PIERSIDE BY EMILY SPAHN
The door to the clinic house opened, and Ezzy looked up from the freshly washed bandages she was rolling. It was polite to knock at a clinic house door, but many of her patients were too sick or injured to remember their manners, if they had ever learned them.
She relaxed when she saw Maddy’s tall figure and red hair. Maddy had said she was going to the bar, so Ezzy wasn’t expecting her home for hours. It was a pleasant surprise to have her home so soon.
“Was the bar out of drinks, or men?” Ezzy said, a small smile on her face. She never smiled much, and when she did it usually had to do with Maddy.
“Nope, but they were fresh outta pretty girls. Lucky me, I got one right at home.” Maddy grinned as she walked into the living room.
“Well, I don’t know about pretty, but this girl was going to bed as soon as the news was over.” Maddy started to say something, but Ezzy continued, “And no, I do not need company, thank you.”
A strange mixture of hope and regret filled Ezzy every time Maddy flirted with her, though Ezzy always brushed her off. Maddy seemed to have expected it and didn’t seem terribly disappointed, she just tossed herself back on the couch, her long legs extending over the arm.
Ezzy thought the girl spent so much time in the woods growing up that she treated furniture as if it were a rock or log, and there was some way to get comfortable on it but it probably didn’t involve sitting with her feet on the ground. She still wore the blue jeans and flannel shirts she’d worn back in the hills for the same reason, she claimed it was easier to get comfortable in them than in the black house dresses Ezzy always wore.
Ezzy sat in a straight backed chair, feet firmly on the ground, with her back to the windows at the front of the house. The large, wood cased radio in the corner was softly reporting an interview with a politician, which Ezzy had only been half listening to.
Maddy listened for a moment. “He’s full of shit. Cleanin’ up the city by hirin’ more cops? The cops are dirtiest folks out there.”
“Don’t worry, he’s not going to hire more of them. That would cost money, and the city council would much rather spend that on themselves,” Ezzy said.
“Speakin’ of money, that’s the real reason I’m home early. What do you say to me usin’ the rest of this week’s drinkin’ money for gas, and we hop in the truck and head back home for a day or two? It’s been ages since you had a day off. Someone could cover for ya.”
Ezzy smiled at the idea of a few days rest in Tan, the little town in the mountains where she had spent ten years training as a clinic worker, and first met Maddy West. Ezzy loved it there almost as much as Maddy did, but now that she was a clinic worker she went where the Clinic Order assigned her. That was why she lived here, hours away, in the slums of Pierside.
“I’d love to, but really I shouldn’t. We’ve been busy lately, and I’m sure the other clinics are the same. I doubt someone could be spared for something unnecessary.”
“Who says it ain’t necessary? You’re pale as a fuckin’ ghost, and you ain’t had a day off in years. Sounds to me like you need it.”
“Weeks. I had a day off three weeks ago. And I’m not that pale, the black just makes me look that way,” she said, referring to her hair, black and cropped short, and her plain black dresses.
“Nah, you’re that pale. The black just makes it creepy.”
“I don’t do it to be creepy. I’m just more comfortable,” Ezzy tried to explain. She was aware that a lot of people thought that she was strange, and it worried her when it was pointed out.
“I don’t give a shit about the black, Ez.” Maddy shook her head, then she propped herself up on her elbow. “I just think you need some time off. It’s been busy as harvest these days, and all you got is me for help, and lord knows that ain’t much.”
Ezzy smiled at her. “You’re all the help that I need. And right now, what I need your help with is finishing these bandages so that I can get to bed.” She tossed one of the bandages to Maddy, who started rolling it.
“So, I was talkin’ to Gary Brightly at the bar, an’ he was sayin’—” She was interrupted by a knock at the door. Maddy sat up and swung her legs to the floor, tossing the bandage back into the basket. “I’ll tell ya later. Duty calls.”
Ezzy was already on her feet and moving through the foyer to the clinic room. The beds were currently empty, and the medical supplies neatly lined the shelves which she kept in impeccable order. She pulled on the strings and the lights snapped on, washing the room in cold clean light. She heard Maddy open the door. In a few seconds, she heard Maddy’s voice in the hallway, “Come on, this way. Careful of that table there. Your buddy’s been shot, the last thing he needs is a bruise to go with it.”
Maddy entered, supporting one side of a man with a large bloody wound towards the top of his torso. A tall man, about Maddy’s height, with curly brown hair had the injured man’s other arm around him.
The man who’d been shot, apparently, was laid on the bed. He was barely conscious, and Ezzy wondered why anyone would walk someone with an open chest wound to the local Clinic House as she gathered bandages, sponges and bottles for cleaning the wound.
“Who’s this?” Maddy asked as she cut the bloody shirt from the patient.
“Nate. Nate Reed. I’m Roy,” his friend answered. “Are you the clinic worker?”
“Nah, she is. Looks like a shot to the shoulder, Ez.”
Ezzy sighed with relief. “That’s not impossible, at least.”
She brought her supplies over to the patient. “Why didn’t you call an ambulance?” she asked Roy as she began cleaning the blood away from the wound.
“He doesn’t have that kind of money, he’s got a kid on the way. And it didn’t hit any major organs. Can you do anything?” He bit his lower lip, and stared at the needle as she gave the patient a painkiller.
“Yes, there is something I can do, or I’d be calling an ambulance myself. Or the morgue. You do realize that a clinic is not set up for major emergency care, right?” She put pressure on the wound and turned to look at Roy.
Roy nodded and looked down. “It’s better than nothing. As long as he doesn’t die.”
“He isn’t going to die,” she said, but he still looked concerned. “Maddy, why don’t you take Roy in the living room. Get him something to drink, he probably needs it.”
Maddy took Roy’s arm and led him from the room. She waited until they left and got to work.
While clinic workers didn’t usually deal with serious injuries, Ezzy’s training in the mountains had covered more than a few gunshots. She had the patient patched up and resting peacefully in about an hour.
She walked back into the living room and sat down in one of the wooden chairs that faced each other over the coffee table. Maddy was sitting on the floor leaning against the other and Roy was on the couch.
“Your friend will be fine. He may have trouble with that shoulder, but that’s the best that could be hoped for anywhere. Have you contacted his family?”
Roy nodded, “His wife wants to come see him tonight, if it won’t keep you girls up. She’s waiting for her brother to pick her up. They live over on Donworth, and I wouldn’t let her try to make that walk at this time of night.”
“That’s wise, considering what happened to her husband.” Donworth Street was only a few blocks away, but this was a dangerous part of the city.
Maddy turned to look at Roy and raised her eyebrows. “You wanna tell Ezzy here what happened to Nate, or should I tell ‘er?”
“Besides getting shot?” Ezzy asked. She had thought it was just a mugging, but the way Maddy was looking made her sure it must have been something more.
Roy let out a breath slowly. “I’ll tell her. First, I’m Officer Roy Shepard, Pierside PD. I’ve been off duty all evening. Maddy tells me your name’s Ezzy?”
Ezzy nodded, and Roy continued, “Well, I had the evening off and me and Nate went for some beers. We left early, his wife worries if he’s out late, and on our way home this guy is standing there in the middle of the sidewalk, in a ratty, stained trench coat. We split to go around him, and all of a sudden he pulls a gun and shoves Nate to the ground. I pulled my gun and told him to drop it, but he just starts listing off all these things about Nate. Some I knew, and some I wouldn’t put past him, but none of them were good things.
“I told the guy to drop his gun, again, and he shot Nate. I was standing maybe 10 feet from this guy, and I emptied a whole clip at him. I must have hit him at least once or twice, he stumbled back and there was blood on the ground, but this guy didn’t go down. He turned to me, and, well, he said some things I’d done that weren’t too good either. And he raised his gun to shoot, when a car turned the corner and he turned and ran. I grabbed Nate and headed here as soon as I could.
“We sure as hell aren’t dealing with a normal mugger. I’ve never seen anything like this guy. Of course, I’ve heard of something like this guy,” Roy hinted darkly as he lit a cigarette. His hands were shaking slightly.
Maddy took a long swig from her bottle of beer and slammed it down on the table. “It’s the Elevati, Ez. They’re back for real. I never did believe that bullshit about them bein’ gone twenty some odd years ago. Folks whispered that the Saint of Death was one, and I gotta hunch this guy’s him.”
Ezzy’s heart was beating quickly, and she felt her muscles tense. She’d known that one of the Elevati would show themselves someday, and she’d dreaded being in this conversation, or one very much like it. Now she was trying desperately to stay calm.
“If there’s one of them, there are twenty. Don’t you think someone would have discovered another by now?”
Roy shrugged. “This guy might not have been the Saint of Death. That might have been a second one. This guy looked around my age, that’d make him awfully young to be the Saint of Death. But if there are twenty running around… God, we’re in deep shit, aren’t we?” He took a long drag of his cigarette.
Ezzy wore a worried expression, and nodded slowly.
“Well, this is one girl who ain’t gonna sit on her ass while a bunch of immortal bastards with powers hold the damn world hostage again. I got a huntin’ knife that’s sharp as hell, and even if I can’t shoot ‘em I can start choppin’ some hands off.” Maddy grinned.
Every sentence uttered seemed to have something terrifying hidden behind it. Ezzy fought to maintain her composure. “You’ll be killed, Maddy. You can’t shoot them, Roy found that out. And what if one can—can control fire? They might burn you alive. Besides that, other than this man, and the Saint of Death, none of them have done a thing against mortals. Why put them through that torture when they’re acting like normal people?”
“Aw, hell, Ez, I can take care of myself. And that coma thingy can’t be all that bad. They just lay there.” Maddy said, rolling her eyes.
Ezzy bit her lip to keep Maddy from seeing the look of horror that was trying to form on her face.
“What? Alright, fine, I won’t worry ‘bout the rest right now. We deal with this guy first, then I think I’ll go pokin’ around the Followers of God Compound, and see if I can’t find the Saint of Death. You gotta admit that even if cuttin’ off their hands is as awful as they say, the Saint of Death fuckin’ deserves it.” Maddy’s expression grew dark.
Ezzy looked down and nodded. “Yes, the Saint of Death deserves it.”
“You lost someone in the Saint of Death stuff?” Roy asked Maddy. It wasn’t common in Pierside, most of the nearly two thousand victims had been from the surrounding small towns.
Maddy gave a sad nod. “Both of my folks. I was thirteen. I got three older brothers, and they brought me up the rest of the way.”
“I’m sorry,” Roy said, sincerely. He seemed unsure about what else to say.
“Me too. But I figure bringin’ a little pain to the bastard that did that might make me feel a little better. And I’m gonna practice on this guy.”
Ezzy took several deep slow breaths. “Before we do that, couldn’t we just call the police?”
Maddy rolled her eyes again.
Roy sighed. “Yeah, we can call the police. I’m the police, actually, and I can tell you what the Sargent will have us do. If we can somehow make him believe that we’re dealing with an Elevatus, he’ll order every officer out of this district. The guys on the force, they’re just there for a paycheck and believe me, it’s not big enough to face down an Elevatus for.”
Maddy smiled. “See Ez? It’s up to us. You’re smart, you’ll help me find ‘em, right?”
Ezzy stared at Maddy. Her smile was beautiful, but right now it meant so many dark things. Ezzy was trapped. “Yes, I’ll help you.”
“I’ll help if I can,” Roy added. “The police force might not be willing to do anything, but I joined because I want to help people around here. I can’t let this guy walk around free.”
“You allowed to do that? I mean, go around huntin’ Elevati on your time off.
“No, but I don’t think you’re supposed to either. We just have to make sure we don’t get caught.”
There was a knock on the door, and Ezzy quickly got up to answer it.
Maddy nodded at Roy. “Give us a call tomorrow, and we’ll compare notes.”
“Sure,” Roy said as he got up to greet Nate’s wife. Ezzy ushered them into the clinic room and answered some questions. Ezzy pointed out that while Nate could stay as long as he wanted, the clinic was busy during the day, and wasn’t equipped for long term care. Nate’s wife agreed to take him home in the morning, and bring him back for regular examinations.
Nate was still asleep, so his wife didn’t stay long, and Roy left with her so that he had a ride home. Once they left, Ezzy sat down in the wooden chair. It was getting very late, and the evening had been full of stressful events and conversations she couldn’t stand having.
Putting her hand on Ezzy’s shoulder, Maddy looked down at her and said gently, “You look tired, girl. I think it’s time for bed. We got a busy day tomorrow.”
Ezzy nodded, and went upstairs to her bedroom, wishing for a way out of this. But there was only one, and she hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Ezzy woke early the next morning to a knock at the front door and saw three patients before Maddy managed to roll out of bed. Nate woke up, and Ezzy gave him a shot for his pain. His wife came by and got him, and Ezzy carefully explained how to care for his wound, change the dressing, and gave her some pills with strict instructions. Once Maddy did get up, Ezzy could smell the bacon and eggs frying in the kitchen.
Around 10 AM, Ezzy finished giving stitches to a young man and saw nobody waiting. She washed her hands and excused herself, ducking into the kitchen where Maddy was cleaning up.
“There’s food on the table. Eat fast, who knows how long you got.”
Ezzy sat down at the small kitchen table. The plate of food looked delicious, but with a moment to herself, thoughts of last night caused her to lose her appetite. She picked at the food, more to please Maddy than out of any real desire for it.
“Are you going to look for that Elevatus today?” Ezzy asked, trying to sound casual.
“Soon as I got these dishes done. I’m gonna try and track down where he’s stayin’, from there you can make a plan. I know it’s dangerous, Ez, I’m tryin’ to play it safe.” She smiled and glanced over at Ezzy. “Will you eat your damn food already?”
“I’m not very hungry. I’ll eat something at lunch,” Ezzy said. “About that plan … what if we could convince him to stop without hurting him?”
“Then I’ll eat my socks. You can’t reason with folks like him or the Saint of Death, who go ‘round killin’ people for no god damn reason.”
Ezzy looked down at her food.
Maddy looked over at her again, and said with a soft smile, “But if anyone could, it’s you. You figure a way to make him stop, and I’ll stay calm, at least until we hear ‘bout anymore trouble.”
“Thank you,” Ezzy said, softly.
“Now finish your breakfast. You probably won’t even get time for lunch, with how today’s goin’.”
Ezzy ate her bacon and eggs to make Maddy happy. She still didn’t want food. She just wanted to get this situation under control so that she no longer had to deal with it.
Maddy took her plate and finished washing the dishes as Ezzy went into the clinic room to clean up. Ezzy heard her shout goodbye a few minutes later, and the door slammed.
Ezzy had more patients throughout the morning due to a spring flu going around, then they trailed off again in the early afternoon. She took advantage of the lull to leave a note on the door saying she was running to the market, and would be back soon. The Order didn’t like that, but chances were that no one would complain. She had an excellent reputation as a clinic worker, even if people thought she was strange.
She didn’t need to run to the market. Maddy would most likely bring something home for dinner. But she knew that the market would be the most populated place in the area, and that gave her the best chance for him to notice.
She bought some chicken and vegetables, and hurried back to the clinic. No one was waiting for her, so she took the food to the kitchen and started dinner.
It wasn’t long before she heard the front door open. She listened, but didn’t hear Maddy’s voice or the clomping of her boots. Next to her was a large knife she’d been using to cut the chicken, and she picked it up and turned around to watch the doorways. The kitchen had doors that led from both the clinic room and the living room, so he was bound to find his way back here.
The door from the clinic room opened slowly, and she saw a man with greasy black hair peek in. He saw her, and opened the door fully. She could see he was wearing a ratty gray coat and he held a gun casually at his side.
“I know what you are,” he said darkly.
Ezzy looked at him curiously. “Are you sure about that? You tried to read my mind at the market, but you couldn’t. It would certainly be strange for a clinic worker to have a pendant, but then it would be just as strange for a clinic worker to be an Elevatus.”
“I could just shoot you and find out,” he said, annoyed.
“I’ll save you the trouble, and me a dress. I am an Elevatus, and I wanted to speak with you.”
“Is that knife going to do any talking?” He motioned towards the butcher knife with his gun.
She raised her eyebrows. “Not if you stay over there.”
Ezzy was carefully hiding how nervous she was. Her powers wouldn’t work on him, any more than his would work on her, and while he wasn’t a large man, she was a very small woman. She wouldn’t cut his hand off, she wouldn’t want to do that to anyone, and other than that knife wounds would only cause some pain, and make more of a mess of his clothes. The knife was to keep him on edge, but if he came at her he could probably get it from her easily.
He eyed her and nodded. “So talk.”
She considered him. “What’s your name?”
“Christopher Phillips. Yours?”
“I’ve never heard that name.”
“That’s because I made it up ages ago. The Clinic Order requires you to write a name, but it doesn’t have to be yours. It’s the only one I use, so it’s what you can call me.”
She took a deep breath. “You’ve put us both in danger. People know you’re an Elevatus, and they know there are nineteen more out there. Maybe the public in general doesn’t know yet, but it’s a matter of time now, and when the public does find out, they will search high and low for us. They’ll cut off our hands and leave us in agony. All because you have some obsession with what people have done wrong. This has to stop now. If you leave here and stop this, people may start to doubt what they saw and heard, and we might still be safe.”
“I can’t. Do you know what most people are thinking? What they’ve done? It’s evil. It’s a crime. It’s a sin. Evil should be punished. There’s no room in this world for those who can’t control themselves. I learned that. I learned that there’s no room in this world for those who aren’t good, who aren’t just. Only those who can act righteously deserve to live. To allow them to be at the mercy of the evil in the world, when I can tell so easily who’s deserving of punishment, would be a sin.”
“So is murder. But I suppose that you don’t think what you’re doing is murder, do you?”
“It’s an execution,” he said, looking her in the eye. “I shot a man last night who was planning on stealing from families who thought he was helping them. I murdered a man the other day who lying to his wife about his paycheck to spend the rest on liquor and fast women. Every person in this city, from the politicians to the hobos on the corners, is guilty of something, and I will know it. And I will judge them.”
“That is not your place,” Ezzy said, firmly.
“That’s a matter of opinion,” he said with a smile.
“I believe it’s the opinion of the courts. I’d love to see you argue that at a trial, but I’ll never get that chance because they would cut your hand off before they bothered to arrest you.”
“The cops can’t get close to me. They’re too scared.”
“That is true. So consider this. I’m not scared of you. I think that you’re committing murder, and I cannot live with that. So if you don’t stop this immediately, I will turn both of us in, and offer to lead the team to take you down, even if it gets both of our hands cut off. Of course, I may even offer to use the Gun.”
He raised his eyebrows, and she gave him a steady cold stare. Bringing the Gun into this discussion was upping the stakes considerably, and Ezzy hoped it would go to convince him how serious she was. The only weapon on Earth that could kill an Elevatus, currently in the possession of some collector who had no idea how valuable it had become, and Ezzy had threatened to use it.
He nodded, seeming annoyed again. “I’ll consider that. Of course, I’ll also consider whether I should do the same. Even if I can’t tell what you’ve done, I’m sure that you’ve done something. Other Elevati must be the most sinful of all.”
“You murder people because you can tell the wrongs they’ve done, yet you assume those whose minds you can’t read must have done worse?”
“Do you deny it?”
“You’re mad. You’re not pursuing justice, you’re trying to control people with your power and threats. And I assure you that if you get the Gun you will prove that it isn’t other Elevati who are the most sinful of all.” Ezzy said with a pointed look. “I will not let that happen.”
There was a knock at the front door. Ezzy pointed the knife in that direction. “Go, now. I have work to do.”
Christopher turned and walked towards the front door with Ezzy following. She didn’t set down the knife until he opened the door. He walked out as a mother with a small child walked into the clinic and Ezzy turned her attention to them, and the patients that followed, until late in the evening, around 8 o’clock.
She was washing up after seeing a small child with an ear infection when she heard the door open and slam, and Maddy’s heavy step first into the living room, then back towards the clinic room. She stuck her head through the doorway, then came in and sat on one of the beds. “Long day?”
“Very. There’s chicken in the kitchen, you can have some if you haven’t had dinner. I haven’t,” Ezzy said, as she carefully put away the medical instruments in their places.
“I’m starvin’. But first, I gotta tell you, I found out about that guy. He’s from outta town, but he’s got a place on Upton.”
“His name is Christopher,” Ezzy said, as she ran the water in the clinic room sink and put bandages in to soak. “Hopefully he’s not going to kill anyone else.”
“Why’d ya think that? And how the hell do you know his name?” Maddy said, leaning forward with a surprised look on her face.
“I spoke with him today. He followed me home from the market.” Ezzy carefully avoided the whole truth, but she almost never lied, mostly because she was awful at it.
“And you were here by yourself? And he didn’t kill you?” Maddy looked even more surprised, her eyebrows were raised about as high as they would go.
“Obviously not,” Ezzy said, and she headed into the kitchen and began fixing herself some dinner.
Maddy hurried after her. “This is why you gotta learn to shoot. I got four damn guns in this house and you couldn’t hit a wall with any of them. It’d be a sin if someone came after you and you couldn’t even use ‘em.”
“That wouldn’t have worked on him, Maddy. He’s an Elevatus, remember? Sometimes the best solution is not to shoot something.”
“Yeah, I know. But the idea of somethin’ happenin’ to you while I’m out… Damn Ez, I’d go crazy.”
Ezzy sat down at the table with a small plate of food, “I know. I promise you, I’m safe. And so are the people out there, I hope. I spoke with him, and I think he’ll keep quiet for a while.”
Maddy took a large helping of chicken, then looked at it for a moment and added some more. She sat down across from Ezzy. “That thought one you’re willin’ to bet a life on? Cause that’s what you’re doin’. You think you can trust some crazy sonofabitch who tries to murder people for kicks?”
Ezzy shrugged and pushed her food around her plate. “Not really. But we should give him a chance.”
“What all did ya tell ‘im?” Maddy said between mouthfuls.
“That if he didn’t stop, I would go to the police and the public. They would hunt the city for Elevati, and they might even find one who would use the Gun on him.”
Maddy considered that for a moment while she swallowed. “There’re twenty of the bastards out there?”
Ezzy looked down at her plate and nodded.
“How old do you figure they are?”
“They’re born one a year, over the course of twenty years. An Elevatus has to perform some kind of ritual, and the last one, or the previous last one, shot himself twenty-seven years ago. So the oldest is at least twenty-six.”
“So we got this guy, and probably the Saint of Death, and there are still eighteen more out there. You think one of them might be worth a shit and use the Gun to keep this mess under control?”
Ezzy put her fork down, and got up, cleaning her plate and scraping most of her food into the trash. “Honestly? No. But perhaps the threat will work.”
Maddy nodded a little. “I guess it could. But I’m keepin’ my ear to the ground. And I’m thinkin’ about startin’ a hunt for the Saint of Death. Might call the boys and see if they want in.”
Ezzy had her back to Maddy and was putting away the leftover food from dinner, so Maddy didn’t see her bite her lip before she said, “Your bothers have jobs, Maddy, and families. They can’t simply drop everything to hunt for the Saint of Death.”
“Good thing I don’t got either then. I got plenty of time to look on my own.”
Ezzy glanced over her shoulder. “If you have all of this time, why aren’t you helping me more?”
“Aw Ez, I’ll help plenty more when all this is settled. And if this vigilante Elevatus keeps his cool, we’re halfway there, right?”
Ezzy sighed and nodded. “I suppose we are. I need to finish cleaning up in the clinic, then go to bed. I’m sure tomorrow will be just as long as today.”
“I can help with the cleanin’ up,” Maddy said, obviously feeling guilty.
“That’s okay, I think it’s a one woman job,” Ezzy said over her shoulder as she left the kitchen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily Spahn lives in an old farmhouse on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband and daughter. Her goal in life is to completely finish renovating at least one entire room someday. She keeps bees, sells honey, and spends entirely too much time writing stories, blog posts, and fanfiction.