxes. I caught the smells of perfume, body lotion, and scented shampoo.
And stared at the sparkling sidewalk.
I was more depressed than horny, though. I kept seeing Sarah on that bare and rickety bed, asking for one last glimpse of the King, however painful.
I'd always thought that once I found her, things would uncrumble a little. Life would never be completely normal again, but at least certain debts had been settled. With her in recovery, my chain of the infection had been broken.
But I still felt crappy.
The Shrink always warned me that carriers stay wracked with lifelong guilt. It's not an uplifting thing having turned lovers into monsters. We feel bad that we haven't turned into monsters ourselves - survivor's guilt, that's called. And we feel a bit stupid that we didn't notice our own symptoms earlier. I mean, I'd been sort of wondering why the Atkins diet was giving me night vision. But that hadn't seemed like something to worry about...
And there was the burning question: Why hadn't I been more concerned when my one real girlfriend, two girls I'd had a few dates with, and another I'd made out with on New Year's Eve had all gone crazy?
I'd just thought that was a New York thing.
Visiting the Shrink makes my ears pop.
She lives in the bowels of a Colonial-era town house, the original headquarters of the Night Watch, her office at the end of a long, narrow corridor. A soft but steady breeze pushes you toward her, like a phantom hand in the middle of your back. But it isn't magic; it's something called a negative-pressure prophylaxis, which is basically a big condom made of air. Throughout the house, a constant wind blows toward the Shrink from all directions. No stray microbes can escape from her out into the rest of the city, because all the air in the house moves toward her. After she's breathed it, this air gets microfiltered, chlorine-gassed, and roasted at about two hundred degrees Celsius before it pops out of the town house's always-smoking chimney. It's the same setup they have at bioweapons factories, and at the lab in Atlanta where scientists keep smallpox virus in a locked freezer.
The Shrink actually has smallpox, she once told me. She's a carrier, like us hunters, but she's been alive a lot longer, even longer than the Night Mayor. Old enough to have been around before inoculations were invented, back when measles and smallpox killed more people than war. The parasite makes her immune from all that stuff, of course, but she still wound up catching it, and she carries bits and pieces of various human scourges to this day. So they keep her in a bubble.
And yes, we peeps can live a really long time.
New York's city government goes back about three hundred and fifty years, a century and a half older than the United States of America. The Night Watch Authority may have split off from official City Hall a while back - like the peeps we hunt, we have to hide ourselves - but the Night Mayor was appointed for a lifelong term in 1687. It just so happens he's still alive. That makes us the oldest authority in the New World, edging the Freemasons by forty-six years. Not too shabby.
The Night Mayor was around to personally watch the witch trials of the 1690s. He was here during the Revolutionary War, when the black rats who used to run the city got pushed out by the gray Norwegian ones who still do, and he was here for the attempted Illuminati takeover in 1794. We know this town.
The shelves behind the Shrink's desk were filled with her ancient doll collection, their crumbling heads sprouting hair made from horses' manes and hand-spun flax. They sat in the dim light wearing stiff, painted smiles. I could imagine the sticky scent left by centuries of stroking kiddie fingers. And the Shrink hadn't bought them as antiques; she'd lifted every one from the grasp of a sleeping child, back in the days when they were new.
Now that's a weird kink, but it beats any fetishes that would spread the disease, I suppose. Sometimes I wonder if the whole living-in-a-bubble thing is just a way to keep the Shrink's ancient and unfulfilled desires at bay. Summer days in Manhattan, when every woman in town is wearing a tank top or a sundress, I wish they'd lock me in a bubble somewhere.
"Hey, Kid," she said, looking up from the papers on her desk.
I frowned but could hardly complain. After being around five centuries, you can pretty much call everybody "Kid."
I took a seat, careful to stay well behind the red line painted on the floor. If you step over it, the Shrink's minders take everything you're wearing and burn it, and you have to go home in these penalty clothes that are too small, like the jacket and tie they force you to wear at fancy restaurants when you show up underdressed. Everyone at the Watch remembers a carrier peep named Typhoid Mary, who wandered around too addled by the parasite to know that she was spreading typhus to everyone she slept with.
"Good evening, Doctor Prolix," I said, careful not to raise my voice. It's always weird talking to other carriers. The red line kept me and the Shrink about twenty feet apart, but we both had peep hearing, so it was rude to shout. Social reflexes take a long time to catch up to superpowers.
I closed my eyes, adjusting to the weird sensation of a total absence of smell. This doesn't happen very often in New York City, and it never happens to me, except in the Shrink's superclean office. As an almost-predator, I can smell the salt when someone's crying, the acid tang of used AA batteries, and the mold living between the pages of an old book.
The Shrink's reading light buzzed, set so low that its filament barely glowed, softening her features. As carriers get older, they begin to look more like full-blown peeps - wiry, wide-eyed, and gauntly beautiful. They don't have enough flesh to get wrinkles; the parasite burns calories like running a marathon. Even after my afternoon at the diner, I was a little hungry myself.
After a few moments, she took her hands from the papers, steepled her fingers, and peered at me. "So, let me guess..."
This was how Dr. Prolix started every session, telling me what was in my own head. She wasn't much for the so-how-does-that-make-you-feel school of head-shrinking. I noticed that her voice had the same dry timbre as Sarah's, with a hint of dead, rustling leaves among her words.
"You have finally reached your goal," she said. "And yet your long-sought redemption isn't what you thought it would be."
I had to sigh. The worst part of visiting the Shrink was being read like a book. But I decided not to make things too easy for her and just shrugged. "I don't know. I had a long day drinking coffee and waiting for the clouds to clear. And then Sarah put up a wicked fight."
"But the difficulty of a challenge usually makes its accomplishment more satisfying, not less."
"Easy for you to say." The bruises on my chest were still throbbing, and my ribs were knitting back together in an itchy way. "But it wasn't really the fight. The messed-up thing was that Sarah recognized me. She said my name."
Dr. Prolix's Botoxed eyes widened even farther. "When you captured your other girlfriends, they didn't speak to you, did they?"
"No. Just screamed when they saw my face."
She smiled gently. "That means they loved you."
"I doubt it. None of them knew me that well." Other than Sarah, who I'd met before I turned contagious, every woman I'd ever started a relationship with had begun to change in a matter of weeks.
"But they must have felt something for you, or the anathema wouldn't have taken hold." She smiled. "You're a very attractive boy, Cal."
I cleared my throat. A compliment from a five-hundred-year-old is like when your aunt says you're cute. Not helpful in any way.
"How's that going anyway?" she added.
"What? The enforced celibacy? Just great. Loving it."
"Did you try the rubber band trick?"
I held up my wrist. The Shrink had suggested I wear a rubber band there and ping myself with it every time I had a sexual thought. Negative reinforcement, like swatting your dog with a rolled-up newspaper.
"Mmm. A bit raw, isn't it?" she said.
I glanced down at my wrist, which looked like I'd been wearing a razor-wire bracelet. "Evolution versus a rubber band. Which would you bet on?"
She nodded sympathetically. "Shall we turn back to Sarah?"
"Please. At least I know she really loved me; she almost killed me." I stretched in the chair, my still-tender ribs creaking. "Here's the funny thing, though. She was nested upstairs, with these big-ass windows looking out over the river. You could see Manhattan perfectly."
"What's so strange about that, Cal?"
I glanced away from her gaze, but the blank eyes of the dolls weren't much better. Finally, I stared at the floor, where a tiny tumbleweed of dust was being sucked toward Dr. Prolix. Inescapably.
"Sarah was in love with Manhattan. The streets, the parks, everything about it. She owned all these New York photo books, knew the histories of buildings. How could she stand to look at the skyline?" I glanced up at Dr. Prolix. "Could her anathema be, like, broken somehow?"
The Shrink's fingers steepled again as she shook her head. "Not broken, exactly. The anathema can work in mysterious ways. My patients and the legends both report similar obsessions. I believe your generation calls it stalking."
"Um, maybe. How do you mean?"
"The anathema creates a great hatred for beloved things. But that doesn't mean that the love itself is entirely extinguished."
I frowned. "But I thought that was the point. Getting you to reject your old life."
"Yes, but the human heart is a strange vessel. Love and hatred can exist side by side." Dr. Prolix leaned back in her chair. "You're nineteen, Cal. Haven't you ever known someone rejected by a lover, who, consumed by rage and jealousy, never lets go? They look on from a distance, unseen but boiling inside. The emotion never seems to tire, this hatred mixed with intense obsession, even with a kind of twisted love."
"Uh, yeah. That would pretty much be stalking." I nodded. "Kind of a fatal attraction thing?"
"Yes, fatal is an apt word. It happens among the undead as well."
A little shiver went through me. Only the really old hunters use the word undead, but you have to admit it has a certain ring to it.
"There are legends," she said, "and modern case studies in my files. Some of the undead find a balancing point between the attraction of their old obsessions and the revulsion of the anathema. They live on this knife's edge, always pushed and pulled."
"Hoboken," I said softly. Or my sex life, for that matter.
We were silent for a while, and I remembered Sarah's face after the pills had taken effect. She'd gazed at me without terror. I wondered if Sarah had ever stalked me, watching from the darkness after disappearing from my life, wanting a last glimpse before her Manhattan anathema had driven her across the river.
I cleared my throat. "Couldn't that mean that Sarah might be more human than most peeps? After I gave her the pills, she wanted to see her Elvis doll ... that is, the anathema I'd brought. She asked to see it."
Dr. Prolix raised an eyebrow. "Cal, you aren't fantasizing that Sarah might recover completely, are you?"
"Um ... no?"
"That you might one day get back together? That you could have a lover again? One your own age, whom you couldn't infect, because she already carries the disease?"
I swallowed and shook my head no, not wanting the lecture in Peeps 101 repeated to me: Full-blown peeps never come back.
You can whack the parasite into submission with drugs, but it's hard to wipe it out completely. Like a tapeworm, it starts off microscopic but grows much bigger, flooding your body with different parts of itself. It wraps around your spine, creates cysts in your brain, changes your whole being to suit its purposes. Even if you could remove it surgically, the eggs can hide in your bone marrow or your brain. The symptoms can be controlled, but skip one pill, miss one shot, or just have a really upsetting bad-hair day, and you go feral all over again. Sarah could never be let loose in a normal human community.
Worse, the mental changes the parasite makes are permanent. Once those anathema switches get thrown in a peep's brain, it's pretty hard to convince a peep that they really, really used to love chocolate. Or, say, this guy from Texas called Cal.
"But don't some peeps come back more than others?" I asked.
"The sad truth is, for most of those like Sarah, the struggle never ends. She may well stay this way for the rest of her life, on the edge between anathema and obsession. An uncomfortable fate."
"Is there any way I can help?" My own words surprised me. I'd never been to the recovery hospital. All I knew about it was that it was way out in the Montana wilds, a safe distance from any cities. Recovering peeps usually don't want their old boyfriends showing up, but maybe Sarah would be different.
"A familiar face may help her treatment, in time. But not until you deal with your own disquiet, Cal."
I slumped in my chair. "I don't even know what my disquiet is. Sarah freaked me out is all. I think I'm still..." I waved a hand in the air. "I just don't feel... done yet."
The Shrink nodded sagely. "Perhaps that's because you aren't done, Cal. There is, after all, one more matter to be settled. Your progenitor."
I sighed. I'd been over all this before, with Dr. Prolix and the older hunters, and in my own head about a hundred thousand times. It never did any good.
You may have been wondering: If Sarah was my first girlfriend, where did I catch the disease?
I wish I knew.
Okay, I obviously knew how it happened, and the exact date and pretty close to the exact time. You don't forget losing your virginity, after all.
But I didn't actually know who it was. I mean, I got her name and everything - Morgan. Well, her first name anyway.
The big problem was, I didn't remember where. Not a clue.
Well, one clue: "Bahamalama-Dingdong."
It was only two days after I first got to New York, fresh off the plane from Texas, ready to start my first year at college. I already wanted to study biology, even though I'd heard that was a tough major.
Little did I know.
At that point, I could hardly find my way around the city. I got the general concept of uptown and downtown, although they didn't really match north and south, I knew from my compass. (Don't laugh, they're useful.) I'm pretty sure that this all happened somewhere downtown, because the buildings weren't quite so tall and the streets were pretty busy that night. I remember lights rippling on water at some point, so I might have been close to the Hudson. Or maybe the East River.
And I remember the Bahamalama-Dingdong. Several, in fact. They're some kind of drink. My sense of smell wasn't superhuman back then, but I'm pretty sure they had rum in them. Whatever they had, there was a lot of it. And something sweet too. Maybe pineapple juice, which would make the Bahamalama-Dingdong a close cousin of the Bahama Mama.
Now, the Bahama Mama can be found on Google or in cocktail books. It's rum, pineapple juice, and a liqueur called Nassau Royale, and it is from the Bahamas. But the Bahamalama-Dingdong has much more shadowy origins. After I found out what I'd been infected with and realized who must have done it, I searched every bar I could find in the Village. But I never met a single bartender who knew how to make one. Or who'd even heard of them.
Like a certain Morgan Whatever, the Bahamalama-Dingdong had come out of the darkness, seduced me, then disappeared.
These searches didn't evoke a single memory flashback. No hazy images of pinball machines jumped out at me, no sudden glimpses of Morgan's long dark hair and pale skin. And, no - being a carrier doesn't make you pale-skinned or gothy-looking. Get real. Morgan was probably just some goth type who didn't know she was about to turn into a bloodthirsty maniac.
Unless, of course, she was someone like me: a carrier. But one who got off on changing lovers into Deeps. Either way, I hadn't seen her since.
So this is all I can remember:
There I was, sitting in a bar in New York City and thinking, Wow, I'm sitting in a bar in New York City. This thought probably runs through the heads of a lot of newly arrived freshmen who manage to get served. I was drinking a Bahamalama-Dingdong because the bar I was sitting in was "The Home of the Bahamalama-Dingdong." It said so on a sign outside.
A pale-skinned woman with long dark hair sat beside me and said, "What the hell is that thing?"
Maybe it was the frozen banana bobbing in my drink that provoked the question. I suddenly felt a bit silly. "Well, it's this drink that lives here. Says so on the sign out front."
"Is it good?"
It was good, but I only shrugged. "Yeah. Kind of sweet, though."
"Kind of girly-looking, don't you think?"
I did think. The drink had been a vague sort of embarrassment to me since it had arrived, frozen banana bobbing to the music. But the other guys in the bar had seemed not to notice. And they were all pretty tough-looking, what with their leather chaps and all.
I pushed the banana down into the drink, but it popped back up. It wasn't really trying to be obnoxious, but frozen bananas have a lower specific density than rum and pineapple juice, it turns out.
"I don't know about girly," I said. "Looks like a boy to me."
She smiled at my accent. "Yerr not from around here, are yew?"
"Nope. I'm from Texas." I took a sip.
"Texas? Well, hell!" She slapped me on the back. I'd already figured out in those two days that Texas is one of the "brand-name" states. Being from Texas is much cooler than being from a merely recognizable state, like Connecticut or Florida, or a huh? state, like South Dakota. Texas gets you noticed.
"I'll have one of those," she said to the bartender, pointing to my Bahamalama-Dingdong, which pointed back. Then she said her name was Morgan.
Morgan drank hers, I drank mine. We both drank a few more. My recall of subsequent events gets steadily worse. But I do remember that she had a cat, a flat-screen TV, black satin sheets, and a knack for saying what she thought - and that's pretty much all I remember, except for waking up the next morning, getting kicked out of an unfamiliar apartment because she had to go somewhere and was looking all embarrassed, and heading home with a hangover that made navigation difficult. By the time I got back to my dorm room, I had no idea where I'd started out.
All I had to show for the event was a newfound confidence with women, slowly manifesting superpowers, and an appetite for rare meat.
"We've been over all that," I said to Dr. Prolix. "I still can't help you."
"This is not about helping me," she said firmly. "You won't come to terms with your disease until you find your progenitor."
"Yeah, well, I've tried. But like you've said before, she must have moved away or died or something." That had always been the big mystery. If Morgan was still around, we'd be seeing her handiwork everywhere - peeps popping up all over the city, a bloodbath every time she picked up some foolish young Texan in a bar. Or at least a few corpses every now and then. "I mean, it's been over a year, and we don't have a single clue."
"Didn't have a clue," she said, and rang a small, high-pitched bell on her desk. Somewhere out of sight but within earshot, a minder tapped away at a computer keyboard. A moment later, the printer on my side of the red line began to hum, its cartridge jerking to life below the plastic cover.
"This was recently brought to my attention, Cal. Now that you've dealt with Sarah, I thought you might want to see it."
I stood and went to the printer and lifted with trembling fingers the warm piece of paper that slid into its tray. It was a scanned handbill, like they pass out on the street sometimes:
Dick's Bar Is Back in Business!
-  Seven Days a Week -
The Health Department Couldn't Keep Us Down!
*The One and Only Home of the Bahamalama-Dingdong*
Dr. Prolix watched me read it, steepling her fingers again.
"Feeling thirsty?" she asked.