Codex Nekromantia: Section 33

"Hell no!" he replied. Then, seeing the look on Casimir's face and realizing that he'd prefer not to get punched in the mouth by what appeared to be a gangrenous fist, he dropped the mirth. "Ahem, sorry. I know Jane, sure, but not very well. I'm her personal trainer. She's spreading those rumors again?"

"Again?" Casimir asked.

"Sure, she caused some trouble for me earlier in the year when she claimed that we were together. It almost cost me a few clients, and I almost dropped her until she gave me a very heartfelt apology. Or what I thought was a heartfelt apology. No offense, but I could never tell with her," John replied.

Casimir had gone from awkward, angry, back to awkward in a few short seconds and now he had whiplash and a growing sense of unease. He'd known Jane to be emotionally eccentric. There was no doubt about that. She'd once told a waiter who had brought her the wrong food that Casimir was her dying brother and look at how gaunt he was and this was probably the last meal that they'd ever have together so she wanted dinner for free.

Granted, the ploy had worked. But Casimir had taken more than his fair share of turns as Jane's dying family member and he would have rather just paid the damn bill. In fact, he'd played that role so many times that he'd had to avoid going to about half of the restaurants in Constantinople. When he forgot, he had to make an excuse about a miracle cure to the restaurant's host and get seated at the less-than-miraculous table next to the bathrooms.

"Nice to meet you, John!" Amy said loudly. "Casimir, this is my twin brother Dom."

Dom rolled forward and extended his hand. Casimir held up his rotten appendage and shrugged.

"Good goddamn," Dom said, rocking back in his chair. "How're you not dead?"

"Not sure," Casimir said. "But your Aunt Ivy has some ideas."

"I'll bet she does, she's absolutely full of them and most are more make-believe than ghosts. Or zombies. Hah! Maybe she's finally got something pragmatic to think about," Dom said, clapping Casimir on the back, which pulverized all of his vertebrae and sent them clattering down on top of his coccyx. "Where is she, anyway?

"Aunt Ivy's holed up in the Museum," Amy said.

"How do you know that? You were there? Why in the seven hells did you leave?"

"I had to find you," Amy said.

"How'd you get here? Amy, you're absolutely ridiculous. You should not have left the safety of the Museum to find me. The two of you made your way across all of fucking downtown just to find me?"

"Not just us. Emblem was with us at the start," Amy replied. "But he's gone."

"What do you mean, gone?" Dom said, his thick red eyebrows knitting themselves together.

Amy teared up and looked into the metal scaffolding above the pool.

"He was shot in the head by a sniper in the quad," Casimir said.

Dom's eyebrows lowered faster than a tornado dropping into the middle of a wind chime factory. They made a fat funnel shape, and the full fury of a storm blew into his eyes.

"Fuck!" he shouted. Then the rainstorm came, and he began to cry

"I'm sorry, Dom," Amy said, rubbing one of Dominic's shoulders while John bent down to let Dominic cry on his.

"I didn't ask anybody to come get me," Dominic said, his voice muffled by John's body. "I really didn't."

"It's not your fault that Emblem's dead. If its anybody's fault, it's mine. I wanted to come find you. Emblem wouldn't let me go alone. He knew the risks, probably better than any of us, and we probably would not have made it this far if not for him. We have weapons because of him."

After another moment, Dominic patted John on the shoulder, who stepped back with a big Rorschach splotch on his shirt in the shape of Dom's eyes and cheekbones.

"Now we find this sniper," Dominic said, "and we wring his neck."

"I think it's best if we get back to the Museum as fast as we can and avoid the problem," Amy said.

"But if he's shot Emblem, he's probably shooting any other survivors," Casimir interjected, then turned to Dominic. "And how else would you get out if we don't stop the sniper?"

Casimir thought ahead to his upcoming journey into the more densely-populated parts of the city north of the river and shuddered to think about camoflaged assassins with rifle barrels poking out of windows. Whenever the Dicky's sandwich line got slow Casimir used to grab a broom, slowly sweep up abandoned pieces of lettuce and work on his plans for a zombie apocalypse. Usually, his plans revolved around cooperation and mutual aid. He'd seen that in spades at the Museum, but he'd never considered bandits. Or, worse than bandits, simple murderers that couldn't be placated with canned beans.

Dom shook his head.

"No, I can't have anybody else risking themselves for me, not with somebody's blood already on my hands."

"Oh, Dom," Amy said. "Nobody's blood stains your hands. You knew Emblem. You knew that he wouldn't stand by if we were in danger."

"He sure wouldn't want you going out there to risk yourself," Dominic said. "Take John and Casimir, take the tunnels away from campus and back to the Museum. I'll be fine here - I can put all of the weights back against the door. I've already broken into the energy bar machine." He gave a guilty glance over his shoulder to a pile of broken plastic and circuitry that used to be a vending machine.

"I'm not going to leave you," Amy said.

"Dominic, you can't decide things for other people," John said quietly. "And nobody in this room will decide to leave you." He looked to Casimir. Amy did as well.

"What?"

"You said that we need to stop him. I think we're expecting you to offer a plan," Amy said.

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