Teasers & Deleted Scenes
Sandusky, OH, May, 1999
When Reyes and Todd and their long tail of FBI SWAT team caught up with Hakes, they also caught up with the carnival. It wasn't hard to tell where he'd gone to ground when a ticket collector lay like a sculpture of bloody agony beside the draped doorway of the pavilion marked Haunted House. Crimson soaked the tramped, tussocked earth around the dead man. It had splattered the cuffs and shoes of the half-dozen people who had gathered in a semicircle.
"Medical," Todd said into his radio, while Reyes turned to the Special Agent in charge of the SWAT unit. Swale was a big man, dark-skinned, crop-haired under his mask and helmet. Like Reyes, he was fortyish and fit, but there the resemblance ended.
"Agent Todd and I are going in after him," Reyes said calmly, though the cold drop of his stomach made him wish he had the luxury of stammering. "Have your people establish a perimeter. Cut the power to the ride. Get these bystanders back--and get the EMTs in and out as fast as possible. If Hakes walks away alone, assume that Agent Todd and I are dead, and that Hakes is armed and extremely dangerous." Shoot to kill.
They didn't know much about gammas. But they knew that.
Swale made two of Reyes, but he looked at the dead man on the ground and nodded without argument. "We've got your back, Agent Reyes."
"Thanks," Reyes said. When he pivoted away, Todd was there beside him, creaking in his body armor. Their gazes crossed through face shields.
Todd gave himself a little shake as if settling into his Kevlar. "Locked and loaded. Let's get this over with before I start thinking about it, okay?"
"Wait for the perimeter, Sol," Reyes said, with a gesture at the expanding ring of FBI tactical unit.
Todd glanced down at his machine pistol. "We don't know the haunted house was clear when Hakes went in. There could be people in there with him."
Reyes said, "I know."
Swale's men (and woman) had their perimeter established in under ninety seconds; Reyes could not remember a longer minute and a half. Todd had stepped inside himself in that way he had, and now his face behind the shield reflected a patient awareness Reyes would have envied, if he hadn't known Todd long enough by now to have some idea of what it cost. Reyes used the time to find one of the carnies and get a dirt-sketched plan of the interior of the tent. Fast and furious, but it might be the edge they needed.
When his earpiece crackled with Swale's voice, Reyes felt momentarily dizzy, as if his blood had suddenly started delivering desperately-needed oxygen once again. He went to join Todd, and together they entered the sett where the monster had gone to ground.
As Reyes and his partner picked their way down twisting passages defined by panels of billowing scarlet cloth, he was grateful that the pop-up skeletons and animatronic ghosts lurking in blind cul-de-sacs were disabled. Hakes would have been able to track them by the sounds, and target discipline was going to be hard enough under these conditions without random movement.
The passage doubled back; Todd paused by the opening, crouching. As Reyes came up, he reached through it, and his fingers dented the throat of a young woman in a sundress that had been covered in orange and fuchsia flowers before it was covered in blood. He looked up and shook his head. "I've seen this movie," he murmured as Reyes came up to cover his flank.
"Go," Reyes answered. The dead girl might be twenty. She had straightened hair and very white teeth through the veil of blood that still dripped from her open mouth. She was dead before you got here.
You told yourself the lies you needed to hear.
They cleared the next passage and the one beyond, then paused beside an aperture curtained by draped chiffon.
"Hall of Mirrors," Reyes mouthed.
Behind his shield, Todd rolled his eyes. "Fuck me," he mouthed back, then whispered, "I hear him breathing." All Reyes could hear was the pounding of his own heart.
Todd raised his voice. "Joseph Hakes? This is the FBI. We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up."
Reyes kept an eye on the cloth panels further down the corridor. If he were Hakes, he might decide to lunge through them like a horror-movie monster.
"Agent Todd!" Hakes called back. "I was hoping you'd come. Did you bring your nanny?"
"Agent Reyes is here," Todd said. "And there are about six hundred SWAT guys outside with orders to shoot to kill if you come out without us. You want to surrender peacefully, or do you want to stay in here until you starve? I bet you're pretty hungry, aren't you, Joe? How long has it been since breakfast?"
A long time. The chase had been on for over twelve hours. And given a gamma metabolism and the trail of dead that led here, Hakes had to be suffering badly. Hell, Reyes was miserable, and he didn't burn through eight or nine thousand calories a day.
Hakes chuckled, low and slow. "Now how on earth are you going to truss up something like me so I ain't dangerous? You'll shoot me as soon as I put my head out, and plant a gun on me. I ain't armed. Can your tape recorders hear me? This is for posterity. I ain't armed!"
Todd looked at Reyes. The fabric roof above filtered sunlight, loaning a surreal crimson gloom to Todd's pale skin.
Reyes had a silk hood in his pocket. If they were right, and Hakes had to see his target to kill, it might save them. It was a flimsy thing to bet your life on.
Reyes whispered, "You're the better shot," and holstered his Glock. He stripped off his helmet and face shield, left them lying on packed dirt when he stepped through the orange-and-yellow gauze curtains into the Hall of Mirrors.
Crazy-quilt shattered movement jittered everywhere, scattered and broken bits of himself reflected and warped. Turned upside down, stretched and twisted, squashed and smeared.
"Joe," he said. "It's Stephen Reyes. I'm going to meet you halfway, all right?"
Every step sent shivers of motion along the walls. Every breath filled Reyes's ears with its rasp. "If you walk out of here with us, Joe, you can walk out alive. We have a place we can take you where nobody's going to hurt you again. Nobody's going to infect you or make you sick ever again."
"Liar," Hakes said. Now that he was out in the room, Reyes could track the voice, and he hoped Todd could, too. Hakes was behind the mirrors along the left-hand wall. "I know what you want, what you all want. You'll put me in a cage and sell tickets and the whole world will come and stare at the freak. You'll feed me shit and bleach and you'll tell me it's medicine. Eat up there's a good boy."
"Joe," Reyes said, "she can't hurt you anymore. You made sure of it. And I just want to make sure nobody ever does that to you again."
For a moment, he thought he was going to get away with it. For a moment, when Hakes stepped out from behind a mirror, a fragment of motion that wasn't Reyes reflected again and again and again. Reyes turned to Hakes, his face bare, his hands empty and held wide, and had one last clear look at him.
He was dust-colored and young and scrawny. His pinched face, sunken eyes, and the scaffolds of his shoulders spoke of hunger; his slightness of frame and stature suggested long-term malnutrition. Reyes knew he was twenty-one, but he looked sixteen.
"You're full of shit," he said, and Stephen Reyes tasted blood.
A lot of blood.
It didn't hurt, exactly. He was cold, so cold, so suddenly, and it contrasted strangely to the slick burning heat spreading down his thighs and neck and face. So cold, so thirsty, so lightheaded. He couldn't see. His eyes smarted greasily as he doubled over, and his stomach convulsed horribly. That hurt, and the bile and blood he vomited stung the inside of his nose.
Well, Reyes thought. That's not as bad as I expected.
Just awfully cold.
He jerked himself upright against the brutal cramping and staggered a step, another. Unseeing, his empty hands for useless, pawing groping now. Go right, go right. Out of Todd's line of fire.
He put his foot down wrong and went over hard, felt something in his knee twist and rip. The ground came up and struck him all along his left side.
Crawl away. Keep crawling.
He didn't want to. So much easier to lie down, to curl up. So cold, and all the heat was draining out of him, spreading across the trampled ground. But he dragged a hand forward, followed with a knee, the other knee, a spike of blue-white pain. Back towards Todd, or where he thought Todd might be, through the blood-dimmed shadows.
Blood also muffled the two enormous sounds that followed, but not enough to keep him from falling over again, palms pressed tight over his ears. The silence afterwards rang, so he heard Todd's voice but did not understand the words. Hands pried at him, pulled him out of his huddle like a kid peeling open a millipede. Somebody felt for his pulse. Somebody said something short and urgent, and a crackle of static that might have words in it answered.
"O positive," Reyes said through the thickness in his throat, guessing at the information Todd would need for the EMTs. He shook his head, hearing slowly returning, blood trickling from his ear canals like swimming-pool water. Todd gave him a harsh pat on the shoulder and moved away. Clearing Hakes.
Reyes pushed feebly at the ground and felt it recede. A rock dug at his knee, and there was a fresh spasm of agony. He wobbled, but stayed kneeling.
"We have a problem," Todd said.
Still blinded by his own blood, now Reyes heard the hiss of fabric as Todd slung the machine pistol over his shoulder, followed by the jangle of cuffs. He also heard the thumping of SWAT and--presumably--medical entering the haunted house from both directions.
Todd continued, "He's not dead."
Reyes rubbed at his eyes until he could make out the crimsoned flesh of his fingers, ropy with congealing blood. Gasping, he stood. It was a bad idea, his knee and his vertigo informed him, but he did it anyway. He spat a mouthful of bloody saliva and watched it splash on the ground. "You put two bursts into him."
"Looks like all six hit," Todd said. "And he's still breathing. If you can walk, get that blindfold over here. I'll take the ambulance ride and make sure he doesn't kill the EMTs if he wakes up." The glare he shot Reyes said plainly And you'll be taking your own ambulance ride, you crazy son of a bitch.
Reyes shuddered and made himself step forward anyway. "Clemson McCain is getting a roommate."