Brooding City: Brooding City Series Book 1 (10 page)

BOOK: Brooding City: Brooding City Series Book 1
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Brennan approached the nearest block of bookshelves. With groans of protest, he gouged handholds in the wood with his bare hands. He ignored the blood that flowed in rivulets down his fingers. The wood shattered beneath his grip as he took hold of one side. He heaved mightily, his arms popping under the strain and the muscles of his back flexing painfully. Slowly, the bookshelf tipped forward from its alcove.

It moved slowly at first, like a tentative snowball rolling down a hill. As Brennan pulled it further and further toward its tipping point, it gained momentum, until it became an unstoppable avalanche. Books flew from the shelves like canaries from a mine, and then with a rush of air the entire structure fell upon the slowly writhing Sleeper with a terrible, sickening crash.

The pressure of the room abruptly vanished. Brennan’s breath was still visible, but as he pulled back his mental efforts he no longer felt the Sleeper’s numbing aura. He stood there, panting, bleeding. He could hear his pulse beating heavily in his ears, and his hands twitched as they regained feeling and instantly regretted it. Shards of wood up to an inch long pierced his palms and fingers.

Brennan stood there and contemplated the fallen bookshelf for what seemed like a long time. The room around him never changed; the sun stayed perfectly poised in its position in the sky, and motes of dust swirled in the air without any regard for what had transpired. The other bookshelves, likewise, were neither impressed nor worried about their own future. His image of a perfect evening remained untouched by the Sleeper’s passing.

The illusion wasn’t of the Sleeper’s making,
said a small voice inside. Brennan ignored it. There was no perfect future in this house. Not anymore, not for him. He made his own way.

He left the library and walked down yet another hall. He was becoming more aware of the very real fatigue his body had felt before falling asleep, yet despite being aware of the dream, he was unable to wake up from it. He took it as a sign. The house was identical to that of his youth, and there had only been one adult-sized bed in the mansion at that time. He trusted his feet to carry him by memory to the master bedroom.

It was a large room, even for two people, and it was clean and orderly in the fashion following a visit from the maids. The bed was wide and long—perfect for Brennan—and he threw himself upon the soft covers. He laid his head to rest upon a platoon of pillows and let his eyes shut of their own accord.

It was his first peaceful sleep in a very long time.

 

ф ф ф

 

Brennan’s eyes fluttered
open and he rubbed the sleep from his face.

He cast a glance at the clock by his bed and had to do a double-take. It was afternoon already, and he had slept soundly for nearly seven hours. He felt a pang of guilt. Of course, he hadn’t slept soundly. His mind dredged up the events of his dream, from the empty mansion of his youth to his brutal attack on the Sleeper. He hadn’t killed the man—not physically—but he may as well have. The Sleeper would very likely be Fractured, lying near comatose in a room somewhere in the city. Brennan’s stomach twisted with the thought.

A noise from the other room made him sit up in bed.

He prepared himself for the corresponding pain, but his body felt better. It felt great, in fact. There were still bruises on his ribs, but the aches and pains of the past twelve hours had melted away into merely uncomfortable reminders that made themselves known if he stretched the wrong way. He tested his shoulders, rolling them forward and back, and turned his head each direction until the stiffness in his neck cracked and popped away.

Another noise, and Brennan remembered that Bishop had taken the couch. Suddenly conscious of his nakedness, he slipped on a fresh pair of pants and checked himself in the mirror. He buttoned up a collared shirt as he left his bedroom.

On the couch, covered by a large gray blanket, was Bishop. Her head lay against one of the armrests, and gold hair fell across her sleeping visage. The blanket had been made for someone Brennan’s size, and it wrapped around her small form twice. Very tightly around her form. Brennan’s eyes drifted to the closet, inside of which were his washer and dryer. He could hear the telltale sound of clothes tumbling in the dryer, and he realized Bishop was completely naked beneath the blanket.

He gulped and moved quickly to the kitchen, grabbing a tall glass from the highest cupboard. From the fridge he grabbed orange juice and eggs, and he popped a slice of bread into the toaster as he heated up a skillet on the stove. By the time Bishop woke, he had breakfast sizzling and the dryer had finished its final spin.

“Brennan?” she asked sleepily. She rose slowly, keeping the blanket held against her. Sleeping against the armrest of the couch had given interesting temporary lines to her face. “Sorry, I must have dozed off longer than I…” Her voice trailed off. “Are you making breakfast?”

“It’s the most important meal of the day.”

Bishop inhaled sharply. “I am
starving
. Brennan, I could kiss you.”

He wrinkled his nose and grinned. “Best not. You probably have morning breath right now.”

“Alternatively, I could kill you,” she suggested.

“Your clothes are ready,” he told her, his grin growing wider.

Bishop wrapped the gray blanket more tightly around herself and marched over to the closet, liberating her warm, dry clothes and cradling them in a bundle under one arm. She paused at the entrance of the bathroom and looked back at him. “You look…healthy.”

“I think that was almost a compliment.”

She shook her head and laughed lightly. “Sorry, that came out poorly. But seriously, you look ten times better than yesterday.”

Brennan lifted both arms and clasped his hands high over his head. His knuckles brushed against the ceiling. “Fit as a fiddle,” he said. Truthfully, his shoulders were still sore and the movement was a bit stiff, but there was something about a full night’s sleep that rejuvenated his spirit. Even though his body wasn’t fully recovered, he
felt
better. “In fact, I need to call Sam right away.”

Bishop grimaced, but she said nothing. She knew the score; McCarthy was part of the case, as aggravating to her as he might be. The bathroom door closed behind her as he pulled the phone from his pocket. McCarthy picked up on the third ring.

“Brennan, what’s up?”

“I need you to look into something, Sam.”

“I don’t know,” McCarthy said. “I’m still waiting on this weekend’s payment. Two days’ work, cash.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know the drill.”

“And I’m still on retainer for Noel.”

“Well I’m using her time, then. She’s here with me now.”

“Really? I’m near the station right now, I’ll meet you—”

“No,” Brennan said, cutting him off. “We aren’t at the station, we’re at my place.”

There was a pause before Sam spoke again. “Arty, you sly dog,” he said. Brennan could hear the grin in his voice. “I didn’t know I had you to compete with as well.”

“It’s not like that,” he sighed. He glanced uncertainly toward the bathroom, even though he knew Bishop couldn’t overhear the call. “And I wouldn’t get too hopeful on that front, if I were you. Look, I’m taking Bishop back to her place now, so I won’t be able to meet you at the station for another half hour. I need you to look into something while I’m away.”

“What do you need?” Sam asked, sobering up instantly.

“We found out that the hallucinogen used in the patches is a drug called Chamalla.”

“Chamalla? Huh, they must be a fan.”

“A fan?”


Battlestar Galactica
?” Sam spoke slowly. His voice rang with disbelief. “Only the best sci-fi show to come out of the early 2000s.”

“Huh. I didn’t take you for a nerd, Sam.”

“I believe the proper term is ‘geek’.” There was a brief pause. “And no, hey! That’s not me!”

“Uh-huh, sure. Anyway, I need you to look into everywhere that Leviathan could be gaining access to it in large quantities. Hospitals, factories, anywhere.”

“Leviathan, huh? Never heard of them.”

“New outfit on the scene, I guess. If we move fast enough, we can shut them down here and now. My guess is we only have another day or two before they find another source of NicoClean patches, and if that happens, we’ll have to start off from square one.”

“Right.” Brennan could hear a pen scribbling on paper on the other end. “I’ll start looking and get back to you when I have something.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

Brennan ended the call, and Bishop emerged from the bathroom fully dressed in her dry clothes. Her face was bright and alert, though she still frowned at the phone in his hand. He wondered how Sam thought he had even the slightest chance of getting back into her good graces. Brennan doubted that she would ever open up to Sam like that again.

“What’s so funny?”

Brennan didn’t realize he had been smiling. “Just a bad joke that came to mind.”

“Want to tell me what it was?”

“Maybe another time,” he murmured.

The two of them dug into the breakfast Brennan had prepared, eating in companionable silence and letting the warmth of the food fill their bellies. When metal scrape against porcelain, Brennan collected the plates and rinsed them under the sink, leaving them in a pool of sudsy water to be washed later.

He got the door for her, and they walked out into the hall. A minute later, they reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped out onto the street. The rain had stopped falling, and sunlight peeked through the clouds. His pocket vibrated just as they started walking toward the precinct. “One second,” he said to Bishop. He lifted the phone to his ear. “Greg? What’s going on? How is your mother?”

“Bad,” his nephew replied. His voice shook speaking just that one word. “Uncle Arty, you need to come see her.”

A heavy pit formed in Brennan’s stomach. When Greg had called him the other day, he had sounded worried but still somewhat in control. Now, he seemed on the verge of hysterics, and Brennan found something incredibly unnerving in the way his nephew had chosen his words.
Come see her.

“All right,” he said, forcing his voice to remain calm. “Try to soothe her, keep her in bed, and I’ll be right there.”

“We aren’t at home!” Greg said in a panicky voice.

“Where are you?”

“Come to the hospital.”

Chapter Eighteen

 

 

 

The living room
of the Scott ranch was a mess.

Before the storm abated in the valley, Nathaniel and Uncle Rick had taken over the living room, laying out a strategy for surveying the southern reach of the valley for future development. Their plan was to get to the Tower, assess the surviving infrastructure, and then see what could be done with the surrounding land. On the floor around the two men was a smattering of essential hiking supplies: boots, jackets, a compass and topographical map, several bottles of water, and some dried food.

Jeremy walked into the room just as his father shrugged on a waterproof jacket. “I want to come with you,” he said.

“Absolutely not!” The three men turned toward the bedroom from which Annabelle’s voice emanated.

Nathaniel frowned. “I have to agree with your mom on this one,” he said. “We’re going into some wild territory, and there’s no telling what we might find there. Besides, the ground is slippery and unstable, and the storm could return at any minute.”

“But you only need to look at the sky to see if it’ll rain!” Jeremy argued. He leaned to peer out a window. “Oh, looks clear to me! And as for not knowing what is out there, that’s exactly why I want to go! There could be more to the Tower, and I’m the only one who’s been there for more than five seconds.”

“Again with your tower,” his father grumbled, swiping a hand across his chin.

“Well, hold on now,” Uncle Rick chimed in, his voice placating. “Jeremy’s right, we can see a storm coming from a good way off out here. And he is hardly a child anymore.”

“Yeah, I’m not a kid,” Jeremy agreed. But even he thought his voice sounded petulant. He puffed up his chest a bit under his father’s scrutiny.

“All right,” his father said finally.

Jeremy stared at him, his mouth slightly agape. “All right?”

“Yes,” Nathaniel said. He shared a glance with Uncle Rick. “You can come with us.”

“What?!” Annabelle sounded livid. She stormed into the living room and stood toe-to-toe with Nathaniel. The air around her felt charged with anger.

Jeremy took a small step back from the meltdown about to happen.

“When did it become acceptable to make choices like this
without me
?” Her voice dripped with malice. “This is our son we’re talking about! The last time he went off unsupervised, he nearly died!”

“He won’t be unsupervised,” his father challenged. “He’ll be with me the whole time.”


He
is standing right here,” Jeremy piped in. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Uncle Rick shake his head. Jeremy’s eyes found the floor, chagrined, and he stayed out of the argument.

Annabelle scoffed. “Oh, yeah, big man in the office. Always the man with the plan. Tell me, what do
you
know about surviving in the wild? What happens if a mountain lion attacks, or if you get stuck in quicksand, or if
anything
happens?”

“Surviving in the wild? What do you think this is, a Robinson Crusoe survival story? We’re basically camping in our own back yard, not wrestling crocodiles in the Amazon. We will be gone for a day, two days at the most.”

“And I will be with them the entire time,” Uncle Rick said, his deep voice sounding calm and reasonable.

His mother’s glare danced between Nathaniel and Uncle Rick. “If anything happens to my son—”

“Everything will be fine,” Uncle Rick assured her, his eyes staying locked with hers.

The expression on Annabelle’s face softened with those words, and she looked gratefully at him. “Keep them safe, won’t you?”

Uncle Rick nodded. “I promise. You can count on me.”

Placated, his mother hugged Uncle Rick briefly and turned to head to her room. She stopped at the threshold, though, and looked back at his father.

“This isn’t over. And when you get back, we need to talk.”

Nathaniel stood there, unmoving. “When we get back,” he said. Annabelle nodded and entered her room, closing the door behind her. Jeremy looked at his father’s back as their conversation echoed in his head.

Divorce.

He knew it the instant the thought came to mind. He had both sets of memories, and he knew the most recent years had been rough on their relationship. His mother had felt neglected as his father spent more and more time at work, away from her and the children. She had suspicions of secret lovers, or a mistress secretary, but Jeremy knew they were unfounded ideas.

His father, on the other hand, felt a constant compulsion to provide for his family. That meant long hours in the office, deals that kept him working even on holidays, and family vacations cut short at the ring of the phone. It wasn’t that Nathaniel was unaware of his wife’s growing discontent. He had simply never been able to change.

Jeremy’s thoughts leaped in an entirely different direction, and his mouth was moving before he could stop it. “I don’t think mountain lions even live around here,” he blurted out.

Uncle Rick smirked in amusement. “What train of thought took you there?”

“It just kind of jumps around sometimes,” Jeremy said, feeling a burning sensation in his cheeks. “Do you think we could actually run into them? Mountain lions?”

“They’re territorial and less likely to migrate than most, but those territories are huge, and they like to roam.”

“When in Rome,” Jeremy said. Uncle Rick cocked his head, and Nathaniel raised an eyebrow. “Well, because you have a big territory,” he explained to his father. “And because we’re about to…roam. When in roam.”

Uncle Rick erupted with laughter, a deep bass rumbling that filled the room. Nathaniel cracked a smile. Even a light chuckle could be heard coming from his mother’s bedroom.

“That”—Uncle Rick wiped a tear from one eye—“was terrible.”

There wasn’t much time for talk after that as the men were swept up in a flurry of action. Nathaniel had purchased hiking supplies years ago, and the boots that Jeremy had received at that time were long since outgrown. He put on an old pair of his father’s boots—which were a hair too large for his feet to fit in them comfortably—and shrugged into an oversized jacket. The sleeves hung down almost to his knuckles.

They set off later in the afternoon than Uncle Rick would have liked—he loudly voiced his opinion on the matter—and kept the rapidly falling sun to their right. In addition to their other supplies, Uncle Rick brought along a hunting knife, and Nathaniel now carried a deluxe, family-sized tent. “Now it’s really like a camping trip,” he had joked while packing. By the time they reached the one-mile point, Nathaniel was breathing heavily and straining from the weight on his back.

Likewise, blisters quickly emerged on Jeremy’s feet. He was used to walking, both in the valley and around Odols, but the ill-fitting shoes meant that they chafed uncomfortably at the heels and sides of his feet. Still, he was thankful for them; they kept out the damp that seeped up from the ground with each soggy step.

The earth was completely saturated from the storm. What had before been rolling hills were now slippery mounds of mud which easily gave way underfoot, and the flat grasslands had been transformed into half-inch-deep marshes. The air never quite warmed up to the temperature it had been the day before, and now the sunlight was beginning to wane on them. If they didn’t get dry soon, even the summer night air could settle a chill in them.

“I see it,” Uncle Rick called finally. The sun was touching the slopes of the western mountains, and the trio had fallen into unequal paces during the hike. His uncle was at the top of a rocky outcropping, one which Jeremy knew had a good view of the Tower. Jeremy quickly joined him, jumping agilely from rock to rock until he reached the top. His pack was light, carrying only a few bottles of water, dried fruit, and the map. His father was less fortunate. The tent weighed heavily on him, and the five miles they covered before nightfall wore him down considerably. As formidable as he was in business meetings, he simply wasn’t a man of great physical strength.

Up ahead was the old fort and the Tower at its center. The walls still looked as imposing to Jeremy as they had several days ago. It took another fifteen minutes or so for them to walk the distance between the rocky outcropping and the square entrance of the fort.

“My god, would you look at that?” Uncle Rick marveled, eyeing the stonework and the rusted portcullis still nestled in its recessed alcove above.

Nathaniel walked toward one of the outlying buildings and pushed hard against one of its wooden beams.

“Careful with that,” Jeremy warned. “Some of these buildings are pretty rickety.”

“And just how would you know that?”

“Um…they look old?” Jeremy felt his father’s stare intensify. “And one sort of, kind of fell on me.”

Nathaniel grunted. “So, naturally, your first impulse after that was to go
further
into the dangerous ruins.”

Thankfully, Uncle Rick stepped between them with raised hands. “Enough of this.” He placed one palm flat against the building and leaned. “I’m willing to bet this’ll hold up. But we’ve got the tent anyway, and it doesn’t look like rain tonight. Let’s not chance it.”

They eventually chose a spot in a corner of the fort; Uncle Rick reasoned that nothing would fall on them, but they’d still have walls on two sides to help the tent keep out the wind. The three of them worked in unison to assemble the tent, and Jeremy was astonished at the size of the thing. It could have easily housed a group twice their size—with room to spare—and the material was insulated without making the inside sticky and cloying. It was top-of-the-line and had never been used. They put the last piece in place just as the shadows were reaching their full length, and Jeremy knew the entire valley would soon be dark.

“Let’s see the map,” Nathaniel said. Jeremy retrieved it from his backpack and Uncle Rick laid it out in front of them. It was a large, rectangular sheet of heavy paper, and it was completely blank.

“Nate, I thought you brought a—”

“You have to turn it on,” he sighed. He placed a thumb against one corner and swiped downward. The paper burst into life as light and shadow danced across its surface. Small beads embedded in the paper shifted and molded themselves, and in an instant there was a topographical map of Odols and its surrounding areas. Nathaniel double-tapped the valley, and the beads rearranged themselves. The edge of the paper lined itself with miniature ink-black mountains in an almost-complete circle, and the rises and dips of the valley came into relief.

“Cool,” Jeremy said, his fingers grazing along the ridges of the mountains.

Uncle Rick huffed. “A simple map of ink and paper would have sufficed.”

“When you’re a millionaire, then we can discuss how you spend
your
wealth.” Nathaniel pointed at a spot on the map. “We walked a good distance today, so we can probably survey as far as here tomorr—”

“I disagree,” Uncle Rick interrupted. “Today, we were walking in a straight line, and it still took hours to walk five miles. Turn that into a circle, even with three people, we probably can’t check out much further than this in one day.” He moved Nathaniel’s finger a few inches to the side, nearly halving the radius of their surveying circle. Just then, the map disappeared, its power flickering out.

“Right,” Nathaniel coughed. “Umm, I never really opened the map after buying it. I assumed the charge would hold.”

Uncle Rick sighed. “Never fail with paper and ink,” he muttered.

“So what are we looking for?” Jeremy asked.

“Before we can start building anything, we need to know
what
to build and
where
to build it,” Uncle Rick said. “This valley is breathtaking, so I’m thinking maybe a resort for all seasons. Sledding in the winter, camping in the summer, with a beautiful landscape all year ‘round.”

“Okay,” Jeremy said. “So we’re looking for somewhere with a nice view, basically?”

“Precisely,” Nathaniel said, clasping Jeremy’s shoulder.

Uncle Rick rubbed at his chin. “Before we left the outcropping, I saw what looked like a large lake glimmering a few miles to the west. We could reach it by midday if we set out early tomorrow, and then we won’t be squandering our efforts on a small circle around this fort.”

Nathaniel groaned. “My back is killing me,” he said. “And these boots really cut into your feet.”

“We could leave the tent here,” Jeremy suggested. “Keep it set up for tomorrow night. That way we don’t have to break it down in the morning, and we have a place ready for us after we go see the lake.”

“And I won’t have to carry the damned thing on my back,” his father added.

Uncle Rick frowned at the two of them, clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but he agreed. “Get some sleep,” he told them. “It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

 

ф ф ф

 

Jeremy knew instantly
that he wasn’t dreaming, nor was he drawing on any of his stolen memories.

Once again, he was standing in the Jardin des Anges. It was a strange night, though; there was a chill in the air, and the temperature dropped even more in the minutes that followed. Plants withered before his eyes, their leaves crumpling inward in a desperate attempt to escape the oncoming freeze.

BOOK: Brooding City: Brooding City Series Book 1
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