Excerpts for Forgiven
Washington, D.C. 2005
“Blurry walls. Nothing but stinking, blurry walls.”
Kelly Greene shook her head, clearing it of the confusing, useless images. The mental connection sometimes gave her clues to where a kidnapped child was hidden. Unfortunately, what she saw through Sarah’s mind did nothing to help find the missing toddler. Attempting to hold the connection and sort through the images surged her already raging headache up another level. She pushed aside the pain and fought to regain her focus. The child’s life depended on her psychic talents, which were currently failing them both.
Her instincts told her she was close, but she couldn’t get an exact location. She’d circle the block again, for the twentieth time.
She might be psychic, but there were limits to her abilities, and this case was pushing every one of them. The police had dropped her from the case an hour ago when she wasn’t able to give any specifics, but she’d tracked this child for the past twenty-four hours, and there was no way she’d give up now.
While her eyes watched the road, she let her other senses relax and accept the connection that bound her to Sarah.
Sarah was tired, hungry, and very scared.
Everything was blurry and confusing through the toddler’s mind. Probably tears. There was no way to gain any information from her this way. Kelly only knew of one other way to find her. A really yuck-tastic way, as her son would say.
Through the mind of the kidnapper.
She pulled the car out of the thin traffic. Why, oh why, could it never be easy? She’d have to do it. There was no other choice. She had a feeling that time was running out for little Sarah, that death or worse was approaching fast.
This case had a bad feeling to it from the beginning. Some perception of natural and unnatural. Several times, she had completely lost the connection to Sarah as if something prevented her from reaching the toddler’s mind. Darn it, she was good at tracking and didn’t just lose the thread that bound her to the individual. So why did it keep happening with Sarah? Why was this case different? Wasn’t natural…
Ridiculous. What was natural about anything she did? Not one blasted thing. Her own abilities had been called unnatural or supernatural more than once. Natural, unnatural or whatever, it changed nothing.
She still had a chance, admittedly a slim one, to save this child, and she was darn sure going to try. If it were her son, Patrick, she’d never give up. This time, the grieving mother was a stranger named Sally, but it made no difference. She remembered the terror of losing her child, and she’d never let another mother go through that. For Sally’s sake, she would climb into the mind of the devil himself. She’d found Patrick. She’d find Sarah.
That left crawling into a sick mind. Each kidnapper might be different, but every one of them was dangerous and unpredictable. And each one had a mind that she had no interest in entering.
Kelly rolled her head, trying to loosen knotted neck muscles and ease the pounding headache that using her abilities always caused. Nothing would help but deep sleep, what Patrick called her reboot time. That wouldn’t happen until she had little Sarah back in her mother’s arms.
She shut out the sound of traffic as it buzzed past, turning her senses inward. She reached out for Sarah’s immature mind and strengthened the link between them. Sorting through her mind revealed a single new detail; he called her ‘baby, nice baby’. That was all the connection she needed to grasp at the ominous presence so close to little Sarah.
There. A man. She slipped into the man’s mind and was stricken by what she found.
Scared, no he was terrified. He hated and he hurt. A burning, ripping agony of hurt. Images of needles. Blood. Chains. Bars. Pills. Weapons. Fighting.
The pain and terror rushed through her, knocking the breath out of her chest. His emotions were so powerful they hammered into her mind. Kelly panted through the confusing thoughts and overwhelming pain, ripping herself free from the kidnapper’s mind enough to allow her to at least function.
None of it made sense. The images were fragmented and had little connection to thoughts or memories. A kaleidoscope with no way to focus the direction. She pulled back to her own mind, holding onto only a thread of the contact. He hadn’t given a single clue as to their location. It was as if he wasn’t able to sense his own surroundings through his pain.
His terrible pain.
She could use his pain, track its psychic trail to the source. She threw the Jeep into gear, then roared back into traffic, cutting off a dark colored sedan before taking the first right to swing into an empty lot behind an industrial building. Abandoned, of course. She’d been so close, and the kidnapper’s cracked mind was like a beacon to this place. They were inside this building. She’d found Sarah.
With the Jeep parked and silent, she dug through the clutter on her passenger seat, grabbing her cell phone. Her unofficial partner, Captain Rook, was on speed dial, and he’d back her up even when the rest doubted her.
He answered on the first ring. “Hello?”
“Rook, it’s Kelly. Listen, I’m at 32nd and Long, the empty red brick building. Get here as fast as you can. I need you.”
“You found her?” Although said as a question, she heard the confidence in his voice.
“Almost. Just get here. This one could be messy.” She snapped the phone shut, dropping it in favor of the thirty-eight caliber pistol which she put under her denim jacket in its shoulder holster. Good thing she wasn’t a size two. Her natural curves hid any bulge that might be seen otherwise.
On second thought, she slid the phone into her jacket pocket and picked up a picture of Sarah cradled lovingly in Sally’s ample arms. It was another possible tool to negotiate with the kidnapper. She’d use anything she could to get the child to safety. Playing on a kidnapper’s conscience worked sometimes; at least it did when they had one. The thirty-eight worked with the rest. Either way, Sarah was leaving here with her.
She closed the door quietly and moved toward the source of wild emotions through a broken door and into the empty lobby.
Muffled crying came from a back room. She moved that way while using all her senses to home in on the man whose thoughts were no more than an incoherent jumble of negative emotions. He wasn’t sane, that much she knew.
She’d stall as long as she could to give Rook time to get here and take control. Otherwise, she might have to kill the kidnapper. No one in that much pain could be rational. She tucked the useless picture into her back pocket and drew the thirty-eight. She moved to just outside the door where she could hear Sarah’s reaction to what was going on in the room. If any sound signaled a change, she’d be close enough to get to her, hopefully.
The minutes crawled by as her heart beat louder. Each beat thundered through her pounding skull. Sarah’s cries subdued into baby whimpers. Then the whimpers stopped, leaving only silence.
Kelly glanced at the gun in her hands and offered a short prayer to any god that would listen. Crossing the entrance, she scanned right and left before moving forward.
“Sarah? Where are you?” she whispered. A short whimper answered from the far corner where Sarah sat in a bundle of blankets.
The room was empty of kidnappers, but was still filled to the point of choking with the man’s pain. Wherever he was, he hadn’t gone far.
She crossed the room and stooped to pick Sarah up, which left her back exposed for a second too long. A huge arm dragged her back against a rock-like body, crushing the gun and one of her arms to her own chest.
“Who are you?” His voice huffed over her ear as he spoke, dry and panting.
“I just came for Sarah.” She tried for soothing, but barely managed to gag out the words past his tight grip.
“Did they send you? I won’t go back. I’ll never go back.” He was terrified. The emotions rolled from him into her, causing her stomach to clench and lurch wildly.
“No one sent me. I just want to take Sarah to her mother.” She gasped the words out. She had to get out of here, get herself and the child to safety before he lost whatever restraint kept him from snapping her in two.
“You’re n-not one of them?” His confused words stuttered out. “Sarah who? Where am I?”
“I don’t want anything but the baby. Just the baby.” He was hurting so bad, and the pain filled her to the point she wanted to curl up and die. Or was that his wish?
“Baby? God help me. What have I done?” He sobbed out the words and dropped his arms, releasing her.
In one motion, she grabbed up Sarah and bolted for the door. That was when she heard the scream. That anguished scream would fill her nightmares for an eternity. She tripped at the stabbing pain that shot through the mental connection, numbing her legs, locking up her muscles.
Kelly fell and covered the baby with her own body. The slight roll left her looking at the room behind her. The bulky, muscled kidnapper was on hands and knees before another man. Lean and light, the new man gripped a huge needle, withdrawing it from the big guy’s neck.
Whatever was in the syringe was powerful. His eyes glazed over, and he fell forward to the floor. “Help me, brother. Please, don’t take me back.” The whispered words hurt. Everything hurt.
The connection burned out, and she was left watching the scene though a hazy numbness.
The lean, blond man stared down at the kidnapper. He did nothing but watch until the childlike brute remained motionless on the floor. Then he turned her way.
His obsidian stare was empty of any humanity. The terrible, empty eyes that were found only in someone who’d long ago lost that part that made them human.
A siren wailed close by.
The blond returned the syringe to a small case and pushed it into the pocket of his black fatigues. Then he lifted the unconscious man, who was probably twice his size, with seemingly no effort, settling him over his shoulder and walking out without a word. He looked back once from the darkened hallway. Those blank orbs shone back at her from the dark.
* * * * *
Agent 027, Sergeant Samuel, carried the target out of the building. Mission priority one: complete. Target acquired. Mission priority two: return target to retrieval point.
Brother, help me. The words filled his mind, briefly blocking out the mission priorities. Then they faded away once again.
Did those words have meaning? Were they necessary for mission success?
The police blocked access to his vehicle and the exit routes. Covert motion was stopped. He would wait. Observe.
The woman came out of the building carrying the child. She was armed, but had shot nothing. Why?
Two of the officers took the child and left in one car. The woman stayed. She spoke with one of the officers, a suited, dark haired human. Together they went into the building. She is debriefing the man. How much did she understand? Did her knowledge make her a threat?
Brother, help me, the thought whispered again.
Brother? He had a brother. No, he had two brothers. Two brothers who were now gone. Gone where? Once he’d had more family. Now he had no one.
Mission directive was of all importance. Or was it? Dosage must be maintained. He had missed his dose. The pill helped him think. He was overdue. With a flick he dropped two pills into his palm.
The pills fell into the debris under the hedges where he and the target were concealed.
The still flashing police lights hurt his eyes, distracting him. The light was the pain. Always with light came pain. But success made the pain go away. Failure brought light and pain.
“No more pain.” The words were raspy and quiet. The target was waking. He nudged Daniel with a toe. “Please, no more,” came the pitiful response.
He reached into his fatigue pocket for a second syringe and vial. One should have been enough, but he believed in being prepared. A second dose could kill the target. But the mission required containment and secrecy above survival.
“I’ll be g-good.” The broken promise connected to some memory from his own past. He had said those words. He had begged for pity and been denied.
He put the syringe and vial away. There was time yet. He could wait before administering another dose.
“Thank you, my brother. Thank you.”
Irrelevant to the mission. Only the mission mattered. Brothers... Once it had meant something, hadn’t it? No, only the mission mattered. “Silence.” He punctuated the command with a shake. Optimum success included the target’s survival. Success was all that mattered.
Another police car left the scene. Only two officers remained on the scene. One was outside with the woman’s battered Jeep. The woman was still within the building. The man in the suit returned from the building. After he spoke to the uniformed officer, the uniformed one left the scene.
Had Daniel left anything behind that could endanger the operation? He should go closer to sweep the area for possible evidence. With the target still immobilized, he could return for up to ten more minutes without risking his escape. Paralysis lasted from forty to sixty minutes with this dosage of liquid Silvertide.
“Do not make a sound or you’ll be punished.” He left Daniel hidden in the shadows as he moved to the back of the building to see where the woman was.
Moving without making a sound came easily. He crept forward and found the woman inside Daniel’s hidden den. She gathered the blankets and searched through the items that had been with the child.
A sweep of the room showed it was empty of any evidence. There was nothing here to expose them to the world. Daniel’s deranged state hadn’t endangered them. He could return without punishment.
The woman froze. Her stillness betrayed her awareness of his presence.
He should remove her. But she is no threat. Mission secrecy. But secrecy is not compromised. He slipped back further into the shadows.
One hand brushed a strand of brown hair behind one ear. She knew he was here. Why didn’t she face him? She waited. Non-threatening. Her body was tense, but not rigid. She was prepared, but not panicked. Interesting.
Finally, she spoke, breaking the silence. “I know you’re there, but I don’t know what you want.” Her honey warm voice slid through him.
It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. He had no response to offer.
Slowly, she turned to face his corner of darkness. Her jacket bulged, barely noticeably, with a concealed firearm. Her hands were clearly visible, making no effort to reach for the weapon. “He called you ‘brother’.”
Some puzzle clicked, triggering a question from the confused muddle of thoughts that filled him and fought for control against the mission parameters. “What is a brother?” Deep down he knew that he had brothers, but when he tried to force his mind to understand what it meant, he came back to the mission parameters.
Her gaze flicked to his in surprise.
Was his question wrong? Would he be punished? He clenched his jaw to keep his begging pleas silent. He needed to know. Would she answer? “What is a brother?”
“A brother is family. Family gives you strength.”
Strength was good. “A brother gives you strength?” Was that the connection?
“Yes. Is he your brother? Will you help him?” She sounded concerned for Daniel.
How could that be? When he’d found Daniel, he had been attacking the woman. Why would she want to help him now? Would he help Daniel? “He... No. They will take him.” He could only do as he was told. They would bring the light, the pain and the punishment, if he failed in his mission.
“He needs help. I know a place where you can take him.” She made the offer and he sensed no trick to it.
But it didn’t matter. Only the success of the mission kept the pain away. “He must go back. I—”
“Kelly, are you in here?” The man’s voice broke into the room only a moment before the suited policeman walked in.
The moment was long enough to be gone. He moved silently back to the target. To Daniel. To his...brother. Mission priorities…
He shook his head, trying in vain to push back the insistent voice that commanded he obey the mission directives. No mission, no mission, no mission.
His brother wasn’t named Daniel. They’d named him that. His brother was named Dain. He moved quickly to where Dain lay, just as he had left him, the same and yet different. He knelt next to his brother to check his vital signs.
Dain lurched upward, slamming a fist into his ribs. The powerful blow knocked him from his feet. Landing hard, he scrambled, but not fast enough.
Hit after hit came, and then Dain broke free. “Nooo...” Dain’s voice began as a low wail and fell to a whimper of pain. He dropped to his knees, tearing at his clothing, while tiny flashing sparks erupted from his body. In seconds, he was in nothing but rags, his panting breaths turned to growls.
He was pain-shifting. His natural wolf body was reclaiming the space that Dain held, reclaiming it by force.
This wasn’t good for either of them or the mission. He backed a few more feet from Dain even as some part of him wanted to help his brother.
Dain lost his control in a shower of hazy gold sparkles. Then there was only the enormous wolf glaring with cold, black eyes, lips raised in snarled hatred. The wolf pounced, tearing into any part it could reach, rending clothing and flesh alike.
Then the wolf ran, leaving behind more wounds than man. He would die here by his brother’s fangs. Perhaps this was right, perhaps he deserved this. Brother, help me...die.
But no answer came to his plea. He might lie here and bleed, but he probably wasn’t going to die.
And when he lived, they would come for him. And he would be punished for his failure. He had to find a place to heal. When he recovered, he would be able to complete the mission.
He had to succeed, or he would suffer. He would not return with another failure.
He breathed in shallowly. With one hand, he pressured the freely bleeding wound where his neck met his shoulder. His jacked was soaked down that side. From where he lay, he could see the woman’s vehicle.
She’d offered to help. He wasn’t sure why, but he wanted her to be as good as she seemed. No other had ever offered to help one like him. ‘Kelly’ was what the human had called her. She’d offered. Kelly knew of a place. He gasped in the thick air and struggled to his knees and then to his feet.
If he could reach her Jeep... If she would help...
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