20: DON’T GO IN
The vampires look at the corpse, in silence.
“Does anyone know - ”
Arthur stops as a flash of light fills the room.
Dr. Barrow lowers his camera and looks sheepish. “Just, ah, recording the scene before we disturb it.”
“No stake or anything. I guess we try and revive him...?” Arthur does not sound keen.
“I suppose I should...” Pavel suggests.
“Right, giving blood from the Crone, fair enough.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust you... just... only you.”
He rolls up his sleeve and opens a vein, drips it into the open mouth.
Dead eyes flick open, and dead hands grasp at his arm.
The others pull the desiccated vampire from him.
He crouches against the wall, sunken eyes darting from one to the other like a cornered animal. He sucks at his teeth, not sparing a drop of blood, before he speaks, dust and flakes of skin falling from his jaw as it moves for the first time in years.
None of the group know enough Spanish to follow him.
Valia at least knows “do you speak English?”
“Are you with the Cardinal, or the traitor?”
“Neither. We’re looking for the Cardinal.”
“He is not here? I was to guard him, but... chaos, madness, betrayal... How long?”
“The year is... 2014.”
The vampire bares his teeth and looks about wildly.
“What is your name?”
“Enrico Cardona. Guard to Cardinal Glorioso. His left hand, as the traitor Balcier was his right.”
“We’re looking for him because... we think he knows how to stop the Strix.”
“He does. He kept that knowledge close.”
“Can you help us find him?”
“If he is to be found. We will find the Cardinal. And I will have words with the traitor.”
“We need to, ah, make some arrangements first.”
They make it out of the chamber before Dr. Barrow dry heaves from nervous tension.
“It occurs to me that we may have irrevocably upset the local political establishment.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Arthur says with a grim smile.
“Any idea what to do now?”
“We still need to find the Cardinal. If Enrico is who he claims, he can help. We need to confirm who he is,” Pavel says.
“Who’s been around long enough to know him? And would be neutral?” Arthur considers this. “I have a very bad idea...”
Walker gazes down at the city, and down at Arthur standing in the alley where he first grabbed him. He steps off the rooftop, catches the fire escape railing each floor to break his fall, and lands in a crouch behind Arthur.
“We need your help.”
“We’re looking for the Cardinal.”
“We may have found his guard.”
“So you know him.”
“We need the Cardinal to fight off the Strix.”
“Only ever heard stories about them. Bad stories.”
“Will you help us?”
Enrico, now huddled in a coat and looking like a week-old corpse rather than a century-old one after Dr. Barrow raided the lab’s blood refrigerator successful for a change, stares up at the Golden Gate Bridge.
He stops and turns his head as Walker steps out from the alley.
Arthur and Valia stay at a polite distance.
It turns out Walker does speak Spanish.
After about three minutes, he nods, then turns to Arthur and Valia.