Nightshine, p.6
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       Nightshine, p.6
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         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 6

 

  Of course Tina had recorded everything; she hadn’t been in the business of selling merely herself. “She led me to believe that you were working for outside interests. ”

  Kirchner removed his jacket and began rolling up his sleeves.

  “What are you doing?”

  “You’ve forgotten why I do this. ” Once he had bared his forearms, he turned his wrists out so that the old, dark lines marring his skin were visible. “You remember the conditions of my last employment. They kept me locked in that lab for years. They deliberately addicted me to heroin to keep me motivated. The only reason I’m alive is because you purchased me. You took me out of there, cleaned me up, and gave me back my freedom. ” He extended one arm. “This is what’s waiting for me out there. The abyss. Now, why the hell would you think I’d repay you by voluntarily jumping back into it?”

  “Of all my people, you are the one I depend on most,” Genaro told him. “Lately you’ve become temperamental and paranoid. I have to know the reason for it. ”

  Kirchner drew his arm back. “I am not experimenting on rats or monkeys, Jonah. For the sake of creating a successful transerum, I have sanctioned the kidnapping, torture, murder, and dissection of human beings. If we fail, all I have to look forward to are a few miserable years on death row before I’m given a lethal injection. Or it’s back to the abyss. ”

  “We are not going to fail. ” He looked over as the conference room door opened and Delaporte stepped inside. “What is it?”

  “Taske,” his security chief said, crossing over to the wall monitor and accessing the public broadcasting feed. “He’s just been taken hostage in California. ”

  Genaro watched the special news report on the Golden Gate Bridge sniper, who shot half a dozen motorists and killed a state trooper before abducting the antiques dealer and a paramedic from the scene.

  “The first patrolmen responding to the scene did not attempt to stop the sniper, who used the paramedic’s ambulance as his getaway vehicle,” the news anchor said. “Authorities have issued an all-points bulletin for the stolen rig and the alleged gunman, who is said to be a Hispanic male in his mid-fifties. Police advise that the suspect is armed and should be considered extremely dangerous. Anyone with information as to his whereabouts should contact their local police, the California Highway Patrol, or the Crimebusters toll-free tip hot-line. ”

  Delaporte switched off the monitor. “I’ve contacted our San Francisco office. The shooter isn’t one of ours. ”

  “I should hope not. ” Kirchner looked appalled.

  “They’re monitoring the situation,” the security chief continued, “but the consensus is that this was a random act of violence. ”

  “The sniper shot everyone but Taske and the paramedic. There is nothing at all random about that. ” Genaro checked his watch. “Contact the flight crew and have them prepare the jet to fly to San Francisco in one hour. ”

  Delaporte frowned. “Sir, our office out there has an excellent team of investigators and operatives. ”

  “No doubt they do. ” Genaro stood. “This time I will be able to personally assess their performance in the field. ”

  Sirens wailed in Charlie’s ears, sending invisible ice picks into her brain. Her lungs felt as if she’d inhaled fire, and her heart thudded dully under her ribs. Something had been wrapped around her head—a sack or a pillowcase. A sudden screech of brakes sent her sliding into something big, hard, and immovable; she felt soft hair brush across her face.

  Hands yanked her away by the ankles and grabbed her waist to sling her over a strong shoulder. She heard and smelled seawater and gasoline before something stabbed into her hip. The burn spreading across her buttocks told her she was being injected with drugs; the subsequent sensation of nauseating euphoria and numbing paralysis made her heart flutter with panic.

  Morphine . . . and some kind of sedative . . .

  Blackness.

  Charlotte felt the cocoon of softness around her falling away, and hot breath touched her cheek. She opened her eyes to see an enormous black cat staring at her behind silver bars scored with deep scratches. The big cat yawned and began licking its paw.

  A man’s voice spoke in a strange language, and was answered by a deeper, unearthly tone. Charlotte turned her head and saw two shadows, big and small, looming over a golden-haired giant’s bloodied, unmoving body.

  The big shadow dropped down, lifting the golden head and pressing a goblet of red wine to the giant’s lips. Some of the wine trickled down the sides of his face.

  A third shadow merged with the smaller one, and in English Charlotte heard a woman’s sulky voice ask, “Why does he try again? You know it will only kill the male. ”

  “He does as he wishes,” the man snapped. “This one was not on the list anyway. ”

  “On the bridge Tacal sensed he was Chosen. ” The woman sighed. “He was very good at that. ”

  “Not anymore. ”

  Charlotte heard a choking sound, and the thud of the giant’s body as it dropped back to the floor.

  “We should keep him here until he dies,” the woman said. “The children will only bury him, and then we will have to dig him back up. ”

  “The master says he stays with the female. ”

  The woman laughed. “Then perhaps she will save us the trouble and burn him. ”

  When Charlie woke the next time, she found herself sitting in a chair. She looked down at the cheetah-patterned drape covering her from her neck to her knees before she glanced at the large mirror in front of her. She was in a beauty salon. Someone had taken her hair out of the braid and put it up in a fancy ’do with strands of golden pearls woven through the elaborate coils. She was also wearing dark red lipstick with a golden sheen, dark purple eye shadow, and enough black eyeliner and mascara to polish a pair of shoes.

  She tried to grab the drape and pull it off, which was when she discovered that she was completely paralyzed.

  In the chair next to hers the giant—no, the Limo Guy . . . Sam, she remembered at last—sat with his eyes closed and his chin tucked against his leopard-patterned drape. The elderly Latina trimming the back of his hair noticed Charlie watching and smiled.

  “Big and virile, isn’t he?” She came around and gently tipped Sam’s head back. “He’s a good match for you. ”

  It took Charlie two tries to get the words out of her dry throat. “Where are we?”

  The woman began carefully trimming away the big man’s beard. “You’re safe now, hija. ”

  “I’m not your daughter. ”

  “I wish you were. I would be so proud to give him a girl child. ” She let the golden hair fall onto the shroud until she had cropped his beard close to his skin, and then reached for an electric razor. “Men do such foolish things. Why does he cover such a handsome face?”

  “Who are you?” Charlie demanded. “What are we doing here? Why can’t I move?”

  “So impatient. ” The Latina made a clucking sound with her tongue. “All will be explained to you when you wake up. ”

  “I’m not asleep. ” Everything that had happened on the bridge came rushing back into her head. “I’ve been drugged. I’ve been kidnapped. ”

  “You’ve been saved,” the hairdresser insisted. “You should be grateful. You will have a beautiful life with this one. If he lives. I think he will. He is stronger than the others. ”

  Charlie wanted to scream. “Lady, I don’t even know that man. ”

  The Latina gave her a knowing glance. “You will. ”

  Charlie saw the syringe in her hand and heard herself beg. “Please. No more drugs. ”

  “This is the last dose, chica. I promise. ” The hairdresser stabbed the needle into Charlie’s upper arm.

  The drape rose up and wrapped itself around her head, smothering her into unconsciousness. For a long time she drifted, lost and aimless, until a beautiful warmth surrounded her. Wh
ile she still couldn’t see anything, she no longer felt as if she were alone.

  What is going to happen to me?

  Be careful what you ask, a deep voice whispered. You may not care for the answers.

  Lines began stretching out through the darkness, radiating around her like a web made of amber light. In the center of them stood the big blond man from the bridge.

  Samuel?

  He turned toward her, his eyes closed but his mouth smiling. There you are. He held out his hand, and she saw her own reaching for it.

  As soon as they touched she knew the warmth had come from him, for a deeper, richer wave of it swept up her arm. Are you doing this, or am I hallucinating?

  A little of both, I think. He drew her closer. Charlotte, whatever happens, you must live. Fight for your life. Everything depends on it.

  Everything? She felt bemused. Like what?

  I can’t see it yet, he admitted, caressing her cheek with the backs of his fingers. It’s like you. I can only feel it. But it’s very important that you live.

  We all die, Sam. She didn’t want to think about it. This is a great dream, though. She admired the shifting patterns of the lines. I could stay here with you forever.

  That’s not your destiny. He sounded tired now. Or mine.

  I thought you couldn’t see anything, she chided.

  I know that I’m dying, he said gently. I thought I’d accepted it, but now . . . Why couldn’t I have met you years ago?

  We have. She didn’t know how she knew that, only that it was the truth. On the bridge, I felt it. I’d never seen you before in my life, but I swear I recognized you.

  It was the same for me. He lifted his head and then put his arms around her. I don’t know if I’ll survive this, but when you wake up, look for me. Find me.

  I will. The darkness was dragging at her, pulling her out of his arms. Samuel.

  Don’t be afraid, Charlotte. The light and the warmth dwindled, and the last thing she heard was his voice. Here or in the real world, I’ll be watching for you.
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