Authors: Tara Janzen
The garage smelled of burned rubber and exhaust—and frustration. A ton of frustration.
“Did we do anything right?” her beloved commander asked.
“No.” She wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything for him, ever.
His attention shifted away from her, and she could tell he was listening to his radio.
“Copy, Kid,” he said. “Check the freight elevator. Red Dog thinks Scout and her partner used it for their escape.”
Quinn was finishing a perimeter check of the seventh floor. Red Dog had reported another man on Con’s rescue team, a younger guy, fast, skilled, and armed to the teeth. He’d gotten away with the girl, rappelling over the side of the building—which was one more failure to add to the day.
“Copy, Zach.” Dylan was still on his headset, and after another long moment, he signed off with an order for Prade to stay with the CIA’s car. He caught Skeeter’s gaze and swore once, very softly, very vehemently, then he put Zach’s intel out on the air for the rest of SDF to hear. “A Company car, a black Mercedes, just dropped off one of their assets at our back door. We’ve identified him as Sam Walls, five eleven, strong build, dark hair, brown jacket, khaki pants. He has a limp. The vehicle is cruising around the block. Do not let it get anywhere near Corinna or our target. Until we can identify the occupants of the Mercedes, no undue force is authorized. For those of you who were not on the seventh floor five minutes ago, we now have a hostage situation. Jane Linden was in Corinna when the car left the building.”
If there was going to be any worse news than that, Skeeter didn’t want to hear it. Despite the way she looked, Jane was a tough girl, street tough, but J.T. was a complete unknown, his memory gone. She’d seen him, had him dead to rights in the sights of her .22, and hadn’t taken the shot, something telling her that two shots of Shlox was one too many. She would rather he’d gotten
away. She would just rather he’d gotten away without Jane. Lancaster was her target, and with SDF going after Lancaster, they could—
She suddenly grew very still, the lights seeming to dim as a veil of shadow slid along the edge of her consciousness, cold and malevolent, luring her attention away from the hustle of the garage and the sound of Dylan’s voice.
She shivered but held steady, her senses instantly alert, her mind searching for what was out there.
Lancaster, she thought, not knowing what else it could be triggering her psyche, not knowing where greater evil could lie than with what he’d done to so many and, for her, especially what he’d done to J.T.
The instant passed, but her readiness held at a higher level. Extrasensory perception was a natural part of her awareness, sometimes proving useful, more often than not proving to be a scramble of meaning that didn’t become clear until long after the fat lady had sung and everybody had gone home.
She’d see how it turned out this time. They’d just found out that Sam Walls was out there. She’d put money on Lancaster being in that Mercedes—and she was guessing it was their presence she’d felt so profoundly.
“Copy, Creed,” Dylan said, still talking into the radio mike. “Everybody get that?”
“What?” she asked.
“Creed’s picked up a tail,” he repeated for her.
“We need to know how many players Lancaster has on his team,” she said. Whether he was here in Denver or not, he’d have more than one guy working the mission.
“And we’re going to find out. Quinn.” Dylan raised his voice and gestured for SDF’s all-American jet jockey.
“Take Kid and go get the gimpy spook off our street. Be careful with him. Zach remembers him from a couple of undercover ops with the drug cartels in Colombia.”
From across the garage, Quinn stopped and picked something off the floor, looked it over, then took a couple more steps and picked up something else.
“Hey, boss,” he said, jogging back over to where she and Dylan were standing. He handed them a wallet and a phone. “Looks like Christmas came early. See you in ten.”
Dylan kept the phone and handed the wallet to her. “Tell me what J.T.’s been up to, Skeeter.”
She flipped it open and quickly went through the contents. It didn’t take long to catalog everything: Paraguayan driver’s license, no credit cards, no business cards, no library cards, no grocery discount cards, no membership cards, no pictures, plenty of cash, and one mag stripe key card.
She turned it over.
“He’s staying at the Star Motel,” she said.
Dylan looked up from checking the phone. “And Jane’s last call was to us. I need you to stake out the motel.”
“That’s the crap job, Dylan. I want to be in on the interrogation.” She wanted to get face-to-face with Sam Walls and see what he was made of.
Dylan obviously had other ideas. He gave her a look that said she knew better than to second-guess a direct order, and she did.
He breathed the word in through his consciousness, let it swirl though his mind. It smelled cool, and clean, and fresh with the coming rain.
The end of the world
The end of Conroy Farrel’s world.
Monk stood at the corner of 16th and Market, in the darkness of night, in his sunglasses, in front of the bus station in LoDo. He was young, and strong, and healthy, big and muscular, with silvery hair and pale, nearly colorless eyes. MNK-1, Monk, he had no last name.
He’d come a long way and needed to stretch his legs and start getting the lay of the land. He’d studied the maps of the city and every file on Conroy Farrel/J. T. Chronopolous that he’d been able to find in the Bangkok lab of Dr. Greg Patterson, a superheated cauldron where Monk had been reborn using formulas pioneered by the legendary Dr. Souk and tweaked into the new millennium by Dr. Patterson.
Monk knew his lineage, and he knew Con Farrel. The files had been his training manual. Alone in the lab, he’d pored over them, gleaning out his purpose in life, the reason he’d been created, even as he’d lamented his abandonment. He knew what Lancaster expected of him, what he wanted—destruction, utter and absolute—and Monk was going to give it to him, a gift to his master.
At times it drove him crazy with a longing he scarcely could bear. All Monk needed was to be by Lancaster’s side, to do his will, to bear his arms and demolish his enemies—brutally, totally. It was what he’d been born to do.
But Lancaster had been lost to him, and, for that, Dr. Patterson had died.
Conroy Farrel was his way back to Lancaster’s side, and the key to finding Farrel was to track J. T. Chronopolous. Monk had the cunning to have come to understand the nature of the hunt that consumed
Lancaster. Farrel had never been to Denver, Colorado. Chronopolous had been born and raised here. Whatever was left of J.T. would have more play in this place than in any other. Monk had struggled with the same situation in San Diego, his point of reentry into the world and the United States. Anywhere within a forty-mile radius of Coronado Island, and he’d felt himself slipping toward the consciousness of another man: the man he used to be, before Lancaster had recruited him four months ago for a trip to Thailand and the adventure of a lifetime, a chance to be the best that he could be.
Things hadn’t gone exactly as planned under the Bangkok medical team’s regime, nor exactly as Lancaster had promised, but Monk had no regrets.
He knew Lancaster couldn’t say the same—not yet. The old man was a visionary, and he’d gone too far, asked for too much, and gotten Monk instead of the indestructible superman he’d wanted.
And yet Monk
nearly indestructible, much more so than any of his predecessors. And he was unique, a thousand times more intelligent than any soldier before him. There would be no more like him. He’d guaranteed it.
He was the wielder of it, the master of it, and he’d dealt it hard and fast in Bangkok when they’d come for him with their black needles in their hands.
They’d made a warrior. What had they thought, that he’d let them kill him? Fools.
A bus went by, its lights unnaturally bright, and Monk turned away, pulling the hood of his jacket closer around his face. He could see clearly to the horizon in all directions in the dark, which was yet one more way Dr. Patterson had overdone him. Light bothered him. Flashing lights blinded him and gave him actual, piercing pain. Flashing lights of any duration were agonizing,
like bullets to his brain. He’d found pills in the lab to help, silver gelcaps the color of his eyes, except his irises were even paler than silver, albino eyes. Before Bangkok his eyes had been dark gray and his hair sandy brown. Patterson’s drugs had changed him.
—the name ran through his blood, his master.
Monk had tracked him easily. There had been invoices by the dozens to a company named LeedTech and a connection of Lancaster to LeedTech in the lab’s computer files. Men of vision and power were easy to track. Farrel, the mud-sucking worm, had been much harder. If Monk hadn’t been following Lancaster so closely, watching his every move, monitoring his every call, using every piece of technology he could find and every ounce of his intelligence, he might not have ever found the man Lancaster needed destroyed.
The gift he was going to give.
He took a deep breath. The air was thin, a mile high and lacking in oxygen, not like the rich brew of the Thai lowlands, but it would suffice.
A lot of men had died trying to capture or kill Conroy Farrel. Monk knew he would not, for a very simple reason. There’d never been anyone like him.
That had been a great idea, and Jane was duly grateful for the advice.
Staying in the car when he’d offered to let her out at the Quick Mart?
Not such a great idea.
What in the world had she been thinking?
All the wrong things was the answer to that.
And her knee hurt like hell, and she’d gotten blood on her dress.
She jerked the seat belt across her lap tighter with one hand while hugging her zebra purse closer to her chest with the other. Corinna probably didn’t have air bags, and the way they were careening around corners made Jane pretty damn sure she was going to need one. She felt like she was in the middle of a carnival ride in the middle of downtown Denver, like the whirling teacup ride, where there were lots of other teacups, all of them going round and round without ever getting any closer to each other.
Hawkins was in the green teacup, also known as the mighty Roxanne. Travis was at the wheel of the gold teacup, Coralie, with Gillian “Red Dog” Pentycote riding shotgun—and Jane meant that literally—and she and J.T. were in the midnight-blue teacup.
And the last thing the party needed was another teacup weighing in for the ride, but that’s exactly what they got on the west side, at the corner of 30th and Vallejo: Creed and his Super Sport 454 Chevelle, Angelina.
Jane didn’t know whether to be relieved or even more unnerved. One way or another, this chase was coming to an end, and with the addition of Creed, it was going to be sooner rather than later. She just prayed it wasn’t going to be a bad end for any of them. They were being herded God only knew where by the Steele Street crew, who were obviously communicating with one another.
They’d tried communicating with J.T., as well, but apparently he was one of those guys who felt safer off the grid. When a small computer screen had soundlessly slid out of the GTO’s tape deck showing their location on a map of Denver, he’d barely taken a look before calmly reaching over and ripping the unit out of the dashboard.
That had gotten her attention, the quickness of the decision, the ease of the execution, the strength of his hand, even with him missing half of his ring finger, and, God, she didn’t want to think about how that had happened to him, the same way she could hardly bear to look at his scars and accept what had been done to him.
The crumpled GPS/computer unit was now sitting in the backseat, a crunched-up mess of broken plastic, bent metal, and a dangling circuit board.
Fair enough. There had been plenty of times in Jane’s life when she hadn’t wanted to be found.
This wasn’t one of them.
She sure as heck hadn’t wanted to be found the morning she’d met him at Duffy’s in her pretty summer skirt. She’d been a princess that morning, Princess Jane with little black bows around the waistband of her skirt and those gorgeous pink-and-white striped leggings. That she’d worn the outfit with her old tennis shoes hadn’t even mattered once she’d sat down …
Nervous, but trying not to show it, Jane sat perfectly still with her hands folded in her lap while J.T. ordered croissants, scrambled eggs and bacon, and fresh berries and cream, real cream, for their breakfast. For a minute, she wasn’t sure what she was more excited about, the food or him. Her confusion didn’t last long, not past the grin he gave her when he looked up from the menu
And a mocha latte?
Geez, he was beautiful. The thrill of it went straight through her, right down her middle
Sure,” she said. She loved mocha lattes, and she was damned afraid she was going to end up loving him. She needed someone strong in her life, someone she could count on, someone stable, and he was like a rock, solid from the get-go. But in her experience, what she needed and what she got were usually two different things
Breakfast, though, she could count on, and the more she ate and the more lattes she drank, the more comfortable she got and the more she talked about this and that and the other
He listened to it all, her whole sad little story. Light-fingered mother who’d gotten sent up, a sweet woman with a penchant for bad company who now lived in a small town in southern Wyoming, absent father, family somewhere, maybe Kansas, maybe not, her crew of eight kids she seemed to spend her life trying to feed and keep out of Lieutenant Loretta’s clutches, and Sandman