So I'm sitting in a coffee shop with my partner Nikki, knocking back a couple cups. The place is called El Toro d'Oro, The Bull of the West; it's three in the morning, and we're having a slow night.
Oh crap. Shouldn't have said that. See, the word “slow” is kind of considered a jinx in our world. So are the words “quiet” and “calm.” You're not supposed to think them, and you're sure as hell not supposed to say them. If someone asks how it is out there, you're supposed to say, “It's a nice night”, or maybe “I'm feeling a little at peace.” Either that or you're getting hammered. It all depends on the night, the season, and the phase of the moon.
Statistics will tell you that it's a myth that people go crazy on the full moon. I saw one study that actually said that psychiatric admissions go way down during the 3-day period around it. I can tell you from personal experience, whoever made those studies were totally full of shit. One of my instructors once told me that “lunatic” is derived from Latin, and really means “governed by the moon.” I swear, this job, you learn to believe it.
And I know you're just dying to find out what “this job” is, with its strange lingo and superstitions. Okay, so I'll tell you. And you're going to shit yourself, because the last you heard of me, this wasn't anything even remotely like where you thought I was headed. God knows I didn't expect to end up here.
Yeah. You heard me. The murdering, confessed and convicted felon, ass-kicking Slayer-turned-prison escapee now spends her nights not chasing vamps, but chasing whacked-out drug addicts and heart attacks. I carry enough narcotics on my belt to knock out five or six people, and the number of lives I consider myself to have saved is starting to come close to equaling the number of notches on my bedpost. See, I have their names memorized, every single one (unlike the other list). Twenty-seven. You heard me. I am directly responsible for twenty-seven people being alive, who wouldn't be without me. And you're damn right I'm proud.
Now, I know what you're saying. First of all, when the fuck did I get my certification? And how the hell is an ex-felon running around with large quantities of drugs on her belt, touching our children and grandmothers? It's disgraceful!
Yeah, well, stuff it. I did my time (a small part of it, anyway, but it was productive), and I say that saving the world a couple times over before Sunnyhell went down is enough of a penance, don't you? Especially having to put up with the Slayerettes. God those girls bugged the shit out of me. But after Sunny D went all “seismic” I convinced Red and the Scoobies to hack the system, make like I didn't exist, or at least like my past didn't. Then I ducked out quietly, and did a little thinking.
The EMTs who showed up—Emergency Medical Technicians, like paramedics but without all the shiny needles—they found me concussed, my face all bruised to hell, and a good number of my ribs cracked. Now, they had no way of knowing about the Slayer healing—how could they?—but apparently they took me to County, lights and sirens screaming. I was half-conscious at the time, but I remember the one girl, Leslie, she kept coming back and back to check on me for the next two days before I checked out of the hospital. She was really concerned, y'know? Real compassionate. So I asked her how to get into it, got myself in the right programs, and a year and a half (and a bunch of hours working in coffee shops) later I hit the streets.
Oh, and to sort out the confusion? My 'partner' I mentioned before? She's my work partner, not my bedmate. Well, unless they get reallydesperate and mandate the whole tour—sorry, shift—and make us sleep at the station. But that only happened once, and we had our clothes on the whole time. I'm not like that anymore, not really—hell, almost entirely not. It's disgusting how goody-goody I am these days.
So here we are, sitting in our favorite coffee shop, just shooting the shit, and listening to the dispatcher give out the jobs, slow and steady. It's Wednesday night, so everything's a crapshoot; Friday and Saturday they'll give out jobs like they're candy, and nobody rests. After all, it's LA; if someone's not getting stabbed or beaten, or if drunks aren't hitting each other's Hummers, there's a problem. Sundays are the cooling-off nights; most of the squares have work in the morning, so things stay quiet, but the early weeknights are totally up for grabs. Not to mention that moon factor. But tonight it's about two-thirds, waxing, and there's nothing really special going on.
Nikki shoots me a look, even before I slide my radio off its holster; she knows what's coming, but I slam down a couple singles and start my walk to the bus anyway. My portable's up, and I put on my huskiest, come-hither voice for the dispatcher.
“Victor, I have a three minute ETA to that job. Show me en route.” My keys are magically in my other hand, and I'm opening the driver's-side door; Nikki is mirroring me on the other side of the truck. She knows what's coming. Hell, everyone who works with me does. See, I'm a medic, but I'm a trauma junkie at heart; everyone, dispatchers included, have gotten used to me buffing these kinds of jobs.
“Thirteen Victor, be advised, this is a BLS assignment. I need you to stay available.” Problem: jobs like these are usually handled by EMTs, not medics. Hypothetically, we handle more of the medical calls—heart attacks, seizures, strokes, things like that. But, c'mon, guys, I'm still me. Youreally think I'm going to let that stop me?
“Victor, ten-four. Available.” I glance at her; she's pulling her seat belt on. She's such a goody-two-shoes, but she knows what's coming anyway. I smile to myself as I start the truck, slap the switch for the lights, and go tearing off down the street.
Now, the address she gave us is a good ten minutes away from where we're sitting, twenty if you follow the rules. I know this, Nikki knows this, the dispatcher knows this. And judging by where they're supposed to be, David should be three or four minutes out, tops. So I put the hammer down.
Have I mentioned that I like mechanical things, too? I take care of my ambulance. She's been good to me, and I change her oil, feed her the best diesel I can find. I've been known to Armorall her. One night I got really bored and waxed every inch of her, top to bottom. So she likes me, and I like her. And she doesn't protest when I go flying, Slayer reflexes fighting with Ford engineering. They don't make cars to handle the way I drive. Well, not ambulances, anyway. But she takes care of me.
The tires are smoking a little bit as I pull up next to the squad car, one of the officers waving me down with a flashlight. I can smell nothing but brakes as we get out, and I leave it running as I go to the back, pull out the stretcher. Nikki's already popped her head in the side door, tossing the equipment on the cot while I murmur into the radio.
“Thirteen Victor, show me flagged by PD at Altomare and West Jefferson. You can cancel Three David,” I say, sickeningly sweet. This one and I never get along. But the stretcher's out, the equipment's out, and I'm pulling on my gloves as Nikki and I wheel it on over towards the alleyway. LAPD is beckoning.
One looks at me, clearly a rookie, clearly nervous. “She's unconscious,” he says, worried. “She's got these two holes in her neck, she's bleeding really bad.” Vampire. Shit. He holds up a piece of wood, filed down at one end. “No sign of the perp, but we found this near her.”
My eyes go wide, but I nod, and turn my attention to the girl down in the alleyway. And my heart starts beating all kinds of heavy, because I can feel something I haven't felt in almost three years. Something deep, something instinctive, something that sends a shiver down my spine: