Authors: Jordan Dane
“You should’ve let me come with you.” The kid kicked at the dirt and hung his head. “No one sees me unless I want ’em to. You know that.”
“Yeah, I know, but I needed you to stay with Kendra. You know how it is.” Rafe shrugged. “When I’m not around, all she’s got is you, little man.”
When he first came to live in the tunnels, Benny knew he wasn’t like Rafe and the others. He didn’t have special skills. Rafe felt bad for him until the runt came up with his own gig. Benny turned into a superhero-ninja dude. He didn’t see the harm in letting the kid believe he could disappear
Rafe grabbed Benny and swung him up high, letting him straddle his shoulders. The kid liked that.
Without a word, Rafe let Kendra know where he was when he got close enough for her to read him.
I’m on your six. Don’t sic the twins on me.
When he caught up to her, he had a smirk on his face as he carried Benny.
“Hey, Benny.” Kendra grinned up at the kid on Rafe’s shoulders before she said, “I see your shadow found you.”
“Yeah, he did. As always.” Rafe lowered Benny and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll catch up with you later, chump. Right now I gotta help my girl, here.”
The kid made a face and gave him a sly smile before he puckered his lips in a fake kiss and left. Rafe narrowed his eyes at the kid without saying anything. When he was alone with Kendra, he couldn’t help but talk about what happened. He felt jacked up by it. They were all getting stronger. Working their skills, instead of always hiding them, felt good—like lifting weights and pumping up.
“Glad the Effin brothers are on our side.” Rafe grinned. “Those guys practically wet themselves runnin’ away from the mutts.”
From the glow off his flashlight, he saw Kendra smile. She got off on scrambling the brains of the Believers’ meat army. The twins had a way of making a lasting impression that would keep those chumps running scared, pounding each other and scarfing food like they were starving. By the time the effects wore off, they’d have to turn in their man cards.
All of that would buy Kendra time—to get the new kid stashed and back on his feet. Even though the new guy couldn’t feel it, Kendra held his hand as the others carried him. She always got real protective of the fresh-picked ones.
“The twins are a wonder. No doubt,” she said.
The twelve-year-old identical twins scared Rafe with their freakish blue eyes and pure blond hair, but he’d never said that aloud. The Effin brothers were never apart. They did everything together. Rafe had never heard them say much. Their choice. Except for Kendra, no one really communicated with them—not in any way Rafe understood—but he could tell the boys had other ways to entertain each other.
Kendra had nicknamed them the Effin brothers because of what they could do. Rafe didn’t understand the science of it like Kendra did. She said the twins could tap into a gland in the human brain—something like a hippo-talmus—that controlled the four
s of human behavior. Feeding, fighting, fleeing and hooking up, something like that. Those twins were short and skinny, but they could seriously mess with anyone’s head and make them do whatever. Like a puppet.
Those men found
Rafe didn’t know if Effin was their real last name. It sounded French the way Kendra pronounced it. She had to spell it for him. Sometimes she laughed when she called them that, but real names didn’t matter much to her, or maybe she liked the idea of starting over fresh.
When they got to the deepest part of the tunnels, Kendra had the new kid put into her room. Rafe had never seen her do that before. He wasn’t sure he liked it, but it was hard to argue with her. He had to work double hard to block his thoughts so she wouldn’t know. Secrets were exhausting.
“Put him on my mattress. And get me rags, a bowl of water and a med kit. He may need stitching.”
While the rest of them scrambled and brought her what she needed, Rafe stayed out of her way and watched Kendra from a distance. She lit candles to see and stripped the kid of his ragged clothes after she searched his pockets.
“No ID,” she said. “I only found a phone number written on scrap paper. No name.”
“I could find out who it belongs to. I gotta hit topside tomorrow. I got something to do. I can call the number. Want me to try it?”
Rafe fought a smile as he thought about what he had planned for tomorrow. A surprise. Kendra looked like she could use something special.
“No, don’t worry about it.” She stuffed the paper into her pocket. “Not yet.”
“I’m goin’ anyway if you change your mind.”
Kendra didn’t seem to hear him. She looked over the kid’s body for bloody holes to plug. He had a mean gash on his back and arm and a knot the size of a baseball on the back of his head, too. She’d gotten good at playing doctor, but something in the way she took special care of this kid made Rafe...
He waited for things to settle down and for the others to leave before he had her alone.
“Those men. They saw our faces this time. You even gave them a taste of what you can do. What were you thinking?” he asked.
Rafe asked a question he already knew the answer to. Kendra had gotten more over-the-top on everything she did. It was like she dared anyone to stop her.
“We’ve talked about this, Rafe. I got a plan, remember?”
Rafe knew Kendra had a mission to save kids like them, but in the latest confrontations with the Believers, she got in their face in her quiet and controlled way. He didn’t know what to think.
“It’s like you’re rubbing their noses in it,” he said. “That could put us in their crosshairs on their timetable, not ours. You picked that old garage to meet this kid because there weren’t surveillance cameras, but why show our faces to those assholes?”
“We pulled it off. That’s all that counts.”
“You wanted them to see us...to feel your power.” Rafe narrowed his eyes at Kendra when he realized what she must have done. “Is that why you waited until the kid made it to the rooftop...while there was light enough for those men to see? This kid got hurt because you waited, Kendra.”
“I had no way of knowing that would happen. If I thought he’d get hurt, I never would have done that.” Kendra’s voice cracked. “I’m tired of being a victim when we have every right to exist as they do. In the open. Free.”
She turned back to the new boy and dabbed a bloody, wet towel across his forehead, tending to his wounds. The kid hadn’t opened his eyes yet. She took a deep breath and heaved a ragged sigh.
“We’re human beings, Raphael. We’re just...different. We’re better than they are and that makes them afraid. They hunt us, yet we’re the ones they treat like unworthy animals. It isn’t right.”
“I didn’t mean to accuse you of anything. I know what happened to this kid was an accident. I just get...afraid for you sometimes. You take on too much. I wish you would let me help you more.” He knelt by her side and stared into her watery eyes.
Her lips curved into a sad smile and she said, “I couldn’t do any of this without you. You know that, right?”
After Rafe nodded, she handed him a bowl of bloodstained water and he took it.
“I could use fresh water,” she said.
“Is he gonna die?”
“Don’t know.” She brushed back the kid’s hair. “I can’t feel him anymore. Don’t know what that means, but it scares me.”
“You’ll fix him. You’re good at that.”
“I gotta get to the garden. Figure stuff out,” she muttered. “He’s gonna need the best I got.”
Rafe didn’t know how Kendra knew the things she did. She had a thing for plants and healing, but what she did with her mind made her different, even among them.
“The Believers send their hunters, and each one is like a rabid pit bull on two legs,” he said. “This time, we had a gun shoved in our faces. These guys are crazy.”
“I had everything under control. You saw that.”
“Yeah, and I got pumped seeing it. No lie, but maybe next time you won’t be in control, Kendra.”
Rafe hadn’t planned on stirring things up with her again, but the words were out of his mouth before he could stop. Kendra always pushed. It was what she did, but the more chances she took, the more she threatened what they already had. Rafe and Benny had found a home in the tunnels, but he felt a clock ticking down to a detonation he couldn’t stop—not without Kendra, the girl who had lit the fuse in the first place, torched it with a damned flame thrower.
“Every time the Believers take one of us, it should make you angry like it does me,” she argued. “We have a right to be the way we are. We have a right to question their world. All I want to do is put our mark on it. That’s how movements start, Raphael. Don’t you want to be part of something bigger than we are?”
“Yeah, sure. I guess.”
Rafe couldn’t argue with her. If Kendra hadn’t found him and Benny, who knew what would’ve happened. There were worse places than juvie and foster care, thanks to the church freaks. Kendra had been the one with a mission to save the world, a kid at a time. That was how she found him and Benny and the others. She made them feel like somebody, not a piece of throwaway garbage. She gave them a family and treated them like they mattered.
Kendra was only seventeen, a year younger than him. He didn’t know how she got to be brainy and pigheaded at the same time.
“We’ve been lucky, but if you keep snatching these kids out from under their noses, they could focus on us. That’s all I’m saying,” he cautioned. “From what you said, they got money and powerful people in their back pocket. Doesn’t that scare you, even a little?”
When she didn’t answer or look at him, Rafe lowered his voice. He reached out his hand to touch her shoulder, but stopped.
“Because of you, we’re getting stronger,” he said. “But I’m not sure we can handle whatever they throw at us. How long before they target you, Kendra?”
Rafe didn’t tell her how much that would kill him. When she didn’t say anything, he did as she asked.
“I’ll get you fresh water.”
* * *
Rafe brought back a bucket of water and set it down near her makeshift bed, along with fresh rags. He didn’t say anything. For that, Kendra had been grateful. He only shot her a worried glance and left her alone with the new one, the pretty one—
the special one.
She drenched a new rag with water and wiped his face and chest. Combinations of medicinal herbs raced through her head. She dismissed them as fast as she thought them up. She couldn’t afford to guess. Not with this boy. Every bruise, every gash on his body hurt her, too. Rafe had guessed right. She had stalled getting to the deserted parking garage. This boy got hurt because of her. She’d messed up and he’d paid the price. The crack on his head worried her most.
Everything bad happened because of her.
She touched his cheek and felt his fever. A concussion was serious and a brain swell could kill him. Treating the wounds on his body kept her busy, but patching him up on the outside wouldn’t fix what kept him from opening his eyes.
She didn’t know if she’d done the right thing—for him.
I’m so sorry. This is my fault.
If she’d made the decision to take him to a real doctor, she knew what that would’ve meant. To run the risk of exposing her street family would have compounded their problem, and the Believers could’ve found the boy easily. Without anyone knowing, he’d disappear and never get a second chance at freedom. The Believers had a far reach and she’d learned not to trust
felt about stuff didn’t mean he believed it, too.
Living different and free had become precious to her and not something to take for granted. Her kind had become perfect victims. The very act of speaking out would bring on what they feared most—people knowing what they were becoming. A spotlight would make their struggle worse on a global scale. Kendra knew how
felt about that. She’d rather die than be anyone’s slave or lab rat, but did this boy feel the same? Would he risk death for what he believed?
Without thinking, she’d taken that decision away from him.
There were times—
—that Kendra didn’t feel strong enough, or smart enough, or old enough to take care of her new family. Some of these kids were children. They looked up to her—and she put on a good show—but sometimes she didn’t feel worthy of their loyalty. With the stakes escalating, so were her doubts. She felt part of something bigger, yet completely unworthy of it.
She woke up scared and heard things in the dark that reminded her she was still only a kid—a kid who had screwed up and gotten someone seriously hurt. She brushed back the boy’s hair and touched a trembling finger to his pale lips, something she never would’ve done if he were awake.
I just found you. Don’t...leave me, please. I can’t do this on my own anymore.
Kendra prayed he heard her. If he died, she wouldn’t even know his name.
Pain gripped Lucas long before he opened his eyes. It slithered from his throbbing head down his back, inflicting damage wherever it went. Even his fingertips hurt. He felt the heat of a fever behind his eyes and through his chest. When he finally cracked his eyelids open, shadows spiraled like smoke in front of him. The blur, dotted with pinpoints of light, triggered his memory of being on that garage rooftop when he gazed at the stars before everything turned black.
He felt sick and fought the urge to puke by taking deep breaths. When his mind cleared enough to question what had happened, he looked for answers in the room where he lay. A flicker of light made shadows move on a wall across from him. It took him a while to realize the faint glow came from a burning candle.
Thick and muggy, an odor hung heavy in the air and made it hard to breathe at first, until he got used to it. He couldn’t tell where it came from, but as he breathed it in, it calmed him. When he looked down, his arm had a bandage of gauze loosely tied. He saw the edge of a wet poultice under it. Green stuff that looked like crushed plants.
He felt the strong presence of a healer, although he’d never met one.
When his vision cleared enough for him to see farther, he looked up and got lost in what he saw over his head. A faded mural of an old railroad station stretched across a high wall. It had passengers dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, and the wall painting had been done over red bricks that had chipped off through the years. The damage made an odd pattern, sparking his mind to look for animal shapes in the missing pieces like he did when he saw clouds drift across a summer sky.
It reminded him of the elaborate street graffiti painted on the tunnel walls at the old Griffith Park Zoo, only the vast mural looked like something found in a museum.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
The girl’s voice whispered from inside his ear.
I thought you weren’t...going to make it.
Slowly Lucas turned to look for her. He squinted into the candlelight and found her in the shadows, sitting on a wooden crate. She pulsed in a cobalt-blue aura and looked as serene as the deep blue of the ocean. He recognized the curve of her lips, the soft pink of her skin, and the odd mix of defiance and vulnerability in her dark eyes. He’d seen her before in the crystal fragments of his mind, but because she’d been his first, they shared an intimacy of mind that connected them deeper than anything Lucas had ever felt. It was as if he had
Fighting his pain, he cleared his parched throat. He could have sent her a message without using his voice, but speaking aloud made her real and not just a distant voice in his head.
“You’re...the one,” he said. “The girl...in m-my head, aren’t you?”
She came with water for him to drink and knelt by him with a fragile smile. When he saw her eyes filling with tears, he had his answer. Even though it hurt to move, Lucas reached for her hand.
he told her.
* * *
Lucas Darby. He’d told her his name and she shared hers. In that instant, a faint melody played in Kendra’s head, sweet white noise that calmed her. She wondered if he heard the music, too. She saw the pain in his eyes that he tried to cover with a smile. Touching him, talking and hearing his real voice as she looked into his pale gray eyes had made their bond stronger, something she hadn’t known would be possible.
“I can’t be certain, of course...” she began. “I’m pretty sure you have a concussion, but I’ll take care of you.”
I’m sorry you got hurt.
Having him with her, Kendra used her voice to speak to him in private, mostly. Thoughts slipped from her to him that she really should have controlled better, but she couldn’t help it. She was excited to be with someone like him, someone more powerful than she was.
“You’re the healer.” He didn’t ask. He knew.
“Yes.” She smiled. “I’m learning.”
“Good. Being here with you, it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It’s gonna take practice...for both of us.” Lucas smiled. “The drugs they gave me at the hospital, they screwed me up. I got lost. They made me feel like I drowned. I don’t feel as strong as you.”
“Oh, but you are,” she answered in a rush. When she laid a hand on his bare chest, she yanked it back as if she’d touched a flame. “I...I c-can feel it. The way we connected. That was you.”
Lucas sighed and winced in obvious pain. She gave him water, a little at a time. When his eyes became heavy, she knew he needed to sleep, but she could tell he had questions.
“Will you show me...what you do?” he asked. “Be my...teacher?”
Kendra reached for his hand and laced her fingers in his. The minute she touched his skin with hers, she felt a surge of energy up her arm and through her body.
had come from him, too, not her.
“Do you feel that?” she asked him. When he only shook his head, Kendra squeezed his fingers and said, “You will. Your body is weak now, but you have no idea what you’re capable of.”
“All my life, teachers and doctors acted like what I am is...wrong. Like I’m defective and it’s my fault,” he told her. “But hearing you inside me, it feels like I can finally breathe on my own. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“That’s just it. Here, you don’t have to explain anything. You belong...with us, Lucas.”
A smile tugged at his lips for only a second before he shut his eyes. She knew the comfort of being with her kind, and he would, too, when he got better. Connecting to the hive mind for the first time had been a powerful and profound spiritual awakening that had given her life purpose. Kendra made it her mission to share that experience and nurture the lives of those like her. She found it hard to define the intimacy of the act, even to another of her kind. That connection had to be felt by each Indigo soul.
From the first moment she linked to Lucas’s essence and experienced the breadth of his life force, she knew he was different. She’d never felt anything like him before. Kendra had been right to risk everything for him.
was their future.
She blew out the candle and let him be. When his breathing changed and she knew he was asleep, she rested her head on his chest and shut her eyes, listening to the gentle pulse of his heart.
Kendra didn’t let go of his hand. She needed the connection more than he did.
The Next Day
“Where the hell have you been? I expected you to nab the kid yesterday.”
When O’Dell saw his man Boelens for the first time since he’d assigned him the Darby kid, the guy looked rough. Even on a good day, Boelens had a lizard stare. He never blinked.
Now with his disheveled hair, wrinkled clothes and a crazed glare, the man looked like a
Stars Gone Wild
“I don’t know what happened.” Boelens had gotten back his blink—and an annoying twitch to his lips. “You got anything to eat? I’m starving.”
“Eat on your own time,” O’Dell said, but Boelens ignored him.
When the man had the audacity to rummage through O’Dell’s personal desk drawer, he flexed his snake tattoos and punched Boelens in the arm. The man yelped and blinked like a freak.
“What the hell is the matter with you?”
Before he got an answer, Boelens raced to the small fridge O’Dell had in his office to keep his power-drink supplies and other stuff. When he flung open the refrigerator door, he found O’Dell’s private stash of Chinese takeout. Foam containers were marked by date and stacked from top to bottom in chron order.
O’Dell had an unhealthy obsession with Chinese food. He knew it and didn’t care, so when Boelens targeted his General Tso’s, O’Dell had to draw the line. He wrestled Boelens away from the fridge and shoved him into a wall, jamming his elbow against the man’s throat.
“Talk to me. Tell me what happened,” O’Dell demanded. “Don’t make me ask twice.”
At the sudden show of violence, Boelens cried like a girl. He even drooled. The guy was a total wreck. Eventually he told O’Dell about what happened at an abandoned garage in West Hollywood.
“Where are your men, the ones you took with you?”
“Don’t know. They ran. Haven’t seen ’em.” Boelens turned blue.
“And the MS-13 crew? They were supposed to track the other sister. What happened to them?”
“Don’t know that, either. I left messages.”
“Hell, why didn’t you say so, man? You left messages. Problem solved.” O’Dell leaned his body into the guy and limbered up his snake. “Would you recognize the girl who got in your way, if you saw her again?”
“Yeah. Definitely.” The man’s eyes bugged out like a pug on meth.
“Did she do this to you?”
O’Dell rolled his eyes and shoved his elbow tighter against the man’s windpipe.
“I don’t know wh-what happened. I...s-swear,” Boelens blubbered. “She had...m-more kids with her. A mind-freak militia.”
Boelens had crossed the line into pathetic. O’Dell backed off a little and let the man breathe. He’d gotten everything out of him. The guy was clearly under the influence of something. If those kids had the power to scuttle a man’s brain as bad as Boelens had it, they could be like the Darby kid. Maybe his employer would appreciate his initiative to round up more kids than he was assigned.
The fact that this girl had amassed her own misfit menagerie made him wonder how she connected with them. Maybe this freak could lead him to more of her kind. O’Dell made up his mind. His reputation within the organization would be on the line if he didn’t corral the Darby kid soon. He’d pull everyone in and focus his whole operation on Darby. How long could it take to round up one scrawny fifteen-year-old kid? And for good measure, he’d clean out this new girl and her nest of head cases.
“When you get your head on straight, I want you looking through our database for the face of that girl...and any other kid you saw with her. We’ll take on our
assignment. I can’t have those little cockroaches getting in my way.”
When his man nodded, O’Dell let Boelens go, after he turned a fine shade of sapphire. He expected the man to do the rational thing and take his bruised ego home until he sobered up before he came back to hit the computers, but that was not what he did. Boelens went straight for O’Dell’s fridge and dropped to his knees. He ripped open containers and stuffed handfuls of food into his mouth, paying no attention to the dates written on the cartons.
“Ah, man. At least respect the chron.” He threw up his hands and shook his head.
Boelens had lost his mind—and O’Dell had lost his lunch.
At the stroke of midnight, Gabe pulled his sweatshirt hood over his head and grabbed his knapsack, filled with his art supplies and his sketchbook. He left the safety zone of the maintenance shed to head into the night. In the dark, he hiked his way to the tallest hill in Griffith Park—a familiar path—to gaze over the golden lights of the city.
After Rayne left, Gabe couldn’t shake her from his mind. Her eyes haunted him with an accusing stare. She had every right to resent his refusal to help her search for Lucas. He hadn’t told her why he couldn’t risk it, but he had begun to believe that no justification made a good enough excuse. If her brother’s life was on the line, Gabe didn’t want to be the guy who sat back and did nothing.
“What’s up, boy?”
He felt Hellboy with him before his ghost dog made an appearance. When the dog did, Gabe almost lost it. Plain as day, Hellboy hunkered near him, taking care of his personal grooming.
“Dogs lick their junk even after they die? Good to know.” He shook his head. “I know guys who’d never leave their room if they could do that.”
Despite Hellboy’s practical and persistent hygiene efforts, Gabe had grown accustomed to the presence of his phantom dog and craved being around him—especially after he discovered by a fluke what they could do together.
After he’d crossed paths with Rayne and had a dream about her brother, his usual tether to Death and Hellboy had hit a new level of intensity. That was why he’d come. Rayne might have triggered his need to help her, but tonight he’d been drawn to high ground with a greater urgency than ever before. He had to come. He was restless and his skin felt zapped by a strange surge of energy. Even Hellboy looked more alert. Sniffing the air with ears up, the dog paced the ground, listening for sounds carried on the wind that swept through Griffith Park.
“You feel it, too, don’t you, big guy?”
The dog stared into the blackness and crept closer to Gabe. In protective mode, Hellboy growled as if he saw something. Part-wolf and all loner, his ghost dog gave off a brutal kinetic energy. Gabe felt the punch of it down his spine. Something was very different tonight, but that wouldn’t stop him.