And then she stabbed him.
Lucy-Anne went for Jenna. The girl turned with the knife held out. Lucy-Anne feinted right, then moved left, swinging her forearm before her to divert Jenna's arm. But the knife fell and struck the tiled floor with a splash of blood, and Jenna retreated against the closed back door.
Lucy-Anne snatched up the blade and was on the other girl in a second. She pressed her against the door with an arm across her throat, and then they locked stares; two friends who had been through so much, and Lucy-Anne remembered a dozen times when they had eased each other's tears.
“What the hell…?” she asked, and Jenna shook her head.
“Lucy-Anne, trust me.”
Lucy-Anne looked down at where Jack had slumped to the floor. He was pale, but for the startlingly bright blood pulsing between his fingers from his leg. Artery, she thought, oh shit, she got his artery. She glanced across at where a phone was fixed to the wall.
Rosemary rose from the table, sighing as her joints clicked with audible pops. “Don't worry,” she said, her voice endlessly calm.
“Don't worry?” Lucy-Anne shouted. She pulled Jenna from the door and pushed her across the kitchen towards the old woman, facing them all with the bloodied knife held before her. “Don't worry?” She looked at Sparky, expecting support from him but seeing only a strange, subdued excitement in his eyes. He was not looking at her, or the knife she held, or even at their friend bleeding to death on the floor. He was looking at Rosemary.
Jack groaned. He was staring down at his leg, watching as pressure pumped the blood past his pressing hands.
Rosemary stood by Jack's feet and looked at Lucy-Anne. “Girl, I'll give you a reason to believe,” she said, and then she knelt beside the wounded boy. Jack tried to wave her away, but his coordination was failing.
“Let her,” Jenna said.
Lucy-Anne watched. Her own heart was beating in time with Jack's pulsing blood, and she held the knife so tight that her fingers hurt. I won't let go, she thought. Not until I'm sure. But she was holding the knife on her best friends in the world, and something about that made her feel sick.
Rosemary lifted Jack's hands away from his wound, and used a small pair of scissors to cut open his sodden jeans. Then she replaced his hands with her own. She gave him a quick, sad smile, and then her eyes closed. Her face went blank-empty-as though she had gone elsewhere.
And then her hands slipped inside Jack's leg.
When Jack came to, Jenna was on her hands and knees mopping up the blood, but she could not take her eyes off the old woman. Rosemary sat at the kitchen table again, drinking water and sighing as though it were nectar.
“Do you actually fix it, or is it, like…?” Lucy-Anne trailed off. She was sitting opposite the old woman. She had a knife in her left hand, resting on her leg, and as she shifted it fell to the floor. She did not seem to notice.
“Hey…” Sparky lifted the short sleeve of his tee shirt exposing the tattoo of his brother's name that he'd done himself. He'd been drunk at the time, and the ‘S’ of Stephen looked more like an ‘F.’ “Can you fix this?”
Rosemary smiled and shook her head.
“How about this?” Sparky pointed at his face.
Rosemary frowned. “What's wrong with it?”
“Ugly,” Jack said, and it seemed to take all his energy. Here he was, subject of a miracle, and everyone's attention was elsewhere. But when he looked at his leg at last-and saw the smooth spread of skin that minutes earlier had been pouting open-he realised that he was wrong. He was not the miracle at all.
“So do you now believe, non-believer?” Jenna roared, her voice mock-deep. Jack stood cautiously, leaning against the wall. He put weight on his leg. It felt as though the wound had never been there at all.
“You stabbed me.”
“Well…” She shrugged, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Jack said. “I believe.”
“So can we all talk now?” Jenna asked. She sat at the table and motioned the others to join her.
This is it, Jack thought. This is when it all changes. I've been touched already, but if we sit and listen to this woman, we'll get drawn in. Rosemary smiled at him, inviting him to join them at the table, and in that moment he saw something of his mother in her. She was much older than his mum-maybe seventy-five-and weary, worn by time and circumstance. But she exuded a deep-set goodness from every pore.
“Does it hurt to heal?” Jack asked. That question suddenly seemed very important.
“No,” she said. “It feels as natural as breathing.”
Jack nodded, went to the table and sat down next to Lucy-Anne. She grabbed his hand and squeezed too hard, her nervousness and excitement obvious. Sometimes he sensed such violence in her that it scared him.
“So why have you come for my father?” Jenna asked.
“Things are falling apart,” Rosemary said. She sighed, and looked around the table. “How much do you all know?”
“We know it wasn't terrorists,” Jack said. “An army scientist crashed a helicopter into the London Eye and released a virus they called Evolve.”
“Angelina Walker,” Jenna said. “No one knows why she did it.”
Jack nodded. “We know that not everyone in London was infected and killed.”
“And that the survivors are hunted,” Jenna added.
“And they're special,” Lucy-Anne said. “They're called Irregulars, like you.”
“Not all like me,” Rosemary said. “I can heal. Others can do different things, a whole host of amazing things. And we're all sought-after by the Choppers.”
“That's what we call the ones that hunt us. You call them Capital Keepers. But whether they're scientists or military, it doesn't really matter. When they catch an Irregular they do…terrible things. So we call them Choppers.”
“What terrible things?” Lucy-Anne asked, squeezing Jack's hand even harder.
Rosemary closed her eyes. “We need help. We need to get out of there, and the only way that will happen without slaughter is if the general public-all of them-know the truth of what's happening. We need exposure.” She looked at Jenna. “That's why I came to find your father. To ask him to come in with me, gather evidence, and then present it to the world. So…will he be here soon?”
“It's us you're talking to here!” Lucy-Anne said. She stood sharply, sending her chair scraping across the floor. “And don't you bloody dare look down on us just because we're just kids. We've all grown up a lot since Doomsday, because we've had to.” She pointed at Jack. “Mother and father.” At Sparky. “Brother.” And herself. “Mother, father, brother.”
Rosemary's expression did not change at this roll-call of the missing and dead. “The last thing I'd call you is kids,” she said.
Lucy-Anne nodded, seemingly satisfied. When she sat down she held Jack's hand again, but this time it was a gentle touch.
“My dad's out with Mum,” Jenna said. “They go walking a lot. Sometimes they take me, but usually I just want to stay at home. We didn't lose anyone. But Dad…”
“He fought,” Rosemary said.
“Yeah.” Jenna nodded, staring past them all. “Looked for the truth. First they called him an activist, and threatened him with the law. When he ignored their threats, they took him.”
“He was in contact with several people in London,” Rosemary said. “People who could enhance their brainwaves to such an extent that they almost acted as radio transmitters and receivers.”
“‘Could’?” Sparky asked.
“When the Choppers discovered the communication, they took all three. Beheaded two of them in the street, so the word goes, and the other just disappeared. Camp H.”
“’H’ for what?” Lucy-Anne asked.