exhortation

The fluorescent lights above him were an illuminated sea with brown spots betraying a lack of motivation in the cleaning department. Anders’ head lolled on the sterile operating table as Lainey tied down Anders’s right arm, leaving the left to wiggle around as it pleased.

“If the whole point of this is to make Anders stronger, shouldn’t you use something more resistant than Velcro ties?” Giles delivered the Nevermore suitcase to the top of the wheeling cart and unlocked it. “Just my suggestion.”

“If he can’t wiggle out of a simple double knot on his own while sober, then he’s not going anywhere now. Anders?” Lainey opened the suitcase and pulled out one of the ampoules with that day’s dosage, holding it out for Giles to pierce. “Could you say something? I want to make sure that you’re sufficiently gased up.”

“Break wooden coffee, don’t you know?” He unleashed a few peals of laughter, wriggling the arm under the restraint. “It comes from a tree either way. What’s with this thing strapped onto my nose?”

Giles casted a sideways glance at Lainey as he filled his syringe with the contents of the ampoule. “You might want to decrease the dose of the nitrous oxide a little bit next time.”

“He won’t remember any of it.” Lainey discarded the empty ampoule back into its place in the suitcase and switched on the ventilation system in the room. “I promise.”

“You probably shouldn’t touch-” Anders winced as the needle broke the skin of his forearm, and he grasped for the collar of the shirt that he’d taken off just ten minutes prior. “How immortal am I going to be after this?”

“You’re nowhere there, Anders.” Lainey finished the first injection and motioned for Giles to help her with the second. “We’re talking at least another session before the first effects are noticeable.”

“I’m going to be hella immortal.” Anders flexed his free arm. “But not like vampires. That’s too scary, and I don’t want Miranda to be hurt because of an addiction of mine.” Taking note of Lainey’s sigh through his delirium, he added, “I don’t want to be accidentally destructive like a demon either because all the time made me go insane. Wouldn’t it just be nicer if I could skirt death altogether without the drugs? Then we wouldn’t have to worry at all about me training a child or a successor, and you wouldn’t have to be here in this room with me.”

“Just keep talking about demons, Anders.” Lainey injected the second needle. “Tell me about the one that roughed up your house a few weeks ago.”

“Well, I was all fainted at the time, so I didn’t see most of what he looked like.” Anders reached his left arm up towards the lights, his back arching imperceptibly. “I don’t think the TV showed him at all. Do you think he’s hiding in my body? My armpit, perhaps?”

“I don’t know, Anders. Demonology isn’t my field of study.” And you would know, wouldn’t you? Lainey withdrew the needle and began to prep the final injection. “Maybe you should talk to a pastor about it. Maybe they could help since they claim to know so much about that field.”

“Maybe I should.” Anders set his arm down and closed his eyes. “Do you know LaJean?”

“Is she a frie-” Giles swiped a hand across his neck, cutting Lainey’s speech off. “Who is she?”

“Horrid bugger of a woman I knew in college.” Anders squirmed again, and Giles moved to tighten the arm straps. “Maybe she goes to that church. She was always a religious fanatic. I bet she stole Miranda.”

“Maybe you should confront her about it. Isn’t lying prohibited somewhere?”

“Maybe you should shove a sock in your mouth.” Anders’ eyes fluttered and he sucked in a breath as he put his hand to his mouth. His voice cracked as he squealed, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to say that! Are you okay?”

“Yes, sir. I can assure you that I am just fine.” Amused, she shook her head, tossing her hair about. “I hear that Pastor Laurence at Summit Lutheran across the highway will be in his office for some worship practice revision this Friday. Maybe you could secure a meeting with him afterwards.”

“Lainey, do you really think he’ll remember this?” Giles hissed as Lainey removed the needle.

“If I can get him to agree to it now, he’ll be more likely to follow through later.” She disposed of the needle in the same place as the previous session. “Although it’ll most likely be out of guilt, but who cares then?”

“Are you talking about me?”

“No, sir.” Lainey turned away from Anders. “The wooden coffee has already been broken. There’s no need to stomp on it any more.”

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