“He’s not dead,” said Nine. Hearing her own voice made it more real.
Gasping, the Itoril man lurched. The vice held his head down. Reaching out, he clawed at Nine’s smock.
Twisting, Nine elbowed the arm aside, saw blade scraping her attacker’s face. Pushed sideways, she leaned the other way trying to stay on her feet. Growling, the man tried sitting up as he reached for her. Sebastian grasped the other arm and leaned his weight down on the torso. Turning sideways, Nine tried to break free, but the grip on her shirt pulled her back.
The saw flailed biting her father’s arm. As she jerked the weapon back, the Itoril yanked her closer, his fangs slashing her hand. She cried out at the pain, and pulled her hand away.
No escape, the strength of the Itoril was too much pulling her down closer. There was nothing else she could think to do, but kill.
Gripping tight, Nine drove the blade down against the throat and began sawing. The grip continued pulling her down into an uncomfortable position. The top of the saw smashed her face shield against her chin. Thrashing, she worked the saw as fast as she could.
Blood splattered against her face mask, and the man’s growling cut out leaving the sound of ripping flesh. The body spasmed and fell still. A quick pull on the saw, and she felt blood spraying against her front, draining down her neck and beneath her shirt. So much blood on her mask, she could barely see. As the blade lurched against bone, she thrashed even faster, and the neck snapped, saw teeth screeching against the steel table.
A droning sound filled her ears.
Flipping up the mask cleared her vision, and she found the head held up in her father’s gloved hands with the gore facing her. Frozen, she gazed dazedly at the cut spine, the throat, and the layers of tissue around the opening.
Looking at her left hand, she found blood smeared over ripped latex. Only a pair of cuts, but they stung fiercely.
Her father’s voice, muffled, distant words she couldn’t make any sense of. Holding the skull out to her, he wanted her to do something. The next step, she thought. He wanted her to perform the extraction.
Realizing she still gripped the saw, Nine set the tool on the floor. Turning to the tray on the side of the table, she picked the syringe up and stared at it uncertain what to do. She detected the voice of her father shouting at her, but couldn’t make sense of his words.
Blood. A splatter streak ran up her father’s smock. Crimson tears on white tile. The cold dead didn’t bleed like that.
“Damn it, Nine!” Sebastian coughed hoarsely. “Hand me the needle!”
She held out the syringe. Sebastian released hold, and the head fell over cheek-first onto the table. There was so much blood now, crimson filled the table, the drain track at the edge slowly gulping it away into the canister beneath the table.
Her father snatched the syringe away. “Hold it for me,” he said.
Dazed, she ran on automatic just like her first time, a teenage girl new to cleaning out a body cavity. Disgusting things most teenage girls never witnessed. Like that first day, she followed commands, her mind only half processing the sights and smells. Only now it wasn’t the gore, the chemical stench, or even body parts.
She had murdered a man, and now she held the decapitated head up so her father could poke a needle through the front of the throat going deep into the skull. An accomplice to murder was one thing, but tonight she had killed. She had become like one of those creepy guys at the park parents tell their children to avoid.
Bent over with his eye on the target, Sebastian slowly worked the syringe. A clear liquid entered the tube. There wasn’t much.
“You can’t think of them as people,” he said.
Nine had always considered Lamia a friend. A person. That’s what her grandfather had taught her. Itoril were different, but they were persons, too.
All that blood, though. The man full of gunshot wounds had lost considerable blood. How could a person, even an Itoril person, wake up from that? A chiang-shih seemed more probable.
As Sebastian pulled the needle out Nine released hold of the skull and wrenched her blood-stained smock off. Looking down, she found her shirt covered in blood, too. Wiping her hair back over her ear, she felt moisture. Red on her fingers.
Murder was in her hair!
Nine scrambled for the emergency shower. Pulling her shirt off, she tossed the blood-stained rag into the bin. She pulled the chain and bent over placing her head into the stream. Cold water rained down over her shoulders and head, streaming from the long strands of her hair rinsing blood into the drain. She stood bent over watching water turn clear then wiped her face.
Standing, she reached up and pulled the chain shutting the water off. Dripping wet, she turned to face her father.
Holding a test tube containing the extracted venom, he watched her with a concerned look on his face.
She scowled at him for getting her into this mess.
“We’re still short for the year,” said Sebastian. He waved the small test tube showing her its contents, not much more than a puddle and a meniscus. Opening the freezer door, he placed the stoppered test tube of venom inside.
“Fuck you, Daddy,” said Nine. It was the first time she had ever spoken the f-word, and it felt good. Her grandfather would threaten her with his belt had he heard, and she would have taken a lashing with a smile.
Shocked, Sebastian quietly gazed at her as he leaned a hand against the freezer door. After a moment, he huffed.
“Nine, if we don’t collect more, he’ll come for us.”
Opening her mouth to argue, it suddenly struck her. She recalled her sixteenth birthday, the day her grandfather had told her his story about how Sebastian had been taken as a child and later returned.
“Vampire Thyme,” said Nine. Until now she hadn’t known the details of the agreement Augustus had made so long ago. What did a vampire need with venom?
“And I’m certain he has little use for an old man like me.”
“Fuck!” The word had already become a habit it seemed, and she bit her lip. She shook her head. “I need to think!”
Nine marched away leaving her father to take care of the cremation. She stomped up the stairs letting her father know of her anger. The Thyme family business had expanded, adding murder made the list of funeral services more than complete. And complicated. She dared not think about what might happen when the Itoril people found out the Thyme family had murdered their kind for venom.
There wasn’t much time for thinking, though. As Nine marched by the office and glanced inside, she spotted cars out the window. The police had arrived.
Chiang-shih (kiang shi or Jiang Shi) translates to “stiff corpse” and may also be considered a zombie. See deliriumsrealm.com/chiang-shih or wikipedia. Nine’s tattoo was first revealed to Peter in Thyme for Nine.