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Authors: Steve Feasey

Changeling (5 page)

BOOK: Changeling
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‘Front or back, Trey. I really do not care, but please be quick.’ Lucien approached the driver’s door and Trey decided he would be more comfortable in the back. He hesitated, his fingers resting on the handle. He looked up at Lucien, and, shaking his head at the stupidity of what he was about to do, opened the door and jumped into the back seat. He fastened his seat belt while looking out of the window to see what Lucien was doing. His heart pounded in his chest and he felt extremely hot and clammy, as the blood raced around his body carrying the fight-or-flight chemicals to every cell within it.

Outside, Lucien switched the umbrella to his left hand and, opening the door with the other, very quickly threw himself into the seat while simultaneously discarding the opened umbrella on the road outside the car and closing the door. For the first time since they had met, Trey saw that the man’s impeccable self-composure had been allowed, momentarily, to slip. He was breathing hard and a slither of sweat snaked down the flesh on the back of his neck.

As Lucien sat in the chair for a minute to compose himself, Trey watched in horror as large, angry blisters started to form on the top of Lucien’s head and the backs of his hands. They grew at an incredible rate, increasing their diameter five- or six-fold in the mere seconds that he watched, filling with a light, yellowish-white fluid until the area around them looked pinched and sore. Trey had seen how quickly Lucien had entered the car and knew that those areas of skin could not have been exposed for more than a fraction of a second.

‘Lucien, your skin . . . it’s . . .’

He watched as the man in front of him gingerly touched the angry welts on the top of his head with the tips of his fingers. ‘I know. It’s this . . . condition. I don’t react very favourably to the sun. Don’t worry, they’ll be gone shortly.’

‘I don’t think so. They look bad. You’ll need a doctor. I think—’

‘Trust me, Trey. I am an
extremely
fast healer.’ He removed the sunglasses and placed them on the passenger seat by his side. Starting the car, he began to pull away from the curb and away from the institution that had been Trey Laporte’s home for the last three years. ‘Now, we need to make haste.’

‘This looks like a drug dealer’s car,’ Trey remarked carelessly. In the rear-view mirror he saw Lucien’s cheeks rise and his eyes crinkle in what he guessed was a smile.

‘Does it, indeed? Then I will certainly have to change it. The remote control for the television is in the lift-up compartment on your right. Feel free to watch what you like.’

‘I’m too wired to watch TV, Lucien. I think I’d just like to sit in peace for a while and try to work out what the hell I have just done.’

Lucien nodded from the front, and they drove in silence for the remainder of the trip, mile after mile of countryside speeding past Trey’s window as he gazed out from the rear of the car. He could feel his eyes start to drop and he blinked them open in frustration, shaking his head in disbelief that he could even consider the possibility of sleep after everything that had just happened. But the adrenalin dump that was taking place in his body right now was making him suddenly extremely weary. He felt his eyes blinking shut again and looked up to see Lucien regarding him in the rear-view mirror.

‘Sleep is a good thing,’ Lucien said. ‘We’ve got a long journey ahead of us, so, please, sleep as long as you like. You are quite safe now. Trust me.’

Fighting the sudden waves of exhaustion that seemed to simply roll over him, Trey suddenly remembered that he had left the home without any of his possessions.

‘My stuff . . .’ he mumbled.

‘Shhh, now. I will arrange for all of your personal items to be collected by one of my people. Everything else – we will simply buy as new.’

Trey looked around at the luxuriant car interior. ‘Are you rich, Lucien?’ he asked.

‘Yes. Disgustingly so.’

‘Where are we going?’ His eyes fluttered as he fought to stay awake long enough to catch the answer.

‘We are going to my apartment in London. You are coming to live with me, Mr Laporte.’

And with that, Trey gave himself up to the creeping sleep that encroached at the edges of his consciousness like some amorphous fog, and placed himself in the charge of Lucien Charron.

4

‘Trey, wake up. We are here.’ Lucien was leaning back between the gap in the two front seats and gently shaking Trey out of the sleep that he was in.

‘Unghh, where are we?’ Trey said. His neck ached from the uncomfortable sleeping position that he had adopted against the car door. He opened his eyes and looked out of the window on to a bleak open space of concrete pillars and sickly-coloured fluorescent lighting. Twenty or so cars were parked in various bays, their colours difficult to make out under the garish green hue of the strip lights.

‘We’re in the underground car park beneath my apartment block. You’ve slept the entire journey here,’ Lucien said.

‘I’m sorry . . .’

‘Please, there is no need to apologize. You have been through an awful lot in such a short space of time, it’s understandable that your mind would want to rest. Come along.’ Lucien climbed out of the front seat. He moved around the outside of the car, then, like a chauffeur, he deferentially swung back the rear door on Trey’s side and made a grand sweeping gesture with his other arm. ‘Your new home awaits.’

Trey climbed out, suddenly feeling very wary of his surroundings. The underground car park smelt of acrid exhaust fumes, and even the smallest sound was transformed into a harsh echo as it bounced around the walls. The sickly feeling of fear welled up within him again as the stupidity of his actions suddenly crushed in on him. He jumped slightly at the sound of the car locking behind him, but if Lucien spotted this he didn’t comment. He simply turned his back on the boy and walked towards an elevator set into a wall on their right.

‘Do come along, Trey,’ Lucien said over his shoulder, pressing a small button in the wall next to the doors. ‘We live on the top floor.’

Trey walked over to the doors as they slid open. His mind slowly cleared of the sleepy fog that had dulled it moments before. He was fully alert again now and on edge as he got into the small lift compartment. Lucien stabbed at the uppermost button, and the doors slid shut on the pair.

‘I am guessing that you are hungry?’ Lucien said.

Trey hadn’t even thought of food, but the mere mention of it caused his stomach to groan noisily and twist as though some parasitic beast living within him had suddenly been awakened. ‘Ravenous. I could eat a horse with a soup spoon . . . but I feel sick at the same time,’ Trey replied. The tall man next to him laughed for the first time since they had met. It was a deep, wonderful sound that seemed completely at odds coming from such a stern, alarming-looking individual. Trey found himself smiling in spite of the creeping worry-worm that wriggled and gnawed away inside of him.

He’s not what he says he is, the worm whispered. Run now while you still have a chance.

‘Well, I can’t promise any horse tonight, but I am sure that we can find something that will satisfy your appetite.’

The lift finished its ascent, the metal doors sliding open to reveal Lucien’s apartment. Trey stood in the opening and stared, wide-eyed, at the opulence of the room before him. It was a huge room that he guessed must have been at least forty metres in length. The white walls were crowned with a dark blue glass suspended ceiling that hung impossibly above the entire space and reflected back an image of it in its surface. Rugs broke up the expanse of cream carpeting that stretched from the lift to the far side of the room, where huge floor-to-ceiling windows allowed the last of the early evening sunlight in, filling it with a golden hue. Trey could see the towering form of Canary Wharf rising behind some of the buildings that faced them from across the other side of the river. Everything inside the apartment was so
big.
Three doors were uniformly arranged along both side walls, which, in turn, were lavishly adorned with works of art and tapestries. Trey’s eyes were drawn to a giant tapestry in the centre of one wall: the scene sewn into its surface in silken thread showed mounted huntsmen that had cornered a white stag. A lance pierced the animal’s heart; the creature’s head was twisted in agony as it died at its pursuers’ hands.

In the centre of the room, encircled by large obsidian stones, burned a log fire, its smoke being gobbled up by a polished metal hood hanging from a suspended column in the ceiling.

Standing next to the fire, perfectly still and upright, was a tall, powerful-looking man. A large unsightly scar dominated the right side of his face, and it appeared to have healed poorly, the scar tissue pulling the flesh in on itself, giving it an ugly, puckered appearance. His hair was black, with hints of grey, and was cropped close to his head, lending him a distinctly military air. He was wearing a dark blue suit that, like Lucien’s, looked expensive, the cut of his clothing enhancing his muscular frame. He nodded at Trey, his head barely dipping in acknowledgement, before his gaze turned back to Lucien.

‘Welcome back, Lucien.’ The man spoke in a broad Irish accent. He strode across the room towards them, crossing the threshold of the lift, and Trey had to stop himself from taking a step backwards in response.

‘Nice to meet you, young man,’ he said in a voice that sounded as if he gargled with bleach every morning. He held out a hand in greeting.

Trey wasn’t at all surprised to find that the man’s hands were tough and callused: hands that had been used for hard work. He was, however, surprised by the warmth of the handshake, as his hand was gripped firmly and covered by the man’s other hand.

‘Trey, this is Thomas,’ Lucian announced, looking from one to the other. ‘He is my right-hand man and he helps, among a whole host of other things, to keep my businesses running smoothly when my attentions are elsewhere. He’ll do his best to make sure that you are comfortable here, and if there is anything that you need, I’m sure that Thomas would be happy to try to get it for you.’

‘You call me Tom,’ the Irishman said, glancing at the other man from under his eyebrows. ‘Thomas indeed! The first thing that’ll start to infuriate you about this great long streak of I-don’t-know-what is his unrelenting formality.’ He released Trey’s hand and stepped back, cocking his head to one side, his eyebrows raised high as if expecting an answer to some unspoken question. When none came, he turned his back on them, walking away and shouting over his shoulder, ‘Well, are the two of you coming in, or are you going to stand in the lift all night like a couple of
eejits
? I suppose you’ll both be wanting something to eat?’ he said, disappearing into the furthest door set into the right-hand wall.

Lucien ushered Trey into the room and gestured towards a brown leather recliner facing the fire. ‘Make yourself at home, Trey. I shall go and ascertain what culinary delights our housekeeper, Mrs Magilton, has left for us. If you’d like to watch something on the television, feel free.’ He bent down towards the chair and picked up a remote control with a large blue LCD display which he handed to Trey. ‘If you press this button,’ he continued, ‘the TV slides up out of the floor over there.’ He gestured to an area on Trey’s left. ‘Beyond that, I really don’t have a clue how it works, but I’m sure that you’ll work it out in no time.’ He smiled and exited through the same door that Tom had just used, leaving Trey on his own.

Trey watched him leave before staring round again at his fabulous surroundings. The place screamed of money. Big money. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on a show he had seen on MTV about the houses of famous footballers and rap stars. He couldn’t imagine how anybody could accrue enough money to live in this kind of luxury, and he thought back to his comment to Lucien when they had first got into the Lexus about it looking like a drug dealer’s car. Lucien had smiled at the remark and quipped about changing it. But if not drugs, what? The worry-worm returned, forcing its way through the soft tissues of his brain, churning up the fears and doubts that he had hitherto fought to suppress.

Maybe Lucien was a gangster of some kind? Maybe he was involved in organized crime. Both he and Tom looked like the type: hard men that wouldn’t think twice about using violence to get what they wanted. Trey shook his head in disbelief. He’d allowed himself to run away with a man that he knew nothing about and he’d based that decision on
what
? Some misguided trust in somebody because they had claimed to know his parents. The thought that he had tried to bury for so long now finally rose up and lodged itself firmly in his mind. Maybe Lucien was some kind of child killer? Maybe he’d built his wealth on selling teenage boys to people who did terrible things to them?

Trey looked down at the remote he was holding. His hands were shaking so badly that he could hardly keep hold of the thing as he struggled to control his rising anxiety. For want of something to do, he pressed the button that Lucien had indicated, and the largest television he’d ever seen slid silently up out of the floor and turned itself on. One of the countless celebrity chefs that seemed to be forever on the TV was demonstrating how to make some kind of salmon terrine. The sound of his voice seemed to come from all around the room and Trey glanced about him to see if he could locate the hidden speakers. He pressed the same button again, and the giant screen obeyed his command by going into standby mode and silently sliding back into its hiding place in the floor.

He stood and walked across the room on shaking legs and took in the view out of the window. He was high up. He had neglected to notice the floor number that the apartment was on, but one look through the window was enough to tell him that he was near the top of a very tall building. He looked around again, searching the room for a way in or out except for the elevator. Surely there must be a fire exit? He wanted to be certain that he could still escape this place if he needed to.

He jumped slightly as the door next to him opened again. Lucien stood there, looking quizzically at the boy.

‘Is everything OK?’ he asked, inclining his head to one side. He was drying his hands on a white tea towel, and as he finished Trey noticed that the ugly blisters that had come up on them earlier had completely disappeared. He switched his attention to the top of Lucien’s head and noticed that this too was completely free of the angry marks that he had witnessed form all over the bald dome.

BOOK: Changeling
9.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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