Nightshine, p.19
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       Nightshine, p.19

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
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Page 19


  “Why would I lie to your employer when I come here asking for his assistance?” Genaro countered.

  The steward spread his hands. “Those who rely on deception often become incapable of honesty. Just as those who hold the truth sacred become intolerant of liars. Observe carefully, and you will see this for yourself. ”

  Segundo led him through the treasure collection into a long, narrow room that curved around a crescent-shaped cage of gold. Inside the cage a black jaguar lay on its side and licked a paw. From the rounded distension of its black belly it was either overfed or a pregnant female. A mound of bones had been scattered around the floor of the cage, some shredded flesh still adhering to the gleaming white surfaces. Beyond the cage a wall of white, semitransparent silk formed a partition; the shadow of a large seated figure behind it flickered as if backlit by fire.

  Segundo faced him. “You may speak to Energúmeno through me, Mr. Genaro. ”

  “I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you personally. ” He waited for the steward to translate before he continued. “As I said on the phone, I have come to your city for two Americans who were brought here from California. I am willing to offer you the compensation of your choice for any assistance you can give me in locating them. ”

  After Segundo repeated what he’d said in Nahautl, there was a long stretch of silence. Then from behind the silk curtain came an odd, resonant voice.

  The steward eyed him. “Energúmeno has not yet decided what is to be done with these Americans. He wishes to know why you want them. ”

  Genaro kept his expression bland. “The man has information about people involved in a genetic experiment that I wish to duplicate. What he knows may be of great value to my company. ”

  Energúmeno spoke again, this time issuing only a few terse words.

  “Why did you not send hired men to do this?” Segundo translated.

  Genaro glanced at the remains of the jaguar’s recent feast. One femur near the edge of the cage was too large to be from anything but a human being.

  Those who rely on deception often become incapable of honesty. Just as those who hold the truth sacred become intolerant of liars.

  “Samuel Taske, the man who was brought here, is wealthy and resourceful,” Genaro said. “I was unwilling to depend on others to find and capture him. He’s too important to my project. ”

  Energúmeno spoke again.

  “What will you do with this man when you are finished with him?” the steward asked.

  “If I can’t persuade him to work for me,” Genaro said, “I will have him killed. ”

  The shadow elongated against the silk curtain.

  “If you are concerned about the American authorities, don’t be,” he added quickly. “Once I take these fugitives back to America, I will see to it that there is nothing to connect either of them to you. ”

  Energúmeno spoke to the steward a final time before his shadow dwindled and then disappeared.

  “Certain preparations must be made,” Segundo said. “Energúmeno has ordered a meal prepared for you, señor. This way. ”

  Genaro followed the steward out of the reception room and through a curving corridor into a formal dining area. Two places were set: one at the head of the long stone table and one to the right. Bountiful platters of food had been set out, and the girl who had driven the cart stood waiting with a bottle of wine.

  Genaro had no desire to eat or drink, but sat down in the chair the steward drew out for him. “I’ll just have water, thank you. ”

  Segundo inclined his head, and then left the dining room with the girl.

  Genaro drank down half of the water in his glass. As unnerving as the interview had been, it had been worth the risk; Energúmeno would be an invaluable ally.

  The girl returned several minutes later to refresh his empty water glass. The gap in her teeth didn’t seem as noticeable this time when she smiled at him, and the red poppy in her hair emphasized how dark and glossy it was. “Is the food not to your liking, señor?”

  “I was waiting for your employer. ” He nodded at the empty place setting.

  “Energúmeno prefers to dine alone. ” She sat down beside him and helped herself to a cluster of grapes. “You should have tried the wine. It is very good. We make it ourselves. ”

  Genaro’s satisfaction abruptly vanished, leaving behind a cold knot in his belly. He was not being feted; he was being stalled. “Perhaps another time. ” He stood. “I have some business to attend to in the city. Will you take me to my car?”

  “Of course. ”

  She led him out of the house and to the waiting cart. As she started toward the gate Genaro felt his nausea fade, and realized he’d overreacted to the situation, and had behaved abominably toward his companion. “I apologize. ”

  “To me?” She glanced at him, her lovely face amused. “Why would you do that, señor?”

  “I was rude to you earlier,” he admitted, his eyes drawn to the elegant way she handled the steering wheel of the cart. The girl had thin, delicate hands, one of which sported a tattoo he hadn’t noticed before now. His penis stiffened as he imagined her clasping it in her pretty hands and stroking it. “That was unkind. ”

  Her slim shoulders moved. “I am used to it, and it never lasts. ”

  “What is your name?”

  Her lips curved. “Quinequia. ”

  Looking at the silver dove that had been inked onto the back of her hand made his erection grow harder. “Come back with me to the city. ” He had never begged a woman to do anything, but he knew he couldn’t leave without her. He plucked the poppy from her hair and drew it down her cheek, caressing her with its soft petals. “Spend the night with me. ”

  “Energúmeno does not allow us to leave the compound. ” Quinequia stopped the cart by the front gates, taking the poppy from his fingers and replacing it in her hair. “Here we are. ”

  Genaro didn’t see his car or driver, but ignored the police officer waiting for them. “If you won’t come with me,” he wheedled, “I’ll stay here with you. ”

  “That is also not permitted, señor. ” She nodded to the officer, who came over and took Genaro’s arm, pulling it behind his back. “Energúmeno wishes you to go with this man. He will take you where you belong. As soon as you walk through the gates, you will forget me. ”

  “Go,” he heard himself say in a slurred, dull voice as the cop handcuffed his wrists behind his back. “Forget. ”

  Quinequia smiled. “Very good, Jonah. You should do well where you are going. ” She patted his shoulder before taking out a handheld radio and speaking into it in Spanish.

  As the cop helped Genaro out to the battered police car, he glanced backward at a young, flat-faced Mexican woman who stood watching them. “Who is that?”

  The cop grinned. “Just some girl with bad teeth. ”

  An insect buzzing in Charlie’s ear made her frown and swat her hand. When the bug only got louder she opened her eyes and stared through the mesh of damp hair at sunlight-gilded bamboo. Her heavy limbs didn’t want to move, not when the memory of nearly having sex with Samuel Taske came back to her. Even worse, she’d enjoyed it more than all the other times when she’d had real sex with the men she’d known. Which should have made her feel pathetic, and oddly didn’t.

  Samuel had stripped her out of her wet sarong but had wrapped her in one of the robes, a gesture she found curiously touching. Always a gentleman, aren’t you, mío? She’d have preferred to see him sleeping on the other side of the bed, which lay empty, as did the rest of the room.

  The buzzing sound distracted her again, but this time she realized it wasn’t being made by an insect. The faint, high-pitched noise came from outside the sliding doors, which had been left open. She saw Samuel dressed only in a pair of cutoffs and standing with his back toward her, and got out of bed, belting the robe as she went out onto the deck.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” she asked as she came to stand beside him.

  “You needed the rest. You were exhausted. ” He glanced down at her. “How do you feel?”

  “Rested and annoyed. ” She glanced back at the position of the sun, and estimated it was an hour after dawn. “How long have you been up?”

  “I never went to sleep. ”

  “So tonight it’ll be your turn to crash. ” The buzzing sound grew annoyingly loud, and she peered out at the water. “That sound, is that—”

  “It’s a boat coming toward the island,” he confirmed, turning her back toward the room. “You should get dressed. ”

  “Okay. ” She watched him retrieve a shirt from the closet. “What are you going to do?”

  He pulled the shirt over his head. “I have some preparations to make for our visitor. ”

  The flatness of his voice both spooked and reassured her at the same time. “There’s a pair of suture scissors in my bag, in the treatment room. The blades aren’t very long, but they’re sharp and made of surgical steel. ”

  He nodded and went to the door, where he retrieved her teak chair-leg club. “Meet me in the kitchen. ”

  Charlie went into the closet, ignoring the skimpy female clothing as she sorted through what had been stocked for Samuel. Most of the garments were far too big for her, but she found some black stretch swim trunks that covered her from waist to knees, and paired them with a red tank, the hem of which she stretched out and knotted over her right hip.

  No shoes had been provided for them, so she went downstairs barefoot, and found Samuel pouring a pot of watery soup through a strainer into one of two clear plastic bottles.

  The smell made her wrinkle her nose. “You’re making soup, mío? At a time like this?”

  “I don’t recommend tasting it,” he said as he strained the rest of the liquid into the second bottle. Once he set the pot and the strainer aside, he screwed on the bottle tops.

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