Happy Black Friday, friends! If you've decided to take time out from your mad shopping to read a bit, then I hope you enjoy the second portion of my NaNo novel. As you may have guessed from last week's intro, this story is pretty heavily sci-fi/fantasy. I promise it is LGBTQ, and there is extremely hot sex in it. But like all good things, you'll have to wait for it! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and I wish you luck as you scavage for your holiday treasures.
* * * *
As expected, an unmarked Cuernos City police cruiser waited outside my gate. I triggered the security with a thought and followed the car inside. The yelling started before I'd even hopped out of the truck.
"Goddammit Daugh! You're a menace!"
Lieutenant Shawn "Brass" Braschelli had probably been on his way home when my little chase turned into the lead on the evening news feed. I keyed the security on the house and didn't pause on my way inside. He followed me.
"Broad daylight! During rush hour!"
I paused just long enough to open my weapons vault, Brass still behind me.
"Ignoring me won't make me go away, you know."
The safari rifle would've been a better choice, but the Remington 700 was ready to go with .30-06 silver shot. I plucked it from its rack and closed the vault door.
"Shooting me won't fix this either," he said. "The Chief will just appoint somebody else to sweep up after you."
I headed for my practice room. Brass actually growled.
"You rack up more property damage than a damn hurricane, you know that?"
I settled onto a stool and used the Remington to point at another. Brass sat down heavily, shoulders sagging. I regarded him and managed to keep the smile off my face.
"We don't get hurricanes here."
"One of the few pluses to living in The Horns." Brass pulled a vapestick from his pocket and held it up. "You care?"
He took a long pull off it and exhaled a plume of blue mist. We didn't talk for the next five minutes as he sucked relaxation from his adult pacifier. Finally, he sat up on the stool and squared his shoulders.
"Ricky told me you got it."
"I'll let the families know."
"You'll talk to the therries?"
"Yeah." I rested the butt of the rifle on my thigh. Brass scrubbed one hand over his face and sighed.
"There gonna be trouble over this?"
"No. They'd already named him rogue."
"Did you have to destroy the Freedom Mosaic?" Brass looked pained.
"Every time you say that it creates another stack of paperwork for my desk."
"I'm the gift that keeps on giving."
"Oh yeah. Damage to city property. Damage to private property." Brass used the vapestick to tick my gifts to him off his fingers. "Medical claims, workers comp claims, psych claims, future psych claims." He assumed a mournful expression that could've earned him money a few hundred years earlier. "I may never dig out from under this one, Jon. Who knew one rogue therry could cause so m–"
Brass's voice cut off as I leveled the gun at his head.
Brass's pupils expanded and the acrid scent of his sweat stung my nose. Time slowed to a crawl. I stared down the Remington's sights and fine-tuned my aim. A single drop of sweat beaded up on Brass's forehead as I increased the pressure on the rifle's trigger. My eastern-most wall imploded, wood splintering as the polymer and metal frame disintegrated. The booming of my gun, a good six inches to the right of Brass's skull, was swallowed up in the implosion.
A half-shifted wolf collapsed to the floor amid the wreckage of my wall. My security system blared. I projected the shut-off sequence and stood, surveying the damage.
Brass sat perfectly still, mouth wide, entire body shaking with his desire to run–but he didn't. He was the best handler I'd ever had, by far. I stepped around him, the Remington resting against my right shoulder. I pulled a Glock and turned this wolf into a twin of the last one.
"They mate for life." I glanced at Brass, who remained motionless. "The body count and amount of flesh missing from the kills was too high for it to be just one rogue." Holstering the handgun, I stepped over the corpse. "I haven't slept in three days. Take care of this mess and submit paperwork to have my house fixed."
I paused at the doorway and looked back at Brass.
"You can move now."
* * * *
Tarik Washington lived in Amanecer, the wealthiest neighborhood in Los Cuernos. I had to pass through three separate gates before I could even see the house, which sprawled out over an entire city-block. The rising sun hovered at the base of the mountains for which the city was named, reddish-orange beams creeping up the tall points of "The Horns" to reclaim the darkness. It had been a long night.
I drove slowly, taking in as much detail as I could. The best private security personnel money could buy dotted the property, openly armed, and psi-webs glittered in the dawn light. Washington was the last member of an old family, famous as much for his perpetual bachelor status as he was for the sculptures he created and sold. One thing was for sure, though. Tarik Washington was afraid of something. This place was an air-tight fortress. I turned my engine off and pocketed the keys.
Ike Vicente waited for me. I hadn't seen Ike since he gave up hunting for Pico Corto five years earlier. I'd heard he went into private security, but his phone call a few hours earlier had been a surprise. There's not a lot that a half human-half vampire–who used to hunt the largest city in the southwest–found challenging, much less unmanageable.
"Jon." He didn't offer a hand to shake and neither did I. We walked toward the double doors, each maintaining our personal space. "Thanks for coming."
I nodded. My eyes took in the tech. I'd never seen its equal on a private residence; it was better than mine. Anything that could penetrate the security on this place was serious. The spot between my shoulder blades tingled.
The entryway of the Washington estate had been built to replicate a cathedral commons room. Sculptures in every medium occupied the space: some of them floated in mid-air, others grew from the walls and windows. The effect was awe-inspiring and far more impressive than the CAM. I took in the ornate stone archways that led to the three wings of the house, and again noted the tech that should've made this place impenetrable. The tingle between my shoulders intensified, and I felt Ike's eyes on me.
I nodded again.
A man emerged from somewhere down the main hallway. The lasers from the surveillance devices and psi-webs lit up his pale hair. It was a silvery sort of blond that didn't match his youthful features. I put him at about twenty-two years old. He was thin, and had the kind of build that could be deceptively strong. He moved like he owned everything around him, but I knew he wasn't Tarik Washington. Tarik was biracial, and this guy was very Caucasian. I caught the slightest twitch from Ike as the man approached us. Interesting. Ike didn't like him.
"Mr. Blagden," Ike said. "This is Jon Daugh, the man I recommended. Jon, this is Mr. Colgate Blagden." He paused, then added, "The fifth."
Blagden eyed me like I was a piece of bio-mech hardware he was considering for implantation. I remained mute. The silence stretched out, and that tingle between my shoulder blades became a burning itch. It felt like I had a thorn or cactus spine between my shirt and my shoulder holster. I ignored it.
Colgate Blagden the fifth finally nodded at me.
"Is Mr. Washington awake?" Ike asked.
"Yes. I'll take you back."
We followed Blagden to the main archway. He keyed us through the security webs and we headed down the long hallway.
"Who did the tech arrays?" I asked, voice low.
"I did." Ike motioned to the webs with one hand. "Cricket Cane did the installations."
Well shit. Cricket was the best psion on this side of the country. What in the world had I walked into?
We reached a pair of doors carved from a rich, vibrant hardwood. The detail of the intricate forest scene was stunning. As I watched, a sylph swam through the grain of the wood and vanished behind a cloud. I blinked behind the black lenses and focused. Psi-tech on the door dancing over the surface of the wood was ingeniously disguised as three-dimensional animated art. I tilted my head at Ike.
"My idea, her gift."
I nodded. I'd never seen anything like it. Then again, the government didn't have as much money as Tarik Washington.
Blagden released the security on the heavy double doors and pushed them open. Ike and I followed him into what turned out to be a massive bedroom. Bed chamber was probably a more accurate description. A huge stained glass bed dominated the center of the room. Its iron framework was as much sculpture as it was support for the mattress. Blagden rushed over to the bed, his pale face suddenly flushed. He scrambled up onto one side and reached for somebody buried under acres of snowy white linens.
When I finally got a look at Tarik Washington, my first thought was that he was dying. His milk chocolate-colored skin had an odd ashen cast, and it was shrink-wrapped to his skeleton. I'd seen nocturna-virus victims who looked healthier then Tarik.
"Baby?" Blagden used a completely different voice to speak to Tarik. "Are you awake?"
"Of course I'm awake." Tarik struggled to push himself up on his elbows. He collapsed with a wheezing curse. Ike moved with the scary-quick speed of a born-vampire and propped Tarik up with half a dozen of the pillows heaped at the head of the bed. Blagden pursed his lips.
"Mr. Washington," Ike said. "This is Jon Daugh."
Whatever else was wrong with Tarik Washington, his eyesight was just fine. He looked me over with a critical gaze.
"Is that some sort of joke?" he asked. "John Doe?"
"A safeguard," I said. Washington's brow furrowed.
"Names are important."
Washington considered that, and finally nodded. He looked at Ike.
"Can he do anything you haven't already done?"
"If I didn't think Jon could help, I wouldn't have suggested we call him." Ike gestured to his suit-covered frame and then at me in my tactical gear. "I specialize in protection, sir. Jon specializes in hunting."
"Are you good at it?" Washington stared right at my lens implants. He was definitely direct, and I liked that.
"I'm still alive."
"Are you a halfbreed like Ike?" Blagden asked, one hand petting Tarik's arm.
I caught the slightest twinge from Ike as Blagden said, halfbreed. Mr. Colgate Blagden the fifth was a species purist, as I suspected.
"Col, that's so rude." Tarik's voice was weaker and his eyelids fluttered. He looked on the verge of unconsciousness.
"Stay awake, baby. Please." Blagden gripped Tarik's arm, and then looked at me. "Can you help him?"
"That's what I do."
* * * *
Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated.
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