Part 10 – Never settle

Sanaa did not help Grace.  Grace manages to gather herself enough to heal a deep puncture wound/maybe collapsed lung anyway.  Heal herself enough not to bleed to death on the spot anyway.  Seeing this miracle was too much for Ferd.  He decided at that point he had done his duty in avenging Carlos and hit the road.  Baun on the other hand was unconcerned by this turn of events although it’s possible that he simply didn’t notice since his attention was still focused on holding the motionless Andrew Gale pinned to the dirt. 

If you believe the official statistics, the normal response time to a reported stabbing in this part of Fresno is about 9 minutes.  On day 8 of a blackout with a state of emergency in effect throughout the city?  You can pretty much forget about them showing up at all.  That’s even if you could figure out a way to contact emergency services, which you can’t because emergency numbers are only required to have back-up power systems that last 24 hours. 

And yet there are officers on the scene almost immediately. 

You see, Verizon has sent a couple vans roaming around Fresno stuffed to the gills with prototype batteries.  Batteries with vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes, which sounds pretty cool.  These new batteries are hooked up to Anywhere Cart 36-Device Charging Stations to allow people to charge their smart phones and devices.  The vans have been cruising around and stopping here and there as mobile charging stations for the benighted people of Fresno.  Is it still considered charity if their goal is testing out these new batteries more than helping anyone?  I’ll never tell.  It’s certainly not charitable at all that after one of these vans was mobbed by people desperate to contact loved ones that they’ve been assigned police cruisers to escort them around rather than doing the things police cruisers should be doing in this time of crisis. 

Point being, one of these roving Verizon “charity” vans was cruising by Coyotetown tailed by its police escort when the Andrew Gale scenario unfolded.  And there you go, response time down to seconds.  Officers Courtney and Bradbury weren’t happy to be put on phone duty but once they realized that “they” had caught an escaped OC hitman serial killer, they were ecstatic.  On the TV that’s the kind of thing that gets you medals and promotions for doing!  The mayor will shake their hand! 

Grace and Sanaa were only too happy to let them take the credit, slipping away to undo the anchoring spell that had brought them there in the first place.  As they walked back to Grace’s Rav4, Sanaa said that she thought that Eterno was controlling Andrew Gale and remotely harvesting the energy from his victims.  She further speculated that the four people he killed were mages themselves since murdering “normal” people would barely be worth the effort.

Grace nodded “How interesting, why the fuck didn’t you help me?”

Sanaa frowns “What?  I did help you, I went right for the eyes.  What did you want me to do, he was twice my size.”

Grace frowns back even harder “No, not that, why wouldn’t you help me heal?!”

Sanaa seems utterly unconcerned “Oh, that wouldn’t have worked anyway.”

“Do you know that for sure?  Have you tried it?  Would it have killed you to have just tried?  I was bleeding to death!  I had a knife jabbed in my lung!  Am I so grotesque and disgusting that you’d rather me die than to contaminate your nature bullshit just by touching me?!”

Sanaa doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t say anything in a way that clearly says “yes” without actually saying it. 

Grace is bone tired at this point, and starving as well, but as they say, the show must go on.  No wait, as they say, no rest for the weary.  That’s better.  As they drive to their next destination, they see some enterprising young fellows selling bread out of the back of a certainly-not-stolen truck for the low low price of three dollars a slice.  Crisis brings out the best in people, I’ve heard.

They pass Toledito’s Mexican Restaurant which has been thoroughly looted, Cornerstone Church which has been badly burned (not because of arson but because one of the many people that sought refuge there knocked over a candle) Fulton street coffee (looted), and the Fulton pedestrian mall which has been both looted and occupied, on their way to the Law Library of Fresno, which is on the sixth floor of Fresno Superior Courthouse

Early on, there was a lot of security at the courthouse but the city officials quickly realized this was different from a political protest, the places being targeted are those where there might be food or supplies.  The courthouse has been shut down for three days without much security present.  Ironically, the cafeteria was jam packed with food, which the night watchman William took home in a rented U-Haul and has been selling at war profiteering prices to his neighbors.    

Seeing an open window on the 5th floor, Grace gathers her magical energy and levitates up and into the building.    Or rather, she tries to.  She’s too depleted to make it happen and ends up embarrassingly just lifting a few inches off the ground a few times to no effect.  She looks over at Sanaa with a weary smirk.

“Would you believe me if I told you this had never happened before?  Maybe if we wait fifteen minutes and try again.”

Sanaa sighs “Is that an erection joke?”

Grace sighs back “When you made a pact with some mysterious spirit in return for magical powers, was part of the deal that you could never laugh again?”

“I don’t see anything funny about this situation.”

Grace gestured broadly “We’re in downtown Fresno, which is currently about as safe as Russian-occupied Ukraine, and we’re trying to stop a magic ritual that will bring a demon into the world.  If that’s not funny, I don’t know what is.”

Sanaa crosses her arms “It’s not a demon, there’s no such thing as demons, demons are a Judeo-Christian concept created to oppress native religions which value women and . . .”

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