The Thing Under the Floor
Delareux, Shelby, and Corbin found a door alongside a warehouse that was attached to the one where the fight was taking place. Shelby attempted to pick the lock to the door but was blown clear by a charge of red static. She rolled to a stop.
“It has a charm on it,” Corbin said.
Delareux took a bullet out of his pocket and dropped it into his flask and rattled it. He took a swig from the flask and spit the bullet into his hand. He drew his pistol and loaded the bullet. He shot the lock and the door swung in.
“What was that?” Corbin asked.
Delareux shook his flask, “The cheap stuff. It’ll take the paint off a battleship.”
They entered the warehouse and split up. Each of them filing up and down the rows of shelves stacked with boxes. Delareux slid a box of the shelf and sent it flying behind him. He swept his arm along the shelf and pushed all the boxes to the floor.
“All these boxes are empty,” he called.
Corbin and Shelby checked the boxes and found the same.
“Why are these shelves stacked with empty boxes?” Shelby asked.
“I don’t know. Misdirection?” Delareux answered.
“What are we looking for in here anyway? There’s nothing in here but empty boxes and dust.”
“No idea. I figure we’ll know it when we see it.”
“That doesn’t help.”
“How about this?” Corbin asked, lifting a door in the floor.
“Trapdoor,” Delareux said, staggering over, “Those are always promising.”
“There’s a ladder that leads down,” Shelby said, crouched at the edge, peering down, “How deep does it go?”
Delareux tossed a coin down the hole. A several moments later it clanked against a metal floor.
“Deep,” he said, “You first.”
They climbed down the ladder into a large, metal room with a bulky object sitting in the middle. It had a dirty sheet draped over it. Shelby lifted the sheet off. Underneath was an arcane apparatus made of gleaming metal and flickering lights.
“What do you think this thing does?” Shelby asked.
“Outside my wheelhouse,” Delareux said, “I’d bet my last cig it isn’t for anything good.”
“It looks like it runs on electricity, but it’s rife with arcane energy,” Corbin said.
“I can smell it.”
“Smell it?” Shelby asked, “What’s it smell like?”
“Cinnamon and weasel shit.”
“No,” Corbin said.
“That’s what it smells like to me,” Delareux said.
“It’s necromantic energy.”
“Exactly, cinnamon and…”
“What’s it supposed to do?” Shelby asked Corbin.
“This much necromantic energy could convert the whole Gulf Coast with the flick of a switch.”
“The Gerrys want to raise an undead army,” Delareux said.
“I doubt this is what they were paying Ehrlich for.”
“But it’s what he built. Is there any way to disable it?” Shelby asked.
“I’m not sure. If we do anything wrong we could set it off.”
Sylvia, Cross and the werewolves stood in the middle of a pile of writhing and whining zombies. The wolves went from zombie to zombie snapping their necks.
“Is that necessary?” Sylvia asked.
“Nazi brutes,” Cross muttered.
“It’s the only way to make sure they don’t come back,” Bach said.
“We can restore them,” Sylvia said, “These are regular people with lives and families waiting for them.”
“Sentiment,” Walden growled and continued his grisly work.
“None of your concern,” Sontag said.
He and Bach were pointing pistols at Cross and Sylvia.
“I believe this concludes our deal, Mrs. Winthrop,” Cross said and vanished in a cloud of static.
“Thanks a bunch, guy,” Sylvia said, “Can’t trust anybody.”
“No, you can’t,” Bach said, pulling back the hammer of his pistol, “It’s been a pleasure, witch.”
Bach pulled the trigger and Sylvia’s vines grabbed ahold of the rafters overhead and hoisted her up. The three wolves shot at her as she sped toward the ceiling. Vines and brambles punched through the concrete floor of the warehouse and began to envelop the wolves, wrapping like thorny tentacles around their necks. They began to gasp and blood began to trickle through the branches. The wolves snapped at the vines with their mouths. For every vine they broke more took their places, until their eyes rolled in their heads and their tongues lolled.
Sylvia laid on the rafters, breathing heavy as her stomach bled, where the bullet had caught her. She closed her eyes and passed out.
“Sounds like things got quiet in there,” Danvers said to Toli.
Cross materialized outside and got in his car. He tore off into the night. A gunshot was heard from the warehouse.
“What do you think that was?” Toli asked.
“A gunshot,” Danvers replied.
“Thank you, Detective,” he started to run toward the warehouse.
“Wait...idiot,” Danvers ran after him.
Toli entered the warehouse and saw the piles of dead undead and the strangled werewolves wrapped up in thorny branches.
“Sylvia?” he called.
He searched the floor for her. Rolling over bodies to see what was underneath, but found nothing but more erstwhile zombies and gangsters.
“Sylvia?” he called again.
He felt something dripping on his head, like rain through a leaking roof. He ran his hand through his hair and his palm was covered in red. He looked up to find blood dripping from the rafters and a mass of leaves and branches. He ran for the ladder that led up to the roof. When he reached the top he saw Sylvia looked ready to roll off onto the concrete floor several feet below. He shimmied onto the rafter and crawled his way toward her. He found her unconscious and breathing shallow breaths. Her dress was stained and blood flowed down the vines, dripping like rain off the leaves. He patted her face.
“Sylvia,” he said, “Wake up. Stay with me.”
She moaned and winced.
“Geezo, that hurts,” she wheezed.
“I’m going to figure out how to get you down from here.”
He put his hands under her arms and hoisted her up. She wailed.
“What the hell’s going on up there, Palazzo?” Danvers called from below.
“It’s Sylvia. She wounded. Gunshot to the stomach.”
“Jesus Christ, don’t move her. You’ll make it worse.”
“We can’t just leave her up here.”
“We’ll figure something out. Stay there while I find the others.” Danvers jogged over to the attached warehouse.
“Delareux,” he called, “Le Bec, weird girl…”
He walked around the floor calling until he came to the open trap door.
“Are you idiots down there?” he called into it.
Delareux’s face emerged from the darkness, as he ascended the ladder.
“Yeah their down there,” Delareux replied.
“Jesus, a face like that coming up from a hole in the ground could scare a ghost,” Danvers said.
“It does. Comes in handy.”
“Winthrop's been hit. She stuck up in the rafters. Palazzo’s hellbent on trying to get her down, he’s going to end up killing her. You can’t do any kind of levitation tricks, can you?”
“I also make balloon animals. No, I can’t levitate anything, I’m not Harry Blackstone.”
“Should I give up all hope that someday you’ll actually be useful?”
“Probably. I can help with the wound until we figure it out.”
“Great. Get up there before Palazzo screws up.”
Delareux strolled along the rafter toward Toli and Sylvia. Toli was kneeling over her, talking to her in low tones.
“Palazzo,” Delareux said, “We need to switch places.”
“How can someone so perpetually inebriated have such balance?” Toli asked.
“It’s the booze what does it.”
“How are we going to switch places? There’s barely enough room up here for one person to stand let alone pass like ships in the night.”
Toli bent over, looking confused.
“No, crouch, all the way.”
“Get on your hands and knees.”
Toli kneeled down and Delareux leapfrogged over him, landing in front of Sylvia. He swayed and wobbled, then caught himself. He took a drag from his flask.
“Need a top off,” he said, then squatted down to examine Sylvia, “Plugged in the gut. Nasty stuff.”
“Can you do anything for her?” Toli asked.
“Doctor Delareux is on the case.”
“That’s not the most reassuring thing I ever heard.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to hear anybody say that while I was on death’s door either, but we make due with what we have.”
He leaned over Sylvia and pulled a coin from his pocket.
“Sylvia, I need you to look at me.”
She groaned and opened her eyes only a slit.
“Look at the coin.”
She squinted at the coin. He flipped the coin between his fingers.
“Watch the coin. You’ll start feeling relaxed. The pain will fade and you’ll fall into a deep sleep.”
“Are you trying to hypnotize my bullet wound away?”
“I’m trying to put you into a deep sleep. It should slow your pulse down to nothing. Keep that bleeding from getting out of hand. I need you to think of...plants in winter. Dormant, resting and regenerating.”
“Now you’re trying to sweet talk me,” she laughed and coughed up blood, face twisted in pain.
“C’mon now, focus on the coin. Quiet. Under the earth. Like an acorn. Like a seed, Waiting for the spring, but sleeping for now.”
She watched the coin as it rolled from finger to finger. He eyelids fell. Her breathing slowed and she slept.