Authors: Tananarive Due
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Horror
Benedetto sia il Sangue,
” Stefan said, and they repeated the Italian blessing.
Stefan raised his bleeding finger, and both men kissed it as if his Blood had been no more than a stale wafer or a sip of cheap wine. They dreamed of the day when the Most High, the caretaker chosen by God, might allow them to glimpse the Blood with their own eyes. They imagined that Christ’s blood was preserved on an aged shred of fabric salvaged from the hill in Calvary.
Their ignorance almost made Stefan smile. Their lips had already touched the Savior’s promised immortality, and they still did not understand.
“Strong men are needed to lead the new church,” Stefan said. “Men who are not afraid.”
“Not afraid of what, Most Excellent?” Owodunni said, sounding nervous. The cardinal leaned forward to hear the words his heart had hidden from him.
Stefan slid his index finger into his mouth to taste the last of the Blood. He gave each man a fresh white handkerchief and watched as they wiped their foreheads dry. After the soiled handkerchiefs were laid in his waiting palm, Stefan’s fingers closed tightly to clutch his Blood.
“Cleansing,” Stefan said.
Casa Grande, Arizona
awit slowed his car as he approached Floral Street. The police channels had been quiet all night, until 9:30 that morning. Since then, the chatter from Floral Street had been nonstop.
Day had dawned on the quiet street like a declaration of war.
The little beige house at the end of the cul-de-sac was surrounded by investigative vehicles, with cars squeezed on both curbs halfway down the block. A Pinal County sheriff’s office van parked in the driveway was marked
. Two ambulances were parked in front of the house, its attendants squiring three empty gurneys. Neighbors stood watching from the safety of their yards, holding dogs on leashes and their children by the hand.
An officer in the street in front of the house motioned Dawit on:
Nothing to see. Turn around.
Dawit complied, driving slowly, nodding at the officer from the anonymity of his beard.
“They were here,” Teferi said, once they rounded the corner, out of sight. “I feel it.”
“And now?” Dawit said.
Teferi shook his head, distressed. “I don’t know.”
Dawit made a U-turn and parked at the corner of Floral. He peered back down the street with his micro-binoculars, built within the lenses of simple reading glasses. The large white van parked in the house’s driveway had a white plate with blue numerals. United States government. “An FBI mobile lab,” Dawit said.
After the Lakeview Mall bombing in Salt Lake City, mobile labs had begun turning up at FBI offices around the country—fingerprints, DNA, chemical and computer analyses on wheels. Cases that had taken days or months to process were now being analyzed on the spot by the boxy Mobile Comprehensive Analysis Vehicles, usually reserved for suspected terrorist attacks. They were still primitive, but a vast improvement over recent years. And cause for worry.
“Glow has captured high-level attention,” Teferi said, anxious.
Mahmoud chuckled from where he lay reclined across the backseat, smoking. “Did you think that men were no longer afraid to die?”
“We had thousands of miles, and several continents, to enshroud us,” Dawit said.
Mahmoud sat up. “You were fools,” he said. “Anything of value is stolen eventually.”
Dawit sighed. “We looked in the wrong places for the breach. Ghana. China. We never suspected the children.”
“Ah, well,” Mahmoud said. “As the Americans say, your chickens are home to roost.”
Teferi pulled out his computer, the size and width of a paperback novel. “We’ll use their lab to our advantage. I’ll learn what they learn.”
“Why haven’t you sent in a Spider?” Mahmoud said.
Dawit bristled at the scolding. “I’m sending it now.”
Spiders were a surveillance cameras created by the House of Science in Lalibela, once used by Searchers to locate Brothers who left the Colony to explore the world outside. Only half an inch long, nearly invisible to the naked eye, the black Spiders moved on thread-thin legs with the capacity to leap to designated locations with a highly sensitive camera. Mahmoud had no doubt used Spiders when he’d tracked Dawit down in Miami.
Dawit opened his leather pouch, pulled out two of the Spiders he had brought, and tossed them out of his car window. The first Spider hopped into the grass beside the curb, on its way to the house. The second only sat where it landed, atop a crumpled bag of potato chips.
Mahmoud gazed down at the device. “No one maintains them?”
“Teka does,” Dawit said. “When he’s not in meditation.”
Mahmoud exhaled, impatient, but kept his criticisms silent.
With a gleam, the second Spider hopped behind the first. Gone.
three bodies. One male, Caucasian, age 41. One female, Caucasian, age 37. And one boy, Caucasian, age 14…
” A man’s voice transmitted from Teferi’s computer. Teferi had accessed FBI internal communications.
Teferi’s face tightened. “Three dead?” he whispered.
“At least Caitlin is not among them,” Dawit said.
And we won’t have to rescue Fana from a morgue,
he thought. Although he might soon wish he could.
“You should eliminate that mortal girl,” Mahmoud said. “She is your undoing.”
Dawit avoided Teferi’s eyes. He agreed with Mahmoud, but Dawit hoped that Mahmoud would respect Teferi’s grief for his descendant. They needed Teferi’s wits intact.
more latents coming your way, MCAV,
” Teferi’s transmission went on. Fingerprints.
Fana would not appear in the fingerprint database, but Caitlin and Johnny Wright might, if they had been here. “Soon we will have our answer,” Dawit said.
“Whether or not we want to hear it,” Teferi muttered.
Dawit checked the viewer in his palm, which was still black. Nothing from the cameras.
“Your Spiders move like snails,” Mahmoud muttered.
An insect-like chirp in Dawit’s earpiece signaled that a Spider was transmitting. Half of his viewer lit up; the other side was still black. Spider 1 was inside the house, positioned on a wall. Dawit enlarged the image: He saw a crowd of law enforcement officers wearing hooded biohazard suits. The living room was cluttered, but there was no sign of struggle.
“Hot suits,” Dawit said. “They’re treating it like a contamination.”
“How very odd,” Teferi said.
The mortals’ voices were too faint to hear. Dawit adjusted his volume.
“…looks like they’ve all bled out through their mouths, noses, ears and eyes, but we’re not seeing any obvious injuries..”
Dawit toggled, and the Spider leaped to the opposite wall. From there, Dawit had a better view of the hallway. Officers were studying the wall while a technician swabbed for samples. Dawit could see large letters written on the wall, but the Spider’s angle didn’t allow him to make them out. The Spider sped to a higher perch, and words came into view:
AND BLOOD TOUCHETH BLOOD
Dawit’s heart skipped. More than a hundred years had passed, and none at all. When Teferi and Mahmoud leaned over to see the image, Teferi gave a heavy sigh.
“Sanctus Cruor hiding behind Scripture,” Dawit said. “Just as before.”
Teferi’s voice trembled. “They may have Fana and Caitlin, Dawit.”
“I’ve told you as much,” Mahmoud said, untroubled.
Dawit glared. “And I’m to blindly trust the word of the man who is the most likely to have sent them here?”
with a small smile. “Is that your voice I hear, or your wife’s?”
For an instant, rage turned Dawit’s vision white. But this was no time to quarrel. “Are we bound to a common cause?” Dawit said. “Tell me the truth, Brother.”
“It is now as it was then, Dawit,” Mahmoud said. “Sanctus Cruor’s influence is worse than we feared. Just as our colony was endangered if Ethiopia fell to Italy…if you are not safe, we are not safe.” He met Dawit’s eyes. “Our common enemy makes us friends again, Dawit.”
HE IS SINCERE, DAWIT. I DETECT NO LIES,
Another chirp in Dawit’s ear, and Spider 2 was finally broadcasting. Dawit saw a long room with a row of cots. Like a dormitory. Or a prison.
“It’s a safe house,” Dawit said. “Fana and Caitlin may have had haven here.”
“Perhaps Sanctus Cruor was waiting for them,” Mahmoud said, his voice quiet.
Teferi held his temples, shaking his head. To him, his descendant was as dear as a child.
Spider 2 showed three investigators in hot suits kneeling on the floor, collecting samples the camera’s angle didn’t show. Another turned on a bathroom light. Dawit toggled to see more, but the camera didn’t move. Dammit! And Teka was not here to repair it.
kill the lights so we can look for blood traces
…” a woman’s voice said from Spider 2.
Spider 1 chirped. The camera was now on the ceiling of a bedroom. The walls were covered with bright pictures and drawings. A boy lay facedown on the floor, ringed by enough blood to have drowned him. True to form, Sanctus Cruor had no qualms about killing children.
“They were surprised overnight,” Dawit said. “Perhaps…taken.”
Teferi made a grieved sound. Sanctus Cruor might have taken the mortals to gain influence over Fana. Even if Caitlin had not died on Floral Street, she was surely dead by now; and her death would not have been gentle. Dawit squeezed Teferi’s shoulder.
“Fingerprint results are up,” Teferi said in a flat tone, his attention on his computer. “I just saw the name Mitchell Rolfson. He was Caitlin’s teacher. She spoke fondly of him.”
A succession of identification card photos appeared on Teferi’s screen, accompanied by thumbprints. ROLFSON, NATHANIEL. A boy who looked twelve.
GRAYS-ROLFSON, SHEILA. A full-faced woman with a cheerful smile.
WRIGHT, JOHN JAMAL. A boy. Dawit remembered meeting his father once.
O’NEAL, CAITLIN. A blonde-haired teenager time had changed beyond recognition.
“Yes, I knew she was here,” Teferi whispered. “I felt her.”
UNKNOWN, said the red type beside the next fingerprint. No photo.
Another print came up: UNKNOWN. A third. Then, a fourth.
Dawit thought. Strangers to the mandatory national identification system were either phantoms, like Fana, or people who weren’t from the United States. The passport fingerprinting system was mired in international red tape, so mostly citizens and convicts had their fingerprints in the FBI files.
“There were three of them,” Dawit said. “At least.”
“That was careless, leaving fingerprints,” Mahmoud said.
“Sanctus Cruor is arrogant,” Dawit said.
Teferi’s eyes widened as he switched screens, scrolling through other data files from the mobile lab. “Something very irregular,” Teferi said. He peered more closely. “These corpses will not be autopsied by FBI forensics. They’re bringing in outsiders.”
“Who?” Dawit said.
Teferi squinted. “That isn’t clear. But this is listed as a joint investigation between the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and…the Department of Homeland Security.”
They need only add the Vatican, and it could be 1896 again. But when had Homeland Security involved itself in Glow? His colony’s DEA contacts had never mentioned that alliance. Had Sanctus Cruor crafted a lie to enlist unwitting government aid in their search for the Blood? Dawit suddenly wished that Justin’s memory had not been destroyed. In crisis, they had no one to spare.
I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THE HURRY TO THROW JUSTIN AWAY,
Teferi said, intruding into Dawit’s thoughts.
Spider 2 chirped. The camera was in Dark mode because the lights were off, so all light on the image was exaggerated. The monitor showed an investigator squatting in a tiny bathroom. She spoke up loudly: “
Blood on the bathroom floor…
Sanctus Cruor would consider it sacrilege to leave behind even a drop of Living Blood, so Dawit wasn’t concerned about the blood on the wall. The blood in the bathroom was different. Was it from one of the dead? Or could it be Fana’s?
“Burn their computers,” Dawit said.
“Already done,” Teferi said.
From his computer, Teferi could send a pulse to disable any computer it was linked to, destroying functions and files to prevent investigators from analyzing the blood sample immediately. But Teferi was free to view any information he had already stolen.
the MCAV is down
!” a man’s voice shouted, joining a sudden chorus.
“We’ll leave this to Berhanu,” Dawit said. Berhanu would be in Casa Grande in little more than an hour, and there was no one Dawit trusted more to clean up whatever mess had been left behind in this house. Berhanu and his Brothers would study the crime scene and destroy the blood samples, no matter what it took.
But their mission here would not go quietly, Dawit knew. Any mission involving so many armed investigators could end with a Life Brother’s capture, and capture was not an option. The mortal blood spilled during a rescue mission might trigger the public uproar they had always feared. Their problems would compound exponentially.
“I can stay,” Mahmoud offered. “I’ll see that the work here is done discreetly.”
Mahmoud excelled at stealth work. He practically vanished into walls.
“No. We must look for Fana,” Dawit said. “Is there a trail, Teferi?”
Teferi blinked. “Perhaps. They might have gone…south.”
Mexico. Of course.
“We face a job for an army, and we are only a few…,” Teferi sighed, switching between computer fields to read the stolen records. He gave a start. “The fingerprints we saw aren’t new: They were posted nearly two hours ago to the national FBI field offices. I see heightened activity in Jacksonville and Atlanta.”
Garrick Wright lived in Tallahassee, two hours west of Jacksonville, five hours south of Atlanta. Dawit looked at his watch: eleven-fifteen. The Wright family might already be in custody. Berhanu had always said that no outsider should have set foot on their grounds.