The Mask of Romek - Chapter Eight


Chapter Eight: Knee Deep In The Dead
March 21st 2009. 2150hrs
Miskatonic University

“They're what! Doc get the hell out of there!” I started back down the wide stairs to the entrance, vaulting the stairs two at a time.
“No good John. I'm stuck here. They've got past the protection spells somehow and are tearing the place apart. I'm still in my office, they haven't reached me yet,” he sounded more irritated at the failure of his magicks rather then in fear for his life.
“What about the Vault Doc, can you get inside?” A thick door, weapons, hell even something for him to read, a veritable panic room.
“Absolutely not. I think that's what they are looking for. I cant risk leading them to it.”
“Okay Doc, barricade yourself in. I'm on my way” I snapped the phone shut as I reached the glass doors, shoving them wide. I ran out into a bright white light blinding me momentarily. A voice shouted my name. It was Nelson. The master of lousy timing. I had the presence of mind to holster my pistol before my number one fan could open fire. His tall figure stepped toward me silhouetted by the headlights of his cruiser.
“What the hell is going on Marx?” he demanded.
“Secure the scene Lieutenant. You have man down in there,” I shouted over the approaching sirens. I shoved past him breaking into a run. A moment later he was keeping pace beside me.
“Where the hell are you going!” he yelled.
“To get the bad guys, you in?” I figured another gun on my team wouldn't hurt.
Nelson grabbed my arm.
“Why is it whenever there's a dead cop you’re at the scene Marx?” I shook his hand loose. This wasn’t the time for the truth.
“It's Beman. He's managed to get hold of a bio weapon. Real top secret stuff,” I was on a roll now.
“This toxin sends folk crazy, makes them attack each other like animals, it's real scary stuff Nelson.”
“He's headed to the old building if we hurry we can stop him.”
I wasn't sure if he was buying my story but he didn't shoot me in the back as I ran towards Marcus and his impending Alamo. Behind me I heard him barking orders at the uniforms who had just arrived. A moment later he was loping along beside me. He said nothing but kept pace all the way back to the Miskatonic Main Building.
Since the mid 1980's when then university was modernized, the old building was given over entirely to the academic staff and their researchers. As a result most of it was disused or used as storage, a policy that the Doc encouraged as it helped keep prying eyes away from his “other work”. The sturdy oak doors were lying reduced to kindling on the floor of the entrance hall when I got there. I could hear the sound of smashing furniture coming from inside the building. Nelson and I shared a look and drew our weapons at the same time.
“How many we dealing with?” he asked.
“Best I can figure Beman is working alone. But he could have exposed about 20 odd people to his toxin by now so watch your step in here. “ I grinned. Nelson reached for his radio on his belt. I stopped him with a gesture.
“No time. We need to go now.” Without waiting to see if he was following I went in. The entrance hall was trashed, pictures torn from the wall, holes punched in the oak paneled walls. The ornate staircase directly ahead looked clear. I glanced left and right trying to find the source of the sound of smashing wood and glass.
“Holy Shit,” Nelson breathed and pointed up the stairs. Four blood drenched figures in formal wear were stumbling out of the darkness, downstairs towards us. What had once been two fashionably dressed couples. Their eyes had been gouged from their sockets, and their necks had been sawn open by a ragged blade. They bared their teeth and charged us.
My first round in his chest barely slowed the first guy down, the next in his head dropped him like a puppet with the strings cut. I took a step back steadying my hand and kept shooting, double taps to the head at the next two down the stairs.
Nelson wasn't so lucky. His cop instinct to shoot for the centre mass which would have saved his life any other day of the week nearly cost him his this time. The woman flew herself headlong at him carrying them both to the ground, his pistol falling from his hands. Nelson got his hand under her chin and forced her face from his. I drew the patrolman's Glock from my belt and put a round in her skull.
Nelson kicked the corpse off him and jumped to his feet like the ground was electrified. After about twenty seconds of profanity he seemed to get a handle on what had just happened to him.
“Christ Marx, was that...” his voice faltered.
“Yup, that’s the toxin's effect alright.” I lied,” Don't worry it isn't catching” I returned him his pistol and reloaded mine.
Six rounds down, at this rate I would run out of ammo before Romek ran out of zombies. I headed off up the grand staircase, Nelson close behind me. Time was a factor so I decided on a shortcut to the Doc's office through the library. I stopped at the doors, and looked at the pale cop as he took his position to one side of the doorway. I waited for him to nod that he was ready then I cracked open the door.
The library was a grand affair but had seen better days, the ornate plaster ceiling had been desecrated with hanging fluorescent lights. The reading tables were chipped and careworn, the metal spiral staircase to the upper tier was in need of a coat of paint as indeed was the whole building. Inside I could make out about two dozen figures in the flickering light, tearing books from the shelves and smashing holes in the walls with bloodied nail-less hands.
A small inconspicuous door at the far end of the cavernous room led to the Doc's office. Not too late.
I threw the doors open wide and stepped inside. The destruction continued unabated. I hadn’t made the grand entrance I was hoping for. I hopped up onto the librarian’s desk and rang the bell.
Ting ting ting! Silence fell, and two dozen or so pairs of sightless eyes turned to stare at me.
“Library's closed folks!” I yelled, drawing the fallen cop’s Glock. Pistols in each hand like a gunfighter I stood atop the desk as they scrambled their way towards me. As the first one reached about ten feet away I shot it in the face with the big revolver, the next got a little closer before I put a round from the Glock between its eyes. And so it went I blazed away like a madman, dropping the Glock when it ran dry. I jumped down from the desk to reload the revolver, my hands on auto pilot I slid the rounds home without looking. Nelson stepped up to cover me. His own weapon firing at a steady rhythm, his eyes wide, his teeth clenched. With every shot we put down one of the monstrous things as they clawed at each other to reach for us. Moving out from behind the desk I made my way down the middle of the room to meet the blood soaked horrors as they ran at me.
Taking clean head shots only, I walked steadily towards my friend’s hiding place, leaving a gory trail in my wake. I was barely aware of the popping of Nelson's 9mm as I paused to reload, the spent brass dancing at my feet. My mind clear and feeling strangely serene, I blazed on. Sight picture, breathe, squeeze the trigger, and so it went on for what seemed like an age. Whenever I hit six shots Nelson worked his way past me shooting in his classic cop style, the sweat and gun smoke threatening to blind him. Whenever Nelson cried “I'm out!” I stood calmly at his side placing my shots with care like Michael Caine in Zulu as he fumbled a spare clip into his automatic.
I was within ten feet of my objective when I saw the door open and the Doc appeared. His glasses perched on his head, his sleeves rolled up and a pocket watch hanging absently from his waistcoat the only thing that blew the favorite uncle look he had going on was the tomahawk tucked in his belt. His brow furrowed in concentration he stood in the doorway holding something in his hands I couldn’t see clearly in the patchy light. His mouth was moving but my ears were ringing from the gunfire. He held his hands above his head as he completed the spell's incantation and the brilliant flash of light which burst from between his hands made me flinch, covering my eyes. I felt more than heard the collapse of the remaining bodies as they dropped were they stood.
I turned to see the grisly remains, arms outstretched towards us but no longer animated, littering the library.
“Hey Doc,” I greeted my friend, “Sorry I took so long but this asshole held me up,” I nodded toward Nelson who was busy throwing up onto a pile of twitching Arkham society. Nelson waved absently, drying the puke from his face.
“Good timing with the magick Doc. Why didn't you trot that little gem out earlier?” I said checking the chamber of my revolver, “I was down to my last round.”
“In the world of the arcane nothing is simple, I needed time to say the incantation and line of sight for it to take eff...” his voice trailed of and he pointed, his face grim.
I turned to see Romek standing in the middle of the carnage, as I looked he began to mutter something I couldn't understand. Nelson was first to react, raising his pistol.
“Don't move!” he yelled advancing on him fishing handcuffs from his belt. Still a cop, he closed in to make the arrest. With a gesture Romek flung him across the room like a rag doll. I exchanged glances with the Doc and we took off in opposite directions.
I ran right to try and flank the grinning menace but he snapped his head round and suddenly I was midair, flailing my arms like I was trying to fly. I managed a soft landing on a reading table costing me at least two ribs.
“WHERE IS HE!” Romek's voice boomed like a foghorn, rattling the books still on their shelves. I dragged myself to my feet to see the Doc facing down his former colleague.
“You cannot have him!” He screamed in defiance, his eyes wide.
“HE MUST BE FREE!” the thunderous voice shook the windows as he spoke. The adrenaline numbed the pain as I rolled to my feet and scooped up the revolver I had dropped mid flight. Taking advantage of the Doc's distraction I stepped up behind the academic to put the pistol to the back of his head and end his tenure somewhat abruptly. He spun in place with unearthly speed, his hand grabbing my throat.
Back in Quantico I was tasered once during training. Trust me it's an unpleasant experience that I don’t recommend unless you like spending your lunch hour with your soup du jour running from your slack jaw. Well that was peanuts compared to his touch, fire ran through my veins as he lifted me off the ground. I could hear screaming in the distance and was only slightly aware that it was my own voice I could hear. Through the pain I could taste blood and caught a glimpse of a black blade. I felt the gun falling from my numb fingers. Oddly all I could think was. Thank God.
I closed my eyes. I hit the ground in a heap, making a mental note to work on my landings. I gasped air into my lungs unsure of how long ago I had stopped breathing. I scrambled backwards still on the floor looking at the masked figure as he stood immobile. I yelped in a decidedly unmanly fashion as he fell forward face down into the gore of the library's newest décor. The tomahawk seated squarely in the back of his skull headed off any questions I may have had about my welcome change of circumstance.
I sat dumbly on the floor a moment longer before Doc helped me to my feet.
“Doc, I take back what I said about that whole axe thing,” I told him trying to sound more casual than I felt.
“Whatever. Hey Nelson you still alive?” I cast about looking for my unlikely ally. The detective wandered into view looking paler then the dead that surrounded him.
“Marx, what the hell just happened?” He swept an arm round the room.
“How the hell do I write this up!”
“Relax Lieutenant. You just bagged yourself a terrorist.” I pointed to the prone form of Archibald Beman.
“Let me make a couple of calls.”
I fished out my cell and was surprised to find it working despite the cracked screen. As I related events to the Director, I watched as Marcus knelt beside his former friend, his eyes misty. I cut the call short, silencing Septimus in the middle of his tirade about my cowboys antics. Putting an arm around my ageless friend, I led him back to his office and closed the door.
With more care than I felt the bastard deserved, I took the axe from his head, needing both hands and a good heave to do so. I then rolled him and worked the mask loose, placing it in a waste bin from under a reading table. Discretion made me wipe the blood and brains off in the washroom before I returned them to the Doc.