Authors: Tara Janzen
The spymaster had to be seventy, if he was a day. He’d had a lot of years to do a lot of damage. More years than Con was likely to get, and that made him think of Jane, of the loss. He’d left her, and he needed to know why.
The image came back to him, of how he’d first seen her on the street tonight—her hair lifting in the breeze, her long legs and big sunglasses, her urban girl attitude in every step she’d taken, and then the surprise, the way she’d stopped and stared.
. He couldn’t have been such a fool as to walk away from her—and the heat was back, another wave of it rolling through his body and leaving a metallic taste in his mouth.
. The blue pill wasn’t working. He reached up and felt his arm. The tenderness and swelling were gone, but his skin was even hotter to the touch—very hot. He reached into his pocket, then turned to check behind him, the handful of pills only halfway out.
Something had caught his attention, a scuffling noise. He quartered the area with his gaze, listening, and heard it again. Glancing back, he saw the homeless men exactly where they’d been, resting in their makeshift shanty of boxes and tarps, but they were looking in the same direction he’d been looking—due east.
Two sounds came next and had him breaking into a run, the first a cry of pain, guttural and beastly, an anguished howl of distress, the second a cry of fear, utter and absolute and undeniably female.
* * *
He wanted her.
Scrabbling in his pocket, Monk pulled out three silver gelcaps and popped them in his mouth
He wanted her with every breath he took. He could smell her, almost taste her, the woman from the restaurant, and she was running loose, an easy catch—except for the pain breaking him on every breath.
Strobelike flashes of light were tearing into him, streaking off the police cars with their raucous sirens and cutting straight into his brain. They’d already forced him off his prey, the two easy kills he’d had in the alley.
Two righteous kills.
He knew who the bastards had been, and they had not been worthy of Lancaster’s patronage. They would not be missed. Monk could single-handedly do both their jobs. He certainly wouldn’t have let Farrel and the woman get the drop on him. Banner and Howe had gotten no better or worse than they’d deserved.
Their deaths were another gift from him to Lancaster.
. He cried out the name in his mind, and the bile of hatred rose in his throat, filling him with wretchedness and confusion. He loved Lancaster. It was his mission, the reason he’d been reborn, and yet, in his heart, he hated the man with a passion as profound and full of pain as his longing to be with him. He opened his mouth and released a cry, putting voice to his agony and his shame.
They’d tried to kill him, the doctors and the lab techs in Bangkok.
MNK-1 is a mistake … twisted, wrong, a monster
Not the soldier he’d been promised he would be, better than the one he’d already been, and he’d been one of the very best.
They could have fixed him, the sodding bastards, but
had decided to kill him instead. It was their fault, all of it. They’d brought him to this craven state. They were twisted, not him.
He let out another cry and curled in tighter on himself where he was crouched in the boxes behind Bagger’s Market, hiding from the painful police lights.
Then he heard it, a struggling sound and the edge of a whimper—fear—and the sound was not moving. It was staying in one place, on one pinpoint of space out there in the darkness.
The woman was trapped.
He lifted his head, and across fifty yards of flashing light and night shadows, he could see her: a golden waif, her dress shimmering in the starlight, her face contorted with panic. She’d gotten caught in a tangle of wire and trash and couldn’t get out.
Rising to his feet, he felt himself thrill to the chase. Farrel would be easy to track. The man’s wretched scent was everywhere, and Monk would hunt his enemy down and kill him tonight—right after he took care of the woman.
Between the radio and the phones in the office, and the Bazo 700s bolted into the cars, Dylan was in touch with everybody except the man he most wanted to find: J.T.
He’d lost track of Scout Leesom the minute she’d dropped over the side of the building with a guy Red Dog could only describe as a cross between Luke Sky-walker pulling the “Save the Princess” moves from both
Return of the Jedi
and the cop from
. But Scout was not Dylan’s problem, and neither was the man who’d rescued her.
Jane was his problem. Though truth be told, his gut was telling him J.T. was in far more danger than the gallery girl. Hawkins had reported that the GTO had pulled over to the curb and stopped in front of the Quick Mart for a few seconds, and at 30th and Vallejo for longer than that, both times long enough for her to have gotten out, if she’d wanted to—and she hadn’t.
Of course, J.T. could have been holding a weapon on her … but maybe not.
Dylan wasn’t exactly the social butterfly of Special Defense Force—that honor was a toss-up between Hawkins and Skeeter—but even he remembered the young woman who’d hung around the Steele Street alley way back when, trying to get a look or two at J.T. Quinn and Creed had teased him about her mercilessly. She’d been
a real hard case, a survivor, all skinny arms and skinny legs and lanky hair hanging in her pretty green eyes, about half fed most of the time.
No one would tease J.T. about her now. The urchin had turned into a heartbreaker with all the gloss and sophistication Katya Hawkins and Suzi Toussi could infuse in and slather on a young woman.
It was difficult to believe she might still be nursing a crush on J.T., but women were hardly his area of expertise. Again, that honor went to Christian Hawkins, Superman.
He leaned forward and keyed the mike on the radio. “Hey, Superman.”
“Copy,” Hawkins said.
“Give me the sitrep.” The “situation report”—Dylan was hoping for better than he’d gotten five minutes ago.
” his second in command said. “We’ve got nothing. We’re getting a little spread out. It might be time to come in and regroup.”
Not a bad idea.
“What did Travis and Red Dog find at the motel?” Hawkins asked.
“Meds,” Dylan told him. “Lots of meds, and a chart book he keeps, tallying what he’s taking for different symptoms. Gillian looked it all over and didn’t like what she saw. She thinks he may be going down faster than she feared.”
He heard Hawkins swear under his breath.
“She and Travis are still staking out the motel,” Dylan continued. “They’re hoping he comes in to get something, especially since we hit him with the Halox.”
“We need a break,” Hawkins said, and Dylan could only agree. Denver wasn’t a big city by international standards, but it was big enough to get lost in. “Do Zach and Kid still have Lancaster in their sights?”
“Zach is locked onto him like a tractor beam,” he
said. “Kid’s got a date with Crutchfield at O’Shaunessy’s. The lawyer called Skeeter about ten minutes ago, wanting to buy her a drink, or maybe just flat-out buy her, but we all know how much fun Kid can be, so I sent him, too, to keep the party going. That leaves Lancaster all on his own at the Kashmir Club.”
“And Sam gave up six all total?”
“The management duo and two teams, Karola and Walls on one team, and two other guys named King and Rock working together.”
“Hell,” Hawkins swore.
“Why didn’t Jane get out of Corinna?” he asked. “She had two chances to get out, and she didn’t.”
“Man of her dreams comes back to life after six long years? The girl is sticking.” Christian didn’t hesitate to answer. “Out of curiosity, if nothing else, and she’s enough of a team player to know we want him.”
“You don’t think he’s threatening her, holding her against her will? That he might hurt her?”
“Hell, Dylan. If he wanted to hurt people, he would have been throwing fragmentation grenades, not flash bangs.” Again Hawkins didn’t hesitate. “And Red Dog said he had her dead to rights on the tenth floor, and he obviously didn’t pull the trigger. And he didn’t hurt Suzi Toussi in Paraguay, either. Jane’s a burden, an accident that happened in his getaway car. She’s not an asset. He came for the girl, and you saw Scout. You can’t beat that kind of loyalty into somebody. She’s a straight-up girl, fully self-actualized. She’s been well cared for and well loved. Whatever J.T. remembers of himself, he hasn’t lost his intrinsic guardian tendencies. How many times did he save you?”
More times than Dylan was going to admit to at this late date. He’d been a real prick when he’d landed in Denver at age fifteen—too god-awful rich, too class-conscious,
and too self-indulgently angry to be anything other than a royal pain in the ass.
He’d had a natural inclination for leadership, or totalitarianism, to hear Hawkins and Quinn tell it, and he’d had an innate talent for getting people so pissed off they wanted to cut his gizzard out.
Exactly that. His gizzard. Cut right out of him. He hadn’t even known what a gizzard was until some wino down on Wazee had flashed a blade and threatened to show him.
“He bailed me out a few times.” Twice with the gizzard guy alone. It had taken Dylan a few weeks to understand that someone could have squatting rights to a stretch of sidewalk, or a heat grate, or a parking meter—whatever the hell they wanted—and anyone who trod on that piece of turf did it at their own risk. “Why don’t you and Creed come in? Skeeter’s on her way. Maybe we can shake something loose … hold on. I’ve got a call. Uptown Autos.” He answered the phone and could hear the faint
of sirens in the background.
“Liam Dylan Magnuson Hart, I need you
” He recognized the voice. What he didn’t recognize was the panic in the voice. Lieutenant Loretta did not panic, ever, but the edge of it was there, causing her to almost hyperventilate.
“Where are you?” He was already rising from his chair, pulling his keys out of his pocket.
” He heard her stop to take a breath. “
, Dylan, get down here, and call Grant, and … and Cristo. We need him and Creed. Yes, call Creed. Don’t call Kid. No. Not until you get down here and see this. It’s … brutal. Folks are running around down here like crazy.”
Dylan keyed the radio mike and leaned in close. “Hawkins, Creed, go to Mama G’s,
Don’t call Kid
With those words, a vise had clamped itself around his chest.
“Copy,” he heard Hawkins reply. “Three minutes.”
“Four minutes.” Creed came in over the radio.
“Make it less.”
“Hey!” He heard Loretta through his phone. “Get these people back. Do your job, Sergeant, or I’ll get someone who can!”
“Tell me what’s going on, Lieutenant.” Dylan used her rank on purpose and kept his own voice very calm, despite the fear flooding his veins.
This was about J.T. There was no other reason for her to contact him. Something bad had happened. He signaled Cherie to take over the console. He was leaving as soon as he got the facts.
“So I’m called down here to Mama’s,” Loretta said, slightly breathless, as if she’d been running, or was scared, “and four of my cruisers are already here, going balls-out with lights and whistles—”
She stopped and took another breath.
“Hey!” she hollered again. “Where are the EMTs? Why isn’t there a fire truck in here yet? Let’s move, people! And one of the first things I see out front is Corinna with two of her tires slashed.”
It took him half a second to figure out she’d switched and was talking to him again, and another half a second to realize what she’d said.
“And Geronimo latches on to me like a leech, babbling about a ghost monster.”
He knew Geronimo, one of the old cooks.
“J.T. was driving Corinna when he left here two hours ago,” Dylan said, and yes, he knew why the old man might think he’d seen a ghost.
He hoped he didn’t know why Geronimo thought he’d seen a monster.
“How, Dylan? Tell me how in the hell a man who’s been dead for six years is driving a car that got its tires slashed in front of Mama Guadaloupe’s?”
“He wasn’t dead two hours ago, Loretta.” He said the obvious, and heard her swear, one very succinct word, under her breath.
“And he’s not one of the vics lying out here behind Mama’s now.”
Dylan felt a flood of relief wash through him.
“But if he’s alive, then who did we bury at Sheffield Cemetery?” she demanded, still talking to him. “Who is in that grave?”
“General Grant is finding out. Tell me about Corinna.”
“She’s parked, no damage except to the tires, and if it was J.T. driving her, well, he isn’t anywhere to be had now. But Geronimo swears he walked through Mama’s kitchen less than ten minutes ago with a dark-haired woman—”
“Jane Linden,” Dylan said, sitting back down. This was still a hunting party, not the end of the line, and he needed to stay in charge of it all—and he needed to find his wife
“You see why I need you down here, Dylan? This is your boat taking on water, and I need you down here. Have you called Grant yet?”
He looked up and signaled Cherie again. “Grant,” he said, before returning his attention to Loretta. “Cherie’s getting him on the horn, and Hawkins and Creed will be there in less than three minutes.”
“Good—and Geronimo is telling me that J.T. and Jane went out the back door with two men, and I’m standing out here right now, and I’m telling you it is fucking brutal in this alley, Dylan.”
are you looking at, Lieutenant?”
“Two dead men, each at two hundred pounds, their necks snapped, their heads damn near twisted clean off, all their legs broken. They’ve both been shot, and one of them has been shot up, the syringe still hanging out of his arm—the arm still attached to his body, that is—and his other arm, the left one, has been ripped right off him, right at the shoulder joint. Not sawed off, not shot off, not blown off, but twisted off like it was a damn chicken leg. It’s lying in the alley about two feet away from the rest of him.”