Armitage - Chapter 10 - Madeline's Mistake (Part 3 of 3)
‘Come on,’ he said as he unbuckled his seatbelt. ‘Time to meet Sebastian.’ Madeline couldn’t help but feel that the sergeant didn’t believe her, she just hoped that Sebastian was there. The bell sounded their entrance but Zeb was nowhere to be seen, the shop looked deserted, and at once Madeline had an uneasy feeling. ‘Hello?’ shouted the sergeant, hoping to catch someone’s attention. At first it didn’t sound like there was any reply but a curious noise was coming from behind the counter.
‘What is that?’ asked Madeline, the feeling of unease mounting inside her. Sergeant Thomas walked over to the counter and drew his gun as soon as he saw what was making the noise.
‘Madeline, get over here!’ The sergeant’s sudden outburst startled Madeline out of her worry for why the shop was so quiet, but when she came behind the counter that worry was instantly replaced by fear and shock. Lying prostrate on the floor was Zeb, beaten and bloodied and barely conscious. Covering her mouth in horror, Madeline gasped as Sergeant Thomas knelt by the battered shop owner, surveying the damage he had sustained.
‘Is he okay?’ asked Madeline in a voice that was almost a whisper.
‘He’s alive, but barely,’ replied the sergeant before looking up at Madeline. ‘Take my keys, get back to the car and don’t let anyone in until I come out…go!’ Sergeant Thomas hastily fished his keys out of his pocket and threw them to Madeline, then began speaking into his radio, calling for an ambulance for Zeb, when suddenly the ill fortuned shop owner began to stir.
‘Look, he’s moving!’ exclaimed Madeline, the quaver in her voice growing with each word.
‘Sir, can you hear me?’ asked the sergeant, leaning in closer. ‘Sir?’ Zeb’s swollen lips began to move slowly and gingerly, a hoarse whisper coming from the back of his throat. ‘I’m sorry sir, I can’t hear you, what are you trying to say?’
‘I would think that he is trying to warn you,’ came the cold and callous voice of Mason from somewhere in the shop. Madeline had barely chance to recoil when she and the sergeant were grabbed and hauled bodily through the backroom curtain, leaving Zeb where they found him. Madeline tried to scream but a hand closed over her mouth and gripped her jaw painfully, while the other held her wrists together with vice-like strength.
‘Now now Andreas, don’t hurt the young lady,’ said Mason smoothly, as he himself held Sergeant Thomas about the throat and wrists. ‘We must commend her for coming this far, she really has shown tremendous spirit.’
‘Let me go,’ shouted Sergeant Thomas as he struggled in vain against Mason’s inhuman strength. ‘I’m an Armitage City Police Officer, you’re both under arrest.’
‘Oh do be quiet,’ said Mason irritably, as he increased his grip on the sergeant’s wrists. The room was suddenly filled with the painful cries of Sergeant Thomas as his wrist bones were crushed beyond repair. Madeline tried to look away but Andreas’ hold on her was much too strong, forcing her instead to close her eyes and listen to the sergeant’s screams. They were eventually muffled when Mason moved his hand from Sergeant Thomas’ neck to his mouth, and after a moment or two they died down to a deep, ragged breathing. Opening her eyes once again, Madeline noticed a tattered pile of rags that lay against the back wall under the window.
‘I think you can let her speak now, Andreas,’ said Mason, a thin, malicious smile playing across his cruel lips. ‘I’m sure she knows better than to scream, don’t you my dear?’ Dutifully, Andreas loosened his grip on Madeline’s jaw and placed his hand instead on her shoulder, firmly enough to remind her what would happen if she struggled.
‘You monster!’ hissed Madeline. ‘How could you?’
‘Quite easily, I assure you,’ oozed Mason. ‘Do not think yourself anything special; you are merely the latest distraction in a long line of playthings; easily toyed with; easily discarded.’
‘So you are a vampire.’
‘Of course.’ Madeline was somewhat taken aback by Mason’s frank honesty, but his nauseatingly casual manner with which he carried himself filled her with such intense anger that she couldn’t contain her rage any longer.
‘It was you, wasn’t it? You who murdered Sophia Damico, you who’s behind all the disappearances, it was all you!’
‘Not quite,’ said Mason calmly. ‘That fellow who attacked you and your little friend was not affiliated with me, but fear not, he has been dealt with.’ Madeline’s eyes, already wide with terror, darted briefly to Sebastian once again, and catching sight of this, Mason grinned evilly, revelling in the torment he was creating. ‘And I am sure that this…poor excuse for a vampire,’ said Mason, indicating Sebastian with the utmost disdain. ‘Whom I was quite sure I had despatched years ago, has no doubt filled you in on my, shall we say, colourful past.’
‘He told me the awful things that you’ve done,’ spat Madeline, her rage unable to contain itself any longer. ‘He told me about his wife and daughter.’
‘Ah yes,’ said Mason, his twisted face taking on a sick nostalgic expression. ‘Dear Catherine and Isabelle, such a waste.’
‘Do not say their names!’ rasped Sebastian hoarsely, as he pulled himself up off of the floor, his haggard face contorted into a mask of pure hatred. ‘You do not have the right, you’ve never had the right!’
‘But my dear boy,’ oozed Mason. ‘I never laid a hand on them, it was all you.’
‘So help me Mason I’ll stop you if it takes me until the end of time itself!’
‘Oh come now Sebastian, look at yourself. I will admit that I’m somewhat impressed, if not a great deal perturbed, that you were able to escape form that barn, but I happen to know that you have failed in every attempt to thwart me in the past, what makes you think that you can possibly stop me now?’
‘This!’ Reaching behind him, Sebastian quickly grabbed hold of the heavy cloth that covered the backroom window and tugged it free from the wall, allowing the day’s sunlight to pour into the room. Andreas instantly released Madeline as he rushed forward to try and shield Mason from the sunlight, and using the cloth to protect himself Sebastian made his move, grabbing Madeline by the wrist and rushing frenziedly out into the main part of the shop.
‘Run!’ he screamed.
‘But…’ began Madeline.
‘No, run!’ Her blood pumping in her temples, her breath deep and ragged, Madeline tried to concentrate as Sebastian’s grip dug painfully into her wrist. Throwing the shop door open, they all but slammed into Sergeant Thomas’ squad car as they barrelled out of Shelob’s Lair. ‘Get in, drive, drive!’ Looking about in total panic, Madeline realised she still had the sergeant’s keys pressed tightly in her hand, and as Sebastian flung himself across the backseat, still with the cloth covering his body, she climbed frantically into the driver’s seat and fumbled with the keys until the motor finally fired into life, and with a screech of tires and a jolt as two of the wheels abruptly left the curb, they were speeding away through the streets of Armitage, leaving Zeb and Sergeant Thomas behind with Mason.
‘Are you hurt, sir?’ asked Andreas as he fixed one of the spare pieces of cloth to the backroom window.
‘I’ll be fine,’ said Mason irritably, as he ran his thin, claw-like fingers across the affected areas of his face. ‘She has spirit, there’s no denying it, but this really is getting tiresome. Sebastian’s meddling is altogether too much, I regret ever siring him.’
‘Your wounds need tending, sir,’ said Andreas.
‘Yes, take me home, I’ve had enough of the air of this town for one day.’
‘Very good sir.’
‘But burn this place to the ground, Andreas. Send them a nice message.’
‘Yes sir. And the proprietor and the officer?’
‘As you wish. What of the girl?’
‘Oh she fights now, but I have in mind a little insurance policy that should stack the deck further in my favour.’
* * *
‘We left them, we just left them,’ said Madeline, as the reality of what had transpired began to sink in.
‘There was no other way,’ replied Sebastian, his voice still hoarse and throaty. ‘He was right, I have failed so many times before, and I very nearly failed again, I had to get you away.’
‘But we just left them!’ Madeline’s eyes jumped from the road to the rear view mirror where she could see the huddled mass that was Sebastian. The streets grew more and more unfamiliar and with a sickening realisation Madeline knew she was lost.
‘We could not save them, had we tried to both you and they would be dead.’
‘As good as, I am afraid.’ Upon hearing this Madeline slammed on the brakes and the squad car careened to a halt in a small street that she had never seen before. It had been a while since she had driven and her scrambled nerves had not concerned her with where they were going, just that they got as far away from Mason as possible.
‘How can you be so callous?’ she asked harshly, turning in the driver’s seat to look at Sebastian, still huddled under the thick cloth that once blocked the day from Zeb’s backroom.
‘You went to the police, didn’t you?’ he calmly replied.
‘What? Yes, yes of course I did. What else was I supposed to do?’
‘By involving that man you have sentenced him to death.’ This was all that Madeline could take, she hastily thrust open the car door and within seconds she had pulled open the back door and was dragging Sebastian bodily from the car.
‘I hate you!’ she screamed. ‘I hate you! If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be stuck in this mess.’ She punched and kicked at the shapeless form that was Sebastian as the tears welled up quickly in her eyes, hot and livid. After a moment or two her rage began to subside, and as her rational mind took control again she not only realised that Sebastian had not bothered to even try and defend himself but anyone could have seen or heard her. The tears continued to streak her already flushed cheeks as her fists relaxed, and only when she sank to her knees and began to sob into her hands did Sebastian finally speak.
‘You have every right to hate me,’ he said, sitting up. He replaced the hood of his tattered robe and removed the thick cloth from around himself. ‘I hate what I am so I do not expect you to feel any different, but you are wrong.’
‘What?’ said Madeline, looking up with bloodshot eyes.
‘It is him who has put you, who has put both of us in the peril we find ourselves. Had I not found you though, you would have stood no chance against his power.’
‘I guess I should be thanking you then,’ said Madeline with a strange half-smile.
‘Oh I wouldn’t go that far.’ Both Madeline and Sebastian laughed briefly at their light-hearted exchange before the weight of their situation silenced them.
‘I’m sorry if I hurt you,’ said Madeline, wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her jumper.
‘It’s quite alright. Where are we exactly?’
‘I don’t really know, I just drove in a straight line.’
‘How far do you think we are from Armitage?’
‘It can’t be too far…’ began Madeline, but as she spoke the radio in the squad car crackled into life, startling them both.
‘All units, all units, proceed immediately to one five seven two Jefferson Boulevard, possible arson in progress. EMT’s are en-route.’ Upon hearing the address given by the dispatch officer Madeline sprang to her feet and scrambled back into the squad car, slamming the door behind her.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Sebastian, rising to his feet.
‘That address, its Zeb’s shop,’ said Madeline almost to herself. Before Sebastian could say or do anything she stepped on the accelerator, spun the car around and headed back in the direction of Armitage, leaving the dishevelled vampire by the roadside.
‘I know,’ said Sebastian quietly, as he huddled his rags about him, picked something up off the road and began his long walk back to Armitage.
* * *
Her mind racing, Madeline drove at high speed back towards Armitage, not knowing what she was doing and dreading the gruesome sights that no doubt awaited her. All she knew was that she desperately wanted Sebastian’s words to be in vain, she couldn’t bear the thought of Sergeant Thomas and Zeb dying because of her. As the scenery became more familiar the horror that was growing inside her swelled as she saw a plume of thick black smoke emanating from above the rooftops.
Oh God don’t let it be true, she thought to herself.
Making her way through the streets towards Shelob’s Lair Madeline continued to see the cascade of black smoke rising into the sky, and as she rounded into Jefferson Boulevard her heart leapt into her throat. Zeb’s modest little shop was now completely engulfed in flames, fire fighters bravely trying to get the blaze under control while police cars and ambulances filled the street. People were crowded around the police barrier as an officer tried in vain to get them to disperse, and while Madeline took in the chaotic scene the driver’s side door was abruptly opened.
‘Step out of the car please, Ma’am.’ An Armitage City police officer stood with his hand on the car door, looking sternly down at Madeline. At first she didn’t know what was going on but the realisation soon hit her that she was sitting in what was effectively a stolen police car, a stolen police car that was returning to the scene of a potentially hideous crime. As she began to unsteadily exit the car the officer stood back to allow her room, and once the door was closed he started in with his questions.
‘Ma’am, where is Sergeant Thomas?’
‘What?’ Madeline’s eyes darted from the officer to the fire, hoping that the sergeant and Zeb got out alive.
‘This is his squad car, Ma’am,’ continued the officer. ‘You should not be driving it.’
‘Is he okay?’ she asked, her voice tremulous.
‘Ma’am I’m going to have to ask you to accompany me to the station.’
‘But Sergeant Thomas, is he okay? What about Zeb?’
‘Ma’am I’d advise you not to say anything more until you have a lawyer present.’
‘You’re under arrest for suspected arson and murder.’