Book excerpt: ‘Kindred: Book I of the Sumdood Chronicles’
A fiction novel from Kelly Grayson pits a paramedic, police officer and a U.S. Marshal against fallen angel
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from “Kindred: Book I of the Sumdood Chronicles,” by Kelly Grayson.
In the Dakota Territory, a U.S. Marshal haunted by his past works desperately to discover who is behind a weaponized smallpox plague and stop an incipient Sioux uprising.
A Serbian police officer, at war with terrorists as well as his conflicting loyalties, races against the clock in Sarajevo to stop the terrorists intent on setting off World War I.
A gifted New Orleans paramedic finds himself embroiled in the bloody drug cartel wars on the U.S./Mexico border, battling a new kind of plague he does not understand.
All three men have two things in common: the archangel that resides in their heads, and the fallen angel they’re pursuing.
It’s a battle as old as time, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance.
My name is… no, I shall not give you my Name. That is known but to me and God, and the hosts with whom I share consciousness. Still, you must call me something. Very well, you may call me… Kindred.
I was given a legion to command in the War in Heaven, and I did so with honor. I fought, and slew, numbers of my brothers beyond reckoning, and soon ascended to the rank of Archangel, one of eight.
When it became apparent that we would win, that the rebellious angels among us would be cast out, the Creator gave me another task as penance for my doubt. I was to betray my command and be cast out with the Fallen, to keep watch among them, to track their movements, to thwart them whenever I could.
When a confluence of natural events and the machinations of one exceptionally deranged human allowed my brother Azazel to escape Hell, I broke cover and followed him. Shunned by Heaven and Hell alike, I’ve been pursing him for thousands of years.
His voice has forever been the one to teach men of war, and subjugation, and violence. He teaches them to fashion armor, and cunning ways to fashion weapons. Women, he taught to tart themselves up, to paint their bodies and fashion their clothes to appeal to the baser notions of men. He wanted them to make objects of themselves.
He moves from host to host by mere touch. He cares not a whit about free will, or the physical well-being of his vessel. He regards them as expendable commodities, and his stigma is not easily erased. A soul tainted by his touch will never make it into Heaven if the vessel dies while inhabited. He takes special glee in taking over the body of a good person, wreaking all sorts of havoc while inhabiting their vessel, and then abandoning them to face the consequences –both on this plane and the next. In fact, he was the origin of the term “scapegoat.”
He has been known by many names –Azazel, Samael, Rasputin, Hitler, Pol Pot, a thousand others. Dante Alighieri knew him as Guido da Montefeltro. The ancient peoples named him in a series of hoots and grunts. Today, in this age, you call him Sumdood.
And I cannot rest, or return to God’s presence, until he is banished back to Hell.
By the time they had Kennetra loaded in the ambulance, she was trying to breathe on her own. Mike had put Devin in the airway seat to bag while Lindsay drove, and Bryan ordered Devin to titrate ventilations to a CO2 of 30 mmHg. He looked at Bryan questioningly, and he explained, “She’s probably acidotic as hell in addition to her hyperkalemia, kid. Patient like that needs to breathe a little faster to compensate.”
“Like Kussmaul breathing,” Devin said, understanding dawning on his face.
“Like Kussmaul breathing,” Bryan confirmed with a smile. He looked at Mike, “You need anything else from me before you go?”
“Pressure’s still pretty crappy after half a liter of fluid,” Mike answered as he plugged settings into his IV pump, “and I don’t really wanna give her more fluids. Do the trick for the kid.”
“Come on, Mike,” Bryan protested.
“Do the trick,” Mike urged. “Pressure’s only 78/40. She really does need some dopamine.”
Bryan sighed in acquiescence and Mike winked, “Watch this, Devin.”
Bryan looked speculatively at Kennetra for a moment and said, “Looks like she weighs…”
“236 pounds,” Remy answered automatically.
“… about 236 pounds,” Bryan said. “Dopamine dose for 5 micrograms is 21 ml/hour. Double it if you want some vasopressor effect.”
Devin was still staring at him in wonder as he shut the rear doors, and he heard Mike saying, “Watch when they weigh her in the ED, kid. It’ll be friggin’ dead-on. Never seen anything like it…”
“Okay, what is this witchcraft, and can you teach it to me?” Devin McCarty demanded as Bryan got out of his truck on the ambulance ramp of LSU Interim Hospital. He was disinfecting the ambulance stretcher while Mike gave a handoff report, and he stared at Bryan Thibodeaux as if he gave milk.
“Praise and hosannas are unnecessary, my son,” Bryan intoned sonorously. “Simply kissing my ring will suffice.”
The paramedic student let out a bark of laughter and said, “No, I’m serious. They didn’t teach us any of that stuff in paramedic school. How do you know all that?”
“Do you think that the reason they send you to do clinical rotations is because you can’t learn everything you need to know in the classroom?” Bryan pointed out, taking one end of a paper fitted sheet and wrapping it around the stretcher mattress.
“My paramedic instructor had a million little tricks of the trade,” Devin argued, “and I’ll bet she doesn’t know that stuff.”
“You know what most of those tricks of the trade are, Devin?” Bryan asked, and then answered his own question. “Most of them are showing off and useless trivia. A few might prove useful now and again, and a whole bunch of them are pure garbage. About fifty percent of what is taught in medic school is wrong. The problem is – “
“Nobody knows which half,” Mike Trahan finished as he walked out of the Emergency Department. “He says that all the time.” Mike looked at Devin and winked, “Did you tell him?”
“Weight was 236.4 pounds, and dopamine dose was 21 ml/hr on the dosing chart.” Devin shook his head. “How do you do that?”
“The other point-four pounds must have been her clothing,” Remy sniffed.
“My mother was a carnie,” Bryan explained seriously. “The weight-guessing lady took my virginity when I was 14. Aside from ushering me into manhood with her sweet, sweet lovin’, she also taught me her trade.”
Lindsay did a spit take, spraying coffee all over the side of the ambulance. “Shit,” she sputtered. “I got coffee up my nose!”
Bryan, proud of his wit, was just about to reply when he was interrupted by the radio. “3164, 6205, 23-Delta at Chartres and St. Peter. NOPD on scene.”
“That’s us,” Bryan announced. “Somebody OD’ed at Jackson Square, sounds like.”
“Another Sumdood sighting,” Mike groaned as he got in the front of the ambulance and buckled in. “You strapped in back there, Devin?” he yelled to the back. When the reply came in the affirmative, he keyed his radio mic, “3164 responding. 6205 is with us.”
“!0-4, 3164 and 6205,” came the reply. “0445 hours.”
Heroin addicts reported seeing visions with the new drug and many of them claimed it allowed them to commune with spirits. Cops took to calling the new designer heroin Sumdood, because when asked where they bought their supply, the junkies would simply shrug and say, “I dunno, man. Just some dude.”
Bryan Thibodeaux parked his sprint vehicle behind the traffic bollards on Rue St. Pierre, met Mike and Lindsay as they exited their rig, and helped them lug their equipment and stretcher down the pedestrian mall toward a knot of New Orleans Police officers clustered around a prostate body curled up in the shrubbery near the wrought iron fence around Jackson Square. “Yo, Bryan. What’s up man?” one of the cops greeted him with a smile.
“The usual, brother,” Bryan answered with his standard reply. “Saving lives, stamping out disease and helping the little old ladies of Orleans Parish who have fallen and can’t get up.”
The officer chuckled and directed his flashlight toward the body, a skinny white kid with dreadlocks, in the shrubbery. “Looks like another Sumdood overdose,” he observed. “We gave him two squirts of Narcan up the nose before you got here. So far, nothing.” The junkie’s kit lay nearby, still open, and the kid still had a tourniquet wrapped around his arm. His face was grayish blue, his eyes half-lidded and he gasped spasmodically every ten or twelve seconds, like a fish out of water.
Lindsey gently scooped up the kit and handed it to one of the cops as she knelt by the junkie’s head, inserted an oral airway, and began ventilating. Devin knelt near the kid’s left arm, trying to palpate a suitable vein to insert an IV.
“Good luck kid,” Mike grunted. “Guy’s probably wrecked his veins. If you can’t find something quick, drill the leg.”
“We know it’s Sumdood?” Bryan asked quietly. In reply, one cop handed Bryan a tiny empty, waxed paper envelope. It bore a silhouette of a man’s crowned head with a question mark in it.
“Sumdood,” Bryan chuckled darkly, grasping the meaning of the logo. “The mystery man.”
“Last couple of months, we’ve been finding them with this stuff,” the NOPD lieutenant grunted. “New Orleans DEA says it’s Mexican, probably comes in on Interstate 10 from south Texas.”
“So why do they call it Sumdood?” Devin asked as he gave up on finding a vein to cannulate and opened the intraosseous kit.
“Who’s the babydaddy to all the unwed mothers around here, kid?” Without waiting for a reply, the cop answered his own question, “Sumdood.”
“Who supplies the minors with their booze?”
“Uh, Sumdood?” Devin asked.
“Correct,” the lieutenant answered. “And when we wake these guys up and ask them who their dealer is, they all say ‘Sumdood.’”
“Every tourist that comes here and gets his ass whipped SOCMOB,” the first cop grumbled, “the best description they can give us of their assailant is Sumdood.”
“Sock-mob?” Devin parroted, confused. Mike handed him a pre-filled syringe containing two milligrams of the opiate reversal drug naloxone, and the paramedic student quickly injected it into the needle he had drilled in the patient’s left tibia.
“Standing On Corner, Minding Own Business,” the lieutenant translated.
“Statistically the most dangerous thing you can do in any major city,” Bryan chuckled in agreement. “Most assault victims were doing just that when it went down.”
“Or sitting on the front porch, drinking a wholesome glass of milk and holding their weekly Bible study,” Mike chimed in, “when all of a sudden and for no reason…”
“… they got jumped,” Lindsay finished, “usually by Sumdood.”
“Lindsay, you getting anything up there?” Bryan asked.
“Trying to breathe through the bag now,” Lindsay confirmed as the patient began to weakly toss his head back and forth. “Breathing… oh, I’d say twelve a minute,” she judged. Suddenly, the patient opened his eyes and his back arched. Everyone present knew what that meant and hurriedly backed away.
Everyone, that is, except Devin McCarty, paramedic student.
He was rewarded for his slow reaction with a lap full of vomit and a pink, glistening oral airway lying in the puddle. “Ouch,” Bryan said sympathetically. “First time getting puked on?” The kid just stared at him in shock, mouth working soundlessly. The patient immediately collapsed back onto the ground and rolled to his side, groaning.
“Hey, you’re not a sympathy puker, are you?” Mike asked in alarm, and every cop present immediately backed up even further.
“I… “I’m okay,” Devin stammered, barely stifling a gag of his own.
“You got a spare uniform at the station?” Bryan asked. Devin shook his head, no. “Well, this is just a night of important lessons for you, isn’t it?” Bryan shrugged, not entirely sympathetically. “No matter, the hospital can get you some scrubs, and I may have a spare job shirt in my Suburban.” Likely the kid had been briefed by his clinical coordinator on the necessity of bringing a spare uniform, but for some people the lesson didn’t stick until they had to wear something foul for a few hours.
Bryan helped the crew of 3164 load their patient on the stretcher and walked alongside as they pushed the laden stretcher down the cobblestones of the pedestrian mall toward their idling ambulance. He carried the crew’s ALS response bag in his right hand and kept his left on the stretcher rail. The patient was breathing adequately on his own now but still moaning and mumbling incoherently, when he suddenly began thrashing wildly on the stretcher, threatening to topple it over.
“Whoa!” Mike exclaimed as he stopped pushing and tried to stabilize the unsteady cot. “Calm down, dude!”
Bryan dropped the ALS bag and turned toward the patient, placing both hands on his shoulders and pushing him back down onto the stretcher. The kid was surprisingly strong and fought like a madman, and the cops reached for the kid’s wildly flailing arms. Before they could corral him, he grabbed Bryan by the shirt collar, hauled Bryan’s face down to his own and hissed in vomit-laden breath, “I see you. I seeeee you, Watcher.”
He hissed something else in Bryan’s ear before the cops got his arms controlled, and Bryan backed away as they restrained all four of the junkie’s flailing limbs to the stretcher. “Yo Bryan, you okay?” Mike asked in concern.
Bryan stood rooted to the spot. “Fine,” he nodded absently. “You go on, I’ll be there with your equipment directly.”
Bryan had seen a flash of recognition in the junkie’s eyes when he grabbed him, although he was certain he had never seen him before. Most chilling of all was the name he had whispered; a name Bryan had never spoken aloud. It was Remy’s name.
Not just his name, it was his Name.
In the melee, Bryan had dropped the envelope the heroin had been packaged in. He bent down, picked it up and turned it over to discover a symbol on the other side.
He did not recognize the symbol, but Remy did, and he felt his companion’s bone-deep shock as he stared at the envelope in his hand.
“That is the sigil of Azazel,” Remy said grimly. “He knows who we are.”