Read Nightrise Online

Authors: Anthony Horowitz

Tags: #Family, #Action & Adventure, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #General, #Fiction, #People & Places, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Brothers, #United States, #Supernatural, #Siblings, #Telepathy, #Nevada, #Twins, #Juvenile Detention Homes

Nightrise (9 page)

BOOK: Nightrise
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"Where is he now?"

"We have no idea. My agents tell me that he was helped in his escape by a woman, but they were unable to get her license plate number. It all happened too quickly and it was dark/However, I believe the situation is now under control."

"Go on."

"We shot the producer, a man called Don White. He was living with a woman, Marcie Kelsey. We shot her with the same gun and then used our contacts within the Nevada police to set up a false trail. Jamie Tyler is now wanted for both murders and it can only be a matter of time before he's tracked down. At which point, we will have him."

Susan Mortlake sounded confident, but the chairman was unimpressed. 'Your agents allowed one of these boys to slip through their fingers. They also failed to track down the car. Have you taken any disciplinary procedures, Mrs. Mortlake?"

"No, sir." The woman looked up defiantly. "It did occur to me that you might be asking for my own resignation."

The chairman considered, then shook his head. "If you have one of the Gatekeepers, that will be enough," he said. "We only have to break the circle and we will have won. However, you still need to make redundancies, Mrs. Mortlake. We cannot have people letting us down."

"Of course, Mr. Chairman. I thought as much myself."

"And I want you to deal with Scott Tyler personally. You understand that, generally speaking, it would be better if he were not allowed to die."

"I understand. But as a matter of fact, we may be able to use him. I'm hoping to bring him around to our point of view."

"Good."

The single word was praise indeed. The chairman never complimented his staff on anything. At the Nightrise Corporation, excellence was taken for granted.

He spoke again, this time addressing all the executives.

"As I began by saying, this is a critical time. It's also a very positive time and before we part company, I want to introduce you to an associate whose name will be familiar to you. We have worked together on many occasions and he has very kindly agreed to say a few words to you today."

There was a fourteenth television at the far end of the table, opposite the chairman. Until now, it had been blank but it suddenly flickered into life. At first it seemed that there was something wrong with the picture. The head that had appeared simply looked too big for the screen, too heavy for the neck that supported it. Its eyes were very high up, above a nose that seemed to travel a long way to the small and rather babyish mouth below. It was as if the image had been stretched — but in fact there was nothing wrong with the transmission. The man was Diego Salamanda, head of Salamanda News International.

He was beaming the signal from his research center in the town of lea in Peru. And this was how he really looked.

"Good evening," he began. The local time was just after seven o'clock. "It is a great pleasure to be able to speak with you. I would like to thank your chairman for inviting me. And I have some excellent news to share with you.

"I have now had a chance to decipher the diary of the mad monk of Cordoba, which was unearthed very recently in Spain and passed into my hands. I don't need to remind you that this is the only written history of the Old Ones and their fight against the five children who came to be known as the Gatekeepers. The Old Ones ruled the earth about ten thousand years ago. They were all-powerful but they were defeated — according to the diary — by a trick. Sadly, we have no more details. There was a great battle which the Old Ones lost and they were banished. Two gates were built to keep them out of our world. Many of us have been working for their return ever since.

"Further examination of the diary has provided me with the answers that I have been looking for and I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt, very soon, we will have achieved our aims and a new millennium will have begun. Yes, my friends, the Old Ones are about to return to take control of a world that should, in truth, have been theirs all along."

He stopped to catch his breath, his nostrils flaring. It hurt him to speak. It hurt him to do almost anything, a result of his head having been deliberately mutilated at birth.

"We are now in mid-June," he went on. "And the twenty-fourth of this month is a sacred day in my country. We call it Inti Raymi. On that day, the second great gate, built in the desert in Nazca, will open.

By carefully examining the diary, I have discovered the means to unlock it, and nothing can now prevent me."

He lifted a hand. Next to his head it looked ridiculous, out of proportion.

"But we have enemies," he said. "Incredible though it may sound, the five children who defeated us all those years ago have somehow returned. You may have found two of them in America. One of them is on his way to Peru. My agents encountered him in a church in London.

"This much I can tell you: There has to be five of them. It's only when they come together that they have the strength to be a danger to us. On their own, they are powerless. Nothing can stop us. On June twenty-fourth, the Old Ones will take what is theirs and all of us will share in the rewards."

Around the boardroom table, the executives began to applaud. They were thousands of miles apart — in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing…all over the world. It was as if someone had turned up the volume. The noise echoed around the room.

The fourteenth screen went black. Salamanda had broken contact.

"Now you know the stakes," the chairman said. "Just a few days stand between us and the end of the old world. But let's not fool ourselves that our work is over. It's just beginning. A war is coming and our job is to prepare the way. We need a president of the United States who is sympathetic to our aims. Mr.

Simms, I am relying on you. Mrs. Mortlake, see to the child. Make him one of ours. Then find his brother and deal with him too."

The chairman signaled to one of his two assistants. One of them reached out and flicked a switch. The remaining thirteen television screens went black.

***

In her office in Los Angeles, Susan Mortlake watched the red light on her own webcam blink out and knew that she was no longer transmitting. She also knew that she was very fortunate to be alive. The chairman had briefly considered asking her for her resignation. She had seen it in his eyes.

Even so, he had told her to make redundancies. She leaned forward and reached out with a long finger, the nail sharpened to a point. There was an intercom in front of her and she pressed a button. 'You can send them in now," she said.

A few seconds later, the door opened and Colton Banes and Kyle Hovey walked in. There were two high-backed chairs opposite her desk and they sat down without being asked. The room was ice cold, the air-conditioning turned up to its highest level, but Susan Mortlake noticed that beads of sweat had broken out on Hovey's forehead. Banes was looking more relaxed. He didn't even flinch when she turned and looked at him. Both men knew why they were here. It was inevitable that they would be called to account.

"Well?" Mrs. Mortlake snapped out the single word. She really was like a teacher now, a headmistress about to select the punishment.

"It was his fault!" Hovey had chipped in at once, eager to get across his version of events. He glanced at Banes. "He made serious mistakes. He should have known about the dog." He raised an arm, wincing at the same time as if to prove his point. Underneath his suit jacket he was covered in bandages where he had been bitten. He'd had to be injected against tetanus and rabies. "And he should have had more men waiting at the stage door."

"Mr. Banes?" Mrs. Mortlake turned her head back to him. She was wearing long earrings that jangled as she moved.

Banes shrugged. "It's true," he said. "I didn't know about the dog. The kids were lucky. Sometimes it happens like that."

Mrs. Mortlake considered. She already knew what she was going to do. She hadn't risen to a position of power in the Nightrise Corporation without being able to make fast decisions.

"It seems to me that you half succeeded," she began. "Which is to say, you half failed. One boy got away but we still have the other one. If both boys had escaped, I would have no choice but to make you both redundant. As it is, one of you can be spared." She smiled sweetly. "Mr. Banes, I'm very sorry…"

In the chair next to him, Mr. Hovey relaxed.

"…but I'm going to have to ask you to strangle Mr. Hovey. I know you're friends. I know you've worked together for a long time. But the corporation really cannot allow failure, and the fact that Mr. Hovey is a bit of a whiner, I personally find most displeasing."

"Do you want me to do it now, Mrs. Mortlake?" Banes asked.

'Yes. Please go ahead."

Colton Banes stood up and walked behind the other man. Kyle Hovey sat where he was. His entire body had slumped in on itself. He was carrying a gun — it was in a holster under his jacket — but he didn't even try to reach for it. At least this would be quick. Fairly quick, anyway.

Banes's hands rested briefly on the other man's shoulders. "I'm sorry, Kyle," he said. "But for what it's worth, you always were a loser." His outstretched fingers reached underneath the black ponytail and closed on the other man's throat. He began to squeeze. From the other side of the desk, Susan Mortlake watched with interest. It took just a minute. Then Colton Banes went back to his chair and sat down.

Next to him, Kyle Hovey remained where he was, as if nothing had happened.

"Will there be anything else, Mrs. Mortlake?" Colton Banes asked.

"No, thank you, Mr. Banes. You can wait for me here in Los Angeles."

Kyle Hovey slid gently to one side, then toppled to the floor.

'You'd better get your friend cremated," she continued. "And send flowers if he has a family. As for me, I'll be heading out to Silent Creek. I can't wait to meet this boy, Scott Tyler. I think we need to begin his treatment straight away."

SEVEN

Jamie's Story

They saw her come out of the office building, the woman dressed in black with the closely cut gray hair.

There was a limousine waiting for her and they watched her as she was driven away, up West 4th Street toward the Harbor Freeway. But they didn't know who she was or where she was going. They would find that out later.

Jamie and Alicia were sitting in a car in the business district of Los Angeles. It was the same car that Alicia had rented in Reno — the two of them had driven out the day before.

Jamie had slept for much of the journey, although he had been awake at the start. An hour after they had left Reno, the highway had sloped upward and suddenly he had found himself passing through forests of fir trees that rose steeply on both sides. As he looked up to see the clumps of snow, still refusing to melt, he had realized that he was finally going over the mountains. Beyond the snow. He had once dreamed that he would make the crossing and that this was where he would find a new life. Now he wasn't so sure. All he knew was that his old life had been shattered and he was leaving the pieces far behind.

Alicia would have preferred to take a plane. But Jamie had no picture ID. He couldn't fly. And with the police still actively searching for him, it wouldn't have been safe to go near an airport. And so she had driven, stopping overnight in another motel in Fresno before arriving in Los Angeles the following afternoon, grimy and bleary-eyed from so much driving.

As they came down over the valley, Jamie had caught sight of the famous Hollywood sign, the white letters reflecting the last rays of the sun as it dipped behind the horizon. He'd seen it often enough on TV. This was the city of angels, the dream factory, home to the stars and the beautiful people. All sorts of clich tumbled through his mind. But he felt nothing. He had come here because he had to. Los Angeles meant nothing to him. And as for the sign — what was it? Just some big letters on a hillside.

He was exhausted, hollowed out. Don and Marcie had been killed and the police thought he'd done it!

The story had been reported all over America. After all, he was only fourteen. A juvenile, on the run, guilty of two homicides. The newspapers had lapped it up. But worse than all this, worse than anything he had ever experienced, was the knowledge that Scott had been taken. It had been more than seventy hours since the final performance at the Reno Playhouse. Jamie couldn't remember a time in their whole life when the two of them had been apart for so long. Driving into this new city, he once again reached out for Scott's thoughts, wondering if — against all odds — he might get some tiny sense of his brother's presence. But there was nothing. In fact, Scott felt farther away than ever.

Jamie had wanted to stay in Reno but Alicia had persuaded him that it would be too dangerous. They had one clue: a name on a small white card. The Nightrise Corporation. Alicia had checked on the Internet. Nightrise was based in Hong Kong but had offices all over the world. Two addresses were listed in the U.S.A.: one in New York, one in Los Angeles. Driving all the way to the East Coast was out of the question. Coming here was their only option.

And so here they were, parked opposite a skyscraper that was nothing more than a rectangular block, fifty stories high, its identically sized windows punched in with mathematical precision. The top six floors belonged to Nightrise, with banks, insurance companies, law firms, and dozens of other businesses below. Jamie and Alicia had been here for an hour, watching people come and go. Right now it was half past two and the revolving doors were never still as workers hurried back in, returning from their lunch.

But there had been no sign of Colton Banes or the dark-haired man with the ponytail who had been sitting next to him at the theatre. Perhaps they ate at their desks. Perhaps he wasn't here at all.

They waited another hour, then Alicia sighed and started the engine. "This is a waste of time," she said.

"Are you hungry?"

Jamie nodded. He had no real appetite, but he hadn't eaten anything since the morning and he could feel his energy level falling. Alicia pulled out and they drove back toward where they were staying in West Hollywood. Alicia had mentioned she had a sister. It now turned out that she was an airline stewardess and lived in Los Angeles. She would be away for a week and had gladly lent them her house. Alicia had telephoned her from Fresno. She hadn't mentioned Jamie.

BOOK: Nightrise
10.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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