Authors: David Leadbeater
(MATT DRAKE #5)
Copyright © 2013
by David Leadbeater
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
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e old man stared hard through the grimy window, liver spotted hands gripping the neck of the half-empty wine bottle with a shaky chokehold. His eyes were wide, the fingers of his left hand trailing slowly down the pane as if following a mysterious pattern.
Outside, demons stalked the night.
He knew these demons. He’d seen them before, many times. He was safe. They wouldn’t come for the likes of him. Like the hounds of hell, they rampaged through his unstable home, singling out fitter, younger specimens, always the sort who wouldn’t be missed and could be put to some future, diabolical use.
From his lofty and secluded vantage point
, he watched, his fear and disgust jaded from untold years of existing on the streets. A tall demon, dagger in one hand, pistol in the other, strode carelessly among the fragile dwellings of the street people, smashing and crashing and hurling their precious belongings out of his path. His minions followed him with glee, cackling and capering, their tiny eyes alight with the reflected flame of the growing fire.
—the vulnerable and the lost—cowered in their wake, hoping the storm would pass them by. The old man brought the lip of the bottle to his mouth and drained the last dregs, making a deep sucking sound as he coaxed every last drop of liquid from the liter bottle. His gaze strayed momentarily across the rooftops, only a few hundred yards to where the Spanish beaches lay glittering under the moonlight, awash with surf. Soon they would be carefully groomed and raked, piled high with deck chairs and parasols, resources reserved for shameless tourists but never for downtrodden- locals.
hell, the prey were scattering. The old man watched as the tall demon examined man after man, casting most aside like the rag dolls they were, not caring where they landed. The old man counted himself lucky that on this night, of all nights, he had chosen a different place to sleep and drink his wine, a place where no one might disturb or rob him in his sleep. The bad men down there didn’t care what damage they did. Hurt and pain and even death meant little to them. If ordered and paid handsomely enough, they would do the same in broad daylight at a popular beach.
The old man crossed himself, at the same time wishing his bottle hadn’t run dry. He might be lucky this time, but it hadn’t always been so
—and it wouldn’t be in the future. The demons visited infrequently, but at least twice a year, seeking their candidates before moving on, taking the fittest kicking and screaming along with them. Where they went on other nights, he didn’t know. Did they visit other such places? He suspected they did, but it was not his job to speculate. Life had shredded his hopes and dreams long ago and he had no wish to jeopardize his long-accepted position by challenging what most considered the norm.
Once, months ago, he remembered being caught
in the purge. He still recalled the feeling of bone-shaking fear and the metallic taste of dread that had filled his mouth. The tall demon had taken hold of him and shook him hard, making all his limbs dance like a possessed marionette. The stink of evil had clung strong to this man. Close up, he was Satan—the Devil incarnate.
The old man had been thrown to the ground, discarded for being
all used up. Luckily, his limbs had only been bruised, not broken, or he might’ve died from his injuries. The demon had passed by, boot heels dragging through grit and dirt, scraping across the ground with a metallic rasp. And then, they had stopped. A menacing exclamation had scraped through the air.
“This one will do.”
A thick, guttural accent. Others spoke Spanish, but this demon sounded Russian. Or one of those new breakaway states. The old man had no real grasp of facts anymore. It didn’t matter anyway for the demon’s next words froze both the blood and the marrow in his old bones.
“Do not fret, little rabbit. You have a
little time left, yet. There is more than one country you must pass through before you end as — a lab experiment.” Harsh laughter tore at the very fabric of the air, echoing around the makeshift campsite long after the minions of hell had gone, leaving nothing but mayhem and despair in their wake.
And now, the old man watched soundlessly as history repeated.
His eyes would not see; his mouth would not speak. His heart would break.
These days, the world was an uncaring, selfish place
, not for the needy and dependent. Who out there would stoop down to help them?
Homeland Security HQ is located in the Nebraska Avenue complex in Washington DC. Though not thought of as a primary port of call for intelligence alerts, it is nevertheless heavily concerned with terrorist threats, both domestic and abroad. On January 14
, 2013, it received a message that, whilst surprising and urgent, had no one screaming or reaching for the panic button.
Not like they would be in a little over a week.
The message originated out of Asia, somewhere off the coast of Korea. Speculation was that it came from one of the deserted islands out there. The body of the message, though short, was ultimately stunning.
“Our warship returned to the curious island
I previously spoke of today. This time, I was allowed to disembark and go ashore. Saw everything unexpected. A vast, well equipped lab. Bodies of European descent. And worse—experimentation. Many weapons—American made, state of the art. Some futuristic. And one other thing—the briefest mention of a possible target. US Senator James Turner.”
It came from a Japanese agent
named Dai Hibiki, a man who had been deep undercover with the Koreans for many years. This man was buried so deep that it had been rumored several times that he’d been turned. Or murdered. His messages were few and far between, so any contact from him was given the highest priority.
It was routed through
a Japanese intelligence agency to Homeland and then immediately to a small, covert agency because of a recent agreement between the Japanese and American governments.
The small, covert agency was
brand new, and had a big new name. Special Response and Recon. Some of its members had taken to calling it SPEAR for short.
The new agency was in its infancy, still seeking agreements with some governments
—the Swedes were playing major league hardball, and even the British were proving surprisingly prickly. Something to do with an unresolved matter concerning an SAS base that didn’t exist on European soil. Other agencies, like the Japanese, who were quick to sign an agreement, were more than likely playing for an angle. Offices had been rented, cleaned and furnished on tree-lined Nebraska Avenue, Washington DC, with park views on one side and a University campus on the other to help promote a relaxed ambience. The space was large, and roomy, but would take a long time to feel comfortable. Computers were up and running, a new mainframe buzzed with activity, and the telephone system was online. Other than that, operational systems and physical hardware was still being installed. Several much anticipated “toys” had not yet appeared. Offices were cluttered with discarded boxes and reams of flayed wire. An interrogation room was being built along with a secure parking garage and a state-of-the-art warning and ventilation system.
But the transition was always going to be hard.
The sheer diversity of the team members was a recipe for disorder. In Mai Kitano and Alicia Myles, there was both brilliance and instability. In Hayden Jaye and Mano Kinimaka, there was discipline and restraint, which, of course, led to limitation. In Ben and Karin Blake, there was both genius and a kind of broken insecurity. In Torsten Dahl, there was the superman you could always count on. Komodo was a soldier and a strong friend.
then there was Matt Drake. Destroyed by the death of his wife, rebuilt by the love of Kennedy Moore and then ripped apart again when the Blood King arranged her murder, he was a man struggling to cling on to the blasted pieces of his life. Constant action and mayhem had helped him cope, but the last two sluggish weeks had him asking some major questions.