Seth Gecko is a man whose conscience is clear. When he acts, it is only because he has too. Never in his life has he hurt, robbed, maimed or murdered without the situation dictating its necessity.
Smacking his baby brother in the mouth was just another one of those necessities. But that didn't mean it didn't hurt. And, watching Richie lying flat out cold on the cheap fabric of the motor home couch, Seth shuddered as if chilled. Unease pricked at his soul and sweat broke on his skin.
It wasn't as if he'd wanted to slam the back of his fist hard into his brother's face. Once Richie gets the idea that you've slighted him – a belief based in reality or otherwise – into his head, then he'd cling to that trespass like a terrier, more pressing circumstances be damned.
'I'm curious. What was the nuttiest thing I did?' Richie demanded, agitation etched onto his features.
Seth had tried, but what else could he do? Let them get picked up by some spic pigs and left to rot in some hellhole detention centre? Some jumped-up would-be cop drinking out on the story for the rest of his sad little life, the tale of how he out did the whole of Texas law enforcement and apprehended the notorious Gecko brothers, all because the crazy one just could let a throw away jibe pass? A prison sentence for him was severing a lifeline for Richie. He didn't know by what sick grace Richie has survived those eight years without his big brother to steer him down a path of relative sanity, and that was on the outside. No doubt Richie would be punished for his role in his brother's liberation. Seth knew what happened to men like Richie in prison.
Seth reached out a hand to stroke his brother's jaw and a wave of hot tenderness broke over him. He had to have done what he done. Would he rather see his brother rendered unconscious by his own hand than in the back of a cop car. Still, his pallor worried him. Ten minutes was a long time for a healthy man to be out after a single blow. Healthy, that is, in the physical sense.
'C'mon, kid, wake up.' Seth shook his brother gently, and then a little more firmly. 'Don't make a career out of it.'
Richie blinked, his eyes hazy and unfocused, recognising his brother more by the sound of his voice and his touch than sight.
Seth breathed, relieved 'You okay?'
'Yeah, I think so,' replied Richie, an ache creeping across his forehead. 'What happened?'
His big brother smiled, 'I don't know, you just passed out... You said something about your hand hurting, then you just hit the ground...'
Seth Gecko always did what he had to do.
We he was a kid, and when he was a kid, he'd had to do a lot more of the same.
It was only once he and Richie had been placed in the home that the voices started. Whispering demands implored, invited Richard Gecko to a precipice of sickness he could never of have dreamt.
The nights were the worst. Richie lay in bed sweating and muttering, his distress cutting into Seth's heart like a blunt knife. Moving silently through the dark, Seth climbed into his baby brother's bed and curled up close against his back. He wound his arms tight around him, as if the embrace alone could tether his tormented soul to reason. Seth stayed so still as he shuddered and moaned, feeling the damp of his tears spot his pyjama sleeve.
There were times when Seth just lost it at his brother. Now Seth, he stole. He smacked any kid who messed with him, or his brother. But the acts that Richie did... he could not even understand for a moment why. Still, for all of Richie's bloodlust towards stray animals, and stray persons, and plain ol' lust for the girls in the home, he was still his baby brother. He would lead him away, hand in hand, Richie's fingers sticky with congealed blood, some his own, and some others'. And once he'd guided his brother to a safe distance, he'd let loose his rage, his disgust, not at Richie but at the things he did.
Richard Gecko would at first protest his innocence, and then he'd submit to his brother's blows until he exhausted and his anger drained. They'd collapse together, holding each other until the madness passed. And every time, Seth hoped that it would the last. It never was.
Thirty minutes he'd been gone, out picking up food and a six-pack for him and his brother. That was long enough.
'Where's the woman?' he demanded, knowing the answer.
'What?' asked Richard. A final misguided attempt at ignorance. The lilt in his voice, the tremor of fear betrayed him as it had since he was a boy. Seth knew.
A fury burned in the older brother. 'What'd ya mean, what? The fuckin' woman, the hostage. Where the fuck is she, Richard?' he exploded. Did he understand why the only good hostage is a living hostage? Did he think hostages grew on trees? What the hell did he think he was doing? Bile rose in Seth's throat.
The state of the bedroom confirmed his worst suspicion. Oh, Richard, what's wrong with you?
Once he had thrown his brother hard against the motel wall, and once he'd forced him to accept his fault, pinning him tightly by the wrist, Seth calmed. The pain and fear on his little brother's face drowned his anger like a tidal current.
'Yes, Seth, I understand!' Richie cried. Seth relented. He freed his brother's hand and hugged him tight. Richie's arms fell to his brother's waist and the two of them clung to each other for a moment, as Seth whispered sweet nothings of hope and peace in his little brother's ear.
Seth's knees hit the wooden floor hard, but the pain did not register. Buckling in despair, he took his brother's hand in his and wept at the loss of the only one who'd walked beside him all of his sinful life. Richard Gecko lay lifeless next to him, his face pallid and streaked with the blood that bore testament to his final, violent moments.
That fucking whore was now a pool of goo. Her beautiful form was reduced – almost literally – to a seeping mess of a stew. Seeing his brother's killer dead did nothing for Seth's agony. Knowing that the bitch had drained his baby brother dry was like a knife to the gut. His gasped, and then gulped:
'Richie, I'm sorry I fucked things up. You'd have really liked it in El Ray. We'd have found peace there,' he winced, gripping his brother's dead hand. More quietly, he said, 'You would have been able to find peace there.' Seth leaned in, kissing Richie on his cold, blooded lips. 'I love you little brother, I'll miss you bad.'
Eyes shot open yellow. Richard's once still expression wretched into a hideous mask of the grotesque. Fangs erupted, shining.
The hiss was inhuman. 'I'm glad you feel that way, Seth. I love you too.'
His savage teeth were bared, soaring towards the inked neck of his brother. A swarm of hands threw him down, holding him, securing him, against the rage, the thirst, the whirling spasm slow as far as Richie was concerned. His teeth ground against each other. It almost killed him, the hunger.
By now, the burly guy had snapped a leg from a chair and was advancing on Richard. Seth understood as quickly as his demon brother.
'Touch my brother with that stake, biker,' Seth breathed, 'and vampires wont need to suck your blood, they'll be able to lick it up off the floor.' The .45 in his hand only added weight to his argument.
Jacob spasmed in rage. Damn, he knew, he'd seen that Seth loved Richie, loved him to the end of the world. And maybe it was that love that raised the robbing and killing son-of-a-bitch's soul to an approximation of human. But that was no comfort in the face of his family's deaths.
'Don't be an idiot, he'll kill us all!' he said with more conviction than he'd ever mustered in the pulpit.
'Shut up!' Seth roared.
'Yeah, shut up!' sniggered Richard, following his brother's lead in death as in life. The twisted snarl of a grin melted from his face as he saw Seth pick the stake from the biker's hand.
Brother leant into brother. It would have been a tender embrace, if it wasn't for the deadly weapon. Tears broke in the criminal's eyes. Richie jerked and thrashed. Seth, however, as ever, remained cool. With a steady hand, he placed the sharpened wood against his brother's chest, and raised his gun.
'Richie, here's the peace in death I could never give you in life.'