Read The Dark Need Online

Authors: Stant Litore

Tags: #Supernatural Thriller, #Fiction

The Dark Need (7 page)

BOOK: The Dark Need
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“That’s why you thought I might be him out on the dock,” Matt realized. “Because he wears other people’s faces.”

“Usually faces they know. You looked familiar, but… I was just scared.” Her voice went very quiet. “I’m always scared now.”

Matt wondered what that must be like: months trailing someone who could look like anyone. Who might look like someone you trusted or someone you loved. Or someone you’d passed on the street.

“Okay,” he said. “An artifact from another place, an old place. And it lets him look like other people, people we remember, or people we regret. That piece of rock didn’t make him a killer, though.”

“You don’t understand,” she said, and there was pain in her voice. “He wasn’t always this way.”

Or you want to believe that.
But Matt suddenly remembered Andy, how he had changed when Mr. Dark got to him. How an impulse that wasn’t evil in and of itself had become twisted and corrupted into a drive to kill and destroy.

“He went to the war as a surgeon,” Adette said softly. “Army. The youngest in his unit. He was so proud, and I was so proud for him. When he deployed I made him a cake in the shape of a cadaver—I know that sounds sick, but he loved it. He cut it open with a scalpel. It was just us two, he never had many friends. We ate half that cake, and then had a food fight with the rest, just like when we were little.

“He thought he could patch people up. They needed a lot of patching up in Iraq—their people and ours. But he didn’t come back the same man.”

“No one does,” Matt said. There had been men in his town who went away to war. When they came back on furlough, they’d all had that haunted, serious, earnest look.

But none of them came back as serial killers. Or face-changers.

“He really didn’t. The first time he… The first time he killed, I was there. I caught him. He said he’d seen what was inside people and it was red and beautiful, and if they would only let him inside, he would…”

After a moment, Matt prodded: “He would what?”

“Give them peace,” she whispered.

Matt considered her. “He was your lover.”

She laughed quietly, bitterly. “He was my brother.”

Matt stared at her.

“My twin.” She rubbed at her eyes as though exhausted. “I’m older than I look, Samaritan. You didn’t think I was a virgin in the barn?”

“Not polite to ask a woman her age,” Matt said.

“Thirty-one,” she said. “I just don’t look it. Richard is my brother, and—”

“And that’s why you’re connected. Why you know when he kills. Why you have those dreams.” Matt had heard of such things: the connectedness of twins.

She nodded shakily.

Matt glanced at the spilled cup, his mind working fast. She didn’t just know when he killed. She felt it. Felt—what he felt, maybe. Keenly enough to want in on it. His stomach turned.

“You’re hunting him. With a knife. So you do want him dead. Why?”

“Because I can’t bear it,” she whispered. “It’s like driving on black ice. You can’t see it. Can’t know when you’ll lose control and slide and crash. But you know it’s there. Beneath you. Waiting.” She glanced up at him, and the look in her face tore at his heart. No wonder she
had made love so desperately in the barn. Anything to hold her mind back from that abyss of despair.

“At first,” she said, “it was so much worse because it was new. I’d feel it, like a surge of… like a drug, a dark need overwhelming me. And I thought… I thought for sure I’d end up killing someone. That I’d just walk into the next apartment, kill someone, and drink. Just to make it stop. And I… I got so good at controlling it. For a while. But now it’s too much. It’s just too much. He’s killing so often now. And I’m sliding, sliding over the ice, Samaritan.” She closed her eyes. “Stop me. I don’t want to.” There were tears in her voice, but none escaped her eyelids. “I don’t want to.”

“You won’t, Adette. Stay on your feet.” He gripped her shoulder. Anger, a slow burn in his chest. The evil he’d seen in so many faces—he’d seen how it destroyed not only lives but hearts and souls. Twisted once good people into devourers and carriers of rot. He couldn’t let that happen to her also.

Matt needed information. He stepped away from her, took the medical bag, upended it. A clatter of objects onto the bed: a mirror, pens, two scalpels, a dog-eared Stephen King novel, a stethoscope, a Swiss Army knife, four credit cards under different names (none of them from recent victims), a pair of lace panties, a pair of socks. Matt turned these items over in his gloved fingers, shook his head. None of this was helpful. None of it told him where Oslo might be going. A map with destinations circled would have been useful and considerate of Oslo to leave behind, but no such luck. For a moment Matt peered inside the bag, wondering if he’d missed something. An inner pocket, or… no. Nothing. And no exotic desert artifact, either, whatever one of those looked like. But of course there wouldn’t be. If the artifact was empowering Oslo’s face-changing act, he probably kept it on him.

If it even existed. He cast a doubting glance at Adette, then tossed the bag aside onto the Turkish rug and rubbed his temples. Think. He had to think. The killer could be anywhere by now. Hell, the killer could be anyone by now.

Matt stopped, his eyes widening. No, not “anywhere.”
I know where you are, you bastard.

He knew what he had to do.

Matt glanced at Adette, then swept up the cuffs from the bed and grabbed her wrist. A snick of cold metal, and she was gazing in horror at her wrist shackled to one leg of the heavy bedside table.

“What?” she cried.

“Wait here.” He couldn’t trust her. Couldn’t risk her, either. He was the one who saw maggots in men’s faces. That made this his job. More than that, his purpose. If he was right, he wouldn’t need her help to find her brother, and he could return for her after he did. Matt grabbed his ax from the bed, a tool his grandfather had used to chop up nothing more evil than an especially resistant knot in a block of wood.

“Unlock this! I’m coming with you!”

“No, you’re not.” He didn’t look over his shoulder. “I will come back after this is done. I promise.”

“Samaritan!” she screamed as he strode to the door and through it. He heard her kicking wildly at the floor, heard her shouting after him—“Samaritan! Matt! Matt!”—but he kept walking. Took the stairs two at a time. No more innocent deaths.

10

Opening the back door a few inches, he gazed out at the wood. Watched the trees for a few moments. He didn’t see anything, but he was certain he was right. He turned and strode with purpose toward the kitchen.

He doesn’t move after a kill,
she’d said.
He stays with the body.

And that medical bag, the equipment, that cup of blood upstairs. Spilled now, dark on that Turkish carpet, soaked in like dye. Expensive carpet, one that probably village girls had woven by hand in some distant place in hills whose names he didn’t know. Something that had taken a year to make, an hour to buy, a moment to destroy.

Oh yes. He knew where the killer was.

That cup of blood. He hadn’t been done with the body. Not yet.

Matt didn’t bother to flick on the kitchen lights. By the faint starlight through the window, he made his way to the fridge, pulled it open. Took him only a second to find what he needed, then an opener from one of the kitchen drawers. Then he was back to the door, a cold beer in one hand, his ax in the other. He thought a moment, then set the ax aside, propped against the wall by the door. For this to work, he’d have to leave the ax behind. And he’d have to make damned sure he made it back—for both the ax and Adette. He got the keychain from his pocket, opened the beer.

Smelled good.

Focus, Cahill.
He looked out through the window again. Under one of those cedars within sight of the house, but only God knew which one. He took off his medical gloves and
tucked them in a pocket. Swung open the door with his foot and staggered out—deliberately lurching a bit as he walked out into the crunch of the new-fallen snow. The bottle cold in his hand. His head down, watching his feet, as though placing one step ahead of the other took effort. In this snow, he would rely on his ears.

I must be insane. This will never work.

Didn’t have any better ideas, though.

He swayed uneasily, step after step, toward the dark thickness of cedars. “Ah God,” he moaned. Slurring his words. “Too much. Too damn much. You sick bastard…”

He stumbled to the left, caught himself. Took a good swig from the drink. Yelled toward the dark, snow-heavy conifers. “Come on out, you fucking coward! Come on out!”

No answer from the cold trees.

Very well. Showtime, then.

He lurched slowly into the wood, every sense alert. He felt the heat and aliveness of his body, as high on adrenaline and other chemicals now as it had been when he slept with Adette. He took another drink, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Keeping up the pretense. The killer probably didn’t buy it.

But he might still attack a pursuer who was stumbling unarmed through the trees.

If there was one thing Matt had learned from the past months of hitchhiking and bloodshed and survival, and from his endless hunting of Mr. Dark, it was this: anything can be a weapon.

He kept a tight grip on that beer. Peripheral glances, scanning the wood around him. The killer could come at him from any direction, and he couldn’t see in every direction at once.
The snow beneath his feet was loud, the only sound in the night. Under the trees it was quite dark, a shadowscape of dim silhouettes. A chill went through him.

He almost didn’t see the branch swinging at his head.

Almost.

He got his arm up just in time, blocked it, and in one smooth, sober movement, swung the beer bottle at Oslo’s head. The killer no longer wore Andy’s face, but another face, the one Matt had seen by chance across a traffic-choked street, a face not from his own past that must be the killer’s own. Blond hair, eyes blue like chips of ice, square jaw, absurdly handsome features. Scandinavian.

Oslo snarled and ducked, the bottle catching him behind the ear, but only a glancing blow. He ducked back, and Matt followed, the bottle still clutched in one hand, intact. With his other, he caught hold of the branch. Oslo yanked on the branch and swung a left hook, and Matt dodged it, but his foot slid in the snow, and the bottle sprang away into the dark. Matt stumbled but came back up in a quick crouch.

Oslo wasn’t there.

Through the roar of his own breathing, his own blood in his ears, Matt heard footsteps in the snow, receding toward the lake. Damn it. The man was running.

Matt surged to his feet. Took off after Oslo in a run, dodging low branches and half leaping, half stumbling over snow-covered roots. Running through trees in the dark. Only the thickness of snow beneath his borrowed boots kept him from cracking his foot against some outthrust rock, or worse. He wished furiously for his ax, but there was no time to go back for it. He’d relied on surprise, had seen his chance and taken it. And he’d missed. Likely Oslo would
have one hell of a bruise on the back of his head, likely he was a little dizzied by it. But he was on his feet and fleeing.

And he would not get away.

Hunter and hunted. Maybe that was how it would always be. Maybe that was who Matt Cahill was now. The one who hunted the hunters. The one who kept men and women safe in their meadow.

Oslo sprinted out of the trees and onto the ice at the lake’s edge, sliding and catching himself on his hands, and then on across the ice, running along the shore. Out where only a fool would follow.

After a moment’s hesitation, Matt tore after him. Ran out across the ice, the killer ahead of him a silhouette dark against the pale winter night. The man was fast. And it was all Matt could do to avoid sliding and falling onto his back, where he might lie winded and helpless. He clenched his teeth and poured on more speed.

Oslo glanced back—again that chiseled, Viking face—and as he did, his left foot skewed to the side and he flipped over and down onto the ice with a crash. Even as he scrambled back up to his knees, Matt reached him. Seized his arm, slammed him down onto his back on the ice. One fist pulled back for a punch.

Matt gasped.

It was Adette’s face, gazing up at him.

11

Adette.

Her pale, almost translucent skin, the jacket torn half from her shoulders when Matt had wrenched at her arm, zipper tugged down, the soft swell of her breasts half bared to the cold. No bra.

“Damn you,” Matt whispered, shaken. One side of her face was moving, squirming, the maggots alive and teeming just beneath her skin, as though her skin was a thin veil tossed onto boiling water. Even as Matt stared down at her, his hand numb with cold but still gripping her arm, her cheek tore open and a few of the white larvae wriggled out, moving over her skin.

“I don’t think so,” Matt snarled, his chest clenched and hot. “That doesn’t work on me.”

She smiled, though the smile didn’t touch her eyes. With those delicate fingers, she unzipped her jacket a little further, letting him see more of the roundness beneath. “Aren’t I fuckable, Matt?” she whispered.

BOOK: The Dark Need
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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