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Authors: John Farris

Tags: #Horror

The Fury and the Terror (39 page)

BOOK: The Fury and the Terror
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"Oh, no, I don't think that will be necessary at all."

"Then don't try shifting on me."

"I couldn't. I mean, I'm not one of
those
."

"We can always find out the hard way."

Staring at her with that amiable smile, Wardella said, "I get that you are very advanced."

"Yes."

"And it's obvious what—I should say
who
—you are here for."

"That's right."

"I can't help you. Once I brought her to Moby Bay, to a safe harbor, our relationship ended."

"What's safe about this place?" Bertie asked, still looking down the black twenty-inch barrel of the shotgun at Wardella.

"Bertie, what are you—"

"Not now, Tom. You have to let me handle this."

"I'm sorry for all the trouble you're going to," Wardella said. "But we intend to keep the Avatar right here in Moby Bay. Whatever you may think of us, we're better than the alternative that Eden faces."

"Where is she now?" Bertie asked, scowling.

"At the barbecue, with her new friend and protectress Chauncey McLain, whom she met last night." Wardella turned and gestured to the north rim of Moby Bay, less than a mile away, and turned back to them. She said to Bertie, "Aren't you tired of pointing that shotgun at me?"

"No. Did you lie to keep Eden here?"

"I should think you'd be better informed. I'm not permitted to lie."

"But you went into her mind and then you deceived her."

Wardella drew back slightly and contemplated the allegation.

"How would you know about that?"

"I know Eden's Good Lady. I know who she really is."

"Oh." Wardella nodded respectfully. "Well, you
are
exceptional. As for my little—deception, I have the option to, um,
pose
, should the occasion warrant it. Eden needed to be separated, ever so gently, from the world in which she was raised, so that she could be prepared for the world as it really is. Everything is being done for her well-being and eventual betterment. We all know, don't we, that she no longer has a place in
your
world. I scryed her fate the moment I saw her face on the television news. She was to be hunted down like a poor helpless fawn, then destroyed by Mordaunt's Malterrans. Needless to say, Eden represents an enormous threat to the hold they've managed to secure on this planet."

Sherard said impatiently, "I've heard quite enough. Bertie, time to get Eden away from here."

"I'm afraid I can't allow that," Wardella said. "Now, it really is closing time. For both of you."

Wardella shifted her gaze to Sherard as Bertie cried out, "Tom! Look away!"

S
he wasn't in time. Sherard suddenly found himself blinking in full exhaust-hazy daylight on a New York street, the brazen popping of an automatic weapon lingering in his head with the blare of traffic and, dreadfully, screams. He stared at the body of Gillian Bellaver, flung down like a cramped dancer. Fifteen, twenty feet away. Bloodied hands coming away from her body.

"Tom! Help! Come to me, I'm hurt!"

He had not been fired upon. His legs were okay. This time he would get there. Gilly would be saved.

An upwelling of pure joy erased any sense of caution. Her death, then, had been a cruel dream. In moments he would lift Gillian in his arms. She would no longer lie there in a tide of sidewalk blood with that dead gone stare.

Gillian
.

The New York street, the punchwork bullet holes in a liquid shop window reflecting that stalled moment of crowd terror, the levels of toned glass and pure burning light falling from high blue; the hubbub ceased in his head, all sensation faded in favor of the light in his wife's eyes as he went to her. He heard a voice, a cry for him to Stop—don't touch her! but it was too distant to be reckoned with. All he cared about was embracing his wife, finding his life again in her healthy pulse.

Gillllliannnn!

S
herard was yanked backward by the collar of his bush jacket. His bad leg caved; he sprawled in pain as Bertie fired the Benelli much too close to his ear, stepped around him racking the pump again, and finished scattering Wardella Tinch's head all over the park bench and the wildflowers that flourished behind the bench.

"Good God!"

Bertie turned to him, lowering the shotgun. Her face was congested with loathing, her breast heaved. She couldn't keep her gorge down and went to her knees vomiting as she flung the Benelli aside.

"Why? Why did you shoot her?"

"Tom. Get me ... some water. That fountain over there."

"Do you realize what you've
done
?"

"Yes." She heaved again. "Blew the shit . . . out of a little old lady. She was in your
mind
, Tom. Don't you know what she was up to? Once you touched her she would have eaten your brain for a snack before she toddled off to their tribal barbecue. Take a look in all that . . . mess if you have the stomach for it. Tell me what you see. But don't get too close. And don't touch anything; some of it is still alive."

He got the water first, soaking a handkerchief and taking it to her. Bertie lay back on clean grass, eyes opening and closing, while he bathed her overheated face.

"This is major trouble for us, Bertie, I don't care what your motive was."

"Not trouble like you think. It
is
a social error to kill one of them in their own habitat. The others will come after you."

"Who? What others?"

"Just go and look, Tom. At what's left of Wardella Tinch. Then we need to get moving. I'll be okay. Let me rest a minute longer."

He stared at Bertie for a few moments, feeling both awe and fear. She smiled as if his expression had cut her to the quick. Then he approached the park bench.

Fortunately the wind was at his back. Bertie had been a wonderful shot since her childhood. What remained of Wardella's head after a hurricane handful of double-aught buckshot iassed through could have been collected with a large damp sponge. But, incredibly, she seemed to be breathing. Beneath a peasant blouse her blood-soaked bosom moved, as if something inside the material was trying to fight its way out.

The cotton began to tear. Sherard saw teeth, heard a snarl, then a snout and a small striped head ripped free, turning bloody as it continued to fight the drenched clinging cloth. Then there were two heads where breasts should have been, dark noses for nipples. Doglike heads dripping hearts-blood, bodiless, sharp angular eyes smarting from hatred of him.

"Now are you sorry?" he heard Bertie say. "Those things, in their world, are
fisi
." She used the Swahili word for hyena. "Worse, I think."

Sherard backed off gagging. Bertie sat up suddenly on the grass. She pointed at the sky, where the lowering sun had tinted a sprawl of thundercloud the deep wine shade of a terrifying birthmark.

"Tom!"

He saw them. About two klicks away and high, twin helicopters resembling the gunship that had risen like a ghost outside Danny Cheng's windows the night before. These helicopters also might have been silenced; no sound came to their ears on the wind. But they were larger, big enough to carry eight or ten men, assault forces perhaps. And they were coming at astonishing speed right to Moby Bay.

When Sherard looked away from the sky Moby Bay, the town, wasn't there anymore. He and Bertie were standing on a rocky promontory with the wind hissing through gaunt trees; gulls soared above the long waves. The lighthouse was gone. Wardella Tinch and her breastwork of sharp-toothed creatures had vanished too. The tough wind-shaped oak trees along the bluff remained, but there were no homely buildings with big flags flourishing in the stiffened wind and nothing was on the road but his rented Ford Expedition.

Bertie had picked up the shotgun and was tugging at his hand. "Tom, come on!"

It occurred to Sherard as they ran that he should load the other major weapon he had brought along, an old but well-cared-for Holland and Holland .50 caliber, like the rifle that his father, one of the last of the elephant hunters, had willed to him in the early sixties.

One of his early memories was the sight of an elephant's skull in his father's study at Shungwaya. The skull had been halved with a two-handed bandsaw to reveal nature's cunning honeycomb of bone that protected a brain the size of a bread loaf. The skull astonishingly light for its size—even at the age of six he could lift it—but strong enough to support tusks weighing up to 150 pounds each.

The same principle of cellular construction, Sherard knew, had been adapted for use in modern aircraft design where the bearing of weight was of critical importance.

Each .50 caliber cartridge for the twin barrels of the H and H, 477 grains of powder, generated a full two tons of impact from each long barrel. There wasn't a more powerful rifle to be found anywhere.

And after the events at Danny Cheng's Russian Hill house, Sherard was curious to discover which might be the supreme challenge to a hunter: a bull elephant capable of charging at thirty miles an hour through thornbush that would rip a man apart, or another damned helicopter up to no good.

 

"H
ungry?" Chauncey McLain asked Eden.

"I don't think I could eat anything." They had walked back to the house and the guests who were lining up to serve themselves from steaming platters of ribs and a dozen side dishes. The big screen of the projection TV on the patio held the image of Rona Harvester and the legend
Live from the White House
. The First Lady was seated on a sofa in the Blue Room, her head still bandaged, but the bandage was smaller. From her pleasant expression Eden assumed it wasn't bad news that she had for the country.

The two young women paused to watch.

"What's this about?" Chauncey asked one of her relatives. It was hard to hear because of all the backyard chatter around them.

"The President's going back to work."

"Why aren't they together then? Where is he?"

"On his way to the White House from Camp David."

"It's another one of Rona's pep talks," someone else said.

"Oh, you leave her alone, Jim. She's been through such an ordeal."

"I don't know why she doesn't wear a flesh-colored patch instead of that bandage," Eden commented.

"I was thinking the same thing," Chauncey said with a hint of disdain. "You don't have to beg for my sympathy. If I want you to have it, I'll gladly give it to you."

"'She has the eyes of a door-to-door Bible salesman. But they're deluxe Bibles.' Betts used to, say that. She's—Betts is very sharp about people."

Chauncey held Eden's hand. "Tomorrow we'll go to see her. Promise."

The wind was up and Eden felt chilled. Some paper plates and napkins were blowing around. Chauncey shuddered and Eden put an arm around her.

As she did so, she thought she heard Geoff McTyer.

Eden can't stop them love of God run get away!

"Sweater time," Chauncey said, smiling. "Let's go inside." She raised a hand to brush strands of blond hair back from her eyes. "What's wrong?" Chauncey asked as Eden's gaze jumped from Chauncey's face to the sky. Seeing the sniper's bullet coming from two thousand feet away, seeing it whole as if it was momentarily stopped in her mind; but the voice—yes, Geoff's voice—and the flash of warning didn't give her time to act. She could only witness the rest of it, seeing the sharp-nosed bullet rip through Chauncey's upraised hand and head, her bones no defense against it, flesh nothing before such speed and power, soft as green banana; Eden hearing the implosion of the TV screen behind them, glass was nothing either as the bullet sped on through it and through the redwood wall behind the set, finally shattering the ankle bones of a seven-year-old girl standing on tiptoe to place deviled eggs on a tray in the McLains' kitchen.

Chauncey's falling weight jerked Eden's arm taut as she slumped to the floor of the patio. Bone fragments gleamed like fish scale in the welling-out of blood and cerebrospinal fluid near the middle of the dead girl's forehead. Eden's head moved downward with the slumping of Chauncey's body, which was galvanized by the shock wave that blew out her heart valves. The second shot from the sniper's rifle missed Eden, instead flattening one of Wardella Tinch's poker-night friends who was turning to stare at the downed girl.

As Eden leaned over Chauncey and began to spiral into shock, hopelessly trying to wipe clean her friend's forehead with the edge of her palm, Chauncey's open eyes, which had been fixed and expressionless, suddenly came to life and focused on Eden. Her small breasts swelled as she took a breath. The trembling ceased. Chauncey reached up and touched the hole in her forehead, whistled softly.

"Jeez, that'll give you a headache," she said, and smiled sympathetically at Eden. "They're after
you
, aren't they?"

Mia McLain came out of the kitchen carrying the child with the shattered ankle. The girl was eating a cookie, and except for a couple of tears on her cheeks, she seemed unconcerned about the injury.

BOOK: The Fury and the Terror
10.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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