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Authors: John Farris

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The Fury and the Terror (38 page)

BOOK: The Fury and the Terror
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The recognition:

A lone young man in a canoe, square face, Geoff's eyes, unforgettable even to a neglectful father. Hyde had lunged from the shore and tumbled into the canoe as it passed him, drawn his gun again and jammed the muzzle of the double-action pistol against the back of the boy's head. Only a millimeter, a slight increase of the tension in his trigger finger, from slaying him.

Angry at Geoff's betrayal, but more afraid of what might be controlling him.

Some clear-air turbulence over cloud-shadowed mountainside, recently burned over, had the helicopter bouncing. Hyde stared at the back of his son's head. Geoff had been uncommunicative since getting over the shock of seeing his father in a remote area of northern California. Another magical appearance to be reckoned with. His mood was more apathetic than chastened. He wouldn't say anything about the girl who had been with him in his car, except that it wasn't Eden Waring. He didn't know her name. He'd given her a ride, sure; that was all. Where was she now? Shrug. No idea. Looking level and sullen into his father's eyes. No giveaways: nervous blinking, eye movements, surreptitious body language. Hyde was experienced at detecting liars. So far he didn't think Geoff was lying.

Hyde's fear lay dense and deep. Because he knew Eden Waring
had
been there, not twenty minutes ago. Less. She had compelled him to kill a pit bull. It had been Eden's voice he'd heard in his mind. He was familiar with the way she sounded from listening to a tape of her botched valedictory address at Cal Shasta.

A last shouted question for Geoff:
Where was Eden?
Another shrug, a disconsolate twist to Geoff's taut mouth. Maybe he knew. But Geoff would say no more. Standing in sunlight on the riverbank beside the beached canoe, Geoff was shaking and looked exhausted. Possessed, Hyde might have thought, his skin prickling. But he willed himself not to. He needed to get that behind him: his own slippage, his momentary disconnect, not a blackout but a whiteout. The subsequent helplessness, loss of self and memory lapse.

Discount the evidence of his senses, concentrate on what was known.

There had been a girl with Geoff, who, the sheriff said, resembled Eden Waring. Waring's fingerprints were all over Geoff's car, but she'd been his girlfriend for almost two years. Move on. The girl, whoever she was, had managed to elude the roadblockers. All right. What was left—all they had to go on—was a name tag in the hockey jersey. Chauncey McLain of Moby Bay, California. Geoff had not reacted to the name. But very likely he had been headed toward Moby Bay. There wasn't much else west of Valleyheart on the road he had taken. All right. Move on. In force. Turn the fucking town inside out if necessary. But find Eden Waring.

"Sir, do you want to have a look at this?"

The Air Force computer tech at the communications station indicated one of three screens in front of him. The relayed digital image from Jack Flash. Lawn party at the McLains'. The tech had singled out two young women who were walking slowly side by side toward the edge of the bluff. Turning their heads toward each other, apparently deep in conversation. The taller of the two women used a lot of hand gestures. She was barefoot. They both wore sleeveless tops and cargo shorts.

"They came out of the house maybe thirty seconds ago. I hadn't seen them before."

"Isolate and enhance," Hyde said.

The tech tapped at his keyboard. Cameras aboard Jack Flash afforded only a high-angle view a few degrees from the perpendicular. It wasn't possible to see the women's faces. Hyde looked again at the yearbook portrait of Eden Waring. He was a student of faces, although he had long ignored his own. It had been years since he had even looked into a barbershop or medicine cabinet mirror, and he had no idea of when his hair had begun to gray. Eden wasn't a raving beauty. But she had allure, a different thing altogether, and rare. A slightly fierce look—the boldness of her eyebrows, the direct, discerning competitor's gaze. The faint curve of her wide smile seemed to mock the process of being fixed in time by the photographer's lens. From her expression she might have been at the point of joyous laughter or merely satisfied with herself, savoring a sensual capacity that had overwhelmed Geoff McTyer. Most human beings revealed their lives, past and future, in their faces; routine faces for the most part, lacking intellectual heat or danger. Hers was a face of guardian prowess. It guarded an unnamable border that the traveler approached at his own risk.

The helicopter bounced again. Hyde saw Geoff McTyer's dark uncombed head loll as if he had fallen deeply asleep harnessed to the seat.

"Sir, I think we may be able to ID one of the women."

The tech had retrieved six seconds' worth of the enhanced image from Jack Flash and further enlarged it. The taller of the pair seemed to be reacting to something, flinching perhaps, as a gull flew at them from below the bluff. One click at a time her head turned in a sideways tilt, her face was slowly revealed as she looked at something above her head and off to her left. Sun flare on each dark oval of the glasses she wore.

"Freeze," Hyde ordered.

The tech was busy at his keyboard. His software took the yearbook portrait of Eden Waring, copied it, and gave them three-dimensional views in several different planes. The tech selected the plane he thought was closest to the angle of the face on the satellite image and transferred both to a third computer screen. He was humming to himself, pleased with his work. Three more key taps and the three-dimensional, computer-drawn re-creation of the yearbook portrait slid into place over the image of the upturned face captured by Jack Flash.

"Yowzer," he said. "Maybe a five percent error factor, but I'd say this puts us in the championship round."

"Can you get rid of the sunglasses?"

"Coming up. Presto. No sunglasses. Yowzer, yowzer, yowzer. Let's do the comparative math now."

"Doesn't matter," Hyde said. "That's Eden Waring." He looked at his watch. Six minutes to go. "Return to tracking mode. We've got her."

When he stretched in his seat and glanced back over his shoulder he saw that Geoff was wide awake and staring at him as if there were a terrible pressure behind his eyes.

As if he knew something that even now he wasn't willing to tell.

CHAPTER 44
 

MOBY BAY • MAY 29 • 5:01 P.M. PDT

 

"T
rust me," Bertie Nkambe, her face filled with wonder and dismay, said to Tom Sherard. "Moby Bay isn't real. None of it. Look at Warhol, he knows it too.
Mbeya sana
. He doesn't like this place."

The injured cat had opened his eyes, looking somewhat dopey from the antibiotic and a painkiller; but Warhol's ears were on alert and he was trying to stand up in Bertie's lap. She petted him, but in spite of the sedation he refused to be still. "Good boy, good boy," Bertie soothed in a nursing croon.

They were driving slowly down Main Street with the ocean in full view, immense but tranquil in quilted gold at the horizon. Main Street was four blocks long. All of the business establishments were on the east side of the street, two- and three-story buildings of cypress and redwood clapboard or dark ivied brick. Every business displayed patriotic bunting or Old Glory, large flags flapping in a good breeze. Old-growth oaks in a strip of parkland lined the ocean side of the bluff. A red-and-gray-frame city hall and volunteer fire department anchored one end of Main Street, and a squat stone lighthouse, scrubbed white and pitted by a century and a half of rugged storm blast, stood at the other end on a promontory surrounded by gardens, sunlit clouds of fuchsia, and flowering shrubs.

"Not real? Moby Bay is on the map, Bertie, that's how we found it. And the town is in the guidebook. 'One of northern California's oldest and loveliest coastal villages, founded in 1847' if I'm quoting correctly."

"Is that all?" Bertie commented, looking around, her mouth slightly ajar. "Maybe the town is only a hundred and fifty years old, but the site is older, way older. Five thousand, ten thousand years, I couldn't say. I don't know how long they've been living here."

"Who? Obviously no one is around right now. Town is locked up tight. Sunday afternoon." Bertie only shook her head, perplexed, biting her underlip in agitation. Something welling up in her. "Or did you imply that the people who live here aren't real either? Then what use would they have for a volunteer fire department, a funeral home? What do they lunch on at the Gray Whale pub?"

She shrugged off his attempt at humor. "They're real enough, I'm sure. Probably too real to deal with sometimes. That happens when the Fallen of Terra and Malterra establish a neutral zone to resolve their differences. Neutral, but not serene. Funeral home? There are no immortals. Both the Fallen and the gods-elect have finite life spans. Their lives are much longer than ours ... of course."

Sherard could see the pulse in her throat. It was coming. One of the rare doom moods, a dark rapture. A Seeing. Bertie flinched slightly, staring straight ahead, holding Warhol close. She suddenly pressed back into the leather seat, eyelids tripping, eyes drifting up in her head.

"Bertie!"

She had begun to tremble. Sherard touched her; Warhol lifted his head and snarled possessively. Bertie was cold to his touch, unresponsive. Sherard glared at the cat and said in a soft tone, "Bertie? I wish you wouldn't do this."
As if she has a choice
, he thought. "Where are you, Bertie?"

A windy sigh came from her throat. He wanted to do something for her but knew he was helpless. When the seizure, or psychic trance, or whatever name was applicable to the spells that came over Bertie had run its course, she would be none the worse for the experience. Sometimes, if an ordeal was involved, she would wet herself. He couldn't bear to witness her distress, although this time, compared to others, it seemed mild.

He parked near the lighthouse, left the engine running and Bertie to her visions, pausing only to touch the tips of three fingers to his mouth and press the kiss gently onto Bertie's lips. She was still sighing, but the muscles of her arms and shoulders appeared loose. Warhol, hunched in her lap, spat at him again but was too weak to get his tail up.

He walked up a path to the base of the lighthouse, glancing back at the dark blue Expedition, Bertie unseeable behind the tinted windows, and at the closed silent town. He felt an eerie prickling across his shoulders. There had been a shift in the tone of the balmy afternoon. The breeze had strengthened to gusts with a suggestive nip to them and was blowing southwest across the headland. No clouds out there on the rim of the earth, but bad weather was brewing along the Coast Range, towers of cloud illuminated by stormlight.

Nearby 'someone began to play an accordion. Sherard was jolted from his thoughts. He circled the lighthouse and saw an old woman on a park bench. She stopped in midtune and beamed at him.

"Hello!"

"Hello," Tom said. It was a definite relief to see someone, after Bertie's assertions and current behavior. "I was beginning to think no one was at home."

"Oh, we shutter early, at one P.M., on Sundays before a holiday. Tomorrow will be exhausting, you can bet,
mobs
of tourists. So we do our own celebrating a day early. Everyone else is at the barbecue. But one of us always stays in town till sundown, when Moby Bay becomes officially closed. We had a motorcycle gang visit once, and there are occasional vandals, even though Moby Bay is hard to find. It's not too lonely, being the closer, and I have my accordion."

"So this is a real place," Tom said, with a smile that felt a little odd on his face.

"Certainly! Who informed you otherwise?" She put her accordion on the bench beside her and looked keenly at him, then smiled a merry smile. "Oh, I see. It's that lovely young woman you're traveling with. So she's prescient, is she? Well, well."

Sherard looked over his shoulder. He couldn't see the Expedition where he had parked it, and seated, there was no way the woman could have seen it either. He looked back at her, curiosity in his face.

"I'm Wardella. Wardella Tinch."

"Tom Sherard."

"So pleased to make your acquaintance, Tom. What part of England do you hail from?"

"East Africa. I've spent very little time in England, actually. How did you know there was someone with me?"

Wardella rummaged in a crocheted bag at her feet and pulled out a pair of binoculars. "From up here I command all of the road into town. I saw your splendid SUV coming a mile away. I thought, no, we're closed, turn them away. Then something came over me and I realized you should be allowed to come this far."

"That may have been a mistake," Bertie said from behind Sherard, and he heard the racking of the pump on the Benelli M3 tactical shotgun, one of three guns he had borrowed from a former client of his father's who lived in San Francisco. She walked by Sherard without a glance, the stock of the shotgun going to her shoulder. He had a glimpse of her eyes, which looked a little feverish. The Benelli was aimed at Wardella Tinch, whose face may have turned a half shade redder than it was when Sherard first saw her. But she never stopped smiling.

"There you are," she said. "Alberta, isn't it? That was my mother's sister's name; I've always liked it as well as my own. I'm Wardella, by the way."

"Am I going to have to shoot you, Wardella?" Bertie said coolly.

BOOK: The Fury and the Terror
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