Chapter Twenty Four – Gathering
Laila is sitting in her cramped office grading papers. There are books and artifacts on all the shelves and atop the many filing cabinets. She opens the drawer of her standard issue school teacher desk and gets another red pencil.
“Is lie on the floor all you are going to do while I work?” She mutters. “I do have chairs, you know. Comfortable chairs, even.”
“I’m good. Laying down takes a lot of stress of the stitches.” Kimmy replies. Without thinking she scratches the bandages lightly. Realizing this, she says, “I’m itchy and can’t get at it. Can I borrow a pencil?”
“No! It has been six weeks, are you not better yet?”
“Hey, I’m not a vampire. Those were deep cuts, it is going to take a while… Better? Yes. Healed? No. At least nothing major was injured, inside or outside. If you know what I mean.”
“Thank goodness for that, “Laila smirks. “How is Joan? Can she talk yet?”
“Yeah, so people have said. She still won’t talk to me. Neither will William.”
Laila stands up and stretches her arms up over her head. “I know. William is being a big baby. It must run in the family.”
Kimmy pulls up her t-shirt and scratches again on the bandages over her stomach. “You met Autumn. Turning her into a vampire didn’t change her personality at all. They’re three peas in a pod.”
“I will give the Urn of Enki to the University. Technically, the Iraqi government gets to decide and they agreed with my wish.” Laila takes a drink of watter.
“Not the Sword too?”
“No. I have put the Sword of Pazuzu in a very safe place. The Bureau of Evil Elimination cannot have it. No one may have it. That sword…” Laila’s voice trails off. She picks up a bottle of water from the corner of her desk and takes a drink.
“That sword was made to kill you.” Kimmy finishes her sentence.
Laila spits the water she had just poured into her mouth onto her desk, drenching the papers. She grabs paper towels from her drawer and begins laying out to soak up the water.
“Wow, a spit-take! I didn’t think those happened in real life.” Kimmy laughs. “Help me up.”
Laila squats down, puts her hands underneath Kimmy’s arms, then stands bringing Kimmy up with her.
Kimmy stumbles a bit and puts her arm across Laila’s shoulders.
“Are you okay? Did you get a head wound as well?” Laila asks looking closely into Kimmy’s eyes.
“I’m fine. And that includes my head.” Kimmy grips Laila’s shoulder firmly, pulling her closer. “And I can keep a secret. I heard Ceiba. Oddly, I wasn’t that surprised.”
“You lost a lot of blood, are you sure…”
“Don’t patronize me. I know who you are. Were. What I’m trying to say is I don’t care who you were, I only care about who you are.”
“And who am I… to you?” Laila moves her head closer to Kimmy’s.
“You are Miss Doctor Laila McCarthy, professor and vampire, and my friend.”
Laila turns, wiggling out from under Kimmy’s loose embrace, and picks up the water bottle again. “Friends it is then.” Laila says. She takes a drink, while giving Kimmy the side-eye hoping to see her closing in again.
“Hey! I have a lead on more dangerous relics and I could use your help.” Kimmy has a pleading look on her face and her hands clasped together in the prayer position?
“How can you even think about asking me?”
Kimmy drops her arms. “I have to be in New Mexico, like, yesterday. Enchanted Anasazi totems won’t wait.” Kimmy says seriously.
Laila turns back toward Kimmy. “But… the semester has just started. And the Hopi do not like the word…”
“Is this why you beat the bad guy?” Kimmy interrupts. “So we can all be alone?”
“We are alive. I will settle that.”
“You saved the world, don’t put that timid teacher mask back on.”
“My students do not try to decapitate me”
“Oh, come on.” Kimmy pleads. “Think of it as extra credit. We can share a tent again.”
“I do have a lot of time-off accrued.” Laila says as she walks over and stands face-to-face with Kimmy. “But… what about William and Joan?”
Kimmy puts her hands on Laila’s shoulders “What about them?” Kimmy is almost whispering. “I’m not waiting around for them to come to their senses. Let’s move on.”
Kimmy leans over and give Laila a kiss on the cheek and begins blushing.
Laila puts her arms around Kimmy. “Fine. Since you still have your wings clipped, I will help you.”
She very lightly taps Kimmy’s bandages just below where her belly button should be. “After these bandages come off, we can reassess our situation.”
Kimmy sighs, takes her hands off of Laila’s shoulders and crosses them. “What were we talking about?”
“There was a thing… somewhere?”
“Right. New Mexico. If you hurry I can have you back before classes start Monday morning.”
“Fine. But in return, I could use your help this summer. We won’t have to use a tent”
“Sounds fun. Of course.”
At the bottom of a canyon, underneath a set of cave-dwellings two women are being chased down the sand-filled bank of a white-water river by a group of ten vampires in matching black outfits.
“Come on, Kimmy! Laila shouts. “Run faster.”
“Oh, wow.” Kimmy replies. “Déjà vu.”
“Oops, I forgot how slow you humans are.”
Laila and Kimmy slide to a stop and stand back-to-back. Laila moves into an attack stance, holding her katana high over her left shoulder with both hands. Kimmy is holding her broadsword with two hands in front of her with the blade pointed up. She moves her left foot slowly forward and prepares to spring forward.
“Remember, you promised to have me back at school by Monday morning.” Laila says. “These mercenaries look rather tough.”
“That’s just the menacing uniforms. “Kimmy quips. Alright, do your thing so we can set up camp.”
Laila springs forward and catches the soldier nearest her by surprise. She swings down and across from his right shoulder to his left abdomen, then up to knock his sword away. She takes his head off with the return stroke.
“One down, nine to go.” They both smile and both spring into attacks.
(After Story coming up next.)