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Free Chapter Read: Earth’s Survivors: Watertown

EARTH’S SURVIVORS: WATERTOWN

Copyright 2010 Geo Dell all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Geo Dell

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

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EARTH’S SURVIVORS: WATERTOWN

ONE

Watertown, New York

Carlos and Gabe

The man moved more fully into the shadows. “You Gabe?” he asked in a near whisper.

The darker shadow nodded. “You…?” He started.

“Now who in fuck else would I be?” He asked.

The darker shadow said nothing. The other man passed him a small paper bag. “Count it,” he told him.

Gabe Kohlson moved out of the shadow, more fully into the light. “It’s a lot; I can’t stand here, out here counting it.”

The man laughed. “You asked for this place. It’s the middle of nowhere. I Googled it, it comes up marked as the middle of nowhere. Who in fuck will see you?” He laughed and then choked it off with a harsh cough. “Count it. No mistakes… You got the shit?”

Kohlson’s head popped up fast from counting. “Of course I don’t… That wasn’t the deal.”

“Easy… Easy… Keep your panties on… I’m saying you got the shit... You got access to the shit?”

“That I got… I can get it out this Thursday at shift end…” He held up the paper bag. “A lot of this goes to greasing the skids… You know, to get it out,” Gabe told him. “This stuff.”

“Whoa right there,” the man told him. “Don’t say shit about it. I don’t know what it is and I don’t want to know, see? I do a job. Take this thing there, that thing here. That’s all I know. Keeps my head on my shoulders when all about are losing theirs.”

“Uh… Lost me,” Gabe Kohlson told him.

“Just shut up about the shit, man. I don’t want to know anything past what I know, okay?”

“Okay,” Kohlson agreed.

“I do know you got to get it out and I will be here to get it… Hey,” he waited until the kid looked up. “You know who I work for, right? You fuck this up you’ll wind up out at the county landfill… Gulls pecking out your fucking eyes let me tell you. I will meet you here next Thursday night… Seven… Don’t be late… Don’t fuck this up… Don’t make me come looking for you…” He faded back into the shadows more fully, turned and walked down the shadowed front of the building. A few minutes later he found his car in the darkness: He waited.

He heard the kid’s shit-box beater when it started. A few moments later he watched as it swept past him, heading out of the small park area toward the river road. He levered the handle on his own car, slipped inside, started it and drove slowly away.

Three months before:

Manhattan

“It makes no sense to me, Carlos” Jefferson said. “How can you say there is no one when I know there is someone? When she talks about her lover to her friends? This man, or boy, or whatever he is, is so bold as to meet her right in my very own home… Not always, but she brags to her friends about it. I know I listen, but she never says his name: How can that be…  It’s like she is torturing me with this lover.” He looked to Carlos Sanchez.

“Carlos, you are like my son. I give you everything. Power, money, whatever you need. Whatever you ask, I give, Carlos, you know that…”

Carlos nodded. “I know, Mr. Prescott, I know,” Carlos said.

“So if you are as a son to me, I am like a father to you. How could you let someone do this to your father? It is as though I were naked; would you leave me naked and laugh about it as Hamm did with Noah? Or would you cover up my nakedness, as Shem and Japheth did?” His eyes locked on Carlos’ own.

“I would cover you,” Carlos said.

“This man has left me naked, Carlos: Exposed. So has she, and I will deal with that transgression too, but you must find this man: You, my son. You.” He nodded firmly at Carlos and Carlos nodded back.

A few weeks later:

Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Tommy Murphy and Jefferson Prescott

Jefferson Prescott stood quietly and sipped at his coffee. The house in Esmeraldas was his private escape. He could sit and watch the ocean, or travel into the mountains in just a few hours time, and Ecuador was such an easy country to live in: The people so happy with so little.

He owned a building in Manhattan, he owned a house in the hills outside of L.A., but this was his favorite place. This was where he did his real business, entertained and spent time with the women in his life, besides his wife and daughters back in Manhattan. This was the place where he bought his associates. Those that another man might call friends: In Jefferson’s world there was no place for friends. The luxury the concept didn’t exist.

Tommy Murphy stood at the rail a few feet away and smoked a cigar, looking out over the ocean. He was probably the closest person he had to a friend. The two of them had a lucrative relationship. Jefferson’s drugs and drug connections, Tommy’s organized crime connections. Between the two of them, they controlled almost everything that moved on the East Coast. They had tentacles that stretched all the way to the west coast, and inroads into the south that we’re starting to look like highways.

They both dealt in millions daily. Privately, they were probably two of the richest men in the world, but they were on no one’s list of who’s who, except a few specialized task forces within the world’s governments: Even they couldn’t touch them. They owned too many of their officials, too many of their agents were on their payrolls. They didn’t fight the task forces or special government branches the way the old syndicates had, they simply bought them. Every man really did have his price. And if that was too high you simply bought the man beside him, or above him, it was just as effective.

With all the deals they had made, and the millions they had amassed, nothing came close to what they had on the burner right now. Tommy had fallen into a deal on a tip, a way to collect on a sizable gambling debt, and the two of them had decided to take the risk.

Tommy sipped at his drink and then raised his eyes to Prescott. “Concerned?” Tommy asked.

“Unconcerned… It’s only money,” Jefferson assured him.

“Good,” Tommy said quietly. He reached into his pocket and retrieved a slim silver cylinder. A small red button, with a protective cap in the same cheap looking, red plastic covered the button.

Jefferson pulled a deep breath, audible in the sudden silence. From somewhere deep in the jungle of a forest that surrounded them a big cat screamed.

“Looks like nothing,” Jefferson said.

“I told the kid it reminded me of these little refill cylinders I used to have for my BB gun when I was a kid,” Tommy said.

“Jefferson laughed. “I can’t imagine that you played with anything that didn’t have a silencer and at least a ten round clip.”

Tommy laughed and then fell silent. “This is it, Jeff. Strip off the protective cap, push the button… The kid said it doesn’t matter after that… How close, how far, it will protect us.”

Infect us,” Jefferson corrected. “There is a difference.”

“Infect us,” Tommy agreed. “I figure, why not… We paid the big bucks for the rest of it, but this will start us down that path… Why not do it.”

“Why not,” Prescott agreed. “A sample? Just enough for two?”

Tommy shrugged. “He didn’t say… I depended upon the reports he smuggled out more than the first hand knowledge he has. He knows what he has seen, but he has not witnessed anyone come back… The reports detail exactly that.”

Jefferson laughed and shook his head. “Immortality.”

“Immortality,” Tommy agreed. He paused, stripped the small red cover from the slim, silver tube and pressed the button before he could change his mind. Nothing: He turned the silver tube back and forth.

“Maybe there should be no sound,” Jefferson said. He had braced for what he expected: A small cloud of vapor, a hiss, something to impart that magic the tube was supposed to contain.

Tommy raised the tube to his nose, but there was no detectable odor. “But did it do its job,” Tommy said so low it might almost have been to himself if he had not raised his eyes and asked of Prescott.

“The million dollar question,” Prescott said quietly.

Multimillion dollar question,” Tommy corrected. He stared at the container a few seconds longer and then slipped it into his pocket. “In for a penny,” he said.

“In for a pound,” Prescott agreed.

“You know Ben Neo?” Tommy asked after a few moments of silence, changing the subject to private business.

“Your best,” Jefferson said.

Tommy nodded and turned back to the rail. “When you find out who it is tell me. I’ll have him take care of it for you. He’s good. Discreet. Fast.” He turned and looked at Jefferson. “Yeah?” he asked.

Jefferson nodded. “Yeah, I appreciate it. I’ve got Carlos on it. I’ll know soon. When I know, you will know. From my lips to yours,” he said.

Tommy nodded. He sipped at his drink again.

“I have that young woman you like so much coming over in just a little while,” Jefferson said.

Tommy turned away from the rail and smiled. “I could use the diversion,” he said.

Jefferson shrugged. “It’s what we do for each other,” he said as he got to his feet. “Enjoy yourself, Tommy. I am about to head back… Take care of a few things. I will see you at your place up in the Catskills next week?” he asked.

“Absolutely, Jeff, absolutely,” Tommy said. The two men embraced and Jefferson left the warm night air of the deck and followed his driver who was waiting to take him to the helicopter pad. Tommy watched him go and then turned back to the rail, watching the waves out in the sea, rolling under the moonlight.

“Sir?” a voice said from the doorway.

Tommy turned from the rail to look at Andrea Ivanna Zurita, the beautiful young woman who stood in the doorway smiling.

The Lita Situation

Manhattan

“Lita… Lita, stop, Lita: What are you doing?”

“I want you… I want you… I know what I’m doing,” Lita said.  Her lips fell on his, her body pressed up against his own. He had been okay until he felt the softness of her breasts pressing against him: The firmness of her thighs as they moved against his own thigh. Whatever he had held back: Whatever resolve he had, had, he lost. He felt it fall away as he pulled her to him: Tasting her; feeling her hands on his body.

“Lita?” he tried again, but without much resolve. He breathed it against her cheek as she kissed his neck, ran her hands over his chest, squatted and came level with his belt line. Her fingernails pressed against the fabric of his shirt, ticking downward, and she ran her hands across to stomach and found the catch to his pants, and then worked the zipper down.

“Lita… Think, Lita,” he said.

She took him in her mouth and everything flew away. Everything he had fought to say. Everything he had been afraid of. All of it gone. There was only the warm night, the girl, and the darkness.

She stood and lifted her dress, she was bare beneath: He picked her up and her thighs parted, coming around his hips and locking together as he slid into her. Her lips fell on his neck once more; his hands pulled her closer, drove deeper into her. He stumbled forward until the wall was at her back. She thrust her hips harder, and the last vestige of doubt, the last small piece of resolve, melted away: She came alive under his hands.

Watertown

Project Bluechip

Complex C: Patient Ward

Test Subject: Clayton Hunter

Compound SS-V2765

Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly: Before he could get fully turned around the chiming turned into a strident alarm that rose and fell. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn.

“What is it,” David Johns wheeled his chair across the short space of the control room. His outstretched hands caught him at the counter top and slowed him at Kohlson’s monitor.

“Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctor’s one level up already knew. Clayton Hunter was dead.

“I see it,” Doctor Ed Adams replied over the ceiling speakers. The staff called him Doctor Christmas for his long white beard and oversize belly. “Berty and I are on the way.”

“Lot of good that will do,” Johns muttered.

Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in… Do CPR if you want… They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that shit is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Clayton Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets in there at all.”

“No argument,” Johns said. He wheeled back to his own monitor, called up an incident sheet and began to type.

“Me too,” Kohlson agreed. “Preserve the video, med and monitor data.” He punched a few buttons on his console and an interface for the medical equipment came up. He saved the last 48 hours of data, and then began to fill out his own incident report. These reports might never be seen by more than one person, maybe two if you counted the person that wrote it, Kohlson thought, but it would always be there. Classified: Top secret for the next hundred years or so, and he wondered about that too. Would it even be released after a long period? He doubted it. The shit they were doing here was bad. Shit you didn’t ever want the American public to know about. He had made his delivery a few weeks before. Whatever this shit was, bad people had not only come to know about it, but had come to have a need for what it did. It didn’t matter to him, not really. There were rumors, a few things he had seen while monitoring test subjects. Nothing he considered concrete. Maybe it extended life that was the strongest rumor. From what he had seen though, as far as test subjects, it did its fair share of ending life pretty effectively too. And here was another one to add to the growing number of failures… If that’s what they were.

This incident report, along with the one Johns was doing, would probably get buried deep under some program listing that no one would ever suspect to look into. Or maybe it would get burned right along with Clayton Hunter’s body. He glanced up at the clock and then went back to typing.

“Uh… Call it 4:32 PM?” He asked.

“Works for me,” Johns agreed. “I got 94 for the body,” Johns said.

“Yeah… Yeah, me too: That’s a fast drop, but we both got the same thing. 94 it is… No heart, no respiratory, dead as dog shit.”

“Dog shit,” Johns agreed. They both fell silent as they typed. A few moments later the doors to the observation room chimed, the air purifiers kicked on with a high pitched whine, and they could both feel the air as it dragged past them and into the air ducts. The entire volume would be replaced and the room depressurized and then re-pressurized before the doors would open. And that would only happen after the air was tested and retested. A good twenty minutes away before anyone would step foot into the room with Clayton Hunter.

Complex C, Autopsy Room

Ed Adams and Roberta Summers had dissected Clayton Hunter’s body methodically. The autopsy had been painstaking. It had to be, it was recorded in detail and some General somewhere, hell maybe even the president, would be looking that video over in the next few days. Maybe even watching live now, Ed Adams thought. They had that capability. There was nothing to see. He had suffered a major heart attack. The heart had a defect. No history: Just one of those things that just came along and fucked up your two billion dollar research project all at once.

“Coronary Thrombosis,” He spoke in a measured voice. “Appears to be after the fact. The artery looks to be mildly occluded… The myocardial infarction appears to be caused from a congenital defect… Specifically an Atrial Septal Defect… Berty?”

“I concur; easily overlooked. The lack of sustenance put a higher demand on the subject’s heart; the defect became a major player at that point… Bad luck for us.”

“Uh, bad luck for Clayton Hunter,” Ed Adams added.

“Of course, bad luck for the subject, Clayton Hunter. I simply meant bad luck for a research volunteer to be defective in such a way that in effect it would compromise a project of this magnitude so badly.” She turned her eyes up to one of the cameras she knew to be there. “This in no way paints a true picture of V2765. We should proceed, unsatisfying as these circumstances might be, we should proceed with subjects 1120F and 1119X… Same compound.” She turned back to the corpse on the table. “You want me to do the brain biopsy,” She asked Ed.

Ed frowned as he made eye contact with her. They had decided, at least he had thought they had decided, not to mention brain biopsies. Three times now he had discussed the importance of not focusing on the changes that V2765 made to the brain. Anything that altered the brain could alter financing, funding, lab time. Even the government didn’t like changes to brain matter.

“Are you thinking there could have been an embolism?” He asked.

“Well I,” she sputtered away for a second before Ed rescued her.

“I think all we would see is evidence of the embolism that occurred near the heart. We could search out areas of the body and most likely find more than one occurrence of embolism. Well thought, Berty, but I believe we will take a look at the brain later in the week. Right now I want to focus on the enzymes, proteins, blood work and readying the other two for a conclusion of this trial.”

“Yes. I agree entirely, Doctor Adams.”

“You have your samples?”

“Yes of course, Doctor… Rex?”

Ed frowned hard and shrugged his shoulders in the direction of the thick glass. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “None in here… That was stupid, Berty.”

“What was that,” Kohlson asked Johns in the control room.

“What?” Johns asked.

“That… Whisper, I guess,” Kohlson said.

“Oh… That. You know those two got it bad for each other. Probably making little remarks you don’t want to hear. Besides which, you make a report on that and we all have to deal with it: Them, sure, but us too because the bosses will be pissed off about it. Best to let that shit slide: If the boss wants to know, he will. He looks at all of this shit in depth.”

Kohlson looked about to say more when Doctor Christmas began talking once more in the autopsy room.

“Let’s close him up,” Ed Adams said. He stepped on a switch set into the floor, paused, and then spoke again. “Lower the air temperature in here. We intend to keep him a few hours while we attend to other parts of the autopsy… No one in here for any reason.”

Out in the control room Johns keyed his mic button. “Will do… How low, Doc.?”

“I guess about 34 Fahrenheit will do… Just to slow it all down for a while.”

“Done,” Johns agreed. He adjusted a temperature graphic on a nearby monitor via his mouse.

Kohlson leaned over across the short distance. “So we got to look at that shit for a while? Great.”

“They’re gonna sew him up, so it won’t be so bad.”

“Yeah… That’s like; I got a mild case of flu. It’s still gonna suck, because every time I look anywhere I’m gonna feel compelled to look at it.”

“Yeah. Me too. It’s there. Draws you to it. Like the Bunny on the Playboy Cover. You look at the rest of the magazine, but you know you’re gonna end up looking at her. She’s the reason you bought the magazine after all.”

Kohlson nodded and smiled. “And I’d rather look at Miss January than a dead guy with big stitches across his belly and over his chest, sewing him back up again. That is some ugly shit.”

 Johns laughed. “But you look anyway… Human nature. Why do you think people slow down and look at accidents?”

“Because we’re morbid mother-fuckers,” Kohlson agreed.

“Well, that too, but it is that fascination with death we have. Look,” He pointed at the monitor. Do you think Clayton Hunter knew he’d be laying on a steel slab this afternoon, dick hanging out, with Doctor Christmas shoving his guts back in and stitching him up with his nursey assisting?” They both laughed and turned away.

“She ain’t half…”

A scream cut off the conversation and both men turned quickly back to the monitor.

Clayton Hunter was sitting up on the steel table: Arms drooping at his side; mouth yawning. Doctor Christmas had backed away until he had met the wall behind him. Nurse Berty was nowhere to be seen.

“What the fuck… What the fuck. Get a camera on the floor… Maybe she fainted,” Kohlson said.

“Got it,” Johns agreed. He stabbed at the keys on his keyboard and a view of the table at an angle appeared. Nurse Bertie’s leg could be seen, angled away from the table, skirt hiked high. The camera paused briefly and then the view began to shift as Johns manipulated the camera angle. Her face came into view: Mouth open, blood seeping from one corner.

“Doctor,” Kohlson called over the speaker system. Outside the airlocks had clicked on and the air was cycling. Good, he thought, in twenty minutes the Calvary would be here. “Doctor Adams?”

The doctor finally took his eyes off Clayton Hunter and turned toward one of the cameras. On the table Clayton Hunter leaned forward and tumbled off the edge of the table. At the same instant the air purifier quit cycling and three armed men in gas masks stepped into the airlock.

“Jesus,” Johns sputtered into his headset microphone, “You guys can’t do that shit. That air has to be worked!” Three more men stepped through the lock and the door to the autopsy room opened as well as the door to the control room. A split second later the rifles in their hands began to roar. The sound was louder than Kohlson expected in the enclosed space. He clasped his hands over his ears, but it did little good. The soldiers, he saw, were wearing ear protection of some sort: Noise canceling headgear. The remaining three soldiers had stepped into the control room he saw as he looked back up from the floor: They had their rifles leveled at them; the others were still firing within the confines of the small autopsy room. A small gray cloud was creeping along the floor and rolling slowly into the control room. The stench of gunpowder was strong in the enclosed space. The air purifiers were off. Kohlson knew there was another control room outside this one that controlled this space, and possibly another outside of that space that controlled that space: Built in redundant protection; it was clear that they were in a very bad place.

Kohlson saw Clayton Hunter lurch to his feet and stumble into the soldiers who were firing at point blank range in the tight confines. A series of bullets finally tore across his chest and then into his head and he fell from view. A second later the firing dropped off and then stopped completely.

Johns was listening to the sound of his own heart hammering for a space of seconds before he figured out it was his own. The smell of gunpowder was nauseating, and he suddenly lunged forward and vomited on his shoes. As he was lifting his head he saw that the soldiers were retreating back through the airlocks and into the outer spaces of the compound.

“Jesus,” Kohlson managed before he also bent forward and vomited. They heard the air filtering kick back on as both of them rolled away from the puddles of vomit and quickly disappearing low, gray vapor from the gunfire. The doors into the autopsy room suddenly banged shut and then their own door whispered closed as well: Once again they were isolated in their small space.

They both sat silent for a moment and then Kohlson left and returned from the small bathroom with a mop and bucket from the utility closet there. He left again and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and sprayed down the vomit and the balance of the small room.

“That won’t do shit,” Johns said solemnly. “We’re infected. Whatever they infected that guy Hunter with, we got it now.

Kohlson ignored him, waited the ten minutes for the disinfectant to work and then cleaned up the mess. Neither spoke while he returned the equipment to the small closet and then came back and sat down.

“You heard me, right?”

“I heard you,” Kohlson admitted. “I just don’t give a fuck… It’s too fresh… I can’t believe it right now.” He looked up at the clock. “Mother fucker… I was off duty in twenty minutes… Twenty goddamn minutes!” He spun and looked at Johns, but Johns was looking up at the monitors that were still on in the autopsy room. The smoke was being drawn out by the air exchange, and the horror of the room was slowly coming into focus.

Doctor Adams lay sprawled in one corner, a line of bullet holes stitched across his back. The back portion of his skull was missing, jagged bone and gray-black hair clumped wildly around the fractured bone. Johns gagged and looked away.

“Jesus… They killed everybody,” Kohlson said as he continued to watch. Nurse Bertie lay where she had fallen. Only her legs visible in the shot they could see. Clayton Hunter lay against the end of the stainless slab, his head a shapeless mass. The stitches across his chest and stomach bulging. Kohlson finally turned away too.

“They’re coming back for us.” Johns said.

Kohlson spun to the door.

“Not now, stupid ass, but you can’t think we get to live after that. They contaminated our air. We’re dead. No way are we not dead.”

Kohlson said nothing.

~

It was six hours before the soldiers came. They had finally taken a better look at the room, Johns moving the camera around as Kohlson watched.

“Dave… Tell me I’m wrong, but that fucker came back to life, right?” He was unsure even as he said it.

Johns shrugged. “I think what happened is they missed something… We missed something. Maybe a lead came off, you know… And the lead came off and so he seemed dead and he wasn’t dead at all, not really, he was still alive… Just that lead was off.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean… I mean the alternative is that he came back to life… You don’t think that do you? I mean, do you? Cause that’s fucking crazy, Gabe, crazy.”

“No. No, I can see what you mean. I can see where that could be… But I’ve heard rumors…”

“Same as we all have,” Johns agreed. “But come on, that’s…”

The air lock cycled on and six soldiers stepped into the hall like space that was actually just an airlock between the control room, the autopsy room, the former patient ward and the outside world. Johns tensed, waiting for the door to their space to cycle on, but it didn’t.

The soldiers were dressed head to toe in army drab-green plastic coveralls. Respirators, big units, sat on their backs and a full face shield and breathing apparatus covered their faces, somehow joined into the coveralls. Tape was wound around the elastic cuffs of the legs and the plastic boot covers that joined there. Flexible olive-green gloves covered their hands, also taped where they slipped under the plastic coveralls. They never looked their way at all, just waited for the air lock to cycle and then stepped into the autopsy room. A second later the monitors went dead in the control room.

“Fuck,” David Johns said. “That is not good at all.”

Kohlson got up and left the room. A minute later he was back with two diet colas. He handed one to David Johns and then sat back down. Johns glanced down at the cola. The top was open already. He looked at Kohlson and Kohlson stared back unblinking. They kept the supply of the virus compounds they were testing in there, but the med supplies cabinet was also in that closet. They had talked it over once. They had decided that… He pushed it away and focused on the low whisper of the air exchange

“You think they will outright kill us,” Kohlson asked after a few long minutes of silence.

“Gabe… I think they will, Gabe.” Johns said after a hesitation. He tried to stop himself, but he glanced down at the cola in his hand. It was half full. White powder floated on the surface. Clumped and drifting like tiny icebergs across a cola sea. “Probably… No. They’re listening in right now, I’m sure. Listening to see where our minds are at: As soon as those flunkies in there are finished with that job they’ll be in here to finish up the clean up.” He swallowed hard.

“Yeah, I guess that’s how I see it too,” Kohlson agreed. He raised his can and tapped the side. “Been good knowing you, Dave.”

Johns stared him down for a few moments and then sighed. “Yeah, same here.” He raised the can in a salute and then downed it. Kohlson followed suit. Silence descended on the control room.

Project Bluechip:

Watertown NY: Subterranean base.

Commanding: Major Richard Weston

Major Dick Weston read the report slowly. This was not the first hitch in SS. Last year they had lost a whole ward, three test subjects compromised, two doctors, and three control rooms, six enlisted personnel there that had to be terminated because of it, and three civilian employees.

He rocked back in his chair and pulled at his lower lip as he read the report. So it had some drawbacks, but there was too much focus on the problems, and not enough on the positives of V2765. Of all the compounds they had tested, this one did exactly what they needed it to do. It prolonged life far past the point of termination. Grave wounds, starvation, dehydration, nothing mattered. This compound changed the cells and made them able to adapt to the consequences of war. The only drawback was that it did its job a little too well. It continued to allow the subject to live after death. Everything stopped and then everything started up again. Usually with a much diminished capacity for understanding: Just the basic low end survival instincts any animal had, eat, protect, and eat again. And it did those things very well.

Some doctors at the third level, men whose reputations would be on the line very shortly when V2765 was released on a squadron of troops bound for the Middle East, in fact, wanted a brain biopsy. They had studied the video and decided that good Old Doctor Christmas might have been hiding something with the secrecy he had afforded the previous brain autopsies. On top of that one full reiteration of this virus was missing. Four pieces total: two viruses, one antidote and one Rex, the compound that ended life within the dead. He suspected Doctor Christmas had taken the samples for his own use. Maybe they would turn up, but it was little or no consequence if they didn’t. There was no way they could have made it off the base. Security, his security, was too tight. No, if they really ever existed they were right here somewhere and he would find them.

As for the virus itself, he had what he needed. He could deliver what was expected of him to deliver. That was what really mattered. He stopped pulling at his lip. Leaned forward and fed the paper sheaf from the incident into a shredder.

The thing is there was a secret. Major Weston had no idea what it signified, he was no doctor, but he had found the good doctor’s private files and brain biopsy reports on the previous candidates: Significant structural change to the brain cells. Not just slight modifications as the virus did when it infected the host, no, something deeper: A mutation. That file lay nearby on his desk too. He reached for it. If that information got out there would be a fast end to SS, and he could not have that. SS was not his baby, some General he had never even met had that honor, but Bluechip was his base, and SS was a feather in his cap. It meant jobs. It meant growth. It meant over a mile of top secret base three miles below ground. These were things that could not be compromised. If, in the field, there were incidents, so be it. They could be isolated. Tests so far showed that very few came back after actual death. Destroy the brain and it destroyed whatever life had kicked back in. And if there were a large outbreak, they had spent the last fourteen months working on an antidote to kill the V virus itself, Rex.

REX34T could easily take care of a large outbreak. REX34T took it all back to normal. The doctors had nicknamed it Rex. Rex, like a trusty dog that could get the job done, but what sort of job did Rex do? He didn’t know. Rex seemed to reverse the process that V2765 started. It could not undo the cell changes, but it did not leave a single trace of the V virus when it was finished. The dead died. According to this report, there was a counterpart to REX34T that was meant specifically for the living: The antidote. Release it in the air, same as Rex, and it affected only the living, reversing the changes that the V virus had made, and the living went on living, maybe. The testing insinuated that the longer the process that V2765 initiated had gone on the more of a shock to the human body it was when it was removed. It suggested that some might not survive the withdrawal of the V virus.

He glanced down at the three containers that sat on the edge of his desk: Evaluation units. Below, in one of the storage areas, there was enough of each to reverse the entire world population ten times over if need be. If, he reminded himself, if. He looked down at the three containers where they sat on the desk. One small vial filled with dark red liquid. The other two were small aluminum cartridges that reminded him of small inhaler refills of some kind. They looked so innocuous, so everyday ordinary. He beat out a nervous tempo with his fingers on the desktop and then picked up the three vials and slipped them into a plastic bag. He set the bag on the desktop, withdrew the test results from the drugs from the thick file and then placed the bag into the file itself. A second later he placed the file into his personal file cabinet and locked it. He called up the same report on his monitor, excised the three pages of reports, and then saved the file. He pulled a fresh file folder from his cabinet before he closed and locked it, and then dropped the pages into the empty folder. He hesitated and then fed that smaller file into the shredder too.

No problem, no liability, because if there was an acknowledged problem that was preexisting in this lawyer happy atmosphere, every ex-soldier would be suing when the first x-ray showed the alteration in brain cell structure. No higher climb up the ladder for Major Richard Weston, and probably General whoever he was too. And that would be a long stop from where either of them wanted to be.

“Alice?” He looked over at his secretary.

“Major?”

“I want you to take this out and burn it.” He pulled the wastebasket free and slid it across to her. “I guess I’ve thought it out. Those two fools who took the overdose on morphine?” He waited for her eyes to meet his. “I think it was a mistake to try to save them. I would like you to take care of that personally, Alice… Doesn’t matter how. Let me know if you need anything.” He held her eyes for a moment. “That will be all,” he finished.

“Sir,” Alice said. She picked up the wastebasket and started to leave the office.

“Oh, Alice?”

She stopped and turned back.

“Have that med closet removed. Stupid to put it in an interior control room… Have it moved to the very outside. From now on when they need something like that they can damn well get it walked in by our boys.”

“Sir,” Alice nodded. She turned and left the office.

Rochester New York

Ben Neo leaned back from the monitor and waited for the numbers to change and confirm that the amount had been wired. It was a foregone conclusion that it would be wired. It was Jefferson Prescott after all.

He had spent most of the previous week working the job and had come up with nothing that pointed anywhere, but tonight he had gotten proof. It was not the sort of proof that Jefferson had hoped for, but it was the sort of proof he had suspected, and he had been right.

To Neo it wasn’t personal. He did his work and he was paid well. It truly didn’t matter what the work was. It was all the same. He had drawn lines when he had first come down the road years before, but after redrawing those lines so many times he had finally stopped drawing lines.

He wasn’t an animal like Jimmy West. Jimmy was employed by Tommy Murphy too. A problem solver as Ben himself was, but Jimmy did what he did crudely. It was a wonder to Neo how he never managed to be caught: How he drenched himself in blood and violence, lost himself completely in it at times, yet had the presence of mind to save his own ass on occasion.  He always seemed to walk away just at the right moment. Like he could sniff the air and smell his demise: Skipping out just before the ax fell.

The problem with that was the unknown. If you didn’t plan, you didn’t know what you needed to be safe. And how long could you play that game and live? Walk away? For Jimmy, almost 15 years now.

Neo believed in plans. He stacked his deck as completely in his favor as he could every time, but he didn’t get complacent. He didn’t trust to his plans completely. He trusted his head and the knowledge it contained. He watched himself and everyone who came in contact with him.

He guessed if he were to be honest, that he did have a few lines left. He would never do the sort of work that Jimmy West did: Never, but Tommy Murphy seemed to know that and had never asked Neo to do that sort of work. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do wet work. He could and did almost every week, but there was a difference in the contracts he took and those that Jimmy was given.

The other line he wouldn’t cross was working with Jimmy. And that had never happened either. Tommy knew without asking. The same as he knew about the types of work. In Neo’s mind Jimmy was a paid serial killer. He would’ve been out there doing those sorts of crimes, the way he did them, for free. He had simply been fortunate enough to find a way to get paid to do them.

The numbers changed on the screen and he picked up the phone and dialed the number he had been given. He had sent the photos as an attachment hours ago, shot from a rooftop a half mile away that had a clear view directly into Jefferson Prescott’s Manhattan penthouse. He had received Jefferson’s reply in the contract. It was only details now. When, how and whatever else there might be.

The phone was answered and Ben Neo listened. His mind worked that way. He could hear it once and that was all he needed. A phone number, a license number, a street address.  It didn’t matter what the information contained, he could spit it back out verbatim whenever he needed it. And when he was through with it he could flush it out of his head just as if he had erased it from his memory for good. He listened; he said nothing until the end.

“It’s not something I would do,” he said. He listened as the voice persuaded him. It wasn’t exactly a line he was asked to cross: It was subjective, and after a few minutes of listening he came to believe it was necessary.

“Okay,” he said at last. “When the time comes let me know.” He hung up, shut down his laptop and closed it.

One week before:

Tommy Murphy stood at the rail of his deck and looked out onto the pines in the forest below. Jefferson had his place in Ecuador; this was his place in New Paltz. It just wasn’t so far away, and he spent every extra moment here that he could.

He owned 1600 acres, and the house, all cedar shakes and black glass, sat right in the middle of that. A private road led in and out, and when he was here, which was nearly every weekend he could manage, and any time in between that he could get here, his men patrolled the road and the woods. He was never disturbed by an errant hunter or hiker. After a few years of discouragement, the hunters and the hikers had begun to leave the entire area alone: Which was just the way Tommy liked it: Wanted it.

He sipped at his drink and then puffed at the cigar he held in one hand. He turned from the rail.

“Carlos,” he said. “I know that Jefferson has talked to you and I’m so glad to see you will be with us next week. It is a… A large deal… One of our largest. Neo,” he nodded at Neo, “will be along to keep things straight for me… He is my best, and it is good to see that Jefferson has sent you… His best… His right hand man… Like his own son, he tells me… You work out all the details with Neo?” Tommy asked.

“Of course, Mr. Murphy,” Carlos said.

“Carlos… Tommy… My friend’s son… So close to me too, call me Tommy.”

“Of course… Tommy,” Carlos said. “I’m sorry.”

“Carlos, never be sorry… Fuck ’em, right, Neo?” he asked and laughed. He cut his eyes to Neo who nodded, and then back to Carlos. “Never say you are sorry. In this business it means you are not up to snuff. Not good enough. Not able to get the job done. We say, “He’s sorry.” It means he’s washed up. You see?” He nodded at Carlos. “A man should never apologize, never… Leave that to the women,” Tommy said.

He looked out over the deck rail for a moment longer and then turned back to Carlos. “Carlos, could you excuse Ben and me for a few moments? Go on down to the main room. There are several young ladies here for the weekend… Enjoy yourself.  Tomorrow the two of you will leave to take care of business.” Tommy nodded as Carlos got up and left the room. He waited until Carlos was gone. He turned to the huge bodyguard at the door. “Jack, I want you to speak to Kim. Put her on to Carlos. Make sure he has a good time. Tell her I said so…  And Jack, when you come back give Neo and me a little time: We have some business to discuss.” Tommy smiled.

“Certainly,” Jack said. He left and closed the door.

Tommy smiled at Neo. “You’re quiet, Ben, is everything okay?”

“Yeah; everything is good, Tommy,” Neo said.

“What do you think of our boy?” Tommy asked.

“Polite,” Neo said.

Tommy laughed. “Well, I guess he’s not too fuckin’ polite, huh?”

“Guess not,” Neo agreed.

“Everything is a go? No problems?” Tommy asked.

“None at all,” Neo agreed.

“There will be, ah, three packages. They will be inside two very large bales of pot. A significant amount of cash, several bricks of product… I figure hide it in plain sight. You, me, Prescott and of course his contact in Watertown who picked it up, that is it. Nobody on this little trip will know where it is, except you… Just another drug deal as far as everyone else is concerned. You got the little bonus I wired?” he asked.

“I did… It was very generous, Tommy. Thank you,” Neo said.

“Eh,” Tommy said, and shrugged. “We all gotta eat. Watch out for me, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. Believe me when I tell you that the merchandise amounts to nothing in comparison to those three packages…” He opened his desk drawer, retrieved a small silver cartridge, and held it between two fingers. “Looks like nothing… An inhaler… Or one of those small CO2 cartridges we used to use in our BB guns when we were kids… Something like that.” He fingered the red tab on the top and then handed it to Neo. “Much more than that though… There are three small, aluminum cases… Uh… You talked to Jeff?” Tommy asked, finally getting around to asking what he had wanted to ask in the first place.

“I did,” Neo said. He twirled the cartridge back and forth. He knew nothing about what it was… A new wonder drug, a new street drug or anything in between, but whatever it was it had to be big for both Jefferson Prescott and Tommy Murphy to be involved. Very big. He rolled the cartridge between his thumb and forefinger. It felt neither cold nor hot. What it did feel, was out of place in his hand, something about the feel of the metal made him apprehensive. He handed the cartridge back to Murphy.

Tommy Murphy nodded as he took the cartridge and slipped it into one pocket. “He thought Jimmy, but I told him not Jimmy. Jimmy shouldn’t be spoken of in the same breath as you. He needs understanding and your unique skills… So I said okay if you agreed… You agreed?” Tommy asked him.  He tossed off his drink, looked at Neo, “Drink, Ben?” he asked. 

“Please,” Neo said. “I agreed… It’s not the same as what Jimmy does. And I see the reasons.”

“He paid you well?” Tommy asked.

“Very,” Neo agreed.

Tommy poured the drinks and came back across the room, handing Neo his. “One thing: He wants you to bring the uh, some items back. That means it’s probably best to do it here, not there. You see?” Tommy asked.

“I do,” Neo agreed.

“Good… Good… One more thing… There is this man… A cop… He’s on our payroll, has been for some time, but he is a potential problem, this man. A potential problem that I thought you might personally take care of for me,” Tommy Murphy said.

Ben Neo nodded politely. “It can be dangerous to take out a cop,” he said quietly.

Tommy nodded back as if in full agreement with Neo. “It is. It is, but it is also dangerous to leave that cop around once he knows too much. And this last deal he was involved in at our request,” he spread the fingers of his hands in what Neo took to be a sometimes things happen and have to be dealt with gestureand then shrugged “Well, he may have learned too much. There is no way to know for certain, just a feeling really, but I’ve been where I am for too long not to take those little feelings seriously… And,” he spread his hands in a helpless gesture, “Unfortunately for him the local prosecutor is looking at him a little funny because he was sloppy in some help that he gave to us when we last needed it. Prescott thought we should take two birds with one stone. Of course I would be very generous and appreciative of your help in such sensitive matters, as would he.” He seemed to consider a moment. Then reached into his desktop and retrieved a tinfoil wrapped brick, nearly an exact match to the bricks of cocaine Neo normally saw coming from Prescott’s Ecuador clans. Different markings, he noticed. “Yes… A clan that works for Prescott’s competitor,” Tommy said when he saw that Neo had noticed the difference in markings. “Actual product: Hard for me to come by, believe it or not… You could plant this on the cop?”

Neo nodded as Tommy Murphy slid a photo across the desktop and left it next to the cocaine brick.

He spoke as Neo studied the photo. “He will come to you… He’ll know about the drug deal. Be tipped off.”

“Maybe he could follow me… Have an accident… It would be a shame to die in a car with drugs right there too,” Neo said.

“Exactly,” Tommy agreed. He reached into the same drawer and pulled out a stack of cash. “And money too… Must have been on the take as the prosecutors are so fond of saying. And of course the markings will get them looking away from my interests.” He shrugged and smiled, sipped at his drink. “They thought as much anyway so it will simply confirm their suspicions.” He pushed both items across the desktop, bent behind the desk and produced a small black duffel bag that he handed to Neo. “I will wire a little something to your account, Ben. And again I do appreciate your discretion. Prescott will too.”

“It’s no trouble at all, Tommy,” Neo told him. “None at all.”

“That’s it then, Ben. Go on down and enjoy the evening… I think there’s a little of everything available… I’ll be gone in the morning.” He reached into his pocket and took out a thick envelope and tossed it to Neo. “That should cover your expenses: If not let me know.” He smiled and then turned back out toward the mountains. “Send Jackie back in, would you, Ben?” he asked.

“Sure,” Neo said. He tossed back the drink, picked up the duffel bag and left the room.

Watertown

Tuesday Morning:

Watertown

Project Bluechip

Major Richard Weston

He read the report twice and then carefully set it back on his desk. Johns or Kohlson: One of the two had stolen samples of SS-V2765. It was not a question. No one else had the access, no one else the proximity or knowledge of where it was stored. Two of the viruses, one each of the REX agents were missing. Enough to infect several million people, and that was just the initial infection. From there the infected would go on to infect even more, where it stopped was anyone’s guess.

Knowing it was one of the two did not solve the problem of how for him though: There should have been no way to get it out. Every area of the facility was under surveillance. There had to be more than just one of the two involved.

From Complex C they were stripped down, showered: Out of the showers naked and into a locker room where they could retrieve their own personal clothing they had stripped out of that morning: Dressed, frisked, metal wanded and then allowed into the elevators that would take them six stories to the surface. This theft was not something either of them could have committed alone.

“Alice.” He picked up the report from his desk. “I have a problem… A problem that requires your… Expertise. Two fold… First, all the guard and camera operators for C Complex are to be relieved of duty. You will personally interrogate them and find out which of them took a payoff to look the other way… Our boys, Johns and Kohlson… Both or one smuggled out the virus.” He paused… “It hardly matters in the scheme of things, it changes nothing, but it is the principle of the thing.” He tossed her the report. “Read it… Quartermaster’s office… Handle that too?” Alice nodded before she bent and looked over the thick report. “Second thing is the virus agent and the REX agents are out there somewhere.” Alice raised her head from the report. “Find it and bring it back?” Alice nodded once more before her head dipped low again; eyes devouring the report. Weston leaned back in his chair, the cigar that was a near permanent fixture in his mouth, rolling from side to side as he closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. “It goes without saying… They’re all expendable,” he added as an afterthought.

“Sir,” Alice said before she returned to reading.

Ecuador

Jefferson Prescott’s Estate

Wednesday Morning

Andrea Zurita had been alive for the second time for more than three days. The men who had left her body had done so carefully: Senor Prescott would be very angry to find them on his land: Transgressions had been met with violence in the past, the bodies dumped into the ocean.

Andrea Ivanna Zurita had taken I’ll three days before in the small village near to Prescott’s property. She worked for Prescott, someone allowed on and off the property with ease. She had taken ill at work suddenly, no one knew the why of it and her family was poor: A doctor, other than the local clinic was out of the question. So she had been sent home to rest, but she had never made it to the local free clinic: She had lapsed into a coma a few hours later and while her family had still been reeling she had died: No rhyme, no reason.

Andrea Zurita was a young woman, there seemed no reason for her sudden illness and death, but there were things that should be done and so the local Mirukus, shaman had come. A few words, prayers, the shaman was a transplanted Haitian: They understood most of what he said, but not everything. He had left and they had prepared her for burial. She was washed and dressed in a plain white cotton dress. The second day came and the family came to call, leaving their wishes where she lay in her grandmother’s home. The third day came and the burial was coming. Cousins, men who worked in a neighboring village were on the way to open the grave. That was when Andrea had sat up and vomited blood.

Her eyes had rolled back into her head. Her body shook, but her chest did not rise. She had spoken no words, but she had tried to rise several times before one of the arriving cousins, crossing himself, had bound her with rope, hand and foot. They had sent for the Mirukus again.

The old Haitian had come quickly, taken one look at Andrea and then spoken cryptically, quickly. “Return her to the man that has cast this spell on her. He has bound her to him in life and that has followed her into death: Return her for she is yours no longer.”

The Mirukus believed the white man, Prescott had attempted to control the river spirit Pullujmu, to take control of the beautiful young woman for his own devices, but she had slipped over into death and was now controlled only by those who controlled the dead. He had left fearfully, quickly and had refused to come back for any reason. With nothing left to do for her they had taken her and left her bound body on the long drive that lead to the Prescott house. The white man may have her, but he would not have what he expected to have.

Jefferson Prescott.

Jefferson watched as the men carefully skirted the body of the young woman in the back of the patrol truck. They had picked her up and not knowing what else to do they had bought her to him.

Her eyes rolled in her head, but occasionally they would stop and focus, seeming to stare through him. Blood seeped from her open mouth, staining the front of what looked to be a burial garb of some sort. She was, at first unrecognizable to him until one of the men told him she was his own worker, Andrea Ivanna Zurita: Kitchen help, among other things; she had been here for more than a year. To Jefferson’s Catholic upbringing she seemed possessed and he kept his distance as he watched her, perhaps as superstitious as the local shaman had been.

He had eventually made the phone call to the Policía Nacional del Ecuador and left the matter in their hands. He had seen stranger than this in his time in Ecuador and had no doubt he would see it again. He sent one of his men into the small village with a thousand dollars in U.S. Currency, Ecuador had no currency of its own for her family. A thousand dollars would go a long way for a poor family living in an equally poor village.

His phone had chimed and he had excused himself to answer it. He was needed back in Manhattan; Ben Neo had found the answers he required. He pushed the problem of Andrea Zurita from his mind and concentrated on plans to leave that evening and return to Manhattan.

The Policía Nacional del Ecuador had come some hours later, taken her off his hands without question, as though they saw this sort of thing every day and he had never heard another thing about it or given it another thought. He had taken his private helicopter back to the United States later in the day as though nothing of any significance had occurred.

Manhattan

Wednesday evening

“You have a beautiful view, Mr. Prescott,” Ben Neo said. He stood on the balcony of the top floor of Prescott’s building which was his home in Manhattan and where his wife and two daughters lived full-time.

“I am rarely here,” Prescott said. “But I do enjoy the view when I am. My wife and daughters seem to like it too. My eldest daughter, Lita, seems to enjoy it more than my wife Esmeralda or my youngest Mia.” His eyes slid to Carlos who met them with his own. “But we’re working on that, aren’t we?” His comments seemed directed a Carlos. Carlos nodded. Not sure what he should say or do. “We are,” Prescott said. He sipped at his drink. “Are we all set for tomorrow?” he asked Carlos?

“We are,” Carlos said. “We’ll drive back to Rochester later tonight.”

“You own a home there?” He turned to Neo.

“Yes. Everything is there; we’ll take it from there to the meet in Watertown. Carlos will go with that, I’ll pick up the cash and then meet your guys there,” Neo said.

Prescott nodded. “It seems like Tommy and I should just dispense with all the drama and just deliver the stuff directly to each other,” he said. He laughed, “But that would put both of you out of a job. And there are so many things I can’t handle as well or don’t have the time or inclination to handle as well as you two.”

He was interrupted by Carlos’ cell phone ringing. Carlos’ dark face flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” he said, obviously not about to answer it. He fumbled it out of his pocket ready to shut it off.

“No, no,” Prescott said. “We were done. Take your call. It is all right, Carlos. Take it out here on the balcony. Benjamin and I will give you a little privacy… Won’t we, Ben?” he asked.

Ben nodded and they both stepped through into the living room and pulled the sliding glass door shut.

“Hello,” Carlos said, obviously upset. He listened. “I cannot believe you called me here,” he said. His voice was high and panicked. “Are you crazy? Did you know he was here with me? Right here with me? He is in the living room separated by a few panes of glass. You are crazy. Crazy,” he took a couple of deep breaths while she spoke. “No… That is even crazier! While he is right here? Meet you with him in the house? Are you trying to get me killed…? No? It seems as though you are… It does… No… How…? How will he not know?” He listened for a few minutes glancing nervously through the glass, but Neo and Prescott stood with their backs to him over by the bar.

“Lita,” he said at last, “I will meet you… Nothing else… I have to leave later on…”

She continued to talk.

~

Ben stood silently drinking his drink. The two voices came clearly through the small scanner behind the bar. They listened to the conversation between Lita and Carlos.

“Did you know, Ben that they were simply radio signals and they can be picked up easily?” Prescott asked.

“Yes… I did… Although I did not realize it could be done this easily,” Neo said.

“Cheap frequency scanner. I only need to know the frequency.” He sighed. “I’m sorry you are a witness to this embarrassment. I treated him like a son… She is my daughter. He has obviously corrupted her… Take him down through the basement, leave that way… Bring me back what I requested, Ben. I would almost do it myself right now, but I will not bring murder into my home… Call me?” he asked.

Neo nodded. It was obvious that the conversation was over. Prescott reached behind the bar and flicked off the scanner. He pulled his phone from his pocket and punched in a number.

“Yes… Bring Mr. Neo’s car to the basement elevator… Thank you.” He hung up just as Carlos came back in through the sliding glass doors, rubbing his arms.

“A little cool, eh?” Prescott asked.

“A little,” Carlos answered. “About the phone call,” he started.

Prescott held up his hand. “Not necessary. Besides, we have had a change in plans. Ben here, along with you will drive back now. A little earlier than we planned, but apparently Mr. Neo needs to take care of something for Tommy this evening… So… You see?” He shook Neo’s hand. “Your car is waiting at the basement entrance.” He looked to Carlos, but his face was a mask: Unreadable. Carlos said goodbye and followed Neo to the elevator.

On the road:

The idiot lights came on: Ben’s Ford bucked twice and then died. Carlos looked over from where he had been watching the lights of Manhattan slip away. They were in an abandoned industrial area on their way across the city.

“Not good,” Carlos said. “Especially here.”

“Hopefully it’s not a big deal,” Neo said. “And who would be stupid enough to mess with us?” he asked. He laughed and Carlos joined in. “I think it’s a loose wire. It happened once before,” Neo said. He coasted the car to a stop and shifted into park. He reached down, pulled the release handle and the hood popped up.

“With all the money you make? You should buy a better car,” Carlos said.

Neo nodded… “Too cheap, I guess. Will you pop that glove box and see if there’s a flashlight in there?  Should be.”

Carlos searched briefly and pulled out the flashlight, held it to his chin and turned it on. He laughed. “Makes me look like a dead guy,” Carlos said and laughed again.

Neo nodded. “Come and hold it for me and we’ll get this baby fixed and be on our way.”

They both climbed out and walked to the front of the car. Neo popped the second hood latch and pulled the prop rod into the air. “Back here,” Neo said. He pointed to a block of wires and one loose red wire that had pulled free. “I knew it,” he said. “Hang on, let me get the tape. Fix it a little better this time,” Neo said. He ducked back into the car and Carlos stood holding the flashlight and thinking to himself; wishing he could have met Lita, but glad that he had not; if Prescott ever found out he would be a dead man. He felt the car shift as Neo got back out and came around to stand beside him.

“Hey?” Neo said in a soft voice.

Carlos looked over at him.

“It’s not personal. I would have done her too,” Neo said. His hand came up fast and he shot Carlos twice between the eyes before he could say anything. Carlos dropped straight down: Folding up as he went. Neo shot his hand out and snatched the flash light out of the air before it hit the ground. He bent down and checked the pulse at the side of Carlos’ neck to make sure, but Carlos was gone. The silenced 22 was perfect. Not enough velocity to exit the back of his head, just enough to kill him dead. He walked around to the back of the car.

He unlocked the trunk and pulled out a plastic rain suit and slipped it on. The trunk was lined in plastic. All taped up the sides and ready. He walked back around to the front of the car, ran a piece of duct tape over the hole in Carlos’ head and pressed it tight so there would be little spillage. He picked him up in his arms and carried him to the trunk. The plastic was there just in case. You never knew. He slammed the trunk, walked back around to the front of the car and slammed the hood shut. He got back in and flipped the small kill switch under the dash that cut out the ignition hot wire. You could buy them in any automotive supply store; wire them in to stop someone from stealing your car even if they hotwired it. He pulled back out onto the road and drove on into the blackness.

Manhattan

Jefferson Prescott’s Penthouse

Lita watched the balcony. There were two ways to reach it:  From her bedroom or her sister Mia’s bedroom. Since Mia was rarely in her room it was the easiest way for Carlos to get to the balcony without being seen. Lita’s bedroom door was on the edge of the U shaped hallway, her parents on the opposite end with their own balcony. It was divided from the girl’s by the building’s structure which protruded there, and Mia’s bedroom was in the center where no one passing by would see him enter.

Her lights were off. The bedroom dark, but there was enough light to see dimly from the outside. She was bare beneath the thin sheets that covered her. She had no intention of letting him get away too soon: Once his hands told him what his eyes could not see he wouldn’t think of leaving.

She saw the shadow move out on the balcony. It separated from the other shadows and came slowly to the door. The door whispered on its track. A breath of cold air swept into the room. Her nipples became erect and poked at the thin sheet.

He came to the bed and looked down at her from the thick shadows. She sat up slowly; letting the sheets slide away from her body.

He caught his breath. She laughed carelessly and her hands moved to his waist, her fingers working his zipper. His hand came up behind her head, a little roughly, but it was okay. Rough could be good as long as it wasn’t too rough.

She realized something was wrong and she started to pull away. The feel, his cologne, something, all of it. It just felt wrong. This was not Carlos. The hand tried to bring her back, but she fought and started to crawl across the bed.

She had no idea who was with her; she only knew it was not Carlos. Even so something about him was familiar. The feel of his hands… Something… She tried to crawl across the bed and away for him, but he grabbed her roughly and pulled her back.

“I’ll scream… I’ll scream… I swear I will,” she gasped. Fear causing her shortness of breath. “My father will kill you… Kill you…” Her voice was high and frightened.

“Scream, whore. No one will hear you. I sent them all away for the night!”

She stopped… Father, she thought? Sudden pain flared inside of her head as one of his hands flashed out and rocked her head back on her neck. Stars bloomed across her vision, she nearly blacked out.

“Filthy, Slut,” he screamed as he hit her again. She collapsed on the bed, barely conscience. A phone began to ring somewhere as she slipped into unconsciousness.

~

Prescott answered the phone. He listened. “Thank you… Thank you, so much,” he said. He closed the phone and dropped it into his trouser pocket. He looked down at Lita curled up on her side. Blood running from her nose. He reached down and removed his shoes one at a time, lowered his body to the bed and stretched out beside her.



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